Wednesday, September 5, 2012


6 month old Marshall, courtesy of Aimee Cook Photography
If you're a fan of 'How I Met Your Mother', you'll be familiar with one of the shows main characters, Marshall Eriksen. He's the dorky but lovable gentle giant of the group. I must admit I hadn't given his name much more than a passing thought until I read the recent weekly post by Appellation Mountains' Abby on Nameberry championing the great variety of good boys names out there. She's absolutely right. And so tonight as I watched 'How I Met Your Mother' I noticed it in a new light. I think that Marshall is definitely one of those cool boys names that can often get overlooked.

 Marshall is a French name that means 'caretaker of the horses'. It could fall into several different name categories that are currently in vogue - word names, military names, old school names, occupational names, surnames - but while it is reasonably popular in America (#340 in 2011), it seems the name is yet to catch on in Australia. This is possibly due to a little rule we have here about not being able to give children names that denote rank or nobility (i.e. Duke, Earl and Prince are not options for us). I know I couldn't use Governor or Sheriff, but what about Marshall? I wasn't sure myself, until I found that in 2011 Marshall was indeed given to 3 boys in one of the Australian States, so I guess it's OK.

One of the things I like about Marshall is the contrasting images it can present. If you think of it in terms of law enforcement, it's tough and assertive. But on the other hand, it sounds a lot like marshmallow, so kind of sweet, soft and cuddly. I love names with dual images like this. There are also quite a few cool (and some not so cool) nicknames for Marshall. My personal favourite is Mars. Marsh is also quite popular, which could be good but could also lead to 'swamp' jokes. Or it could turn into Marsha, and that infamously whiny catch cry "Marsha, Marsha, Marsha!". At the other end of the spectrum a son with this name could also be expected to know 'Marshall' arts, or declare 'Marshall' Law, both contributing to the tough image of this name. Which brings us back to the Marshmallow that I mentioned it reminding me of earlier as a nickname possibility.

Maybe because it can also be seen as having a softer side, Marshall is also starting to get a bit of attention as a girls name. I guess Marshall would be a great sister for Jessica's Simpson's Maxwell. But hopefully we'll see Marshall left for the boys for a while longer yet!

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