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Alfie is a nickname for Alfred. It is most famous from the award-winning (and still emotionally shocking) 1966 movie Alfie, starring Michael Caine as the predatory Alfred “Alfie” Elkins. The theme song was sung by Cilla Black, who objected that Alfie sounded like a “dog name”, and suggested Tarquin instead. As it was too late to remake the entire movie, her views were dismissed. Alfred Elkins was the grandfather of the British “Lad”, and until recently, Alfie was a name we thought of as one that could stay on grandfather. It has been Top 100 in the UK since the late 1990s, one of the old geezer names rehabilitated as cute and cool. The insipid 2004 remake of Alfie, starring handsome Jude Law as the charming Cockney, gave Alfie a new image, and Alfie Allen plays cocky Theon in Game of Thrones (big sis Lily Allen wrote a song about him). Alfie follows on the heels of popular Archie, and is #201 in Victoria.
Bastian is a German short form of Sebastian. The name became well known from Bastian Balthazar Bux, the main character in the fantasy novel, The Neverending Story, by Michael Ende. Translated into English in the 1980s, it has been adapted into several films. In the story, Bastian is a lonely, neglected little boy who loves reading; he steals a book called The Neverending Story, and is gradually drawn into a world where make-believe becomes reality. Along the way, he not only has many adventures, but learns valuable lessons about life and love, and manages to rewrite his own story. Although he is the protagonist, he isn’t exactly its hero, which might explain why this name hasn’t taken off. It’s not only handsome, but sounds like the English word bastion – part of a castle’s defence structure, and figuratively, a person who defends a particular position.
Gus can be used as a short form of Augustus, August, Angus, Fergus, and even the Greek name Kostas, although in practice it often seems to be a nickname based on a person’s surname. The name might remind you of film director Gus Van Sant (who was named after his dad), or astronaut Virgil “Gus” Grissom, the second American in space, or of NRL expert Phil “Gus” Gould. You might think of Gus as a cowboy name, due to Texas Ranger Augustus “Gus” McCrae from Lonesome Dove, or as slightly geeky, due to Burton “Gus” Guster in Psych. The name seems to be often used for fictional animals, such as Walt Disney’s Gus Goose, and the mouse Octavius “Gus” in Cinderella (both these Guses are fat). Gus the Theatre Cat is a character from T.S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats; he is frail and elderly, and his nickname is short for Asparagus. This vintage nickname is now very fashionable, and is #241 in Victoria.
Jonty is a nickname for Jonathan, which seems to have originated as a full name in the United States during the 19th century, but is now more common in Britain and some Commonwealth countries. You may know the name from retired South African Test cricketer Jonathan “Jonty” Rhodes. Oddly enough, Jonty does not appear in the US data at all now, so if any babies were named Jonty last year, there were less than five of them. Jonty is #315 for boys in Victoria. Although Jonathan is a boy’s name without a feminine form, girls are sometimes called Jonty too, but not enough to show up in the data.
Kai is Scandinavian name which may be a Frisian short form of Gerhard, Nikolaus or Cornelius. It could also be a short form of the Frisian name Kaimbe, meaning “warrior”. Another possibility is that it could be short for the Latin name Caius, a variant of Gaius, whose meaning is not known. If so, it would be the Scandinavian equivalent of the English male name Kay, as in Sir Kay, who was the foster-brother of King Arthur. Or it could be a variant of the Frisian male name Kaye, which is said to come from the Old Norse word for “hen, chicken”. Or perhaps it is short for Kajetan, which comes from the Latin name Caietanus, meaning “from the town of Gaeta” (Gaeta is in central Italy). Kai can also be a girl’s name in Scandinavia, and this case it is a variant of Kaj, which is a Swedish pet form of Karin (short for either Katrina or Karolina) – to complicate things, Kaj is also a Finnish form of male Kai. That’s a lot of names Kai can be short for! Kai can be a full name in its own right, because it is also a unisex Polynesian name meaning “ocean”, and Kai has the same meaning in Japanese. Kai is a Chinese boy’s name which means “victory” in Mandarin, and in Swahili, it is a girl’s name meaning “loveable”, but this is pronounced KY-yee, and not the more familiar KY. Kai first joined the charts in the 1970s, debuting at #498. It has climbed steeply and fairly steadily, and is currently #61 nationally, #60 in New South Wales, #78 in Victoria, #64 in Queensland, #35 in Western Australia and #62 in the Australian Capital Territory. This is a fantastic little cross-cultural name which can be used for either sex, although it has only ever charted for boys in Australia.
Liam is short for Uilliam, the Irish form of William. Famous people named Liam include Irish actor Liam Neeson, actor Liam Hemsworth, brother to Chris, musician Liam Finn, son of Neil, journalist Liam Bartlett, AFL footballer Liam Picken, and Liam Payne from One Direction, credited with much of the name’s international success last year. Liam first charted in the 1950s, and first ranks in the 1960s, when it debuted at #318. I don’t know if this was a factor, but it was in the 1950s that popular Irish folk band the Clancy Brothers began their career, with Liam Clancy their best singer. By the 1980s, Liam was in the Top 100, making #82 for that decade. Liam really took off in the 1990s, when Liam Gallagher kept grabbing headlines for controversial reasons, and was #26 for the decade. Stable for years, it is currently #11 nationally, #13 in New South Wales, #15 in Victoria, #9 in Queensland, #15 in South Australia, #8 in Western Australia, #24 in Tasmania, #14 in the Northern Territory and #8 in the Australian Capital Territory.
Max can be short for Maxmilian, Maximus, Maxwell, Malcolm, or any name starting with Max-. Although we think of Max as a male name, it could also be short for female names such as Maxine or Maximilienne, and just this year Perth businessman Zhenya Tsvetnenko welcomed a daughter named Max Alice. It is perhaps best known from the Mad Max films, where Mel Gibson originally played Max Rockatansky, a vigilante in a dystopian Australian future. One of Australia’s most successful movie franchises, it kick-started a national film industry and created an enduring Australian icon. Max is a classic name in Australia which has never left the charts. It was #188 in the 1900s, and arrived in the Top 100 in the 1930s, before promptly leaving it again the following decade. It reached its lowest point in the 1970s, at #411, and then skyrocketed during the 1980s – this was the period when the Mad Max films were released. Max made the Top 100 in the 1990s. By 2003 it was in the Top 50 at #24, and by 2008 it was in the Top 20, where it has stabilised. It is #16 nationally, #18 in New South Wales, #14 in Victoria, #22 in Queensland, #18 in South Australia, #15 in Western Australia, #4 in Tasmania, and #46 in the Australian Capital Territory.
Ted can either be short for Theodore, or for Edward and other Ed- names. Teds seem to be very popular in comedy, including Father Ted Crilly from Father Ted, Ted Mosby from How I Met Your Mother, Ted from the Bill and Ted movies, Ted Bullpit in Kingswood Country, and the eponymous bear from the movie Ted. Ted became a celebrity baby name last year, when Leila McKinnon welcomed her son Edmund “Ted” Gyngell, and this year Livinia Nixon called her son Ted as his full name. Ted is #282 in Victoria, so it’s unclear whether Leila started a name trend, or simply joined one. I do see a fair amount of Teds in birth notices though.
Toby is a medieval contracted form of Tobias; you can see it as either a nickname for Tobias, or the English form of it. The name Toby is one prominent in traditional British popular culture, because of the Toby jug, originally a Staffordshire pottery jug in the shape of a stout seated man, drinking and smoking, dating to the 18th century. There are at least two theories as why it has been given the name Toby. One is that it is after Sir Toby Belch, from William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, a suitably jovial and carousing namesake. Another is that after Henry Elwes, a famous drinker from the 18th century who was nicknamed Toby Philpot, after a character in the drinking song, The Brown Jug. Another British Toby is Mr Punch’s dog in Punch and Judy puppet shows, traditionally a bull terrier; often in the past, Toby would be a a real trained dog, not just a puppet. Interestingly, The Brown Jug mentions Toby Philpot as enjoying a drink in “the dog days (of high summer)” – maybe one reason why the puppeteer’s dog was named Toby. Toby has charted since the 1960s, when it debuted at #427, and has been in the Top 100 since 2001. It is #78 nationally, #71 in New South Wales, #94 in Victoria, #85 in Queensland, #50 in Tasmania, and #46 in the Australian Capital Territory.
Xander is short for Alexander. Xander seems to have become common as a full name in Germany, the Netherlands and Scandinavian before it caught on in the English-speaking world, and as a nickname was used more in Britain than other Anglophone countries. Xander became popularised by the character of Alexander “Xander” Harris in the TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the alter ego of his creator, Joss Whedon. It may not be a coincidence that Whedon attended school in England for a couple of years. Xander is Buffy’s best male friend, and gradually matures from geeky, insecure sidekick into a smart, effective warrior, who makes a place for himself in the “real world” and is quite successful with the ladies. It was only after the show began in the late 1990s that Xander joined the US Top 1000, or charted at all in the UK. Xander is #159 in Victoria.
POLL RESULT: People’s favourite names were Gus, Toby, and Ted, and their least favourite were Bastian, Xander, and Jonty.
(Picture shows a movie poster for Mad Max)