Name That Bo!

Nov 2nd 2017

Try to think of an American man called Bo. You can probably name a few, like musician Bo Diddley, Oscar-winning screenwriter Bo Goldman, multi-sport athlete Bo Jackson, or fictional Bo Duke of "The Dukes of Hazzard."

Guess what? None of them were actually named Bo. In fact, until "Dukes of Hazzard" debuted in 1979, almost no Americans were named Bo. It was a pure nickname, all rugged, down-home simplicity. In the case of Bo Duke it was a short form of Beauregard, and others used it as short for Robert, but most often, the nickname Bo bore no relation at all to any given name.

Beauregard "Bo" Duke of Dukes of Hazzard

Bo now stands as an emblem of a bygone nickname era. Today, most nicknames are trimmed-down versions of formal names, but it wasn't always that way. From Jack being "short" for John to nicknames like Bear or Duke that you had to earn, the land of nicknames used to be a much more flexible and creative realm.

To illustrate the change, I've collected every famous male Bo I can find find who was born in the U.S. through 1978. If you already knew the legal first name of even one of them, that's one more than me. Let them be a reminder that nicknames aren't just thumbnail views of full names, they're whatever we make of them.


Robert "Bo" Belinsky: Major league baseball pitcher

Harold "Bo" Bice: musician and American Idol contestant

Armenter Chatmon "Bo Carter": early blues musician

Robert "Bo" Cornell: NFL football player

Baudilio "Bo" Díaz: Major league baseball player

Ellas McDaniel "Bo Diddley": influential R&B/rock&roll musician

Richard "Bo" Dietl: police detective/media commentator

Robert "Bo" Goldman: screenwriter (One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Melvin and Howard)

William "Bo" Hopkins: film actor (The Wild Bunch, American Graffiti, Midnight Express)

Vincent "Bo" Jackson: athlete named as an All-Star in both baseball and football

Gregory "Bo" Kimble: NBA basketball player

Charles "Bo" Outlaw: NBA basketball player

Mark "Bo" Pelini: college football coach

Marquis "Bo" Porter: Major league baseball manager

Robert "Bo" Rein: college football coach

William "Bo" Ryan: college basketball coach

Glenn "Bo" Schembechler: college football coach

Robert "Bo" Welch: film production designer (Thor, Men in Black, Edward Scissorhands)



November 4, 2017 9:35 PM

And of course....Mary Cathleen Collins, better known as Bo Derek!

November 22, 2017 10:17 PM

My father's family is Swedish so I know that Bo is a Swedish male first name.  

Copied from Wikipedia, "Bo is a mainly Swedish/Danish masculine given name, derived from an Old Norse nickname, bua, meaning "to live."  A variant of Bo is the Swedish name Bosse.  Bo is uncommon as a surname."  Bosse is usually a nickname.