What’s in a name?… ‘Atticus’ reconsidered

“In the years after Harper Lee published To Kill a Mockingbird in 1960, the beloved, moral patriarch Atticus Finch became a cultural icon. Some people were inspired to become lawyers because of Atticus. And some named their children after him…. So how do parents who named their kids Atticus feel [now]?…

“[When] John Edgerton and his wife Shelagh Kenney, both criminal defense lawyers in Durham, North Carolina, chose to name their son Atticus…  ‘It represented some ideals that both my wife and I believe in pretty firmly about how people should be, and how they should treat each other,’ Edgerton said. He certainly did not expect 72-year-old Atticus to say things like ‘The Negroes down here are still in their childhood as a people.’

“But while it’s sad to lose the starkness of the original’s Atticus righteousness, Edgerton said, ‘it also provides some depth that wasn’t necessarily there before. Real life is not at all black and white.’ He explained that once his son (now 8 years old) was born, he became the most important Atticus—whatever happens to Atticus Finch, Atticus Kenney will still be Atticus Kenney. ‘Once you have the real child in front of you, that governs your perception,’ Edgerton said. ‘Not what somebody wrote in a book.’ ”

— From “How Parents Who Named Their Kids ‘Atticus’ Feel About Learning He’s Now Kind of Racist” by Laura Bradley at Slate (July 13)

Atticus, though still uncommon, has been steadily climbing the given-name popularity chart.

 

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