What's in a Name
Austin was a popular enough pick among parents in 1998 to rank in the top 10 most popular boys' names for the year—it came in at number eight.
Calamity Jane. Doc Holliday. Hopalong Cassidy. They're legendary names that seem bigger than life, but they did belong to real people who helped to shape the face of the West. The names they left behind are a popular part of the western name pool—although there's not much chance of meeting a gal named Jane, much less Calamity, these days.
Names to consider that were once borne by other real western heroes (and their foes!) include:
- Wyatt Earp: Known as the man who brought law and order to the Wild, Wild West, his last name makes little kids laugh. But Wyatt—which means “small fighter”—is a good name for a tough little boy.
- Jesse James: The notorious outlaw who eluded the snares of a number of frontier marshals for years. Jesse is a Hebrew word meaning “the Lord exists.”
- “Buffalo” Bill Cody: Famed frontier scout and entrepreneur—so famous, in fact, that no less than three western states claim bragging rights over his actual burial spot. Cody, by the way, comes from an Old English word meaning “pillow.”
- Christopher “Kit” Carson: Nineteenth-century frontiersman who was a guide and scout during the exploration of the West. He also fought in the Mexican War. Carson City, Nevada, is named for him. Carson is an Old English surname meaning “son of the marsh dwellers.”
- Stephen Austin: The American colonization of Texas began in 1821 when Austin obtained a land grant from Mexico. The state capital of Texas is named after him.
- Davey Crockett: The legendary backwoodsman and congressman whose trademark coonskin hat became fashionable headware for lots of little boys (and girls—I had one, too!) in the late 1950s and early 1960s when a TV show based on his life became popular. Crockett is the western-sounding part of this name. It's an occupational name that describes someone carrying a shepherd's crook.
- James Bowie: Originally a slave smuggler, he fought for Texas' freedom and was killed at the battle over the Alamo. His name became synonymous with the long knife that he originated. Bowie, a name that appears occasionally as a first name (baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn) comes from a Scottish word meaning “blond.”