Ace: Baby Name of the Day

Snoopy as "the World War I flying ace&quo...

Photo credit: Wikipedia

He’s a glam rocker, a star pilot, and now the latest celebrity arrival, too.

In honor of Jessica Simpson’s new son, our Baby Name of the Day is Ace.

My first thought when I hear this name is always Ace Frehley, one members of 1970s powerhouse Kiss.

Frehley’s alter ego is sometimes known as SpaceMan, but Space Ace pays homage to the nickname he’s had since his teenage years.  His real name is Paul.  Frehley joined Kiss in 1973, and his guitar playing was an important part of putting the quartet on the map.

Then there’s the flyboy angle, mostly familiar to this generation of parents thanks to old movies and the Peanuts story lines involving Snoopy and the Red Baron.

The term initially applied to just one person – Adolphe Pegoud, a French fighter pilot during World War I.  But it quickly became a status to be earned by any pilot.  Earning the title is a feat – the pilot had to shoot down five or more enemy planes and live to tell.

Speaking of sports, the idea of an ace as a point – especially a point scored thanks to an nonreturnable serve in tennis – is even older.

References to the ace on playing cards are older still.  The idea of the ace as the highest card, and thus a synonym for excellence, goes back to the Latin as – a unit, or unity.  It might come from the Greek eis – one, but again, more like single or unity.

Suddenly, this feels more like a modern virtue name than a macho, tough-to-live-up-to, word choice.

There’s more, too.  Ace trumps the royals in card games.  That’s no accident.  Around the time of the French revolution, fashionable card games changed the ace to the high card – symbolizing the rise of the common man.

But back to this as a name for something other than a pet or a sports team’s mascot:

  • Athletes aplenty have answered to the name, though rarely on their birth certificates.  The MLB gives us Ace Adams.  The NHL had Ace Bailey (real name Irvine).  A fellow named Leo Gottlieb had a good run in basketball as Ace, too.
  • Music gives us Athos C. Brigode, who became a successful bandleader wearing the nickname.
  • There was also Johnny Ace, music – born John Marshall, Jr.
  • More recently, you might recall American Idol contestant Ace Young, born Brett Asa Young.

Some of the men – like the MLB’s Adams – might have been born with the name.  From the nineteenth century through 1903, he charted in the US Top 1000 a handful of times.  It was decades before heavy metal, well before the World Wars.  What inspired those early uses?  Possibly a family surname, derived from a Germanic given name brought to England by the Normans.  Asse, Asce, or Azzo are some of the spellings – there’s also a Geoffrey de Ascelin at the Battle of Hastings in 1066.

The other character that comes to mind is Jim Carrey’s flamboyant, larger-than-life pet detective, Ace Ventura.  Ventura’s back story suggests that outrageous names are the norm on his family tree.

Love it or hate it, Jessica isn’t the first new parent to embrace Ace.  He’s been back in the US Top 1000 since 2006, and just shy of 500 boys were given the name in 2012.  This is a name on the rise.

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7 Comments

I taught an absolutely lovely, cheeky boy whose really name was Alessandro, but he went by Ace. Even to the point where all his certificates were issued to Ace and as soon as he turned 18, was having his name legally changed to Ace. I absolutely love it. My husband and I, had we ever had a boy child, were to name him Alexander, NN Ace.

I like Ace as a nickname for Alexander, which I’ve heard used by Eastern Europeans.

And from Alexander, it’s appealing to me to consider applying it to Alastair. That might just be me who thinks so, though.

I think Ace works for Alexander, and yes, especially for Alistair – the ‘s’ sound links it to Ace.