We’d love to call him a classic primed for revival, but it turns out that this one might be edging towards obscurity.
Thanks to Bizzy for suggesting our Name of the Day: Stuart.
It takes a lot for a well-established masculine moniker to fall out of use. Parents are more likely to honor an ancestor with their son’s name – even if Reuben Smith Junior is called R.J. or Lawrence Jordan Smith goes by his middle. Add in a reluctance to get too creative with our sons’ names, fearing that little Fabiano or Shelter will be teased mercilessly, and the result is that 8 out of 10 newborn boys in the US receives a name ranked in the US Top 1000.
Stuart was never hot in the US, but he steadily appeared in the rankings every year from 1880 through 2003. We know plenty of Stuarts, and so it was a surprise to discover that he’d fallen off the charts. Stanley and Bernard still rank. Isn’t Stuart more dashing than those clunky staples?
Part of the challenge is doubtless competing spellings. Both Stuart and Stewart share the same source – the Old English stig – house – and weard – guard. A steward was a high ranking manager, often overseeing an estate. Steward became a surname as well as a title, and like so many similar appellations, a given name evolved – Stewart.
When Marjorie de Bruce, daughter of the King of Scotland, married Walter Stewart, 6th High Steward of Scotland, the surname became a royal one. Their son, Robert, succeeded his grandfather in 1317, and the House of Stewart was born.
The woman who would become known as Mary, Queen of Scots, is responsible for changing the spelling. She was raised in France and married to King Francis II – Stuart is simply the French.
Both were sometimes bestowed to honor the royals, or to celebrate Scottish heritage.
Today, neither version is faring to well. Stewart last ranked in 1998. Pop culture hasn’t been kind to the name. There’s Al Franken’s Saturday Night Live character Stuart Smalley, a self-help guru known for insisting that doggone it, people like him. And Family Guy offers us Stewie, an animated toddler bent on world domination.
Does it have to be this way?
Maybe not. There’s handsome Irish actor Stuart Townsend – you might know him as Charlize Theron’s other half. Stuart Sutcliffe was the original bassist of The Beatles. Jon Stewart delivers his riff on the news on Comedy Central’s The Daily Show.
But Stuart’s lacking is obvious. The nickname Stu is just tolerable and Stewie simply does not appeal.
If you’re willing to use the full two-syllables, however, we think Stuart starts to seem like a daring choice – along the lines of Walter or Arthur. He’s clunky, true, but Oliver was once more geek than chic.
Go slow with this one, but don’t count him out. He could be perfect in the middle spot or the kind of given name that looks visionary in a decade, when we’re all calling out Bruce and Donald on the playground.
I’m totally nonplussed about Stuart probably for the exact reason jne likes him, because I’m too familiar with him. He’s a name I’m accustomed to hearing amongst my peer group and as such, one that I’ve never given much thought to (I felt the same about the post on Nicola).
It isn’t that the UK is teeming with Stuart’s, just that there is a steady stream of them aged c. 25-40. He’s a bit like Ian, Neil, Simon, Gareth (Gary), Graham, Ross and even Stephen in that respect (just as examples that I’ve plucked out of my head and with no data to back it up), they all achieved high levels of popularity during the 60’s-70’s but have dropped off the scale since (probably because its them having the children!)
I would love to say that this alone wouldn’t put me off but actually, it does. Stuart just doesn’t sound like a baby to me and the reason I can’t get into the idea is probably because he sounds too much like a 30 year old engineer!
In England (where I lived for several years), Stuart is not an uncommon name – I knew a few – and it never seemed like a clunky or strange choice to me – even the nickname Stu felt fine. Once your ear gets used to hearing it, it seems like a downright fine name. If you absolutely can’t abide “Stu”, then maybe “Artie” or “Art” would work for you? In all, I like the name Stuart. It sounds dashing and British to me.
The only Stuart I know is female, which has altered this name for me to the extent that I now thing of it as feminine (she certainly is) . As for nicknames? The only one I know of is “Stu-rat” based on a mispelling of her name on a Starbucks cup. Lovely, right? 😛
A female Stuart? That’s a new one!
I went to high school with a Stuart. No one ever called him Stu. He was a great kid, quite popular, too, not teased at all because of his name. I think he’s definitely workable, especially with siblings like Alice and Edward. Not on my short list for now, but I’m starting to think of him as a possibility. I’ll have to see if he fits into my family tree anywhere.
I went to school with brothers Stewart and Lewis, and Stewart was Ward. Ward was in my classes for years and Wis worked with me in the ambulence core. Other than that I hate the name Stuart/Stewart. Stu really sucks. If there was another option for Stuart, I think more people would like it. Otherwise, it’s not coming back anytime soon, IMO.
I love Stuart but not Stewart. The w version strikes me as more surnamey, maybe because I know one. Stuart *is* dashing and handsome. Not in my family tree anywhere recent. There was one in the mid 1700’s but nary a one since. Stuart Townsend is awesome (I so loved him as Dorian Gray in A League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” *swoony*). I’ve been toying with the thought of him, but wonder; does it seem a bit too Scots when paired with a a Mac- surname? I think maybe not, but then maybe. Waffling here. Stewart Copeland’s a pretty awesome Stewart, if anyone wanted a reference in that direction. Interesting guy.
Never know, he may yet catch on, this is the second discussion of Stuart/Stewart I’ve had in three days. And he surely beats Brayden! 😀
Hmm, when you put him next to Walter and Arthur, he does sound kind of cute. But yeah, Stu and Stewie are no good, Art is a little better, I guess. I’d keep it in the middle, unless you can handle never using a nickname.
Stuart in full is quite nice, but Stu really sucks. Stuart Townsend is also the hotness, but I digress. Stuart has just had a bad rap. Between Stu Pickles, Stuart Little, and Stewie from that loathsome show, it’s just bad associations all around. I would love to see more little Stuarts running around despite all of this, though. It’s a nice solid classic name.
not for me, I guess. The sound doesn’t appeal and neither do the nicknames. But I’d be fine with it as a middle name to honor a Stuart, if I knew one.
Thanks, Verity! I love Stuart. I also love Arthur, so I suppose my taste can range in the “clunky” direction. I was a bit surprised to see him as becoming so obscure. I think it’s a choice that could either be ahead of the curve or fall even further into obscurity, only time will tell. I agree that it’s classic and handsome! I’m not crazy over Stu, either, but I kind of feel like 2 syllable names can avoid nicknames altogether, if you’re careful!
I really like Stuart. It’s a family name that’s on our list for serious consideration. The nickname Stu really isn’t my cup of tea, which is probably while I’d keep him in the middle. But it’s too bad really. I think Stuart is classic and handsome.