One of the highlights of the onomastic year — whether you’re a medievalist or not — is when the US Social Security’s baby name data for the previous year is published. A perusal of the lists is always good for an evening of laughs, but also as an insight into the contemporary psyche as evidence by what people name their children after. Perhaps one of the most indicative of patterns is the importation of names from popular culture — movies, TV shows, books, etc. What is particularly interesting is not the phenomenon itself, but just how old that phenomenon is: People have been naming their children after literary figures for millennia. We see this with the popularity in England of the Biblical names that show up in the mystery plays, we see it in the 16th C with the revival of names from classical mythology, and we see it especially with the perennial popularity of names from the Arthurian cycles.
And that is going to be our focus this month: We’ll take a tour through Arthuriana from the most well-known names to some of the least, looking at their origin and their patterns of usage. First up: Arthur himself.