[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!


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)

– 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!


26 thoughts on “[Baby] name consultation: A TV character needs a name!

  1. (I posted a comment which might have gotten lost — apologies if it appears twice!) This is SO MUCH FUN. I love the name Tess for all the reasons you listed. And I’m obviously a big fan of the name Kate, too!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Not that it would have to be a deal breaker, but…I must note that Tess Benny is immediately reminiscent (to me) of 27 Dresses where the sister is named Tess and there is a strong association with the song Benny and the Jets. Tessa would circumvent that association better, of those two.

    I hope the show makes it to a streaming service I use! Cool idea (:

    Liked by 1 person

  3. 1993ish and a few years earlier: yes to Beth and Cara/Kara and KATIE! So many Katys/Katies/Kadys. Also Megan (so many Catholic girls got this name after Margarets before them), Kristen/Kris/Chris, Joanie, Sam (Samantha), Amanda, Lauren, Erica, Amy, Sarah/Sara, Casey (Irishy), Carrie, Rebekah (Beck?, Becca?)…

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Well I am an Amy (one of the suggestions) with daughters Molly and Kristy, so I obviously want to favor those 😉 Kristy seems like a name from previous generations now that seems to fit in the era she would have been born, or the tail end of it. For me, it makes the “hippie” feel of her personality easy to connect to. Maybe I just think of my own Kristy, who is a pretty independent spirit herself. We named our daughter after the 2 greatest people we could think of: Christ and Mary (Kristy Marie). But it’s not super Catholic, I could see her parents going with it. Easy to say, with a new letter – lots of spelling choices, not rhyming but with a similar y ending makes for a siblings set feel. But is that y ending a bit too much with the y ending in Benny?? Molly has it, but if married is a different last name now. Maybe it would help make it uncommon enough to not be a real person? P.S. We have a dog named Lucy (another one of the suggestions, haha).

    Liked by 1 person

  5. What about Sydney / Syd for short?

    Elizabeth Benny sounds too much like Elizabeth Bennett from Pride & Prejudice. Unless it could become a plot point.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Tessa was the main character in the show “Suburbia” if anyone remembers that. It’s how I learned of the (nick)name, actually.

    My suggestions: Erin, Chelsea, Megan, Christie, Michelle, Jenna, Courtney, Shelby, Shannon
    I’m sure some of these have been used as strong female leads, but nothing is jumping out at me right away. I really like Christie for this.

    My fave from the original list is probably Hannah. I think Kara would be better than Cara (and I’m pronouncing those differently in my head). I’m a Catherine who goes by Cat, but I also know two gals Kappy/Cappy. I don’t know anyone around my age (1984) who goes by Kath, and I hated it when my mom called me that!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I would say if you’re looking at a character born in the ‘80’s or 90’s, Cass or Tess would be great choices. Cass besides being Catherine could also be Cassidy of whom I’ve met plenty born in the late 80’s. I’ve also known a couple Tess’s whose full name was actually Jessica rather than Teresa. However, in going with Tess for Teresa, that is also a very Irish methodamd I’ve known a couple Irish American families with Teresa and Molly.

    On another note, if you’re going for Irish, you could go with Cait from Caitriona or Catherine. Definitely fits in with unique spellings from the era, the Irish, the Saint, and goes well…”Cait Benny”. It can also go just as well for a woman as for a girl whereas I sometimes find it hard to imagine a Tess older than 15.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I love this all idea! I hope to get to watch this show soon!

    So, I love Beth for a not-so-obvious Catholic name, but Beth Benny sounds too rime-y, I think?

    A few ideas:
    Veronica (Vera?)
    Victoria (Tori?)
    Lena (as a reference to St. Magdalene or St. Helena)

    Liked by 1 person

  9. For a girl in the early 80’s , Kate would be great. That was when Kaitlyn and all its variations started getting popular. Also Megan, Brittany, Melissa , Jennifer.
    For the early 90’s, Kate also works (my first daughters were born in that era) My daughter from named a variant of Katherine always had a few other Katherine/Katies/Kates in her classes. Sarah was wildly popular (in fact, Sarah Elizabeth was the name of at least 3 girls in one of my daughter’s grade). Sophia was getting popular then as well. Madison popped up then too.

    I love Tess though – great suggestion!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I like Cecilia. Or Constance. She could be flighty (i.e., Connie) or very unmusical as part of the joke.

    I think another “joke” would be to make her computer login ID a religious word by taking letters or initials from her name. Like Wil.E.Coyote or Benney.Diction@… or initials that spell something (you know, the things we usually avoid when naming others). Of course, Diction is a terrible first name. The name joke could also be on her nameplate on her desk. That would make me laugh if it was subtle and insider joke-ish, or super silly and obvious.

    But I don’t watch TV and so I’m not sure what audiences enjoy these days!! I expect the things I think are funny would just fall flat in a script! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Kit as a nn for Kitty would fit with the Irish Catholic nickname name of a sister to Molly. Although Kitty/Kit Benny isnt as pleasing.
    Also thought Frankie could work.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. My first thought for a sister to Molly was Bridget. I strongly dislike alliterative names for babies because I think it is too comic booky, but I think it would work perfectly for a character.

    Other ideas are Trinity which has an Irish feel so would be a complement to sister Molly, but might be too overt. (And isn’t there a hymn with the lyric ‘blessed trinity’? That might be an a-ha moment for the character is Benny =blessed is expanded upon.)

    Christina with the NN Tina. Maybe she starts out exclusively as Tina, but eventually begins to transition to Christina; she puts ‘Christ’ back in her life?

    And finally Elizabeth/Beth. I know a Meghan with sisters who go by Beth and Molly (and brothers Michael, Brian, and Tim.) So it fits and would be period appropriate, plus you have the comic alliterative Beth Benny. Which sound a little like Bethany. Maybe she feels like the Martha of the two sisters, the one who does all the work behind the scenes?

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I like Bridget, Cara and Bethany the best. My other idea is Hope Benny – but that may be too in your face obvious about the characters arc. But then again, that’s not always a bad thing. Maybe that can be a middle name? Bridget Hope Benny.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I immediately thought of Claire/Clare as well, partly because it’s my name (born in 84 myself) and partly because it sounds good with the last name Benny.

    Bonus! St. Clare is the patron saint of television.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Fun!! I think you want a sweet spot name – something familiar but not too familiar. Monica and Leslie fit it perfectly.

    I addition to Cara and Tess which I think work well, how about Eve? It might fit the theme too.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Of your list, I really really really like Tessa, Quinn, and Kara for all the reasons you mentioned for each. Additionally, Quinn was the name of the sister to Daria on the early-90s MTV show Daria which gives it some more time period cred (loosely Catholic young parents probs would’ve been watching at least a little MTV!).

    I also like Tessa better than Tess bc Tessa and Molly both have two syllables, as does their surname. For something slightly more offbeat but in the same vein, Tressa. Fun fact: my Polish grandmother wanted my mom to nickname me Tess(a) and my parents would not go for it! But I ended up going by Tess for one season of summer soccer when I was about 10 anyway 😉

    Liked by 1 person

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