Do you prefer your names shaken or stirred?
Or do you run out of time watching late-night TV?
“Skyfall,” the new James Bond film, opened last week. And today, comedian and talk show host Jimmy Kimmel, born James Christian Kimmel in Brooklyn, turns 45.
James is a form of Jacob, from Hebrew “Ya'aqov,” “supplanter” or “may God protect.”
In Latin, Ya'aqov became “Jacobus.” Around 300 A.D., Jacobus became “Jacomus” as Latin evolved into modern Romance languages.
In Bible translations, the “m” form was used for two of Christ's disciples in the New Testament, while the “b” form was reserved for the Old Testament patriarch. So James and Jacob became separate names in English.
The more famous of the two disciples named James was the brother of John called “James the Great.” Beheaded by Herod Agrippa around 44 A.D., he was the first original disciple martyred.
Around 600, a legend began in Spain that James had preached there. By 865, many believed St. James was buried in Compostela in northwestern Spain.
Pious medieval Christians from all over western Europe began going on pilgrimage to Compostela. Between 1100 and 1500, this was so popular that Compostela's scallop-shell symbol became the symbol for St. James himself in medieval art.
Medieval Christians also were inspired to name sons after the saint. By 1380, James was the 22nd most common name for English boys. People with last names like Jamison and Jimson had medieval ancestors called James.
By 1540, James ranked 10th in England. It was much more popular in Scotland, where it had royal prestige.
In 1394, King Robert III of Scotland's wife gave birth to their third son. He was named James, possibly after James Douglas, Robert's brother-in-law who'd died in battle leading a victorious Scottish army.
The same year, the baby's brother David was 16, and James wasn't expected to become king. Then in 1402, David died in the custody of Robert's bastard half-brother, the Duke of Albany.
Many believed Albany murdered David. In 1406, young James tried to flee to France, but the English captured him. He returned to Scotland as King James I after being ransomed in 1424.
Despite that difficult start, five other King Jameses followed James I as ruler of Scotland. In 1603, when Elizabeth I died, his great-great-great-great-grandson James VI inherited England's throne.
Even after that, the name stayed more popular in Scotland. In 1841's first British census, 7.9 percent of Englishmen and 13.8 percent of Scotsmen were named James.
In the early United States, James was especially common in Pennsylvania and the inland South, where many Scots and Scots-Irish had settled. Three of the six American presidents named James (Monroe, Polk, and Buchanan) had original paternal ancestors who were Scots or Scots-Irish.
The coincidence of having two presidents named James, Madison and Monroe, for 16 years (1809 to 1825) helped make James common in the United States. It generally ranked third behind William and John in 19th century America, and around fifth in England.
Social Security's yearly baby name lists rank James third from their start in 1880 until 1919. During the 1920s, the rise of Robert bumped it back to fourth, but then as John and William started to fall, James surged back until the Jims took over top spot from the Bobs in 1940. James was number one for American boys until 1953, when the boom in Michaels bumped it to second.
With its long history and tradition, James stayed among the top five through 1980 and the top ten until 1993. In 2011, the 13,216 newborn Jameses ranked it 21st, its lowest ever.
In England, James fell back to 33rd place in 1965 and then rebounded. In 1994, James was the second most common name for boys in England. Though it fell back to 10th there by 2010, since 1980 James has been more common for English boys than Americans, reversing a pattern prevailing since 1800.
British author Ian Fleming named his iconic spy James Bond after an American. An avid bird-watcher, he read “Birds of the West Indies” by Philadelphia ornithologist James Bond (1900-1989) while living in Jamaica. When he created the spy in 1953, Fleming wanted him to be “an extremely dull, uninteresting man to whom things happened,” and claimed James Bond was “the dullest name I ever heard.”
The worldwide super-success of the James Bond films make that one of the most ironic explanations for a character's name ever.
Jimmy Kimmel, famous for apologizing to Matt Damon for “running out of time” at the end of “Jimmy Kimmel Live” since 2003, follows the example of other stand-up comics like Johnny Carson, Billy Crystal and Eddie Murphy by using a diminutive nickname of his given name; “James Kimmel” would just sound too serious for his job.
Though both Kimmel and President Jimmy Carter are officially named James, Jimmy's been a name in its own right for more than a century. Jimmy was a top hundred American name for boys between 1931 and 1977. It still ranked 418th in 2011.
Of course, there are many famous Jameses besides kings, presidents, comedians and secret agents. Authors with the last names Joyce, Baldwin and Patterson; singers Brown and Taylor; actors Stewart, Dean, Earl Jones and Woods; and geneticist Watson are among many who'll keep James famous worldwide for generations to come.