British parents are mad about him. Will American moms and dads follow suit?
Thanks to Charlotte for suggesting her father’s appellation as our Baby Name of the Day: Harry.
Before the most famous boy wizard of all time wore the name, Princess Diana announced that her second son, heir apparent William’s little brother, christened Henry Charles Albert David, would answer to the nickname Harry.
Between the real and fictional headline grabbers, little wonder Harry has caught on like wildfire in the UK., where he is solidly in the English Top 10, leading a pack of nickname-names, like Alfie and Freddie.
Harry was a Top 100 staple in the US well into the 1950s, but he’s yet to show signs of returning to his former glory. In fact, his 2009 ranking – #649 – marks an all-time low. You might hear Harry as a nickname for Henry (currently #71) or the fashionable surname Harrison (falling slightly to #242 in 2009, but still current). Harold, despite the purple-crayon-wielding storybook kid and friend of Kumar, remains in fashion limbo.
While Harry is usually listed as a diminutive form of Henry, that’s not the whole story. The Normans imported the regal Henri to England. The French ehn REE became something more like HAYR ee in medieval English – think of Rubeus Hagrid addressing the young Mr. Potter. The spelling Herry can be found in the historical record. (The Welsh surname Perry evolved from “son of Henry” – ap Herry.) Strictly speaking, Harry is a variant of Henry, not necessarily a pet form.
There have been tons of notable Harrys over the years; many, like the wizard, with Harry on their birth certificate:
- 33rd US President Harry S. Truman;
- Escape artist Harry Houdini;
- Music gives us Harry Chapin, plus Bing Crosby was born Harry;
- Speaking of aliases, one incarnation of Spider-man’s nemesis Green Goblin answered to Harry;
- Clint Eastwood is forever remembered as San Francisco detective Dirty Harry Callahan;
- Then there’s Billy Crystal’s fictional Harry, the one who met Sally in the 1989 romantic movie classic.
Name your son Harry and he’ll have a built-in theme song, too. The jazzy “I’m Just Wild About Harry” was originally written for the Broadway musical Shuffle Along. Much-revised – and almost jettisoned more than once – the song was hit in 1921, and again when future president Harry Truman chose it for his campaign’s song in 1948. The lyrics, however, a more suited to a sweetheart than a candidate: He’s sweet just like sugar candy and just like honey from a bee.
Harry is still out of favor in the US, but that could change. There’s a Harry on Mad Men, and, of course, it’s hard to underestimate the impact of Harry Potter. Plus, Harry could be a brother for Charlie or Gus, those informal grandpa names that sound surprisingly fresh once more.
And, of course, if you worry that Harry isn’t enough for the birth certificate – or your mom bursts into tears that you’re giving her grandson such a fusty appellation – take your pick from any of more formal options listed above, and have the best of both worlds. Odds are that Harry will catch on.