Happy Veterans’ Day! Thank you to all those who have served our country, including both my grandfathers, several uncles, a cousin, and friends! ❤️🗽🇺🇸
We’ve talked a lot on here about different ways of honoring people (Jesus and Mary, the saints, and family/other loved ones) and the faith in general (through nods to prayers, words, and objects) in our babies’ names, and there have been some pretty out-there ideas (which you know I love!). I really love what I think of as “possibility thinking” — there are certainly rules that need to be followed, but there are a whole lot of rules that people *think* need to be followed, that don’t, and as a result they box themselves into these really limiting mindsets, and one of my favorite things is helping parents to see that there’s so much more freedom than they realize!
Anyway, I’m totally taken with this article that one of you readers sent me today: ‘I was named after a World War One battle.’ It’s a fascinating article!! I know we have a lot of history buffs here, so maybe some of you already knew about the practice of honoring relatives who fought in various battles by giving babies the names (or variations of the names) of those battles, but this was all new to me.
“Jessamy Carlson, a historian and archivist at the National Archives, says the naming of children after battles was a way of honouring the dead and for families to keep a “personal, tangible connection” with a lost husband, father or relative.
She says it also shows the “extent to which war became part of everyday life”.
“You have an experience that is all pervasive. You have women whose husbands are away, dying far from home – and naming their children in this commemorative way is a way of holding them close,” says Ms Carlson.”
It’s such a great (albeit sobering) example of possibility thinking! Real-life examples offered in the article included:
Passchendaele (which was mentioned the most in the article — I had to look it up because I had no idea how to pronounce it! It’s like POSS-en-doll-la)
Verdun (“… after the battle in France. Verdun became the single-most used battle names” and was the name of actor Richard Burton’s brother)
Frances (after France)
Interestingly, the “names tended to be given to girls rather than boys and the battle names were feminised, such as Sommeria, Arrasina, Verdunia, Monsalene and Dardanella.” And I love that as “the war ended, there was another flurry of names such as Peace, Poppy, Armistice and Victory.”
With these names given in honor of relatives who fought and died in these battles, it occurs to me that it wasn’t merely an interesting/unusual/offbeat way of naming a baby after someone, but it was a way of honoring this *particular part* of the person — his courage and ultimate sacrifice. It wasn’t just naming a baby after Grandpa Joe, but naming a baby after the courage and selflessness Grandpa Joe demonstrated in this specific instance. A Catholic example of this way of thinking is how many of us have devotions to specific titles of Mary, and name our babies in honor of those titles, even though they all refer to the same person. Or even how we’re drawn to particular saints, and want to name our babies after them.
I’d love to hear any insights or reactions you have to this article, as well as any other parallels you can draw between battle naming and Catholic naming! Also, do you know anyone who has any of these battle names? I’d love to hear their stories!
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 expectant parents, name enthusiasts, and lovers of Our Lady!