Marian name spotlighted over at Appellation Mountain

Abby at Appellation Mountain is discussing Aranza today, one of the fastest-rising girl’s names of 2014 according to the SSA stats and a diminutive of the Marian name Arantzazu. It’s a pretty great write-up, be sure to check it out!

What do you think of Aranza? Do you know anyone in real life with this name?


Most popular names (et al.) of 2014 announced today

So the name world has been holding its breath in gleeful, frantic anticipation of the release by the Social Security Administration of 2014’s most popular names — and this morning it happened! (Which you probably all know already anyway, because the first to know and share I am not and likely never will be.)

Of note:

  • Emma and Noah are the #1’s
  • Charlotte entered the top ten — in the year before the princess was born. It’s been hot hot hot for a while
  • The three fastest rising girl names are Aranza, Montserrat, and Monserrat (from telenovelas)
  • The fastest rising boy name is Bode (like Olympian Bode Miller)
  • The fastest falling names included Miley, Britney, and Rihanna; Carmelo and Channing

I’m not a number cruncher or a trend spotter (like Abby: here and here), so I have no further analysis than my bullets above (which were spelled out in the article), but I will say: Mother Mary did pretty darn well for herself.

Consider that Mia and Ava are both in the top ten — neither necessarily Marian, but they could be, with Mia having traditional use as a nickname for Maria (see Mia Farrow, born the gorgeously reverent Maria de Lourdes) and Ava being a variant of Eve (like how Mary’s the New Eve). I’ve also seen Ava paired with Maria in Catholic families because of Ava Maria’s similarity to Ave Maria (Hail Mary in Latin).

And those fastest rising girls’ names are not actually “rooted in Latin soap operas” as was asserted in the article — certainly I get that their use in the telenovelas is what made them spike in popularity here, but their roots are Marian — Aranza is a diminutive of Aran(t)zazu, from a Basque word meaning “thornbush,” stemming from an apparition of Our Lady on a thornbush in Spain; Montserrat and its alternate spelling Monserrat are also used to honor Our Lady, as there’s a Marian shrine in Montserrat and the associated title Our Lady of Montserrat. (Weirdly enough, I did a consultation recently for a mama who asked for unusual Catholic names, and Arantxa was one I gave her, which is also a diminutive of Arantzazu. Never in a trillion years did I think Arantxa’s sister Aranza would be in the list of top 1000 girls’ names in the U.S.!)

So that’s what this Catholic baby name lover gets out of the new SSA stats! My final word: Mother Mary for the win! 😉 ❤

Pearl is Marian!

Remember when I posted about whether or not the name Pearl is Marian? I said, “I couldn’t find any title/appellation referring to Our Lady that included “pearl” anywhere (if any of you can prove me wrong, I’d be beyond delighted!).”

I’ve been proven wrong! And I’m as beyond delighted as I could possibly be! A reader noted in a recent email to me, “I think pearls have been associated with the Virgin Mary — they’re used in art work of the Madonna to symbolize her purity” (thanks Laura!), so I looked it up and lo — she’s right!

Pearls, Unicorns, and Lilies: Symbols of Feminine Purity in the Renaissance” discussed this explicitly, with lots of good sources:

The pearl was imbued with many of its implications in the context of paintings of the Madonna. Through representations of the Virgin Mary pearls came to be associated with faith and chastity. The pearls used to adorn the Virgin were not necessarily the pearls one would see in everyday life. These were larger, perfectly round, and flawlessly white with a beautiful luster, while normal pearls may have irregular shapes and lack the Virgin pearls’ snow-white sheen. The perfection of the pearls served to mirror the Christian perfection of the Virgin Mary.[4]

“Mary’s virginity is one of her most frequently discussed attributes. Her purity was highly contested, and supposedly confirmed by Pope Pius IX in a declaration of the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception in 1854. Even Mary’s own conception was highly debated, in regards to whether she was immaculately conceived by Saint Anne and Saint Joachim.[5] In short, Mary’s virginity and purity are her main attributes, and the items used to adorn her serve to further this message.”

Do you know what this means? If Pearl can be considered a Marian name, then Margaret can as well, since Margaret comes from margarita, the Latin word for pearl! That same post quoted above connects Mary and Margaret as well:

In addition to the Virgin Mary, one saint in particular became associated with pearls. Saint Margaret—whose name is markedly similar to the Latin word for pearl,margarita—was known for her purity and chastity, as well as for being the saint invoked most frequently during childbirth … It is not a coincidence that the chaste saint is named for a pearl … Jacobus de Voragine described Saint Margaret as being “named after a highly refined white stone known as margarita, small and filled with virtues. Thus the blessed Margaret was white due to virginity”.[9]

I mean, I suppose it seems somewhat of a stretch to suggest Pearl and Margaret could be considered Marian names, but I don’t know … if the intention is there — the intention to name a little girl after Mary and focusing on her purity as represented by pearls, which is also translated as Margaret — it doesn’t really seem that much different from naming a little girl after Mary and focusing on her purity as represented by the name Virginia, or Lily, or Rose.

What do you all think? Do you agree that Pearl and Margaret/Marguerite/Margarita/Mairead can be considered Marian, in light of this info about pearls?

Mary the Dawn

My mom and I were talking more about Anastasia and Salome, and Jesus’ Birth in general, and the conversation moved onto the account of the Nativity in Ven. Mary of Agreda’s Mystical City of God that reader Irish Nannie referenced, and Mom read the passage to me and particularly wanted me to take note of the fact that Mary is referred to as “the resplendent Aurora Mary” to Jesus the Sun:

The “most poor and insignificant hut or cave, to which most holy Mary and Joseph betook themselves … was the first temple of light (Malachi 4, 2, Psalm III, 4) and … the house of the true Sun of justice, which was to arise for the upright of heart from the resplendent Aurora Mary, turning the night of sin into the daylight of grace.” (no. 468)

How beautiful is that? I knew aurora was Latin for dawn, and I knew that Mary has been referred to as the Dawn, but I’d never seen Aurora and Mary together like that. Just lovely.

Did you know this about Anastasia?

I don’t even want to reference the other Anastasia that’s been flooding the media, so I won’t (and if you don’t know what I’m talking about, blessed are you), but I will say that this gorgeous name has a tiny bit of a taint for me at the moment. But then I read this today, and while I’ll have to do some digging to find out more (and I don’t have time right now, as a certain 11 month old wants breakfast), I’ll just leave you with it, and if you know more, please share!

Anastasius, common in the Greek Church, was seldom used in the West, but Anastasia, the name of a 4th-C martyr mentioned in the Canon of the Mass, became a general favorite, and in medieval legend was attached to the Virgin’s midwife.”

The Oxford Dictionary of English Christian Names, EG Withycombe (21)

Feminine first name, masculine middle

Let’s sidetrack for one moment and talk about the O’Hara sisters:

Katie Scarlett, called Scarlett

Susan Elinor, called Suellen

Caroline Irene, called Carreen

Oh my. Margaret Mitchell did an amazing job.

This post was inspired by Gone With the Wind’s well-named main character (I think Scarlett O’Hara is one of the best character names ever), but it’s not about her, and not even about a character created by Margaret Mitchell, but about a character created by Alexandra Ripley, who (as I understand it) had been commissioned by Margaret Mitchell’s estate to write a sequel to GWTW. Though her effort, Scarlett, wasn’t nearly as good as GWTW, I loved reading an end to Scarlett and Rhett’s story (ooh how I hated the way GWTW ended), and one of the fabulous details she imagined was another child, Scarlett and Rhett’s, a little girl, whom Scarlett named Katie Colum (after her cousin, an Irish priest named Colum, to whom she had grown close) (she was nicknamed Cat).

I just swooned over Katie Colum! I thought it was so clever, a feminine first name with a masculine middle. I was thinking about it this morning, because I know a little girl named Annie Ryan — that’s her given name, first and middle — and it totally works. It’s so charming! Ryan is a family last name for her, so she doesn’t technically have a boy’s name for a middle, even though of course Ryan is a boy’s first name.

I tried to think of other combinations that could have a similar feel as Katie Colum and Annie Ryan — names that are clearly girly even though the middle is masculine. What I came to was, the first name seems to need to be kind of *really* girly, not just feminine — not Katherine but Katie. Not Anne but Annie. And the middle name can’t be just any masculine name, I don’t think. I thought Gracie James could work. Maybe Rosie Ray. And I’ve long thought that starting with Mary makes any name do-able for a girl, but does it? Could a girl really pull off Mary Maverick? Or Mary Thomas? Actually Mary Charles sounds kind of intriguing, but even then I’d likely want to find an everyday nickname like maybe Macy, and not call her Mary Charles all the time. Certainly this brings to mind the religious names — Sr. Mary Edward or even Sr. Charles Francis — but that’s different than giving the name to a baby girl and intending to use the whole name as the everyday name. (I also know a little Elinor James, but she goes by Elinor/Ellie, so not exactly what I mean.)

I think this might be more common in the South? Where there’s a feminine first name but a masculine or lastname middle? But then I think the tradition is to go by the middle name all the time? Like Jane Prentiss who goes by Prentiss? Do any of you know any girls or women with names like this? Or can you think of other possibilities like Katie Colum and Annie Ryan?

Mash-up names

I was reading last night a tiny bit about Bl. John Piamarta, who I’d never heard of before. I was immediately drawn to his last name, Piamarta, as I assumed that it was a mash-up of Pia (the feminine of Pius, Latin for “pious”) and Marta (a form of Martha). I don’t know if it is, but even if that’s not the origin of Bl. John’s last name, one could decide to make such a combo a first name for a girl, and what a pretty name it would be. (I’ve always loved the idea of Pia, but I think it take some thick skin for a child to have that name today, because of what else it sounds like. Adding it onto another name is a nice way to get around that though, I think.)

Bl. John Piamarta made me think of other mash-up names I’ve heard. The first that came to mind was Maristela, which I had not heard of until someone suggested it for Simcha. I of course was familiar with Stella, and Stella Maris, but what a lovely way to reconfigure the name with Maristela! (Or Maristella.)

I’ve also always loved the name Maite, which is a contraction of Maria Teresa. Gorgeous on its own, or as a nickname for Maria Teresa. Maricruz was a character on the TV show Prison Break.

I had a hard time finding a listing of more like that. A search for “contraction baby names,” which is how Maite was described (a contraction of Maria and Teresa) gave me info on labor contractions. Try again! A search for “mash-up names” resulted in an article about Bettylou and Maryjane-type names — but I didn’t mean two separate names connected with no change (which, yes, is what Piamarta is, but still). I tried “compound names” and came up with a really fun article about contracting a longer name down to a shorter, like Anastasia–>Asia, which is really fun for nicknames and a technique I myself have suggested, but it’s not two names contracted together.

It would be fun to make some up, like … John Paul–>Jopa. Okay, maybe not. Maristella and Maricruz sound so reverent to me, probably because the elements aren’t so hidden, so it’s easy to see what names they came from. So then maybe I’m being crazy, because we have so many beautiful names like that already.

What mash-up/combo names are you familiar with? What are your favorites?

Baby name consultant: baby #8, a boy

Sarah and David are expecting their eighth baby, a little boy. Sarah describes them as “your typical Catholic family and like traditional (preferably French or Irish) names.” They have seven children already, named:

Zoe Olivia

Brady Patrick

Michael Joseph

Katherine Mary-Claire

Margaret Rose

George Thomas

Matthew David

They have some names they’re considering, but they don’t want to share them as they really want a fresh perspective. In trying to come up with suggestions, I was struck by what seems to be a difference in style between Zoe’s and Brady’s first names and the names of the rest of the kids. So I relied heavily on the style of Zoe and Brady when musing on names for #8, while also keeping in mind that their younger children have very traditional names.

I used both Nymbler and Name MatchMaker for ideas, and I usually shoot for three suggestions, as I’ve done for others. So my ideas for this little baby are:

(1) Henry

It was the first name that came to my mind, even before checking out the name matching sites, and it was one of the first names they suggested. Brady, Michael, George, Matthew, and Henry sound like a great set of brothers, and I love it with the girls’ names as well.

(2) Myles

As soon as I saw Myles I thought it was a great fit. I think it’s a little more offbeat than Michael, George, and Matthew, which makes me think it’s a great bridge between their names and Brady’s. It does make for a lot of M’s, but with so many kids I don’t think that matters much, and besides — one of my favorite things about Myles is that it can be considered a Marian name! One of my name books, Oxford Dictionary of First Names, says that Maolra is a “[m]odern spelling, common particularly in the west of Ireland, of earlier Maoil-Mhuire ‘devotee of Mary.’ It has been anglicized as Myles.” It’s Irish, it’s Marian, it seems more stylistically consistent with Brady than your other boys’ names, I love this idea! (Do note though that the spelling of Miles is unrelated.)

(3) William

I love William for you. Its traditional-ness is a great style match for your younger boys, and its current popularity, as well as both nicknames Will and Liam (though I know Liam can stand on its own), seem well suited as Brady’s brother. I wouldn’t mind if you chose just Liam as the first name, but William seems just that much more a better match in my opinion.

Oliver was a heavy contender for me until I remembered that Zoe’s middle name is Olivia, and Charles and Jude also struck me as possibles, but in the end I settled on Henry, Myles, and William. If I had to choose a middle name, not knowing anything about how you choose them (family names?), I’d guess Francis.

What do you all think? What names would you suggest for Sarah and David’s baby boy?