Classic Names: The Fred Factor
A few days ago, I was introduced to Fred Gooltz, COO of the hot new obsession site itsasickness.com. Wow, I thought, Fred, one of my favorite cool retro classic names. But it soon became evident that Fred didn’t share my enthusiasm, expressing his negative feelings about growing up with a name that seemed to be out of step with his time. To delve a little deeper, we had the following e-conversation:
FRED: There are always certain kinds of people who try to call you Freddy. Some people like to put “ie” on the end of any name, usually because they’re playing at childish schoolyard politics, infantilizing others with nicknames to feel stronger. It’s like assuming that you’ve got the right to call somebody ‘slugger’ or ‘kiddo’ or ‘champ.’ I rage against Freddie. I always picture the ‘I’ dotted with a heart.
Very few nicknames were attempted on me – I had one teacher who called me “Dauntless” for a while, but thankfully it didn’t stick when I changed schools. It’s entertaining and a little sad when a person with a clunky wig of a name like Fred goes by “Thunder” or “The Hammer.” It’s the McLovin joke from the movie Superbad. Nobody wants to be that guy. Naming your son Fred, Poindexter, Egbert, or Sheldon nearly guarantees that they have to deal with a moment like that eventually.
Do you know why your parents picked the name? Does it have any family connections? Did it affect your feelings towards your parents?
FRED: There are Alfreds and Fredericks all over my family history. My family is full of old timey names. But my mom – whose name is Estelle, by the way – insists that she really liked the name. She actually loved the name Friedrich, from a character in Little Women.” The book probably made Friedrich a popular name in the 1870s, but a century later… not so much. I should probably be grateful–another option was apparently the name Zepherin.
Were you teased in Elementary School? High School? College?
FRED: In spite of the name Fred, to be honest, I wasn’t teased too badly about my name. I was teased because of my behavior. If anything, my name probably encouraged me to be able to fit in with different tribes of kids in school.
Ever think of changing your name?
FRED: Yes. I’ve met some very wonderful Freds who are passionate about spreading the name. and I’ve met some very nice people who are comforted by the Lawrence Welk Show- era simplicity of the name, but I’m not a Fred-evangelist. It took a long time for me to come to terms with my name. About thirty years. The first time I tried to change my name I was probably seven years old. For about a month I insisted that my family call me Rick – shortened from Frederick. I was adamant, I wouldn’t respond to my family unless I was addressed as Rick. But this distaste for the name Fred made my mother sad, so I dropped it. I’m sorry to say, but Fred never completely clicked with me. The sound of the name itself can sometimes clang like a jeer – even from friends. Frederick is probably better, I think.
Although Fred was hot at the turn of the 20th century—it was in the Top 20 from 1880 to 1907 and stayed in the Top 100 till 1956, it was not exactly the coolest name on the block in the year you were born, and now it hasn’t even been in the Top 1000 since 2002. How has having a ‘dated’ name affected you and your perception of yourself? Did it strengthen your character?
FRED: I’m usually the only Fred people know. It’s funny how some folks are quick to tell me this fact, as if it’s an encouragement – that I set their standard for Freds. But that’s no consolation, really. If I had gills, I’d set the standard for fish people, but it wouldn’t make things any easier.
I don’t know for certain what my name did for my character. I’m not a conservative guy, so maybe it encouraged me to break from convention. My business partner is named Barnaby and we both had traumatic relationships with our names in childhood. He loves his now. Me, I’m getting there.
FRED: Now we’re getting to the heart of my problem with it all. To my ear, the name Fred Gooltz is lacking in musicality. In poetic terms, those two words are a single pyrrhic foot: da-da – without internal rhyme or alliteration. Other two syllable names like Chuck Close have a tight lyricism to them, but not mine. If a name has at least three syllables, then you’re probably safe – three syllables easily establishes a melodic rhythm. Gooltz being difficult for most people to pronounce just makes matters worse. Unsurprisingly there was a period of 5 years where I used a different last name.
Do you have a middle name?
FRED: Off the charts. I doubt it even rates a roll of the eyes.
Are there any pop culture Freds you identify with?
FRED: A lot. My wife and I talk about names often. In general, it’s impossible to underestimate the potential for cruelty in some children. I think easily mocked names definitely should be a consideration when picking baby names. While it’s probably true that no name is ‘tease’ proof, some names make a bigger target than others.
Would it cheer you up to know that a large number of nameberryites think Fred is totally cool?
FRED: Yes, that’s very nice.
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on May 21st, 2010 at 1:03 am
“I’m usually the only Fred people know. It’s funny how some folks are quick to tell me this fact, as if it’s an encouragement – that I set their standard for Freds. But that’s no consolation, really. If I had gills, I’d set the standard for fish people, but it wouldn’t make things any easier.”
That was my favorite quote. I think it’s interesting analogy. Just because the name you’re using isn’t popular at all doesn’t mean your kid will automatically be filled with confidence and “will take it in stride” so to speak. They could just as easily hate it. There is some comfort in having a fairly popular name (particularly for kids), and I think a lot of people here forget that.
On the other hand, I love the name Frederick, but I’m not crazy about Fred. Hmm.
on May 21st, 2010 at 8:49 am
Freddy reminds me of Freddy Krueger. I’ve never liked the name. Shudder.
on May 21st, 2010 at 9:28 am
Frederick’s partner is Barnaby??
Jill Q. Said
on May 21st, 2010 at 9:39 am
I loved this post, even though, or perhaps b/c, my son is named Frederick. 🙂 Nice to get the perspective from a Fred. We did debate the whole standing in/fitting out dilemma of a a name like Frederick. I really wanted a name that people would be able to pronounce and recognize as a traditional name, but was also not very common. That can be a tougher goal than you think, especially w/boys’ names. Frederick was one of the few names that my husband and I could agree on, so it was more of a compromise name than a “we love it” name. It’s grown on us as our child is grown, but he’s only 16 months so it will be a while before we know how he feels about it. . . I’ll try to be understanding if we wants to be called “The Hammer” instead. 🙂
I agree that it should be Frederick or Fred.
Freddy/Freddie is just yuck.
on May 21st, 2010 at 10:32 am
LOVE LOVE LOVE Frederick and it’s sound… not all that crazy about nn Fred or the dreaded Freddie.
on May 21st, 2010 at 10:37 am
Very interesting. He’s had the opposite take in his life on his unique name to mine and my husband’s (we both have/had rare names for our times at least). I love the name Frederick and it was a real contender, until I realized it (seemingly) didn’t go with our Ed- last name…. but there’s your Fred’s mn: Edward! I know 2 Freds. One was a boss of mine and one was actually a Jason, who, being one of many with his given fn, chose to use Freddie based on his last name – Frederick… I knew him in middle school, so I have no idea if that stuck beyond those years. But it is true what your Fred said – kids can be extremely cruel, whether they’ve got obvious fodder via a name or not and there’s no guarantee that a child will feel comfortable in their name, regardless of its rarity or its ubiquity… and that right there is a big part of my love for a name with a great variety of nicknames! (Even though that doesn’t guarantee anything, either!)
Thanks to Fred for sharing! And here’s to hoping he feels comfortable in his name someday soon! (Fred, your name is seriously cool, if you ask me!)
on May 21st, 2010 at 11:39 am
The link to itsasickness.com is broken.
on May 21st, 2010 at 11:57 am
Link to itsasickness.com is fixed.
on May 21st, 2010 at 12:33 pm
I adore Fred, specifically because of Harry Potter =) I wouldn’t name my son Fred as a first name, only a mn (and only if I have twin boys!). I did name my favorite tree in my yard “Fred,” though. =P Fred is, simply put, awesome.
Courtney W. Said
on May 21st, 2010 at 1:03 pm
I don’t hate the name as much as I hate the associations that go with it….
Fred Durst = controversial group member from Limp Bizkit
Fred Flintstone = a loud mouth guy in a spotted dress
Freddy Krueger = evil murdering child molester
Drop Dead Fred = imaginary friend who does awful things
Fred Claus =never do well big brother of St. Nick
Freddie’s Dead = a song about “Fat Freddie” who is ran over by a car
I just can’t get past this!
on May 21st, 2010 at 2:10 pm
My nickname is Fred, so it never seems out of place for me. I’ve also heard it used as a nickname for a TV show character, Winifred. But these are just nn, and I can see how it could be a tough first name to work with. This particular post is a good reminder of the naming responsibilties we have as parents. I don’t want my kid to say these things about their name.
on May 21st, 2010 at 3:21 pm
Frederick E. Gooltz and Edward Gooltz both sound very handsome to me. I can see the problem with plain Fred Gooltz.
on May 21st, 2010 at 4:38 pm
I disliked the name until iCarly, where Freddy instantly seemed cute. I like the old-timers Charlie and Joey. Though Joe is more “old” than Joey.
on May 21st, 2010 at 6:08 pm
He seems lovely. And funny!
on May 21st, 2010 at 7:24 pm
I like the name Frederick but Fred leaves me cold.
I love the nn of Rick what a shame the family didn’t take to it.
I think it is better as a miccle name eg Dashiell Frederick is very handsome.
on May 21st, 2010 at 7:25 pm
meant middle not miccle
Fred Gooltz Said
on May 21st, 2010 at 8:21 pm
There has been something very emotionally refreshing about this whole discussion, and now the comment thread as well.
It’s hard to describe, but honest discussions about your own name and your relationship to it are very close to an excavation of your identity – and part of the value of identity is married to your idea of your own purpose.
This has been very interesting.
I’ll try out Edward Gooltz and experiment using Frederick Gooltz for a while too.
on May 22nd, 2010 at 1:41 am
I love Frederick and actually like Freddie/Freddy quite a bit, but Fred doesn’t really do it for me.
on May 22nd, 2010 at 7:30 am
Thank you for sharing your thoughts about the name Fred, Fred! Frederic nn Freddy has been on my list for a long time. I love it.
on May 22nd, 2010 at 11:39 am
Wow. This may sound naive but I had no idea that Frederick was perceived as a “dated” name. I’ve always loved the sound. In fact, I plan on using it for one of my sons. When I hear it, I think of Fred Astaire (whom I love) and Captain Frederick Wentworth from Persuasion. Not bad role models, if you ask me.
I think this name should have just as much of a right to come back now as the Charleses, Theodores and Augusts that no one blinks an eye at because they are back in style, even with their short mid-century nicknames (Fred, Chuck, Ted, and Gus).
on May 22nd, 2010 at 1:07 pm
My partner’s name is Frederick. I actually really love it. He goes by Fred mostly, but I call him Freddie too. I think it’s a great, strong, classic name. We’re considering using it either as a first or at the very least, a middle name. He really likes his name, and is well remembered for it (as well as being a really great guy of course!).
Anyway, it was interesting to get another perspective of the name because as far as I know my partner has never had any qualms about it, and I really love it. I also love that we have such classic, regal names together!
on May 23rd, 2010 at 3:19 am
My daughter is Frederique and we call her Fred. At creche there was a boy Frederick also called Fred, so she became Freddie, a nickname we never particularly liked. My younger daughter still often calls her Freddie, but Fred calls herself Fred. We liked the name because Frederique is elegant (and poetic), Fred has street cred (we grew used to the sound of it for a girl watching Angel, though that Fred was really a Winifred) and Freddie is cute and girly, we liked the elasticity of the name. She has been through phases of not liking it (she’s seven) but right now she really loves it. Some little old ladies frown in consternation but most people really dig it and it suits her so much – she’s a chameleon of a kid – a little bit tomboy, a little bit princess.
on May 23rd, 2010 at 8:26 am
Cool interview. I also enjoyed Fred’s website.
In appreciation of you, Fred, I shall indulge my own obsessive sickness of name-anagramming (which anybody here at Nameberry will confirm about me) and anagram you a cool new name: Frederick Gooltz = Zorg Rocketfield. Feel the power in that name.
on May 24th, 2010 at 9:12 am
It is an awesome name for anagrams! Crooked Leg Fritz
on May 25th, 2010 at 2:25 pm
Great blog! Frederic is at the top of my name list if I am blessed with a boy. It was my grandfather’s name and he went by Fred. I prefer Red or Fritz for nicknames, but I will call him Frederic. Such a distinguished classy name but it has the element of fun with its nicknames (including Fred!).
Emmy Jo Said
on May 26th, 2010 at 12:37 am
I love your name. Frederick was a top contender for our four-month-old son. It makes me think of two of my favorite literary heroes — Frederick Wentworth from Jane Austen’s “Persuasion” and Frederick Vincy from George Eliot’s “Middlemarch.”
I do understand, however, why you would have trouble with the shortened form of your name. While Frederick feels handsome and regal, Fred has somehow become almost comically bland. I imagined people thinking when we announced our son’s name, “Fred — really? With all the baby names you knew, the best you could come up with was Fred?” I eventually decided that though I loved Frederick, a Frederick would inevitably become Fred (at least to most people), and I wasn’t 100% sure I wanted my son to be known mostly as Fred.
We ended up deciding on Julius for our son — which I’m sure will have its own set of problems, but it’s less likely to turn into a permanent nickname.
But you really should embrace Frederick/Fred. I would have been charmed to marry a man named Fred — it’s the sort of classic name you want to write love letters to.
on June 17th, 2014 at 9:07 pm
I love the name Fred. Just Fred. Perfect. ‘I Love Lucy’ made me love it, haha.
on July 11th, 2018 at 5:02 pm
I have always been interested in names-the meanings, sounds, spellings, references, what they evoke, etc.etc..and what a big impact you make when naming a child. With the trendiness of having a “cool” name, even a “cool” classic name–lately I am fond of more steady names like Fred. What about Freddie Mercury, Fred Rogers, Fred Armisen, Frederick Douglass?
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