You’ve all heard of the name Nevaeh, yes? It’s “heaven” backwards, and the Baby Name Wizard calls it “the most divisive name in the country” or something similar (my BNW book is upstairs … as is the sleeping baby … so I’m just going with what I think I remember) — people either love it or looooathe it. Probably Loathe it, capital L. I have read some truly hateful things said about the name and anyone who would bestow it on their daughter.
It’s not my style, for sure, but I can see the appeal — it’s got a pretty sound, and it’s sort of clever that a good and holy word spelled backwards can make a feasible given name. (In the same vein, I’ve also seen Traeh [“heart” backwards].)
Most of the commentary, professional and otherwise, that I’ve seen on Nevaeh includes references to its trendy date-stamped-ness (it is a very very new creation, ca. 2000), but I was thinking the other day about Nomar Garciaparra. Nomar’s actually his middle name (his first is Anthony), and it’s his father’s name, Ramon, spelled backward. I’ve never once seen any negative commentary about Nomar’s name. So there is some precedent for a “backwards name” to be okay, and it’s not an entirely new trend (since Garciaparra was named five years before I was born). I was trying to think of other names that are backwards versions of “normal” names or words when I remembered one I’d read in that book by Withycombe I like to quote (it just fascinates me): Senga.
Its entry for Senga says:
“[T]his name, common in parts of Scotland, is said to be simply a variant of Agnes … obtained by spelling it backwards.”
Crazy, right?? This book was first published in 1945. The behindthename entry nods to this traditional understanding of the name, though then says that it’s “more likely derived from Gaelic seang ‘slender.'” But then a commenter for that entry says, “Wherever I look this up it is only listed as Agnes spelled backwards, it started in Scotland.”
Isn’t all that interesting? I particularly noticed it because Agnes is such a traditional, Catholic, saintly name, but until recently it didn’t really sing to modern ears (it’s on its way up! Actresses Jennifer Connelly and Elisabeth Shue both named their daughters Agnes in 2011 and 2006, respectively), so I could totally see parents wanting to honor Beloved Grandma Agnes and not knowing how to and then rejoicing when they figured out Senga. I mean, it doesn’t work for me, but I could see it.
What do you think of Nevaeh, Nomar, and Senga? Have you heard of any other names that are names or words spelled backwards?