Vintage Boy Names: Grover and Friends
By Abby Sandel
Spoiler alert: we’re talking about the final season of Girls below!
Ready for a cardinal rule of baby naming? Names go in and out of style. Every few years, something old feels new again. And a name that was once all the rage teeters on the edge of extinction. Good-bye, Gary. Hello, Otis.
The Girls series finale gave us a baby name that might signal the next new wave for boys. While it’s not a neat formula, there are plenty of examples of once-dated names that feel current today.
Twenty years ago, Jasper and Felix made few shortlists. Otis had tumbled out of the US Top 1000 entirely. Now Jasper and Felix feel like mainstream favorites, and Otis is shifting from daring hipster pick to an alternative to mega-popular Oliver.
Pop culture plays an important role in helping parents re-consider long neglected names, so the Girls name could prove influential. And the fact that Lena Dunham and her fellow writers chose it? I suspect names like this are trending in their own lives.
Let’s take a closer look at Girls’ Grover, along with some other so-far-out that they might – just might – be ready to be back in – names for boys. None of these appear in the current US Top 1000, but there’s good reason to think a younger generation of parents could cautiously consider them.
Barnaby – Zachary peaked in the 1990s, a form of the New Testament Zacharias heard in English since the Middle Ages. Barnaby shares the same rhythm as Zachary, and similar roots, too – it developed in Medieval England as a form of the Biblical Barnabas. But Barnaby remains rare in the US, given to fewer than five boys in 2015. That could make it the perfect overlooked pick for many parents. It ranks Number 289 on Nameberry.
Chester – A presidential and place name, Chester comes with jazzy nickname Chet. (Though musician Chet Baker was born Chesney.) Or maybe that’s country-cool Chet, as in Atkins. A favorite a century ago, Chester has long been reserved for cartoon cheetahs. But if Dexter can feel edgy and cool, why not Chester? It fares better in England, as well as on Nameberry, where the name ranks Number 233.
Grover – If you’ve followed Girls, you’ll know that Hannah chose the name Grover because water-skiing instructor/baby daddy Paul–Louis once mentioned that he liked the name. Like Chester, Grover fits with popular –r ending boy names like Asher and Hunter. Friendly Grover gained some attention ten years ago from novel/movie The Nanny Diaries. The Percy Jackson series also features the name. But is it enough to overcome the Sesame Street association?
Homer – Speaking of pop culture associations, Homer Simpson seems an unlikely namesake. But ages before we visited Springfield, this name payed homage to a towering figure of Ancient Greece. Homer authored the Odyssey and the Iliad. American parents put it in the Top 100 during the late 1800s. It just sneaks into Nameberry’s Top 1000 today, though it remains rare as a given name. Richard Gere named his son Homer in 2000; Anne Heche did the same in 2002.
Ira – If Ezra has become a new favorite, how about Ira? An Old Testament name revived during the Reformation, Ira was another 1800s favorite that fizzled late in the twentieth century. But that could change – there’s a small, but noticeable, uptick in the number of boys named Ira in the last few years. Credit to long-standing NPR host Ira Glass, maybe?
Linus – Like Grover and Homer, there’s a strong pop culture association for Linus. He’s Charlie Brown’s blanket-toting buddy. The numbers suggest parents are already re-considering this one. Hollywood gave us handsome characters in Sabrina and the Ocean’s Eleven franchise called Linus. Another sign of this ancient name’s revival? Berries put Linus at Number 228.
Orson – Unlike many of these names, Orson has never been a chart-topper. But from medieval tales to modern creatives, Orson’s history has kept it familiar. Paz Vega named her firstborn Orson in 2007; Lauren Ambrose chose the name the same year. From the Latin ors, for bear, it combines a cuddly, outdoorsy meaning with a modern, surname sound. It ranks a respectable Number 191 on Nameberry.
Roscoe – Parents have embraced Arlo and Otto. Why not fellow o-ending boy name Roscoe? It’s doubled in use since the 1990s, but remains well below its peak several generations back. An English place name with Norse roots, Roscoe feels small-town and country – but that’s not a bad thing for a baby name in 2017. If Daisy and Milo are mainstream, Roscoe belongs, too.
Rufus – Rufus shares Roscoe’s down-home style, but also benefits from indie singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright. The dad on Gossip Girl answered to the name; so does a figure in the Harry Potter series. There’s also British actor Rufus Sewell. The meaning makes this name perfect for a red-head, but it has tons of potential based on sound alone. Rufus ranks Number 227 on Nameberry, but remains underused in the US.
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on April 24th, 2017 at 7:47 am
I think Chester is horrid, but I can see the others catching on. I especially love Grover. It’s my dog’s name! 🙂
How is Rufus Scrimgeour a heroic figure in the Harry Potter series?
on April 24th, 2017 at 8:28 am
Grover is cool on a dog and Chester
on April 24th, 2017 at 8:46 am
The only one I like is Barnaby, I think it would be so cute on a little boy! Maybe a little too much on an adult though?
Also, I echo what southern.maple is saying, Rufus Scrimgeour was NOT a heroic figure. Are you getting the name mixed up with Rubeus?
Abby Sandel Said
on April 24th, 2017 at 8:51 am
No – I was thinking of his death, when he refused to give up Harry’s location to Voldemort. But I haven’t re-read the books in ages, so I’m taking out “heroic.” And making a note to get past book 5 with my daughter soon!
on April 24th, 2017 at 9:46 am
I love Roscoe! I think it’s the only usable one on this list IMO. You can’t ignore a name’s association with a popular show like Sesame Street. Other similar names I think are off limits: Elmo, Ernie, Bert, Barney.
on April 24th, 2017 at 10:11 am
Grover just makes me laugh. The problem with most of these names is that they just don’t present an attractive image for a grown man. Ira and Rufus are okay, I guess, but as a single woman, I would not date a Chester.
on April 24th, 2017 at 12:28 pm
I’m not fond of most of these, but I do like the ones that other posters don’t: Chester, Ira, & Rufus. The only one I’d actually use, though, would be Chester. Ira was the saintly mailman in a Nancy Drew mystery & Rufus is both too nickname-y & sounds more like a name for a lion or other animal to appeal to me as a name for a person. (And please don’t jump all over me; all of my cats have names that work for people too; Rufus just doesn’t work for me for a person.)
on April 24th, 2017 at 1:37 pm
I love Barnaby! I also quite like Rufus. Chester still feels old to me but that may be because My Aunt has a boyfriend with this name, Chet for short. My Aunt? in her 80’s!
on April 24th, 2017 at 2:00 pm
I like some of these names. I LOVE Barnabas the longer form of Barnaby. The only name I am not keen on is Grover and Chester. : /
on April 24th, 2017 at 2:01 pm
I like Ira and Roscoe. I don’t like Linus and Homer. Homer is too associated to the Simpsons for my liking. I really dislike Chester. Everything I see that name I just think Chester the Molester. Rufus is okay, I like it a lot for a pets name tho.
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