Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his October 10th column, he looks at the history of the names Tanya and Tonya.
Tanya is a pet form of Tatyana, the Russian form of Tatiana. Tatiana comes from the Roman family name Tatius. In Roman legend, Titus Tatius was king of the Sabines. He attacked Rome after its founder, Romulus, abducted Sabine women. The war was a draw, and Tatius and Romulus ruled Rome jointly.
Russians rarely use Tanya as a full name, but it gradually spread west through literature. In 1882, French author Henry Gréville (Alice Durand), who set many novels in Russia, published “Tania’s Peril.” In 1920, Tchaikovsky’s opera “Eugene Onegin,” with its aria “Ah, Tanya, Tanya,” had its U.S. premiere at New York’s Metropolitan Opera.
Tanya doesn’t appear in U.S. Census records until 1880. In 1940 there were 644 women named Tanya or Tania in the census, 21 percent of whom were born in Russia. Russian Tanya is pronounced “TAHN-yuh.” Many Americans look at its spelling and want to say the first part like the word “tan.”
That’s how Tanya Tucker herself says it. Tucker’s mother found the name in a Texas newspaper birth announcement for a local banker’s daughter. The Tuckers assumed the “tan” pronunciation.
Want to know more? Read on to find out more about Tanyas and Tonyas in history!
Serena Williams in a 2013 doubles match with Venus Williams.
Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his September 26th column, he looks at the history of the name Serena.
Tennis great Serena Williams, who has twice won all four Grand Slam tournaments in a row, turns 36 today. Serena is the feminine form of Latin Serenus, meaning “clear” or “serene.” The first famous Serena was a niece of Theodosius, last emperor to rule both the western and eastern halves of the Roman Empire.
The 1850 U.S. census found 2,051 Serenas. The 1851 census of Great Britain had only 172. Perhaps Americans saw Serena, with its Latin origin, as part of the “Classical Revival” where towns were named Rome and Athens and babies Horace and Minerva.
Serena’s rise was boosted in 1993 when English actress Serena Scott Thomas starred in the miniseries “Diana: Her True Story.” In 1997, teen character Serena Baldwin (Carly Schroeder) began appearing on the soap “General Hospital.” Serena peaked again at 209th in 2000. 2000 was just after Serena Williams began her tennis career. Her first “Serena Slam” — winning the Australian, French and U.S. Opens along with Wimbledon — came in 2002 and 2003.
Want to know more? Read on to find out more about Serenas in history!
Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his September 12 column, he looks at the history of the name Mitchell.
The name Mitch is a short form of Mitchell, originally an English and Irish surname. Some Mitchell families had ancestors nicknamed “Muchel,” a Middle English word for “big.” The word “much” has the same origin. More Mitchells had ancestors named Michel, the medieval English form of Michael. Michael, name of the biblical archangel, comes from Hebrew Mikha’el, “Who is like God?” (The question mark is an important part of the meaning. To ancient Israelites, the answer to the rhetorical question was “No one is like God; God is unique.”)
In the 1950s, band and chorale leader Mitch Miller (1911-2010) helped popularize the name. His version of “The Yellow Rose of Texas” was a No. 1 hit in 1955 — and Mitch moved into the top 1,000 on the list of given names for the first time. In January 1961, Miller began a four-year run as host of television’s “Sing Along With Mitch.” That year Mitch peaked at 397th and Mitchell at 118th on the baby names chart.
Mitchell got a second boost from “Baywatch.” This TV series about gorgeous lifeguards and their romantic entanglements ran from 1989 to 2001 as one of the most successful syndicated shows ever. Star David Hasselhoff played Mitch Buchannon.
Want to know more? Read on to find out more about Mitches in history!
Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his August 29 column, he looks at the history of the name Ingrid.
Ingrid is the modern form of Old Norse “Ingríðr.” It combines the name of the god Ing or Yngvi with fríðr, “beautiful.” Other Norse names honoring Yngvi are male Ingmar, “Ing is famous,” and Ingvar, “Ing’s warrior.” Ingeborg, “Ing’s protection,” and Ingegerd, “Ing’s enclosure,” are feminine.
In the 1910 U.S. Census, there were 6,592 Ingas, 3,584 Ingeborgs and 1,812 Ingers — mostly Scandinavian immigrants and their daughters. There were only 1,222 Ingrids.
That March, Crown Prince Gustav Adolf of Sweden and his wife, Margaret (a granddaughter of Britain’s Queen Victoria), named their only daughter Princess Ingrid. She later wed Danish Crown Prince Frederik, becoming queen of Denmark in 1947.
Ingrid Bergman was named after the young princess — as were many other Swedish girls. It was Bergman herself, though, who spread the name far beyond Sweden. Read on to find out more about Ingrids in history!
Debra Messing co-starred as Grace Adler on NBC’s “Will & Grace” from 1998 to 2006. Her name in all its forms — Deborah, Debra, Debbie, Deb — once dominated the baby boomer names lists. / Associated Press
Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his August 15 column, he looks at the history of the name Deborah.
The name Debra is just as amazing. It’s an alternate spelling of Deborah, which is derived from the Hebrew word for “bee.” The name wasn’t used by Christians until after the Reformation. Then parents searching the Old Testament discovered it.
In England, Deborah first joined the top 50 names in 1610, peaking at 24th in the 1660s. The name was even more popular with Puritans and Quakers of colonial New England and Pennsylvania.
When yearly baby names data start in 1880, Deborah ranked 499th. It bottomed out at 892nd in 1912, and barely rose until 1928. What happened to Deborah after that? Read on to find out more about Deborahs in history!
Queen Latifah portrayed August in “The Secret Life of Bees.”
Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his August 1 column, he looks at the history of the name August.
In the year 8 B.C. the Roman Senate renamed the month Sextilis after the first Roman emperor, Augustus, whose great military victories came in that month. Around the year 1500, noble families in Germany and Poland, inspired by the emperor’s fame, began using the name. In German and Polish the name was “August,” but these men were usually called “Augustus” in English.
German immigrants brought the form August to the U.S., where, in 1850, the census found 10,320 Augustuses and 3,049 Augusts. There were also 776 men named Auguste, the French form.
2008 was the first year that more than 100 baby girls were named August. In 2016, 222 arrived. If 265 arrive this year, August will make the top thousand for girls as well as boys. Read on to find out more about Augusts in history!
Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his July 18 column, he looks at the history of the name Paul.
The name Paul is the English form of Latin name Paulus or Paullus, meaning “small” or “humble.” St. Paul was an important leader of early Christianity. Despite Paul’s biblical significance, his name wasn’t popular in medieval Western Europe.
Paul had a minor uptick from 19th to 16th in the U.S. when Beatlemania crossed the Atlantic. For Americans, though, Paul wasn’t “fresh” enough for that to last, and it fell out of the top 50 names in 1991. McCartney is the most famous modern Paul, but there are scores of others. Paul Robeson (1898-1976), singer and political activist whose version of “Ol’ Man River” is still the most famous rendition of the song, kept the name known among African-Americans. Read on to find out more about Pauls in history!
Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his July 4th column, he looks at the history of the name America.
America was named after Italian navigator Amerigo Vespucci (1454-1512.) He was born in Florence and named after his paternal grandfather. The Normans brought a French form of the name to England, where it became Amery or Emery. In Latin, Amerigo became Americus.
Américo is the Spanish form. América has been used as a woman’s name throughout Latin America — fittingly, since South America was given its name.
Hispanic immigration brought America back into the top 1,000 U.S. names in 1998. For unknown reasons it later boomed with Latino parents, peaking at No. 410 in 2002, when 704 children were given the name America.
It’s tempting to link that surge with actress America Ferrera. Born to immigrants from Honduras in Los Angeles in 1984, she was named after her mother, América Griselda Ayes. Read more about the history of the name America here!
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!
“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!