Today’s Name of the Day has us stumped. Is it best suited for a pint-sized cowboy or a little English lord? Is it an aging choice to leave behind with Cody and Corey, or an enduring classic à la Henry?
Thanks to Another for suggesting our Name of the Day: Wesley.
Comb through the US Social Security data and, in every decade, you’ll find popular, two-syllable boys’ names that end in -y. From the early 20th century, there’s Henry, Harry, Stanley and Harvey; the Baby Boomers were Gary, Larry, Jerry and Terry; more recently, we’ve heard Cody, Corey and Casey, as well as Brady, Riley and Bailey.
Wesley has been around in every one of those eras, ranking in the US Top 200 every year since 1880. In 1977, he rose as high as #66; he fell, then climbed again to #92 in the 80s. Today, Wesley stands at #195, but don’t count him out just yet.
Originally an English surname meaning west meadow, it’s a conventional place name.
The name picks up its cowboy flair thanks to the outlaw John Wesley Hardin. By all historical accounts, Hardin was a thoroughly unsavory character. But in pop culture, he’s a romanticized hero, thanks to Johnny Cash’s Hardin Wouldn’t Run and Bob Dylan’s John Wesley Harding. (We’re not certain where Dylan picked up the g, but it’s clear he’s referring to the same figure.) Movie and television depictions further glamorize Hardin’s tale.
Johnny Cash’s lyrics called him Wes, and plenty of Wesleys also favor that distinctive diminutive.
Interestingly, Wesley seems to be one of the few masculine names that ends in -ee or -lee that hasn’t been discovered by parents raiding boys’ names for their daughters. It’s always possible you’ll meet a little girl Wesley (or Weslie or Westleigh), but it’s not likely.
Maybe that’s because even with his impeccably English roots and softer sound, the most famous Wesleys are tough guys. Consider:
- Actor and action hero Wesley Snipes, known for his prowess in the martial arts and his portrayal of a half-vampire hero in the Blade series;
- Retired US Army General – and Rhodes scholar – Wesley Clark, best known as a candidate for the Democratic party’s presidential nomination in 2004;
- Wesley A. Brown, the first African American graduate of the US Naval Academy;
- Fictional Englishman Wesley Wyndam-Pryce, who went from zero to hero in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Angel television series;
- Master of horror Wes Craven, who introduced Freddy Krueger to the nightmares of millions of movie-goers.
The name entered common use in the 1800s as a means to honor John Wesley, found of the Methodist movement. Bad guy John Wesley Hardin’s minister father named him in honor of the theologian.
Not every Wesley has been a bruiser. Two others come to mind: indie filmmaker Wes Anderson, of The Royal Tennenbaums fame, and brainy character Wesley Crusher on Star Trek: The Next Generation. The fictional Wesley may’ve been named in honor of Star Trek creator Gene Rodenberry – Wesley was his middle name.
We like Wesley, and we think he stands up well, fitting in with trendy choices like Brady, but standing a little taller and straighter for all of his history. He’s also one to consider in the middle spot, subbing for classic filler choices William or James. While his sound is undeniably soft, his story is rough’n’tumble – it’s a nice compromise between hyper-masculine choices like Jett or Blade and more romantic options like Sebastian or Tristan.