About Names: Dr. Evans on the name “Clyde”

A timid orange ghost might be the most famous “Clyde” in video game history (Photo: Monsoleiiil, CC-BY-3.0)

Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his August 27th column, he discusses the name “Clyde”.

‘Clyde’s” making sandwiches at Omaha Community Playhouse through Sept. 17.

In Pulitzer Prize winning author Lynn Nottage’s play, Clyde runs a sandwich shop employing ex-cons who she belittles and abuses. The 2022 Broadway production earned “This is Us” actor Ron Cephas Jones, who died Aug. 19, an Emmy nomination.

Glasgow, Scotland, sits on the River Clyde, sacred to Celtic goddess Clota. It’s unclear if the river was named after the goddess or vice versa.

Clyde’s a rare Scottish surname indicating one’s ancestors lived by the river. In the 1850 United States census, 375 persons with the last name Clyde are found. Seven had Clyde as a first name — not surprising given the then-new custom of turning surnames into given names.

The first name Clyde didn’t stay rare: 7,179 men were named Clyde in 1880, while only 832 Americans had the surname.

Various factors may have contributed. In the 1850s, poem “Clyde” by John Wilson (1720-1789) was republished. Wilson celebrated a masculine river, writing “Clyde’s wide bed ten thousand torrents fill, His rage the murmuring mountain streams augment.”

In the 1850s Philadelphia-based Thomas Clyde (1812-1885) owned the Clyde Line, America’s biggest steamship company.