a Becket, a Kempis, a Cruce

St. Thomas a Becket, Thomas a Kempis (author of The Imitation of Christ), and St. Teresia Benedicta a Cruce (St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, aka Edith Stein) all have that “a” in common — have any of you wondered what it means? I admit I’d only had a vague, noncommittal curiosity until today, when I decided to try to find out.

Basically, it means “of” or “from.” Thomas à Kempis , who is also known in German as Thomas von Kempen and in Dutch as Thomas van Kempen — “von” and “van” meaning “from” in their respective languages — is so called because Kempen was his home town. St. “Teresia Benedicta a Cruce” is simply “Teresa Benedict of the Cross” (isn’t Teresia a pretty variant? Behind the Name says T(h)eresia is a German, Dutch, and Swedish variant, and that Tessan is a Swedish diminutive and Trees a Dutch diminutive).

I’m sure the “a” in “a Becket” means the same thing, though the reason is less clear. Check out this rabbit hole I went down:

  • “Thomas Becket was the son of Norman settlers who lived in the city of London. His father was a merchant who traveled among the circles of French-speaking Norman immigrants. The name ‘Becket’ is likely a nickname, possibly meaning beak or nose, which was given to his father.” (source)
  • “Deeply influenced in childhood by a devout mother who died when he was 21, Thomas entered adult life as a city clerk and accountant in the service of the sheriffs. After three years he was introduced by his father to Archbishop Theobald, a former abbot of Bec, of whose household he became a member.” (source)
  • “Bec Abbey, formally the Abbey of Our Lady of Bec (French: Abbaye Notre-Dame du Bec), is a Benedictine monastic foundation in the Eure département, in the Bec valley midway between the cities of Rouen and Bernay. It is located in Le Bec Hellouin, Normandy, France, and was the most influential abbey of the 12th-century Anglo-Norman kingdom.” (source)
  • “Like all abbeys, Bec maintained annals of the house but uniquely its first abbots also received individual biographies, brought together by the monk of Bec, Milo Crispin.” (ibid.)
  • “‘Bec’ is the name of the stream running through the abbey, Old Norse bekkr, in English place or river names Beck.” (ibid.)
  • “Becket” is from “Beckett,” which is from “an English surname that could be derived from various sources, including from Middle English beke meaning ‘beak’ or bekke meaning ‘stream, brook'” (source)

Becket could refer to a nickname of St. Thomas’ father because of his nose! Or it could be a reference to Bec Abbey, which was originally named Abbey of Our Lady of Bec! A famous monk of Bec (a Beccan  monk? A Becket monk?) was named Milo! Which has separate Marian connections! So many fun discoveries! (So many exclamation marks!)

Back to the “a” — tell me what you know! I see that “à” is French — are all the a’s really à’s? So all these have a French origin? But German seems a big factor here too — but then German has “von”? Is it Latin, maybe? And is there some more nuanced meaning I’m missing, since a Kempis means “from a certain place,” a Becket might mean the same or “son of the father with the nickname,” and a Cruce means “of” in the sense of possession? I’d love to spend more time researching but I have a deadline I should be working on!

I’m totally loving the “a” construction — I could see “a Cruce” being an amazing name in honor of both St. Edith and Jesus. And of course Katheryn has set an amazing example with giving her son the amazing first name “à Kempis.” I mean. So brilliant. And such a really cool addition to Kolbe, Avila, Siena, and other saintly surnames/place names.

What other saints have an “a” construction in their names? I guess we could do this with any “of” saint, right? St. Catherine a Siena? St. Teresa a Avila? St. Bernard a Clairvaux? Or am I misunderstanding how this works?

I look forward to reading your comments! Happy Thursday!


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!

Irish family names from a certain era

I’ve been reading a biography of Bl. Solanus Casey to my older boys, and loved some of the namey things I discovered — I know you will too!

Father:
Bernard James (Barney) (born 1840, Castleblaney, Co. Monaghan); sister Ellen and brother Terrence

Mother:
Ellen Elizabeth (née Murphy) (born 1844, Camlough, Co. Armagh); mother Brigid (née Shields), sister Mary Ann and brothers Patrick, Owen, and Maurice

Barney and Ellen came to this country, separately, around the time of the potato famine (in fact, Ellen’s father died during it), which was from 1845-1850. They met here.

Children (Fr. Solanus and siblings) (middle names weren’t included in the book — I found them via a google search):

1. Ellen Bridget (referred to as Ellie at least once in the book)
2. James Michael (Jim)
3. Mary Ann (died at age 12 of “black diphtheria”*)
4. Maurice Emmett (would become Fr. Maurice Joachim! Sometimes called “Fr. Maurice J” ❤ )
5. John Terrance/Terrence
6. Bernard Francis (Barney, referred to as Barney Jr. in the book, born 1870) (would become Fr. Francis Solanus Casey, OFM Cap. [Order of Friars Minor, Capuchin — the OFMs are the Franciscans; the Capuchins are a branch of Franciscans], after St. Francis Solano)
7. Patrick Henry (Pat)
8. Thomas Joseph (Tom)
9. Martha Elizabeth (died at age 3 of black diphtheria, just a few days after Mary Ann) 10. Augustine Peter (Gus)
11. Leo McHale
12. Edward Francis (Ed, would become Msgr. Edward Casey)
13. Owen Bonaventure
14. Margaret Theresa Cecilia
15. Grace Agatha
16. Mary Genevieve (Genevieve)

These are pretty amazing names (you know how heart eyes I was over discovering Maurice’s religious name was Fr. Maurice Joachim! Augustine Peter and Owen Bonaventure particularly jumped out at me as somewhat surprising, given what I know of Irish naming at that time), but one of the things I was amazed by was how much overlap there was with both sides of my Irish ancestry (my paternal grandmother’s line and my maternal grandfather’s line). Check this out:

My paternal grandmother’s line (came here from Ireland mid-nineteenth century, specific place unknown but we think they sailed from Waterford):

James and Mary–> Patrick and Anne–> Patrick Francis and Mary Cecelia (nee Ward)–> Leo Ward and Mary Agnes (nee Sweeny) (her mother was Bridget Casey! Same last name as Bl. Solanus!) –> Mary Loretta (my grandmother, born 1920)

My maternal grandfather’s line (he and his siblings were all born in Ireland — Cobh [then called Queenstown], Co. Cork):

Francis (Frank) and Anne (Annie) (nee Lawless)–>
1. Francis (Frank)
2. Mary (my mom always refers to her as Aunt Mae)
3. Ellen (my mom always refers to her as Aunt Eileen)
4. William (Will)
5. John
6. Michael
7. David Xavier (my grandfather, born 1904 and worked his way to American on a ship in 1920)
8. Maurice (said mo-REECE, though I know MO-ris [like Morris] is a common Irish pronunciation, and the way I said it when I read Bl. Solanus’ brother’s name, because I think it sounds better with Joachim)

All three families (Bl. Solanus’ family, and my grandparents’ two families) can be roughly placed in the same time period (latter half of the nineteenth century and the early part of the twentieth century), and all three were Irish (Fr. Solanus’ parents were both from Ireland; my paternal grandmother’s family came here from Ireland in the mid-nineteenth century; my maternal grandfather and his siblings were all born in Ireland, and came over here after WWI). Names in common include:

Ellen
James
Mary
Patrick
Francis
Maurice
Patrick
Leo
Anne
John
Brigid/Bridget

I know they’re not crazy-out-there names, but I was kind of amazed by how much overlap there was! Especially with names like Maurice and Leo — I don’t think they’re names that people typically think of as having a lot of usage in Irish families? But if these three families are decent representatives of the naming patterns at that time (especially since they were from all over Ireland and not concentrated in one area), Maurice and Leo aren’t unusual at all!

Another thing I loved seeing was how the family names got passed down (grandparents and aunts and uncles showed up in the names of the grandchildren and nieces and nephews) and *how* they got passed down (both first and middle names were made use of, and maiden names were given to sons).

What are your reactions to reading this? Are you are fascinated by this overlap as I am, or do you think I’m making a lot of not much?

I have more info to share (this book is a treasure trove of beautiful names of our faith!), but it will have to wait for another post!

* The description of “black diphtheria” was eerily similar to what I’ve heard of the respiratory symptoms of Covid-19:

“A highly contagious disease seen often in this era, diphtheria was common in the United States and Western Europe. The upper respiratory system was typically affected, with a thick membrane forming up and down the air passages. Victims — usually children — ran high fevers, had sore throats, and sometimes died when the deadly membrane literally shut down their ability to breathe.”


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!

2019 Name Data Delay, and the Best Mother’s Day Gift

You guys! The release of the new (2019) name data from the Social Security Administration, which namiacs look forward to all year, and which is always released the Friday before Mother’s Day, is being postponed indefinitely! The SSA site says:

Out of respect and honor for all people and families affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, the announcement of the 2019 most popular baby names is being rescheduled to a to-be-determined date. The agency sends its gratitude and heartfelt thanks to everybody fighting the pandemic and providing vital services throughout the country during these difficult times.”

I’m so surprised! I might have thought this would fall more along the lines of, “Give people a welcome, lighthearted distraction to keep their spirits up.” Also, I figured it would just be a matter of running a program and posting the results? That is, not too much manpower or time required by the people at SSA? Pam at Nameberry gave a little more insight in her latest post (as well as the history of this “Baby Name Christmas,” as she calls it, which I didn’t know — very interesting!). When I know more, I’ll let you know!

In the meantime, maybe you’d like to take a look at my past posts about the annual SSA data — I’m never great at spotting trends or analyzing data, but I include in my posts links to the people that *are* great at that:

2018 data

2017 data

2016 data

2015 data

Also, with Mother’s Day this weekend, I just wanted to remind you all about my book! 💃💃💃 It’s a book of baby names and it’s a book of and for Our Lady — sounds like a perfect Mother’s Day gift to me! 😊 Amazon is saying that Prime delivery won’t get it to you until Tuesday if ordered today, but if your family/friend are like mine, just write up a little card letting the mom you’re giving it to know that it’s on its way and you’ll be good!

BABY (1)

Have a great Thursday! 🌹💙🌹💙🌹💙🌹💙🌹💙🌹💙🌹💙


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!

Sorrowful Mystery Names

This week is the perfect week to check out my post on names for the Sorrowful Mysteries — I so often find that the names of our faith provide a wonderful meditation on holy things. As with the Joyful and Luminous Mysteries posts, be sure to check out the comments as well.

I’m signing off until next week, when I’ll have some birth announcements to post and other namey things! I hope you all have a very holy Holy Week and a wonderful Easter!


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!

Fun Friday Question (on Monday!): Did Mom name the girls and Dad the boys?

I meant to post this last Friday and forgot, and I’ll be off the blog this coming Friday in observance of Good Friday, and I don’t have a consultation to post today, so Fun Friday Question on a Monday it is!

In last week’s consultation, we read about how Mom would be choosing the baby’s name if they have a girl, while Dad would be choosing if they have a boy. I’ve known of other families who have done this, and I’ve always been intrigued by it. So my question is a simple one: Did you do this in your family? Did your parents? Do you know of others who have done so? Is it usually a fairly peaceful process in your experience/observance, or do you know of situations where the parent who didn’t get to choose really hates the name the other parent chose? Do you have any examples of extreme style mismatches in a family because of this practice? (You know I love a well-matched bunch of sibling names, but I actually also really love to see siblings with an eclectic bunch of names!)

I hope your Holy Week has started well!


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!

Names for the Luminous Mysteries

Happy Friday everyone! I hope you’re all doing well!

I posted names for the Joyful Mysteries last week; here’s a link to my post on names for the Luminous Mysteries. I’m working on a name spotlight that I hope to have up tomorrow too! Stay tuned! TGIF!


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!

Joyful Mystery Names

Happy feast of the Annunciation, one of my favorites!!

It seems a perfect day to share again my list of names inspired by the Joy Mysteries of the Rosary! Not only are there a bunch of names in my post, but the comments!! Definitely be sure to read them — the Santa Nomina readers are amazing!!


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!

Fun Friday Question: What is your Name Fuss threshhold?

Happy Friday everyone! By special request of one of our readers who is homebound because of the coronavirus, here’s a Fun Friday Question for you: What is your Name Fuss threshhold?

This is inspired by this post over at Swistle — it’s an older post that I came upon this morning, discussing the name Imogen (which I was surprised to see that some say it differently than me — I say IM-o-jen, how about you?), and Swistle said,

I do think you and she would spend some time spelling it and pronouncing it, and there will be a few people who haven’t heard of the name before. It kind of depends on how much you think that would bother you: everyone has a different level of tolerance for Name Fuss.”

I love that: “tolerance for Name Fuss.” I think my threshhold as a parent is fairly high — I don’t mind having to explain how or why we chose a name, I don’t mind correcting pronunciations, and I love nicknames that may or may not be related to the given name. But hubby and I have also chosen names that aren’t really that “out there” — maybe I just haven’t been in a high Name Fuss situation before? I also think one’s tolerance might change as one ages, to become either more or less tolerant. Do you agree?

And of course, on the flip side, in my encounters with other people, you know I LOVE an unexpected name or nickname or whatever, and I always want to hear every detail — give me all the Name Fuss!

Where is your threshhold? Have you crossed names you like off your list because their level of Name Fuss Potential is too high? Or what about the opposite — is there a name that might normally fail your Name Fuss Tolerance Test, but you just love it so much that you just went for it? How about in your encounters with others — do you tend to be irritated by high-maintenance names, or do you delight in them?


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!

Spellings signal gender in names that sound the same

Happy Friday! I’m up far too late on what started on Thursday night, but had to share this with you before I go to bed. I was reading this article on gender-neutral baby names, and was distracted by this statement: “spellings have long signaled gender in names that sound the same: Yves vs. Eve” — of course I had to make a list of such names! These are some I’ve seen/heard:

Adrian and Adrienne
Elliott and Eliette
Francis and Frances
Gene and Jean
Jesse and Jessie
Julian and Julienne
Marian and Marion
Micah and Meike
Michael and Michal
Noah and Noa
Noel and Noelle
Rhys and Reese/Reece
Ryan and Ryann(e)

I know they’re not all strictly traditional (Ryan and Ryann(e)); and I’ve seen women with the masculine spelling (Gene), and men with the feminine spelling (except it’s not always feminine, like Jean and Reese/Reece); and the pronunciations aren’t always that simple (knoll or no-EL for Noel?), but still — pretty fun! What can you add to this list?


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!

Feminine-feeling nicknames for boys

Last week’s birth announcement for little Magnus Craig, in which his mama said her daughter calls him Maggie sometimes, which “always makes us cringe and correct her because it’s a girl name, sigh,” reminded me of other examples of natural nicknames for boy names that sound like girl names — especially those that have old usage. Like:

Christy, as in Christy Mahon (given name: Christopher), a character in J.M. Synge’s The Playboy of the Western World

Connie, as in baseballer Connie Mack (given name: Cornelius McGillicuddy)

Gabby, the nickname an older man I know insists on calling a Gabriel he knows (who I know goes only by Gabe)

Gussie, the nickname my dad always called his friend Augustus growing up

Jackie, as in segregation-smashing baseballer Jackie Robinson (given name: Jack Roosevelt Robinson) and a boy I know named Jack whose dad has called him Jackie affectionately since he was little

Jody, Josey, and Joss all have usage as nicknames for Joseph (here’s a list of male Jodys, though not all have the given name Joseph; I was sure the title [fictional] character in the Clint Eastwood movie The Outlaw Josey Wales was baptized Joseph, but I can’t find any evidence to support that; producer/director/etc. Joss Whedon‘s given name is Joseph) (funny story about Josey — years ago, before my hubby had a chance to absorb name info via my constant chattering at him about it, and him not having given names any real thought otherwise, I mentioned that someone’s baby girl was named Josie and he said, “But that’s a boy’s name!” He had only ever heard it in the Josey Wales movie, and for him, Josey was all masculinity and ruggedness because of Clint Eastwood’s portrayal of the character. Hilarious!)

Mandy, as in actor Mandy Patinkin (given name: Mandel)

Sally, as in Sally Tessio (given name: Salvatore), a character in The Godfather (a funny tidbit is that there’s a character in PBS’ Curious George named Sally Tessio! She’s a restaurant critic!)

Steph, as in NBA player Steph Curry (given name: Wardell Stephen Curry; in this case, the nickname Steph reveals his pronunciation of Stephen)

Sue, the nickname of the grandfather of one of our readers (Grandpa’s given name was Assundo, after the Assumption!) (I’ve written before about Susan being used as an “anglicization” of the feminine Italian name Assunta, including in my book) (unrelated, but fascinating: the song “A Boy Named Sue” may have been based on Sue K. Hicks, a prosecutor in the Scopes Trial, who was named after his mother, Susanna)

I love how affectionate some of these feel — adding an “ee” sound on the end of a name automatically makes it feel more intimate, I think — very like something parents or siblings would do to their baby/baby sibling’s name (our Luke gets called Lukey by all of us a good part of the time!). I also think this was more common with older generations (almost all of the examples above are of old or deceased men of another era) — I quite liked the idea of Joseph nicknamed Jody when I was expecting one of our older boys, and one of the reasons was because it had an old timey feel to me.

Do you agree? Can you think of other examples like this?


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!