Seymour: Baby Name of the Day

by appellationmountain on October 23, 2012

Seymour River Seymour River (Photo credit: Flickstorage)

We’ve talked about Sinjin and Santiago.  Here’s another place name mash-up with similarly saintly roots.

Thanks to Heather for suggesting Seymour as our Baby Name of the Day.

Seymour has deep roots.

The future Saint Maur or Maurus was born in the early 500s.  It was a fairly common Late Latin appellation, the forerunner of Maurice.  Maurus entered a monastery young, studying under St. Benedict, author of the definitive guide to monastic life, the Rule of St. Benedict.  Maurus was an early follower, and a model student.

St. Maurus went on to found the first Benedictine monastery in Gaul.  Churches and places names followed, and remain in use today.

Saint-Maur-des-Fossés is a village just outside of Paris.  An abbey was established there in the seventh century, and dedicated to Saint Peter.  In the 800s, a group of monks fleeing a Viking invasion took refuge at Fossés.  They came from the Abbey of Saint Maur de Glanfueil – that original monastery established by Saint Maurus – and brought the saint’s relics with them.  A pilgrimage to the re-named abbey was said to cure all manner of ills, including gout, and many made the trip.  There’s also a story that the name change was prompted by a drought, during which prayers to Peter failed to produced the needed rainfall.  Prayers to Maur, however, did the trick.

Smoosh together Saint Maur, import it to English with the Norman invasion, and you’ll arrive at Seymour.

Seymour could come from – or be influenced by – English place names like Seamer.  But the family that made the name famous came from the French village.  The Seymours were influential in Tudor England.  Jane Seymour was Henry VIII’s third wife, and mother of the future King Edward IV.

So Seymour, like Clarence, once dripped with history and aristocratic flair.

Circa 2012, Seymour feels like the kind of name used in a prank call.  There’s mama’s boy Seymour Skinner on The Simpsons and the hapless owner of a very hungry plant in Little Shop of Horrors.  Then again, Arthur, Frederick, Theodore, and Max once seemed crusty and fusty, and today they’re quite stylish.

Can Seymour be revived?

He peaked in the 1920s.  While some names from the era are back in force, others are … not.  Fellow jazz age boys Howard, Harold, Herbert, Earl, Earnest, Melvin, Floyd, Lloyd, Lester feel borderline unwearable.  Seymour left the US Top 1000 in the 1940s, and just six boys received the name last year.

On the pro-Seymour side:

  • JD Salinger gave the name to the eldest of the Glass children, though Seymour’s story is ultimately an unhappy one.
  • Actor Seymour Cassel has had a long career, including The Royal Tenenbaums - loosely based on the Glass family.
  • There’s also Pulitzer prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh.

I even found a scandalous eighteenth century noblewoman named Seymour Dorothy Fleming – she left her husband for another man.

But the most convincing case comes courtesy of a Babble article from the mom of a Seymour, who points out that it comes with ready nickname Sy.

Throw in artists, scientists, and politicians, plus Fry’s dog in Futurama and Seymour starts to feel like one that might be back, right around the time Floyd and Harold reach the playground.

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