Editor’s note: This post was originally published September 8, 2008, and was substantially revised and re-posted on April 2, 2012.
He’s a blanket-toting philosopher, a beloved cartoon character from the enduring Peanuts comic strip, and a member of The Nevilles list.
Today’s Baby Name of the Day is Linus.
Matt Damon is Hollywood royalty, and so it is fitting he’s among the group who remade the Rat Pack classic Ocean’s Eleven. Damon played the less-than-confident son of legendary con man Bobby Caldwell in the three films.
Before Linus Caldwell appeared on the silver screen in 2001, the name already had plenty of Hollywood character cred. In 1954, Humphrey Bogart played unlikely love interest Linus Larrabee opposite Audrey Hepburn in Sabrina. Julia Ormond reprised Hepburn’s role in 1995 opposite Harrison Ford as Linus II.
For many parents, the first Linus who springs to mind is the Great-Pumpkin-believing, Christmas-pageant-narrating Linus Van Pelt, Charlie Brown’s best friend. Peanuts creator Charles M. Schulz named the character after a dear friend of his own.
Some might fret that the comic strip character rendered the name unwearable. But actually, Linus has always been obscure. He charted in the US Top 1000 at the upper limits a handful of times between 1881 and 1940. The name Linus was gone long before Linus van Pelt appeared in the funny pages.
Linus isn’t waiting for a revival – he’s yet to be discovered.
Some sites suggest that Linus is derived from the Greek linos, or flax, and thus means fair-haired. But another intriguing possibility exists. In most tellings, Linus is the son of the god Apollo. Father kills son, and so the Greek ailinos – a lament or dirge – might’ve inspired the ill-fated character’s name.
Linus was used steadily in Ancient Rome, and one Linus became the second Pope. Other than his dates in office, little is known of his life. Nonetheless, he’s considered Pope Saint Linus, and is probably a big part of the reason the name endured into modern times. He’s believed to be the same Linus mentioned by Paul in the New Testament, too.
Three other bearers of the name deserve mention:
- Linus Torvalds is best known as the maverick software engineer responsible for developing the open source Linux operating system;
- Linus Pauling won the Nobel Prize prize for his work in two fields – chemistry and peace. He was also the inspiration for Torvalds’ name.
- British actor Linus Roache joined the cast of Law and Order in 2008 as Assistant District Attorney Michael Cutter, and then transitioned to Law and Order: Special Victims Unit. Some might remember him from his role opposite Helena Bonham Carter in 1997’s Wings of the Dove, or on UK soap opera Coronation Street back in the 70s.
Head to Europe, and you’ll find pint-sized Linuses aplenty. It’s the #70 pick in Norway, #34 in Germany and #26 in Sweden – though he’s falling slightly in all three countries.