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.