Is There Still Such a Thing as a “Sissy” Name?

I remember once meeting a completely adorable curly-headed little toddler named Percy.  And suddenly the image of his name was turned on its head and for the first time I could see the hidden , quirky charms of Percy.  It’s like when extreme he-man Bear Grylls called his son Marmaduke–one of the ultimate prissy-sissy names–all he could see ahead for his son was the cool nickname Duke (of course he did call his next one Huckleberry).

There’s a whole group of names like this that used to be described by antiquated  terms we’d never dream of using today–like namby-pamby and  pantywaists– sterotyped as such in old books and movies.  Since that’s now such ancient history, I’m wondering, as I think of that cute little Percy, if any of these names  might be fit for revival.  Several have impressive–even noble –pedigrees, and some impressive namesakes as well (handy ego-saving ammo).  And the bottom line is that kids today wouldn’t be aware of the old negative associations.  But older generations would!

Can any of these names be saved?

ALGERNON: The Brits have revived old nickname names like Alfie and Archie, but Algie?  Probably too reminiscent of seaweedy pond scum algae.

CECIL: Pronounced either SEE-sill or SESS-ill, Cecil was the surname of a great 16th century English noble family, and notable bearers include designer Beaton, epic film director De Mille, jazz musician Taylor and Cecil Rhodes, patron saint of Rhodes scholars.

CEDRIC.  Also pronounced with a hard of soft E, Cecil got its stereotyped image via the title character in Little Lord Fauntleroy, a velvet-suited English boy mocked by his American schoolmates. It was originally created by Sir Walter Scott for Ivanhoe and though comedian Cedric the Entertainer has done a lot to overturn its image, it still has a long way to go.

HORACE: Another once noble Roman name, a form of Horatio, associated with the great ancient poet (first name Quintus) as well as educator Mann and “Go West, Young Man” newspaperman/abolitionist Greeley. I’d say Horatio or Quintus would work a little better.

HUBERT: Yes, it was a character in The Canterbury Tales, and yes, it got some style via designer Givenchy (definitely sounds better with a French accent), but even Vice-President Humphrey (a Junior) was reputed to have hated his first name. Same goes for most other bert names–Norbert, Osbert, Egbert, Dilbert, etc.

MARMADUKE: Papa Bear to the contrary, most people (including small ones in the playground) would associate this name with the big comic strip Great Dane.

MONTAGUE: It may be a famous Shakespearean surname, but to most people it would be effete snobbery personified.

ORVILLE: With the resurrection of some other O-names–Oliver, Oscar, OrsonOrville, with its link to the inventive Wright brother, just might have a chance–if you can push the popcorn image of Mr. Redenbacher out of your mind.

OSWALD: A name that’s appeared in Chaucer, Shakespeare and Trollope, belonged to two saints and was the given moniker of Harriet‘s husband Ozzie, it was perhaps permanently tarnished by its connection to Lee Harvey.

PERCIVAL: The pure and innocent knight who succeeded in the quest for the Holy Grail–not to mention Nellie‘s husband on Little House on the PrairiePercival is one name I can see being taken on by a fearless baby namer.

PERCY: Might have more of a chance than the others. Not a short form of Percival but adapted from a British surname, Percy is associated with the great romantic poet Shelley, has some jazzy musical cred via Sledge and Faith–and for me, the image of that cute little boy.

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25 Responses to “Is There Still Such a Thing as a “Sissy” Name?”

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pippa Says:

April 6th, 2009 at 9:11 am

I love the “sissy” names! My husband’s name is Chauncey (he is the 3rd in his family) and I fully intend to pass it on to a future son. I also love the names Quincy and Perry (short for Peregrine) both are family names on my husband’s side. The notion of “sissy” seems a bit outdated to me…

linda Says:

April 6th, 2009 at 10:32 am

That was kind of the point I was trying to make–that it is outdated! By the way, I’m curious as to what country you’re living in.

Lola Says:

April 6th, 2009 at 10:33 am

Horace is one of the main protaganists in “Hello Dolly”! I like Horace! (And Walter Matthau, who played him).

I firmly like Bert & Bertie. I have a good friend Norbert. He’s a third. It’s what first made me talk to him, his name. 🙂 I would trade his friendship for anything in the universe, either. Bert’s cool. (But Burt bugs me a little). I also know a Percival/Percy, brother to my friend Galahad! Percy is appealling for sure. But I think I still like Perry a bit better.

And Algernon is awesome. Algie is really retro feeling, almost gay 90’s retro in my head. (I made a typo there that may rescue the word gay.. I spelled it gey by mistake, how’s that for fresh? rather like Fey now…) but back to Algernon. My partner is hung up on “Flowers for Algernon” has wanted to write a remake of that film for nearly 25 years now (and is working on it in bits & pieces these days). It’s one of his favorite stories. So I think if I mentioned Algernon, He’d jump on it! (I just think Algernon’s a bit much with the Mac- surname). It might work… Hmm, must go ask.

Thanks for this. I really think any “sissy” name, on a kid with the right attitude, would work. I mean How sissy would a 6’2″ Horace be? In the long run, I think it’s sort of cool, even.

pippa Says:

April 6th, 2009 at 10:47 am

Hi Linda, don’t worry your point was well taken! As for your question, I am in Brooklyn, NY; my husband’s family are old school Connecticut Mayflower WASP’s, hence all the great “sissy” names in his family tree!

linda Says:

April 6th, 2009 at 11:20 am

Thounght you might be English, because the only Peregrine I’ve ever known was a Brit. Goes to show.

Pam Says:

April 6th, 2009 at 11:30 am

I like Oswald despite myself though you’d probably have to vary it to Osbert. And Oz has to be one of the coolest nicknames ever!

Toni Says:

April 6th, 2009 at 12:10 pm

I have to laugh a little. I name my cars and have owned both a Cecil and a Horace. Cecil was named for the turtle in the Bugs Bunny cartoons. Horace I just thought was about the worst name I’d ever heard (and I didn’t really like the car).

Alicia Says:

April 6th, 2009 at 12:51 pm

I’m just going to comment on a few.

Cecil is on my list, but DH says no. I’m thinking it was because he knew a Cecil. Currently it’s on my “future pet” name list.
I LOVE Orville, well, actually Orval. It is my grandfather’s name and I think it’s quirky and cool. I could totally see it coming back. Maybe not in the top 10 or anything, bust still. I for a while thought I was the only one, but I know a few people my age who quite like it

I used to think Percy was SUCH a sissy name. I liked it, but clearly it was completely wimpy. Well, I’ve been watching the TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer. And Percy is the name of a very minor character who is a football jock. Complete opposite image I would have thought. So now, I see the cool nick-namey feel the name has. Don’t think I’ll use it, but I definitely see it as more usable.

Jennifer Says:

April 6th, 2009 at 1:08 pm

What about Phineas? Anyone who ever read the book Welcome to Temptation, well…the author made that name hot.

Julia Roberts named a kid that, but she spelled it really crazy.

Jenny Says:

April 6th, 2009 at 10:09 pm

Welcome to Temptation was hellahot. But Phineas was already hot from ‘A Separate Peace’. Gene was the sissy name in that book. Or is it dorky?

To me,some of the more flowery male names sound they might belong to a fairy, but to a fairy who could take a punch. The dork names – Gene, Glenn, Larry- those guys sound like the flabby, pasty sissies.

(I’m sorry if you know a Gene, Glenn or a Larry.)

Jennifer Says:

April 7th, 2009 at 7:44 pm

Ah, my favorite kind of boy names! If it can get a kid beat up on the playground, then I usually love it. Cecil, Clement, Thaddeus and Percival are some long-time name crushes of mine. Glad to see others giving them some love too.

For female counterparts…Would Priscilla be in this category as well?

Jennifer Says:

April 7th, 2009 at 7:49 pm

I could see Humphrey and Lionel in this category as well.

kylentasha Says:

April 7th, 2009 at 10:12 pm

I really like Cecil nn Seece and Phineas nn Finn. I think most names can be hot, depending on the association. The only exception may be Algernon. Just can’t see this name being hot. Sorry to anyone who likes it!

linda Says:

April 8th, 2009 at 9:57 am

Jennifer–re Priscilla–yes, I guess the female version of sissy could be prissy.

Kat Says:

April 24th, 2009 at 11:50 pm

My grandfather was a Horace, and he was anything but sissy! He was a huge man in South Texas who carried a gun and crunched rattlesnakes under his boot when they got near the house. He was also a decorated WWII hero. I think it just depends on your reference point.
Now to be fair, he went by Van, which was a shortening of his middle name, but Horace still seemed pretty intimidating and manly when put next to him.

I mean, I think of Sylvester as being a mealy-mouthed, prissy name, but put it on Sylvester Stallone and you turn it on its ear.

Boston Girl Says:

May 29th, 2009 at 2:12 pm

My grandfather was also a Horace, but much different from Kat’s grandfather. Grandpa was born in Maine and raised around northern New England, and was tall and slender with pale hair and very myopic blue eyes (which earned him the nn “Swede” as a young man). He was also very taciturn, never said more than he had to — but he had a sense of humor that would come out at the most surprising moments.

I think he was named for an uncle who died in infancy; but my grandmother wasn’t having any of that stuff. When my father was born, she firmly named him Stephen. She thought “Horace” was an awful name and didn’t want to stick a poor defenseless kid with it. Have to admit, I agree with her. It’s just too far out to be really plausible, even a century after it was popular…if it ever was. But I guess you never know — in the next generation or two, it might suddenly show up on the Top 100 list!

twinkle Says:

November 1st, 2009 at 12:13 am

Couldn’t resist commenting, even though this was such a while ago – one of my little Raphael’s middle names is Peregrine. Personally, I’ve always thought it very handsome, but then again I am quite used to slightly “cissy” names on boys – my husband’s name is Rupert. We considered Marmaduke, too 🙂
(I am in England, in case you were wondering.)

MrsWoolfSimmons Says:

June 7th, 2010 at 4:10 pm

I love sissy boy names. Some of those names don’t sound sissy to me as much as they sound clunky, like Marmaduke (which I actually quite like).

Ellabeth Says:

June 22nd, 2010 at 1:02 am

Percy is hot when it’s Perseus… thankyou Sam Worthington and Clash of the Titans 😀

Sadly, that’s the only one I really like out of that list. Cedric has possibilities, but Cedric Diggory kind of killed all of those (same way Hannah Montana killed Hannah for me). I am a fan of Rupert though, and would like to see that make a return! Marmaduke reminds me of marmalade and old ladies -_-

Lola Says:

March 7th, 2011 at 11:47 am

Must say Rupert is smashing!

Jill Says:

July 26th, 2011 at 9:16 pm

We named our fifth child Percival. At the time we knew nothing of the connotations that went with it. Then it crept up… My daughter chose the name, and i do not regret it, but certain family members are HARSH with it, even going so far as to call him Pervy Percy… he is 11 months old…. I love his name, and personally the older generation should just get over it!

rollo Says:

August 12th, 2011 at 7:19 pm

Yes, take Roger for example that is a super sissy name.

encore Says:

January 27th, 2012 at 4:06 pm

I like Cedric, Orville, and Percy but the rest, not so much.

R_J Says:

February 4th, 2013 at 8:41 am

This is a nice reminder that women aren’t the only ones who will be socially punished for not fulfilling their expected gender roles. Sad.

Anyway. I think Cedric is an awesome name! It would be tough to nickname though, unless you’re a fan of Rick.

AldabellaxWulfe Says:

January 21st, 2016 at 7:55 am

“Sissy” is a social construct which runs on the assumption that anything having to do with a male that is, or has the potential to be feminine, makes him weak.

In the past, when a traditional boy name started picking up popularity on the female side of the spectrum, parents would cease to use the name for their sons. As a result, regardless of how many proud fathers and grandfathers named Shirley there were in your family tree, once little Shirley Temple came along, all of a sudden its masculinity was seen to be tainted by the feminine connotation, and thus marked the end of boy-Shirleys, and many other boy names too.

This mind-set continued on, and in current years has spread. Now, not only do parents reject names that have started being used by girls (regardless of how masculine the names are, how long they’ve been masculine, or how many boys there are that currently bear said names), they also reject boy names with any similarities to girl names (whether they be looks , sound or appeal), and shun any boy names that do not meet the modern, hyper-masculine standard.

So, even though there are no girls named Laurence, Quincy, Basil or Maxy, for many parents they are considered off-limits, because they’re ‘not AS masculine’ as, say, Paxton, Gannon, Jett or Ryker, and thus ‘could get a boy teased’ or ‘put him at a disadvantage’ in comparison to his more “manly-named” counterparts. All in all, to give a boy a feminine/effeminate/”less manly” name is seen as lowering a boy’s position in life to that of a girl and, sadly, for many people there is nothing worse, and no greater shame, than that.

Naturally, I find this mentality sickening. Femininity (imagined or real) is not a poison, and masculinity is not a superior force. Therefore, “Sissy” names are not a problem and, in fact, I openly cater to them. I’ll take Allison, Cyril, Evelyn and Meredith over Adam, Collin, Evan and Michael any day of the week, and be much happier for it. 🙂

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