Emmy Jo recently suggested one of our favorite boys’ names. Hard to believe we didn’t think of it ourselves! You’ll find him in the Bible, and you’ll find a Bible bearing his name in just about every hotel room on Earth.
Today’s Name of the Day? Why it’s Gideon, of course.
When we meet Gideon in the Old Testament, the Israelites have turned away from God and are worshipping a statue of Baal instead. Gideon is chosen to destroy the idol, and to protect the people from an invading army. He smashes and bashes without much difficulty, but when it comes to the military maneuvers? God specifically instructs him to go into battle with a shoestring army as a show of faith. Gideon obeys and triumphs by wit as much as weaponry.
His name means “mighty warrior,” or more literally, “feller” as in trees – or you know, armies and false gods. But his story is one of obedience and duty, and so he’s the role model chosen by the Christian evangelical organization, The Gideons International, when they were founded back in 1899. In addition to placing Bibles in hotel rooms in 180 countries, they also distribute them to the military, students and medical personnel.
Pop culture references to Gideon’s Bible abound, from the Beatles’ Rocky Raccoon to the movie version of Mission Impossible and the Marilyn Monroe flick Gentleman Prefer Blondes to the scifi series Red Dwarf.
Of course, this isn’t exactly the kind of backstory that makes us want to choose the name for our child. It’s quirky and curious, and it’s easy to imagine kids on school overnight trips returning every copy of the Good Book from their hotel room to your son, because, after all, it has his name on it.
There are a handful of less reputable Gideons, too. A villian in the Marvel Comics X-Men universe bears this name. A petty thief called Clarence Gideon would go on to file the lawsuit that became Gideon v. Wainwright, a landmark case in which the Supreme Court said that all criminal defendants are entitled to legal representation, regardless of ability to pay. And a doctor friend of ours grimaced at the thought of calling his son Gideon – it’s the acronym for the Global Infectious Disease Epidemiology Network.
On balance, Gideon is attractive precisely because it is a familiar, Biblical choice that is not commonly used. The comic book, the court case, the medical database – they’re out there, but they’re far from household words.
The name has been overlooked for years as parents sought out two-syllable, ends-in-en choices for their sons. Today, it’s still a little different than Biblical hotties like Elijah and Isaiah.
While Gideon has been in steady use throughout history, it’s been quite rare in the US until recent years. It spent most of the 20th century out of the US Top 1000, only returning in 2000. The name has risen steadily since then, climbing more than 400 spots to #528 last year. It remains rare in the UK and Canada, too.
He can be Ezekiel’s big brother; or maybe Elijah’s younger sibling when their parents discover that merely choosing a Biblical name does not assure that you won’t hear it on every playground in the US.
If you’re looking for a name with history and substance, but that stands out from most names given to boys today, Gideon is a strong pick.