Maverick: Baby Name of the Day

by appellationmountain on January 7, 2013

Publicity photo of James Garner as Bret Maveri... Publicity photo of James Garner as Bret Maverick and Suzanne Storrs from the television program Maverick. This episode is “Guatamala City”. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on January 27, 2008 with the title “Don’t Go There: Maverick.”  I originally thought I’d run a series of posts about names parents should never consider for their children.  The site has changed quite a bit in four years – as have I! – and I thought Maverick deserved a more neutral treatment.

Cowboy names are very much in vogue, and unconventional choices for boys are on the rise.  Quiksilver and Vans make pint-sized versions of their skatewear. Strollers boast more options than my first car – and cost more, too. Indie bands hold kid-friendly concerts at midday. Yup, parenting is a lot cooler than it ever was before.

No wonder our kids’ names are heading in the same direction.  Our Baby Name of the Day is Maverick.

Many of us who are now of an age to name our babies remember Maverick as Tom Cruise’s daredevil fly-boy character in Top Gun back in 1986. It’s worth noting that Maverick was his callsign – his given name was Pete.

Before Cruise flew into the danger zone, there was an ABC show called Maverick in the 1950s.  The series featured a family of cool-headed gamblers, reluctant heroes of the Wild West.  Maverick was the last name.  Bret, Bart, Beau, and Brent all featured on the series before its 1962 ending.  As a given name, Maverick first appeared in 1958 and 1959, but he faded quickly.

Then along came a 1994 reboot of the movie, starring Mel Gibson as Bret Maverick, and the name re-entered the Top 1000.

The term originated when Texas rancher Samuel A. Maverick decided to leave his calves unbranded.  It was an unconventional strategy – and that’s just what maverick has come to mean.  The origin of Sam’s surname is debated.  Some say it is Welsh, while others claim Hebrew roots.  What’s certain is that today a maverick is someone who acts independently.

It is also a missile.

That’s the challenge with Maverick.  While many of his qualities are positive, they’re not exactly neutral.  Who could forget Sarah Palin embracing the term during the 2008 presidential election?  And maverick can also mean controversial or rebellious.

Plenty of signs point to Maverick’s continued rise:

  • He’s a surname name and a noun name.
  • The boys’ Top 100 is packed with little wranglers: think Wyatt, Chase, Colton.
  • His sound is spot-on.  Mav is a cool short form, and his -rick ending reminds us of Frederick, Derek and Eric, conventional choices for our sons.

But is he too cool?  The Dallas Mavericks are an NBA franchise, and the name has been used for Ford vehicles, cigarettes, shotguns, comic book characters, and at least one roller coaster.

It could also make for an awful lot of pressure for a child, especially if he ends up being bookish and shy instead of daring and brash.

Still, he’s undeniably on the uptick.  634 boys received the name in 2011, and he reached #425 – a record. With so much use, Maverick mellows … and for better and for worse, mellows into a more wearable name.

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