About A Name: Sadie

November 1, 2011 § Leave a comment

Al Capp’s Lil’ Abner comic strip birthed the legend of Sadie Hawkins in the mid-20th Century. Sadie Hawkins Day is a November tradition.

The name Sarah is Hebrew for “princess,” and it’s ancient usage, both Biblical and thanks to it’s perfectly girly meaning, bore the anglicized nickname Sadie in the 19th Century. By the early 20th Century, the name Sadie was a roaring choice for girls all on it’s own. The sun on Sadie’s day seemed to set in 1960, when the named finally dropped out of the US Top 1000 though it was a Top 100 choice for decades at the turn of the century. But by 1980 is was back in, and has been steadily climbing – with the biggest one year jump thus far occurring after Adam Sandler welcomed his first daughter with wife Jackie, Sadie Madison (the middle name honours his star-making turn as Billy Madison), in 2006.

With the attention that surrounded Christina Applegate’s first pregnancy, and the positive reactions to her daughter’s name (Sadie Grace was born January 27th), it seems only too easy to predict that this name will rise some more. It also, because of the era the name was born, is another selection to add to the growing GGR trend – except that when I hear it, I hear a modern baby name. Either that, or a fun-loving flapper girl of the Jazz Age. Nothing about this name really screams “grandmother” to me.

It’s fun, cute, modern, and nearly as propped up by 20th Century pop culture as Sally and Susie. While currently at 118 in the US, it’s inside the Top 100 here in Canada. Here, a well-known indie rock band from Toronto goes by the name The Sadies, and could be why the name ranks higher in Canada than anywhere else (even though this name has been described as distinctly All-American). The band performed with Neil Young, and it’s actually The Sadies who were “& Her Boyfriends,” touring and recording with US singer-songwriter Neko Case.

The Sadies got their name from Al Capp’s Lil’ Abner comic strip, about a clan of hillbillies from fictional Dogpatch, Kentucky. The strip ran from 1934 to 1977 in newspapers in the US, Canada, and Europe, and one of the strip’s main characters was Sadie Hawkins. Dubbed “the homeliest gal in the hills,” her father, Hezekiah, invited all the single men of Dogpatch to court his 35-year-old unmarried daughter, and called the event “Sadie Hawkins Day.” This, of course, sprouted the Sadie Hawkins Dance – a long-standing tradition where the girls ask the boys to be their date, opposing traditional views of courtship. The positive reaction to Capp’s Sadie Hawkins Day led to the strip featuring it as an annual event, every November, for four decades (and that makes it the perfect name to feature to kick off this month). As a result, the name Sadie has come to be associated with modern feminism.

Sadie has appeared often in song, TV and film, from The Beatles’ “Sexy Sadie” to Aussie rocker John Farnham’s “Sadie the Cleaning Lady,” to the song “Sadie, Sadie, Married Lady” from Barbra Streisand’s hit musical Funny Girl, and the traditional blues song “Little Sadie.” Australian actress Melissa George had a star-making turn portraying Sadie Harris on Grey’s Anatomy (she and the title character, Meredith Grey, traveled together after college and called themselves “Die & Death”), Bette Midler portrayed Sadie Shelton in the 1988 film Big Business, and Mandy Moore played Sadie Jones opposite Robin Williams and John Krasinski in the ’07 film License to Wed.

This name also treads well in Britain, worn by actress/fashion designer (and ex-wife of Jude Law) Sadie Frost, and Sadie Bonnell was a British-born ambulance driver during World War I – the first woman ever to receive the UK’s Military Medal. That only helps this name play into its feminist vibe, as does another notable wearer – Sadie Tanner Mosell Alexander (born Sarah) achieved her PhD in 1921, the very first African-American woman to do so, and she was the very first woman to receive a Law Degree from the University of Pennsylvania.

Though the original spelling is hardly tired, alternate spellings abound – Saydie or Saidee among them, even Zadie is gaining ground on the heels of Sadie’s popularity. Even Sadia is possible. But for now, most are sticking to the original. Australian comedian Dave Hughes welcomed daughter Sadie May in April, while Christian singer Natalie Grant welcomed daughter Sadie Rose in December. Dan Auerbach, one half of the super-hot rock band Black Keys, welcomed daughter Sadie Little (potentially ironic if not intentional, as the Black Keys’ sound is pretty darn bluesy) in 2008. In 2007, American women’s soccer star Tisha Venturini welcomed a daughter named Sadie Quinn, younger sister to her phonetically similar sibling, Cooper Finn. Oscar-nominated actress Joan Allen welcomed her only child, Sadie, in 1994.

It’s one name that, like many others, has transferred to dogs – notably in 2005, a black lab named Sadie was awarded the Dickin Medal (animal equivalent of the Victoria Cross – the British Army’s highest human honour) for detecting a bomb outside the UN headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan.

I don’t personally know a Sadie, and it isn’t that common just yet, which in some ways makes this name even more accessible for me. Personally, I love it, and my impression is that most girls named Sadie appreciate their name, as well. The sole negative connotations of this name are the two words you can create by splitting this name in half – sad, or die, though the name doesn’t pronounce either word in it’s original form. This is a fabulous name choice for a little girl, but if you don’t like common names, you might want to use it now; I think it has so much potential for growth.


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