Baby name consultation: Adventurous German or Irish name needed

I had such fun working on a consultation for Laura and her husband’s second baby a few years ago — they ended up giving the baby the middle name Caoilfhinn, just to give you an idea of the kinds of names they like! I’m so excited that they asked me for ideas/thoughts/suggestions for baby no. 3 — a third girl! This little lady joins big sisters:

Clara Louise
Rosalie Caoilfhinn

Such lovely, feminine names!

Laura writes,

You did a consultation for our second, and now we’re facing a similar problem with our third: a long list of boys’ names, and a tiny list of girls’. If you could help us finalize a third option, we’d really appreciate it!

We love our heritage as German/Irish and love European names, but especially ones in that vein. A saint name is preferred, but not necessary for both first and middle. So far, we have liked the name Liesel the best.”

Liesel!! I love it!!

Now we’re having a hard time picking *the* middle name. There are several that we like, and we were trying to avoid anything that sounded ‘sing-song.’ (Áine/Anya came up in our last consultation and was beloved by many readers, but Liesel Áine sounds like lasagna! Haha.)

Here are some of the ones we have on our list:

Amabel (though the two names ending in -el might be a bit much), Paulina, Mariana, Josephine, Bronwyn, Joan, Hildi, Kateri

Bronwyn may be my favorite because its sounds are so different from Liesel. But I also like one or three-syllable middles as I think they help the entire name flow. (Hubby will NOT consider a four-name moniker.)

Another name we’ve considered (as a middle) is Eilidh (AY-lee). My grandmother was Eleanor, but Aaron really dislikes that name. He likes Eilidh, which I’ve heard is the Gaelic version, but it doesn’t sound right with Liesel. My husband also likes Maisie, particularly as a nn for a Marian name (though we’re not sure which). I think it’s perfectly darling.

To help you out (and hopefully not confuse you), boy names that we (BOTH — lol) like are: William, Wolf, Arthur, Thomas, Becket, Edmund/Éamon, Frederick/Freidrich (nn Fritz), Bernhard/Bernard, Roger, Felix, Rórdán.

I love Laura and her hubby’s taste in names! I think Liesel is a great sister name to Clara and Rosalie, which also checks off Laura’s boxes of German and saintly. Her comment about Liesel Áine sounding like “lasagna” made me laugh out loud! I think they’re right to avoid it! As for their other middle name ideas:

— I love Amabel, but I agree with Laura that it doesn’t have the best flow with Liesel

— Paulina, Mariana, Josephine, Bronwyn, Joan, Hildi, and Kateri are all great options! I agree that the juxtaposition of the German Liesel and the Welsh Bronwyn is interesting and unexpected, I like it! But I think I agree with Laura that one- and three-syllable middles have the best flow with Liesel

— I too love Eilidh! But I agree that Liesel Eilidh isn’t ideal. I wonder if Laura and her hubs might consider the fuller Eilionoir? Liesel Eilionoir has the rhythm they like and is so similar to the sound of Laura’s grandmother’s name (though I think it’s Scottish instead of Irish) (although, I’m just seeing that Nameberry lists Eilidh as Scottish as well, so maybe Scottish is ok?). Or what about a Nora name? I like both Liesel Nora(h) and Liesel Noreen, even though Nora and Noreen are both two syllables

As for Maisie — I love it too!! SUCH a sweet name!! I love the idea of using it as a nickname for a Mary name. Mariazell is a name in my book that I love, that could definitely take Maisie as a nickname. Marie-Azelie, or any M- name with Zelie as a middle, could work to get to the nickname Maisie as well. And actually … Liesel has that same Z sound … so Mary Liesel, Marie-Liesel, Maura Liesel, Moira Liesel, etc. could lead to Maisie as a nickname as well. Or M + any name with a Z-ish sound!

One of the names that showed up a couple of times in my research for this family as being similar to their style — specifically similar to Arthur, Edmund, and Bernard — is Marian/Marion. I like Marian as a sister to Clara and Rosalie too! Or as a middle? Liesel Marian?

Another idea for Maisie is a Margaret name — Maisie is a diminutive of Mairead, which is the Irish Margaret, so Margaret, Marguerite, and Margot could all work as full names that use Maisie as a nickname. Or Mairead! I actually know a couple little Maireads, including the daughter of one of my best friends. She always says, “Rhymes with parade!” which makes it really easy to help others know how to say it. Margaret/Mairead isn’t Marian, but they could easily remedy that with a Marian middle.

Another name I adore, which is also an entry in my book, is Maylis (also spelled Maëlys) — it can be said may-LEES, may-LIS, or MAY-lis, and is generally considered to mean “Mary of the lily” in French. I could see Maisie working for it as a nickname! Though I admit Maylis is so short that maybe a nickname is silly.

I’m sure none of you are surprised that the “minute” I meant to spend on Maisie turned into quite a few minutes! Haha!

Back to the task at hand! You all know that I usually start consultation by looking up the names the parents like and have used in the Baby Name Wizard book, as it lists, for each entry, boy and girl names that are similar in terms of style/feel/popularity — I did so here, and I also looked through my Marian names book and my own mental files for ideas for Liesel’s middle name, which yielded some good ideas, I think!

(1) Alannah
I love that behindthename says Alannah as a given name “has been influenced by the affectionate Anglo-Irish word alannah, from the Irish Gaelic phrase a leanbh meaning ‘O child’ …” Isn’t that sweet? I love Liesel Alannah!

(2) Annika
Laura mentioned Anya/Áine, and when I saw Anna show up as a style match for a bunch of the names on her list, I thought maybe a different Anna variant would do. I love Annika for its German feel — I know Laura likes mixing ethnicities, but Liesel Annika was too gorgeous to not suggest! That said, if they were open to changing the first name, Annika Eilidh was striking me as a stunning option as well.

(3) Maeve
Maeve is Irish, one syllable, and Marian per my book! Baby Names of Ireland gives one of its meanings as “cause of great joy,” which is so similar to Our Lady’s title Causae Nostrae Laetitiae (Cause of Our Joy). Liesel Maeve has that two-syllable + one-syllable rhythm that Laura favors.

(4) Riona, Rionach
Amazingly, this actually showed up in the Baby Name Wizard — it tends to not be the greatest source for unusual or ethnic names, but Riona was listed as a match for Eamon! It, or the name it derives from, Rionach, means “queen” — I included Riona in my Marian names book as a variant of Regina! The even more Irish Rionach might appeal to Laura and her hubs even more. Liesel Riona(ch) is pretty cool! (Though Baby Names of Ireland doesn’t include the fadas, Behind the Name lists them as Ríona and Ríonach, so that could be fun for someone like Laura.)

(5) Loretta
My last idea is Loretta, which is a style match for Bernard and was my own grandmother’s name — she was super Irish, and her given name was Mary Loretta, though she went by Loretta (or Rett). It’s a Marian name, after Our Lady of Loreto, or the Marian Litany of Loreto, and I looove how Liesel Loretta sounds. I love alliteration like that! (But I totally understand if Laura and her husband don’t!)

And those are my ideas! What do you all think? What name(s) would you suggest for Liesel’s middle name?


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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Fun Friday Question: What name “rules” have you heard?

ETA: I forgot to start out by wishing you all a happy feast of St. Anne and St. Joachim!! I just finished a novena to our wonderful patroness St. Anne, which I offered for all of you and your intentions. ❤ ❤ ❤

I regularly hear from parents that they can’t use this name or that name because of some name “rule” they’ve heard or created in their own minds. I don’t mind rules at all, if that’s what you’re into! Name rules can help narrow down a long list of possibilities, and help clarify for parents what characteristics are important for them in the names they end up choosing for their children. Sometimes rules are even best served by being broken — for a parent to break his or her own rule in choosing a name for their child shows some real love for the chosen name — how wonderful! For my husband and I, our rules include (1) strong, saintly name, (2) gender specific, (3) traditional spelling and pronunciation, (4) sounds nice with last name, (5) honors family, (6) hasn’t been used by our siblings for their children (though this is more because we don’t want to offend others and less because we don’t want first cousins to share names), (7) fits with our older boys’ names in terms of style and feel, and (8) has a good nickname.

But these are all very subjective. In fact, I’m not sure “rules” is the right term — “preferences,” even “strong preferences,” even “non-negotiable preferences,” might be better.

Then there are the Objective Rules, of which there are … none. I’m not talking about requirements of the faith, like how for Catholics there’s the rule against bestowing names that are “foreign to Christian sensibility,” or how most Ashkenazic Jews won’t name babies for living relatives (though I’m very interested in hearing about “rules” in other faiths and cultures!), I’m talking about objective American naming rules. There are recommendations, sure. Bits of wisdom, yes. Cautions and advice, plenty. But rules? I’m not talking about “computers won’t allow for accents on official documents,” I’m talking about rules like:

–> The first and last name can’t start with the same letter (alliteration).

–> The first name and last name can’t have the same number of syllables (especially when it comes to one syllable).

–> A daughter shouldn’t have the same name as her mother.

–> You can’t give your child the same name as your niece/nephew/cousin/cousin’s child/friend/neighbor/acquaintance’s pet.

Those are some that I’ve heard explicitly from parents, or sometimes they’re only alluded to when parents are explaining their name dilemmas, and it makes me feel badly because sometimes parents get themselves all tied up in knots over things that they really don’t need to worry too much about. Swistle deals with this regularly in the letters parents write to her, and Abby from Appellation Mountain has tackled this as well (I love this):

I stumble across rules for naming children all the time. Sing along with me: no invented names, spell things correctly, use names for the appropriate gender … and on and on and on.

But language is slippery, and rarely obeys our efforts to put it into a neat little box. The same person who insists that names must have roots and be spelled properly will love Ryan (a name new to the US Top 1000 in the 1940s) and Connor (a 1980s debut … and didn’t the single ‘n’ spelling come first?)

Just recently a worried mother asked me if it’s true that first names and last names can’t have the same number of syllables, which actually inspired this post, so I compiled a list of famous people (real and fictional) with such names, which I think is a good demonstration of how little such a thing matters.

I’d love to hear from all of you: What “rules” have you heard? Did they affect your naming process and decisions? What preferences do you have that are non-negotiable? Have you ever broken one of your own rules? Happy Friday!


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!

Birth announcement: Hildegard Edna Marie!

I had the great pleasure and privilege of doing a consultation for Monica and her husband for their fourth baby three years ago, then posting a birth announcement for that baby, and then one for their next baby, and now I’m delighted to post a birth announcement for their sixth baby! I’d actually done a consultation for them for this baby, but only for boy names, and then they ended up having a girl — the extraordinarily named … Hildegard “Hildie” Edna Marie!

Monica wrote in the email for her consultation,

“… my husband’s dear/saintly Granny was named Hilda. He mentioned since then that he thinks her full name was Hildegard (he has now confirmed with his mom). We would have named the boys Hilda had either been a girl and with the intention of using the NN Hildie (even though hubby is typically anti nick names). With this new knowledge we are leaning strongly toward the name Hildegard Marie Edna. Edna was my grandmother’s name. We both had the unique experience of having our saintly grandmas live with our families growing up.”

And then I received this!

I wanted to let you know our baby arrived on 7/7 and it’s a girl! I’m thankful we did the consult even though you were only providing boy name suggestions as I surely would have been having anxiety over a potential boy name the whole time I was in labor if we hadn’t! Her siblings could not be more delighted about their new sister! Hildegard “Hildie” Edna Marie.”

Hildegard Edna Marie!! Hildie!! I loooove it!!

Congratulations to Monica and her husband and big sibs:

Cora Marie
Levi Alphonsus (with Jesus)
Regina Marie
Fulton Michael
Edmund Alphonsus

And happy birthday Baby Hildie!!

Hildegard “Hildie” Edna Marie with her brothers and sisters ❤


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!

Baby name consultation: Welsh-ish, old, and/or Epiphany name needed for little green bean!

Emily and her husband are expecting their third baby! This little green bean joins older brothers:

Llewyn Peter
Linus Casimir

How cool are those names?! I love them both!

Emily writes,

I am currently expecting (team green!) and due in January. I realized recently that it’s very likely I will be scheduled for my repeat C-section on or around the feast of the Epiphany, and I thought, hmmm, epiphany-inspired names perhaps? This sounds like a job for Sancta Nomina!

This next kid may make or break our L streak, haha. I’m not sure I want to get stuck with L names but if we find a really good one, I’m not opposed either.

Boy names I like and/or considered in the past:
Cyprian
Theodore
Lawrence
Colm

Girl names I like and/or considered in the past:
Leonie
Magdalena
Sophia
Anastasia …
very flowery and princessy, haha

My husband doesn’t tend to feel strongly about names — or so he says — until we try to decide, haha. He also really likes Maude for a girl, which… I do not… however, I’m willing to compromise and accept it as a middle name. 🙂

I would love to hear your thoughts!

This was so fun to work on! Llewyn, Linus, and Casimir are such fun, unexpected names! Usually when I’m coming up with name ideas for parents, I first try to figure out what the names they’ve already chosen for their older kids have in common: are they all of a certain ethnicity? Are they fancy or simple? Long or short? Unusual or familiar? Llewyn and Linus have very different feels to me on their own — Llewyn screams “Welsh!” with that double L, and has a little bit of a fantasy feel to me, in the style of Narnia or Lord of the Rings, probably because of the Welsh feel and its similarity in sound and appearance to Lewis (C.S. Lewis). I think it can also have an “old” feel — I think Welsh names were very popular earlier in the twentieth century, and still have that “grandparent” feel, like Gladys, Glynis, and Lloyd — this fits well with some of the names on Emily’s list, like Lawrence and Leonie, and her hubby’s Maude. Linus on the other hand comes across as very Catholicky Catholic to me — some families I know that have a Linus have other children with names like Ambrose, Blaise, and Simon. But, different as they are, I think Llewyn and Linus are excellent brother names! The shared L is part of it, as is the fact that they’re both unusual. I think Linus has that “grandparent” feel too.

Emily said they aren’t wedded to the L theme, so when I was looking for boy names that I thought would fit their taste, I leaned heavily on “unusual” and “Welsh” (or Celtic, more broadly, as with Colm), and less heavily but kept in mind the “grandparent” feel as well. I did similarly for girl names, but added in a frilly element. I was actually pretty surprised by Emily’s girl list — they’re gorgeous names, all of them! But much less unusual than Llewyn and Linus. And of course, I did some research for Epiphany names!

Before getting into my ideas, I thought I’d touch briefly on some of the things/names Emily mentioned in her email:

I do think she and her hubby are wise to consider their feelings on another L name. Generally, they’re thinking the way I would advise: there’s no need to continue the L theme, but if they find an L name they like, that’s great too. I will just say, though, that while two children with the same first letter aren’t yet an established theme, three children with the same first letter would make it hard to move away from L for a fourth baby, if they were to have one. In my mind, this is more an issue of fairness than anything — would Llewyn, Linus, and Leonie’s little sister Sophia feel left out? Would Llewyn, Linus, and Leonie think Sophia lucked out? But then again, the more children a couple has, the less of a problem it would be. If Emily and her hubby end up having eight children, for example, they can easily add in more L names without issue: a sib set of Llewyn, Linus, Cyprian, Anastasia, Leonie, Theodore, Lawrence, and Magdalena isn’t that big a deal L-wise at all. Just something to keep in mind!

All that said, they have some great L names on their list! Leonie and Lawrence are both amazing with Llewyn and Linus!

Regarding the names they like/have considered in the past, Cyprian and Colm were more the kind I expected to see, while Theodore and Lawrence were more familiar than I would have thought they would like. But then again, Theodore and Lawrence have a gentlemanly feel that I think both Llewyn and Linus have. So I like their boy list!

I love their girl list too! The only one I might suggest staying away from is Sophia, only because it’s SO popular and Llewyn and Linus are not at all popular. However, writer/speaker/blogger Simcha Fisher has ten children, some of whom have names like Irene, Benedicta, and Cornelia, and some of whom have names like Sophia, Clara, and Lucy. So currently popular names can certainly coexist happily with currently rare names.

I was so surprised by Maude! Especially from a man who doesn’t otherwise feel strongly about names! However, it fits in very well with their boys from a “grandparent” perspective, as well as with Theodore, Lawrence, and Leonie. Funny how that happens! An interesting thing about Maude is that it’s described by behindthename.com as the usual medieval form of Matilda. I love discovering things like that! (Maybe Matilda with the nickname Maude would be something they’d like to consider?)

As you all know, I always start a consultation by looking up the names the parents have used and like/are considering in the Baby Name Wizard book as it lists, for each entry, boy and girl names that are similar in terms of style/feel/popularity. It’s not usually very helpful for parents with unusual taste, however, which is often when I go to the Baby Name Wizard web site, as its Name Matchmaker tool has a much larger database of names. I did so here, and also looked through my book of Marian names for ideas. The ideas I’m offering here are all those that I consider good matches for Emily and her hubby’s style; I’ll discuss Epiphany names afterward:

Girl
(1) Gwenfair, Mairwen
My first suggestion is from my book of Marian names! These two names were some of my favorite finds when I was researching and writing my book — they’re Welsh, and they’re basically the same name, just with the elements reversed! The Mair part (becomes “fair” in Gwenfair) is Mary, and the Gwen/wen part means “white, fair, blessed.” I love how feminine, unusual, and Marian they are! The Mair/fair parts rhyme with “fire” in Welsh, which makes them a little hard to say in English, but I think one can choose to use the pronunciations that rhyme with “care.”

(2) Carys, Charis
Carys is one of my favorite Welsh names. I love the sound, the spelling, and the meaning of “love.” I also love the name Charis, which is said the same as Carys, and is Greek for “favor, grace, gratitude” and is contained within the word Eucharist (I know of a family who named their daughter Charis because of the Eucharist connection!). It’s funny that Carys is similar in style to Llewyn and Charis is more like Linus! I like either one for this family.

(3) Genevieve
Genevieve is heavily influenced by Magdalena and Anastasia on Emily’s list — those long, flowy, gorgeous names. I think Genevieve fits in really well with that feeling, and I love that it’s French like Leonie on her list.

(4) Rosalie
Rosalie is a style match for Lawrence, and I immediately loved it for this family! It’s feminine and flowery with a vintage feel, and it can be considered a Marian name as well, via “rose.”

(5) Flora
Finally, I was thrilled to see that Flora is a style match for both Linus and Maude!! It’s feminine and flowery, literally!, and I really like it with Llewyn and Linus. Flora Maude? That is really striking me as just an amazingly vintage-chic-turned-cutting-edge name.

Boy
(1) Casper, Caspian
My number one suggestion for another boy is Casper! Though I’ll discuss Epiphany names after these official suggestions, Casper is an Epiphany name that makes my list of official suggestions because it’s a style match for Linus! As a matter of fact, when I was reading Emily’s email before I ever did any research for her, I’d scribbled Casper down because it just seemed like it would fit their style. I was so excited to see it explicitly listed with Linus in the BNW! Casper is one of the names traditionally given to one of the Three Wise Men, and is also sometimes seen as Caspar, Gaspar, and Jasper — they’re all variants of the same name.

I couldn’t not suggest Caspian, and since it’s similar to Casper, I thought I’d group them together. Caspian was inspired by Cyprian, with its similar appearance, and by Llewyn, with its reminiscence of Narnia (at least to me!). Such a fun name!

(2) Tristan
Tristan is an Old French name with ties to the Celtic world through literature, and it’s also an entry in my Marian name book in honor of Our Lady of Sorrows. I would love it as a brother to Llewyn and Linus!

(3) Gareth, Garrett
Gareth is, like Tristan, another Arthurian name that was listed as a style match for Llewyn. As far as I know it’s not a saint’s name BUT it made me think of the similar Garrett (which does have saintly connections, as it’s derived from either Gerard or Gerald), and I know of a family who named a son Garrett because of their devotion to St. Margaret (the “garet” at the end of Margaret was used to inspire Garrett as a first name) — Margarethe is the Danish and German form of Margaret, so I could see Gareth being used in the same way. I like them both!

(4) Hugo, Hugh
Hugo is a style match for Linus and Hugh is a match for Maude so I figured we were swirling in the right area! Hugh also has that Celtic feel, which fits in well with Llewyn. Hugo nicknamed Hugh, maybe?

(5) Gregor
Gregor is actually the Scottish form of Gregory, which gives it a nice Celtic feel like Llewyn, while having St. Gregory the Great (or any of the Sts. Gregory) as patron, which fits right in line with Linus. I love that!

(6) Bram
I had one extra boy name that I just couldn’t not mention! Bram is a style match for Colm, and is one of my favorite names — it’s been on my own list forever! It’s a short form of Abraham, which gives it a faith connection, and Irish author Bram Stoker (Dracula) gives it a Celtic feel. It can be said to rhyme with “ram,” which I think emphasizes its connection to Abraham, or it can be said to rhyme with “bomb,” which I believe is how Bram Stoker said it, and has more of a Dracula feel with that pronunciation I think.

Now for my Epiphany ideas!

Girl
(1) Theophania, Tiffany, Tiphanie, Tiphaine
I remember feeling so excited when I found out that Tiffany is the medieval form of Theophania (Theophany is another name for the Epiphany) and according to behindthename.com it “was traditionally given to girls born on the Epiphany (January 6)” — how cool is that?! I know Tiffany isn’t compatible with most current parents’ name taste, but I think Theophania might be perfect for this family — it’s like Theodore on their boy list, and is long and frilly like Magdalena and Anastasia! Tiphanie is a cool spelling if they like the sound of Tiffany but want to distance themselves a little, and the French Tiphaine, said like “TEE-FEN,” is sort of gorgeous. Even if they don’t like these as first names, maybe they’d do as a middle?

(2) Epiphany, Epifania
Epiphany is also used as a given name, if they wanted to be more explicit. Epifania is the Spanish and Italian variant, which is really pretty.

(3) Stella, Estelle
Stella means “star,” and could refer to the star that the three kings followed. I feel like it could fit in well on Emily’s girl list! Estelle is the French variant, which has a nice rhythm as well.

(4) Reyes, Regina, Reina, Reine
Reyes is a Spanish name used for both boys and girls, and is actually in my Marian names book because it’s usually used (as I understand it) in honor of Our Lady of the Kings (Nuestra Señora de los Reyes). But Reyes literally means “kings,” so it’s perfect for an Epiphany baby as well! If they wanted to use a strictly feminine variant, the Latin Regina, the Spanish Reina (RAY-na), and the French Reine (REN) are the feminine variants of Rex (king) — but of course they mean “queen,” which might feel too far from the point of an Epiphany name.

(5) Sophia, Wisdom, Sage, Reina
Names meaning “wise” or “wisdom” can suit too, for the Three Wise Men. They already have Sophia on their list! Wisdom itself is also used as a given name. Sage means “wise person,” and in a very cool coincidence, Reina — Spanish for “queen,” as noted above — has separate usage as a Japanese name meaning “wise”! That’s amazing!

Boy
(1) Casper, Balthazar, Melchior (Melker, Melchor)
I mentioned Casper above as one of the names traditionally associated with one of the Three Kings; Balthazar and Melchior are the other two. I was also intrigued by the Swedish form of Melchior: Melker, and the Spanish form: Melchor — I thought they both might be easier to live with?

(2) Rex, Reyes
Rex is Latin for “king,” and Reyes — as noted above — is a Spanish name used for both boys and girls, and it means “kings.”

(3) Frodo, Wisdom, Sage
Frodo is actually derived from the Germanic element for “wise” (frod)! Maybe that’s taking the fantasy thing too far? Or maybe it’s perfect! If they like it but aren’t sure, maybe they’d feel more comfortable with it as a middle name? Wisdom and Sage, both of which I mentioned for girls, are also used for boys.

(4) Theophanes, Theofanis, Feofan
These are the masculine variants of Theophania, which I discussed above (the first is Ancient Greek, the second is modern Greek, the third is Russian) — since they’re so close to Theodore on Emily’s list, they might be perfect! The first two can take Theo as a nickname as well, or Ted(dy) if they prefer. Or something like Finn can work as a nickname for all of them!

And those are all my ideas/thoughts/suggestions for Emily and her husband! What name(s) would you suggest for the little brother or sister of Llewyn and Linus?


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!

New article on pilgrimages at CatholicMom

You all know I’ve gone on a pilgrimage to a St. Anne shrine every year for the past five years, as a way of saying thank you to St. Anne for her intercession. When my family and I first started doing so, we were still in the time of our parenthood where going on trips was one of the worst things I could think of doing! Remembering those first couple trips, and seeing how much better it’s gotten, inspired my July article for CatholicMom.com: Pilgrimages for Parents of Young Children. I’d love to hear what other tips you would add!

Screenshot_20190719_094222



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!

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!

[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!