There's more than one explanation as to how Theodore got the nickname Beaver

Today, we're serving Beaver, two ways.

Nicknames are a funny thing. Sometimes they only last for a short time, and sometimes nobody knows what your actual name is for years because you've been known as a nickname your entire life. Similarly, Theodore Cleaver will forever live as The Beaver. But often, you can live with something for so long that it almost becomes divorced from its origins and you forget where that stupid nickname even came from in the first place. Today, we're taking you through two separate explanations for why Theodore is called Beaver: The explanation from the show, and the explanation from series creator Joe Connelly, delivered by The Beaver himself, Jerry Mathers.

In the series finale of Leave It to Beaver, the family took a stroll down memory lane by looking at a few photographs. During their reminiscing, Beaver asked how he got the nickname in the first place. June explained that when Wally was younger, he couldn't pronounce his younger brother's actual name, Theodore. Instead of saying the name, he pronounced it as "Tweeder," and his parents decided to call their son the similarly sounding "Beaver" instead. This is a very cute story, though some loyal fans were a little dissatisfied with the explanation for the name.

Alternatively, Jerry Mathers explained the real reason that creator Joe Connelly chose the name Beaver during an interview with the Television Academy Foundation. Mathers explained that Connelly, who always wanted to write for television, kept an ever-updating notebook of people, names, and encounters that he could one day use as inspiration when writing material for a show. Connelly documented impactful experiences that happened to himself and his friends, and when he became a father, he began documenting his children's experiences as well. Mathers explained, "All of the original Leave It to Beaver's come from real life." He clarified, "I'm not saying that each episode is one thing that happened to a child because they would take them and embellish them, maybe add different things. But the core of each episode is from real life and they really did happen to a child."

Mathers went on to explain that Connelly also kept an alphabetized list of names of people that he had met throughout his lifetime, and one of them just happened to be the name of a shipmate Connelly once had during his time as a merchant marine in World War II. Mathers said that when it came time to develop his new show, Connelly flipped through his alphabetized list of names and got as far as the letter "B" before he decided that Beaver would be the perfect name for a character in the show. 

Mathers discussed the show's finale and wasn't shy about what he thought about the in-universe explanation for his character's famous name. He said, "After six years, it's so lame. I'm sure they could have come up with something better than this."

However, Mathers still maintained that he was grateful for the experience. He said, "People say, 'Do you hate to be called 'The Beaver'? 'Beaver' is the best thing that has ever happened to me. It's made my life."

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16 Comments

jamieguitar 2 months ago
How did he get the nickname "Beaver"? Are we purposely ignoring the obvious? It's not my intention to make fun of Jerry Mathers' looks. He was a nice looking kid. But come on. The answer to this question is as obvious as the teeth on his face!
frenchman71 7 months ago
One thing I was glad to read about with Jerry Mathers. He totally embraced the "Beaver" role years after the show was gone. If you saw him on the street he would stop and chat with you and you could probably ask him just about anything. A real gentleman.
Avie 7 months ago
"Mathers went on to explain that Connelly also kept an alphabetized list of names of people that he had met throughout his lifetime, and one of them just happened to be the name of a shipmate Connelly once had during his time as a merchant marine in World War II. Mathers said that when it came time to develop his new show, Connelly flipped through his alphabetized list of names and got as far as the letter 'B' before he decided that Beaver would be the perfect name for a character in the show."

I'd have written it into the explanation that June showed Beaver the trunk of a tree on their property that still bears the gnaw-marks in the bark that he left when he was teething -- but that's just me. You can't spell Cleaver without c-l-e-v-e-r, but that still doesn't really describe June.

As for Connelly's explanation and list of names, the above omits the obvious: "leave it" and "beaver" are near rhymes, and the producers, studio and network just as obviously wanted a catchy name for their show.

Lastly: it's Merchant Marine, just like Army or Navy, a branch of the Armed Forces, a proper noun and upper-case.
MeFanFromSavan 7 months ago
In real life, Dow and Mathers were three years apart. TV series rough math, they could be less than four years apart. At series end, Wally finished 12th grade, Beaver finished 8th grade.
Rick 7 months ago
Given that Wally was six years older than Beav, his inability to pronounce "Theodore" should have been worrying...
McGillahooala 7 months ago
So nice to see an actor appreciative of his success and the thing that got him there.
WGH 7 months ago
I thought Beaver's dad, ward, had the nickname Beaver as a kid.

A distinctly remember that in an episode
MadMadMadWorld WGH 7 months ago
Which episode? I'll watch it and come back and tell you! :)
Andybandit 7 months ago
I never knew how Theodore got his nickname The Beaver.
MrsPhilHarris 7 months ago
On My Three Sons someone (I think Robbie) couldn’t pronounce Richard. It came out as Chipper and was shortened to Chip.
cperrynaples 7 months ago
Fun Fact: The show was to be called Wally & The Beaver, but a network executive thought it would be mistaken as a nature show!
harlow1313 7 months ago
Well, Mrs. Beggs had a sister Tilly with long teeth. The called her The Beaver too.
LoveMETV22 7 months ago
Fun story. Enjoy "Leave it to Beaver." Interesting to read a few different explanations for the name's origin.
raddad LoveMETV22 7 months ago
My people will call your people
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