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!

Saintly nickname names

There are a few names that started as nicknames, by which here I mean short forms or diminutives of other names, but have come to be considered formal names in their own rights. Some examples are Jack (diminutive of John), Pippa (diminutive of Philippa), Alison (diminutive of Alice) and Alice itself (a short form of Adalheidis [Adelaide]), Nancy (originally a diminutive of Agnes’ variant Annis, and later of Anne as well), Emmett (diminutive of Emma) and Elliott (diminutive of Elias [Elijah]), Molly (diminutive of Mary), Robin (diminutive of Robert), Austin (contracted form of Augustine), and Bennett (short form of Benedict). Many of these date back to the medieval period.

I was reading about Mickey Mantle recently and the fact that Mickey was his given name, not a nickname for Michael (which is how I’m most familiar with it). (Funny enough, Mickey Mantle was named for Mickey Cochrane, whose given name wasn’t Michael — it was Gordon! But he’d been nicknamed “Black Mike” because of his “fiery, competitive nature,” which I’m assuming is where Mickey came from?) Other names that started as nicknames (diminutives or short forms) that we often see bestowed as given first names include Jake, Maggie, Sadie, Archie (hello, little prince), Liam, and Mia.

There’s another set of nicknames that have taken on a life of their own as given names, which a recent consultation post reminded me of. It included a discussion of Nell as a given name and the parents’ preference for it to be a nickname for a more formal, saintly given name:

Nell is a name we’d both be excited to use which isn’t so easy to find. The trouble is that it’s really a nickname and we don’t care for the options for a full name. If we don’t use a full name like Helen the saintly connection is less obvious.

In this case, the hesitancy to use Nell as the given name is less about style (its nicknaminess) and more about the saintly connection being less obvious. A couple of you suggested Little Nellie of Holy God for the saintly connection* — she’s mostly known as Nellie, even though her baptismal name was Ellen, and I can see parents naming daughters Nellie with her in mind, since that’s the name mostly attached to the stories of her holiness. In this same vein, I thought it would be fun to compile a listing of saintly names that are actually nicknames (I don’t mean religious names). These include:

St. Rose of Lima
Rose’s birth name was Isabel! According to this site, “Isabel del Flores y del Olivia, known to history as St. Rose of Lima … was baptized on the day of her birth, with her aunt, Isabel de Herrara, acting as her godmother. The baby was named after her aunt, Isabel. Because the child was so beautiful, she was nicknamed Rosa or Rose. History and her family would call her by this name.”

St. Francis of Assisi
Francis’ birth name was John! According to his Wikipedia entry, “[His dad] Pietro was in France on business when Francis was born in Assisi, and [his mother, a Frenchwoman named] Pica had him baptized as Giovanni. Upon his return to Assisi, Pietro took to calling his son Francesco (“the Frenchman”), possibly in honor of his commercial success and enthusiasm for all things French.” (cited as the source: Chesterton, Gilbert Keith (1924). “St. Francis of Assisi” (14 ed.). Garden City, New York: Image Books: 158.)

St. Zelie
It’s perhaps not as unfamiliar that St. Zelie’s given name was Marie-Azélie, but she went by Zelie — and that’s the name I see her called and bestowed in her honor most often.

St. Bernadette
St. Bernadette’s given name was actually Marie-Bernarde! This site even refers to her as Marie, which I find kind of hilarious. As with so many of these nicknames, once you know that Bernadette (“little Bernarde,” where Bernarde is the French feminine form of Bernard) is a diminutive of her name, it takes on a such a sweet, affectionate feel.

Juanito (St. Juan Diego)
This one isn’t exactly like my previous examples, because I haven’t heard of lots babies being named Juanito when wanting to honor St. Juan Diego — in fact, I only know of one Juanito (the pastor of my parish), but I asked him about his name and it is, indeed, his given name, and it was bestowed in honor of St. Juan Diego, as Our Lady called him: “Juanito, Juan Dieguito, the most humble of my sons …” ❤

Lolek (St. John Paul II)
Like with Juanito, it’s rare to hear of a little Lolek, but I have heard it from time to time from Catholic parents looking for a different way to honor St. John Paul the Great, as it was his childhood nickname.

Can you think of other examples of Saints being known as a name that was not their given name (and not their religious name), which would be the name parents would be most likely to choose in their honor? Do you know of any little ones named in the style of Juanito and Lolek — nicknames that aren’t as well known and aren’t necessarily the names the Saints are known as, but are absolutely connected to them?

* As far as I can tell, Little Nellie’s cause for canonization has not been opened, though it’s pretty amazing that she was the reason Pope St. Pius X lowered the age of Communion for children: “‘There! That is the sign for which I was waiting.’ — Pope St Pius X after hearing about the holy life of little Nellie. A few months later in 1910 he issued “Quam Singulari” which significantly lowered the age of Holy Communion for children.”


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!

 

Baby name consultation: Baby no. 11 needs a heavy-hitting middle name! Also: are sisters Heléna and Eleanor problematic?

Happy feast of the Epiphany!!

Thank you all for your replies to my Friday question about naming in foster-to-adopt situations! I’m still working through your comments, and hope to compile and condense them all into one post — stay tuned!

Today’s consultation is for Desiree and her husband, who are expecting their 11th baby — a tiebreaker!! This baby girl joins five big sisters and five big brothers:

Olivia Marie (“she is our niece whom we took in when she was 11, so I had no part in naming her“)

Andrew Pick IV (“family name carried on“)

Maximilian Augustine (“I love strong saint names and both of these saints are extremely meaningful for us“)

Heléna Thérèse (“after St Helen of the Cross and she was born on the feast of St Thérèse, so that was a no brainer“)

Tomás Delahanty (“the Gaelic version of Thomas, named after Saint Thomas Aquinas. His middle name is my husband’s middle name“)

Dominic Giles (“named after St. Dominic whom we both have a devotion to. Middle name is after our dear priest friend who married us (who is also a Dominican) Fr. Giles“)

Finnegan Patrick (“solid Irish first name (husband is Irish) his middle name is my husband’s first name“)

Kai Sophia Maribel (“I wanted a sweet Hawaiian name [and] Kai resonated with me. Sophia my husband picked because it was “sweet” and Maribel is for Our Lady 💙”)

Camilla Flannery (“named after my dear, late Grandma Millie (we call her Millie also) middle name after one of my favorite catholic novelists/poets, Flannery O’Connor“)

Karolina Faustina (“she was born in the year of mercy, so naturally I named her after JPII (Karol) and she was born on the feast day of our Lady of Czestochowa, so I wanted a solid Polish Saint — Faustina was perfect“)

These are such a great bunch of names!! So many great saintly connections, and I love that Ireland, Hawaii, and Poland are represented!

Desiree writes,

We are pretty set on naming her after my MIL — Eleanor.

I loved Emmanuella for the middle name but my dh kind of shot it down ☹️ I want a strong saint/catholic/religious name for the middle since Eleanor isn’t a big saint’s name. I LOVE the idea of Caeli for the middle but husband is again iffy.

I’m not super into all the standard/popular catholic names that everyone uses (although the saints themselves are WONDERFUL) ie: Gianna, Elizabeth, Clare — those types of names are just too basic for me.

I’d love a name that is unique, strong, yet feminine and just makes you go WoW, esp since Eleanor is more old world. Hence my two choices were Emmanuella and Caeli.

My husband wants to use my name in the middle, but I’ve never loved my name and it’s not exciting to me at all.”

You all know I LOVE bold Catholicky Catholic names, so I dove headfirst into coming up with ideas for a middle name for Eleanor and didn’t even notice the thing you all probably noticed right away. In fact, I didn’t notice it all until Desiree emailed me after I’d already sent her my ideas to say,

I just completely by accident came across your blog post from 5 years titled “Eleanor=Helen after all” and I’m semi-freaking out right now. lol I have a Heléna. Will I have two girls with essentially the same name if I name current baby Eleanor??

How did I miss that??

We’ve discussed Eleanor and its connection to Helena a few times — my most recent post on it is even entitled “Eleanor: Take 37” because when I wrote it, I felt like I was rehashing something that had already been rehashed and rehashed. That post shared the most recent information I’d come across — that Eleanor is almost certainly NOT a Helena variant, which is usually upsetting to parents of Eleanor who intended to give their daughter a Helena variant. So funny that that same upsetting bit of info may actually be a positive for Desiree and her husband!!

(Please don’t worry if you have an Eleanor! I wrote this post for Nameberry a few years ago in which I argue that intention often matters more than the details when it comes to naming, and a little Eleanor named for St. Helena was the inspiration for my article.)

All that said, however, I do think it’s true that people who know something about names might see sisters Heléna and Eleanor and think their parents gave the same name to two daughters. Even if that were true, it doesn’t need to be a deal breaker necessarily — on the one hand, some people won’t know of the possible connection between the two names; on the other, Desiree and her hubby can just own it and acknowledge to those who ask (if there are any) that they know there might be a connection, but they’ve done some research and found the evidence to be weighted on the “Eleanor does not equal Helena” side. And that, even if it turns out there is a connection between the two names, it was more important to them to explicitly honor Desiree’s mother-in-law.

Other ways of working with this include using a nickname for Eleanor that isn’t obviously Helena-related, like Ellie or Nora. Or they could put Eleanor in the middle spot. Or they could spell it Elanor, which is how Tolkien spelled it and in his books it’s a Sindarin word meaning “star sun,” which is the name of a flower, and Samwise’s oldest daughter is named Elanor after the flower.

What do you all think? I know Desiree and her hubby would very much like to hear your thoughts on whether or not sisters named Heléna and Eleanor are problematic.

Back to Desiree’s original question about a middle name for Eleanor: What names would be on a list of “strong saint/catholic/religious” names that are “unique, strong, yet feminine and just makes you go WoW”?

Her ideas of Emmanuella and Caeli are both amazing! They gave me great direction in terms of what other kinds of names to suggest.

First, though, I have to admit I’m kind of with Desiree’s husband on using her name! Eleanor Desiree sounds wonderful together and I could see it pairing nicely with a lot of other names as well; I love the idea of their baby girl having that connection with her mama; and I think Desiree is objectively a pretty great name! The meaning of “desired, wished for” is a lovely one for a child. Desiree is a feminine form of the male name Desideratus, and there are three Sts. Desideratus that I found; this one is my favorite. In fact, Desiree is the French form of the feminine form Desiderata — maybe Desiree would prefer to use that? Eleanor Desiderata? Could be perfect!

Of course I can come always come up with more ideas! You all know that I almost always start consultations by looking up the names the parents have used and those they like/are considering in the Baby Name Wizard as it lists, for each name, boy and girl names that are similar in terms of style/feel/popularity. That strategy didn’t work so well for this family though, not least because Emmanuella and Caeli don’t have entries! But I’ve done a few posts that I found helpful, and of course my book of Marian names has a lot of fun ideas. These are what I came up with:

(1) Archangela
Archangela was actually my first idea, before I did any research, and it was 100% inspired by Eleanor. In that “Eleanor: Take 37” post, I shared a reader’s email about Bl. Archangela Girlani, whose birth name was Eleanor. A legitimate non-Helena holy Eleanor that can be used as patron! Anyway, I love the name Archangela — what a heavy hitting name, with THREE archangels as patrons! Eleanor Archangela is lovely!

(2) Immaculata, Immaculée
I love to tell the story of how it was meeting a little girl whose middle name is Immaculata that inspired me to start compiling non-Mary Marian names, which eventually turned into my book! You can’t get more heavy hitting than Immaculata! A variant of it is Immaculée, which could be nice because it’s French, like Desiree’s name, and ends in ee, like her name. There’s also a current famous Immaculée — Immaculée Ilibagiza, who has written about surviving the Rwandan genocide. Eleanor Immaculata and Eleanor Immaculée are both beautiful.

(3) Mariae (or …?)
I spent a little time looking up names that have a similar meaning to Desiree’s name, as a way of nodding to her hubby’s wish to use her name, while not actually using it. One of the meanings that’s been theorized about Mary is “wished for child,” which is perfect! Even if that isn’t what Mary means (and it seems likely that it’s not), how can you wrong with a Mary variant?! One of my favorites is Mariae, which is the Latin genitive version — it literally means, “belonging to Mary.” Eleanor Mariae is stunning. There are so many other Mary variants they could consider as well!

(4) Maristella
Speaking of Mary variants, Maristella is another of my favorites — it’s a variant of Stellamaris/Stella Maris, and I think Eleanor Maristella sounds really beautiful.

(5) Madonna
I know, I know. But I really really want us to reclaim this beautiful Marian name! I think the middle name spot is the perfect place to start — like this mom did, naming her daughter Indigo Madonna, with this reasoning: “I just love the title of Madonna for Our Lady, and I’ve always wanted Catholics to take it back after it’s been so pop-culture secularized.” I love Eleanor Madonna!

(6) Avila, Ave
I was excited to see Avila in the list of names having “desire” in their meaning on Behind the Name! It’s not totally a sure thing, but “desired” is possible. Regardless, it definitely has that Catholicky Catholic vibe, and Eleanor Avila has a cool rhythm. I like it! Ava was also included in that list, which didn’t seem quite right for Desiree, but it reminded me of Ave (like, Ave Maria), which I have in my book as a possibility for a given name. Eleanor Ave is unexpected and beautiful!

(7) Emmaus, Edessa
I’m not sure these are totally right for what Desiree’s looking for, but I love how they each sound with Eleanor, so I thought I’d include them! Emmaus is from the story of Jesus meeting His apostles on the road to Emmaus — I have a friend who used Emmaus for her baby, which opened my eyes to the possibility of it being used as a given name. Eleanor Emmaus. Then, Edessa is from the Marian title Our Lady of Edessa, and I think it’s such a pretty name. Eleanor Edessa.

(8) Assumpta
Assumpta comes from Assumption, of course — it’s a beautiful and little-used Marian name these days. But one of the main reasons I wanted to suggest it is because Desiree and her hubs made a point to work some Irish sensibility into their kids’ names with Tomás and Finnegan’s names, and Assumpta is listed on Behind the Name as the “Latinate form of Asunción, used especially in Ireland.” How fun is that? I like Eleanor Assumpta.

(9) Cruz
I’m not sure they’ll love this one, but I love that Cruz (Spanish for “cross”) can refer to the Cross of Jesus, and also to Our Lady at the foot of the Cross. Eleanor Cruz is pretty cool.

(10) Perpetua
Finally, Perpetua can refer to the beautiful Marian title Our Lady of Perpetual Help, and also to the second/third century martyr who is an amazing patron for a little girl and is in the Canon of the Mass.

And those are my ideas for a heavy-hitting middle name for Desiree and her husband’s baby girl! What do you all think? What names would you add to this list? And please weigh in on the Heléna/Eleanor question!


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!

Xavier Riddle and the Secret Museum

Have any of you seen or heard about the new PBS Kids show Xavier Riddle and the Secret Museum? It premiered this week; it’s “[b]ased on the children’s book series Ordinary People Change the World by New York Times bestselling author Brad Meltzer and illustrator Christopher Eliopoulos … [and] will introduce kids to inspiring historical figures and the character virtues that helped them succeed.” (This was a pretty interesting article about it, which focused heavily on the need for kids to have good heroes today [secular, of course, I didn’t see any Saints in the lineup! 😀 ], and this quote was interesting: “where do you draw the line between someone whose flaws are flaws in a good person, and someone whose flaws are disqualifying for a kids’s how [sic]?” I’m glad that’s something they’re wrestling with! So far they seem to have done a good job — my kids have seen a couple of episodes and like it well enough, and I haven’t seen anything objectionable in it.)

Anyway, what made me sit up and take notice is how they said Xavier’s name: ex-ZAY-vyer! (You might remember that I have strong feelings on the pronunciation of Xavier.) I tried to find more info on the selection of Xavier as the protagonist’s name, and hoped that someone might have written about the pronunciation, but didn’t find anything — if you do, please share!


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!