Baby Name of the Day: Roger

Is he jolly well due for a comeback, or is this stormin’ Norman over and out?

Thanks to Caroline for suggesting Roger as Baby Name of the Day.

Roger had his heyday in the US in the 1940s, leading some to believe that he’s as fleeting as Troy or Jayden.

But Roger has more history than many a recent discovery. The hero of the epic poem Beowulf came to the aid of Hrothgar, King of the Danes. The poem’s exact dates are debated, but could be as early as the eighth century. And Hrothgar could be an early form of Roger.

The Normans imported Roger to England in the eleventh century. He comes from German elements hrod – fame and ger – spear, a good name for a warrior.

One of those Norman knights made it all the way to Sicily, where he established himself as Roger I. He passed his name – and his realm – on to a son. The Sicilian rulers weren’t the first to wear it, though – Roger’s older half-sister Beatrix married a Roger, too.

Two notable scientific pioneers answered to the name: in the twelfth century, Salerno’s leading physician was Roger or Rogerius. His writings on surgery were widely influential. A century later, Roger Bacon’s writings helped established the scientific method.

By the seventeenth century, Roger had changed. Just as parents hesitate to call their sons Dick today, so it was with Roger in the 1600s and 1700s. He spent centuries as unpleasant slang, also referring to clouds of toxic gas in England’s factories; nickname Hodge was a derisive term for a country bumpkin; and somehow by the eighteenth century, he became associated with the skull and crossbones flag used by pirate ships.

Resilient Roger never faded entirely, and several America notables wore the name, including:

  • Roger Sherman, one of the five drafters of the Declaration of Independence, and also a signer of the Constitution;
  • His descendant, Roger Nash Baldwin, director of the American Civil Liberties Union during several famous trials, including the murder trial of Sacco and Vanzetti and the Scopes monkey trial;
  • Roger Taney was the Chief Justice of Supreme Court who administered oath of office to Abraham Lincoln.

Famous Rogers from the twentieth century include:

  • Rock legend Roger Daltrey of The Who, plus Pink Floyd’s Syd Barrett was born Roger;
  • Athletes like tennis’ Roger Federer and baseball’s Roger Clemens and Roger Maris;
  • Hollywood gives us Roger Moore, who played James Bond in the 1970s, as well as famed critic Roger Ebert and director/producer Roger Corman.

Fictional Rogers range from The Scarlet Letter’s Chillingworth to Mad Men’s Roger Sterling to the animated headliner in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

After spending 1921 through 1975 in the US Top 100, today Roger is more like to be worn by a grandpa than a grandson. If you’re trying to honor a Roger, you might consider the more current Garrett. Or, take a cue from the phonetic alphabet. Through the 1940s, radio operators used “roger” for the letter R. (Hence Roger meant Received.) When NATO adopted their standard alphabet, they opted to represent the letter R with Romeo.

While his #496 ranking in 2009 was his lowest since, that’s far from obscurity. In fact, more than 500 baby Rogers were born last year – just a few paces behind vampire surname Cullen.

Here’s betting Roger will be back.

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37 Comments

My 5yo is named Roger and we absolutely love it. We wanted a name that was familiar but uncommon, and I was watching Season 3 of Mad Men the summer before I gave birth and was in love with Roger Sterling. I only recently learned the slang meaning from a British friend. Oh well. Day late and a dollar short!

For some reason, Roger is the guy who fix your car, the guy who reminds you of Chris Farley. Don’t know why I have that impression.

Ah, way to rope in a lurker! I’m married to a Roger, I think the associations with his name make it even more appealing to him. I think he quite likes the “rogering” slang of the British and finds it amusing – also, that he is one of the few Rogers of his generation. My son, who is into pirates, likes that his father’s name is associated with outlaws. Roger to me is what he is: funny, masculine, and sexy. Kind of like Roger Sterling…except without the money.

My dad is Rodger. Roger has always looked “wrong” to me and I want to pronounce it roe-ger or roe-jer instead of rod-jer. Rodger is on my perpetual list for boy middle names.

I loved that name when I was 10 or 12. It’s not a favorite anymore, but I do have a small soft spot for it.

I had to laugh when I say today’s name. I know one in particular that burned off way too many brain cells in his youth, speaks extremely slowly and generally drives a lot of us up the wall.

So, absolutely no way for me.

OK, so I get the roger = sex thing. But I’m pretty certain I didn’t know it as a slang term until I was in my 20s, and in love with all things England.

I had a friend who dated a Roger right around my senior year of high school. Kelleita, I agree – had we known, there’s no way we would’ve let that go. (I’m sort of feeling like we missed out …)

As for whether it is a strong enough association to make Roger unusable? I don’t know. I’d like to run a poll, but I fear the spam comments I’d attract!

I think it’s a regional & cultural thing. It’s a huge connotation to me, because it’s a very common slang word here ( LOADS of stuff in common with England).Some words have multiple meanings in different countries. I think it depends on your region & environment.How relevant it is actually to you, you know what I mean? Country plays a huge part in it.

Unfortunately, I think the general decline in language standards has made the term “rogering” sound more quaint than anything. I think most teens have more colorful verbs these days. It really doesn’t put me off the name at all.

OK, so maybe this is one of those language things I *thought* I always knew, but actually was exposed to it after meeting my husband? It’s definitely possible – there are some other words I do that with, unknowingly… but I really thought I’d heard of ‘rogering’ in a comedic film or three… maybe they were British films? Alas, it would not go over in our house, because my husband would most certainly crack a joke at the mere mention of the name… yep, I just checked, “Hey hon, todays NOTD is Roger” – insert non-family-friendly comment here. I guess the decade and a half I’ve spent with him has had its influences.

LOL! I envy your cross-cultural slang opportunities, JNE, though I suppose it rules out twice as many potential names. 🙂

I checked with my American husband, who is from the midwest. He says that he didn’t know of the slang until he met British me. I did look it up online and one of the online slang dictionaries said it was “chiefly British slang”. So whereas I thought he’d grown up with that slang, he wasn’t aware of it until like 10 years ago.

I love Roger! I’m very into “square” sounding names for little boys; ie Roger, Harold, Walter. I love that they are classic and manly, but more distinctive than the James, John, William genre. Basically, if it’s used on Mad Men, I’ll consider it, and Roger is my very favorite. I’m aware of the slang term, but in my corner of Texas, one doesn’t hear that, and I don’t find it as offensive as names that are slang terms for body parts like Fanny, anyway. I like the origins, and the pirate and WWII connotations are rather fun for a little boy. I find Roger to be a strong name that would wear adorably on a baby and handsomely on a man. It’s in my top 2 for boys!

Another American and I’ve only heard Roger as a sexual slang term in British films/television.
It’s funny, but I was just thinking about Roger yesterday and wondering if it was usable. I quite like Hodge or Hud as nickname and it has such a nice vintage, grandpa-like charm. Still it might need some more thought.

Interesting, I’d never come across Roger as a sexual slang term before either (I’m in Canada). It’s too bad, because I rather like Roger. The only Roger I knew growing up was called Jimmy by most of his family and all of his friends. I always wondered why, and am now suspicious that it may be do to the double meaning of his given name.

I wonder if the slang connotation is a regional thing? I’m in Wisconsin and I’ve never heard the name used like that. I had a classmate named Roger in college and surely someone in college would have latched on to that slang use of his name as a source of teasing, but we never heard it.

I’m NYC raised, and have lived up and down the East Coast of the US and have never heard of a naughty meaning for Roger!

I’d never heard until today that Roger is a slang word for sex. Certainly not here in the States, so I doubt it would be seen that way here.

I grew up with a classmate named Roger, and he is a junior, so to me it is linked to multiple generations.

Another fictional Roger was on Happy Days, played by Ted McGinley. I also like the spelling Rodger, plus the Spanish version Rodrigo (which is related to the surname Rodriguez).

UrbanAngel and Joy – Roger most certainly is a slang word for that in the States! Randy and Dottie also are slang as UrbanAngel mentioned they are in SA – same meanings. It’s still a classic, but one should at least be aware and willing to deal with the issues of a name like Roger, I think! Oh, and Roger also has the same meaning in the UK – or at least in the south.

I seriously hope I don’t ruin the name for any fans by saying this, but ‘roger’ is a very well known slang word (it might just be a SA thing) for having intercourse.So, I could never consider it.It’s the same thing with Randy = horny & Dottie – crazy. I apologize if I’ve offended anyone by saying this – but the connotation is too much for me. Maybe it’s just a cultural thing……

I do LOVE Troy, though, I’d just avoid Alexander as it’s middle name 🙂

Yes, the sexual slang makes the name off-limits to me. I’m British and my husband is American and we are both aware of the slang. Though he does have a co-worker called Roger.

Randy is another one that seems inappropriate to me – but I do really like Dottie, as a nickname for Dorothy.

On the subject of slang. I had to explain to an American friend who liked the name Fanny, that it would be an embarrassing name should they ever travel to the UK.

Oh yeah, Fanny is also really bad for SA as well. The name has the some connotation for me as a British person. Ironically, my mother went to high school with a guy who was known by Fanny & he never got teased. That always baffled us

I’ve got gutter brain…. and I also hear the name in Leslie Nielson’s voice, “Roger, Roger! What’s out vector, Victor?” Roger’s a classic, but with its R-rated double meaning in today’s society, I think a Roger might face serious teasing…. or maybe it would be too easy and kids would skip it… I don’t know. But I’ll still here “Airplane!” Sorry.

I also immediately thought of “Airplane!”.

This name is too outdated for me. Roger is Mavis’s husband, IMO, and definitely off my radar.

Somehow, Roger to me is in the same vein as names like James, Christopher, Charles and Alexander. Not necessarily names that I’m incredible fond of (though I love James and Alexander to pieces!) but names that I can see wearing well on any boy, whether he be nine weeks or 99 years old. To me, it’s a classic that is always “in style.”