It doesn’t get much more classic than John. But I’ve said it before – John is so very classic that he strikes many parents as plain.
Thanks to Cat for suggesting a twist on that old favorite. Today’s Name of the Day is Johann.
Ivan leans Slavic and Ewan screams Scottish. Johann is German, and plenty of famous bearers come to mind:
- The 15th century Johann Gutenberg – often listed as Johannes. Gutenberg invented movable type, revolutionizing the printing press – and through it, the world;
- Composer Johann Sebastian Bach is considered one of the masters of the Baroque period;
- Three Austrian composers – father, son and grandson – were named Johann Strauss. They all went into the family business – composing and conducting waltzes;
- Johann Pachelbel was another composer from the Baroque period, this time remembered for his Canon in D. You might remember the piece if only because GE used it for a long-running light bulb commercial in the 1990s;
- Johann Goethe studied law, fell in love with poetry and is remembered for early Romantic period novels and dramas.
Add in a handful of lesser known composers, a few distinguished artists and architects, priests, scientists and philosophers and Johann emerges as a common name for men of uncommon talent. It was also worn by many German princes in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.
Speaking of royalty, 21st century American reality TV has included a Johan – Alex McCord’s blonde, French-speaking tot on Bravo’s The Real Housewives of New York City. (His big brother is Francois.)
The single -n spelling is more common in Scandinavia, where Johan ranks in the Top 100 of both Sweden and Norway.
There’s also Johann Kraus, comic book ally of Hellboy. And the cartoon Tom and Jerry included a waltz-centric episode titled Johann Mouse. So it isn’t all high-minded types wearing this one.
Whether you’re considering Johann, Ivan or Ewan, all roads lead back to John. John comes from the Hebrew Yochanan, meaning God is gracious. The name was common in the early Christian era; famous bearers like John the Baptist and John the Apostle ensured that it remained so.
The name was translated early and often. Look at the Greek – Ioannes – or Latin – Iohannes – and most of the foreign variants start to make sense.
Hans and Hansel both emerged as nicknames for Johann. While Hans has since been established as an independent name – much like Jack for English speakers – Hansel is confined to fairy tales and Ben Stiller movies.