The Game of the Name: Frederick

Hello, and welcome back to the blog.

It’s the first Sunday of March, which means it’s time for another Game of the Name post! Yay for Motivation And Series Continuity!

So, February’s pick was Elizabeth, and now for March I’ve chosen Frederick— I intend to go with traditionally feminine, masculine, feminine, masculine, etc. as a pattern, so you’ll get another name historically assigned to girls in April, and another name historically assigned to boys in May.

I have to admit: there are lots of different girl names I love. Most of them are classical English girls’ names— Elizabeth, Mary, Caroline, etc. But with boys’ names I am a bit of a snob. All of my male main characters have to have interesting names. I don’t do the whole Tom, Dick, and Harry route. Not because those names are not good names— I quite like Thomas, Richard, and Henry, as a matter of fact— but because I get very bored with William, David, Daniel, Michael, etc. that have been in the top hundred of men’s names forever. (No offense to any Toms, Dicks, Harrys, Williams, Davids, Daniels, and Michaels out there, including my own father and several cousins.) My personal taste is for weird, when it comes to traditional male names. Two posts ago I mentioned an OMC named Peregrine, and that should get you into the right mindset. Other male names I’ve used for main characters and romantic heroes: Cornelius (obviously nicknamed Neil), Alasdair, Raphael (nn Rafe), Vladimir (nn Vlad or Dima, the Russian diminutive; yes, for a boy).

Let’s just put it this way: I am a strange bug about boy names and I like those weirder ones— but I do like some of the traditionals as well. I especially like the weird ones that wouldn’t sound out of place in a Regency romance, because that is what I write. In Jane Austen’s works you get Charles Bingley and George Knightley; but you also get people like Fitzwilliam Darcy.

By the way, “Fitz-” as a prefix means “bastard child of” and was tacked onto the surnames of Illegitimate Children Of The Gentry. The Duke of Clarence, during Jane Austen’s time, had at least ten children with an actress named Mrs. Jordan, and they were all surnamed Fitzclarence. Mr. Darcy wasn’t illegitimate, or he wouldn’t have kept the family fortune— it would likely belong to Georgiana. But Fitzwilliam was probably a family name, which means that in his ancestry there was probably a William who had an illegitimate child. Colonel Fitzwilliam still has the last name and all, so they kept the name in the family with Mr. Darcy. (I can go on a whole other tangent about how Darcy comes from the French d’Arcy so his family is French but I won’t do that, it’s not the time or place.)

ANYWAY. Back to Frederick. That is also a Jane Austen name. If you’ve read Persuasion and you’re used to thinking of the romantic hero as Captain Wentworth, then you are In For A Surprise because his first name is Frederick.

I really like the name Frederick. I think it sounds classy and dignified, and I’m also quite fond of Fred as a nickname. I’m iffy about the pronunciation. I prefer the German pronunciation of “freed-rick” but that’s spelled Friedrich. I like the English spelling if I’m writing a (presumably) English-like character. But another advantage to the German variant is the nickname Fritz, which is just So Very Darn Cute and I have a story that I’ve been not really working on for a while where my main male character is Friedrich nn Fritz. (It’s basically Eragon at a modern high school, don’t judge me.)

I fell in love with this name not because of Captain Frederick Wentworth but because of Professor Friedrich Bhaer, of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women series. When I first read Little Women, I immediately loved Professor Bhaer. A lot of people were on the Good Ship Laurie-and-Jo, but I was not about that life, because Jo explained it perfectly well: she didn’t love him in that way, and they would be constantly arguing all the time. I was therefore extremely pleased when Professor Bhaer was introduced, and twelve-year-old me thought he was the coolest male character in that book. (Mr. March was okay but I kept getting mad at Laurie, and John Brooke had all the personality of a flat tire. Meg, you really could have done way better.) He was nice and smart and classy and absent-minded, and twelve-year-old me had a thing for older guys. Now that I am nearly twenty-four, I will also admit that I really liked the whole thing where he was German and had a cute accent. Also, I identified the most with Jo when I read Little Women (honestly, who doesn’t; but for me it was more about the writing thing), so I basically wanted to marry Friedrich Bhaer myself. I wouldn’t call him my first literary crush— that would be Gilbert Blythe, if you were curious— but he’s been an MVP in the group of literary crushes I have amassed.

But allow me to now educate you upon the name Frederick:

This name is old. It’s been around for a long time, especially in countries that speak in a Germanic-based language in continental Europe. Some of these countries, such as the Holy Roman Empire and Prussia, are no longer really in existence; some, like Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, are still hanging in there. It’s been in use since at least the 1100’s and probably long before that— if I had to give it an estimate I would say 700 or 800 AD.

We know about this name because there were quite a few emperors/popes of the HRE with the name Frederick. Obviously, this made the name popular among the general public— it’s what people do, naming their kids after important public figures. The name Charlotte took a huge uptick a year or two ago when the tiny princess was born to Will and Kate. In Britain, you get lots of Williams, Henrys, Charleses, and even little Georges— not to mention Elizabeths and Catherines. Since the US of A doesn’t do the whole monarchy thing, we don’t really do that. (And if the name Donald rises in the rankings on the 2020 census, I will be spitting mad. America, please don’t.)

Frederick was brought to England originally by the Normans, when they invaded; but they kind of let it die out and it wasn’t reintroduced until the German house of Hanover came to power in England. Since then, it’s been kind of a staple in boys names and has only in the last forty-five years seen something of a decline.

From Frederick, you get the nicknames Fred and Freddy (Freddie), and sometimes Rick; if you’re not English there’s also Fritz (Frits), Fredo, and Rik. Frederick has also been feminized to Frederica, a name which I absolutely adore. (I’ve got a main character named Frederica, somewhere in the massive archive of things I’ve started and plotted out but never finished.)

The foreign variants of Frederick include: Friduric (Ancient Germanic), Frederig (Breton), Bedřich (Czech), Frederik (Danish), Vidrik, Viidrik (Estonian), Fredrik (Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish), Frédéric (French), Friedrich (German), Frigyes (Hungarian), Fri∂rik (Icelandic), Feardorcha (Irish), Federico, Federigo (Italian, Spanish), Fridericus (Latin), Fricis, Frīdrihs (Latvian), Frederikas (Lithuanian), Fryderyk (Polish), Frederico (Portuguese), Фридрих (pronounced Fridrih, Russian), and Friderik (Slovene).

Famous bearers of the name Frederick (and a few variants) include: Frederick I Barbarossa (12th-century Holy Roman Emperor and crusader), Frederick II (13th-century Holy Roman Emperor and patron of the arts), Frederick II of Prussia (aka Frederick the Great), Frederick Douglass (abolitionist and civil rights activist), Federico Garcia Lorca (Spanish poet), Fred Astaire (actor and dancer), and Fred Rogers (actor, TV show host, and all-around celestial human being).

Famous fictional bearers of the name Frederick (and a few variants) include: Captain Frederick Wentworth (Persuasion by Jane Austen), Duke Frederick (As You Like It by William Shakespeare), Friedrich Bhaer (Little Women (and sequels) by Louisa May Alcott), Fred Flintstone (of cartoon fame), Fred Weasley (Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling) and Fritz (The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss). I hesitate to include Fred Rogers here again, but I’m not sure if Mr. Rogers the actor and Mr. Rogers the character are truly the same person. I think they probably are, but there are probably a few differences.

Kindly remember that I write these blog posts because I have, in all probability, lost my mind. Let me know if you find it. I should suspect it is to be located at either Behind the Name or Wikipedia, my primary resources for writing this post. (I tried not to plagarize; please don’t sue me. Thanks.)

If you’re looking forward to seeing this blog in the future, consider following. If you want to see Occasional Pictures of My Face and Food I Have Made, you can follow me on Instagram at hypotheticalelephants. If you want to see me being a Whiny, Immature Human, you can follow me on Twitter at sadINFJwriter.



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