Thoughts on Lisieux (et al.)?

If you’re looking for a great Prime Day deal, look no further than my book of Marian names! It’s currently on sale, and there’s a $5.00 off promotion running as well! 

(You guys had SO MANY great thoughts and ideas for Kathleen’s TV character!! I loved reading them all, both here on the blog and on Facebook and Instagram! You often fill in holes in my knowledge and make connections I didn’t see. I hope to post the name Kathleen chooses soon!)

Abby from Appellation Mountain posted on Facebook a list of names trending on her site last week, which included Lisieux — a name I would only expect to see among Sancta Nomina readers! (As in St. Therese of Lisieux.) One of her readers asked how it’s pronounced, and since I’ve heard it said a couple different ways by Americans for whom English is their native language, I thought I’d do a poll on Twitter to see if one pronunciation was used by a clear majority. I first asked my mom (who took years of French) and checked out Forvo to try to replicate in writing what the actual French pronunciation is, then I added in other pronunciations I’ve heard, and posted the poll to Twitter.

lisieux

Do you see how many votes I got? Eighty five (85). Eighty five! That’s like, four times as many as I usually get for my name polls! I received several comments too, who knew this would be such a hotbed of controversy??

In hindsight, I realized I should have phrased my question differently — I wasn’t looking for the correct French pronunciation of the town, though I can see that it could come across that way. I was looking for how *you* say it — I know not everyone says it the French way, and I wanted to gather data for how the average American Catholic Joe/Jane says it (apologies to my non-American readers! I’m always happy to get your input, even if it’s not entirely relevant for American parents). I also realized it would be helpful to add the context: “Lisieux as a given first name for an American baby girl.”

Those who know and use the authentic French pronunciation were well represented both by the poll results (receiving 33% of the votes, only one percentage point behind the leader of lih-SOO, with 34%) and especially in the comments. I do appreciate how frustrating it can be for those who *know* how to say a name to hear it said “wrong” — Sean said as “SEEN” is one example for me. But even then, I’ve written about how, when it comes to proper names, no one has the market on the “correct” pronunciation.

One comment surprised me — it suggested that bestowing the name Lisieux in honor of St. Therese without using the pronunciation she would recognize is disrespectful. I disagree, and the three names that came to mind immediately as names American Catholic parents use that they generally say differently from the way their saints would have said them were Avila, Jacinta, and Kateri. I’d never seen it suggested that the American English way of saying those names is disrespectful, so I’m not sure why Lisieux would be any different. Regardless, I always think that parents’ goal of naming their baby after a beloved saint is the opposite of disrespectful. I’m trying to think of examples where I think the execution of such a lovely desire might border on disrespectful, but I can’t think of any.

I’d be interested in your input! Both on what pronunciation you would use, if you were an American Catholic parent for whom English is your first language and you wanted to name your daughter Lisieux, and whether you think using a pronunciation different than how the saint would have said it (for Lisieux or any name) is disrespectful.


My book, Catholic Baby Names for Girls and Boys: Over 250 Ways to Honor Our Lady (Marian Press, 2018), is available to order from ShopMercy.org and Amazon — perfect for the expectant parents, name enthusiasts, and lovers of Our Lady in your life!

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[Baby] name consultation: A TV character needs a name!

You guys! I got the most fun email a few weeks ago, from Kathleen Jones — a screenwriter and actress who is currently writing “the first Catholic scripted comedy”! She’s got this so-professional writing web site with all kinds of amazing credentials — in fact, the first TV show she wrote for is called Wholly Broken and is currently on DirecTV on a faith-and-family channel called UpTV! (She’s also on Instagram!)

And she wants my help!! 😲🤩😎 Kathleen writes,

[I’m] currently writing a Catholic TV pilot: a Parks and Rec style comedy about a failing Catholic parish and the laypeople that try to bring it back to life … My hope for my show is that it will get picked up by a network like Hulu or Netflix — a faithful show on a secular network.

I’m writing because I would love a name consultation for my main character’s name! Her name needs to go well together with the others, not be similar to another character on any other TV show, not accidentally be the name of a real person, and be Catholic. I’ve had such trouble finding the right name. Her name, currently, is Olivia. But I just don’t find that funny! It’s too many syllables, and there’s a few characters on TV named Olivia. I’ve considered Marina, which is secretly  Marian but not obviously religious sounding. But I need help!

HOW COOL IS THIS!!

Of course I was all I’m here for you sister! and she sent me THE SCRIPT and I feel like I’m the name consultant to the stars now, no big deal.

🤩🤩🤩

Some details:

There are a few names I’m set on already.

Set names:
Molly: her older sister, very devout, with five kids
Dale: her love interest (think Jim from Office, but dorkier)
Mario: Molly’s husband (handsome, Mexican, Marine)

Conditions:
– Not a main character name in another television comedy or famous drama (no Leslie, Ann, Pam, Rachel, Monica, etc).
– Not very Catholic, but reminiscent.
– Sounds good with Molly and Dale.
– But doesn’t sound like or rhyme with Molly and Dale (not an M name or a D name).
– A new letter name, so that nobody else in the show has a name that starts with the same letter.
– Simple and easy to pronounce, or unique and easy to pronounce (like Felicity, but not that because of the show Felicity).
– Her last name is Benny. Can’t be the real name of a person alive (Google and Facebook to be sure!), or else I could get sued by that person. A fairly common name is best, or one that is unique enough that nobody else has it (like Leslie Knope, perfect! Easy to remember, simple, but no other Leslie Knopes exist).
– My dream is that the name is a callback to a particular saint who can be a patron saint for the show, and it’ll be a secret for only the creative team and diehard fans (hopefully we have some!).

Molly and Olivia (Olivia to be changed) were raised loosely Catholic in a family that didn’t really practice. Molly is a fierce revert. Olivia is a hippie, fallen-away Catholic who gets roped into being a parish secretary by Molly.”

This was definitely a different kind of challenge for me! Naming a fictional character is such a different thing! As you all know, when I’m offering ideas for a real baby, I take into account the parents’ taste in names, as evidenced by the names they’ve already chosen for their older kids, if they have older kids, as well as the names that are on their list of names they’re considering. So I tried to get into Molly and [Olivia]’s parents’ heads, based exclusively on Molly’s name (sweet, possibly Irish leanings) and [Olivia]’s age (names that were popular 26 years ago, 1993-ish), and the fact that the parents weren’t super into the faith.

But then, on top of that, the name has to fit the character as she is now, as an adult, with her specific personality and characteristics and how she fits into the story arc. Also, I think it can’t feel to audiences like an outdated name — even if the name is legitimately someone [Olivia]’s age would have. And I had to keep in mind: “not very Catholic, but reminiscent”; “sounds good with Molly and Dale”; “new letter”; “simple and easy to pronounce, or unique and easy to pronounce”; “not the name of a person alive”; sounds reasonable with the last name Benny (which I love, by the way — I assume Kathleen chose it because of its connection to “blessed”? Very clever!), and a name with a patron saint. Such a fun and interesting challenge!

I found the most difficult part to be “not the name of a person alive” — that is amazingly hard to work with! But then Kathleen explained that a more common name — where the first + last is almost generic — is fine.

I began as I always do, by I looking up Molly, Olivia, and Dale in the Baby Name Wizard book, as it offers, for each entry, boy and girl names that are similar in terms of style/feel/popularity. I thought doing so for those three names would give me a good starting point. I looked in my own book of Marian names for any ideas that would be impeccably Marian but also not-so-obvious (Olivia actually fits that criteria!). I looked up Molly’s popularity in her birth year (1984, which, incidentally, is the same year my own sister Molly was born!) and then looked up names with a similar popularity in [Olivia]’s birth year (1993). I searched my own mental files for names that *felt* right (with my very subjective pov), based on what Kathleen said she was looking for and the vibe I myself got from her script.

Based on all that, here are my thoughts/ideas/suggestions!

(1) Tess(a)
Tess Benny is my number one suggestion for Kathleen! I love how Tess is sort of spare and no-nonsense but also with a bit of a free-spirited feel, which I thought might fit [Olivia]’s personality well; I love that it’s a great name for a sister to Molly; I also loved that it could be either a nickname for or a variant of Teresa, as in Mother Teresa, which fits in perfectly with the character’s trip to India. Tessa would also be great.

(2) Kate/Cate
Not only am I Katherine/Kate, sister of Molly, but Katie is a style match for Molly per the BNW. Kate Benny sounds great, I think, though Kate is an extremely popular name for fictional screen characters, so that probably crosses it off right there. However, I was feeling like [Olivia], being that she’s going through a transition time in her life, and with her general personality being free-spirited, is the kind of person that might really like a name with options. Katherine/Catherine provides several possibilities, depending on the person’s mood and personality: Kate, Katie, Kathy, Kat (which has a little big of an edgier vibe that might fit [Olivia]’s personality well), and I’ve even seen Cass used as a nickname for Catherine, which could be great. Cass Benny. Kat Benny. Another option is Kath — I knew a girl who went by Kath, and there aren’t any Kath Bennys that I can see. The nice thing about using a Katherine/Kate name is there are loads of patron saint options, like St. Catherine of Siena, St. Catherine Laboure, St. Katherine of Alexandria, St. Katharine Drexel, and even St. Kateri Tekakwitha. Here’s a fuller list.

(3) Dana
Okay, I know this is a D name, and I was totally on board with no D names because of Dale, but Dana was a name I saw when I was perusing the lists of popular names in 1984 and 1993 and I noticed it immediately because of the Irish singer Dana (nee Rosemary Scallon), who sang that beautiful song Totus Tuus for World Youth Day and I think is fairly well known in Catholic circles. She says her name like DAN-na (not DAY-na), and if Kathleen’s looking for a subtle nod to the faith, Dana could be perfect. So I had to at least mention it!

(4) Quinn
Quinn is another name I noticed in the SSA lists, which struck another note I’d thought of in regards to [Olivia] — I thought she seemed like a character who might be comfortable with an offbeat name, as I mentioned above in regards to Kath, Kat, and Cass, and the androgyny and less common idea of a surname as given name is the kind of offbeat idea that might be great. Ven. Edel Quinn is fairly popular among my readers, and I’ve known a couple little girls named in her honor with both Edel and Quinn.

(5) Casey
Speaking of surnamey names, Casey is another great one, for our new Bl. Solanus Casey. Another idea — though it moves away from Bl. Solanus Casey, so maybe loses its Solanus connection, but retains its Irish sound — is to have her go by the initials K.C. It could be fun to come up with what the initials stand for — it could even be something like Katherine Casey, thus getting in that Solanus connection.

(6) Bridget, Bridie/Bridey, Brede
Bridget’s Irish and saintly, but also used by those who don’t have a strong connection to the faith or to St. Bridget/Brigid, and makes a natural sister to Molly, I think. Bridget Jones comes to mind, but [Olivia] could go by the awesome nickname Bridie/Bridey. The former spelling I think is more common for this traditional nickname for Bridget, but the latter is the spelling used in Brideshead Revisited, which could be another very subtle nod to the faith, as BR is a great work of Catholic fiction. Along the same lines, I’m currently reading In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden, which is about a woman’s entrance into the fictional Benedictine (Benny!) convent, Brede Abbey, and I think anyone who’s familiar with the book would automatically think of it when hearing/seeing “Brede.” The fact that Molly’s and [Olivia]’s parents weren’t “religious” isn’t necessarily a problem — Bruce Willis and Demi Moore’s daughter Rumer is named after Rumer Godden, for example, so Molly’s and [Olivia]’s parents could have just been fans of the author in naming their daughter Brede. Regarding the B first name with a B last name, some people don’t care for alliteration, but I myself love it, and I find it to be particularly appealing and memorable for a fictional character. Also, Kathleen had said that something she doesn’t like about Olivia Benny is that it isn’t “funny” — an alliterative name might satisfy that. (I should also note that normally I’d stay away from a name ending in the “ee” sound if the last name ends in the “ee” sound, but since she already has Molly Benny, I figured that wasn’t an issue here.)

(7) Clare
Clare is a great name to consider because it’s St. Clare, yes, but also Co. Clare in Ireland, so again — a natural sister to Molly, in my opinion. Though perhaps Clare is a bit tame for [Olivia]?

(8) Lucy
Moving away a bit from the Irish influence, Molly also has a sweet feel to it that a name like Lucy fits in with well. Lucy is a saint’s name as well, of course. I could see [Olivia] preferring a nickname like “Luce” or maybe even better, the spelling Luz, which has a contrary feel (given that Luz is Spanish and [Olivia] isn’t Hispanic). Or Lux, which also means light and has that edgy “X.”

(9) Cara
Cara’s another name that I spent some time thinking might be perfect — it’s appropriate popularity-wise for the time she was born; it means “beloved” in Italian, so Cara Benny would be “beloved and blessed,” which is lovely; and there was this amazing comment left on my blog recently: “Kara isn’t a saint name, but “Cara” means “face” in Spanish. St Therese’s full title is “St Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face”, so a child named Cara/Kara could claim her as a patron. Cara also means “way” in Indonesian, which is especially pertinent if you’re a fan of Josemaría Escrivá.”

(10) Amanda, Amy
Both Amanda and Amy fit in with the kind of popularity Molly had in 1984 and 1993, and both mean “lovable” or “beloved” — like with Cara Benny “translating” to “beloved and blessed,” both Amanda and Amy could do so as well. I like the nickname Mandy … though is that too cutesy for [Olivia]? I could see “Ames” being a nickname for Amy that would suit [Olivia].

(11) Elizabeth
Another of my sisters is Elizabeth, so in real life it’s a good match for a sister of a Molly, but I also like Elizabeth for a character that’s trying to figure out who she is because it has SO MANY nicknames! Betsy, Libby, Liz/Lizzie, Libbett, Ellie, Beth, Lily, and a bunch of others. I especially like Libby, for its possible “liberty” and “liberal” nods, which seem consistent with [Olivia]’s personality, and Beth, for the alliteration. Beth Benny. Though maybe Beth is too vanilla? Both Libby and Beth seem like good matches for Molly’s sister.

(12) Bethany
Speaking of Beth, I know Kathleen said Olivia seemed too long, but I’m kind of digging Bethany! It had a peak of popularity around when Molly would have been born (no. 93) and was no. 115 when [Olivia] would have been born, so it fits popularity-wise and doesn’t need religious parents to make sense of it. That said, it was the home of Martha and Mary, which is kind of cool for Molly and [Olivia] being such different sisters. And Behind the Name describes it as “used primarily by Catholics in honour [sic] of Mary of Bethany” — how cool! Bethany Benny is awesome.

(13) Greer
I love the name Greer. It’s Scottish, which can fit with Molly, and it derives from Gregory, so there’s a great connection to a great patron saint, but only the most diehard name nerds (or readers of my blog!) will know that!

(14) Natalie
I love Natalie because it’s appropriate in terms of its popularity arc, and with a direct connection to the faith that is, at the same time, not so obvious to those not tuned into such things. The nickname Nat makes me think of a traveler/wanderer/free-spirited type, and also has that androgynous feel that I think might suit [Olivia].

(15) Hannah
My last idea is Hannah. It’s a form of Anne, so St. Anne (patroness of my blog!) can be patron, though I’m sure no one would make that connection; I considered Anna but Hannah seemed to suit [Olivia] better for some gut-level reason. At first I thought the similarity of Hannah Benny to Benihana was problematic, but then I thought maybe it could provide that “funny” element that you said was missing from Olivia Benny.

And those are all my ideas! Whew! I really tried to cover all the bases and give Kathleen lots of options. What do you all think? What name(s) would you suggest for a twenty-something “hippie, fallen-away Catholic” whose sister’s name is Molly?


My book, Catholic Baby Names for Girls and Boys: Over 250 Ways to Honor Our Lady (Marian Press, 2018), is available to order from ShopMercy.org and Amazon — perfect for the expectant parents, name enthusiasts, and lovers of Our Lady in your life!

Ireland part 4: Thaddeus

Part 1: Edel

Part 2: Radek

Part 3: Anne

A funny little thing I do when looking through books of Saints’ names or Catholic names is to see if there’s a listing for Thaddeus — it’s one of my benchmarks to see how extensive the book is. If Thaddeus isn’t included as its own entry, I don’t usually think the book has much new to offer, that’s how rare it is for me to find Thaddeus listed as its own entry in a Catholic name book. It’s always included in the entry for Jude, which I find so frustrating — that doesn’t help someone rifling through the T section for interesting T saint names, for example, nor does it let parents know that Thaddeus can be used on its own without Jude attached (some parents need that reassurance — or even to be shown that it’s an option at all!).

(I also consider Thaddeus to be a sort of compromise benchmark — my true ideal is a name book that also includes names like Kolbe, Becket, and Campion as their own entries, but I’ve never come across that — those names are always only mentioned in the entries for Maximilian, Thomas [sometimes], and Edmund).

Anyway, I’d learned about Bl. Thaddeus Moriarty several years ago — an Irish Dominican priest who was martyred for saying Mass during the time that priests were banned in Ireland (this says he was beatified in 1992, though the previous link from 2013 says they’re still praying for his beatification) — and I developed a devotion to him because of (1) his amazing courage and faith, (2) Irish, (3) Dominican, and (4) his name (I know, it’s always about names with me :p ). I also loved learning that he’s also known as Bl. Tadhg Moriarty — I discovered that Tadhg (pronounced like the first syllable of tiger) is used as the Irish version of both Thaddeus and Timothy. (It also has a history of being used as a derogatory term for Irish Catholics … which makes me love it even more. I know one Tadhg in real life, he’s my age and his mom is from Ireland.)

BUT this post isn’t about Bl. Thaddeus Moriarty! It’s actually about ANOTHER Bl. Thaddeus I learned about on my recent trip to Ireland for my sister’s wedding: Bl. Thaddeus (Tadhg) McCarthy! So fun to learn about yet another Irish Thaddeus, who is also known as Tadhg!

I first saw info about him at North Cathedral (Cathedral of St. Mary and St. Anne) — you guys, there’s a bone of his in there that’s HUGE — it must be a leg bone, it’s so long! And I only just this morning discovered that there are relics of his in St. Colman’s Cathedral, which is where my sister’s actual wedding was! His story is kind of crazy: he was named bishop twice (by the Pope) of two different places (Ross, and Cork & Cloyne), but couldn’t assume his post either time because of politics regarding the previous bishops (one of whom refused to step down, the other had been chosen by the people rather than the Pope). He was also excommunicated! It was later revoked and he was cleared of all charges. Poor guy! He is known as the White Martyr of Munster, which “commemorates the mental and physical anguish he suffered while trying to do the Church’s work.”

Check Instagram later today for the photos I took! I hope your July has started off well!


My book, Catholic Baby Names for Girls and Boys: Over 250 Ways to Honor Our Lady (Marian Press, 2018), is available to order from ShopMercy.org and Amazon — perfect for the expectant parents, name enthusiasts, and lovers of Our Lady in your life!