This little verse was sent to me by a reader named Petra:
Algy met a bear.
The bear was bulgy.
The bulge was Algy.
Petra went on to ask: “Is the name Algernon/Algy still in use or has it sunk without trace? I’m curious!”
The name Algernon is still in use, but just barely. And Algy is so rare that it’s nearly extinct.
Here are the SSA’s most recent numbers for Algernon:
- 2011: (fewer than 5)
- 2010: 9 baby boys named Algernon
- 2009: 5 baby boys named Algernon
- 2008: (fewer than 5)
- 2007: 9 baby boys named Algernon
And here’s similar data from England and Wales:
- 2011: (fewer than 3)
- 2010: (fewer than 3)
- 2009: 4 baby boys named Algernon
- 2008: (fewer than 3)
- 2007: 4 baby boys named Algernon
I was able to find only a handful of babies (born in the last 2+ decades) with the legal name Algy/Algie.
One of the most interesting things about Algernon? The name’s rather manly etymology.
Algernon originated as a nickname for William de Percy, who moved from France to England during the Norman Conquest.
His family name being probably reserved for occasions of form and ceremony, he was familiarly known in his own day as Guillaume al gernons, that is, Will with the Whiskers–which puts us in possession of at least one point in the personal appearance of this founder of the English house of Percy. Hence Algernon became a common baptismal name among his descendants.
It didn’t become a “baptismal name” until four centuries later, though.
The first descendant to get the name was Henry Algernon Percy (1477/8-1527), 5th Earl of Northumberland. Other descendants named Algernon include:
- Algernon Percy (1602–1668), 10th Earl of Northumberland
- Algernon Sidney (1623-1683), politician
- Algernon Capell (1670-1710), 2nd Earl of Essex
- Algernon Seymour (1684-1750), 7th Duke of Somerset
- Algernon Percy (1750-1830), 1st Earl of Beverley
- Algernon Percy (1779–1833), diplomat
- Algernon Percy (1792-1865), 4th Duke of Northumberland
- Algernon George Percy (1810-1899), 6th Duke of Northumberland
- Algernon Charles Swinburne (1837-1909), poet
- Algernon Malcolm Arthur Percy (1851-1933), politician
It was used outside of the family as well, of course, but never became very popular.
In both the U.S. and England, usage of Algernon seems to have peaked in the 1870s/1880s.
Source: Craik, George Lillie. The Romance of the Peerage; or, Curiosities of Family History. London: Chapman and Hall, 1849.