About A Name: Jude
September 20, 2011 § 5 Comments
Yeah, another four letter name. But they are just so trendy these days!
This one goes out to Paul McCartney – soon to wed again (his fiancee, Nancy Shevell, was spotted shopping for wedding tiaras yesterday in New York). With this classic rock song, The Beatles helped to let this name grow from the Bible to the pop culture-infused unisex name it is today.
The Book of Jude is among the shortest books in the Bible, and though historians have never quite pinpointed exactly who Jude was (short answer, he was one of the twelve apostles, long answer, it might be more complicated than that.) One thing of which historians are certain is that Jude, brother of James the Just, was not Judas Iscariot, the man who, reportedly possessed by Satan, identified Jesus to the Romans with a kiss. This betrayal led to Jesus’ crucifixion on the orders of Roman Emperor Pontius. The names Judas and Jude are interchangeable – both are Greek, and both mean “praised.” Perhaps, at least in the realm of Christianity, they represent the dark and the light of this truly ancient name. The Book of Jude is believed to have been written in the 1st Century CE. Jude the Apostle, was the patron saint of, among other things, hospitals – and St. Jude Medical Centers across the US are named in his honour. Alternately, the name Judas brings to mind Judas Priest, an English heavy metal band that formed in 1969 – atheism is a theme in some of the bands lyrics.
Over time, the name retained a level of interest in Britain, primarily – Thomas Hardy wrote Jude the Obscure in 1895. The hero of the story, Jude Fawley, is a working-class young man who dreams of becoming a scholar. A 1996 film version starred Kate Winslet. In the 1950s, the name took on it’s first hints of feminity when the name Judith (Hebrew for “from Judea”) became a Top 10 name for girls in the 1940s. Everywhere in the English-speaking world, Judiths were affectionately known as Judy and sometimes Jude. It was a slow road but Jude is finally starting to catch on as a given first name for girls, witnessed in March when Martha Stewart’s daughter Alexis, a US radio talk show host, named her daughter Jude – albeit after a male, fellow satellite radio host Rude Jude. In 1988, 24 star Kiefer Sutherland welcomed daughter Sarah Jude.
In the summer of 1968, The Beatles released “Hey Jude,” a seven-minute singalong that was originally called “Hey Jules,” penned by McCartney for John Lennon’s young son Julian, then 5. He had gone out to visit Lennon’s first wife, Cynthia, and Julian shortly after their separation when John met Yoko Ono. McCartney changed it to Jude, he later said, because he thought it sound “a bit better.” Later, Lennon recollected that he thought the song was written for him – released as the band was on the verge of splitting up, Lennon once said of the song, “I always heard it as a song to me. If you think about it… Yoko’s just come into the picture. He’s saying. ‘Hey, Jude—Hey, John.’ I know I’m sounding like one of those fans who reads things into it, but you can hear it as a song to me … Subconsciously, he was saying, Go ahead, leave me. On a conscious level, he didn’t want me to go ahead.” In the pair’s war of words following the breakup in 1969, McCartney denied he’d written it for John and said he’d written it for himself. This adds credence to the theory that McCartney may have used his message to Julian Lennon as a veiled message to himself as well, following the end of his storied relationship with English actress Jane Asher. The song flew to the top of the charts all over the world, spending a record 16 weeks at number one in the UK, and 9 weeks at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 in the US. Rolling Stone ranked it the 8th best rock song of all time in 2004 (and top choice by the Beatles), but only ranked it the 7th best Beatles song in 2010.
British actor Jude Law was born in 1972, his parents naming him after both Jude the Obscure and the song “Hey Jude.” He emerged in film and television in the ’90s, scoring his breakthrough success with Matt Damon and Gwyneth Paltrow in The Talented Mr. Ripley in 1999. He rapidly reached A-list status and remains a bona fide movie star.
The popularity of the name in the English speaking countries rose in the mid-19th Century, largely due in part to the Beatles hit, only to fall out of the US Top 1000 in 1980, but it’s grown to it’s highest point ever, inside the Top 200 for boys in almost all English-speaking countries, since reentering in 1999 following Jude Law’s breakthrough year. He may be responsible for the surge, but he is not the sole factor driving the popularity of the name. Nostalgia for the era of the Beatles, the British Invasion and rock and roll, has kept the song towards the forefront of popular culture, and is a complementary reason for anyone who might be inspired by a Hollywood actor.
Today, Jude is a name for both sexes. It could be a nickname for Judith or Judah (Hebrew for “praised”), or the name could stand on its own. The name might be Biblical, or musical, or you might have come to appreciate the value of the name having seen it worn so well on Law. Among the celebs who’ve already chosen it for their offspring, whatever the reason: Kelsey Grammer (son Jude Gordon), American model Amber Valletta (son Auden Jude), The Office UK star Mackenzie Crook (son Jude Michael), US soap stars Schae Harrison and Mick Cain (son Haven Jude), and Scottish TV presenter Kirsty Gallacher (son Jude Sidney). In just the last 13 months, apart from little Jude Stewart, American marathon runner Dathan Ritzenhein welcomed a son named Jude William in August 2010, actor Kristoffer Polaha had his third son, Jude, on January 2nd, and French tenor Sebastien Izambard and his Australian wife Renee welcomed son Jude on May 20th.
My advice? I think the name has a fresh, youthful sound no matter the sex, and regardless of the history. Go for it.