She’s a Hungarian import boosted by a starbaby-turned-star.
Thanks to Jen for suggesting her middle name as our Baby Name of the Day: Mariska.
Mariksa Hargitay was born famous, the daughter of actress Jayne Mansfield and former Mr. Universe Mickey Hargitay. Dad was born in Hungary – his given name was Miklós. All three of the couple’s children have names that would fit right in in Budapest: Miklós, Jr., Zoltan, and Mariska. Her full name is Mariska Magdolna – Mary Magadelene.
An English speaker’s impulse might be to say ma RIS keh. That’s miles away from the Hungarian. Hargitay favors mar ISH kah. It’s not quite faithful to the original – the vowel sounds are different – but it balances the exotic and the expected nicely. You can hear her introduced on Ellen here.
There’s also a cheerful little video clip on YouTube featuring a children’s song with the lyrics “Hopp Juliska, hopp Mariska.” Listen closely and you’ll hear the name is closer to maw RISH keh.
Despite her mom’s status as a Hollywood icon, Hargitay’s career took years to develop. There was lots of television work – you might’ve spotted a younger Mariska on Falcon Crest or ER. But her big break was in 1999, when she was cast as passionate victims’ advocate Detective Olivia Benson on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. Twelve seasons later, the show is still going strong, and Hargitay has won an Emmy for her portrayal of Benson.
Her character’s name – Olivia – has climbed steadily since Law & Order: SVU debuted, rising from #20 in 1999 to #3 last year. But Mariska has yet to make an impression on American parents. Perhaps it is her similarity to the fading Marissa. Nancy tells us that 63 girls received the name in 2009.
Some of those parents may be looking for a Hungarian heritage choice that is both familiar and clearly tied to their roots. Mariska is an elaboration of Maria. It’s not the only option: Marika, Mariaka, and just Mari were all in use at one point. But she’s not currently in the Top 100 in Hungary now. (The #1 name? Jázmin.)
You may even have ancestors who arrived at Ellis Island via the Mariska. Nancy uncovered a list of ship names from the late 1800s and early 1900s.
When I went searching to see if Mariska was in use in other languages, I stumbled on this page: Mariska & Pahat Sudet. So file Mariska under Finnish heritage choices, too. (Through a series of twists, Finnish and Hungarian have quite a bit in common with each other, and very little in common with other European languages.)
Overall, Mariska is just the tiniest bit exotic. She’s vaguely familiar thanks to Hargitay’s success, but her status as a foreign spin on Mary would make her accessible regardless. The only possible hurdle is the pronunciation, but it isn’t insurmountable.
If you’re looking for a name that conjures up Budapest, Mariska is one to consider.