He’s a Southern gentleman, and something of a romantic pick for a son.
Thanks to Christina for suggesting Rhett as Name of the Day.
Gone with the Wind might be pure fiction, but author Margaret Mitchell drew her hero’s name from two prominent Charleston families – the Rhetts and the Butlers. If you know your GwtW, you’ll recall that the dashing Rhett was introduced as the black sheep of a prominent Charleston family – making the name a logical choice. (Visit the city today and you can even tour the Aiken-Rhett House – no relation to the movie, but a part of the past maintained by the Historic Charleston Foundation. As a point of trivia, the first Rhett to live in the house – Major Andrew Burnet Rhett – gave one his sons the stunningly unusual name I’On.)
Rhett is traced back to the Dutch raet – advice – via a surname. While a handful of bearers turn up in US Census records outside of the South, nearly all of them lived out their days in South Carolina.
The rest of the US heard the name thanks to Margaret Mitchell’s spellbinding tale of a headstrong young woman and her life on the losing side of the Civil War. The novel was a smash hit in 1937. It even won a Pullitzer. Two years later, David O. Selznick’s big screen adaptation was just as successful – it won a record-setting ten Academy Awards.
While that’s often all a name needs to catapult it to widespread use, Rhett wasn’t quite as much of a hit. He didn’t chart in the US at all until 1955. And while he’s been in the Top 1000 most years since, he’s never climbed too far. In 2008, Rhett ranked #678 – respectable, but Cedric, Karter, Mohammed and Xzavier (really) all fared better.
Possibly the name is simply too dramatic for some parents’ taste. But that hasn’t hurt Romeo or Orlando. And Scarlett is positively fashion-forward, rising to #210 last year.
You’ll still meet some people wearing Rhett as a surname – Alicia Rhett played India Wilkes in the movie version of Gone with the Wind. And there are a few notable Rhetts in real life, including:
- Country music’s Rhett Akins;
- English record producer Rhett Davies, known for his work with Roxy Music, Talk Talk, Brian Ferry and more;
- Rhett Lawrence worked with Mariah Carey and Kelly Clarkson – he wears Rhett as short for Everette;
- Rhett Warrener plays in the NHL while Rhett Bomar is part of the NFL;
- Rhett McLaughlin is one half of the comedy duo Rhett and Link.
With plenty of men wearing Rhett, it starts to sound a little more approachable than if it were solely reserved for one fictional hero. Rhett also blends in with all those little cowboys – Cade and Garrett, Wyatt and Luke.
So while this might be a bit much for a Charleston mama to choose, parents in, say, Wyoming, could make the case that Rhett fits their little guy just fine.
Parents hoping for something immune to fashion might also appreciate the fact that Rhett has never charted higher than #594. He’s not at all obscure, but you’d never call him popular. And even though he might fit some current trends, at the moment he is not gaining.
If you don’t mind the romantic, Old Hollywood vibe – or if you’re looking for a name for Ava’s little brother – Rhett might be one to consider.