Baby name consultant: Baby Enloe #2

Marty and Amy Enloe and big sister Kristy Marie will be welcoming baby #2, gender unknown, around Easter. Amy’s explanation of how they chose Kristy’s name is one of the most beautiful naming stories I’ve heard: “In short, she is named after after the two greatest people I could think of — Christ and Mary, giving honor to God first (and in our 1st born) and my love/connection to Mary. It [also] connects to family names, and the tradition of naming after and/or handing down.” How lovely!

In trying to come up with ideas for the new baby, she writes, “I like family names, or naming after someone, even if it is not family, but just one who has character that you want your children to aspire to or that have a connection with/to … for our own children we tend to go more for traditional/’real’ names that are obviously a common name … We want a name to carry them through life, respectable, not just cute. Something they could be a business person with or a grandma, or a little boy … I would love a Catholic name/connection somewhere as it’s huge to me … An Italian name might be cool, I love that part of my heritage … I love John Paull II and wanted to name after him some how … boy or girl but we weren’t finding a version we liked best. Closest we came was maybe something like Gianna/Giani, which my husband wasn’t totally feeling.”

For a girl, Amy knows she’d really like to use Victoria as a middle name, for her mom (see below) and also because it “makes me think of purple, vintage, scrolls, pretty, traditional” (I love that! Beautiful mental image!), but since they’re “totally feeling boy,” they’ve given more thought to boy names:

For sure there are 4 middle names I like for boys — Kane, Lincoln, James and Joseph … Kane because Kristy has my middle name, so our first boy could have his dad’s middle name, traditional, hand me down. James and Joseph are Biblical/Catholic and I am really liking Lincoln this time. One night Marty said the first name that popped into his head and it was the first time I didn’t immediately say no to something. It felt the same way as Kristy’s name, a surprise and I couldn’t explain why it stuck with me a while. Calvin. Calvin Kane Enloe. Hmmm… the flow works well, but maybe the two n sounds run together. Kristy was an easy baby, I am expecting this one to be harder, but do I want a Calvin and Hobbes boy?? 🙂 … It’s a boy’s name, but a man’s name at the same time. A normal name but not seen much now (like Kristy). The sounds match but not the same letter. Both 6 letters, 2 syllables … I want sibling names that match some how … I still don’t mind the idea of Martin as a first if I find a middle I would want to use/go by, or Samuel (maybe the two L sounds run together) … We were close to our priest Fr. Vince (Vincent — Italian) and he has moved out of state … I am due pretty much Easter weekend (April 6th) so maybe an Easter related name. Pascal? I always pair that with Blaise though in my mind. I considered it for Kristy … You don’t really hear Pascal here in the states, but I did know two boys that had these names.”

Amy also mentioned that she really liked how her initials, AME, say her name when said out loud, and even little Kristy gets called by her initials sometimes (KME, said K-Me). Marty’s named for his dad, Martin, but his dad goes by his middle name, so giving a boy the first name Martin but having him go by his middle would be a nod to family tradition. Finally, their parents names are Victorian Lynn and James John (Amy) and Martin Craig and Kathleen (Marty), and some other family names that might inspire include: Elva, Betty, Donald, Lincoln, Joseph, Phillip, Mildred, Katherine, Mary, Joan (pronounced Joe-Anne), and Karl.

As I do, I aimed for three suggestions for each gender for Amy and Marty, though I ended up with four for boys, mostly because I loved their existing thought of Calvin Kane so much and had a much harder time coming up with boy ideas that I thought were as good that I overcompensated!


(1) Amanda Victoria Enloe (AVE)

My very hearty #1 recommendation for a girl is Amanda Victoria Enloe. Amanda is six letters! And with Victoria in the middle, after Amy’s mom, the full name makes the initials AVE, which makes it Marian! (So sneaky!) Amanda fits a similar popularity profile as Kristy (peaked in the 70s/80s), and it means “beloved” or “able to be loved” (Latin), which is an amazing meaning for a little girl. Amanda is totally do-able on its own, but I do love the nickname Mandy, and Mandy and Kristy sound like adorable sisters to me. Another natural nickname for it — which I do not recommend of course, is Amy, and I love that it makes Amanda kind of an honor name for mom Amy. So sweet! My runner up for my first suggestion is Angela — also similar in popularity and feel, also giving the amazing initials AVE, and being named after the angels is lovely, or even Our Lady, Queen of the Angels, for an extra Marian touch. (But I just love love love the lovable Amanda. :))

(2) Monica

When I was looking through lists of names that seemed to match Kristy, Monica jumped out right away. I love the Catholic connection — St. Monica is one of the very best saints, and it has six letters! (Not that I’m fixated on that, but I was pretty psyched that some/a lot of my ideas have six letters.) I think Monica can pair well with a lot of middle names: Monica Mary, Monica Pascale, maybe Monica Lynn (Amy’s mom’s middle name, instead of using her first name Victoria), maybe Monica Martine (for her husband Martin). (I also like the idea of Martina as a first name).

(3) Joanna P___

Joanna was inspired by both Calvin (see below), as Joanna’s listed in the Baby Name Wizard as being similar in style and feel to Calvin, and also by Amy’s love of John Paul II. I once heard of a little girl named Joanna Pauline, after JP2, which I thought was amazing, and as soon as I saw Joanna in the list for Calvin, I thought it seemed perfect. I’m not wedded to the combo Joanna Pauline, though I do like it; I actually think Joanna Pascale would be my preference. Amy said she’d considered Pascal for a boy, since she’s due around Easter, and I love the feminine form Pascale. I love it as a middle name — so interesting and unexpected and chic — and Joanna Pascale gives the initials JP, just like our beloved Papa. Amy also said they have a relative Joan (pronounced Joe-Anne), which could make Joanna an honor name if they’d like. (And — six letters! Ahh! :))


(1) Calvin Kane

This was Amy’s idea, and I just love it. Calvin is so cool paired with Kane, just great. Amy had mentioned being worried abotu inviting trouble by connecting a boy to Calvin and Hobbes but I have to say, as the mom of six boys, I actually find the connection quite endearing! My boys are all variations of mischievous, but all pretty adorable, which is my memory of Calvin and Hobbes (I haven’t read the strip in years, but I used to paste them on the paper-bag cover of my textbooks in high school, that’s how much I loved them!).

(2) Martin [Something]

I really liked Amy’s idea of Martin as a first name with a middle name that the baby would actually go by — it’s a great family tradition in her husband’s family, and it’s a nice way to have a namesake for her husband without having a Junior. I like Martin James, Martin Joseph, Martin Derek (see below), Martin Samuel, and Martin Blaise. I particularly like the last one, Martin Blaise, and while I can see why Amy thinks Blaise and Kristy are too far apart style-wise, I actually can see them working really well together. Kristy is for Our Lord after all, and Blaise is a great saint, so that automatically makes them go together to me — it’s all the same family. 🙂 Besides, Blaise’s real first name would be Martin, which I think goes with Kristy quite nicely. Martin Blaise Enloe is so handsome!

(3) Samuel Vincent

I think this is a great combo. Samuel because Amy had mentioned liking it, and Vincent after the priest she and her husband were close to. I like the initials too — SVE, kind of reminds me of “Save” — and it’s six letters!

(4) Aaron or Derek or Jason

As I mentioned, I had a hard time coming up with other boy names besides the ones Amy and Marty had already thought of. But when Aaron came to mind, I thought that it really worked. Aaron Kane, Aaron James, Aaron Joseph all sound pretty good to me, and I like how Aaron Enloe sounds and looks (lots of vowels!). Maybe some would be put off by the -on ending of Aaron running into the En- beginning of Enloe, but it doesn’t bother me — quite the opposite, I think it flows really well.

Derek also struck me as a good fit. Derek James, Derek Joseph, Derek Martin all sound good to me; Derek Lincoln not as great but not terrible either, and I like Derek Enloe. And Jason Enloe. Jason James, Jason Joseph, Jason Kane, Jason Blaise — all pretty cool. A friend recently named her son Jason, which was pleasantly unexpected. AND I just read recently that Jason is a name in the New Testament — a man who sheltered Paul and Silas. I don’t know how I’d never noticed that before! I included Aaron, Derek, and Jason in the same numbered suggestion because they’re my attempts to come up with something new for Baby Enloe #2, but really I just like Amy and Marty’s existing thoughts on boy names!

One name that I didn’t really address, though Amy specifically said she was thinking about it, is Lincoln. I do try to limit myself somewhat when making suggestions, otherwise I could just go on and on and on ……. which I don’t really think is that helpful to the parents (too many ideas!), and too stressful to me. But I do like Lincoln a lot — both the president (best president ever) and the nickname Linc (Prison Break anyone?). I don’t know what else to say about it though, so I’ll just leave it at that.

So that’s what I got! What do you all think? What other ideas or suggestions can you offer to the Enloe family?


Reading round-up

I posted these all to our old FB page, the one that will be taken down today (remember to like the new page!!):

I *liked* Nameberry on FB and some of the posts that have been showing up in my feed have been fun. Did you know they list the babies born to their readers each month? I love names in theoretical conversations — names we like, names that sound good together, names that have great meaning — but names actually given to babies in real life are my very very favorite: Babyberry arrivals of January: Althea Lake and Amos Beau

Then there’s this craziness — a company that will come up with a totally unique name for your baby for the small price of …. $31,000: Your child will be the first one with this newly-developed first name. And probably not the last one.

For anyone interested in names that are actually used in Ireland: Is your name going out of fashion?

Have you read any good name-y articles?

Penny Baby #9!

I posted all about the first eight Penny kids’ names on Monday, and invited you all to guess what their new baby girl’s name might be. Your guesses (here and on our Facebook page) included*:










Beautiful names, all! Nice job! But nobody (including me) guessed the right one:

Miryam Noël

Isn’t that just gorgeous?? Her mama writes: “We chose her name after attending a retreat for the feast of the Immaculate Conception — while praying the Rosary there I felt that Miryam was her name. Being pregnant during Advent, I felt a special closeness to the Blessed Mother and knew I wanted a Marian name. At the retreat I realized what name that was. We chose Noël because she was born during the Christmas season (we celebrate until Candlemas). I’ve had these moments with several of my children when I just felt that “that” was their name. The trick has always been convincing Chris. In case you’re curious the runners up for Miryam were Elizabeth (Chris’ pick) and Edith (my pick).

But we weren’t too far off, were we? There were some Marian/biblical/saintly names on our lists, all of which I would categorize Miryam as. Nice job, us!

I plan to give updates to each of the consultations I’ve posted as the babies are born, if their moms give me the update and the go-ahead to post. Thanks to Shaunda and Chris for allowing us into their naming process and selections — so fun seeing the end result! Happy Friday!


*(There were even a couple boy names offered as well — maybe Shaunda and Chris will file them away for a possible future boy? Julian, Malcolm, and Owen, all so handsome.)


Spotlight on: Dunstan, Mihangel, Paderau

I’m familiar with a lot of names. I read name books all the time — over and over again — call me crazy, but I find them soothing and always interesting and I learn something new each time. But I was still blown away when I was re-reading one of my favorites last night — Oxford Dictionary of First Names — just flipping through it, looking up some specific names, reading on about others, and I came across three I’d never noticed before: Dunstan, Mihangel,  and Paderau.

Dunstan is a male name, “[f]rom an Old English personal name derived from dun ‘dark’ + stān ‘stone’, borne most notably by a 10th-century saint who was archbishop of Canterbury. The name is now used mainly by Roman Catholics” (emphasis mine). !!! Now, maybe I’ve heard of Dunstan, but the fact that, at least for the audience intended by the authors (mostly Brits I would think), the name is used mainly by Roman Catholics immediately made me want to take note. So cool!

Mihangel and Paderau were both listed in the “Welsh Names” section of the book. Mihangel is a male name, from an “[o]lder Welsh equivalent of Michael … representing a contraction of the phrase ‘Michael the Archangel'” — I don’t know much about Welsh pronunciation, so I’m not sure how to say it, but I love that it’s for Michael the Archangel.

Paderau is both a male and female name, and it’s a modern Welsh name “from paderau ‘beads, rosary’.” Again, I don’t know how to say it, but when I looked it up on, one of the comments said, “Reminds me of the Irish word for rosary; paidrín (probably because paidrín and paderau are related words). However, from reading the comments on Behind the Name, it would seem that many ‘modern Welsh names’ aren’t used by the Welsh at all, and they just sound ridiculous to them. I hope this is a real name in Wales (because that’s all that matters, if you’re choosing a Welsh name), but it really looks nicer than it sounds.” Paidrín! I love that too! It’s not listed as a proper name anywhere that I could see, but I think both Paderau and Paidrín would be amazing names in honor of Our Lady via the Rosary (maybe best in the middle though).

What do you all think of these names? Do you know anyone with these names, or how to say Mihangel and Paderau?

Namers unite for a good cause

In this weird-but-in-so-many-ways-wonderful age of the Internet, I find myself including in my circle of friends people that I’ve never actually met in real life. My first encounter with this was — yes, it’s true — the discussion boards for the baby name polls on BabyCenter (back when they were awesome, before their current format). Eleven years ago, pregnant with my first baby — my lifelong dream of being a mom an actual reality — I spent a lot of time on those name polls, eagerly reading the naming dilemma, casting my vote, and then reading the comments and perhaps leaving my own.

You know how it goes on any web site or discussion board you frequent — you quickly recognize the “regulars” and you have a sense of their personalities through their comments and you decide you like them (or not).

So there was this regular on those boards, also pregnant with her first baby, and I can’t remember exactly what she wrote in a comment one time that made me start to suspect she was like me — maybe an obviously pro life comment? or a Catholic reference? — but somehow we started emailing occasionally, and I found out that we were very alike, and then we became friends on Facebook, and we kept pace with each other baby-wise — she had her first four girls as I had my first four boys, and then when we were both pregnant with our fifth babies, she got the news at her 20-week ultrasound that her baby had severe congenital hydrocephalus.

I’ve never met this woman in real life, and yet I cried and cried and cried over this news. My own 20-week ultrasound was the following week, and my friend and her baby filled my mind and my heart as the ultrasound tech assured me our baby was developing normally. I wondered a lot why my friend would be asked to carry such a burden, while I hadn’t been.

I’ve subsequently found out: this woman is a pillar of strength. Strong in her faith, strong in her convictions. She started a blog and chronicled every bit of their journey, from finding out of the baby’s gender — another girl!! — to the choosing of her name (beautiful, and full of saintly significance), to the doctors repeatedly recommending she terminate her pregnancy, to the baby’s scheduled c-section, to making sure the baby was baptized and confirmed as soon as possible after birth, and all that has come afterward.

That baby — Meagan — is now three-and-a-half. Her mom, Molly, still keeps up with her blog, and sometimes writes for Catholic Sistas. How many times have I posted one of her blog posts to my FB wall, so inspired was I? Too many to count, really. I’ve been blown away by the strength and fortitude needed to take care of Meagan, and the strength and fortitude and love love love that Molly and her husband have channeled right toward taking care of that little girl. Meagan is one of the most very blessed children.

One of Molly’s friends recently set up a fundraiser for Meagan. Just a couple of days later, Meagan was hospitalized yet again (she’s still there as I write this), so the fundraiser certainly came at just the right time. I wanted to post about it here in case any of you might be able to help Meagan and her family out. Molly explains more about it here, and you’ll get a taste of the strength I’m so inspired by when you read that Molly only agreed to the fundraiser if “a good portion of the proceeds [could go] towards a charity of my choice … The charity I chose is CURE … The funds that will go to CURE Hydrocephalus offer children the life saving surgeries that we have been so lucky to have had for Meagan every time she has an emergency.” The link to the fundraiser is there as well. And if you aren’t able to contribute monetarily, please say some prayers for this special little girl and her special family. Thank you!!

UPDATED: The fundraiser will be open until February 15.

Baby name consultant: Penny Family name analysis, and guess the new baby’s name!

This is different from my usual naming dilemma/consultation type of post in that the baby’s already here and named, but I had such fun analyzing the parents’ name style (at the mom’s request) that I wanted to post it here for you, and ask you: After reading it all, do you have any guesses on what the name of the new little one might be?

Shaunda and Chris Penny, who I actually know in real life, recently (last month) welcomed their ninth born baby. Their other kids’ names are:

Rita Isabel

Austin Christopher

Emma Karol

April Grace

Christian Matthew

Leah Francine

Veronica Clare

Gianna Doreen

Shaunda said, “I’d love to see your analysis of our kids names someday, I feel like they’re all over the place, we choose for meaning not the name itself so it’s a weird grouping of names.”

I do love a good name challenge. 😉

When I put together the post offering suggestions for Simcha’s baby, I felt like I had to first figure out her style, which wasn’t easy to see at first look. But as I thought about it more, and looked up more names in the Baby Name Wizard book (it has this amazing feature of listing boy names and girl names that match the entry in terms of style and feel and popularity … I think I’ve mentioned it a time or two? :)), which led me to look up more names, I started seeing the connections emerge, like invisible ink over a heater.

Such was the case with the Penny kids’ names for me — upon thought and research, styles emerged, and I feel like their names boil down into seven (!) different styles, with a lot of overlap:

Saints/religious names (overt): Rita, Austin, Christian, Leah, Veronica, Gianna

Biblical(ish): Christian (the “ish”), Leah, Veronica

Short and punchy: Rita, Emma, Leah, Gianna

Ends in the -en sound: Austin, Christian

Not easily nicknamed: Rita, Austin, Emma, April, Leah

Ends in -a: Rita, Emma, Leah, Veronica, Gianna

Latinate (Italian/Latina): Rita, Veronica, Gianna

I don’t usually include middle names when I’m trying to figure out a style or suggestions because so many people use the middle name spot as their wild card spot — family first names, family last names, crazy names like that saint’s name you were too embarrassed to put in the first name spot … but the Penny kids’ middle names were revealing of stylistic things as well, especially when considered with some of the first names. Namely:

That vintage-y throwback Hollywood starlet feel I got from some of Simcha’s names: Francine, Doreen (especially with Rita)

Saints/religious (overt): Karol, Grace, Clare (along with allllll the other ones above!)

Kind of cool and hip: Isabel (especially with Austin)

But even with all this overlap, the outlier to all these styles, the woman who stands alone, is … April. Her name is the only one that doesn’t have overlap in more than one of the styles the other kids’ names fall into. She’s Not easily nicknamed, and nothing else. Until, that is, you look at her name by itself, not as part of her sibling set. In the Baby Name Wizard her name is categorized as part of Charms and Graces, which is described thusly:

“The traditional feminine ideals of grace, beauty, and propriety have found natural reflections in girls’ names. Propriety was the focus for the Puritans, who favored virtue names like Patience and Chastity. In the late Victorian era, the fasion was to celebrate tender beauty with names like Lily, Grace, and May.”

How lovely! How lucky for April to have such a great name! As I told Shaunda, I’d never really given any thought to the name April, but dissecting it for her made it sparkle for me! A look at the other names listed for that category reveals further evidence of Shaunda and Chris’ taste in names, as already shown by their other kids’ names, especially Faith, Felicity, Grace (April’s middle name! How appropriate!), Hope, Lily, Mercy, Rose and Rosemary, and Verity — all of which could easily fit into some of the categories the other kids’ names fir into. And April Grace is an amazing combination of sounds and feelings to me, a sweet and sunny spring breeze. To me, it really fits this description:

“The names that surged after World War II tend to be a modest, friendly bunch. They don’t try to sound fancy or exotic … So what were the parents of the ’50s aiming for with their name choices? … the most common theme is that these names sound happy. Not breezy and carefree, like the surfer names that followed in the ’60s, but happy and relaxed … [names that represent] dreams of contentment. A comfortable home, good friends, and kids playing in the yard.”

But that description was not of any category April’s name falls into; rather, it’s for a category of names called Mid-Century America, into which Leah and Gianna’s middle names, Francine and Doreen, fall. And those two names have a similar feel to me as Rita. Wheeeeee! I just love finding things like that — connections abound everywhere!

So though Shaunda and Chris didn’t need any suggestions for their baby, who they knew was a girl, I thought I’d put together what my predictions might have been, for both a boy and a girl, if I didn’t already know the gender and name.

As you know, I usually shoot for three ideas for each gender (both to stretch myself and to limit myself), but here I had four ideas for girls and three for boys. My predictions:


(1) A Marian name (Stella)

While Grace (April’s middle name) can be considered a Marian name, it was notable to me that there weren’t any other Marian names in the other girls’ names. Like with Simcha (hmm. There’s a lot of similarity between the Pennys and the Fishers! Maybe because they both have nine born children, only two of which are boys?), Stella immediately rose to the top for me, especially because of Rita, Francine, and Doreen — as I wrote in Simcha’s post, it has “that same starlet feel.” Also, Doreen always makes me think of Tori Spelling’s daughter, whose name is Stella Doreen (I have a weird ability to remember most celebrities’ kids names. Judge away), which impressed me to no end when I first read the birth announcement. (As an aside, I actually think they did an amazing job naming their four.)

(2) Biblical(ish) (Magdalena)

I know, this is kind of vague, but they already have Christian, Leah, and Veronica (I know, Christian and Veronica don’t show up in the Bible in that way — hence the –ish), and I was just really feeling it for this baby. If I had to choose, I might think Magdalena, Lydia (but maybe too close to Leah?), Hannah, Bethany. I think Magdalena is my #1 here, it feels especially similar to Veronica to me, which I love.

(3) Charms and Graces (Hope or Faith)

This may be me letting my personal preferences leak in, which I try to avoid as much as possible when coming up with names that I think would be perfect for a family, but if I had named my children the names Shaunda and Chris had chosen, I think I’d be inclined to choose a name for #9 that balanced out the styles already used, i.e., a name that was similar in style and feel to April. As I noted above, some of the Charms and Graces names seemed really spot-on to me in terms of ones I think you would like, and in particular I could see a name like Hope or Faith being a really good fit. I like both of those with the other kids’ names, lovely.

(4) Super saintly (Cecilia or Felicity)

Felicity would by my very first choice here if it weren’t for the family last name (Penny) and even still I don’t think it’s unworkable — but I suspected Shaunda and Chris might think it is, since Shaunda told me once that girl names ending in -ie/-y are difficult with their last name. So then, Cecilia is my strong second choice. Not only do I think they fit in well with the other kids’ names, but they remind me of the Penny family and all they hold dear and stand for — faith, love of God, love of the Church.


(1) Nicholas Owen

Unlike with the girls’ names, in which categories seemed easier to pinpoint than specific names, I found picking boys’ names a bit easier. Probably because they only have two boys and their names are similar in style and feel. Nicholas Owen inspired me in three ways: first, Nicholas totally feels like Austin and Christian to me. Kind of a cool, friendly, masculine dude (in all the best ways). It also showed up in lists connected with Veronica, Emma, and Leah. Owen was another one that showed up over and over when I considered the names that had similar styles and feels to the other kids, including Emma, Grace, Isabel, Christian, Leah, and Austin. But I wasn’t feeling Owen as a first name for the Pennys, which led me to my third inspiration: St. Nicholas Owen. He was a Jesuit brother who built hidey holes for priests in England during the post-Reformation persecutions, and he was martyred for it. Such a cool saint, such a cool name (we’ve considered it ourselves).

(2) Gabriel or Michael

As with Nicholas, Gabriel and Michael just have the same feel as Austin and Christian to me: cool, strong, manly. I’ve seen Gabriel be somewhat polarizing though, so Michael I think is a slam dunk here. This is more of a gut feeling on my part than backed up by any of the BNW lists, but I like them both for a Penny boy.

(3) Benjamin or Nathan

Finally, Benjamin and Nathan both showed up all over the place as having similar styles to ones Shaunda and Chris had already chosen, like Emma, Leah, Christian, and Veronica. In addition, they’re both biblical, and both end in the -en sound.

So those would have been my predictions, based on my analysis of Shaunda and Chris’ naming tastes. Just for fun, some of the other names that showed up over and over as similar to the names they chose are: Shelby, Shane, Lily, Sydney, Lucy, Abigail, Casey, Amber, Jared, Rebecca, Rachel, Mercy, Victoria, Natalie, Joel, and Chloe. A lot of names! But I had a lot of names to work with. 🙂

What do you all think? What would you guess Shaunda and Chris named their new baby girl? If it’s okay with them, I’ll tell you all on Friday … in the meantime, let’s hear your thoughts!

Facebook fix

I set up a Facebook page a couple of weeks ago and had quite a few of you friend me (thank you!!), but I realized I’d set up the wrong kind (a personal page rather than a community page). I set up a new one — — which I’ll be transitioning to completely soon and deleting the old one. But I don’t want to lose any of you! So if you missed my message on FB about the new page, please head on over to the new page and like! And tell all your friends and family too!

Thank you all for your patience with me! I’m so delighted to have found so many people who love talking about the beautiful names of our faith like I do, what a fun little community we have here. 🙂 ❤

About nicknames

I’ve had a few people comment on how I always offer nickname suggestions for the names I discuss on here. On the one end, some say they’re not big nicknamers — they prefer their child to be called by the name that they gave him or her. On the other, some say they love nicknames, and have commented on a few of the more unusual/nontraditional ones I’ve suggested as ones they really like and had never thought of. I’m sure there are those of you in the middle — yeah, a good nickname can be cool, but you’re not stressed over pinning down the right one. Or you won’t not choose a name you like because you can’t think of a great nickname.

I totally get it! All of those perspectives! But I thought it might be helpful to detail why I focus so much on offering as many nickname options as I can think of.

For one thing, my family is made up of unrelenting nicknamers. I say that in the most affectionate way possible, because I love a good nickname, but unrelenting we are. For example, my mom and I were talking to a friend recently who is expecting her third boy. We asked her if she and her husband had decided on a name yet and she said yes, and so happily told us their selection, and we said, “How nice! And what are you going to call him?” and our friend’s face sort of froze in place, with the smile still there but a look behind it that said, “Didn’t I just tell you what we’re calling him?!”

Some people are just not nicknamers, and that is so totally fine, totally cool. Mom and I quickly laughed and assured her we will be just delighted to call the baby by his name and poked fun at our own selves for being crazy nicknamers and she laughed and all was jolly and forgiven. (I hope.)

That wouldn’t fly in my family, though. In my family, if the parents of the baby don’t decide what nickname they want the baby to be called, the baby will very likely end up with a nickname that the parents might not like. So my husband and I carefully — and with great fun — weighed each name’s merits by whether or not it had a good nickname, and if not, could a good one be created? Especially since my dad loves to tell people that he loves the name Anastasia, that they should totally consider it for their baby, especially since it has the amazing nickname of … wait for it … “Nasty.” Oh how he howls with laughter at that! And so do we all, for dear old Dad, but all of us also with the firm conviction that we will never use the name Anastasia because we’re just not totally sure Dad’s joking.

(And even if a nickname is chosen and promoted and lives are threatened if any other nickname is used, there’s still the chance of a crazy nickname. My brother has called me Blu since high school. It would take far too long to explain why; suffice it to say that, while I appreciate the affection behind it, it’s not a name I want everyone to call me.)

For another thing, regarding nicknames, we talk about some pretty amazing but maybe somewhat heavy-for-everyday-use names here at Sancta Nomina. Solanus. Cornelius. Bartholomew. Quadragesimus. Amazing names for amazing people; names that call to mind feats of faith, lives offered up, miracles performed, love of God oozing from every story of their lives; names that reflect the weightiness with which we want our children to view their faith and the holy love of God.

But those sweet babies of ours will be hanging upside down from the monkey bars. They will be putting worms in their little brother’s hair. They will be drawing on walls and eating candy contraband while hiding behind chairs and screaming during Mass and sassing their mothers and falling asleep in our arms like sweet lambies who wouldn’t dream of doing anything mischievous. And how the heck do you even pronounce their given name anyway? (Say some of the relatives who have never heard of St. Apollonia.) It’s just kind of nice sometimes to be able to call such a child by a sweet normal-ish nickname rather than VerySeriousFirstName. And it’s nice to have options as to what that nickname might be.

Where do you fall on the nickname spectrum? Yea, nay, or somewhere in between?

Spotlight on: Solanus

My family has a special connection to Venerable Solanus Casey — a Capuchin who died in 1957. He’s been a powerful intercessor for us — we believe that his intercession miraculously saved my sister’s life when she was stillborn — and I’m delighted to spotlight his name today.

Barney Casey was the oldest of sixteen children, and he struggled academically (a great patron for any student who has a hard time!). As I understand it, he took the name Solanus when he entered the seminary in Detroit, after St. Francis Solano (also known as Francis Solanus), a Spanish Franciscan missionary who died in 1610. When I first thought about the name Solanus, I assumed it had something to do with the sun — “sol” means “sun” and all that — but it’s not actually true (a mistake I’ve made often … like the name Soledad I always thought probably meant “sunny” because of the “sol” part, but it actually means “solitude” and comes from the Marian title “Mary of Solitude” [Maria de Soledad]). With Solano, it was St. Francis’ family’s last name, which means … oh wait a minute! is saying that it’s a “Spanish, Aragonese, Asturian-Leonese: habitational name from any of the places named Solano (Burgos and Málaga provinces) or El Solano (Asturies, and Uesca, Aragon), named with solano ‘place exposed to the sun’ (Late Latin solanum, a derivative of sol ‘sun’).” (Emphasis mine.)

So I was right! Which is so awesome, because when I’d originally had the thought that it had something to do with “sun,” I thought of a nickname that seemed just perfect, and when I thought that I’d been wrong and it didn’t have anything to do with “sun,” I thought, “Oh well, the nickname’s a good one anyway.” But here we are back again and the nickname I thought of was …. Sonny! Or Sunny, but I think Sonny comes across as more masculine. How cute is that?? Solanus nicknamed Sonny. Swoon! Because, you know, with a name like Solanus, if you’re a two-year-old little guy and not an old Capuchin with a long beard, you kind of have to have a nickname. (I think Solly works too, which is really cute.)

What do you all think of Solanus? I think it’s extremely do-able as a middle name, and with a great accessible nickname like Sonny it’s a great first name too. Do you know anyone who has the name Solanus as a first or a middle? What does he think of his name? Does he go by a nickname?

Dibs on names? Sharing okay?

A reader mentioned to me the difficulty she and her husband have finding names for their children that haven’t already been given to one of their 20+ nieces and nephews, or are the names of their own siblings or siblings-in-law. Sharing already-used names isn’t something she cares to do — she wants her children to have his or her *own* name within the family.

Sound familiar?

I’ve read and heard other discussions about how to deal with this, and whether, as my reader asked me, it’s ever appropriate to give your child a name that’s already been used, and if so, how to do it without offending anyone. We had to deal with it ourselves: We wanted to give one of our boys a name that my brother could argue he had a prior claim to. The name was my grandfather’s name, but it’s also my brother’s middle name, and a distinctive one — so it would really feel like we were taking a name that was rightfully his. Though I’ve always appreciated the opinion that there are no dibs in baby naming, I do think sometimes there are. At least if you want to be a good sister/brother/aunt/uncle etc. So we asked my brother and sister-in-law (married but no children yet at the time) if it would be okay if we used the name, and we told them that if they preferred that we didn’t, we wouldn’t.

They were lovely about it, and assured us it was okay for us to use the name. Whew!

So that’s what I would recommend, if there was a particular name parents wanted to give to their child that was already used or potentially claimed by someone else: Just ask. But sometimes it’s not that easy, and I’ve liked the thoughtful ways in which the question was handled by some of the naming experts I admire:

Swistle: Naming Etiquette: Who Has Dibs on a Family Name?

Baby Name Wizard: page 8

Name Candy:

Particularly for big families, as Laura Wattenberg says, “In a really big family, something’s gotta give. Among your ten brothers and sisters and thirty nieces and nephews, you may have to accept an occasional duplicate name.” I would just heartily recommend that you go about the whole thing as respectfully as possible.

Have any of you had to deal with this? How did you handle it? What was the outcome?