Hey there, Delilah.
She’s rapidly shedding her bad girl image and could become one of the hottest baby names of 2015. Thanks to Kim R. for suggesting Delilah as Name of the Day.
Kim R. originally suggested Delilah way back, but I dismissed her as too tarty to be bestowed on an innocent babe.
Shows what I know.
In 2002, Friends’ Rachel says Delilah is her favorite name but worries it has a “whiff of Biblical whore,” Delilah ranked #706. (Emma, her ultimate choice for her daughter, ranked #4 and has since taken over the top spot.) Rather than damage Delilah, by 2003, the name had climbed to #614.
Along with Lily, Layla, Lila and other la, la, lovely L names climbing up the charts, Delilah is as hot as it gets, reaching #193 in 2008. A parent might rightly feel that her Biblical baggage is a non-issue.
Still, the original Delilah casts a long shadow. Her name comes from a Hebrew word meaning “to weaken” and she did just that. Delilah tempted Samson to reveal the secret of his considerable strength. He confessed that his mojo was in his flowing locks and Delilah sold him out to the Philistines for cash money.
Renaissance and Baroque painters depicted her treachery, from Titian to Tintoretto, Rubens to Rembrandt. John Milton retold the story in his late seventeenth century Samson Agonistes. Camille Saint-Saens’ 1877 opera Samson et Dalila remains oft-performed. Delilah became a synonym for temptress.
Pop culture references continue to drive the point home – from a recent episode of 30 Rock to more songs that you can list. Whether you’re into the Grateful Dead or the Judds, the Pointer Sisters or the Pixies, choose your genre and you can find a single about Delilah and her shears.
Many a female character has been redeemed, or at least re-examined, in light of twenty-first century values. Once upon a time, Eve and Pandora, Helen and Delilah were all dismissed as troublemakers. While many of their reputations have been restored, there’s been less of an effort to recast Delilah’s actions. Instead, parents seem to simply overlook the reference. In some cases, Delilah’s meaning is given as delicate – not inaccurate, but the most favorable spin possible on her linguistic origins.
Of course, modern parents might be more familiar with syrupy easy listening deejay Delilah Luke, known for reaching millions of listeners with her syndicated call-in dedication show. Of course, this could be just as powerful an unpleasant association.
But the radio is boosting Delilah, too, thanks to a gently romantic hit single. The Plain White T’s “Hey There Delilah” took a few years to catch on, but eventually nabbed a 2008 Grammy nomination and the number one slot on the Billboard Hot 100. The real Delilah – and yes, there is one – is a squeaky-clean Olympic hopeful, interviewed by the Today Show.
Where does this leave Delilah? Many names, like Chelsea, were lifted up by a chart-topping single. But those were names that were either unknown or little used prior to the song. Delilah is truly remarkable because she’s overcoming the same sort of stigma that stops us from calling our girls Jezebel.
Regardless of the reasons, let’s call Delilah one name that has shed her shady past to take her place solidly in the mainstream.