The unlikely name Bronco first popped up in the U.S. baby name data in 1960:
1960: 5 baby boys named Bronco [debut]
Around the same time, the streamlined name Ty became markedly more popular:
1963: 372 baby boys named Ty [rank: 417th]
1962: 357 baby boys named Ty [rank: 423rd]
1961: 323 baby boys named Ty [rank: 452nd]
1960: 254 baby boys named Ty [rank: 495th]
1959: 188 baby boys named Ty [rank: 571st]
1958: 82 baby boys named Ty [rank: 831st]
1957: 64 baby boys named Ty [rank: 952nd]
Both names were influenced by the same thing: TV western Bronco (1958-1962), which starred actor Ty Hardin as former Confederate officer Bronco Layne.
(The names Layne and Lane also saw upticks in usage in 1959 specifically.)
Ty Hardin was initially hired to play Bronco Layne on the series Cheyenne while there was a contract dispute going on between Warner Brothers and Cheyenne star Clint Walker. After the dispute ended and Clint returned to Cheyenne, the company decided to create a spin-off series featuring Hardin’s character.
So why was the character called “Bronco”? Here’s what the show’s theme song said: “There ain’t a horse that he can’t handle, that’s how he got his name.”
And how did Ty Hardin get his name? It wasn’t from his parents; his birth name was Orison Whipple Hungerford. Here’s one explanation:
He took the name Ty Hardin — according to some news accounts, Ty was short for a childhood nickname, Typhoon, and Hardin was a reference to the western outlaw John Wesley Hardin — after signing with Warner Bros.
Another explanation is simply that his agent was Henry Willson, who had a knack for coining catchy stage names (e.g., Rock Hudson, Tab Hunter).
In June of 1982, the Toledo Blade ran a short article about two local brothers who “enjoy the distinction of having initials which spell their names.” One was Thomas Owen Matzinger (T.O.M.), the other was James Irvin Matzinger (J.I.M.). Their dad Mike said it was “just as well” that he didn’t have any more kids, because he couldn’t think of any other sets of names to fit the pattern.
My guess is that Mike was joking, because there are several other sets of initials that could work with an M-surname like Matzinger, one of which, T.I.M., is just a letter away from T.O.M.
In fact, there are at least a couple of combinations that would work with every type of surname.
So today, in honor of the Matzingers of Toledo, I’ve come up with a long list of name-spelling initials. They’re sorted by third initial (that is, the first letter of the last name) so you can scroll straight to the set that matches up with your own surname.
Initials that Spell Names & Nicknames
Surname starts with:
Potential full initials (& example combo):
A.D.A. (Adelaide Diane A.) A.N.A. (Anastasia Nadine A.) A.S.A. (Asa Scott A.) A.V.A. (Ava Virginia A.) B.E.A. (Beatrix Elaine A.) E.V.A. (Eva Veronica A.) G.I.A. (Gia Idonea A.) I.D.A. (Idabelle Daria A.) I.N.A. (Ina Nigella A.) I.R.A. (Ira Ralph A.) I.S.A. (Isabel Simone A.) K.I.A. (Kia Ianthe A.) L.E.A. (Leah Elizabeth A.) M.I.A. (Mia Imelda A.) N.I.A. (Nia Ilona A.) O.D.A. (Odalys Delfina A.) O.R.A. (Ora Ruth A.) U.M.A. (Uma Magnolia A.) U.N.A. (Una Normina A.)
D.E.B. (Deborah Ethel B.) J.E.B. (Jeb Evan B.) L.I.B. (Libbie Ione B.) R.O.B. (Robert Orville B.) S.E.B. (Sebastian Everly B.) S.Y.B. (Sybil Yvette B.) T.A.B. (Tabitha Araminta B.) Z.E.B. (Zebulon Ezekiel B.)
B.E.C. (Becky Eowyn C.) M.A.C. (Mackenzie Anne C.) N.I.C. (Nicole Isabelle C.) V.I.C. (Victor Ivan C.) Z.A.C. (Zackary Arlo C.)
J.E.D. (Jedidiah Easton D.) R.O.D. (Rodney Orrin D.) T.E.D. (Theodora Eugenia D.) Z.E.D. (Zedekiah Ezra D.)
A.B.E. (Abraham Benjamin E.) A.C.E. (Ace Corbin E.) E.V.E. (Eve Violet E.) F.A.E. (Fae Adina E.) I.K.E. (Isaac Keith E.) J.O.E. (Joseph Owen E.) L.E.E. (Lee Ethan E.) M.A.E. (Maebelle Alice E.) M.O.E. (Morris Oscar E.) R.A.E. (Raelene Alicia E.) S.U.E. (Susan Ursula E.) Z.O.E. (Zoe Ocean E.)
C.A.L. (Callum Audley L.) D.E.L. (Delaney Estelle L.) G.I.L. (Gilbert Ishmael L.) H.A.L. (Harry Archibald L.) L.I.L. (Lillian Iva L.) M.A.L. (Malcolm Angus L.) M.E.L. (Melanie Eloisa L.) M.O.L. (Molly Odette L.) S.A.L. (Sally Angelica L.) S.O.L. (Solomon Osborn L.) V.A.L. (Valerie Annette L.) W.I.L. (Willy Ingo L.) Z.E.L. (Zelda Erin L.)
C.A.M. (Cameron Aidan M.) D.O.M. (Dominic Orson M.) J.E.M. (Jemima Eleanor M.) J.I.M. (James Irvin M.) K.I.M. (Kimberly Imogene M.) L.E.M. (Lemuel Emerson M.) P.A.M. (Pamela Alys M.) R.A.M. (Ramsey Archer M.) S.A.M. (Samuel Aaron M.) S.I.M. (Simon Isidore M.) T.A.M. (Tammy Anita M.) T.I.M. (Timothy Isaac M.) T.O.M. (Thomas Owen M.)
B.A.X. (Baxter Andrew X.) D.A.X. (Dax Alec X.) D.E.X. (Dexter Edison X.) J.A.X. (Jaxon Antony X.) L.E.X. (Lexie Eliza X.) M.A.X. (Maximus Alvin X.) P.A.X. (Pax Amelia X.) R.E.X. (Rex Elias X.) R.O.X. (Roxanna Opal X.) T.E.X. (Tex Emmanuel X.)
A.M.Y. (Amy Michelle Y.) G.U.Y. (Guy Urban Y.) I.V.Y. (Ivy Verity Y.) J.A.Y. (Jay Adam Y.) J.O.Y. (Joyce Ondina Y.) K.A.Y. (Katherine Addison Y.) M.A.Y. (May Augusta Y.) R.A.Y. (Raymond Adrian Y.) R.O.Y. (Royce Oberon Y.) S.K.Y. (Skylar Kerry Y.)
American actor Tab Hunter isn’t really named Tab Hunter. His real name is Arthur Gelien. According to Tab’s autobiography, his unique stage name was coined by Hollywood talent agent Henry Willson.*
Exasperated, Henry finally said, “C’mon, we’ve got to tab him something.” He thought…for about two more seconds. “Hey, that’s not bad,” he announced. “Tab.”
As soon as Tab Hunter’s acting career started taking off in the early 1950s, parents began naming their sons Tab:
1962: 44 boys named Tab
1961: 52 boys named Tab
1960: 66 boys named Tab (rank: 937th)
1959: 89 boys named Tab (rank: 813th)
1958: 82 boys named Tab (rank: 831st)
1957: 120 boys named Tab (rank: 698th)
1956: 68 boys named Tab (rank: 907th)
1955: 43 boys named Tab
1954: 13 boys named Tab
1953: 6 boys named Tab [debut]
That spike in ’57 can likely be attributed to a song — Tab’s version of “Young Love,” which hit the #1 spot on several different Billboard charts in 1957.
The soft drink TaB was introduced in 1963, but the drink wasn’t named for the actor, and its introduction didn’t seem to affect the usage of Tab as a baby name.
Dozens of babies continued to be named Tab every year until the early ’70s. The name last appeared on the SSA’s baby name list in the ’90s.
*Henry Willson invented snappy names for many of his clients. He turned Robert Mosely into Guy Madison, Roy Fitzgerald into Rock Hudson (inspired by the Rock of Gibraltar and the Hudson River), Francis Durgin into Rory Calhoun, Merle Johnson into Troy Donahue, and redhead Marilyn Louis into Rhonda Fleming (“Fleming sounds like flaming, plays up her hair”).
Hunter, Tab and Eddie Muller. Tab Hunter Confidential: The Making of a Movie Star. Chapel Hill: Algonquin Books, 2006.
Hofler, Robert. The Man Who Invented Rock Hudson: The Pretty Boys and Dirty Deals of Henry Willson. New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, 2006.