A Local Dream of a Name

May 26th 2010

Have you ever met a woman named Dreama?

If you answered "no," no worries, neither have I. But if you answered, "sure, I know a few Dreamas -- and a Drema, too," then I'm going to use my psychic baby name powers: you are from West Virginia. OK, at least near West Virginia?

For all of the power of the global media, local name trends still flower. Utah is full of Brinleys and Brynlees, and Rhode Island boasts a remarkable number of 20-something Michaelas. I love coming across these pockets of local flavor, micro-culture in a mass-culture world.

The wonderful example of Dreama comes to us via reader Amy, who moved to West Virginia to attend college in the '80s. She writes, "It was a name I had never heard but many of my native-WV classmates had mothers, aunts, and older sisters named Dreama. When I asked them about the name, they all acted like I was strange for never having heard it before."

Local stats from the mid-20th Century are piecemeal, but everything I can find supports Amy's finding. Dreamas concentrate powerfully in West Virginia, with side populations in neighboring Kentucky and Virginia (Southern and Western only). The name's popularity timeline seems to follow the same curve as kindred spirit Darlene. Both Dreama and Darlene are sweet sentiments ("dream," "darling") rendered in mid-century girl form. But no, West Virginia was never a particular hotbed of Darlenes.

Can any West Virginians helps us out? Any insight on why Dreama took off in your neck of the woods? And for the rest of us, any suggestions of Dreama and Darlene-style names that could take off today?


May 26, 2010 11:52 PM

I knew a Dreama once when I was working in day care in GA. She would've been 2 in the early 90's. It was an odd sort of name to me then. Now I would probably not blink an eye upon meeting one. It seems to match in style to some other names currently popular like Heaven (or Nevaeh).
I suppose there are other virtue or word names that evoke that same "dreamy" or "peaceful" feeling. Aren't there plenty of showings of Serenity, Paz, Skye/Skylar, etc. on the SSA lists? In fact it seems that I knew quite a few Skylar's while in GA too. I will have to investigate this further tomorrow.

By Guest (not verified)
May 27, 2010 12:18 AM

Maybe it was inspired by the big band and "Mamas and Papas" song "Dream a little dream of me"? It's possible that people heard it as "Dreama little dream of me..."

By Chelsea K (not verified)
May 27, 2010 1:34 AM

This use to be one of my favorite names when I was younger. It means music I have also meant someone with the name. I am from South Carolina but now live in Texas. She lives(lived) in Texas also. I am not sure where she is from or her age but I would say about 40's or 50's. She did not like her name.

By KEN (not verified)
May 27, 2010 1:43 AM

I wouldn't be surprised to see Mauer take off in Minnesota. (Just Bing Mauer Minnesota if you don't know what I'm talking about.)

By Rjoy (not verified)
May 27, 2010 1:53 AM

I have never heard of the name. But I have also never been to West Virginia. I am interested to heard what spurred it on.

May 27, 2010 3:34 AM

KEN: Does Mauer rhyme with Bauer? I can't see the sound appealing, but I know I can always be surprised!

I have never heard Dreama/Drema, but I've been noticing regional names in my area too. There were at least three Blaine/Blanes (b. 1980/81) at my high school. Granted, it was a large high school, but outside of my high school, I've only met two others with this name--and they were also in my home state (Hawai'i) and also of Japanese ancestry. (I didn't even realize how unusual this name was until I heard Midwestern friends' reactions to this name [one of them is my brother.]) There were also two Keanes and two Landons at my high school. Also born 1979-81 and also names that did not seem weird to me until I realized I know virtually no one with these names outside my high school. And again, all of Japanese ancestry. (I'd guess all about 4th generation.) Anyway, not sure what the deal is. I think my Midwestern peers associate the name with the rich boy Blaine in the movie Pretty in Pink (but that was later). Landon also strikes me as a movie star name. *shrug*

By Anna S (not verified)
May 27, 2010 4:17 AM

Never, ever heard of Dreama.

Btw, Laura, did you solve "The Menachem Mystery"? There was also another post about a certain name that took a strange dip in the 1970'es. I would love to know if we were of any help (and apologies if I missed the updates).

May 27, 2010 5:42 AM

Haha! My inner dialogue was almost verbatim of what Laura wrote. I do indeed know of two Dreamas, both of whom are in their 60s and worked in the same hospital as my mom. I grew up in southern Ohio, a quick 45 minute drive from WV. It always read to me as a "grandma name".

By toothfairy (not verified)
May 27, 2010 7:04 AM

I'm from WV, but have always lived in the north and east, a good 5 hours away from what is considered "southern WV". I know a "Drenna," in her 50's, but don't know anyone name Dreama, at least not personally. I have heard the name though. To me, it's a southern working class name-perfect for a coal miner's daughter, in the same generation at Kimberly.

May 27, 2010 8:51 AM

Copied & pasted from last thread:
From the quiz -

Classic Conservative : 45%
Modern Conservative : 15%
Modern Unusual : 10%
Classic Unusual : 10%
Classic Eccentric : 10%
Modern Eccentric. : 5%
Classic Outmoded : 5%

I picked Lorelai, Alexander, Alexandra, Anna, Andrew, Brendan, Charles, Dylan, Dallas, James, Jason, Juliet, Kaitlyn, Jacob, Elizabeth, Emily, Makenna, Margaret, Sally, and Tobias. Definitely feel that there should be separate quizzes for boy/girl names. I'm definitely more classic for boys, but I'm willing to venture into far more eccentric territory for girls.

By snowy1977 (not verified)
May 27, 2010 9:05 AM

I'm from Ireland and had never met a Gordon under the age of, oh, 70 - until I moved to Toronto. Gordons are everywhere here: kids, adults, pets, celebrities .....

By AC (not verified)
May 27, 2010 9:14 AM

I went to school with a Dreama! My high school was in VA but bordering WV. In the mid 90s.
That's so odd! I look forward to hearing if there are any other location specific names...

By Amanda W (not verified)
May 27, 2010 10:02 AM

I agree with snowy1977. There were usually 2-3 Gordons in my class at school (born late 70s in a Toronto suburb). Popularized by Gordie Howe, I believe, but later again by Gord Downie. I think the name spreads across much of Ontario.

May 27, 2010 11:06 AM

There was a Dreama in my elementary school. I lived in Central Virginia--several hours from southern West Virginia.

By Bue
May 27, 2010 11:07 AM

The only Dreama I know of is Dreama Walker, who plays one of the teenagers in The Good Wife. But I just checked and she is from Florida, so perhaps she's an anomaly...

snowy77 and AmandaW, very true about Ontario Gordons! Many boys I knew grewing up with in the 80s/90s had it as a middle name. The 'old fashioned' Scottish boys' names are very, very popular in Ontario in general.

By J&H's mom (not verified)
May 27, 2010 11:24 AM

No insight on Dreama, but here's one that's new to me: Oakley.

I've seen this name almost daily on name poll sites. Has there been an Oakley on a reality show? It seems very out of nowhere to me.

By Guest B (not verified)
May 27, 2010 11:29 AM

There's a lot of Gordon happening in the Maritimes too, I wonder if it's regional or national?

I've only met little girls named Perri in the northeastern states, anyone know what's up with that?

Here's a challenge: Does anyone know about the name Z@ckes? (sort of pronounced za-kiss) I would have assumed it's related to Zachary, but have been told it's actually related to Kyriakos. I can't find anything to link it to either.

By J&H's mom (not verified)
May 27, 2010 11:53 AM

Well, I did a quick Facebook search with the name Dreama, and there are Tons!
They almost all seem to be around 40ish.
Most of those I clicked on were from Ohio, West Virginia, or somewhere close.

There were also a number of African American Dreamas, which didn't surprise me.
When I first read Laura's post, the name reminded me of students I used to have with names like Miracle.

By Letdowns Said (not verified)
May 27, 2010 12:02 PM

Oakley is a character in the Pokemon universe, so maybe it's familiar to younger namers from that. (Her sister is Annie, btw. Annie and Oakley.)

May 27, 2010 12:38 PM

I don't know any Dreamas, but it doesn't surprise me that it's popular in a working-class state... whoever drew the comparison to Nevaeh is spot-on.

I dropped in, though, to announce the arrival of our little boy, M@lcolm Frederick W!mmer, who was born on May 15. We named him as we were wheeling me in for an emergency Cesarean, after agonizing over our list for the entire pregnancy. It suits him well!

May 27, 2010 12:39 PM

Never met a Dreama!

Darla & Starla seem similar to it (for me at least).It's got two very distinctive vibes for me, which are ironically different from each other. Well, it'd make my day to meet a Dreama, just because it's so different from what I'm used to!

@Guest B

No idea! Sorry

I wish that I went to your school!

Skye is actually in the same vein as Lily,Violet or Summer for me :) I found your Skylar/Skye comparison utterly interesting.

When you all say 'last' & 'lost', are they the same or different for you?

May 27, 2010 12:45 PM

Bue-I haven't noticed the Dreama in the Good Wife credits but I noticed a Wass? It was either there or in the Mentalist credits. Yes, I'm a TV hound. Has anyone ever heard of this name? If so waht does it mean and how is it pronounced?

meganromer-Congrats! It sounds like everything worked out in the end. As someone who also had an emergency C section and also named my son 1 week before that, I can relate. Take it easy and enjoy him now!

By hyz
May 27, 2010 12:41 PM

Interesting! I'm not from WV, and I've never heard of Dreama, but I come across a lot of WV names in my work (esp. southern WV), and they are frequently very interesting and different from the general populace. I think there are strong family naming trends that have been in place there for generations, and they are given irrespective of current national trends. That doesn't explain Dreama, but it does explain first names like Ulysses, Linton, Miness, Ancil, Erwin, Eustice, Earl, Ellery, Grover, Badge, Hack, Niall, Donal, Davitt, Floyd, Lester, Eugene, etc. (all male, not elderly). Many of these people will go by NNs or MNs. Such a neat microcosm of names/naming! I look forward to hearing if there's an answer to the Dreama mystery!

May 27, 2010 12:42 PM


Congratulations! I wish you and your family all of the best !

By Guest (not verified)
May 27, 2010 12:47 PM

While we're on the subject, Darlene has always puzzled me. Its representation in the US seems unusual: it was popular along the Eastern Seaboard, Gulf Coast, Hawaii (?!?), and New Mexico. Odd.

This name always makes me smile; it strikes me as surprisingly sentimental for the period--it's like naming your little one "Ducky" or "Deary" or "Pet."

May 27, 2010 12:49 PM

Larksong-I say Last (like the a in apple) and Lost (like an aw sound). My Skylar comparison was just because I've not heard such an abundance of them outside of that area/time period. I have come across a few in CT and a few more in PA but not until more recently. In the 90's they were unheard of in the NE.

By hyz
May 27, 2010 12:55 PM

meganromer, congratulations on your new little boy--I'm glad you and he made it through delivery safe, and his name is very distinguished!

Larksong, stylistically, I might put Skye/Skylar with Summer, but not with Lily or Violet. The first set sound like newfangled nature names to me, pleasant enough, but lacking history and a certain amount of weight/substance. The second set sound more like antique nature names, which I tend to find more charming.

By hyz
May 27, 2010 12:56 PM

Aww, Ducky would be cute! lol. :)

May 27, 2010 1:07 PM

hyz and zoerhenne

No worries. I completely understand. I just found zoerhenne's comment very interesting (in a good way). To me, Skye and Skylar are 2 different names & name styles. Skye, Lily,Summer & Violet are fresh, sweet sounding nature names that are normal, yet have a light & airy feel to them.They're utterly normal names that have a a whimsical air(not in your face about it, though)Yet, they do age well.I tend to think of antique nature names as Rose or Iris which I tend to shy away from lol . I do completely get your point(s), though

By Stef (not verified)
May 27, 2010 1:48 PM

Has anyone seen the 1999 movie "October Sky" starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Chris Cooper, and Laura Dern? It was based on a memoir written by Homer Hickam, who comes from the same tiny coal mining town my mom grew up in, in southern WV. Well, Hickam also wrote another memoir called "The Coalwood Way", and THAT memoir features a character named Dreama.

That is what this post immediately made me think of. That's the only Dreama I have ever heard of, and, yep, it's from a book set in southern WV coal country. Laura, you are scary good!! lol

By Bue
May 27, 2010 1:55 PM

zoerhenne, so I'm not the only one who scours the credits for interesting names! She's not a regular, she plays Zach's nasty girlfriend who was tweeting about Alicia. Wass - that is a strange one, I've never heard it before. I'd be inclined to rhyme it with the fish, bass.

meganromer, what a fabulous name! Many congratulations.

May 27, 2010 1:56 PM

Off topic, but I came across two interesting names today. The first is from the local crime report: a woman named Brightstar (accused of beating up her brother over a potato salad recipe). The story is somewhat ridiculous, but I love her name. The second interesting name is from a new student: a woman named Gentry. I assume she's southern since she currently lives in a small Southern town.

May 27, 2010 1:57 PM

the dreama thing is very interesting. i feel like there ought to be a very obvious explanation staring us in the face, but of course i have no idea what it is.

i feel the same as hyz regarding skye, summer, lily, and violet.

and larksong, last and lost are quite different for me. one has A as in apple and one has O as in pot.

By KRC (not verified)
May 27, 2010 2:31 PM

Congratulations, meganromer! Malcolm Frederick is excellent! Will you call him by a nickname?

I am with hyz on Skye/Skylar, Summer, Lily and Violet.

@Elizabeth T - thank you for the story about the woman named Brightstar who beat up her brother over a potato salad recipe. I needed to laugh today!

By J&H's mom (not verified)
May 27, 2010 2:38 PM

Gentry, Presley, and Paisley are all names I've heard on little girls of late.

I think they are the "new," Kennedy, Mckinley, etc...

I put Sky with nature names-but for me, it's much more with Sage and Jade, than Lily or Violet.

Skyler, on a girl, I'd put with Peyton and Camryn. Schuyler on a boy is totally different, of course, and, while this might sound odd, I react quite differently to Older Skye/Skys and Skylers, than younger ones.

May 27, 2010 3:01 PM

heheh I must admit, I do find this 'Skye' discussion rather funny.I'm not surprised that everyone agrees with hyz :)My view of names tends to differ on name forums a lot because of where I'm from ;) Either way, it's fun to see how people think

RE: Hermione from the last post
I forgot to say this , but if Unique can make the top 1000 -- I wouldn't worry about Hermione :)

Does anyone have some middle name ideas for Phoebe?

Can be of any style - just not very vintage /very classical i.e. names like Beatrice.Doesn't start with a p & is 2+ syllables long.Otherwise, it can range from invented to mythological to been around in medieval times to from another culture/language or a completely different style.I'm open to it all. I've given in to changing that middle, because it's a bit off in comparison to my other favs.After this, they'll probably all be safe for another year until they're open for inspection again! lol
Thanks :)

May 27, 2010 2:58 PM

J&H's mom-I agree with you regarding the Sky/Skylar debate. Skyler seems so made up that I would also put it with Peyton which is also not well established. Sky/e seems more of a modern nature name. Violet and Rose seem pretty well established and thus a bit "old-fashioned". I had also almost forgotten the "original" spelling of Schuyler.

I looked up the GA state names for the early 90's but since the state names only go up to 100 it was not on the list. I have no information as to why I knew so many young Skylers. I'm also not sure of the spelling after all these years so they could have been family names and spelled Schuyler.

Bue-LOL I stick around after movies are over in the theatre just to scan through the names!

By hyz
May 27, 2010 3:04 PM

I also agree with J&H's mom on the distinction between Skye and Skylar/Skyler. While neither are quite my style, I much prefer Skye to Skyler. Skye could also be a place name, as in the Isle of Skye--a beautiful place I'd love to visit, and the home of the awfully cute Skye Terrier, to boot.

May 27, 2010 3:08 PM

Larksong-hmm a 3+ syl mn for Phoebe. How about:
Phoebe Cassandra
Phoebe Alexandra*
Phoebe Mikayla
Phoebe Miranda
Phoebe Lucinda
Phoebe Theresa
Phoebe Alexis*
Phoebe Indigo
Phoebe Ursula (although Ursula Phoebe sounds better)
Phoebe Ophelia
Phoebe Anastasia
Phoebe Samantha*
* starred ones are my favs for flow

By Amy3
May 27, 2010 3:14 PM

Wow, Dreama. I'd be thrilled to meet one irl. My grandmother-in-law grew up in eastern Kentucky (near the southern Ohio border), and she and her siblings had some very interesting names too: Eskel (nn Eck), Sandless, Sefert (sp), Ninian (nn Nic), and Ulysses (nn Bus). And then there were Sarah and Edith. :)

@meganromer, congratulations! I love the name Malcolm and it's great with Frederick as the mn. Enjoy your little boy!

@Elizabeth T, thanks so much for the mid-day laugh about Brightstar, her brother, and their altercation over the potato salad recipe. That must be some potato salad ...

@Larksong, I agree with several others who have said the /a/ in last sounds like the /a/ in apple; the /o/ in lost sounds like /o/ in floss.

May 27, 2010 3:17 PM

re: Oakley: Hrm... there's the brand of sunglasses... and Annie Oakley? Was there a TV drama in the past few years that featured her?

J&H's Mom: Did the African American Dreamas fit the same demographics (age, geography) as the white ones?

re: Darlene (in HI): Trying to think of the Darlenes I know... I had a classmate (b. 1979, mixed Chinese ancestry I think), a teacher (b. 1940s, maybe also mixed Asian, not sure). It strikes me as a boomer name here I guess. I wonder if it might have been seen as all American. (This is my only current theory for Asian Am Boomer names in HI.) I think -een names may have lasted longer (or trended later) in HI than on the continent...

May 27, 2010 3:29 PM

excellent point!


LOVE Anastasia, but Anastasia is in my top 10 & I've liked it since I was a little, little girl.So, I don't like repeating middles in names that I'd seriously consider using on a child (if they're in my top 10 or 20)
CASSANDRA-- like it, but Sandra puts me off because of personal reasons.Like Cassidy as well URSULA -- not really my style & I've come across a couple of them in real life. OPHELIA/LUCINDA/MIRANDA not really my style, though they work really well.Prefer ALEXANDRA to ALEXIS.ALEXANDRA is similar to Alessia,which I was thinking of.ALEXANDRIA would be cool.MIKAYLA WAY too popular where I live.THERESA & SAMANTHA are nice, but SAMANTHA doesn't really fit with the rest of my favs.THERESA & INDIGO are growing on me for Phoebe.They're in the possibilities section :) Amelia Indigo is actually a pairing on my list

I really appreciate the help , though :)

By J&H's mom (not verified)
May 27, 2010 3:38 PM

Robyn T-The African American Dreamas seemed to be around the same age, but those with hometowns listed were not from the south, that I recall.
Keep in mind this is based on a very small sample size...I couldn't decide how many random strangers I could check out on fb before it became weird, but I may have crossed that threshold from the start!

Larksong-I'm going to suggest a semi-made-up/LOTRish name, from a friend of mine-Erewyn (like heroine minus the h)
Phoebe Erewyn. Give it a whirl.

By KMM (not verified)
May 27, 2010 3:42 PM

Ha! I've actually had this discussion before. When, as part of intern torture, I phonebanked at the RNC in 2008, one week we called West Virginia homes, and two people in our group had the name Dreama on their call sheets. None of us had ever heard the name.

May 27, 2010 4:50 PM

I actually know an african american Dreama from central VA!

May 27, 2010 4:52 PM

Meganromer: Congratulations! I'm glad you both are safe and well! M@lcolm Frederick is a great name.

I mentioned Honora to dh (it was growing on me), and he instantly said, "You mean, Annoying Honora?" I thought that was funny. He also said that the "nor" sound made him think of "snore" and that no one liked a snorer (he's an award winning snorer, for context).

By Zannejude (not verified)
May 27, 2010 5:10 PM

Re: Skye

I've just finished two excellent children's novels about the Penderwick family (by Birdsall). The four girls are called Rosalind, Skye, Jane and Batty (short for Elizabeth). Skye always seemed like the clear outsider for this sibling name set.

By Bon (not verified)
May 27, 2010 7:00 PM

have never met a Dreama, though plenty of Darlenes. have also never been to WV.

in response to the comment about Gordons - i think it's pretty common across most parts of Canada, especially those with a sizable Scottish population. i'm in the Maritimes, like the previous poster, and most of the Gordons here are 50+ but i'm beginning to see it come back as a mn among the very young, to honour fathers and grandfathers.

one of the regional names i grew up thinking of as quite common was Thane, which here in PEI was rather in the late 60s and early 70s, in the sense that i know of 6 offhand in a city of only 35,000. all are between 35 and early 40s.

my own name, Bonnie, also held on here into the 70s and early 80s, where it peaked much earlier in most of North America. like Thane & Gordon, it was popular with much of the very large Scots-descended population, far enough removed from Scotland to think of it as a name rather than an adjective.

does anybody know any Thanes outside of PEI? i've lived on the west coast of Canada, in Asia, and in Europe, and never met a single one who wasn't from here.

By Laura P (not verified)
May 27, 2010 7:07 PM

Elizabeth T - "Gentry" is a fairly common southern name (at least where I'm from -- NC/SC). It's also a common surname in the south. As is still a big part of southern tradition, families often give a mother's or grandmother's maiden name as a child's first or middle name, hence "Gentry."

By Kerri (not verified)
May 27, 2010 7:23 PM

I've lived in New Mexico about 20 years, and have never met a Darlene (although I do have a friend Darla!) or a Navaeh which is supposedly the #5 name in NM. Eek scary! I hope I never do meet a Navaeh, I would ring that mom's neck!