After all, Clementine is finally becoming detached from “Oh My Darling.”
And Nellie is showing signs of breaking free of the elephant.
While, in Britain, Rupert is no longer the exclusive preserve of the bear.
And, let’s face it, they don’t come more positive and uplifting than “Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer”; Rudolph triumphs in the face of adversity, the classic tale of the underdog (or should that be underdeer?) coming out on top.
Unlike “Oh my Darling, Clementine,” where the heroine ends up drowned!
Rudolph has never been especially popular, peaking in America in 1926 and 1927 in 111th place.
Its use then was largely down to the ultimate heart-throb of the silver-screen, Rudolph Valentino, who died aged just 31 in 1926, from complications arising from appendicitis.
Valentino’s birth name was actually Rodolfo — the Italian form of Rudolph.
Rudolph derives from the Old German Hrodolf, a combination of hrōði “fame” (the same first element as Robert, Roderick, Roger and Roland, etc.) + wolf “wolf. ”
The Modern German form is Rudolf, and is found alongside Rudolph in the English-speaking world.
Russian Rudolf Nureyev is one of the best-known bearers of this spelling. He also died too young, of AIDS, aged 54 in 1993.
I am also personally very attached to the esoteric Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925), founder of Anthroposophy and Steiner-Waldorf education.
Other forms of Rudolph include the French Rodolphe and the rather fetching Dutch Roel (actually a short-form of Roelof), not to mention its Latin form, Rodolphus.
Rodolphus is now best known now as the name of Bellatrix Lestrange’s husband in the Harry Potter universe, but has been used as a genuine name in the English-speaking world since the eighteenth century, along with other Latinized forms of Germanic names, most notably the related Adolphus.
Another variant is Rolf, which descends from the Old Norse Cognate Hrólfr. This is Latinized as Rollo, as used of a ninth-/tenth-century Duke of Normandy, and ancestor of William the Conqueror.
Then there’s its rather charming traditional nickname Rudy, as well as the more contemporary Ru.
There are also feminine forms, Rodolphine and Rudolphine. The latter is most associated with the Rudolphine Tablets, a set of astronomical data compiled by Kepler in 1627.
Surely such a wonderfully rich name deserves to start to gather new associations now, rather than being stuck forever more in a children’s song?