Saturday, January 25, 2014


Photo courtesy of Alison Griffiths

He feels like a somewhat old world, somewhat aristocratic name. I can just picture boys named Topher - or Christopher nicknamed Topher - right at home in an Edwardian castle, or even working the fields outside of one. Yet it's hard to find any evidence that this was ever the case. Seems that this has only become a nickname or given name in fairly modern times.

Topher first came to wider attention via actor Topher Grace. In 1998 a show called "That 70's Show" first aired in the U.S. The show was a hit, and made stars of some of it's main cast members - in particular, Ashton Kutcher, Mila Kunis and Topher Grace. Born Christopher John Grace in 1978, he spent a lot of his younger years as a Chris until deciding he wanted something more distinctive. Apparently it's not unusual for boys named Kristoffer (international variant of Christopher) to go by Toffer in Denmark either. But it seems that Topher Graces' fame prompted other Christophers to do the same, as most of the Tophers I can find online are about the same age or younger that Topher Grace. 

Topher may have stayed as simply a quirky nickname alternative to the traditional Chris or even Kip or Kit, but in 2007 Topher first appeared on the U.S SSA charts. It was the year Topher Grace left "That 70's Show" and appeared as villain Venom in the blockbuster "Spider-man 3", and it was given to 13 boys that year. It has appeared again in 2008, 2009, 2011 & 2012, possibly assisted by the appearance of a character by the name of Topher Brink in Joss Whedons' short-lived "Dollhouse". Like many Joss Whedon shows, "Dollhouse" has a somewhat cult-like following, and eccentric-young-genius-with-questionable-morals Topher Brink has struck a chord with many fans, giving this name a bit of geek cred. 

However, it may be a little simplistic to assume that Topher is just a nickname that has managed to make the transition to given name. While it's hard to find records of it as a given name, it does have a history as a surname. Reportedly originating from the area of Thuringia in Germany in early medieval times, spelling variations include Toepfer, Topfer, Toeffer, Toffer, Topper and Topfer. 

This additional aspect makes it slightly harder to determine the exact origin and meaning of this name. As a derivation of Christopher, it would have Greek/Latin origins and mean 'bearer of Christ'. As a surname it is an occupational name, coming from the German Töpfer meaning 'potter'. Chances are you may even have a Potter or variation of Töpfer in your family tree.

I like both Topher Grace and the character Topher Brink, so I can see the attraction of this name. It's currently fresh and "new" feeling, and those who like it think of it as suiting someone who is clever, sweet and gentle but a little off beat and quirky. It may sound similar to tofu or gopher for some, but at least these are not overtly negative or offensive associations. Topher is interesting and current. It's possible that this name is just at the start of a long climb to popularity.

No comments:

Post a Comment