About Names: “Cleveland Evans: Now uncommon, Sally was found on stage, screen and sky”

Sally Ride, the first American woman in space (Image: Public Domain)

Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his November 6th column, he looks at the name Sally.

Happy birthday to Sister Bertrille, Nora Walker, and Sybil’s 16 personalities!

Actress Sally Field turns 76 today. First starring in sitcom “Gidget” (1965-66), Field played Bertrille in “The Flying Nun” (1967-70), where her huge headpiece combined with her small size let her catch the wind and fly.

Field overcame silly sitcom typecasting in 1976, winning an Emmy for “Sybil,” a TV movie about a young woman with multiple personalities. She went on to win Best Actress Oscars in “Norma Rae” (1979) and “Places in the Heart” (1984), and a Best Actress Emmy in 2007 as matriarch Nora in “Brothers and Sisters” (2006-2011).

Sally is an English pet form of Sarah, name of the biblical matriarch, from Hebrew “princess.” One of the few purely Old Testament names used in medieval England, Sarah boomed after the Reformation to rank fourth between 1660 and 1700.

Internal “r” is hard for small children to say, and so Sally developed from Sarah just as Hallie, Lolly and Dolly come from Harriet, Laura and Dorothy.

In the late 18th century, Sally became a name in its own right, as well as a nickname for Sarah. In the 1850 United States census, there were 56,800 Sallys and 2,066 Sallies.

The preferred spelling then shifted. In 1870, 42,399 Sallys and 70,587 Sallies were found. When Social Security’s baby name lists start in 1880, Sallie ranked 64th and Sally 166th. Only in 1911, did Sally again became more common.