Hollywood birth announcements have featured names like Sadie, Hattie, Winnie, and Frankie in recent years. Celebrity baby name week 2015 kicks off with the newest addition to the list.
With a congratulations to Zooey Deschanel on the birth of her daughter, Elsie is our Baby Name of the Day.
Elsie: Another Elizabeth Name
Elsie comes from Elizabeth. Or make that Elisabeth, the spelling favored in French, German, Dutch, and the Scandinavian languages. It’s one of a great many diminutives for the classic name.
This means that it’s tough to say precisely how many women have answered to Elsie over the centuries, since a great many received a form of Elizabeth as their formal name.
Elsie: Pop Culture Phenomenon
The name’s fall was hastened by a cow.
Borden, Inc. was a huge food company with an emphasis on dairy. In the 1930s, they chose this name for their bovine mascot. Elsie was a star of the World’s Fair in 1939, and made her movie debut in 1940’s big screen adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Men. For a few years, the famous cow and family made their home at Freedomland USA, a theme park in the Bronx.
The barnyard association cratered the name. By 1975, it had left the US Top 1000 entirely.
Elsie: Retro Revival
In the 1990s, the Borden company fell on hard times. While the brand – and the spokescow – are still around, they’re far less familiar.
The name started to attract more attention around 2000. Credit two things: the rediscovery of other sassy nickname names, like Sadie. And, of course, the hundred year rule. It had been a century since Elsie and friends were the height of fashion.
Women by the name from around the turn of the twentieth century are plentiful, including:
- Actresses Baker and Ferguson. Baker’s career spanned eight decades, and Ferguson was known as the “Aristocrat of the Silent Screen.”
- Singers Carlisle and Janis.
- A groundbreaking Scottish doctor. Dr. Inglis was decorated for her service in the first World War.
- Fictional Elsie Dinsmore, a good-as-gold little girl whose mother is dead and father is elsewhere at the beginning of the long series first published in 1867.
It’s also been worn by a number of notable writers, social reformers, and other women of note.
But I suspect that there’s one more reason we find this name appealing today.
Between 1967 and 2003, fewer than 200 girls were given this name every year.
Then, in 2004, there were 208 newborn Elsies. The next year? 269.
What else happened in 2004? Lauren Conrad first appeared on MTV reality show Laguna Beach. By 2006, she was a major reality star on The Hills. Her nickname is L.C. Her initials also became the name of her fashion line for Kohl’s.
While I doubt many parents named their daughters directly after Conrad, I do think it helped the name shake off the barnyard for good.
Elsie: On the Rise
In 2005, Elsie re-entered the US Top 1000, and as of the 2014, the name ranked #334.
Zooey Deschanel welcomed a daughter with the quirky-cool name Elsie Otter in July 2015. Otter grabbed headlines, but overall, the baby’s first name was positively received.
Combined with our affection for other El- names, from Ella to Isabella to Frozen’s fast-rising Elsa, it’s likely that we’ll be hearing more of this name in the years to come.
What do you think of Elsie as a given name? Would you use a formal name, or put Elsie on the birth certificate?