Has a Cheeto-chomping cheetah claimed this name, or could he be the next big retro revival for boys?
Thanks to Stephanie for suggesting the jazzy Chester as Baby Name of the Day.
Chester appeared on Nameberry’s Hipper than Hipster list, and why not? Nickname Chet conjures up American jazz icon Chet (born Chesney) Baker. And while he’s been out of favor for decades, Chester once regularly appeared in the US Top 100.
He’s also a place name, found on the map in two dozen US states (and that’s without counting Westchester, Dorchester and company.)
Step into the Wayback Machine to visit the year 79. The Romans established a massive fort on the site of modern day Chester. They called their fort Deva Victrix, but by the fifth century it was Ceastre, from the Latin castrum – fortified place. In the eleventh century, William the Conqueror created the Earl of Chester. Like many an aristocratic styling, it was only a matter of time until it passed into the first name spot. In the Middle Ages, the Earl of Chester was among the most powerful of landholders. The future King Edward I once wore the title. Today, the Prince of Wales is also styled the Earl of Chester.
Chester’s popularity in nineteenth century America is more of a puzzle. It could be the lingering impact of the anthem “Chester,” an American Revolutionary War song written in 1770 and among the most popular songs of its day.
Or perhaps it was in homage to Chester Arthur, the 21st President of the United States, Vice President when James Garfield was assassinated. Arthur proved to be a capable leader; even Mark Twain grudgingly admitted that the former veep had done good work in the Oval Office.
Chet Baker kept the nickname visible – in fact, Chet ranked as an independent given name from 1956 into the 80s, fitting in with Todd and Dean. Chester continued to fall in the 1960s while Chet enjoyed modest suggest. Chet left the US Top 1000 in the 1980s; Chester held on until 1995.
Pop culture hastened his decline. In 1986, the Cheetos Mouse got the boot and Chester Cheetah became the official spokescreature for the crunchy, neon orange snackfood. More than two decades later, he’s still going strong. There’s also the unfortunate tendency to rhyme Chester with molester.
Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson named their son Chester Marlon in 1990, a big brother for Truman Theodore. Let’s call the Hanks family solidly ahead of the curve.
Just as Dexter sounds quite cool in 2010, odds are that Chester is due to leave the senior citizens’ home for the maternity ward any day now – at least in fashionable neighborhoods.