He’s a prince consort, a popular song, a punchline, and a genius.
Thanks to Jenna for suggesting Albert as our Baby Name of the Day.
Albert was once the most ordinary of names for a son, akin to Josh or Matthew today. He appeared in the US Top 20 into the 1920s, and the Top 100 right through 1961. You may very well have an Uncle Albert. Even if you don’t, it still sounds right. In Mary Poppins, it was Uncle Albert who hosted a laughter-induced mid-air tea party. Paul McCartney scored a #1 hit with “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” in 1971. McCartney did, indeed, have a real life Uncle Albert.
Albert has a long history of use. He traces his roots to two names: the German Adalbert, from adal – noble, and behrt – bright, as well as the Old English Aethelbert, composed of similar elements. Three saints answered to the name before the year 1000. Medieval Europe also gave us:
- A string of Austrian Dukes and one German King;
- Historian Albert of Aachen, who recorded the events of the First Crusade;
- At least two distinguished bishops;
- An assortment of Margraves and Princes, as well as a Swedish King.
While European families were big on Albert for centuries, he’s a rarity in English until the future Queen Victoria married Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. It’s a fascinating tale – an 18 year old queen, cousins who ended up a love match, an unpopular foreign prince who won the respect of his adopted country, a long mourning following his death. That’s his coat of arms pictured above.
Two of Albert’s grandsons shared his name, as did many other notables:
- Albert Einstein escaped Nazi Germany and discovered the theory of relativity;
- French author and philosopher Albert Camus won the 1957 Nobel Prize for Literature;
- Legendary blues musicians Albert Collins and Albert King.
The last two take some of the British gentleman vibe away from Albert. So does current St. Louis Cardinals first baseman and three-time Major League Baseball MVP Albert Pujols.
A trio of World War I battles took place in Albert, a town in the Somme department of France, over the course of four years. You’ll also find Albert on the map in the US and elsewhere, including Belize.
Some of Albert’s quirkier uses include:
- Albert Heijn is a large, upscale grocery store in the Netherlands;
- The Florida Gators’ mascots are Albert and Alberta Gator;
- In the 1920s, you could drive an Albert, a short-lived British automobile company;
- Prince Albert was a popular type of tobacco, and the reason for the prank call “Do you have Prince Albert in a can? Then you better let him out!”
- Hey, hey, hey, don’t forget Bill Cosby’s 1970s cartoon series Fat Albert.
Nickname Bertie feels just right with the current British craze for short forms like Alfie. There’s also Albie, as in fictional bad guy Alby Grant from HBO’s Big Love. And don’t count out Al. With boys answering to Gus and Hank, Al might sound just right on a boy, too.
Can Albert make a comeback? At #404 in 2009, he’s clearly out of favor. But his credentials as a classic suggest he’ll hang on.