Ever wonder how Opie got his name?

Perhaps Sheriff Taylor has Viking ancestors?

Opie is a household name. Everyone remembers Ron Howard (well, Ronny) as the little redhead. Sheriff Taylor's son was like a neighbor to all of us. But, when you think about it, Opie Taylor is probably the only "Opie" you've ever known. So how did the iconic sitcom character get such a name?

Thankfully, Roger Schleuter, a writer for The Belleville News-Democrat in Andy Griffith's home state of North Carolina, has answered the question. After all, he is the "Answer Man."

According to Howard himself, who once explained the origin of the name to Jay Leno, Opie was named after bandleader and actor Opal “Opie” Taft Cates, a popular clarinetist from swing-era Arkansas. Cates starred on the 1945–48 radio program Meet Me at Parky’s, a comedy set in a restaurant. Another actor on the program was Sheldon Leonard, who would go on to produce The Andy Griffith Show. So there is a direct connection between the 1940s radio show and the 1960s sitcom.

That being said, other theories exist about the genesis of "Opie." Opie Shelton, a childhood friend of Andy Griffith, explained on Canadian public radio in 1999 that Opie was named in his honor. Of course, it could be a bit of both.

Schleuter plugged "Opie" into the Internet Surname Database and learned the etymology of the name. Believe it or not, it traces back to the old Viking name "Asbjorn" ("God bear," essentially). The diminuative nickname of Asbjorn evolved from "Asbie" to "Obby" to "Oppy" to "Opie," which could mean "Son of Asbjorn." What would Barney say if he knew Andy perhaps had Viking blood?

Speaking of Barney, only 0.009% of males in America are named Barney. According to BabyCenter.com, Opie was the 3,400th most popular name in the country last year — a huge jump of 4,205 spots from the previous year. Maybe we can take some credit for that, as The Andy Griffith Show airs six days a week on MeTV.

Watch The Andy Griffith Show on MeTV weeknights at 8PM | 7C and Sundays at 7PM | 6C.

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