Tuesday, February 1, 2022

Three Surprising Unisex names from the Early 20th century, USA

Cleo, June and Fay were at one time unisex names. Let's start with Cleo.

Cleo can be short for Cleopatra but it was also short for Cleon and the biblical name Cleopas. Cleon is from the Greek word for glory. Cleopas comes from the same root as Cleopatra, it is a short form of the masculine version Cleopatros. In the Gospel of Luke, Cleopas sees Jesus after his resurrection. Cleo for men is recorded more often in the SSA dataset than both Cleopas and Cleon. Cleo was still twice as popular for women in the 1920s, although women are over represented in the early data.

June can be short for Junius, a masculine name that had some use in the American south during the 1800s. The father of J.P. Morgan and the father of John Wilkes Booth were both named Junius, likely in honour of the anonymous author of the British Junius papers in which Junius was his pseudonym. June can also be found being used by women but widespread popular use only occurred in the late 19th century. June can also be short for Junior. A notable man with the name was June C. Smith, Illinois Supreme Court Judge.

And last but not least, as it is my favourite, is Fay. Fay is short for Lafayette, a popular man's name in the US in the 1800s, given in honour of American Revolutionary War commander Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette. Fayette, Lafe, and Fate are other short forms but Fay was the most popular at the turn of the century. Fay and Faye became more popular for women in the 1910s and '20s but Fay did still have some usage by men. Notable men include American sprinter Fay Moulton, baseball player Fay Thomas, and architect E. Fay Jones, a student of Frank Lloyd Wright, and for whom the Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design is named at the University of Arkansas.

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