About A Name: Bing
August 18, 2011 § 4 Comments
Actress Kate Hudson, and British rocker, Muse frontman Matt Bellamy, caused quite a stir in the baby-names world when they announced the name of their new son, born July 9th in Los Angeles: Bingham Hawn, to be called “Bing.”
Right off the bat, people recognized that Bing’s middle name was a tribute to Hudson’s mother, Oscar-winning actress Goldie Hawn (which is shared by Bing’s 17-month-old cousin, actor Oliver Hudson’s son Bodhi Hawn), but no one seemed instantly preferential to the name Bing. To some, the name was too onomatopoeic (when a word is spelled just like it sounds, like “pow” or “bang.”) To others, all they could think about was Chandler Bing, a neurotic, sarcastic, but lovable character on the hugely popular 90s sitcom Friends, played by Matthew Perry. Not only was his last name the subject of major ridicule on the show, it was a last name – and a weird one!
Not to mention Bing’s out-there name didn’t match well with modern, trendy Ryder – Hudson elevated the profile of that name when her first son with Black Crowes frontman Chris Robinson, Ryder Russell, was born in January 2004. She’ll do it again with her second son, but it won’t be so easy this time, and it will never rise as high.
Public opinion began to soften when Bellamy blogged about his son’s name: “For those wondering, Bingham is my mum’s maiden name. Bing Russell was also Kurt’s dad. Family connections all round.”
Kurt is actor Kurt Russell, Hawn’s longtime love, and is considered a father by her two children with musician Bill Hudson, Kate and brother Oliver. Bing Russell (birth name Neil) was a character actor in Hollywood with a career that spanned almost 40 years. He died in 2003. Bing is a classic nickname for Bingham, which in Old English literally translates to “home of Bing.”
Not only that, but Bing Crosby, a singer and actor who died in 1977, was a Hollywood legend. Crosby’s real name was Harry, but he earned the nickname as a fan of the Bingville Bugle, a feature in the Sunday edition of the Spokane Spokesman-Review – a neighbour took a liking to calling him the “Bingo from Bingville”; eventually the “o” was dropped, and from the age of six the nickname stuck. Though it can be to many just a silly-sounding nickname, the moniker carries with it a solid dose of 20th Century Americana, be it through Friends or “The Christmas Song.”
As a surname, Bing, or Byng, has multiple uncertain origins. It could trace its roots as far back as AD 55, from a middle England tribal clan called “Binningas,” who populated the area before the Roman conquest, and whose name meant “people of the hollow.” But the name could also be of Old Norse origin, describing a person who lives in a stable, for the Norse word “bingr,” meaning “a stall.” And the two origins may be connected through common ancestry, as it’s been suggested that Binningas also may describe a tribe of horsemen or breeders of horses. Other ancestors may have derived their surname from the town of Bingen in Germany, as the name has also been recorded in that country.
British-born Viscount and Lady Byng were prominent figures in Canadian society in the 1920s and ’30s. Julian Byng was a career soldier who fought in the Sudan in 1884, the Second Boer War at the turn of the 20th Century, and was bestowed the honour Vicount Vimy for his heroic services at Vimy Ridge in World War I. He then served on His Majesty’s service as Governor General of Canada from 1921 to 1926. His tenure ended when he was forced to intervene in Canadian politics, uncommon in Canada since the country formed in 1867. He went against the advice of Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King, who wanted to dissolve parliament to avoid a no-confidence vote from the political opposition. The backlash from the vote caused a forced election which resulted in King winning enough votes to form a long-desired majority government. The influence of the Byngs’ time in Canada is still felt in the dedication of the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy, handed out annually to the “player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability” in the National Hockey League.
To add a Far East quality to the name – it seems a perfect fit for hippie-happy Kate Hudson – Bing is also a family name from Chinese history. During the Zhou Dynasty over 2000 years ago in China, the King of Lu State awarded a manor home to a scholar-bureaucrat for services to the kingdom. To show his appreciation, the man renamed his family Bing “邴,” in honour of the king and after the name of the home – Bing Manor.
On it’s own, Bing as a first name is considered boys-only. There’s really nothing feminine about the way it sounds, looks, or what it derives from. But on Friends, didn’t Phoebe name one of her brother’s triplet daughters Chandler after Mr. Bing? And stranger things have happened. Bing is an Old German phrase that means “the hollow shaped like a pot,” and is the penultimate derivation of this name – emigrating westward, Old English descendents developed the term “bynna” for “hollow” – Binningas. It’s not very romantic or inspired, but a blonde with a great smile could make a great female Bing – if she can get past teasing and wear her name with confidence.
Boy or girl, the name will illicit some jokes. The saying, “If it sounds funny, it is funny,” is definitely true of the name Bing. It’s also a name that is incredibly unique – not just uncommon. The name doesn’t rank anywhere near the Top 1000 in the US or Top 100 internationally, but it’s also very disimilar from most other names. Variations are minimal, with the name Bingo being one option. Bingo’s only saving grace is that parents have been borrowing more and more traditional “dog names” for their sons (Rex, Buster), but Fido, Spot, and Bingo are a long way from trending. Aside from Bingham (also not a charter), other uncommon names like Bingley (Old English for “the people of the woodland clearing”) rely heavily on Bing as a nickname.
My advice? It’s a timeless name that doesn’t feel too old on a newborn of this century, but stick with boys for this name. If you’re set on a girl called Bing, consider it as a possible nickname for a girl with a B name – Brigid (Irish; strong) or Britney (French; from Brittany) could work with the nickname Bing. But so could many others – Bing is truly a nickname that could come from anywhere, which tends to make it a rather perfect first name. While it’s popularity could rise thanks to Kate Hudson’s use of it, it’s still a bit of a head-scratcher though I’ve attempted to give it due credit. Use the name with caution and creativity, and it’ll certainly help if you’ve got heavy family connections to it – just don’t be offended if the kid ever decides to go by anything different 😉