Zappa. Sinatra. Gehry. Baum. Does this pick guarantee your son will be destined for creative genius?
Thanks to Jane, aka the Foxymoron, for suggesting Frank as our Baby Name of the Day.
Frank was a Top Ten name when the US rankings were established in 1880. He stayed in the Top Ten until 1922, and remained in the Top 100 until 1988.
That’s not counting boys who were named the more formal Francis, but only answered to the short form.
It makes for a long list, including:
- Legendary crooner Frank Sinatra, born Francis Albert;
- L. Frank Baum, author of the Wizard of Oz series;
- Architects Frank Lloyd Wright and Frank Gehry;
- Modern music trailblazers Frank Zappa and Frank Black;
- Director Frank Capra;
- Plenty of athletes, political leaders, and more.
Today, Frank sounds a little bit like a virtue name. But his roots are actually tied to the map. A Germanic tribe known as the Franks appears in the historical record as early as the first century; by 509, Clovis I reigned as King of the Franks. The tribe probably took their name from a javelin they favored, known as the frankon or franka. The Normans brought Frank to England as a personal name.
In the late 1100s, the Latin Franciscus – Frenchman – was a nickname given to the future Saint Francis of Assisi. He’d been baptized Giovanni, but his dad – a successful merchant – had been on business in France when his son was born. Dad nicknamed him Francesco, and father and son both shared an enthusiasm for all things related to French culture. But Francesco turned his back on privilege to form a religious order dedicated to living a simple life. He’s also the patron saint of animals.
In the sixteenth century, Saint Francis Xavier founded the religious order known as the Jesuits. Countless boys were named in honor of one or both of the religious figures.
As for the adjective frank, it also ties back to the tribe. Back in the day, only the conquering Franks were free – and so, free to speak.
Add it all up, and he’s clearly a saintly classic with quite a bit of backstory. And yet, Frank’s been falling out of favor for decades. A resurgence of interest in all things related to the Rat Pack failed to bolster ol’ Blue Eyes’ name. In 2009, Frank stood at just #289 – and had fallen steadily for decades.
File Frank with other once ordinary choices that now sound offbeat on a child. There’s a capable vibe about Frank – you expect him to own more than one wrench, to be the guy you can call when your engine light clicks on. He’s not quite a grandpa name, but not quite primed for revival, either.
Let’s call him part of the next wave, a likely successor to Jack and Gus, Max and Sam. There’s also the presidential Franklin, which could put a stylish surname spin on Frank.
Regardless of his rather frosty ranking right now, Frank deserves recognition as a classic, an every guy name that will almost certainly make a comeback – eventually.