Reader question: Is Patton too General?

A reader has asked an interesting question that I hope you’ll all weigh in on! She writes,

One name we’ve considered A LOT is Patton. I like the sound of it and it generally fits our criteria, but I have two concerns. One is that my husband picked it while thinking of General George Patton (history buff), but I’m a little concerned the connotation is too strong. Even if we’re not technically naming him after the General, there are so few Pattons that the link is obvious. And I don’t know how I feel about our son carrying the presumed namesake of a person not canonized or family. We agree Patton was a great General, but he was known to be harsh and vulgar, and though he was quite religious (protestant) he supposedly opposed the marriage of his daughter to a Catholic and believed in reincarnation. Those concerns aside, I read that Patton can be a diminutive of Patrick, which is awesome (we’re Irish).”

Interesting question, right?

I told her that I’m not really sure what I think about the General Patton connection. For me, General Patton wouldn’t have been my first connection at all! First, I would have thought of Patton being a diminutive of Patrick (I love that this mama knows that!); second, I would have thought of the paten at church. You can see where my head’s at! Haha! Names and faith all the time! A distant third would be the actor Patton Oswalt. But I did ask my husband what his gut reaction was when hearing the name Patton, and he thought about it for a minute (so much for gut reaction!) and said, “Well, there’s General Patton,” but he didn’t seem to think it was a negative or a dealbreaker.

As for her “son carrying the presumed namesake of a person not canonized or family,” if I named my son Patton and someone asked about his name, I would always start with, “It’s a variant of Patrick that we really like.” This would tie the name closely to St. Patrick, both in the parents’ minds and those who they talk to, and of course St. Patrick would be his patron. Then if they brought up the General they could also say, “Yeah, he’s pretty cool,” and move on. Do you all agree?

Another option is to use Patrick as the given name, and use Patton as the nickname, which I also quite like. Do you agree that’s a good option, or do you think Patton as the given name is a better idea?

Please let me know how you would advise this mom?

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Birth announcement: Peter Paul! (and a name question)

A mama I did a private consultation for has let me know her little guy has arrived and been given the handsome, significant name … Peter Paul!

She writes,

As usual my babies end up naming themselves in the end with a name I never considered until the last minute. A couple days before Peter Paul was born I was still obsessing about names and probably had about 20 names on the list. It was all decided when I went to confession and the priest asked what the baby’s name was so he could pray for him by name and I just blurted out Peter Paul! I like to think that Jesus himself was asking the name and basically having me decide at that moment so I would stop obsessing. Ha! So that’s what made it official for me and a couple days later he was born.

Thank you so much for all your name suggestions and help. Hugh and Cormac which you suggested were big contenders, as was Francis which I never imagined using either until the last minute!

What a cool story!! I’ve never heard one like it! And Peter Paul is such a great combo! It is SO cool that they share a feast day — June 29 is the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul!

Mama also added,

I have a baby name question for you still though — when our baby was first born we were using Peter as the first name and Paul as the middle name. I’m starting to prefer Peter Paul as the double barrel first name. What is protocol for double barrel names? Do we add a new middle name? Do we hyphenate Peter-Paul? I’m trying to think of what will be easiest for him long term with social security cards, passports, etc. What do you think?

Such a great question! Fortunately we have John Paul as a frequent example of a double-barrel first name for a boy; unfortunately, even that doesn’t provide hard and fast rules. Certainly there has been Mary Kate and the like on the girl side for ages, and loads of people have hyphenated last names, and I think the way it’s handled on forms, etc., is to put both names whenever possible. So they can hyphenate, which will make more obvious that both names are part of the first name, or they can smoosh them together, a la Johnpaul/JohnPaul or Marykate/MaryKate. I don’t really know what will be easier in the long run! Whatever you put on the birth certificate should be exactly what goes on the Social Security card, and exactly what goes on the passport, but in terms of other forms — especially those ones with the boxes where one letter goes in each box — they might run into difficulty getting both Peter and Paul to fit, especially if they keep the space between or add a hyphen (as opposed to putting them together as PeterPaul). And I’ll bet that they’ll frequently find just Peter as his first name on various documents/in the doctor’s office, etc. But there are a lot of people who deal with issues with their names, and each person deals with it according to his/her personality (i.e., some people hate it and some people roll with it and are even really proud of it), you know?

I do know that some people find hyphens in boys’ names to be a bit fussy, if that’s at all helpful. But if they love it, they should do it! (And there’s Jean-Claude Van Damme as an example of a guy with a hyphen.)

As for middle names, probably the easiest of all the options would be to keep his first name Peter and his middle name Paul. I’ve known several people that go by their first+middle on a daily basis, as if it’s a double-barrel first name, so they could still call him Peter Paul in real life, and introduce him that way, and make sure that’s what he’s called at school, etc.

If they decide to add a middle name, they don’t have to do anything to Peter Paul (hyphenate etc.) unless they want to; they’d just add another name, which would go in the “middle name” spot on forms. Which means he might end up being Peter MiddleName sometimes, if whatever person or computer is dealing with his name can’t compute a double first name. Or Peter Paul with the middle name dropped, which often happens to second middle names.

I’ve often thought this mom handled the whole multiple-name thing well — it might inspire this family to come up with a creative idea as well.

Please share with this mom (and me!) what your thoughts are regarding her double-first-name question!

Congratulations to the whole family, including big siblings Niall Jude, Phoebe Rose, Linus Noel, and Johnny Blaise, and happy birthday Baby Peter Paul!!

Peter Paul

Some more literary stuff

I’ve loved our recent literary conversations — you all had great additions to the Catholic Literary Names post (both book recs and name ideas), and it was fun to spotlight Meghan’s girls’ literary names. Little Lewis’ birth announcement fit right in as well!

Abby from Appellation Mountain re-posted her Imaginary Place Names post yesterday, and I love so many of the ideas. I’d be interested to see if you have any additions to her list — the only one I could think of was Tara, which isn’t quite right, since it’s the name of an existing place (Hill of Tara in Ireland), but sort of fits, since I’m sure it entered baby-naming consciousness as a result of Gone With the Wind and Scarlett’s plantation home, Tara. In fact, Tara didn’t even appear on the SSA’s annual list of names given to five children or more until 1939 — the book was published in 1936 and the movie was released in December 1939 after a two-year-long production process that included the pursuit of Clark Gable and a public search for Scarlett.

This would probably have been more helpful before Christmas, but I also wanted to share with you all the books we’ve gotten for my husband’s elderly great-aunt, in case you might be interested (it’s on my mind because we just got her some new books, and I’m feeling like we’re running out of ideas). She’s a good Christian (though not Catholic) lady who loves love stories (but nothing too spicy!) and dislikes murder mysteries (which rules out Mary Higgins Clark, which I’d initially thought would be perfect — so many books! Set for life!). These are some that we’ve gotten for her:

Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers (this is bordering on too spicy for her, though I loved it)

Love Comes Softly by Janette Oke (this is a series, and I think we only gave her the first one — I’m adding the rest to my list for her now!) (the first is free with Kindle Unlimited!)

Anne of Green Gables series by Lucy Maud Montgomery

Emma by Jane Austen

The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series (one of my personal favorites) by Alexander McCall Smith

And a bunch from the large-print fiction section of ChristianBooks.com (The Amish of Apple Grove series by Lori Copeland was our gift this year, and it sounds like she’s enjoying it. I’ve never read them, I’m just trusting that any romance novels from ChristianBooks.com aren’t inappropriate!)

If you have any suggestions, I’d love to hear them! She loves to read, but can only read large print books and won’t consider Kindle or similar, nor audio books.

Finally, since we’re talking about books, guessss what was under the tree this year for me?? A new Baby Name Wizard!! I totally needed one!! It’s my third copy — my previous two fell apart over time through use! Having a brand new one is such a pleasure!

I hope you’re all enjoying this Christmas season!


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Name update: Molly’s name sign!

Happy feast of the Immaculate Conception!! What a wonderful, holy day!! I’m sorry I’ve been so quiet on the blog this week! Advent has me scurrying around like a (very happily) busy bee … or elf … 😉 Also, I’m continuing to work away on the consultations for all those who took advantage of the Black Friday deal — I’m still on track to get them to you within the time frame I told you I would, but certainly feel free to email you if you’d like a status update!

I posted a birth announcement for our devoted reader Amy’s baby girl, Molly Victoria, back in July, and I’d previously posted a write-up Amy did on name signs for users of American Sign Language, so I was thrilled that she gave me permission to post this new information about Baby Molly’s name sign:

We have found Molly’s name sign. M hand shape twisting on the side of the jaw/cheek. M obviously for Molly ([big sister] Kristy’s uses a K, [big brother] Kane’s uses both M and K [his given name is Martin Kane]) and in the area for female signs. It mimics the sign for candy, or how you would put your finger to your cheek and twist to tell someone to smile (something my husband would do to me when we were dating, sort of a game with deep meaning/feelings because it’s how we knew we were falling in love). It also resembles the sign for sweet and/or sugar, which brushes off the cheek in that spot with a hand shape similar to M. This is because whenever anyone asks ‘how’s the baby?’ the answer always seems to be ‘so sweet.’ It describes her: always sweet, smiling, happy, delight.”

I love all the layers to Molly’s name sign! The “sweet”ness and the connection to Amy and her husband’s courtship is so wonderful! And I love that her name sign was “found” — such a cool thing to think of waiting and observing until it becomes obvious. Amy had said as much in her previous post where she explained,

Culturally, a name sign should only be given to you by a Deaf person (you can’t just make up your own) and they are also not always bestowed right away. Sometimes it can takes months or longer while you wait for the right one to come along … for the most part name signs are given based on a characteristic unique that person.”

Thanks to Amy for sharing this with all of us!! ❤

So sorry for the blog silence!

My laptop is misbehaving! I dropped it over the summer, and ever since then it’s been funny sometimes, but this week it’s been awful and every time I open it up I try to do whatever I need to do really fast before it poops out on me. I’m hoping to get it fixed this weekend and be back to cracking next week!

In the meantime, I’ll leave you with this fun piece: do you know the blog Tea with Tolkien? One of you readers made sure I saw yesterday’s post, and I loved it: Tolkien-Inspired Baby Names. It’s a great add-on to our recent names-from-Catholic-literature conversation (here and here)! (Check out Francis on the list — new info to me!)

Happy Friday y’all! Have a great weekend!

Catholic literary names

Deciding to be an English major in college was a no brainer for this lifelong bookworm and writer — I love good writing and I love a good story, regardless of genre.

That said, more recently (in the past few years) I’ve been really interested in figuring out what makes good Catholic fiction. I’ve read some in the past that was more “Catholic” than “good” — I really don’t like stories that hit you over the head with rosaries and Mass while the story and characters feel too good to be true and/or not well written. (Full disclosure: my own attempts at fiction writing have tended toward this, so one of my reasons for trying to figure all this out is so that I can be a better writer myself.) I’d love to hear what you all know about this topic! Also, book recommendations! (The authors don’t have to be Catholic, nor the stories explicitly so, as long as the themes and/or any presentations of the faith reveal a real understanding and accurate representation of the the things we know to be true, as well as good vs. evil. Do you think that’s a fair definition?)

Anyway, I’m listing here a bunch of the books I’ve read in my quest to define “good Catholic fiction,” along with names associated with the books and authors that might be perfect for literary-minded parents who’d like a nod to the faith as well (this is by no means a comprehensive list, neither the titles nor the authors nor the characters’ names — please leave your additions in the comments! I’m really just listing the names I remember and/or the ones that stuck out at me).

Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh

  • Charles Ryder, Sebastian Flyte, Julia Flyte, Cordelia Flyte, as well’s as Waugh’s own first name — what do you think of Evelyn for a boy? Would you do it? Also, I’ve always found it hilarious that his first wife’s name was Evelyn as well!

The End of the Affair by Graham Greene

  • Henry Miles and Sarah Miles (both first and last names), Maurice Bendrix, Graham

Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien (the entire thing in one volume is FREE on Kindle today! Follow that link!) (I also have to admit — I had a hard time getting through the books and vastly preferred the movies … 😔)

  • So! Many! Names! Frodo, Meriadoc/Merry, Peregrin/Pippin, Sam(wise), Rosie, Elanor, Arwen, Aragorn, Strider, the Riders of Rohan, Eowyn, Galadriel (I saw a birth announcement for a Galadriel years ago and thought it was SO cool!), and John Ronald Reuel Tolkien — any of those

The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis (I know, he wasn’t Catholic and the books aren’t Catholic but then again, they are, aren’t they?)

  • Peter, Susan, Edmund, Lucy, Caspian, Digory Kirke, Eustace (do any of you find this usable?), Jill, Gael, Rilian, I even think Nikabrik could be a super cute nickname for a little Nicholas. ☺ Also Clive and Lewis, for the author himself

The Odd Thomas series by Dean Koontz (I think this is technically horror, which has *never* been my cup of tea, but I LOVED these books — I felt like their representation of “reality,” as we know it, with the thin veil that separates, was spot on)

  • Odd Thomas, Stormy Llewellyn (Bronwen), Ozzie, Annamaria … I can’t remember others

Some stuff by G.K. Chesterton (I can’t remember exactly what … maybe The Man Who Was Thursday? And some Father Brown)

  • I really really want to like Chesterton, I know he’s amazing. Maybe his fiction just isn’t my thing? (Though I’ve enjoyed the BBC Father Brown recently.) I like Gilbert, Keith, and Chesterton as names, and I’ve seen parents just use his initials (a friend planned on Gemma Katharine if she’d had a girl — G.K. initials — and our reader JoAnna’s son is Gabriel Keith — for other reasons — but she and her hubs like the nod to Chesterton with his initials as well)

 The Fairy Tale Novels by Regina Doman (6 books)

  • A lot of great names, like Rose and Blanche Brier, Arthur/Bear, Benedict/Fish, Kateri, Alex, the twelve daughters of The Midnight Dancers (I can’t remember them all! There’s Rachel, Priscilla/Prisca, Deborah/Debbie, Miriam I think?, Tammy, Linette, Cheryl … [two families with six daughters each combine through the parents’ second marriage, hence the difference in name style])

Catholic Philosopher Chick Series by Rebecca Bratten Weiss and Regina Doman  (2 books)

  • Catelynn/Cate Frank, Portia, Danielle/Dani, Felicity, Sean, Hector/Che, Nathaniel/Nat, Bartholomew/Bart, Justin, Sr. Jane Frances

I Am Margaret by Corinna Turner (I just finished this today and am excited to read the three other books in the series — I was blown away by how good this was)

  • Margaret/Margo, Blake/Bane, Jonathan/Jon, Jane, Kyle, Peter, Mark

I have not yet read anything by Flannery O’Connor, which I intend to remedy soon. Also Oscar Wilde? Right? Who else? Do you know of any more current books, like the last three I listed here? Are there any names you chose for your baby/ies specifically because of their Catholic lit connection?


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Double middle names?

A reader was asking me about double middle names so I looked up all my posts on middle names and was surprised to see that I hadn’t written about them yet! Surprised because I feel like I do discuss them with some frequency in my email discussions with parents. It’s definitely time to post here and get your feedback!

My thought is that two middle names is fine. I have two brothers and three sisters, and one of my brothers and two of my sisters have two middle names, and I’ve never heard any of them complain about them. Even now, as adults, they include all their initials when they’re writing out their full names. I know my mom has told me that sometimes the second middle would get dropped (not enough room on forms, or a bureaucratic decision or misunderstanding by some official person to only include one middle), which irritated her as the mom, and she and Dad even hyphenated my youngest sister’s two middles to try to avoid that, but otherwise it hasn’t ruined anyone’s lives.

If you didn’t want the hassle (or didn’t want to saddle your child with the hassle) of two middles but you have two middle names you’d like to use, you could do what this mom did and only put one middle on the birth certificate — thus having his/her legal name be First Middle — but everywhere else in life (within the family, when you’re telling others, on the baptismal certificate, etc.) use First Middle Middle. I think this is such a great solution for certain families! And I think the idea of one’s “legal name” being different from one’s “real name” to be an interesting thing to muse on.

What do you all think about double middle names? Do you have two middle names? Do you like them? Hate them? Feel indifferent? Do you all feel like it’s an unnecessary burden for a child, or a reasonable way to work in all the names you want to use?