This series is a subset of Spotlight Names dedicated to names that had the potential to become huge for a certain decade. They represented a certain era well, but for whatever reason never made it to the top 100. Perhaps for these names, their time is yet to come.
Wallis in the 1930’s
One of the most intriguing of the 1930’s names was gender-bending Wallis. Wallis Simpson was a U.S socialite, and a figure in one of the most scandalous stories of the 1930’s. Prince Edward VIII abdicated the British throne in 1936 to marry her. Being twice divorced, she was unacceptable as a potential British Queen.
She was born Bessie Wallis Warfield, sharing the middle name Wallis with her father. As a child she was called by both names, “Bessiewallis,” and dropped Bessie at some point during her youth.
Wallis is a variation of the English and Scottish surname Wallace, which peaked in the 1920’s at #69 in 1923 and has only been used on boys. The unisex Wallis, however, has never been popular on either gender, never reaching the top 1000.
The stage was certainly set for Wallis to chart (enter the top 1000) in the 1930’s. Besides being the name of a prominent 1930’s figure, the masculine Wallace peaked the previous decade. This could have spawned Wallis on boys the next decade, which in turn could have crossed over to the girls. Wallis’s similarity to Phyllis, an iconic 1930’s name, had the potential to accelerate Wallis to the girls’ side.
While the King Edward/Wallis Simpson romance is idealized as a classic love story today, the controversy surrounding the romance generated some negative opinions about the divorcee. She has been described as bright, but also domineering and abrasive. Wallis Simpson very well could have hurt – not helped – her name. Especially if the times were socially conservative as some believe.
Like another “Failure to Launch Name,” Lara, Wallis’s time could come soon. I’ve seen Wallis on a few expectant parents’ girl lists. Wallis appeals to parents who like unisex names like Harper and Quinn. Both names have gone up in popularity. Harper ranked at #119 in 2010, and has dramatically ascended the charts since entering the top 1000 at #887 in 2007. Quinn has also ascended the charts, though less dramatically, going from #942 when it first charted in 1995 to #253 in 2010.
Could the 2010’s see Wallis chart for the first time?
The only information we have to work with is past data. The table below shows how Wallis has fared since 2000. Please note that since Wallis has never been in the top 1000, these numbers aren’t ranks, but actual number of girls born these years named Wallis:
|Year||Number of girls|
|2002||Fewer than 5 if any|
|2003||Fewer than 5 if any|
|2006||Fewer than 5 if any|
|2007||Fewer than 5 if any|
|2008||Fewer than 5 if any|
|2009||Fewer than 5 if any|
|2010||Fewer than 5 if any|
These numbers show that Wallis is not only rare, but so obscure that Wallis isn’t even included in the Social Security data for most years. Modern creation, Abcde was more popular than Wallis in 2010. Perhaps anecdotal mention of Wallis on a few parents’ lists isn’t enough to prove a comeback. Nevertheless, names have been known to soar out of nowhere.
And if Wallis does ever hit the charts, its presence won’t come from nowhere. Wallis happens to be a U.K. based apparel company. Of course most parents won’t deliberately name their child after an apparel company, but the seed could be subconsciously planted. If Wallis catches on in the U.K. it could follow in the U.S. However, Wallis has yet to catch on in the U.K. considering fewer than 3 if any baby girls were named Wallis in 2010.
What’s more significant is 1930’s names are due to recycle based on the theory that names recycle every 80-100 years. Wallis may not have been popular in the 1930’s but it has 1930’s style. Even 1930’s Phyllis, could become more imaginable on a modern baby if similar Philippa becomes popular as many are predicting. Philippa could spawn Phyllis, which in turn could spawn Wallis. Wallis is going on our watch list.
Readers: What do you think of Wallis?