by Erin Banks
I have had a lifelong fascination with the origin and meaning of names.
“Theodore Robert Cowell Nelson Bundy” – there’s quite a lot there in terms of meaning.
It’s ironic that Bundy’s first and middle name are rather pompous in nature, and yet both his given and adopted last name appear to represent everything Bundy attempted to escape, lower middle class mediocrity.
Whether his mother Louise chose “Nelson” unwittingly or as a hidden clue – as outlined below – when moving her and her son from Philadelphia to Tacoma, is unclear.
It does have an equally bombastic meaning as Bundy’s first names at least.
Derived from Greek Theodōros, a compounding of the elements theos (god) and dōron (gift), hence “God’s gift.”
Derived from the Germanic elements hrod (fame) and beraht (bright) hence “bright fame” (also: “glory”).
This surname stems from the Old English/Saxon roots bonda/bunda (farmer).
Habitational name from places in Lancashire and Gloucestershire that were called Cowhill, from Old English cu (cow) and hyll (hill).
Anglo-Scandinavian form of the Gaelic name Niall’s (see Neill, Neal) son.
Scandinavian cognate of the Greek Nikolaos, a compound name composed of the elements nikē (victory) and laos (the people), hence “the people’s victory.”
The name was borne by St. Nicholas, a 4th-century bishop of Myra (Asia Minor/Greece during the Roman Empire) who was also known as “The Wonderworker.”
Incidentally, St. Nicholas grew to be known as “St. Nick” or also: “Santa Claus.”
He is, among other things, the patron saint of students, repentant thieves, children and… sailors.
It is unclear how likely it is that Louise chose this name deliberately but it’s impossible not to think back to one of the two men she claimed were her son’s father.
Jack Worthington, she once said, had been a navy sailor who seduced her.
Who is one the most famous English naval commanders in history? The British officer Lord Nelson.
Nothing more is known about Jack Worthington or his nationality though. Was he American? Was he British?
If Bundy knew or thought him to be the latter, does this in part explain why he sometimes spoke in a British accent?