It’s spring, which means that football season is definitely over now. If you’re a sad case like me, the second the Grand Final is over, you begin looking forward to next season, which is about five months away. You might also spend time looking back on the season which has just passed.
“Buddy” Franklin and “Sonny Bill” Williams are two footballing names I heard repeatedly throughout the 2014 season; every time I watched a sports update on television, or heard it on radio, it seemed as if either Buddy or Sonny would be mentioned at some point.
Lance “Buddy” Franklin is an AFL star, and the brother of netballer Bianca Giteau, who has been featured on the blog twice as a celebrity mum. Not only a leading goal-kicker and multiple medallist, Buddy has tons of celebrity glamour, due to dating Miss Universe Australia winner and model Jesinta Campbell.
The big story that had him constantly in the sporting news was that he swapped clubs, from Hawthorn to the Sydney Swans, and proved one of the Swan’s best players. In a nail-biting finish, Hawthorn and Sydney played each other in the Grand Final – could Hawthorn win without their star player?
Sonny William Williams, or Sonny Bill Williams, is a New Zealand rugby player and former boxer who has code-swapped into rugby league at times. He also has glamour for his many endorsements from fashion labels, and is one of Australia’s most marketable athletes. Last year he signed with the Sydney Roosters for two seasons, and helped take the Roosters to Premiership victory. Could he once again become a premiership winner in his last NRL season?
In the end, all the hype ended in a bit of a fizzle – the Sydney Swans lost, and although the Roosters were the Minor Premiers, they were knocked out during the finals and did not make it to another Grand Final.
Buddy is a slang word meaning “friend, companion” – the equivalent of the Australian favourite, mate. It may be an affectionate alteration of the word brother, but there is an 18th and 19th century English and Welsh dialect word butty, meaning “work-mate”, which was used by coal-miners, which seems more likely. This goes back to the 16th century term booty fellow, given to a partner that you share your booty or plunder with; booty of course means “gains, prizes”, often with connotations of being ill-gotten. Interestingly, we still sometimes jokingly introduce a friend as our partner in crime.
Buddy has been used as a (mostly male) personal name since at least the 18th century, and seems to have historically been much more popular in America. It isn’t always possible to tell from historic records whether Buddy was the person’s name, or a common-law nickname, but in at least several cases, it was the name they were christened with. There are a number of Buddys in Australian historical records, but in most (maybe all?) cases it seems to be either a nickname or a middle name.
Famous people named Buddy nearly always have it as a nickname, such as rock and roll pioneer Charles “Buddy” Holly, or NRL player Yileen “Buddy” Gordon. Fictional Buddys include Buddy Hobbes, the man who thought he was one of Santa’s elves in the Christmas comedy Elf, and Buddy Love, the arrogant alter ego in The Nutty Professor.
Buddy has been chosen as a baby name by two TV chefs – Bartolo “Buddy” Valastro from American show Cake Boss has a son named Buddy after his own nickname, and British chef Jamie Oliver welcomed his son Buddy Bear Maurice in 2010 (the name chosen by Jamie’s model wife Jools). Buddy Oliver still manages to make the occasional “crazy celebrity baby name list”, although his sisters Poppy Honey Rosie, Daisy Boo Pamela and Petal Blossom Rainbow are usually thrown in as a sort of package deal. Australian cricketer Michael Hogan has a son named Buddy.
Buddy has never charted in Australia, but I do see it in birth notices fairly often, mostly from Victoria. In the United States, Buddy peaked at #202 in the 1930s and left the charts in 1989; last year just 21 boys were named Buddy – the same number as those called Trigger. But in 2013, Buddy was #356 in England/Wales; the numbers began climbing the same year Buddy Oliver was born, although it seems to have slackened off slightly.
Sonny is even more straightforward as a slang term than Buddy, as it is a casual or affectionate way to address a young boy, from the word son. As a baby name, you could see Sonny meaning “my son”, or even as another form of Junior.
Sonny has been used as a boy’s name since at least the 17th century, and as with Buddy, it isn’t always possible to know whether it was the person’s given name or their nickname, but it does seem to have been the name they were christened with in many cases. There are many more Sonnys in Australian historical records than Buddys, and often it was a common-law nickname. This seems to have been given humorously in the case of a Thomas Fogg, who was dubbed Sonny Fogg. Sonny Day and Sonny Love may have been real names, however.
Sonny is a popular nickname amongst famous musicians, such as jazz legend Theodore “Sonny” Rollins, rapper Paul “Sonny” Sandoval from Christian metal band P.O.D., and Flower Child era pop singer Salvatore “Sonny” Bono, who was half of Sonny & Cher before becoming a conservative politician. However, Sonny is the real name of blues guitarist Sonny Landreth, and DJ Sonny Moore, who performs under the stage name Skrillex. Even in fiction, Sonny has a musical heritage, because James Baldwin’s story Sonny’s Blues centres on a young jazz musician.
Sonny has been chosen as a baby name by Sophie Ellis-Bextor from English rock band The Feeling, and by Noel Gallagher, from Britpop band Oasis. American actor Jason Lee also has a little boy named Sonny. Australian comedian Hamish Blake welcomed his son Sonny Donald last year, and NRL player Todd Lowrie welcomed son Sonny in 2011.
Sonny is not an unusual name in Australia, being around the mid-100s. In the United States, Sonny has been solidly on the Top 1000 since the 1920s, and peaked at #428 in the 1970s (perhaps under the influence of Sonny Bono, as Sonny & Cher became household names in this decade due to their successful variety shows on television). Currently Sonny is #842 in the US, and relatively stable. In England/Wales, Sonny became a Top 100 name last year, debuting at #90. It is possible it could also make the Top 100 here one day.
These are two cute, friendly, upbeat, boyish nicknamey names that have gained celebrity support and are very much in line with British trends. Some may see the names as a little too snuggly and huggable, but I think they could also seem cool, or even a bit bad boy.
Buddy received an approval rating of 21%, while Sonny was better received with an approval rating of 53%.
(Picture shows Lance Franklin; photo from the Herald Sun)