If you came of age with Jason and Michael, Brian and Chris, maybe this choice strikes you as hopelessly clunky and out-of-date. But spend a few minutes on the playground with pint-sized tots called Henry and Oscar, Leo and George and this one starts to sound like part of the next wave in retro cool.
Thanks to Another for suggesting our Name of the Day: Walter.
Make no mistake – Walter was once as fashion-forward as it gets, spending 1880 to 1931 in the Top 20s. He remained a Top 100 pick until 1972.
You’ll have no trouble thinking of notable 20th century bearers of the name – Cronkite, Disney, Payton, Matthau – but he’s appeared steadily in the historical record since at least the 1200s. To complete a list of famous Walters, you’ll need to add in Raleigh, Scott and Burley, as well as a handful of medieval saints and theologians. Fictional Walters include the day-dreaming Mitty, but also one of Anne of Green Gables’ sons and television’s Radar O’Reilly of M.A.S.H. (Though the last is rarely referred to by his given name.)
Maybe Walter was so often used that hibernation was inevitable. While he still ranks a respectable #378, Walter has fallen almost every year since 1944. In recent decades, similar surname choices like Walker or Walton probably seemed better bets for a modern child.
Walter is one of those harsh Germanic names – it comes from the elements waltan and heri to mean ruler of the army. In Old High German, he’d have probably been Walthere or Waltheri. In French, he became the interesting Gauthier. The Normans brought a version of this name to England, where he met up with existing Old English choices and eventually became Walter. Many a name followed a similar trajectory, and most of those have been out of favor in recent times.
But if women called Jennifer are now choosing throwback appellations for their daughters like Hazel and Esther, is it any wonder that a guy called Rainn would pick Walter for his son? Starbaby Walter Mckenzie Wilson, son of The Office‘s Rainn Wilson and his wife Holiday Reinhorn, lends some freshness and snap to the name. It’s also the middle name actress Melissa Joan Hart chose for her son Mason.
We’ve covered the similar Vladimir; other related international choices include the Scottish Bhaltair, Scandinavian Valter, Czech Waltr, Italian Gualtiero and Spanish Gutierro. While some parents would dare choose those interesting variants, it’s a very different vibe.
Walter can be seen as the elderly fellow waiting to hit the early bird buffet, but we can also see Walter as appealingly cocktail cool – think other-named figures like Ewan McGregor’s character in Down With Love, or Clark Kent. Both could be Walter. (In fact, Ewan McGregor’s character was Catcher – a sound not so far removed.)
He’s also undeniably brainy. From the 12th century monk and philosopher Saint Walter of Pontoise to 20th century journalist Walter Cronkite, we expect bearers of the name to be thoughtful, smart and reliable.
It’s an appealing combo, and if Max and Oliver, Gus and Henry are too common in your neck of the woods, why not consider this retro pick?