Nicknames: -addy, -atty

Recently, I’ve noticed a couple of different nicknames that jumped out at me as pretty cool and went on my consideration list for a future child or story character. Only when considering them together did I realize they all rhyme — honest-to-goodness, I had not realized that until seeing them together. Weird! I often see themes emerge in parents’ naming discussions and decisions that they sometimes are not aware of (like, they haven’t realized that all the names on their short list have an obvious long a sound: Kate, Mae, Aiden, Nathan, and Peyton), and was interested to see that happen to my own self. These were the nicknames:

Caddy: I’d seen this as a nickname for Caroline. Cute! I love the name Caroline, but don’t care for the more obvious/traditional nicknames of Carrie or Caro. Caddy is totally my style.

Taddy: I know two little boys with this nickname, both with the given name Thaddeus. It is a-dorable for a little boy, and Tad has totally grown on me for a teenager/man. Nevermind that I think Thaddeus is just the coolest.

Natty: I have a new-ish friend Natalie who goes by Natty. Natalia’s been on my list for a long time, but I never knew what nickname I’d want to use — I was aware of Natty but it never appealed to me, until knowing the Natty I now know. I think it’s really sweet.

Batt(y): I read that Batt is a traditional nickname for Bartholomew, and since Bartholomew is right up my alley (see Thaddeus above) but I could never see being okay with Bart as the nickname, I was really excited to see Batt. My mind continued along, picturing a baby Bartholomew-called-Batt and imagining Batt turning into Batty once in a while, as names of babies often do, and I was a little swoony about cute that was … but then, I remembered that “batty” isn’t really a great thing to be called. Batt is still cool.

What about you? Have you recognized any themes in your name taste? Maybe you love names starting with a certain letter? Or containing a certain sound? Or of a certain length?

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Spotlight on: Stephen

Today’s the feast of St. Stephen, so what better name to spotlight? (My Christmas name post is here, and I hope you all had a very very merry, joyous, blessed Christmas!) (Pope Francis discussed St. Stephen during the Angelus today, saying, “If we are not all called to martyrdom, as Stephen was, nonetheless, the Pope said, “every Christian is called in every circumstance to live a life that is coherent with the faith he or she professes.” Pope Francis acknowledged that following the Gospel is a very demanding path. But, he said, those who follow it “with fidelity and courage” will receive the gift promised by the Lord to men and women of will – the promise announced by the angels to the shepherds: “on earth, peace to those on whom His favour rests.””)

I have a lot Stephens in my family — Stephen with a “ph” always and only, and don’t try to spell it Steven because that’s not their name. It’s a great, traditional, masculine name with a great history, including being the name of the first martyr and several kings. There are also several female versions, like Stephanie and Stefania.

There are two acceptable pronunciations apparently — STEE-ven and STEH-fen — but I’ve only ever heard STEE-ven in real life, and my family members all say it that way. Steve is a great nickname for a man or a boy, and Stevie great for a little boy (or a spunky choice for a girl, a la Stevie Nicks). It’s great for all ages, and while it’s pretty uncommon on little boys at the moment, mom blogger-turned-Catholic Digest editor Danielle Bean gave it to one of her sons. And besides, less-used names are all the rage among name nuts, right?

Do you know anyone named Stephen? Does he have any opinion of his name? What nickname does he go by, if any? What about girls with a feminine variant? What are their nicknames?

Names for a Christmas baby

Okay, so I considered Pascal for my born-at-Eastertime baby, but other than that the only holiday I would consider trying to work into a baby’s name born at that time is Christmas.

There are so many great Christmas names! And I don’t mean Holly and Ivy and Merry, festive as they are, but names brimming over with the Joy of the Season and its Reason for being. There are honor names, like:

Emmanuel or Emmanuelle or Emmanuella — from the Hebrew “God is with us,” a name for Jesus

The Chris- names, like Christian, Christopher, Christina or Christine or Christiane — literally for the Christ Child

Luke — Luke’s gospel is the only one that tells the story of the birth of Jesus

Joseph — the man chosen by God to take care of Mary and Jesus, a good and just man

Mary, Marie, Maria, et al. — the handpicked-by-God mother of Our Savior

Jesús — it’s not considered reverent to use the name of Jesus in English, but it is in Spanish

Balthazar — the name traditionally given to one of the three Wise Men

Caspar (Latin form of Jasper) — another of the three Wise Men

Melchior — the third Wise Man

Nicholas or Cole or Claus or Nicole or Nicola or Nicolette or Colette — besides Mary, Jesus, and Joseph, the saint most associated with Christmas. He loves the Baby Jesus.

And there are meaning names, like:

Natalie or Natalia — according to behindthename.com, “From the Late Latin name Natalia, which meant “Christmas Day” from Latin natale domini

Noel or Noelle — means “Christmas” in French

Stella — means “star” in Latin

Any of the Angel names, like Angela or Angeline or Angelica — they were the first to sing Gloria! to the newborn King

Gloria — praise and worship in one word. That’s why we sing “Gloria in excelsis Deo!” (Latin for “Glory to God in the highest!”) at Christmastime (you know the one: “Glo-ooooo-ooooo-ooooo-ria in excelsis Deo!”). It’s one of the ways we thank God for HIs love for us in the gift of His Son

Deo — Latin for “to God” (as in “Gloria in excelsis Deo,” see above). An unusual choice, but one I’ve heard in real life. In the Latin hymn it’s said “DAY-o” but the boy I know of with the name says “DEE-o.” Maybe best for a middle name?

Magi — no, not Maggie, and for that reason maybe best as a middle name. It’s said MADGE-eye, and means the Three Wise Men. (It kind of reminds me of Jedi)

Shepherd — they were the first to come see and love and welcome and worship our Little Lord

Joy — I won’t include Merry in this list, as it’s a bit generically Christmas (i.e., too removed in people’s minds from the Birth of Christ) to me, but Joy? That’s what Christmas is. Joy to the world!

What are your favorite Christmas-y names? Do you know anyone born at Christmastime who was given a related name? Do you have any other ideas for appropriate names?

Taking a new name: One Order’s history

I was thinking about religious names today — the names that a sister or nun, brother or priest might take as their new name upon making their vows — and came across this article: The “Sister Mary” Naming Custom, about the naming tradition of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM).

Until 1920, the sisters of IHM had Mary as the first part of their new religious name. One list given of those received and professed includes, “Igidius, Johanna, Gerard, Liguori, Agnes, Anthony, Ignatius, Xavier, Stanislas, Colette, Gertrude, Clara, it is not necessary to say that every one had the name of Mary preceding the other name as it is customary with us.”

The first sister to have a name that deviated from this tradition was named Sr. Margaret Mary (the change being that Mary was the second name rather than the first. You know, those sisters and their adventurousness 😉 ), and “[a]fter Margaret Mary, others began to have Mary, Marie, or Maria as the second part of their name. We also began to see Latin names like Cor Mariae, Beata Maria, Maria Pacis as well as titles like Marie de Lourdes and Mary de Montfort, Marie Rosary and Mary Immaculate given as religious names.”

I just want to swoon over those gorgeous Latin names! And do be sure to read the comments, where some more names are given.

Do you know any priests or religious who took a new name, and if so, what was their birth name and what is their new name? What name would you take? If you were to include a Marian name, which one would you choose?

For more on the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM) see their web site. The Wikipedia entry was also informative.

On my bookshelf: The Oxford Dictionary of English Christian Names

When The Oxford Dictionary of English Christian Names (Third Edition) by E.G. Withycombe was recommended by a fellow name nut, I promptly headed over to Amazon to check it out and discovered all sorts of inexpensive options. The one I bought for $1.55 used to be in the Pasadena City College Library and has a big red “Discarded” stamp on it, which makes me love my copy even more.

It’s an awesome book, for a few different reasons:

(1) It provides commentary on each name, which is my favorite feature of any name book. Most of the time in this book it’s just the etymology and history of the name, which I find endlessly fascinating (e.g., “Egbert (m.): compound of Old English ecg ‘sword’, and beorht ‘bright’, the name of the traditional first King of all England (died 839) and of a Northumbrian saint (639-729). It seems not to have survived the Old English period, but was revived in the 19th C”), but sometimes it provides the author’s opinion, which often comes across as somewhat condescending, especially where Americans are concerned, and which I find endlessly amusing. For example, “Shirley (f): this is apparently a surname (derived from a place-name) used as a christian name. The first example noted is the heroine of Charlotte Bronte’s novel Shirley (1849), who, as an only child and an heiress, was given ‘the masculine cognomen’ Shirley, a family name. I have found no clue to the modern prevalence of Shirley as a christian name in the Southern States of USA. It has now become a common name in England, owing to the number of children named after the child film-star, Shirley Temple”. Another example is the pronunciation of Anthony: “The intrusive h in the spelling Anthony was a late development, and seems not to appear before the late16th C … the h is, of course, silent, but there is some danger nowadays of a spelling pronunciation (already in use in USA), and the older spelling is to be preferred.” Oh those stupid Americans and their “Anthony”! Another condescending example: “Dawn (f.): the use of this as a christian name is a 20th-C invention of novelette writers, which has sometimes been adopted in real life.” (I feel like it’s obvious, in just those few words, what E.G. thinks of novelette writers, and of those who have decided to use the name Dawn in real life.)

(2) It provides a British perspective, which is entertaining in its unfamiliarity. The example of Shirley above and its prevalence in the “Southern States of USA” is one, and the author’s habit of pointing out which families in England use certain names is another (e.g., re: Aretas, “The daughter of Aretas Seton, Governor of the Leeward Islands, married at the beginning of the 18th C Edmund Akers, ancestor of the present Lord Childston, and from that time the name has been in regular use in the Akers (now Akers-Douglas) family”). I also love reading how certain surnames arose from first names (e.g., “Brice (m.): St. Britius or Brice, Bishop of Tours 444, was responsible for the vogue of this name in England and France in the Middle Ages. It is probably of Celtic origin. Brice and the diminutive Bricot were fairly common in England in the 13th and 14th C and have left traces in the surnames Brice, Bryce Bryson, Brisson, Bricot.”) It’s sort of fascinating to me to see how the author’s country’s history is so immediate to him or her (there’s no indication anywhere in the book whether E.G. is a woman or a man) — details, genealogies, stories going back centuries are as known to him/her as American history is to me, I suppose, but then my sense of my local history is so comparatively short — a couple hundred years at most.

(3) It provides an intriguing perspective of Catholicism through naming practices. For example, “Loretta (f.): a name common in Roman Catholic use, derived from Our Lady of Loreto in Italy, a famous place of pilgrimage. Lourdes is used similarly as a christian name, but usually as a second name only.” I also find really interesting the allusions to Catholic/Protestant tension, often specifically in light of the Reformation, such as with “Blase … Blase or Blaze survived the Reformation and is found occasionally in the 17th C,” “Aloysius (m.) … used in Britain only by Roman Catholics,” “Barbara (f.) … It was still fairly common in the 16th C, but, like other names of non-scriptural saints, it tended to drop out of use after the Reformation,” and “Teresa, Theresa (f.) … It is first found as Therasia, the name of the wife of St. Paulinus, Bishop of Nola in the 5th C, who was converted by her. She was a Spaniard, and the name was for many centuries confined to the Iberian peninsula … It did not spread outside the Iberian peninsula until the 16th C, when the fame of St. Teresa of Avila (1515-82) carried it into all Roman Catholic countries. In recent times the popularity of the name in such countries has been increased by St. Therese of Lisieux (1873-97). It was not much used in England until the 18th C, when it was introduced by the admirers of the Empress Maria Theresia of Austria.” And Martin:

Martin (m.): Latin Martinus, apparently a diminutive of Martius ‘of Mars‘. St. Martin of Tours was a 4th-C soldier, later Bishop of Tours and apostle of Gaul; the story of his sharing his cloak with a beggar was a favourite subject of medieval art, and St. Martin was a favourite saint in England and in France; there are over 170 churches dedicated to him in England. Martin was a common christian name from the 12th C until the Reformation, and gave rise to many surnames, e.g., Martin(s)Marten(s)MartinsonMartel (from the diminutive Mart-el), Martlet (from the diminutive Martin-et). After the 15th C the name was less common, but never fell into complete disuse. The names of the birds martin and martlet are derived from Martin (cf. French martinet ‘swift’, martin-pecheur ‘kingfisher’).

As with most books on my bookshelf, I wouldn’t use this as a sole source of info on names, but it definitely fills out my knowledge of the etymology, history, usage, and reputation of many names used in the English-speaking world, including “Catholic” names.

Spotlight on: Nic/k- names

Not nicknames, Nic/k- names — names that start with Nic/k: Nicholas, Nicodemus, Nicanor, Nikolai, Nico, to name a few.

Last Saturday was the Feast of St. Nicholas, which got me thinking about this post. We’ve considered it once or twice for our boys, mostly to get to the nickname Cole, but I like Nicky too. Cute for a little boy, strong for a man. (Side note about Cole: I love Cole, and we considered using it just as it is as a given name, but it feels just a little too Caden/Brayden/Jayden to me, despite it’s long history of use [Old King Cole!]. We also considered Kolbe nickname Kole, but it too is too trendy feeling to me=just too cool for us.) (I also don’t love the possibility of Cole becoming Coley, as names for babies seem so wont to do. Coley’s a girl’s name.)

Nicodemus: One of my fave fave favorites. (My husband? Not so much.) I’m a big fan of names that are similar to “regular” names but have a twist of some kind; Nicodemus feels that way to me because of the Nic nickname, and because it’s Biblical/New Testament — theoretically it should be just as acceptable as Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Right? But it’s so so rare that I guess no one else agrees with me. 😦 (The Nicodemus of NIMH hasn’t helped.)

Nicanor: Pretty cool huh? It’s a saint’s name, it’s got a great nickname, it’s unusual, it kind of sounds like a Lord of the Rings/Narnia/Sword in the Stone kind of name. Why aren’t more parents choosing Nicanor?

Nikolai: Swoon. That’s all I have to say. Because it sounds so Russian to my ear, if we were of Russian extraction, I’d be all over this. (Though it’s also Scandinavian, as are my children … and actor Nikolaj Coster-Waldau rocks it, and he’s not Russian — he’s Danish … hmm …)

Nico: I just love Nico. It’s short and sweet; it’s traditional and masculine; it’s pan European, which I really like in a name. But it feels too cool/hip/Italian for us.

There are other loads of other Nicholas variations besides those mentioned here (e.g., Nils, Claus), and feminine versions as well (e.g., Nicole/Nicola, Colette) — if you want to honor a Nicholas in your life/family tree or St. Nicholas himself, you have loads of options. Which are your favorites?