About Names: Nicole popularized by films, France, Fitzgerald

Yvette Nicole Brown by Gage Skidmore

Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his June 20 column, he looks at the history of the name Nicole.  Nicole Kidman, who played those characters in “Batman Forever,” “Moulin Rouge!” and “Lion,” turns 50 today. Kidman is an Oscar winner; in 2002, she won for best actress in a leading role, playing British writer Virginia Woolf in “The Hours.”

Her given name is a French feminine form of Nicholas, Greek “nikê”, “victory” and “laos,” “people.” The name’s biggest surge in popularity came in 1969. A 134 percent rise landed it in 47th place when the soap opera “The Edge of Night” introduced vivacious fan favorite Nicole Travis (played by Maeve McGuire).

Nicole, with its similarity to fashionable French sisters Michelle, Danielle and Stephanie, marched upward until peaking in 1983. That year, 1.25 percent of girls born that year were named Nicole, ranking it seventh. Read on to find out more about Nicoles in history!


About Names: Lion’s share of Daniel’s cachet is thanks to Bible

“You talkin’ to me? Happy weekend face. Frontierofficial is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his June 6 column, he looks at the history of the name Daniel. Daniel is a Hebrew name meaning “God is my judge.” The original Daniel is hero of the book named after him in the Old Testament. Daniel, a Jewish captive, is made chief of Babylon’s wise men when only he can interpret King Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams.

Though after 1350 Daniel was rare in England, it was one of the first Old Testament names revived after the Reformation. It ranked 44th for English boys born in the 1550s, and 15th in the 1690s.

Daniel, like most Old Testament names, receded in popularity in the late 19th century, but it never became rare. Between 1914 and 1916 it ranked 55th, its lowest point, on Social Security’s baby names lists.

Read on to find out where Daniel ranks now!


About Names: Is ‘Star Wars’-inspired moniker the chosen one among parents picking baby names?

Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his May 23 column, he looks at the influence of popular media like Star Wars on the most popular baby names of 2016.

Riley shot up 18 percent last year, twice as fast as the year before. Two Disney characters helped: Riley Matthews (played by Rowan Blanchard), the title character of the Disney Channel’s recently canceled “Girl Meets World,” and Riley Andersen, the girl whose personified emotions Joy, Sadness, Disgust, Anger and Fear are the chief characters in Pixar’s animated film “Inside Out.”

Social Security’s website divulges names among the top 1,000 that made the biggest jumps in 2015. Kylo skyrocketed from 3,269th to 901st. Thirty-five were born in 2015 and 238 last year. It wasn’t just the new characters: Carrie Fisher’s Leia Organa inspired a 32 percent leap in girls named Leia. Last year, 1,005 were born.

Of course pop culture can also hurt a name’s popularity. Alexa fell 19 percent last year. Perhaps parents don’t want their daughter to share a name with Amazon’s electronic personal assistant.

About Names: Candace, from biblical queen to Hollywood star

Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his May 9 column, he looks at the history of the name Candace. Candice is an alternative of Candace, Latin form of Kandake, itself the Greek form of kentake, which is Meroitic for “queen” or “royal woman.” Candace, like other biblical names, went out of style in the late 19th century. Candace peaked at 171st in 1952. The name’s fashion had ended, it seemed. Then Candice Bergen became a fashion model. Read on to find out more about famous Candaces!

About Names: Enchanting Ella traces history to English nobles

Ella Fitzgerald

Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his April 25th column, he looks at the history of the name Ella. The name Ella or Ela was brought to England in 1066 by Norman conquerors. In the late 18th century British and American authors were fascinated by medieval chivalry. Ela was one of many medieval names they revived — though they preferred spelling it with two l’s. The Ellas of today are mostly too young to be famous — though actresses Ella Peck (1990) of “Gossip Girl” and “Deception” and Ella Anderson (2005) of Nickelodeon’s “Henry Danger” are already well known. They and thousands of other young Ellas will enchant us for decades to come.

About Names: Name “Judith” personified justice back in medieval times

Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his April 11th column, he looks at the history of the name Judith. Judith is the English form of Hebrew Yehudit, “woman from Judea.” In the Book of Genesis, Judith is a wife of Esau, the twin from whom Jacob steals his birthright. Like other biblical names, Judith went out of style in the late 19th century. In 1880, when Social Security’s baby name lists began, it ranked only 882nd. But in 1937, when Judy Garland became a star in the “Andy Hardy” films, Judy had risen to 91st — and Judith ranked 34th. Read on to find out about more famous Judys!


About Names: The names Teresa and Theresa get a boost from their religious ties

Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his March 29th column, he looks at the history of the names Teresa and Theresa. St. Teresa of Ávila, a Spanish nun and mystic, was born 502 years ago this week – so Happy Birthday, Dr. Teresa! While still a common name, today’s most famous Teresa is Mother Teresa (1910-1997), born Anjezë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu in Albania, the founder of Calcutta’s Missionaries of Charity canonized by Pope Francis last September. And in 1974 Teresa Graves (1948-2002, pictured left) was the first African-American female star of an hourlong television drama (“Get Christy Love”).


About Names: You can find Waldo — if you look hard enough; the name now is extremely rare

Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his March 14th column, he looks at the history of the name Waldo. In Continental Europe, Waldo is a Latinized form of “wald,” Germanic “rule” or “power.” Originally part of names like Walter and Oswald, it was a nickname that became a surname. But only eight Waldos were born in the United States in 2015. Is it time for a revival of this name?


About Names: Chaucer gave love nudge to St. Valentine

Image Source: m01229 from USA (https://www.flickr.com/people/39908901@N06)

Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. On Valentine’s Day, he wrote about the history of the name Valentine and how Chaucer gave us Valentine’s Day (sort of).

Did you remember the flowers and candy?

Today is St. Valentine’s Day, when couples the world over celebrate their love.

Valentine is one of several ancient Roman names derived from Latin valere, “to be strong and healthy.”

The original St. Valentine was bishop of Terni, a town northeast of Rome, martyred on Feb. 14, 273. Though not included in the earliest lists of Christian martyrs, by 500 he was being venerated as a saint.

According to legend, Valentine miraculously restored the sight of a Terni judge’s blind daughter, and the entire family became Christians. For this, Emperor Claudius II had Valentine beheaded.

St. Valentine wasn’t popular in medieval England — not a single English church is dedicated to him — but his name was brought to England by Norman conquerors in 1066. Families called Valentine had medieval ancestors named after him.

An Englishman was first to link Valentine with romance. Geoffrey Chaucer (1343-1400), famous for “The Canterbury Tales,” also wrote “Parlement of Foules” to honor the 1381 engagement of King Richard II to Anne of Bohemia. Here the poet dreams of birds flocking to Nature’s temple.

Translated into modern English, Chaucer wrote: “For this was on St. Valentine’s Day, when every bird comes to choose his mate.”

Though it was then believed birds chose mates in February, Chaucer was first to say this happened on Valentine’s Day.

Chaucer’s idea spread quickly throughout Britain and France. By 1470, people were calling lovers “my Valentine.” The saint’s legend was rewritten to say he was martyred for performing Christian marriages, justifying his link with romance.

Meanwhile Valentin had become popular in Germany and the Slavic nations, because of both St. Valentine of Terni and St. Valentine of Rhaetia, a fifth century missionary to Tyrol known as patron saint of epileptics.

In the 1850 U.S. census, the first listing all by name, there were 5,271 Valentines; 26.6 percent were born in Germany, while only 2.5 percent of the total population was.

In 1880, when Social Security’s yearly baby name lists start, Valentine ranked 635th. Its peak year was 1903, at 409th. It then slowly faded, leaving the top thousand in 1956.

Short form Val was in the top thousand on its own from 1930 until 1970, peaking at 523rd in 1952.

Valentin, the form in Spanish as well as German and Russian, has been in the top thousand since 1980. It suddenly shot up from 911th in 2006 to 614th in 2007. Valentín Elizalde, a popular Mexican singer gunned down by drug cartels in November 2006, was posthumously nominated for a Grammy Award in 2007.

The Italian form Valentino also had a huge jump after a celebrity’s death; in this case, Rudolph Valentino (1895-1926), the silent film heartthrob whose sudden death was followed by mass hysteria. Some 100,000 people lined New York City streets at his funeral, and Valentino jumped from nowhere to 683rd in 1927 — then just as quickly disappeared. (In 2006, Valentino returned to the top thousand. It ranked 675th in 2015.)

Valentine and Val have special connections with Nebraska. The city of Valentine, seat of Cherry County, was named after then-U.S. Rep. Edward K. Valentine (1843-1916) in 1883. Every year on Feb. 14, thousands of people have cards and packages mailed from the city to get the special postmark.

In 1923, Fred and Frances Fitch, then living in Cherry County, named their youngest son Val. Val L. Fitch (who died in 2015) won the 1980 Nobel Prize in physics for showing subatomic particles don’t necessarily obey laws of symmetry.

Father Valentine “Val” Peter (born 1934) was executive director of Boys Town from 1985 to 2005. He was named after his Bavarian-born grandfather, Valentin J. Peter (1875-1960), publisher of a German-language newspaper in Omaha.

Hollywood star Val Kilmer (1959) is probably best known for 1995’s “Batman Forever.”

Valentin “Val” Chermerkovskiy (1986) has competed on “Dancing With the Stars” 11 times since 2011, winning twice, including last fall’s season. To fans of the show, he’s as big a star as his celebrity partners.

As a baby name, Valentine remains rare — and may be changing gender. Forty-one girls and 31 boys were named Valentine in 2015. Best-selling novelist Adriana Trigiani’s “Valentine” trilogy, in which Italian-American Valentine Roncalli saves her family shoe business and finds true love, may be the cause. Whether male or female, Valentines will be associated with romance for centuries to come.