I try not to read the obituaries because the stories tend to stay with me but sometimes I find the names irresistible. This week, I saw an obituary for a woman named, Ruth Lesley. Did no one say these two names together before the name went on the birth certificate?
Bob Hope's real first name was Leslie Townes Hope. Legend has it that he started going by Bob because when they read the roll at school he was, "Hope, Leslie" leading classmates to call him, "Hopeless". Other stories have him changing his name to Lester before finally taking the stage name, "Bob Hope".
There was a short time during the 1990s when the name Tierney was en vogue for girls. I always joked that Tierney would be the bossiest girl on the playground but now I fear that Ruth Leslie might give Tierney a run for the money.
Leslie started life as a Scottish surname in the late 12th century tracing its origin back to a Scottish nobleman, Bartholomew. His land was known as Lesslyn from the words, "lesse ley", meaning, "sheltered pasture". Some sources suggest the name actually means, "garden of hollies". Its use as a first name, initially only for men, is more recent. Probably not much earlier than the mid-1800s.
Usage in the United States:
By the 1880s, Leslie was moderately popular for men and was in occasional use for women. This trend continues until the 1940s where the name begins to pick up steam for women and the spelling, "Lesley", is also in regular use for men and women. By the 1950s, the number of female babies named Leslie, Lesley or Leslee outnumbers the male babies named Leslie or Lesley. In the 1960s, the spelling Lesli makes the top 1000 names of the decade for girls(but Leslee drops away).
Leslie for girls peaks at number 70 during the 1970s and holds steady through the 1980s. In the 1990s it drops into the high 100s and remains there to this day. Leslie for boys has not been seen in the top 1000 since 1997.