If James Madison alumni can name their daughters after alma mater, why not proud graduates of this Texas university?
Thanks to Joy for suggesting Baylor as Baby Name of the Day.
As Joy pointed out, Baylor is almost a smoosh of two popular surname choices: Bailey and Taylor. If he didn’t exist, you can imagine him being created, along the lines of Rylan or Kyler.
But Baylor does exist. Robert Emmett Bledsoe Baylor – usually referred to as R.E.B. Baylor – was one of three founders of Waco, Texas’ Baylor University back in 1845. It’s far from his only achievement. Baylor had a long career in politics in Kentucky and Alabama before moving to the Lone Star State – which was actually not yet a state on his arrival. R.E.B. helped draft the Texas state constitution, too.
Baylor was a busy guy, and he didn’t establish the institution of higher learning that bears his name solo. He and William Tryon initially suggested the idea at a gathering of Baptist church leaders. Reverend Matthew Hopkins got involved shortly afterwards, taking the lead raising money for the new school. Over the course of the nineteenth century, many changes took place – for a time, Baylor Female College operated independently. There was a merger with Waco University. But mostly, Baylor grew and grew and became well-established as a liberal arts college and member of the Big 12.
There are several possible sources for R.E.B.’s surname:
- Spelled Bailor, it could be an English surname related to bail, as in the money posted to temporarily spring someone from the pokey. Bail has Latin and French roots, but ultimately relates to a word that meant something along the lines of to bear a burden;
- Bailer and Beiler are German occupational surnames for those who work with barrels;
- Böhler was bestowed upon those who came from Saxony, where more than one village was called Böhle or Böhlen. I lost the thread there; bohl could mean bald or could be a term signifying kinship, or I could be missing it entirely;
- Some link Baylor to horses. Bay is used to describe a chestnut brown color, via the Latin badius, originally of horses.
Logical short form Bay also adds a hint of nature name style to Baylor. Couldn’t all those boys named River lead to a Bay?
And yet, Baylor is subject to being viewed as a nouveau coinage. If you have Baylor on your family tree or your college diploma, he’s a meaningful choice. Otherwise, you’d have to consider whether introducing your son as “Taylor with a B, like the university” will bother you.
If you’re up for the spelling, Baylor feels like a stronger option than some invented surnames. He’s yet to crack the US Top 1000 and even in 2009, Bayron was slightly more popular. But along with Baylan and Bayne, parents may discover Baylor yet.