A reader asked me for a spotlight on Bernadette, soooo here it is!
Bernadette is, of course, after St. Bernadette of Soubirous, the little girl who Our Lady visited in Lourdes, France eighteen times in 1858. Until today I didn’t know that she was actually named Marie-Bernarde (according to most of the sources, or Bernarde-Marie, according to the one I linked to in the previous sentence), which makes Bernadette an even sweeter name — a diminutive of Bernarde, akin to Katie for Katherine. (It also brings to mind Bl. Marie-Azelie Martin, aka Zelie — it’s Zelie that’s popular with Catholics, not Azelie nor Marie-Azelie. It’s so sweet that the affectionate nicknames are the ones we’re clamoring after.) (I also love those French hyphenated doubles, especially the ones that begin with Marie. So beautiful!)
Bernadette’s actually a special name in my family, as it’s my sister’s Confirmation name, chosen because Our Lady of Lourdes has always been special to her. I’ve mentioned this sister before — she was technically stillborn, and we attribute the return of her life to the intercession of Ven. Solanus Casey. She had spinal fusion surgery when she was in sixth grade to correct ever-worsening scoliosis, and for years afterward she put Lourdes holy water on her nape-to-tailbone scar every night. She and my dad had the opportunity to visit Lourdes a few years ago, and also to visit the incorrupt body of St. Bernadette in Nevers. My sister was able to spend time alone with Bernadette, praying in the chapel, and she and my dad (and my aunt/godmother who went with them) stayed in the convent overnight. I know it was a very special experience for her. When people ask her name, she often tells them FirstName MiddleName Bernadette LastName.
The reader who suggested a spotlight on Bernadette also indicated that the name seemed to be generating a lot of buzz recently, which I didn’t realize, but it makes sense — long Frenchy names like Charlotte, Josephine, and Genevieve are super popular right now, and Bernadette fits right in. What a sister set that would be!
Appellation Mountain discussed Bernadette here (as part of an -et/-ette post) and here (as the Name of the Day) and noted that it peaked in the 1940s, right along with the release of the Academy Award-winning movie The Song of Bernadette, so it still has a grandma feel to it. Recent popularity may be due in part to the (super smart) character Bernadette on the show The Big Bang Theory (whose character, incidentally, is from a big Catholic family), and probably also because French names are currently popular. Or maybe because St. Bernadette’s waving from heaven with the Immaculate Conception and Catholic parents are noticing? 🙂
Whatever it is, it seems to me an easy nickname is a must, what with all the Charlottes/Josephines/Genevieves called Charlie/Josie/Evie. There’s Bernie, which I think is still out of touch with most of today’s namers. Benny seems fresher, and is totally doable and adorable. Or Etta/Etty. Or — and I think this is my fave, and I’ve mentioned it before — Betsy, as one of my friends was considering using as a nickname for Bernadette. Abby also mentions Betty, Bette, and Bebe.
What do you think of Bernadette? Would you consider it? Have you considered it? Have you gone ahead and given it to one of your daughters, or do you know a little one named Bernadette? If so, what does she go by — the full Bernadette, or a nickname?