He’s Roman, regal and creative, too, but choose this one for your son and others might think of The Joker.
Thanks to Susan for suggesting Maurice as Name of the Day.
The Steve Miller Band released The Joker in 1973, and the hit single of the same name followed a few months later. It’s been covered by others in the years since, including Fatboy Slim and Jason Mraz. But the original is still in heavy rotation. The lyrics are:
Some people call me the space cowboy, yeah
Some call me the gangster of love
Some people call me Maurice (wolf whistle)
Cause I speak of the pompatus of love
It’s that whistle that makes the name Maurice stand out. Steve Miller had actually used Maurice earlier, too, as yet another of his musical alter-egos.
Maurice might bring to mind the sounds of the 70s, but he’s actually Latin. Maurus, Mauricius or Mauritius was a given name derived from the place Mauritania – Northwest Africa. It’s also the origin of the term Moor, and you’ll often find Maurice’s meaning listed as dark. But it isn’t clear if maurus meant dark, or if Mauritania inspired the meaning.
In any case, by the third century, a soldier from Egypt was martyred when he refused to sacrifice to the Roman gods. He became Saint Maurice. Famous bearers throughout history have included:
- A Byzantine emperor from the 500s;
- A Bishop of London from the early 1100s;
- Maurice of Nassau, a prince who helped overthrow the Spanish to create the Dutch Republic in the 1600s.
The Normans were fans of the name, and brought it along to England. Only their Maurice probably sounded more like Morris. The main character of E.M. Forster’s 1913 novel Maurice – unpublished because tales of same-sex love were verboten at the time – would’ve pronounced his name Morris, too.
Other more recent bearers of the name have leaned French, including:
- Composer Maurice Ravel, best known for Boléro;
- Actor Maurice Chevalier;
- Ice hockey legend Maurice “Rocket” Richard – though he’s French Canadian;
- And Maurice Maeterlinck, the Belgian Nobel Prize winning playwright and poet.
There’s also Bee-Gee Maurice Gibb and Where the Wild Things author and illustrator Maurice Sendak.
While Maurice has never been a smash hit, he has quietly been used over the generations. As of 2008, he ranked #405 in the US. (Morris, on the other hand, has not charted since 1994 and now sounds more like a spokescat or a quirky vintage car than a child’s name.)
The Spanish, Italian and Portueguese variants Mauricio or Mauro might be more fashionable at the moment. Or even surname – and rock legend – spin Morrison. But Maurice remains steady – not current or cool, but certainly not quite extinct, either.