Been to the movies lately? If so, maybe you’ve seen Christian Bale as Batman in the box-office-record- shattering release The Dark Knight. Bale shares something in common with the seldom seen star of the movie considered summer’s first ever blockbuster, Steven Spielberg’s Jaws.
Stumped? Thanks to Lola for suggesting today’s Name of the Day: Bruce.
That’s right. We all know Bruce Wayne is Batman’s billionaire-by-day alter ego. But did you know that the trio of mechanical sharks in 1975’s Jaws were also nicknamed Bruce? Apparently, they were named in honor of Steven Spielberg’s attorney. If you’ve seen the fish tale Finding Nemo, you may have noted that the head vegetarian shark is known as Bruce – we assume the wits at Pixar were paying tribute.
Bruce came to Scotland with the Normans. Chances are it was originally a place name, referring to Le Brix or Brieux. Both were once considered part of Normandy. Six of Robert the Bruce’s ancestors were known as Robert le Brus and a seventh was William le Brus, the Lords of Annandale. The best known Robert became King of the Scots in the 1300s. Contemporary records also refer to him as Briuis and Bruys.
It became a surname for descendants of the legendary ruler, and around the 19th century, a common first name. So common, in fact, that it would be impossible to list all the notable bearers of the name. In the US, it was a Top 50 name for two decades – from 1945 to 1965. We’ll include a few Bruces here, but doubtless we’ve overlooked many:
- Born in the USA legendary rocker Bruce Springsteen;
- Actor, martial artist and icon Bruce Lee;
- 1976 Olympic gold medalist turned reality star Bruce Jenner;
- Actor and intrepid baby namer Bruce Willis;
- And, of course, comic crimefighter Batman’s alter ego, Bruce Wayne.
There’s even a Bruce Museum, but no it doesn’t pay homage to all of the above – it’s simply a Greenwich, Connecticut cultural institution that started life as the residence of Robert Moffat Bruce.
For a modern parent, the question probably is this: Has Bruce been out of favor long enough that’s he due for a comeback?
In 1952 – the peak of Bruce’s popularity at #25 – other chart-topping names for boys included Gary (#10), Larry (#14), Ronald (#15), Jerry (#26) and Roger (#30). Along with Bruce, most of them still sound not-quite-ready for revival.
Except that names popular in the same era are starting to be adopted by that baby naming vanguard – celebrities. The Office’s Rainn Wilson and his wife Holiday Reinhorn are parents to Walter; Elvis Costello and Diana Krall have twin sons Dexter and Frank; Jack Nicholson has a son called Raymond.
We’ll take Bruce over late 90s sensation Bryce any day. And it strikes us that plenty of 20-something mamas-to-be are likely to rediscover Roger and Kenneth, Douglas and Wayne. After all, when once-moldy relics like Henry and Oscar sound positively mainstream, the simplest way to assure a familiar, but not overused choice, is to look at a neglected decade.
When the 40s and 50s come back, expect to hear Bruce as part of the trend.