Once upon a time, he was more common than Andrew or Alex.
Thanks to Photoquilty for suggesting Elmer as Name of the Day.
They’re not exactly inspiring images for a child’s name, and they’re deadly wedded to poor Elmer.
The animated Elmer J. Fudd usually found himself bested by that famous bunny, Bugs. Fudd was, of course, “hunting wabbit” in virtually every cartoon. He’s been around since the 1940s.
There’s also half of that famous bovine power couple, Elmer the Bull. Wife Elsie the Cow promotes Borden Dairy products; back when Borden’s chemical division needed a mascot, they dispatched her husband, Elmer. (The couple have four children, at least one named in a national contest: Beulah, Beauregard, Larabee and Labelia.) They’re no longer owned by the same parent company, but Elmer is just as much an icon as his better half.
Before the hapless hunter and the adhesive shill, Elmer was a given name and surname, with many earlier forms:
- There’s the old English Ædelmær or Aethelmaer, probably from the Germanic Adelmar. The first bit – adel – means noble, while mar means famous;
- Then there’s Aylmer, which may simply be the Norman version of those Old English appellations;
- Lastly, it could be a variant of Elmo, a name that – years before the furry red monster – was once reasonably common.
Just like many a surname, there are famous bearers galore, including an early American political family. (Brothers Jonathan and Ebenezer, as well as Jonathan’s son Lucius, were all members of Congress.)
While many surnames were only sparing used in the first spot, Elmer was his generation’s Jackson. Between 1880 and 1932, Elmer ranked in the US Top 100 every year, peaking at #32 in 1893. And while he’s fallen steadily, in 2007 he still held on to the US Top 1000, at #893.
Famous Elmers include:
- Sinclair Lewis’ fictional bad boy, 1926’s Elmer Gantry;
- Artist Elmer Bischoff, active in San Francisco post-World War II;
- Oscar-winning film score composer Elmer Bernstein.
There’s a crater on the moon named Elmer, after astronomer Charles Elmer. And El Morocco, once the Manhattan hot spot, was nicknamed Elmer by those in the know.
While Elmer seems destined for obscurity, he just might strike a chord with hipster parents. After all, Oscar and Atticus are nearly mainstream these days. And Eli, Elijah and Elliot are all El- names for boys that have found widespread acceptance, while Carter, Conner and Tyler make the -er ending perfectly popular.
It’s a bit of a risk right now, but Elmer just might sound fashion forward in another few years.