He’s an old school fashionista, a gambler and a Southern gentleman, too.
Today’s Baby Name of the Day is Beau.
If you remember your high school French, you’ll recall that beau is the word for handsome. Beau garçon means pretty boy; I’m not sure if the phrase carries the same vaguely dismissive tone in French.
In English, we’ve used the term beau to mean boyfriend since the 1700s, but today it’s quaint, even euphemistic.
It doesn’t make for a very likely given name. And indeed, most of the early Beaus were christened something else entirely:
- Beau Brummell, arbiter of men’s fashion and England’s original dandy, could’ve have his own reality series – if only television had existed in the eighteenth century. He was born George;
- In the same era, Richard Nash was a big deal in Bath, and he, too, answered to Beau;
- The fictional Michael Geste was a creation of PC Wren in his 1924 adventure novel Beau Geste. Michael was called Beau. Nickname and surname combined for a clever play on words. The novel has been adopted for the big screen more than once;
- James Walker was New York City’s mayor during the Jazz Age, a figure ultimately brought down by scandal but remembered as Jimmy Walker – or Beau James, the title of a 1957 biopic;
- Sidney Walker headlined prizefights at Madison Square Garden in the 1940s as boxer Beau Jack;
- Vice President Joe Biden passed on the family first name to son Joseph Biden III, but he’s known as Beau;
- Actor Beau Bridges was born Lloyd Bridges III, and received his nickname from a fictional figure.
The fictional Beau that inspired the Bridges was Margaret Mitchell’s creation: Beauregard Wilkes, son of Ashley and Melanie Wilkes in Gone With the Wind. It was a perfectly appropriate choice – Mitchell had assigned Ashley to real life Confederate General Pierre Beauregard’s command. The Louisiana-born Beauregard inspired plenty of namesakes, and it lends the name a decidedly Southern air.
None of this suggests that Beau would be a likely choice for a son born in recent decades, but a number of uses turned the tide in his favor.
First came Maverick, the television western that about the poker-playing clan: Bret, Bart, Beau, and Brent. Roger Moore played English cousin Beau Maverick. The show debuted in 1957; Moore’s character was a later addition to the cast, joining in 1960. The character is probably the reason the français Beau sounds right at home on the range.
Beau first appears in the US Top 1000 in 1967 and was climbing slowly when another Beauregard appeared on the small screen.
Days of Our Lives’ Bo Brady has transitioned from motorcycle-riding bad boy to upstanding police commissioner. His full name is Beauregard Aurelius, but he’s always answered to just the two-letter Bo.
Then along came another Bo, this time an athlete: Vincent Edward Jackson, better known as Bo Jackson. One of the few players to excel in two professional sports, Jackson played in both the NFL and major league baseball, before injuries ended his career. He also made waves with his Nike campaign. Jackson promoted his signature shoe with another famous Bo, Roll and Roll Hall of Famer and guitarist Bo Diddley – born Ellas.
Beau rose into the 1980s, but he never made it much higher than the 200s. As of last year, Beau ranked #397 while Bo came it at a mere #840. Even though he’s on the decline, Beau could still wear well. With Wyatt and Luke in the US Top 100, Beau could serve as an appealing alternative.
Totally unrelated sidenote: Today’s Name of the Day was scheduled to be Frederick, with credit to Kelly. But guess what? I’d written about Frederick some fifteen months back. It was a great suggestion then, and remains one of my personal favorites today. My apologies for the confusion and oh-boy-golly do I need to figure out a better tracking system!