He’s a literary legend, but how would his surname wear on a child today?
Thanks to Kate of My Kids Eat Off Floor for suggesting one she’s considering. Our Baby Name of the Day is Steinbeck.
John Steinbeck scooped up a Pulitzer and a Nobel Prize for his writing, much of which is on the required reading list of every American school student. Odds are you didn’t make it out of freshman English without reading Of Mice and Men, East of Eden, or The Grapes of Wrath.
The author was a powerhouse, but his surname is pretty conventional. Modern day Germany is dotted with plenty of places called Steinbach, and a year or two of high school German, will suffice to decode this one – stein for stone, bach for stream. When John’s grandfather came to the US, the family name was actually Grossteinbeck, so make that a big, rocky stream or a stream near big rocks or … you get the idea.
- He’s instantly recognizable as a literary choice, and just like Hawthorne or Hemingway, is both familiar and very rare at once;
- With occupational names in vogue, Mason has risen to #34 in the US. Steinbeck was sometimes given as a surname to anyone who worked as a mason;
- The equally literary Beckett stood at #413 for boys in 2009, and the athletic Beckham came in at #848. While the evergreen Rebecca recently left the girls’ Top 100, a position she held from 1940 into 2006. Beck and Bex are starting to sound like the newest boys on the block, friends for Jack and Max.
Still, Steinbeck is unlikely to catch on and, despite fitting a few trends, is definitely one for the unconventional namer only. He’s one of the few names I’ve come across that was actually given to zero newborn babies in 2009. Nancy’s list gives us eye-popping unusual choices like Scottland and Swayze, but Steinbeck is nowhere to be found.
In the middle spot, he’s an unassailable hero choice, a wish that your child will be smart, thoughtful, and accomplished. As a given name, it is truly surprising, but somehow that second syllable makes him feel just on the right side of wearable.
And the real bonus? Unlike some equally literary options – Huxley or Twain, maybe – there is little chance parents will embrace him on sound alone, meaning that Steinbeck will retain his literary cred, while Huxley’s mom is explaining that it’s Huxley, like the writer, not Hurley, not Harley, not Huck.