He’s a hoopstar, a literary character – plus he’s linked to a very current choice for boys. So would the original work for a son born in 2009?
Thanks to Valery for suggesting Chauncey as Name of the Day.
Chauncey was once a perfectly common name, ranking in the US Top 1000 most years between 1880 and into the 1930s. He appeared sporadically after that, last charting in 1998.
His roots are Norman French. It’s most probably a place name that became a surname and eventually migrated to the first spot. Charles Chauncy was president of Harvard University back in the seventeenth century; the family remained prominent in New England for generations. There’s also War of 1812 naval commander Isaac Chauncey. Several ships have been named in his honor.
If you’re touring Vermont, you can visit a nineteenth century blacksmith’s home – the Chauncey B. Leonard House. Early 20th century Senator Chauncey Depew once vied for the Republican party’s presidential nomination. In the same era, songwriter Chancellor Olcott was known to the masses as Chauncey Olcott – composer of hits like “My Wild Irish Rose.”
But Chauncey really gets a boost from the 1971 novel Being There by Jerzy Kosinski. The book was adapted into a celebrated 1979 film starring Peter Sellers. The story is simple – a middle-aged man called Chance works as a gardener for a wealthy Washingtonian. It isn’t clear how he came to his position, but when the wealthy Washingtonian dies, Chance is left to his own devices. By a series of twists, the name he gives – Chance the Gardner – is misunderstood as Chauncey Gardiner. What’s more, Chauncey’s simple comments on tending a garden are heard as wise pronouncements on the government and policy. He ends up moving in the most elite circles, offering up opinions and guidance on national television and – at the story’s end – it appears he will become the head of a major corporation.
It’s a witty little tale, but it didn’t boost Chauncey. Instead, Chance rose steadily in the rankings in the 1970s and 80s, peaking at #154 in 1996. As of 2008, Chance ranked #255.
Today, Chance might strike others as a daring, unconventional choice – but would actually fit right in with boys’ names like Cade and Chase, and girls’ picks like Sloane and Brooke, Destiny and Genesis.
If you’re a basketball fan, the Denver Nuggets’ Chauncey Billups raises the name’s profile. But while many an athlete has boosted an appellations, Billups’ impact has been minimal. In some ways, it has created the perfect opportunity to use Chauncey – everyone recognizes the name, but virtually no one wears it.
If boys can be called Bailey and Riley, Harrison and Bryson, Chauncey ought to fit right in. And while the “au” vowel sound is not the chart-topping “ay” or “eye” from Jayden and Tyler, the “au” sound appears in Austin and August, as well as Sean.
He’s a daring choice by 21st century standards, but Chauncey might just be that underused gem you’ve been seeking.