On the heels of Wesley, we have another theologian’s surname to consider. Though in recent years, he’s far more famous as the name of a six year old comic strip hero, a legendary baseball player or a trailblazing brand of designer denim.
Thanks to Another for suggesting today’s Name of the Day: Calvin.
Calvin’s tale is a quirky one. Jean Cauvin was born in France back in the early 1500s. He’d become an important part of the Protestant Reformation, known especially for his Institutes of the Christian Religion. As the founder of the Calvinist movement, John Calvin’s influence is still felt today. His surname was initially adopted by adherents and admirers looking for a meaningful choice for their sons.
In French, Calvin is based on the word chauve, or bald, from the Latin calvus. Calvus appears in ancient Rome, most notably through Gaius Licinius Macer Calvus, a poet active in the first century BC. But the name has little history of use in the front spot prior to the 1800s. It has, of course, been a popular surname for generations. Some little Calvins were likely wearing their mother’s maiden names, regardless of religious leanings.
To modern parents, Calvin probably brings to mind a comic strip character. It’s worth noting that creator Bill Watterson chose his hero’s name – and that of the boy’s stuffed tiger companion, Hobbes – to reflect the two philosophical points of view implied by the names. It’s whimsical and brainy at once. But while parents do find inspiration in plenty of animated characters – Disney princesses, anyone? – Calvin has not enjoyed a boost due to his popularity in the funny pages.
Two other famous Calvins come to mind. First, there’s Calvin Klein, responsible for sparking the designer denim trend in the mid-70s. Today, his name represents a powerful brand. With Chanel and Armani both ranking in the US Top 1000 last year, it’s not unthinkable that a fashion force could inspire a naming trend.
There’s also Calvin Coolidge, thirtieth President of the United States. His Oval Office cred doesn’t seem to help the name, either.
Instead, Calvin seems to be steadily falling. He cracked the Top 50 back in 1924 and 1925, but has not fared well in recent years. While he remains a respectable #230, we’re not quite sure how to think about Calvin. Has he farther to fall, or could he be due for a comeback? The 20s are a funny place in naming style – Harold and Ralph were big, but so were Jack and Leo.
We must admit, the nickname Cal appeals to us. Cal Ripken, Jr. lends the name an athletic and capable air. Ripken’s reputation as a charitable, upstanding citizen helps, too – unlike some names of sporting legends, we’ve little fear he’ll turn up in the tabloids.
On balance, we’d class Calvin with Walter – perhaps a touch on the clunky side, but that’s part of what makes him interesting and distinctive.