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?