You might find this name on the pages of Rolling Stone or The Village Voice. How would it look on your child’s birth certificate?
Thanks to Janelle for suggesting Greil as our Baby Name of the Day.
There’s only one Greil that springs to mind. It’s not quite like Cher or Madonna, but I’m guessing that rock critic and writer Greil Marcus pretty much never had to sign his schoolwork Greil M.
Marcus has had a long career. He wrote for Rolling Stone in its early days, putting him in the company of notables like Hunter S. Thompson and Cameron Crowe. File him somewhere between scholarly pursuits and pop culture.
He’s also part of an infamous hoaxes. Back in 1969, you could head into a record store and buy an album called The Masked Marauders. There were no credits on the cover, but rumor had it that The Masked Marauders were really Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger, John Lennon, and Paul McCartney. It was a collaboration sure to go down in legend, or so said the review in Rolling Stone.
The review, it turned out, was a fake, written by Marcus under a pseudonym, inspired by other late 60s supergroups like Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. The album was recorded by a local group.
So where did Greil’s unusual come from? He was named after his dad. It sounds like a surname promoted to the first spot, and I’ve unearthed three possible origins:
- It could be derived from a German place name – Greuel. There are plenty of people with the surname Greuel, and the pronunciation they favor appears to be closer to Groyal. I haven’t nailed down the actual location of Greuel, which makes me suspect that there was more than one, and none have survived as official designations;
- Others suggest that it comes from a Middle High German word meaning horror. In Dutch, gruwel means something like atrocity or abomination, so this is possible;
- Lastly, our word grill comes from the Old French greil. I can’t find any sources that connect this word to the surname – but it seems plausible.
A very few other Greils appearing in the US Census records suggest that this is a rare family surname occasionally promoted to the first spot. I’d been inclined to pronounced the name greel, but in at least one interview, Marcus says his name more like growl.
There are two other places you might discover Greil:
- Nintendo GameCube’s role playing game Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance centers on the main character, Ike, the son of Greil. Greil’s Mercenaries include Rhys, Soren, Titania, and a few other names that are surprisingly wearable;
- In the Black Butler manga, there’s a character called Greil or Grelle. He’s a chainsaw-wielding, shark-toothed figure that seems unlikely to inspire parents.
Obscure manga characters aside, Greil feels current. His indie vibe makes him a brother to Rufus or Jude. If single-syllable names for boys really are the next big thing, then Greil could appeal to parents disappointed that Gage and Cade are epidemic.