Name of the Day: George

by appellationmountain on December 12, 2008

He’s a curious monkey, a mad king and a nursery rhyme, plus we’re all carrying him around in our wallets. But how does this choice wear on a real child?

Today’s name is in honor of a local birthday boy: George.

Georgia is fashionable these days. George meets most of the requirements for a pleasing throwback choice, too, but he’s lagged far behind other regal appellations like Henry and William.

It’s a bit of a mystery, but we submit that George would fare better if we reclaimed his old nickname – Geordie. Maybe George feels too formal for a small child, but we can easily imagine Geordie running across the playground with Charlie and Theo.

Odds are strong that you’ll find a George on your family tree. The name was a Top Ten staple in the US through 1937; remained in the Top 50 until 1974 and even today ranks #147. It’s almost George’s worst ranking ever, but it still keeps him about even with Oliver (#140) and Edward (#145). The difference is that Ollie and Eddie are climbing, while George seems likely to slide even further.

The name has been in use since early days, and easily translates into virtually every Western language. The Greek Georgios means farmer, from the words ge – earth – and ergon – work. We haven’t turned up a famous Farmer George, but that’s about the only of field of endeavour where a notable is lacking. Consider:

  • Saint George, a Roman soldier. He was probably real; his dragon-slaying activities, not so much.
  • Kings of England, Greece and, naturally, Georgia, have worn the name. King George III – known for his less than stable mental condition – was on the throne with the American colonists staged a revolution.
  • George Washington eventually became the first president of the new country, post-revolt. Plenty of politicians and officials have worn the name since, including Presidents George Bush and George W. Bush.
  • There’s also George Marshall – general, Secretary of State and Nobel Peace Prize winner for his work rebuilding Europe following World War II.
  • A number of athletes have been called George, including World Heavyweight Boxing champ George Foreman – who used the name for all five of his sons. One of his daughters is Georgetta. (Four more girls escaped the Georgian naming machine.)
  • Inventor George Eastman is partly responsible for those snapshots of our adorable children.
  • Comedians include George Carlin and George Burns.
  • Pianist and composer George Gershwin is one of several musical bearers of the name. There’s also country music’s George Jones and George Harrison of The Beatles.
  • George was the pen name of choice for George Orwell – born Eric Arthur Blair, George Eliot – born Mary Ann Evans and George Sand – born Amandine Aurore Lucile Dupin.
  • Besides the monkey, fictional Georges include Seinfeld’s George Costanza and Harry Potter’s George Weasley.
  • Georgie Porgie kissed the girls and made them cry in the traditional nursery rhyme.
  • This list could not be complete without Hollywood leading man George Clooney.

It’s a classic name that defies type-casting. Choose your passion, and there’s a George that has distinguished himself in that field.

If we follow the English, as we so often do with baby naming trends, George is due for a comeback. He currently ranks #14 in the UK. Even without that boost, we’ve noticed plenty of parents reviving George – perhaps enough to propel him back in the Top 100.

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Katharine December 16, 2008 at 8:15 PM

‘Pudgy loveliness’ – I just love that! :-)

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JNE December 16, 2008 at 4:15 PM

George is our favorite for a boy – before we had our daughter, Imogen, we were leaning heavily toward George (if it turned out to be a boy). We’d tried for 8 years to have a baby and George had remained tops for us all those years (we were less consistent with girl names)… Still, when push came to shove, (we had moved from England back to my home country of the USA and it was ’07 and not ’99 anymore) we were definitely thinking twice about George… of course because of W! We wondered how many friends and strangers would think it was a tribute to W (after all, there are still a good many conservative souls who think he is a fine example of leadership – we don’t, but some people do\)… In any case, we looked for a good alternative, but leaned on George heavily anyway… We considered William (too mundane for us), Henry/Harry (couldn’t quite get ourselves to like it), Archer, Jarvis (oddly the runner up for us in the end), and many others (we really love Charles, but that’s my dad’s name and neither of us are big on naming our kids after relatives, which is also what was standing in the way of Eleanor for a girl… that and my husband’s dislike for the name). In the end our boy-name preference was moot, but maybe one day it won’t be… and if that ever turns out to be the case, I’m sure George and it’s pudgy loveliness will definitely be a top contender for us… I just love it! And thanks for the suggestion of ‘Dodge’ as a nickname – that is really fun and very cool!

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Bek December 16, 2008 at 2:05 AM

Oh but I’d love to see a post on Gordon! (purty please) :)

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appellationmountain December 20, 2008 at 9:21 PM

Since I have a celeb chef crush on Gordon Ramsay, that’s one I’m happy to do! He’s NotD on 12/30.

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appellationmountain December 14, 2008 at 8:52 PM

I’d say Jordy, too, and I’m fairly confident that’s correct. But Allison, I suspect many people would see Geordie and read it with a hard G, so that’s certainly a consideration.

Because Gordon? I think that’s a name not quite ready for revival!

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Lola December 14, 2008 at 8:32 PM

I’ve always said Jordy for Geordie. Anyone care to tell me if I’m right or not? I always figured if Geordi LaForge was “Jordy” in sound…. Now I’m second guessing myself, help!

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Allison December 14, 2008 at 1:53 PM

I just realized, reading Emmy Jo’s post, when I see “Geordie,” I read it as (hard “g”) Gordy, not George-y with j-sounds. Anyone else?

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Emmy Jo December 13, 2008 at 5:50 PM

George is my black kitten! I’ve realized the name’s sound doesn’t appeal to me much, especially when I find myself calling it over and over (I think it’s the two “j” sounds in one syllable), but I certainly like the classic feel. Geordie’s a darling nickname, and it does get around those two “j” sounds.

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appellationmountain December 13, 2008 at 4:06 PM

I’m so glad George gets a warm reaction from the crowd! It’s the name of an uncle of mine – actually, my dad’s cousin. He’s a great guy, and has always made me think of the name favorably.

As for the current president, I do wonder if that’s why more parents aren’t choosing it right now. It’s not enough of a reason to sour me on the name forever, but it did give me pause.

Lola, glad you’re back on the grid. And I didn’t even THINK of Jetson – d’oh!

Lyndsay, Dodge as a nickname for George – that’s really interesting. As a given name, Dodge seems a bit much (or it just because of the current auto chaos all over the news?) but it makes a very cool nickname.

Bek, I think I agree that George works *every* well in the middle spot.

A few years back, I was flying solo with Alexei when I ended up in the security line with a woman flying solo with THREE boys under five – William, Henry and George. It’s always stuck in my head – not just for the classic names, but for her total courage in squiring a trio of small children through the airport!

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Lola December 13, 2008 at 3:35 PM

I thoroughly like George. I have trouble working him in first place but he works beautifully in the middle for me. Makes me think of my late Pop, St. George was his patron Saint. I also theink “George Jetson” but that doesn’t bother me any (especially since my top name comes from that show too!). Funny how Dubya doesn’t come to mind until I read someone else’s post about him. I think it’s as simple as there have been so many famous George’s that he blends almost out of the picture for me. George Harrison was the only Beatle I ever liked and count me weird, George Weasley (Oliver Phelps) is awesome! I think George is simply fabulous. And I agree, Geordie needs a comeback.

– My power came back on sometime last night, I was out all day. Got lucky that it came back so soon, they’re still saying everyone will be back by Sunday evening. Whew! I missed this place! :D

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Allison December 13, 2008 at 1:32 PM

It’s a fine name, but it falls flat for me. I have a hard time getting on board with one-syllable names, I like more nickname options. I do like them as middle names, and I think George could be a standout choice there. For now, my distaste for the (mercifully soon to be) former president is too strong an association. It’s certainly easier to embrace a historical name with an unfortunate association; this one is too topical for my comfort level.

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Bek December 13, 2008 at 4:09 AM

I love George. Seems silly to dismiss a name on a president, I mean, there have been plenty of lousy presidents, kings and other forebearers, with lots of names, but we don’t always dismiss them. I know some think he’s too Constanza, as in Seinfeld’s chubby, bumbling friend, but since I’ve never seen an episode in my life, I look past that one too ;) George just has a warm, happy feeling for me, probably because so many great men have worn the name so well (including a grandfather for both my husband and me, and a great-grandfather on my side.) I’d love to use it as a middle name someday.

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Laney McDonald December 12, 2008 at 11:52 PM

I don’t really care for George at all. I can’t get past the George Bush association (worst president in the universe. His father is bad too.), and although I love George Clooney and George from Seinfeld, I could never name my child George. I know or have met a couple of great George’s though. One of my cousins has a good friend named George (He’s 16) and my Grampa’s father’s name was George too.

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Kim December 12, 2008 at 11:51 PM

Someone on another blog recently suggested Jory for a nickname for George. Feels a little feminine to me, but I could get on board with it.

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Shannon December 12, 2008 at 11:09 PM

My cousin’s name and he makes a good George (whatever that is!). He was named after his uncle. Not too stuffy to use. But I don’t like Georgie for a nickname.

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Lyndsay Jenness December 12, 2008 at 11:05 PM

When Georgia was NotD I hoped you would eventually do George, too, I’m glad to see it so soon! George is thoroughly wonderful, isn’t he? So distinguished, but wears well on any type of person. My mom just told me recently that she regrets not naming my brother (Jeffrey) George, I certainly wish she had, he’d have been a great George. It was her uncle’s name, and he was apparantly an amazing man. I would LOVE to name a baby George (and I’d nickname him Dodge), but my husband absolutely hates it… so disappointing. The closest I’ll ever get is probably Georgiana in the middle spot.

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Katharine December 12, 2008 at 10:48 PM

Ohhh George! My favourite boys name… I just love his stout, classical, regal, timeless and straightforward feel. Not even the George Bush association can dampen my enthusiasm for him, I guess the main reason it doesn’t bother me is because (as Verity points out) there is a distinguished George in just about every field so he doesn’t feel tainted by one negative association. All the George’s I have ever come across have been really decent, proper and dare I say – wholesome chaps too which I think helps. I know that some people find George too formal for a small child but that doesn’t bother me either (besides I rather like formal!) What more is there to say except that I love love love him! Thanks for making him name of the day Verity :-)

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Cat December 12, 2008 at 9:55 PM

George is a very stout name, isn’t he? I really like his sound but happen to like Georgia more. I think part of the lag on a comeback might be due to George W; it seems like no one wants anything to do with him these days. I could see myself using George at some point, and the history is fascinating!

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