13 Names History and Pop Culture Ruined (Fun Trivia You Never Knew!)
Did you know that Nimrod, Bertha, and Alexa used to be common (or at least somewhat common) names? Keep reading to find out which ones still are used occasionally, and why others died out.
Slang Ruined These Names
After these names became associated with risque or vulgar slang, they vanished!
Fanny used to be a nickname for Frances, Francine, Francoise, or Stephanie.
However, according to dictionary.com, it became extremely vulgar slang in England in 1925, and means buttocks in America.
Do you hear that, Americans? Don’t call it a “fanny pack” in Britain.
In the US, Fanny vanished by 1940.
Love the name Fanny? What do you think of Frances, Francine, Stephanie, Effie, Nanny, Annie, Bonnie, Dannie, Franny, Jenny, Linnie, Tiffany, or Winnie instead?
By 1895, Rube started to be synonymous with hick. Until then, it was often a nickname for Reuben.
In the Old Testament, Nimrod is a famed hunter and the great grandson of Noah, so it came to mean hunter.
However, in Looney Tunes, Bugs Bunny calls Elmer Fudd a nimrod. Since Elmer isn’t the sharpest crayon in the box, nimrod came to be synonymous with fool.
Fortunately, this name was never particularly common in English-speaking countries.
The French surname Poindexter means “right fist.” Thanks to the nerdy dweeb Poindexter from the cartoon Felix the Cat, this last name hasn’t become a first name like other last names along the lines of Mason or Jackson.
Dick, as in the nickname for Richard, was among the top 200 most popular boy names in America from 1927-1945.
I had no idea it had been slang for certain male body parts as early as the 1800s!
However, the name Dick didn’t disappear until the 1960s when it became a synonym for a stupid or contemptible person. In the 1940s and 1950s, dick around and dick off became more popular too, putting the nail in the coffin. [Source]
Looking for short, old-fashioned male names? Check out our collection of vintage boy names!
Names Ruined by History
We’ll start with the obvious, but find some other less-common names you might not have thought about!
The names Adolf and Adolph, meaning noble wolf, were somewhat common in the US. But they faded away after the rise of Adolf Hitler during World War II, which officially started in 1939.
While we think of Hitler as the reason this name vanished, check out the even bigger drop in popularity during the 1920s! What happened there?
After World War I, anti-German sentiment was common across America. So many Germans changed their last names and used less-German sounding first names.
Surprisingly, Adolph was still used occasionally into the 1970s!
Bertha was a popular name in the late 1800s and early 1900s. But in 1914, during World War I, a type of German Howitzer was nicknamed Big Bertha.
While Bertha was already on the decline, this probably sealed the deal for its retirement.
The Egyptian goddess Isis ruled over sky and nature. It fits perfectly with today’s trend of soft, elegant, and short baby names, which is why it started becoming popular in 1997.
Unfortunately, it’s also the acronym for the terrorist group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (or ISIL, Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant). It started reemerging in 2011. This coincides almost perfectly with American parents no longer using it.
Related post: Names That Mean Forgotten
Names That Technology and Corporations Ruined
And of course, brands and companies can name their products and corporations with real names. That caused a handful of names to die out.
Alexa is the perfect example of a name that technology ruined. It was very trendy in the 2010s. But when Amazon launched Alexa, their virtual personal assistant, in 2017, the name’s popularity plummeted. It’s still used occasionally, however.
Like this name? Instead, consider the names Alexandra, Alexandria, Alexandrine, Alexia, Alexana, Alexis, Lexie, Lexine Lex, Lexa, Sandra, Roxana, or Becca.
While Apple launched Siri, that name is nowhere near as popular in the US, so didn’t have the same influence. And the same goes for the names Cortana and OK Google!
Wendy became very fashionable in America after J. M. Barrie’s play Peter Pan was launched in 1904, then flew into prominence after the Disney movie was released in 1953.
However, the Wendy’s restaurant franchise opened in 1969 and went public in 1976, sending this name off to Never Never Land. Or at least to “Probably Not” Land.
Looking for a similar name? What about Wanda, Cindy, Jenny, Minnie, Penny, Gwen, Wendla, Wendeline, Mindy, or Mandy
Related post: Ever wonder what did mothers feed their babies in the 1950s and 1960s?
Do hurricanes ruin names?
After a devastating hurricane, do parents avoid the hurricane’s name since they associate it with destruction?
Or are parents proud of coming through the disaster? I’ve even heard of some using the hurricane as a namesake for children born during them!
The girl’s name Katrina was already on the downswing after being very trendy in the 1980s.
And after the Category 5 Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans in 2005, it was washed out of common use.
Similar names you might consider instead: Catherine, Kaitlin, Katia, Karina, Katalina, Kathleen, Rina, or Trina.
Hurricane Camille blasted the Mississippi Gulf Coast with 190 mph winds in 1969.
The name Camille had been on an upswing, but after the storm, it dropped some. The upward trend of Camille continued after two years.
The similar name Camilla is quite popular now too
The name Andrew was already becoming less popular by the time the Category 5 storm, Hurricane Andrew made landfall in Florida in 1992.
However, there’s definitely a little blip where the name trended down a little more quickly than the years before and after. Coincidence? Or did parents avoid the name after the storm?
While Superstorm Sandy devastated the East Coast in 2012, it didn’t affect Sandy’s popularity as a name. However, it was already rarely used after being super popular in the 1960s.
Category 4 Hurricane Harvey struck Texas in 2017. However, Harvey isn’t a particularly popular name at the moment, so it didn’t see a rise or fall after the storm.
It’s hard to say whether hurricanes affect baby name popularity! But we’ve at least found a few examples on our side!
I would have thought that these names would become less popular due to things they’re associated with, but it turns out that wasn’t the case!
Molly originated as a nickname for Mary but is now its own name.
In the early 2000s, Molly started being used as slang for the street drug MDMA. It came from the word “molecule.” [Source]
However, it doesn’t seem like this affected parents choosing this as a name for their children!
Around 1925, marijuana started to go by the nickname Mary Jane. This comes from Maria Juana, which translates to Mary Jane.
But it hasn’t particularly influenced its use as a baby name!
Wrap Up – Names History and Pop Culture Ruined
We hope you’ve enjoyed our nerdy and fun graphs exploring the history and popularity of various names!
Related post: Funny Doctor Names