Some place names are obviously torn from the map. Indiana, for one. Or Savannah. But others are subtle – so common in the first spot, in fact, that we’ve forgotten they started out as anything else.
Thanks to Photoquilty for suggesting Glenn as Name of the Day.
Say Glenn in the US, and many people probably think “astronaut.”
John Glenn gives the name an authentic hero ring. A Marine Corps fighter pilot, he joined NASA’s original group of astronauts and became the third person to orbit the Earth, back in 1962. Glenn later served as US Senator from Ohio. By 1998, he was back in outerspace, as the oldest person to ever go into space. He was 77 at the time.
But Glenn’s origins are far more grounded. He comes from the Gaelic gleann – valley. Typically, the surname is spelled with a double n. The geographic feature is usually just one, but Glen is also bestowed as a given name. You might also hear Glyn. It’s the Welsh version of gleann – and today sounds undeniably feminine.
Glen also conjures up top shelf whiskey. With kids named Miller and Jameson, maybe that’s not an obstacle. (Let’s not forget 70s favorites Brandy and Sherry, either!) But glen is prominent is place names, hence Glenlivet, Glenfiditch and Vince Vaughn’s memorable line from indie hit Swingers, “any glen will do.”
As a given name, Glenn has never been a smash, but he has been steadily popular for years. Up until the late 1960s, he spent most of the twentieth century in the US Top 100, peaking at #59 in the early 1950s. (Glen peaked at #116 back in 1919, but is not curretnly ranked.)
Glenn would’ve sounded just right with Scott, Dale and the equally topographic Craig. The 1960s were good to single-syllable names for boys, too, as Troy, Dean, Brett and Brad all gained.
His popularity means that there are Glenns aplenty in recent history, including:
- The Family Guy’s Glenn Quagmire. The animated lothario is not exactly a role model for your child, and fortunately he’s usually referred to by his last name only;
- Big Band legend Glenn Miller, known for hits like “Chatanooga Choo-Choo” and “In the Mood”;
- At the opposite end of the musical spectrum, there’s punk pioneer Glenn Danzig;
- Hollywood leading man Glenn Ford, born Gwyllyn. He took his stage name from his dad’s hometown, Glenford;
- Glenn Strange is an even more memorable big screen presence, as the actor behind the iconic monster in the Frankenstein films from the 1940s.
If you’re willing to stretch, there’s even a mythological element to this moniker. In Norse mythology, Glenr is the sun goddess’ husband. He drives her chariot across the skies to start the day.
On balance, Glenn is a trifle dated, but he’s still wearing well. As parents move away from two-syllable picks for boys, Glenn might find himself fitting in again – just this time he’d share the playground with Cade and Cole, Jack and Max.