Once upon a time, a century ago or so, Al was almost as commonplace a nickname as Joe or Jim, Bill or Bob. Al itself stood independently at Number 298, a casual short form of popular standards Albert (in the Top 20 for 40+ years) and Alfred, which reached as high as 32, and others less common..
Al dropped off the list in 1944, but just because it may not be as appealing a nickname today as, say, Cal or Hal, that’s no reason to dismiss some of the interesting Al-starters availablet: for though Alexander and some of his offshoots have been popular for decades, there’s a whole contingent of other, neglected Al- names worthy of a fresh look.
So even if you haven’t the slightest interest in ever using the nickname Al (though even he is starting to sound plausible again in this era of revived good-guy short forms), here are a dozen semi-vanished members of this family of names worth reevaluating–though we won’t push as far as Algernon or Aloysius, Alcestis or Aladdin, or even Alvin.
ALARIC –This ancient name that goes back to the Kings of the Ostrogoths has a certain quirky charm that helps modernize it. A literary name that’s been used by authors from P. G. Wodehouse to Stephen King, Alaric might be recognized by contemporaries as a history teacher character on The Vampire Diaries.
ALASDAIR/ALISTAIR—There are any number of ways to spell this Gaelic spin on Alexander (Wikipedia lists 30 of them!)– the Brits use Alistair or Alastair primarily,, while the Scots prefer Alasdair, the version used by Rod Stewart for his son. Most Yanks have always thought of it as a bit too-too British, but that perception is beginning to change as English, Scottish, Irish and Welsh names move more and more into favor.
ALBANY—Yes, it’s obviously a place name, and a state capital at that, but Albany is a lot more rhythmic and appealing than most. The city was named in honor of the British Duke of Albany, later to become James II of England and James VII of Scotland. Albany could be shortened to Alban, the ancient name of Britain’s first martyr, and even further to the friendly nickname Alby.
ALBION—Another route to the friendly nickname Alby is this poetical name for the island of Great Britain that was used to some extent for boys in England in the first part of the twentieth century. Albion could fit in with the Cassian-Caspian trendlet.
ALDO—one of several Italian o-ending Al names (Alfonso, Alberto, Alvaro et al), the short and snappy Aldo is sometimes used as an abbreviated form of names like Renaldo. Brad Pitt’s character in Inglorious Basterds is Lt. Aldo Raine.
ALDOUS—Although Aldous has a German root, its Latin ending gives it some of the appeal of an Atticus or Maximus. Long associated with Brave New World author aldous Huxley, it had a very different image as the Russell Brand out-of-control rock star character in the movie Get him to the Greek.
ALESSANDRO—This is a romanticized Italianate version of Alexander, with such distinguished namesakes as one of the Medici, composer Scarlotti and Volta, inventor of the battery. We love the short form Alessio as well.
ALEXIO—Ah, an Al with both an ‘x’ and an ‘o’! Alexio, another one of the infinite variations on the theme of Alexander, and the name of an ancient monarch, could make a really cool choice, as could the Greek Alexios and the Russian Alexei.
ALFRED—Alfie is currently the fourth most popular name in the UK, and if it manages to hop a transatlantic steamer it just could catch on here, bringing its parent name along. Alfred has been a distinguished name since Alfred the Great, what with Nobel, Tennyson and Hitchcock. The same might be said of Albert/Bertie, the choice of British singer Kate Bush. (The illustration shows the young Prince Albert of Monaco with his mother, Princess Grace.)
ALONZO—This more elegant spelling of the Spanish Alonso, itself a smooshed version of Alfonso (which fortunately erases the possibility of the nickname Fonzie) has been quietly used for a century in this country, but should be embraced more widely. Basketball star Alonzo Mourning goes by the nickname Zo—a lot hipper sounding than the traditional Lon or Lonnie.
ALUN—If Alan/Allan/Allen feels kind of Alda or Arkin-ageish, this modernWelsh version gives the name a whole fresh flair. Alun is also a river and a regional name in Wales and Alun Armstrong is a versatile British character actor.