Thanks to Photoquilty for suggesting Roscoe as Name of the Day.
Today’s parents might have grown up watching a bumbling lawman sport this name on television. The Dukes of Hazzard featured Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane, henchman to the corrupt Boss Hogg. Nearly every episode included Rosco in hot pursuit, only to get left in the General Lee’s dust as the Duke boys made good their escape.
If not Hazzard County, Georgia, Roscoe might conjure up soul food resto chain Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles. Roscoe’s was founded by Harlem-native Herb Hudson and became a favorite with notables from Redd Foxx to Snoop Dogg. Despite the celebrity clientele and California zip code, Roscoe doesn’t pick up any glamour from the establishment.
If Roscoe sounds impossibly hick to your ears, blame the Dukes and the chicken place. But his background is perfectly ordinary.
The original Roscoe is a place name. He’s lost from the modern map, though you’ll still find streets bearing the name in Lancashire, England. There’s some debate about whether the place name or the surname came first, but all roads point to this part of the world as the origin, sometime between the 1200s and the 1500s. It’s still a surname in use today.
As for the meaning, most agree that it comes from the Old Norse rá, for the roe deer, combined with skógr, a thicket of small trees. For years, Roscoe was in steady use, worn by notables such as:
- Nineteenth century New York Senator Roscoe Conkling;
- Daredevils like early racecar driver Roscoe Sarles and Army pilot turned barnstormer Roscoe Turner;
- Hollywood’s Fatty Arbuckle was born Roscoe Conkling Arbuckle – named after the politician. He was a huge star in the earliest days of the movie industry, commanding a $1 million contract. Arbuckle fell from grace during a scandal and died before he could make a comeback, but he remains one of the big screen comedy’s pioneers;
- World War I Navy Captain Roscoe Bulmer and first director of the CIA Roscoe Hillenkoetter are two 20th century leaders;
- Banjo player Roscoe Holcomb was a folk music legend;
- We all grew up with Roscoe Orman, Sesame Street’s Gordon;
- Buffalo Bills’ wide receiver Roscoe Parrish lends the name some athletic flair.
Roscoe peaked in the nineteenth century, ranking #117 in 1888. He fell slowly from the 1920s on, leaving the rankings entirely after 1978.
Instead of heading for obscurity, today Roscoe is being rediscovered by the most daring of baby namers. Nameberry dubbed him a Rising Hipster choice. And the next generation of parents might think not of the General Lee, but of Radio Free Roscoe, a Canadian import than ran on TeenNick. None of the kids wore the name – they attended Henry Roscoe High, where they set up a pirate radio station.