This one comes to us via Arthur – and Evelyn Waugh.
We’ll admit that while we haven’t seen the latest big screen adaptation yet, it was tempting to use the movie Brideshead Revisited to talk about the surprisingly popular Sebastian. Or perhaps Cordelia. But then we remembered Lord Flyte’s teddy bear, who inspired today’s Name of the Day: Aloysius.
Aloysius would be a lot of name for a small child. But we’ve covered – and considered using – the equally dramatic Ignatius.
Like Ignatius, Saint Aloysius Gonzaga was a Jesuit and left behind a considerable legacy. Schools are named in his honor on six continents; he’s the patron saint of young students. And Aloysius’ personal story is compelling – born into a wealthy and influential 16th century family, he eschewed considerable privilege to follow his faith.
Aloysius was born Luigi. If that seems like a stretch, hold on – it turns out that the almost theatrical Aloysius is a Latinization of the nearly ordinary, but very nice, Louis. Luigi is, of course, the Italian version of the name. Louis can also be linked to Lewis, Ludwig, Ludovic, Ludovicus and Clovis. All names share the same meaning – famous warrior, derived from the German.
You’ll find Alois and Aloys in the historical record. Both have a history of use in German and Czech and are sometimes listed as variants of Aloysius. The opposite appears to be true – Aloys was probably a variant form of Louis that was later Latinized as Aloysius.
Confused? The medieval tendency to use multiple spellings, to translate given names into the vernacular and to adopt the Latin for official purposes does muddy the waters. We think the story goes like this: Charlemagne’s son, Holy Roman Emperor Louis I – commonly known as Louis the Pious – was referred to as Aloys in the Provençal region. So Aloys likely inspired Aloysius, and not the other way around.
That said, Aloysius was not new when it was pressed into service. Instead, it had been a Roman cognomen – sort of a nickname that evolved into a family name – hundreds of years earlier. We couldn’t unearth the derivation of the original; perhaps it is lost to time.
It would be a rare choice for a child today. While it was never a popular name, it appeared in the US Top 1000 most years through 1940. Afterwards, Aloysius disappeared and has not been heard from since.
Aloysius lives in the hearts of children. In addition to the literary teddy bear, it is the first name of Sesame Street’s Mr. Snuffleupagus, once Big Bird’s imaginary friend and now his frequent side kick.
There’s also an old song that went, “Aloysius, Do the Dishes.” Recorded by Detroit-area jazz musician Pat Flowers, it’s tough to track down today.
Our biggest hesitation with Aloysius is the lack of an easy nickname. There’s Al, of course, and the whimsical Wish. Or you could go back to the name’s roots and use Lou.
Still, we find Aloysius interesting – if best reserved for the middle spot.