What with the movie Ted, starring an outrageously potty-mouthed teddy bear, becoming a box office sensation, and celebs giving their baby boys the actual first or middle name of Bear, this seems like a perfect time to think about Teddy and other fictional bear names for possible inspiration.
So, though you might not want to name your son Paddington, Fozzie, Corduroy, Smokey, Yogi, Bobo or Baloo, here are some ursine character names you might want to consider if you’re into the idea of animal names.
Ted, Teddy, Theodore—These ultimate bear name cluster was inspired by a Theodore Roosevelt hunting trip incident that became the subject of a political cartoon which in turn inspired the making of a little stuffed bear cub toy dubbed “Teddy’s Bear”–which soon ignited a national craze. The name Theodore is currently experiencing a resurgence—it’s now at Number 231, partially sparked by love for the nickname Theo, which itself entered the Top 1000 in 2010 and is a Nameberry fave. Not so many Teds or Teddys these days, though. In addition, of course, many Edwards—as in Edward Kennedy, have also been known as Teddy.
Winnie, Winifred, Winston—Winnie the Pooh, second only to teddy as an ursine icon, was created by A. A. Milne in 1926, and named after a stuffed teddy owned by his son Christopher Robin. The boy had taken the name from a bear that he often saw at the London zoo called Winnipeg, nn Winnie. In real life most Winnies are more often formally Winston (as in Churchill) or Winifred—both of which are starting to be used again. Maybe Winnie could be the next Hattie.
Rupert—Much better known in Britain, Rubert Bear began as a comic strip character in the Daily Express newspaper in 1920 and went on to become a beloved character in children’s culture via several TV series. His name has become more visible in this country via Rupert Grint, portrayer of Harry Potter‘s Ron Weasley, and the character Rupert Giles in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, as well as though actors Rupert Everett and Rupert Graves–not to mention tarnished media mogul Rupert Murdoch. But it hasn’t been in the US Top 1000 since 1952.
Ben–There have been several high-profile bears named Ben, including Gentle Ben and the grizzly companion on The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams, as well as a featured teddy bear in The Secret Life of Benjamin Bear. Benjamin is an enduring biblical classic, more popular now than ever—it entered the Top 20 last year, while stand-alone nickname, the gentle Ben, is Number 687.
Aloysius—Teddy bear Aloyisius plays a key supporting role in Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited, as the beloved companion of Lord Sebastian Flyte. (According to Wikipedia, he was played in the TV version by a teddy named Delicatessen.) Though it now has a somewhat comical image, Aloysius was as high as Number 311 in 1893 and stayed on the charts until 1940. Could it possibly be revivable?
Archie—Make of this what you will, but Archibald Ormsby-Gore, aka Archie, was the lifelong teddy-bear companion of the English poet laureate John Betjeman and the subject of one of his children’s books and poems—as well as being the inspiration for the above-mentioned Aloysius. Archie, once a Top 100 name in nineteenth century America, is way high on the UK boys’ list, but hasn’t returned here.
Barney—Barney Bear was the sluggish, grumpy but likable star of a series of MGM animated cartoons in the 1940s and ‘50s, getting an Oscar nomination for the 1941 The Rookie Bear. Barney’s potential for being the next Gus or Max has been diminished by the image of the purple dinosaur, with most parents these days opting for the more substantial Barnaby.
Basil the Bear was the main character in the Canadian version of Sesame Street—called Sesame Park–a childlike character with a cousinly resemblance to Fozzie. Thanks to the lasting impression of Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes, though, Basil has been considered too veddy British to be used much here.
Duffy the Disney Bear is Mickey Mouse’s own teddy (there’s actually quite a family resemblance), supposedly given to him by Minnie when he set out for a voyage around the world. He can now be found at Duffy’s Landing in Disney’s California Adventure Park and other Disneyland venues—and is particularly popular in Japan. Duffy is a great Irish surname name, a perfect successor to Casey and Clancy.
Humphrey is a big, goofy and neurotic brown bear that was created in 1950 for a Disney cartoon called Hold That Pose, co-starred in four Donald Duck classics, then briefly had a series of his own. The name Humphrey has been so tightly tied to Bogie (it was the maiden name of his mother, artist Maud Humphrey) that is rarely seen on modern birth announcements—in fact it hasn’t been in the Top 1000 for 118 years.
Mabel –Elvis had a beloved Steiff teddy bear named Mabel which sold after his death for $75,000 at a Memphis auction. Unfortunately, when Mabel was on a loan display at a British children’s museum, a Doberman pinscher guard dog went berserk and completely destroyed it. The name Mabel, in tandem with saucy cousin Sadie, is very much back, most recently chosen by Bruce Willis for his fourth daughter.