My nine-year-old son told me yesterday that “Daniel” is a “kind of a strange name” because “not many people use that name.”
The statement seemed to me a perfect example of the current naming landscape, where “Daniel” is a “strange name” and “Jayden” made the top ten for 2013 (incidentally, so did Daniel, but that’s the thing about names — you only know what you hear. There are pockets where certain names are popular and pockets where those same names are unheard of. Unless you’re a name enthusiast who regularly checks out sites like The Baby Name Wizard and Nameberry and Swistle, all you know is what you hear around you. For a lot of people — most people? — the pool of names one hears is somewhat limited).
Such a landscape is an interesting one for the modern day Catholic parent. Names like Mary and John, mainstays of Catholic families in the past, have slid out of fashion (#121 and #27 in 2013, respectively); choosing such names now might come across as plain, old-fashioned, or contrary/nonconforming, none of which are bad associations unless the parent doing the naming considers them to be so. Such parents might be more interested in the kinds of names contained in the “Saints” section of the 3rd edition (book) of The Baby Name Wizard, introduced thus:
“Names like Francis and Mary, borne by over 50 saints each, are the bedrock of the Roman Catholic naming tradition. Yet you can explore the farther reaches of name style while still inspiring your children with role models for a spiritual life. The selective list below focuses on less common names, exploring the quirkier corners of 2000 years of religious history.” (p. 446)
So where do you fall, as a Catholic parent? Do you love Mary, Joseph, Francis, and Theresa? Do you prefer Xavier, Elodie, Chiara, and Ivo? Or do you see all the names as belonging to one big family and feel somewhat free to mix and match? Share your stories with me, I love to read them all.