Name of the Day: Alfred

Today’s choice has been worn by a poet and a king, a playboy and a fool. Is this a lost classic poised for revival, or one best left in mothballs?

Thanks to Lyndsay for suggesting our Name of the Day: Alfred.

Alfred is impeccably English – Old English, in fact, from the elements aelf – elf – and raed – counsel. We’re not quite sure what to make of that meaning.

Back in the 800s, Alfred the Great ruled Wessex. He was quite the popular monarch, so his name endured longer than many native grown English monikers.

While Alfred faded from use, he never disappeared entirely. In the early 1800s, a pair of parents with aristocratic roots – and perhaps a poetic streak – chose the name for their son. Alfred Lord Tennyson was a successful writer from his days at Cambridge, and would pen some of the most memorable works in the English language, including “The Charge of the Light Brigade.”

By the late 1800s, it was among the most popular names given to boys born in the US. Alfred remained a Top 50 pick through 1932, and Top 100 through 1951. Given his frequency of use, we find plenty of notable bearers of the name:

  • The legendary filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock;
  • Alfred Pennypacker, fictional butler to Bruce Wayne – aka Batman;
  • Mathematician and philosopher Alfred North Whitehead;
  • Publisher Alfred A. Knopf;
  • Swedish inventor-turned-philanthropist Alfred Nobel.

We could go on. And on. Beyond the talented and capable Alfreds, we also think of Mad magazine’s jug-eared Alfred E. Neuman. Interestingly, the name and face evolved separately in pop culture from so many sources it’s difficult to pin down the origins of either. But it does take some of the shine off this one.

While Alfred might feel like a bit much for a small child, we can’t help love his nicknames: the quirky Alf (yes, he’d share it with a furry television alien), the charming Freddie, the easy-going Al.

And then there’s Alfie. The original big screen adaptation of Bill Naughton’s play was a smash 1966 hit starring Michael Caine. Jude Law played Alfie in the remake in 2004 – it didn’t fare nearly as well. In all three versions, Alfie is a dashing man about town, a loveable but irresponsible cad. While he’s too shallow a figure to inspire a child’s name, there’s a boyish charm to the nickname Alfie that we love. And it’s worth noting that in all three versions, there’s hope for Alfie at story’s end.

As of 2007, he ranked a mere #742, so Alfred may be headed for obscurity, charming nicknames or not. But we think it’s the kind of choice that feels outlandish today, but might feel perfectly reasonable in another few years. Should Alfred be a family name, we can’t think of any reason why you shouldn’t use it right now.

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12 Comments

I’m thoroughly charmed by Alfred. But then, we’re huge Batman fans here. I find him dapper, a bit fancy, warm and charming. Alfie’s cool with me, especially as a nickname (I am not charmed by him as a standalone) and Freddy’s okay, but thanks to a few personal assocations, it’s not ever going to be something I use, in any form. (not even Winifred, which charms me completely *sigh*)

Lyndsay, Alfred Frost sounds quite dapper and I’ll second Verity’s distinguished! I like it. There’s something eminentley capable and reassuring about Alfred. He gets a huge :thumbsup: from me. 😀

I knew something was up when I heard Lily Allen’s song Alfie last year. I didn’t even know it was a nickname for Alfred, but now it makes sense. No wonder the name is top ten over in the UK. I think Alfred will pick up a little here, but nowhere near the popularity over there.

Alfred’s OK, for nicknames Al sounds like a good guy but middle-aged mannish. Freddie and Alfie (does make me think of the song) are cute, maybe too cute for me. I like Alf the best of the nicknames, does not remind me of the TV show anymore but I’m afraid kids might be tempted to call him Elf (or Elfie). .. maybe Freddie’s the best.

Lyndsay, I didn’t even notice that Alfie was #10 in the UK – and climbing! That’s a good sign that he’ll be accepted on these shores, even if he’s not quite fashionable here.

Alfred Frost sounds quite distinguished. As I wrote the post Alfie really grew on me – I hadn’t given him much thought before. And you can sing the old Burt Baccarach song to him, “What’s it all about, Alfie?” I’m a huge fan of Freddy/Freddie, so that would be my first impulse to nn Alfred. But I think Alfie will wear well, too.

I’m in love with Alfred, we’re about 99% sure we’re naming him this. At first I didn’t like Alfred in full and only liked it for Alfie and Freddy, but now he’s grown on me so much. I love that there were only 298 boys named Alfred in the US in 2007. Also, I couldn’t decide between Alfie and Freddy being his main nickname, but after writing it in cursive about 12,000 times, I’ve decided that I love Alfie so much. The fact that it’s not in the top 1000 in america, but is number 10 in the UK is a plus. I figure it won’t sound too obscure, but certainly won’t be common here, at least not among kids his age. I love that there are so many great namesakes. I also love that he’s got that fusty old feel I love, but cute nicknames. I love that he’s uncommon, yet recognizable. I’m just completely in love and I’m pretty sure nothing anyone can say will change my mind. thank you so much for making this NotD!

ohhhh, and the middle name will be Frost… Alfred Frost, nn Alfie… what do you think?