Midcentury Nickname Names: Buster and Buddy are back

I don’t you know if you’ve noticed a growing trendlet—at least among celebrities—for what we might call generic-boy-nickname-names.  In other words, these aren’t specific short forms like Charlie or Archie, but ol- timey macho boy tags like Buddy and Buster.

In the recent past, we’ve seen Noel Gallagher’s Sonny, a choice shared by British singer Sophie Ellis-Bextor—as well as Adam Sandler’s daughter Sunny; Jamie Oliver’s Buddy Bear Maurice; Michele Hicks and Jonny Lee Miller’s Buster Timothy; the three Aces of Natalie Appleton, Tom Dumont, and Jennie Finch and Casey Daigle; the two Dukes of Diane Keaton and Justine Bateman; and the Junior of Peter Andre and Katie Price.

We can’t help wondering if this is yet another offshoot of the midcentury Mad Men phenomenon, bringing us back to the days of Father Knows Best’s Bud (birth name James Anderson, Jr.) and J. D. Salinger’s Buddy Glass (real name Webb Gallagher Glass), and Marlon Brando, who was known to friends and family as Bud.  In those days, though, Sonny or Buster were not usually put on the birth certificate, and over time those pet names began to be relegated to pets.

Or so it seemed.  Looking at the Social Security data, you might find it surprising that Buddy did make the list every year from 1904 to 1988, peaking at 216 in 1947; Junior entered the list in 1896, reached a high of 416 in 1925, and still ranks at 715.  Buster was on the charts from 1880 to 1957, reaching 238 in 1909, while Sonny has been there from 1927 to 2009; its highpoint—at 471– was in 1935, last year it still ranked #857.

Another related name is Ace, which sounds a bit fresher and more spirited than the others, with its high-flying, comic-book-hero flair.  Ace flew in and out of the radar at the turn of the last century, and then landed back on the popularity list in 2006, where it now sits at #608.  Possible—though unlikely– namesakes: Ace Ventura, Pet Detective, bad boy Ace Merrill (born John) played by the young Kiefer Sutherland in the 1986 classic Stand By Me and KISS’s Ace Frehley, born Paul David.

Would you ever consider one of these names for your son?

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26 Responses to “Midcentury Nickname Names: Buster and Buddy are back”

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Lola Says:

October 22nd, 2010 at 7:24 am

I’d NEVER put a nickname on the birth certificate but heck, I’d use Ace as a generic nn. We use Buddy for Josie’s friend Brian, it started as “he’s my buddy”. as she’d say when they were 2. Now they’re 6.5 and he’s *still* Buddy! I keep telliing his dad “Buddy’s a nickname you get when people love you” and it seems to be true as far as that nickname goes.

As for Junior, there’s one I’ll never use. If I won’t name a girl after me, I won’t name a boy after Dad. Just a rule for me. Everyone deserves their own name, I think. Juniors have to deal with unfair competition or at least that’s how it strikes me. And I’m not alone in that thinking amongst my friends. None of us has a junior!

I wonder if geography has something to do with the Junior issue? I’m in MA, just outside Boston. But maybe someone from someone else, somewhere else might feel different? I wonder.

JustADad Says:

October 22nd, 2010 at 8:05 am

I am related to a hipster couple who have named their son Buster. This was a trend the rest of the family didn’t know about, and their choice caused some consternation. Mostly because the name, to some, felt too flimsy and not serious enough–sort of a male version of Bambi or Brandy. I like the name, but still would have chosen a more solid name and used Buster as a family nickname. That way you have the best of both worlds.

Millikate Says:

October 22nd, 2010 at 8:15 am

No, I would never consider any of these names for my son.

Andrea Says:

October 22nd, 2010 at 9:32 am

They’re dog names.

Jackobeam Says:

October 22nd, 2010 at 9:33 am

Ace sounds like a name used to mock someone. “Alright, Ace…simmer down.”

Jen Says:

October 22nd, 2010 at 10:28 am

Using Buddy or Buster doesn’t seem that weird to me, but usually you hear it as a nickname for a junior or the II. I’m from The South, and this is a fairly common practice. My cousin is a III and goes by Tripp, and my brother is a Jr and goes by Buddy. My little sister is pregnant and has told me more than once that if she has a boy she wants to name him Buddy after our brother, plus she really likes it after hearing it in Fried Green Tomatoes. She’s going to go with Buddy Alexander I think, or Buddy George.

Foodie Says:

October 22nd, 2010 at 11:08 am

My husband loves Duke for a boy! It’s growing on me. I also like Sonny.

katybug Says:

October 22nd, 2010 at 11:17 am

My husband and I each have a grandfather who was nicknamed Bud (one named James, the other Harold) but I don’t think we’d ever consider putting Bud on the birth certificate. It just isn’t a real name in my book.

ycw Says:

October 22nd, 2010 at 12:08 pm

No, I would not use any of these as a given name. I don’t have a junior–but I married a Jr, and I have a III. We have yet to work out his nickname… usually he’s Peter (also dad and grandpa’s name), Pete (also dad’s nickname), or Boy. If I had an Asa (on my short list), I’d probably call him Ace.

Keyla Says:

October 22nd, 2010 at 12:58 pm

There’s a young baseball player by the name of Buster Posey who made me think of the name in a completely different way. I still would never use it, but it doesn’t seem as bad. Maybe that’s because Posey is his last name.

Keyla Says:

October 22nd, 2010 at 1:01 pm

BTW, Buster Posey’s real name is Gerald Dempsey Posey III

British American Says:

October 22nd, 2010 at 1:38 pm

A friend of a friend has (British) twins named Charlie and Sonny.

I personally wouldn’t put Buddy / Buster / Sonny on the birth certificate. I’m more a fan of the full name on the birth certificate, even if you plan to call the child Charlie or Buddy.

pdxlibrarian Says:

October 22nd, 2010 at 4:23 pm

Personally, I’m not a fan of any of these names. They sound overly fake and I think they sound best as pet names.

Tirzah Says:

October 22nd, 2010 at 5:37 pm

These sound like dog names. I do know a little boy named Ace.

Majotaur Says:

October 22nd, 2010 at 6:33 pm

If the San Francisco Giants win the World Series, I think there might be a spate of little Busters born in the Bay Area over the next year or so…

andreachristine Says:

October 22nd, 2010 at 7:22 pm

i am a HUGE fan of these types of nicknames (not resume worthy, so not on the birth certificate) and must say i was a little sad to see this becoming a trend since I like my ideas not to get popular! especially sad Buddy was mentioned as I just added it to my list the other night after watching the movie elf. (yes, i watch Elf in october. i LOVE christmas!!)

also, i’m a huge giants fan and must say that Buster Posey really made me go from detesting to being-able-to-handle the name Buster. although really only think it works if your son ends up being famous (and has a last name as cool as Posey)

jaime Says:

October 22nd, 2010 at 9:01 pm

My grandfather’s real first name was Junior. My grandma used to tell me that when they met, she asked what his middle name was, thinking that it had to be better than Junior. Then he said “Elmo” 🙂 Her response? “Well alright then Junior.” Yeah, don’t think Junior Elmo is a family name I’ll be choosing to pass down…

leah_9 Says:

October 22nd, 2010 at 10:33 pm

I would like to use Ace as a nn for Andreas. I never really considered it a midcentury nn, it was just the only nn I could think of for Andreas that I liked. If we have a second boy he would likely be Julian or Sebastian, neither of which have very obvious nns that I like. Buddy and Sonny could be a cute solution to that problem. Ace, Sonny, and Buddy all in one family might be cute. They would only be used within our family though.

smismar Says:

October 22nd, 2010 at 11:22 pm

I would NEVER use any of these as given names. These are not real names and should not be treated as such. That said, I have NO problem with them as a nickname. I’ve even considered Douglas with the nn Duke for a future boy.

moxielove Says:

October 23rd, 2010 at 2:41 am

I love the baseball talk – I think Buster Posey is one of the best “baseball” names I’ve ever heard… And LOL if my name was Gerald Dempsey Posey III, I’d go by Buster also!! I assumed it was his given.

And no, I’d never use any of these names for a son.

kaybee3 Says:

October 23rd, 2010 at 12:50 pm

Don’t forget Buzz

OliviaG Says:

October 23rd, 2010 at 4:12 pm

I want to use John NN Johnny and I think Johnny fits this category.

Kiki Says:

October 23rd, 2010 at 4:58 pm

I just think it’s going to be weird when they grow up and become Grandad Buddy, Grandad Ace, Grandad Sonny and worst of all, Grandad Junior

Sassy Says:

October 23rd, 2010 at 7:02 pm

I’m not a fan of these as “real” names and would never use them on a birth certificate either. I’ve also met a couple of dogs named Buddy at the park so it’s automatically a dogs name for me as is Buster. I also can’t imagine using Junior as a proper first name. It’s something you’re called if your just that, so and so Jr.
I agree with Lola as well that I’d never have a Jr. as I also believe everyone should have there own name. I know at least 1 of my friends agrees with this as we’ve talked about it. In her father’s family the first born son was 1 of 2 names depending on what the father was so it alternates each generation. My friend’s mother got rid of that tradition when they named their son something completely different.

Joslyn Says:

October 23rd, 2010 at 8:07 pm

I love Buster Posey! MLB’s Rookie of the Year hopeful! Played in the minors here in my hometown. Look for this name to explode over the next year in the Bay area. Especially if the SF Giants win the World Series! This is, of course, a nickname for Gerald Dempsey Posey III. His father goes by “Demp”. Both names are on my short list. I love Buster for a boy, but it must be a nickname. You must give him the option, just in case he feels like you named him after the dog. And I adore Posey for a girl, but this name doesn’t seem to age well and knowing they must endure a youthful name for 80% of their lives seems cruel as well. But they sure are cute names and I am keeping them on my list!!

dresdendoll Says:

November 22nd, 2012 at 11:52 am

There’s also Chip and Skip!

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