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Famous Namesake
I seem to end up doing names connected with cricket every January, and this year my choice was inspired by seeing The Richies in the stands on Day 2 of the Sydney test against India early in the month – otherwise known as known as Richie Day, which takes place the day before Jane McGrath Day.

The Richies are a group of cricket enthusiasts who dress up as iconic cricket commentator Richard “Richie” Benaud, complete with trademark silver hair, cream jacket, sunglasses, and oversized Channel Nine microphone (it is law that a Richie can only speak on Richie Day if they talk into their microphone).

The Richies were founded in 2010 by Michael Hennessy as a homage to Richie Benaud, who had just announced his retirement from full-time commentating. The first year there were ten Richies, this year there were 350; next year they hope to fill a whole bay, which means 680 Richies.

The group were inspired by comedian Billy Birmingham, who has gained fame for his cricket parodies under the name The Twelfth Man, where he often impersonated Richie Benaud’s distinctive voice. This year Billy Birmingham put The Richies through their paces, and revealed his own sons had dressed as Richie Benaud for the 2013 Test.

As for Richie Benaud himself? He wasn’t just a much-loved commentator, but a great all-rounder who debuted in the 1950s, and was captain for 28 tests between 1958 and 1962 without losing a series. He was the first player to complete the test double of 200 wickets and 2000 runs, and has been inducted into the Australian Cricket Hall of Fame and the ICC Cricket Hall of Fame.

Now 84 and battling skin cancer, Richie Benaud will appear with Billy Birmingham in advertisements for Australia Day this year – but don’t expect Richie to fully endorse his comedy double.

Name Information
Richard is a Germanic name which comes from ric (“power, rule”) and hard (“brave, hardy”), usually translated as “brave ruler”. It was introduced to Britain by the Normans, and has become one of the stock of standard English names, while also well known in other European countries.

Richard has been commonly used by English royalty and aristocracy. One of the best known is Richard I, known as Richard the Lionheart. Said to be tall, elegant, and extremely handsome with red-gold hair, he had a reputation as a great military leader, and remains an enduring figure of romance.

The last English king with the name was Richard III, whose reputation was so tarnished after his death that the name has never been used for a British monarch since (the child who would have been Richard IV was one of the “princes in the Tower” who disappeared in a sinister way, which didn’t help its fortunes as a royal name).

Richard III is infamous from Shakespeare’s play of the same name, where he is portrayed as a deformed, murderous, power-hungry villain. Recently, Richard III has been back in the news after his skeleton was dug up in a Leicester car park, with signs of many injuries from his death at the Battle of Bosworth Fields. Although the skeleton did have scoliosis, so that one shoulder would have been higher than the other, facial reconstruction shows him as looking young and quite pleasant rather than a hideous monster, and modern historians have been kinder towards him.

There are a number of British saints named Richard, including Saint Richard of Chichester, the patron saint of Sussex. There is a Saxon saint named Saint Richard the Pilgrim, but details of his life are sketchy, and Richard doesn’t seem to have been his real name. There are also several Saint Richards who were martyred for their faith in the 16th century.

Because the name has remained in common use for so many years, it is easy to think of famous men named Richard. You might think of composers Richard Strauss and Richard Wagner, singers “Little Richard” (Richard Penniman) and Richard Ashcroft, Beatles drummer Richard Starkey “Ringo Starr”, comedians Richard Pryor and Rich Hall, actors Richard Burton, Richard Attenborough, Richard Gere, Richard Harris, Richard E. Grant, Richard Wilson, and Richard Dean Anderson, presenter Richard Hammond, scientist Richard Dawkins, charismatic entrepreneur Richard Branson, and disgraced former US President Richard Nixon, who was named after Richard the Lionheart.

Richard is a classic name which has never left the charts. It was #26 in the 1900s, and reached its peak in the 1940s at #15. It didn’t leave the Top 100 until the early 2000s, and has gently declined so it is now around the mid-200s. Despite being at its lowest point so far, the name is still in reasonable use and relatively stable. Its popularity is about the same in the UK, and in the US is around the mid 100s. Richard is most popular in the Czech Republic.

Richard has many nicknames, but one thing not helpful to the name is that most of them seem rather dated. Dick, once so common that we could say every Tom, Dick and Harry to mean “every man”, is now frowned upon as an embarrassment, while Dicky reminds older people of “Tricky Dicky” Nixon. Rick and Ricky both peaked in the 1960s, and while I quite like Rich, Richie and Ritchie, Richie Rich, Richie Cunningham, and Ritchie Valens might give them a 1950-ish feel.

You can find medieval short forms of Richard through the English surnames they have inspired. Hick and Hitch led to Hitchens, Higg to Higgins, while Ditch led to Deek and Deex. Dickon was King Richard III’s nickname – also a character in The Secret Garden. Dickon was transformed into names such as Diggin and Diggle, which are quite a lot like fashionable Digby, and make Digger or Digs seem like reasonable vintage-style short forms of Richard. Dix is also a possibility, in line with names such as Max.

With Richard, you get a solid classic name that has never been out of the 200s; a name good enough for kings and saints and celebrities, as well as all manner of ordinary men. It’s a name which matures well, and looks professional on a CV. In fact, as Richie Benaud would say, you might think this name is perfectly “marvellous”!

POLL RESULTS
Richard received an approval rating of 44%. 22% of people were really bothered by the possibility of Dick being given as the nickname for Richard, while 19% saw the name as dated and old-fashioned. However, 14% thought Richard was a name with a solid meaning and history behind it. 3% disagreed with the majority, and thought it was silly and immature to believe there was anything wrong with the nickname Dick.

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