Playgrounds teem with Jacobs. History books are packed with Jameses. The animated Diego appears on lunchboxes everywhere and we’re quite keen on Giacomo. Ready or not, here comes yet another fashionable twist on that tireless appellation.
Thanks to Katharine for suggesting today’s Name of the Day: Jago.
In some ways, Jago isn’t terribly exciting. Like Jacob and James, he comes from the Old Testament Ya’aquov. The original Latinization of Ya’aquov was Iacobus; later, some favored Iacomus. And so English has two similar, but distinct versions of the same name. Betcha you can find parents with sons called Jimmy and Jake, unaware of the connection.
Like many an ancient name, there’s some debate over his meaning. It’s most often given as supplanter – one who takes the place of another. Others argue for derivation from a phrase meaning God will protect, and some suggest it comes from the Hebrew ‘aqebh, or heel, since he was born holding his twin Esau by the foot.
The original Jacob was known as the son of Isaac and Rebecca. He fathered a dozen sons himself – the founders of the twelve tribes of Israel. Jacob has long been considered a Jewish heritage choice, while James, worn by two of Christ’s apostles, was preferred by Christian families. That changed following the Protestant Reformation, and today both are simply very popular choices for sons.
Jago is the Cornish form of Jacob and James, and sometimes also heard in Spanish-speaking countries. It’s one letter removed from Shakespeare’s villain Iago – yet another spin on Iacobus. Iago is usually pronounced ee AH go, while Jago has a two-syllable pronunciation. We’ve come across at least three:
- JAY go
- JAH go
- YAY go
Jago was never cracked the Top 1000 in the US. Jacob is, of course, the #1 choice for American boys since 1999 and James has been in the Top 20 since 1880.
Cornwall, in southwestern England, has traditionally been remote, and some of the region’s traditional language has endured. While Jago has been in hibernation as a given name for some time, he’s never completely disappeared, and sometimes appears as a surname, too. In the UK, Jago probably strikes just the right note – a fashionable heritage choice.
In the US, we’re less confident. Django – honoring legendary jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt – is over the top. Jaden is horribly overexposed. Jago might represent a middle path – historical authenticity combined with that bright final “o.” We’re hearing more parents considering Hugo and Milo, and Marco and Matteo could be called mainstream. Jago’s ending is a plus.
Still, given the wide range of accents in American English, we can hear this one being butchered by regional pronunciations. The sound that seems most sophisticated to our ear – JAH go – is probably the least likely to be heard.
We love Jago, and think it’s a smart way to honor a James or Jacob. But you’d have to be patient with others’ manglings until your preferred pronunciation catches on – and we know a lot of 30-something Andreas who are still waiting for that day.