She’s a seldom-heard antique brought down by a movie character – and redeemed by one, too.
Thanks to Rocking Fetal for suggesting Vada as our Baby Name of the Day.
Let’s start with a confession: I have no clue how to pronounce Vada.
Well, that’s not entirely true. I know how they pronounced Vada in the movie My Girl. Vada takes the long a sound so popular, heard in Kayla and Jada and Hailey. But I don’t know how Vada would have been pronounced in the nineteenth century or early twentieth, the era when she ranked in the US Top 1000 every year from 1880 through 1946. I suspect the long a still holds, but given that Nina was once pronounced like the number nine, I can’t be certain.
There’s also Veda, a Sanskrit word meaning knowledge. It’s also the name of the oldest Hindu scriptures – their Old Testament, an ancient collection of holy revelation. Despite this weighty association, Veda seems to have some use as a given name, again, charting in the US Top 1000 from the 1880s into the 1950s.
The timing of her use suggests that she’s no new-age adaptation, and there’s little hint at all about Vada’s origins as an appellation.
What was the explanation, then? Notable figures appear after the rise of the name:
- Part-Swedish actress Veda Borg transitioned from a Hollywood career in the 1930s and 40s to a television one in the 1950s. The starlet’s 1915 birth, however, coincides with a period when the name was in use.
- Vada Pinson was a Major League Baseball player in the 1960s and 70s. His dad was Vada Pinson, Sr. I couldn’t confirm the origins of the name, but it does appear as a surname occasionally.
- Then along came 1991 coming-of-age flick My Girl. Anna Chlumsky played Vada, BFF to the ill-fated Thomas, played by Macauley Culkin. The movie was set in the 1970s, suggesting that Vada was supposed to be a quirky retro name.
Parents might hear Vada in the enduring movie, but I wonder – was it another fictional character that erased the name from use?
The 1941 novel and 1945 film adaptation of Mildred Pierce were quite successful. Joan Crawford won an Oscar for her portrayal of the valiant, hard-working Mildred, a heroine with a thankless daughter called – you guessed it – Veda. Veda was more than garden-variety rotten. She was lying, manipulating, husband-stealing awful. Ann Blyth was nominated for Best Supporting Actress, too, but failed to bring home the statue. I can only assume that Veda and Vada were tarnished by the villainous figure.
None of this explains her origins, though, and I think I’m left with that ever-so-unsatisfying sound-of-the-times assumption:
- In the Top 100 of 1900 we find Eva, Viola, Virgina, Vera, and Olive.
- Violet, Iva, Sylvia, Victoria, Vivian, Geneva, Elva, and Virgie appear in the next hundred.
- Beyond that there’s Veronica, Vesta, Vida, Vada, Vina, Veda, Vinnie, Vallie, Vernie, Vergie, Vena, Viva, Verdie, Velva, Vella, Verla, Verona, Versie, Valerie, Verlie, Vernice, Vassie, and Vernie.
If sound alone lifted Vada the first time, it could work today. With a possible spiritual meaning attached, a sweet movie character, and that oh-so-leading sound, Vada could be just the name.