Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his August 15th column, he looks at the history of the name Guy.
Right now on movie screens a Guy is saving his world.
“Free Guy” premiered Friday. In this fantasy film, a new program makes Guy (Ryan Reynolds), a minor nonplayer character in video game “Free City,” self-aware. He then must save his virtual world from being erased.
Guy is the French form of Wido, an ancient Germanic name from either witu (“wood”) or wit (“wide”). Brought to England in 1066, it stayed in use partly because of the legend of Guy of Warwick, retold in ballads since around 1200.
In his story, Guy is a lowly cupbearer who loves Felice, daughter of the Earl of Warwick.
To become worthy of her, he travels the world slaying dragons and other monsters. After wedding Felice, Guy makes a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, returning just in time to save Winchester from Danish invaders by defeating giant Colbrand in single combat.
The name’s heroic reputation was ruined by Guy Fawkes (1570-1606).
In 1605, Fawkes joined several other Catholics in the Gunpowder Plot, planning to blow up King James and Parliament on Nov. 5. Though Fawkes wasn’t the leader, he was first arrested, and his name came to exemplify treason.
Parliament declared Nov. 5 an annual celebration. Effigies of Fawkes made of old rags were tossed into bonfires. Soon these were called “guys”. Around 1830 “guy” became slang in England for any shabbily dressed man.