After recently delving into the realm of popular teen fiction, let’s turn in the other direction today and look at a highly literary choice.
Those who have heard it before will most likely recognize it as the surname of the main character in George Eliot’s The Mill on the Floss. The novel tells the story of Maggie Tulliver, a rebellious and spirited but fiercely loyal young girl growing up with her parents and brother Tom in a small town in England in the 1820’s. The novel follows Maggie from childhood to adulthood. At the center of the novel is Maggie’s moral conflict, as she is forced to choose between her responsibility to those she loves and a desire for her own happiness. It’s a beautifully written book, and one I’d heartily recommend.
The surname Eliot picked for her protagonist is rather rare — but it’s not unheard of. In fact, a journey over to IMDB reveals:
- Barbara Tulliver. a film editor
- a 1917 silent Western titled Truthful Tulliver
- character Jack Tuliver, played by Wesley Snipes in the 2005 action film 7 Seconds
- no fewer than 30 minor actors or characters with the spelling of Tolliver, and one movie set electrician back in the 40’s who wore it as a first name
Tulliver, Tuliver, and Tolliver seem to be Scottish versions of the Italian surname Taliaferro, meaning “to cut iron.” Genealogists speculate this was originally a nickname applied to either metalworkers or perhaps fierce warriors who were able to cut through iron armor with their swords. Either way, it has a strong masculine feel.
Though this suggestion may seem like it came way out of left field, consider Tulliver’s similiarities to other popular boys’ names:
- Oliver, which has been climbing the charts nationally and is firmly ranked in the top 100 in many East Coast states
- Gulliver, which certainly seemd an unusable literary choice until actor Gary Oldman used it for his son in 1997
- Sullivan, chosen by Patrick Dempsey for one of his 2007-born twin boys, and ranked in the U.S. top 1000 for the last seven years
Other reasons Tulliver sounds ready for discovery:
- Occupational surnames are definitely in, with Carter, Cooper, Hunter, and Parker all ranked in the top 100.
- Scottish and Irish names are stylish.
- It shortens easily to Tully, an independent Irish surname and a familiar coffee chain on the West Coast.
- It has the hot V sound we’ve been hearing so much about.
- From Atticus to Holden to even Huckleberry, increasing numbers of parents are turning to favorite books in order to find names for their sons.
If you’re looking for the sort of name your son is guaranteed not to share with anyone at his nursery school but you want something that still fits in with the tastes of our time, Tulliver might be one to consider.