Reading round-up

The U.S. Bishops posted a story this week spotlighting a few of their “newly professed men and women religious to tell us something about themselves that others might find surprising. Their answers below provide some insight to how each discovered their vocational call”: Meet the Profession Class of 2014. I loved what each one had to say, and of course I couldn’t help but notice some their beautiful names:



Stella Mary

Maria Francesca

Ann Kateri


Abby Aurea

Some of these were likely new names chosen for religious life (my guesses: Stella Mary, Maria Francesca, Ann Kateri, and maybe the Aurea of Abby Aurea?); others may not have been (maybe not Elizabeth, probably not Thomas, being a priest, and in all likelihood not Ryan, being that I don’t believe there’s a St. Ryan?), but all are names of men and women who have given their whole lives to God (and maybe Fr. Ryan will be the first St. Ryan 🙂 ). Congrats to them!

I came across a couple ethnic-name posts/sites in the last couple days:

International Names: From the Catalan culture — there are some really beautiful names listed here, and I particularly loved that “Catalan names – with their Romance language base and Catholic heritage – are fresh but not unfamiliar.” One that jumped out to me right away: Èlisabet (it reminded me of the Elisabetta I suggested for Baby Girl Stark).

Greek Name Day Calendar — I thought this was quite a find. “According to Greek Orthodox tradition, nearly every day of the year is dedicated to some Christian saint or martyr. When someone in Greece is named after one of these saints, that saint’s celebration day becomes their “name day” and is celebrated much like their actual birthday.” This site lists all the names and all their days! They’re Greek names, of course, which would be amazing for anyone with Greek heritage, but I learned a lot about nicknames and name variants. One of my favorites: Genovefa and its variants Jenevieve, Genevieve, and Genoveva. I know a little Jenevieve, and I thought the J-spelling was used just because her parents wanted a J- name — very cool to find out it’s a common enough spelling in Greece!

Finally, speaking of Greek names, I came across the name Photine on — a name I never would have given two thoughts to; I would have seen it and passed it by — but I had cause to click on it, and guess what? It’s “[d]erived from Greek φως (phos) meaning “light”. This is the name traditionally given to the Samaritan woman Jesus met at the well (see John 4:7). She is venerated as a saint by the Eastern Church.” Did you know the Samaritan woman had a name associated with her? I didn’t! I thought that was a very cool little nugget. Another cool connection is, the reason I came across it was because I was looking up “Toula,” the character’s name on My Big Fat Greek Wedding, and I remembered her saying on the movie that it was a nickname for what I thought she said was “Fortoula,” but it turns out it was actually Fotoula, so I looked that up and discovered Fotoula is a diminutive of Fotini, which is the modern Greek form of Photine. Mind blown.

Happy Saturday! Day of the Blessed Virgin Mary!


Spotlight on: Cornelia and Roxan(n)e

I don’t know about you, but I was eager to find out more about these two names, especially Roxan(n)e, in light of Simcha’s baby announcement. (I write “Roxan(n)e” because the first post I saw with the baby’s name had two n’s, and the second had only one. Not sure yet which is the typo, or if they haven’t totally decided yet on the spelling.)

I spotlighted Cornelius here, in which I discussed Cornelia; further, says, “In the 2nd century BC it was borne by Cornelia Scipionis Africana (the daughter of the military hero Scipio Africanus), the mother of the two reformers known as the Gracchi. After her death she was regarded as an example of the ideal Roman woman.” According to the Name Voyager, it peaked in popularity in the 1880s, and fell below 1000 on the charts — and thus off the charts altogether — in the 1970s. So if Simcha’s hope was that it would be a name not many of her classmates would have, she was certainly spot on. Cordelia, maybe, what with all the Anne of Green Gables fans (so many of us!), but not Cornelia. In addition to the Corrie, Lia, and Nell I’d listed as nicknames, others offered between the entry and the comments are Nele (which is German, so I think it’s said like Nella), Neely, Nelly, Cora, and Cokkie (which the comments tell me is said like coke-y), and seeing Corrie again made me dig a little deeper and … yes! Cornelia was Corrie ten Boom‘s given name! Now that is cool. Maybe Corrie just bumped up a bunch of notches on my list of favorite Cornelia nicknames. It’s certainly a pretty great namesake (as are the Sts. Cornelius).

Now for Roxan(n)e. The variant that had the most info on was Roxana, which is the “Latin form of Ρωξανη (Roxane), the Greek form of the Persian or Bactrian name روشنک (Roshanak) which meant “bright” or “dawn”. This was the name of Alexander the Great’s first wife, a daughter of the Bactrian nobleman Oxyartes. In the modern era it came into use during the 17th century. In the English-speaking world it was popularized by Daniel Defoe, who used it in his novel ‘Roxana’ (1724).” Roxane was also the name of Cyrano de Bergerac’s love, which is sweet. Of the various versions given, I’m really digging the Polish Roksana and the Italian Rossana.

Do you know anyone with the names Cornelia or Roxan(n)e? Do they like their names? What nicknames do they go by, if any?

Birth announcement: Simcha’s baby!!

Baby Fisher is here!! And her beautiful name is:

Cornelia Roxanne

Cornelia Roxanne!!!

Neither Cornelia nor Roxanne were part of my suggestions for the Fishers,* and even after knowing that Simcha said the name they chose might lead one to think of “a vegan stripper, or possibly a British lady-in-waiting for Persian nobility,” I still didn’t come up with either name.** But I love it! Cornelia totally sounds like one of their kids to me, and — just picturing her and big sis Benny buddying around like my two youngest sisters — I’m just loving Benedicta and Cornelia as sisters … and, not saying they *should*, but if they go for a nickname … and if that nickname happens to be Nell … ohmygoodness. Benny and Nell???? It’s like a storybook, with fields of sunshine and little girls in pretty dresses with crowns of flowers in their hair.

Even though Simcha and Damien didn’t choose one of my suggestions, I do feel pretty good about the fact that I spotlighted Cornelius a while ago, in which I discussed Cornelia.  So even though it was totally not on my radar for them, and I’m not sure I’ve ever really considered Cornelia much at all for anyone, I suppose there’s the tiniest chance they saw my little Cornelius post and were inspired by it.  🙂

But probably not. In all likelihood not. They are pretty fab namers, those Fishers. Welcome to the world Cornelia Roxanne!!


* My suggestions for a girl were Stella, Esther or Miriam, and Hannah

** On Rebecca Frech’s Virtual Baby Shower for Simcha post, before I knew about the “vegan stripper/British lady-in-waiting” thing, after my initial suggestions of Stella, Esther or Miriam, and Hannah, I suggested Pearl Emmanuelle and Martha Frances. After discovering that new bit of info (vegan stripper/Brit LIW), I decided Edith Esther and Althea Kyrie were my top two predictions.

Reading round-up

Swistle posted an update today to a fun dilemma that could easily have fit in here: Baby Boy or Girl Seewald-without-the-S, Sibling to Urban, Charles, Levi, and Matthias. Those are some great Catholicky names! I especially like how there are the more unusual, like Urban, Levi, and Matthias, right alongside the more common, like Charles and new baby Thomas. That’s Catholic naming for you — all part of one big family. 🙂

I liked this article over on The Power of Names. Totally agree with this: “But I find it a daunting prospect each time, to name another person. To shape the beginning of identity by vowel and consonant. To help mold their life by the meaning of what they are called.” But totally disagree with this: “Sometimes I wish the perfect name would be dropped in our laps, so we wouldn’t have to worry about choosing the right one.” (Um, no. The list-making and sometimes-heated “discussions” and worrying that the baby will never have a name are some of my favorite parts of choosing a name. For real.) I also love considering that “Mary and Joseph probably had their own pet names for their young son.” That’s a mind blower.

Then there’s this article, from Pamela Redmond Satran: The Pope, My Catholic Girlhood, and Baby Names. Some fun points, like: “Nuns got to pick new names for themselves when they entered the convent. That itself was appealing enough, but what was really amazing was that their choices were not confined by ethnic background, historical period, or even gender,” but in general a sad bummer of an article:

  • “I couldn’t wait to hear who the new pope was going to be, not because I’m a practicing Catholic any longer or because I cared which Cardinal got elected. No. As usual, I was in it for the name”
  • “… sites as Catholic Online, Which sends out a Saint of the Day newsletter that I get for — what else? — the names”
  • “What was most appealing about Catholicism was the ritual of renaming, which extended far beyond the nuns to include pagan babies, popes, and even yourself … The only thing more exciting than naming the pagan babies was getting to pick our own Confirmation names. Not strictly a renaming, this meant adding a second middle to our own lineups. My choice, I’m chagrined to admit, was the pedestrian Mary, but for very name nerdish reasons: Combined with Pamela Ann, it made my initials P.A.M. Brilliant!”

I’m pretty sure we all here get the excitement she’s talking about when she swoons over Sr. Miriam Gervase’s and Sr. Jacinta’s names, but please, Catholic namers, be in it for more than the name. As Jen commented over on our FB page, “There’s more to a saint than just his/her name. But I thought everyone knew that.” Amen sister.

Baby name consultant: Baby Girl Stark

Angela and Tim Stark have two little ones already, Paxton Anthony and Gabriella Tiffany, and they’re expecting their third, a girl. Angela writes,

Our first (boy) was easy for us: Paxton Anthony Stark. Paxton is not very catholic but Pax is Latin for peace… so kinda sorta? But we love his name. We LOVED Maximus but Maximus Stark sounded too much like a transformer. But once Paxton was mentioned we agreed right off the bat, it sounded very strong … Our next (girl) we struggled and argued the WHOLE pregnancy. It wasn’t until we were about to sign the birth certificate where I said “Let’s just do Gabriella” and he replied “I guess I’ll get used to it”. I was only okay with it because I LOVE the angels, I threw in the extra L to make it more unique. I was hesitant on the name because I didn’t want anyone to call her Gabby or Ella. Tim liked the name but was hard pressed on Julianna which I refused and he was grumpy about it. We love her name now, and no one has called her Gabby yet. Her middle name is Tiffany after my husbands sister who passed away.”

For this new little girl, Angela says,

I have been a devout Catholic my entire life and I want a saint name but a unique one. When I say unique I don’t mean anything crazy off the wall… but different. If it were up to me her name would be Augustina Christi Stark (Call her August). I also like Faustina, Constantine, Lucia (pronounced looSEEa), Noelle (not a saint but still like), Aurea and a few others but that’s the gist of it. My husband (recent convert/baby catholic) on the other hand is obsessed with “princess” saint names like Victoria, Alexandra, Anastasia, Julianna, Isabelle, Sophia, Teresa. He shoots down anything different or unique and I shoot down anything that sounds too common (for lack of better words). The names we somewhat agree on are Lucia, Cecilia … and that’s about it but neither of us are sold … bonus points if the saint has an awesome story and has a latin feel/sound to it.”

I love Angela and Tim’s other kids’ names — I think they did a great job. I absolutely agree that Paxton Anthony is quite heavy-hitting with the Latin-for-peace bit, and Gabriella Tiffany is so pretty and feminine — I love the Gabriel names anyway, and recently I was reading about the origin of Tiffany — it’s very Catholic itself! It comes from Epiphany (read more here and here), and finding that out gave me appreciation for the name that I didn’t have before.

For this baby, I do love Lucia and Cecilia, but I really enjoyed the challenge of trying to help the Starks find a name they feel might be a better fit. I always try to find overlap between differing styles, to see if there’s some common ground. As you all have probably figured out by now, I rely heavily on the Baby Name Wizard book to do this, as it lists, for each entry, other boy and girl names that have a similar style/feel. Hubby Tim’s style is very consistent — he likes Alexandra, Victoria, Anastasia, Julianna, Isabelle, Sophia, and they both agreed on Gabriella for their first daughter, and those names are basically all listed as similar to each other in each respective list. Angela’s is more eclectic, but not too different from Tim’s in the sense of very feminine names ending in -a — Augustina, Faustina, Lucia, Aurea.

One of the names that immediately came to my mind for them was Thaïsa. It’s so similar in look and sound to Teresa, which Tim likes (it’s said tie-EE-sah) while still being really unusual and distinctive that I thought it might be a good fit. Alas, though she’s revered as a saint in the East, her actual existence and details are disputed (I spotlighted it here), so it didn’t make my final cut, but I thought i’d mention it anyway.

The suggestions I came up with for little Miss Stark (I shoot for three) are categories with names within, as a way of trying to get to those names that have overlap between Mom and Dad’s two styles:

(1) Frilly/lacy/feminine names with a boyish nickname

When I read that Angela’s very favorite first name is Augustina with the nickname August (and I love love Augustina Christi!), my immediate thought was “sophisticated and feminine with a boyish nickname.” That might not have been Angela’s intention, but I like it, and I had two ideas that might fit in with that idea, thus marrying Tim’s “princess” style and Angela’s spunkier mindset: Elisabetta nicknamed Eli (like EE-lie, the boy’s name, not Ellie), and Michaela nicknamed Michi.

Elizabeth is certainly a great saintly name, but I looked for some of its non-English variants to get at that “Latin feel/sound” Angela said she hoped for, and thought Elisabetta fit the bill. It’s gorgeous to look at and say, in my opinion, and patrons could be St. Elizabeth the mother of John the Baptist or St. Elizabeth of Hungary, or my recent favorite is Servant of God Elisabeth Leseur, who secretly prayed and offered her sufferings until her death for her atheist husband’s conversion; after she died he found her journal, which detailed all she’d done for him, and he converted and became a Dominican priest who once led a retreat for Fulton Sheen. Such a great story, such an amazing woman. As for Eli as a nick — Elizabeth and its variants have a million great nicknames, but I hadn’t heard Eli used until recently. I know an Elizabeth who goes by Eli, and though I thought she was a he for the longest time (I only know *of* her — a friend of a family member), Angela runs the same risk with August, so I suspect that’s okay with her.

My other suggestions, Michaela, is a favorite of mind. I know a little one with this name whose mother’s first language is Spanish, and they call her Michi (MEE-chee), which is just one of the cutest names, and I think it works fine for a non-Spanish-speaking family as well. The Starks could use that pronunciation, or MITCH-y, which is also really cute. And of course St. Michael is a great patron and protector, and Angela did say she loves the angels (I would understand though if they thought it was a bit much with sister Gabriella).

(2) Last name of a saint

Angela said she wants “a saint name but a unique one. When I say unique I don’t mean anything crazy off the wall,” and using the last name of a saint seems a really good way to do this. On the blog My Child I Love You, two of the little girls are named Clairvaux and Vianney, and both those names jumped out to me as ones that the Starks might like. Especially Clairvaux, since it can be shortened to the sweet Clair. I’ve also seen Majella used as a first name for girls, which is another option, and one of my very favorites is Avila, which is connected to Tim’s love of Teresa.

(3) Princess-y names that are also unusual/unique

This is similar to #1, but I didn’t focus on nicknames as much as femininity and unusualness. I found quite a few that I think would work: Karoline or Karolina (said like the state or care-ah-LEE-na), Lydia, Magdalena, Reina, Sabina, Gemma, Charis, Christiana, Clementine, Juliet or Juliette, Roma, Natalia, Jacinta, Simone, Seraphina, Evangeline, Penelope, Georgiana, Zelie, Dominique. They’re all either saints/blesseds/Biblical (Lydia, Magdalena, Sabina, Gemma, Juliet(te) [from Julia], Natalia, Jacinta, Penelope [original name of St. Irene], Zelie [St. Therese’s mom and a Blessed herself]), or female versions of male saints’ names (Karoline/a for JP2, Christiana for Jesus, Clementine from Clement, Simone from Simon, Georgiana from George, Dominique from Dominic), or otherwise Catholic (Reina is a form of Regina, Charis means “grace” and is contained within the word Eucharist, Roma for Roman Catholic, Seraphina for the angels, Evangeline means “good news,” like evangelist). I love each of these names.

One saint that seemed especially meaningful in light of Angela’s love of Augustina is St. Agostina Livia Pietrantoni. I was reading about her recently — Agostina is actually the name she took when she became a Sister of Charity, but the snippet I was reading referred to her as “Livia” throughout, so I thought I’d suggest it. I have long loved Livia — I love that it feels familiar because of Olivia, but it’s not Olivia — it’s an old name in its own right, going back to ancient Rome, and rarely used. And there’s the amazing nickname Livvy, which I think is just the sweetest. Livia Christi? I love it.

What do you all think? What suggestions do you have for Angela and Tim’s little girl-on-the-way?

Birth announcement: Lourdes Marie Talbot

I posted once about the beautiful names of My Child I Love You‘s blog mama Lindsay, before I knew her #9 was on the way. I’d been eagerly anticipating the birth and name reveal, until I learned that the baby had an omphalocele and that “this tiny, innocent baby will suffer from pain her first early days.” Then I was eager to pray and for a good outcome, and it seemed inappropriate and selfish and heartless to even think about the baby’s name. I know you know.

But when the baby’s name was revealed my first thought was that there couldn’t be a more perfect one, as she was born on the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, and she was named … Lourdes. Lourdes Marie Talbot. If anyone needed Mother Mary to be extra close, it’s this tiny baby and her mama and her whole family, and I could not imagine a more perfect name.

I can barely think about baby Lourdes, can barely imagine what it must be like to be in her mama’s shoes right now. I’ve been checking the blog for updates so that I can keep praying and rejoice with them when the tide turns, but at the same time I feel like I’m peeking at the posts out of the corner of my eye, hoping to get the gist without being consumed by the sadness. I know you know.

Added to the baby’s situation is that Lindsay’s mom is being treated for cancer. It’s too much for me to think about, really, so I’ve been praying to Our Lady of Lourdes and Bl. Matt Talbot and Fr. Emil Kapaun for their intercession, as Lindsay requested. It seems there was some progress, and then some sliding back. Please join me in praying for this tiny baby and her sick grandma and her beautiful family so full of love and faith.

Double names on paper

I wrote recently about mash-up names and feminine first names with a masculine middle and this is related but yet a different angle — how does one deal, on paper, with having double names? By which I mean, if you were going to give your child two names that he or she would always go by, how would you decide to spell it and why?

I mean, I know a MaryAnn and a Mary Beth, a Roseanne and a RoseAnn, even an Elisa Beth; I’ve seen Marykate and Mary Kate, Marylee and Marilee. Maybe the daddy of them all for us kind of namers are the little boys honoring JP2 — I’ve seen JohnPaul and John Paul and John-Paul and Johnpaul. It all kind of makes me a little crazy because I love the idea of double names and could totally come up with some pretty fab combos, but (and maybe this is writer/editor me) how names look on paper — either written out on top of a school paper or signed on a check or filled out on a form — matters to me. I just want to know how am I *supposed* to do it?

Mary Beth, on paper, could result in a person getting called just “Mary” (perhaps assuming the “Beth” is a middle). (Actually, this happens even when hearing it out loud too, so …)

MaryAnn will forever confound people who, like me, want to get it right. (I do now with the MaryAnn I know, but it took a while.)

John-Paul’s hyphen is meant to keep the elements together, but may end up being more of a headache — do forms even take hyphens? Does it come across as overly stuffy or too particular, especially for a boy?

I know a little Marie-Therese, which I just love, but if I were her mother and I’d carefully selected such a beautiful name for her, I think I’d really hate people assuming they can shorten it to just “Marie.” Or maybe little Marie-Therese would shorten it herself when she got older, not because she wanted to but because she was tired of the hassle?

And how would you write your initials, if you had a hyphenated name? Would Marie-Therese McMahon be M-TM? Or MM? Are two names connected by a hyphen considered two names (hence initials M-T) or just one big one (initial M only)?

These are the questions that keep me up at night. 😉 Or at least, they knock out certain name contenders for me, because I just can’t come to a peace about how to write them. I really wanted John Paul (I think that spelling?) for one of our boys, but my husband’s a convert and he thought it might be a bit much for his mom to handle (especially since the boy I particularly wanted to name John Paul was born only a couple months after my husband became Catholic) — now I think, maybe I dodged a bullet? Would I have always been unsettled about whichever spelling of John Paul we decided on? Would he have finally succumbed to being called just John? (Nothing wrong with John! Just … it wouldn’t have been his name.)

This is when it’s somewhat burdensome to always be considering every aspect and angle of naming. This crazy mind of mine, it’s a blessing and a burden. :p

Please tell me, how do you handle names like these? Or what have you seen others do?

Have you seen my “Baby Name Consultant” tab?

Check out the top of my blog, under the title, where I have those other tabs: “Home,” “About me,” “About this blog” — I added one for “Baby Name Consultant,” wherein I detail the way my crazy mind works when it comes to names and how my strange little interest might be helpful to any of you about to tear your hair out because you canNOT come up with a name for this baby! Or even if you’re not tearing your hair out and just want to air your ideas and get some feedback. Or whatever! Check it out and tell all your friends and family and neighbors — it’s one of my very favorite things God has allowed me to do through this blog. ❤

That old Hollywood feel I keep talking about

Over on the Baby Name Wizard blog, there’s a great article this week called Glamorous Baby Names Inspired by Old Hollywood. There are some goooorgeous names on that list, including Clara and Rita, both of which have been part of discussions here lately (here and here). I’m surprised that Stella isn’t on the list, not because I can think of a Hollywood Stella, just because it always has that feel to me. Ava makes the list, of course, and reminds me of a little girl I know named Ava Marie, named so because it sounds like Ave Maria. How pretty is that? And what a lovely idea!

Can you think of other names that you’d include on an Old Hollywood list?

Spotlight on: Josephine and Josepha

I was recently reading about St. Josephine Bakhita, whose feast just passed (February 8) — what a woman! I’d never known much about her, but was blown away by the little I read of her life here. So her name was already on my radar when I read the snippet in the Baby Name Wizard about the name Josephine:

How many names can be all this for you: elegant as an empress, familiar as an old friend, and ready to kick back with fun little nicknames? The answer is exactly three: Victoria, Catherine, and Josepine. The first two are perennially popular, but the third still manages to sound creative. Ahhh.”

I love that! And, you know me, being Nickname Girl (it might be one of my best superpowers 😉 ), I just loved all the suggestions offered: Jo, Josie, Joey, Josette, Fifi, Jody, and Posy. It didn’t list one that I read once though, that I thought was totally inspired and still do: Sophie. Amazing, right? I admit Josephine has never been my favorite name, and Sophie’s my favorite of the Soph- names (I do prefer it to Sophia) but it doesn’t totally fit my personal style … but Josephine nicked Sophie? I could totally get behind that!

Josefa was the entry right before Josephine the BNW, so I thought I’d include that here as well. I’ve known exactly one person with the name Josefa (or maybe she spelled it Josepha?), but she was cool so she made the name cool to me, and I’ve liked it ever since. The Josephine nicknames aren’t all totally right for Josefa in my opinion — Sophie draws as much from the “een” end of Josephine as it does from the “f” in the middle and the long strong “o” in the beginning; Fifi also wouldn’t be as natural for Josefa — but the Jo- ones are all great. I could also see something like Effie working, with the stress in Josefa being on the “ef.”

And of course, we can’t forget our good St. Joseph and what a great way to honor him either Josephine or Josepha/Josefa is.

What do you think of Josephine and Josepha/Josefa? Do you know anyone with these names? Do they like their name? Do they go by a nickname?