Katherine Heigl may call her daughter Naleigh, but she put this appealing retro moniker on the birth certificate.
Thanks to Kelly for suggesting Nancy as Name of the Day.
Most baby books list Nancy as a nickname for Anne. Not exactly.
In medieval England, Agnes would’ve been Annis. Or Anice. Or Annes. Nancy emerged as a pet form of Agnes via all those variants. As Annis and company faded from use, Nancy attached herself to Anne.
For more than a century, Nancy has routinely given as an independent name. Perhaps that’s because Charles Dickens used the name for a sympathetic character in Oliver Twist. Or maybe it is because Nancy is found on the map in France. (Though the names are unrelated.)
Neither fact alone can explain the many modern Nancys, including:
- Best known as Livia Soprano, actress Nancy Marchand’s career spanned nearly five decades;
- Figure skater Nancy Kerrigan won two Olympic medals, but is most remembered for her rivalry with Tanya Harding;
- One of the Mitford sisters was Nancy;
- Court TV’s lawyer-turned-television host Nancy Grace;
- Nancy McKeon played Jo on The Facts of Life around the same time Meredith Baxter Birney played Nancy on Family;
- Nancy Cartwright voices Bart Simpson;
- Nancy Pelosi is the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives – the first woman to hold the post;
- Nancy Kassebaum Baker was the first woman elected to the Senate who was not completing her husband’s term of office;
- Frank Sinatra married a Nancy and they named their daughter Nancy;
- Former First Lady Nancy Reagan was one of the few Nancys born Anne;
- Nancy Spungen was the ill-fated girlfriend of Sid Vicious;
- Two musical Nancy Wilsons are Heart’s guitarist (sister to Ann) and the Grammy-award winning jazz singer;
- Mary-Louise Parker plays a suburban mom/drug dealer named Nancy on Showtime’s Weeds;
- Nancy Wilmot is a character in The Chalet School series of books;
- In A Nightmare on Elm Street, it is Nancy Thompson who turns the tables on Freddy.
The average Nancy, has plenty of moxie, just like the best known bearer of the name: Nancy Drew.
Minor details change, but the character remains much the same since her 1930 creation. The amateur sleuth routinely solves mysteries that leave local and international authorities alike flummoxed.
The books are beloved bestsellers and frequently adapted for film and television, as recently as 2007.
But did Edward Stratemeyer – Nancy’s inventor, the man behind pseudonym Carolyn Keene – give Nancy her capable vibe, or does the name simply encourage boldness? Perhaps he was aware of two historical Nancys:
- During the American Revolution, Nancy Morgan Hart captured a group of Tory soldiers in her cabin;
- Nancy Hart Douglas served as a Confederate scout and spy during the Civil War in West Virginia.
After featuring in the US Top Ten from 1934 through 1955 – and the Top 100 most years until 1978 – Nancy has been on a downward slide. In 2008, she charted at #379 – respectable, but her least popular ever. The medieval Annis sounds more current circa 2009, but don’t count Nancy out – she’s quite the capable girl.