Reading round-up

I have a lot of reading to share with y’all today! (Yes, y’all, and no I’m not from the South. It’s just so useful! More of the country needs to get on that.)

First off, our reader skimac has sent me some awesome recommendations, with her annotations in parentheses:

History of Christian Names by C.M. Yonge (1884) (this seems to be the older revised version)

History of Christian Names Vol. 2 by C.M. Yonge (1864) (seems to be second half of above book, but has some different chapter headings so not sure how different)

Girls’ Christian Names: Their History, Meaning, and Association by Helena Swan (1905)

What is Your Name? A popular account of the meanings and derivations of Christian Names by Sophy Moody (1863)

A List of Christian names: their derivatives, nicknames and equivalents in several foreign languages by United States-Adjutant General’s Office (1920) (all male names since it is a war department document) (my note: I’m totally starry eyed over this description! “derivatives, nicknames and equivalents in several foreign languages” ahhh!! A quick perusal revealed Vest and Vester as nicknames for Sylvester, I’d never thought of those!)

Christian Names and What They Mean: A Birthday Book (very simple but has nice literary reference to every name)

Look at those publication dates! I LOVE old name books, and I’ve seen Charlotte Yonge cited in some of the ones I have. I only read the first page of the first book listed here and a quick look through the fifth, but I’m basically already hooked. 🙂

She also sent me this article the other day, which I quite enjoyed: St. Bruno, Bravado, & Baby Names: A Father’s Guide by Richard Becker. Skimac noted how great it was that it was written from a dad’s perspective, and I agree — we do skew mostly female here, though we do have a couple dads who read and comment and email me, and I always love hearing their perspectives. Thanks guys!

Speaking of dads … my own dad emailed me this article recently, which was pretty fascinating: 49 Preppy Baby Names Destined for the Ivy League. Digby, Connery, Blaine (a family name for me), Yates, and Darcy were some that caught by eye …

And finally, I know you’ve all been dying to see a picture of the well-named Fr. Bede I wrote about the other day — here he is, teaching Finney the Leprechaun about Jesus! 😀 Fr. Bede is seriously one awesome dude.

Happy Friday y’all!


Reading round-up

Happy Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary! Such a lovely feast for little Rosary, and also a good day to pray for special intentions — I have one, if you don’t mind adding it to your own. And I’ll remember you all and your intentions in my rosary this evening. ❤

So we’re all going crazy wanting to know Emily’s baby’s name, right? For anyone who didn’t yet see, Emily linked to her consultation on her blog, and added the tantalizing note that she’d actually had the baby that morning, and that she’d reveal his name soon. I’ll share it as soon as she gives the okay!

The Dictionary of Medieval Names from European Sources, which I just love, and whose Editor-in-Chief, Sara, sometimes offers her thoughts in our comments here (I’m still a little dazzled!), has just added Joachim to its database! You know it’s one of my very favorite names, and I asked Sara about it a few months ago, and she tweeted me the other day to let me know it had been added. I *love* the entry! This is my favorite part: “The name was never common in any culture, but the importance of the saintly father of Mary meant that this name could be found pretty much anywhere” (emphasis mine). That’s one of the things I love about it!

Has anyone seen this article? The New Tug of War Over Baby Names. I totally get having hopes, even very strong ones, that a family name will be used by the next generation; I get feeling badly if that doesn’t happen; I DON’T get offering bribes for baby names! Definitely an overstepping of bounds, no? Have any of you experienced this in your own families, or heard about it happening in real life?

Finally, a reader just sent me this today — I don’t know how I missed it! Cate Blanchett Got Her Son’s Name from a Captain Underpants Book (Yes, It’s True!). Despite how very Catholicky Catholic her kids’ names are, it appears Roman Polanksi and Captain Underpants provided inspiration for the naming of two of her sons. Which just illustrates one of the things I love about saints’ names: You can be as ostentatious or understated about your faith as you want in regards to your kids’ names and no one really need bat an eye; conversely, there are so many saints’ names that no matter your taste (and even no matter your faith), you can still end up with children that make people like me think swoonily of popes and martyrs. 😉

Happy Wednesday to you all!

Reading round-up

Just a couple quick things that I enjoyed recently:

I Love My Kid’s Unusual Name, about a Mary Cecilia nicked Mamie and her parents’ struggle over the naming process. I guess it’s true that I don’t hear Mamie too much, but I’m not sure I would have classified it as “unusual” until reading this. I guess it is, though “Mary Cecilia” has high-powered Sancta Nomina style. 🙂

And two things from the Twitter-verse:

  • Check out #HipsterConfirmationSaint courtesy of The Catholic Hipster (and fellow writer) Tommy Tighe, in which he calls for you to share your Confirmation name with him, if it’s the name of a Hipster Saint (and even if it’s not). Don’t know what the qualifications for “hipster” are? Me neither! But I do love a good name convo so head on over to his Twitter or his blog and share your Confirmation name if you think it might be what he’s looking for!
  • I was cracking up over #CelebBoatNames — I love clever punny names, some of them were really funny.

That’s what I got for you today! Happy Thursday!

Reading round-up (middle name edition)

I was asking you all about middle names (here and here and your comments were so helpful and interesting!) because I wanted to write about them for my July column — it turned out to be a much bigger animal than I expected! My column will be posted on Wednesday — I’ll post the link here when it’s up — and I’ll be interested to see what you all think.

In the meantime, I came across some really interesting articles while trying to do some “quick” research of what I thought was a fairly straightforward topic:

Why Do We Have Middle Names? which provides a brief intro to the history of middle names in America.

Despite the warning at the top of the page that “This article has multiple issues” I found the Wiki article on middle names to be helpful as well, and the list it provided of famous people who go by their middle names especially interesting.

Also fascinating was this one, about middle initials that don’t stand for anything, and middle initials/names that have been entirely made up: The Quick 10: People With Fake Middle Initials.

In Why Bother With a Middle Name? by the Name Lady, I liked this bit particularly:

In some cases, middle names can perform clear functions. Families with common surnames rely on them to help distinguish their children at school or on legal forms. Middle names can also serve religious roles, such as linking the child to a saint as a role model for a godly life.

For other families, the middle name is a chance to honor personal connections. Some use the middle name slot to pass on a family surname, or pay homage a relative or personal hero. Others use it to reflect their children’s cultural heritage. For instance, American families of Chinese ancestry may choose an English first name and a Chinese middle name for a child.

And then there’s simply style. A middle name can make the full composition sound elegant for formal occasions. It can be a place to play, to experiment with a more daring and unconventional choice than you’d choose for a first name, or send a kind of secret message to your child. And some parents just love names and don’t want to stop at only one!

In other words, middle names serve all of the many, many roles that names in general serve, except identification. If you don’t value any of those roles, you can skip the middle name altogether…but don’t expect your child to thank you for it. Necessary or not, middle names have become so standard in the United States that kids without them can feel slighted.”

The comments on this post provided some good insight as well.

I’m always super interested in personal experience, so I liked this from the Catholic Answers forums: Does your child not have a middle name?

This was not entirely on the topic I hoped for (only the first paragraph or so was about names), but I loved it anyway: What That Middle Initial In My Dad’s Name Could Mean. I can’t get it to load right now (?), but there was a fascinating bit about (if I remember correctly) the bishop’s dad’s middle initial being “H” but there being confusion over what it stood for. One document said Henry, another said Harry, and his baptismal certificate said Hieronymus, which is Latin for Jerome … so maybe his middle initial was actually J? Fascinating, and a lovely tribute to his dad.

I thought this was surprisingly well written for someone who’s not a name writer: What’s In a Name? It includes a list of “naming features that might cause confusion” given that “Most Americans have three names: given-middle-family (which are called “first-middle-last” ). This means most officials and and clerical information-takers in the United States expect clients, patients, and customers to follow this pattern. When internationals present their unique names, the Americans are flummoxed because there are standard boxes to fill in, but the names don’t cooperate. Additionally, sometimes American names can create problems.” He also provides a list of do’s and don’t’s regarding others’ names, which I thought was quite good.

This is for more of a chuckle at the question asked than for the information provided: Do Catholic people have middle names? I think the asker was totally genuine and unsure, but calling us “Catholic people” and wording the question as “do they have to go through confirmation or something to get one? I don’t think they have middle names on their birth certificates” suggested a somewhat benevolent kind of other-ness about us that’s not something I usually find being assigned to me. (I mean, I often [almost always?] feel different from those I interact with because of my faith [likely a lot of you too, right?], but not in the way this article made me feel — almost like we’re a curiosity.) The answers are fine, and the one about Ukrainian Catholic and Orthodox naming practices was quite interesting. (It would be great for the asker to stumble upon our little community here — she’d learn everything she’s ever wanted to know about Catholic naming practices! 😀 )

This was probably my favorite of all the articles I read: The power and peril of the middle name. It was both cheeky and informative, a really interesting read. It mentions the name “Gideon Oliver,” which I immediately fell in love with as an amazing combo (though I have zero knowledge of George Osborne, the Brit politician/current First Secretary of State who was named Gideon Oliver Osborne at birth, so perhaps it would be unwise to give a child his exact original first and middle names without researching what kind of man/politician he is? Just in case). (Nicknamey me also immediately went to the possibility of “Geo” as a nickname for “Gideon Oliver” … love it!) And whatever you think of our President, this quote attributed to him made me laugh out loud:

I got my first name from my father, and I got my middle name from someone who obviously didn’t think I’d ever run for president.”

(Barack Hussein Obama, in case you couldn’t remember his middle name.)

Finally, if any of you hold any sway with the SSA, can you please request that they start keeping track of middle names?? I think they’d be at least as revealing as first names, if not even more so, and likely a more diverse list as well.

This has been an interesting subject to research and learn more about this week! Please feel free to continue adding your stories/experiences, I love reading them all!

Reading round-up

Have you seen this article? Totally fascinating: Six Words: “My name is Jamaal … I’m White.” (“NPR continues a series of conversations from The Race Card Project, in which thousands of people have submitted their thoughts on race and cultural identity in six words.“)

I loved this article explaining all the family connections — paternal AND maternal — in Princess Charlotte’s name: Charlotte Elizabeth Diana: The Meaning Behind the New Princess’s Name. I particularly love that Diana is the only name that honors only one person — it’s totally unambiguous who’s getting the honor. Will and Kate did a brilliant job.

AND — did you all see that Nameberry co-founder Pamela Satran totally called the Princess’ exact name? On Canadian TV the night before the name was announced!

A reader emailed with the news of the 13th baby boy born to the Schwandt family — I’d known she was pregnant, but hadn’t heard that she’d had another boy, what a household! And his name! Francisco Matthew! See what Michigan family names 13th son, now 2 days old

Finally, I was so taken with this name discussion over on Nameberry: Brother due for sister Bramble. First off — Bramble! I am so loving Bramble! I’m in awe that they came up with such a great, unused name! Second, someone suggested Brogue — Brogue! Ohmygoodness, Bramble and Brogue??? I’m sure it’s too much Br- for the parents, and it would be for me too, but I’ve been saying the names to myself for days, just enjoying them. Bramble and Brogue. (My first idea was Thicket. Haha! If they didn’t have Bramble, I’d say Thicket’s a pretty cool name for a boy, if super nature names are one’s taste. My second idea was Caspian, which I quite like.)

BNW blog

There were a couple of fun topics posted on the Baby Name Wizard blog recently that I thought you’d all be interested in:

Cool Victorian Nicknames Beyond Mollie and Sadie — there are some really cute ones on this list. One of my favorite ideas mentioned is Effie as a nick for Josephine or Stephanie.

Acronames: The Sneaky-Clever Baby Name Alternative — “Acronames”! It refers to nicknames or given names made from, as in the former, the first letters of a person’s full name (eg., John Ellis Bush=Jeb) or, as in the latter, the first initials of several people (eg., a little boy named Jase after his grandparents Jerome, Anita, Stewart, and Eileen). I personally love this kind of thinking. One of the commenters said she knows a little one named Isabelle Verity and goes by the nickname Ivy (from her initials I.V.!) — I love that!! That is some brilliant naming right there.

Countdown to the New Royal Baby Name: Hitting the Bullseye — I have immense respect for Laura (The Baby Name Wizard)’s opinion about names, but I like my ideas better than hers.

Reading round-up

I wrote recently about “names that seem to be either/or names — meaning, if you use one for one child, it seems the other is really not usable for another” — like Theodore and Thaddeus, Evangeline and Genevieve. Bree at The Beauty of Names did a much better job with this I think: This or That? (Girls). I commented over there with my favorites of her pairings — I’d love to read yours!

The first set of girl quintuplets born in America happened this week. While the parents’ taste in names is different from mine, I did appreciate that their older daughter and two of the quints share one style (androgynous surnames) and the other three share another (traditionally feminine) — a nice way to tie all the sisters together: Texas Hospital Welcomes First All-Girl Quintuplets Ever Born In U.S.

A reader/friend sent me this, which was so fun: 20 Great Roaring 20s Baby Names Making a Comeback. I’d tell you my favorites from the list if I could, but I can’t, because they’re all amazing. (So fun too to see two of my suggestions for Grace Patton on there — Lola and Violet — as well as Theodore, which she’s already used!)

Finally, as I noted on FB, this just can’t bode well to me for this couple: Man starts online petition in battle over baby name with wife. I haven’t checked out the petition and I’m sure someone’s already thought of this but my suggestion would be Michael Spyridon (first name middle name) or a Greek form of Michael for a first name (according to Behind the Name: Michail, Michalis, Mihail, Mihalis). (Very like the Russian Mikhail, no? Why all the squabbling??) (Also — Kseniya! I mentioned it in the spelling Xenia in my Xavier post!)

Happy Friday all!

Reading round-up

I’ve read a few interesting things recently, some which I’ve posted on Facebook and others I haven’t:

If you want to see a picture of Pope Francis going to Confession, check out this post (the content of the post is great too, but that picture!) (it’s the second one — scroll down) (the first pic is amazing too — he’s in the confessional ready to hear confessions): A “Jubilee of Mercy” – On 2nd Anniversary, Pope Calls Extraordinary Holy Year of “God’s Forgiveness”

Simcha posted on FB: “Confirmation saints! Did you or your kid pick someone unusual? If so, why? The more details, the better” and got a whoooole bunch of responses. I haven’t even read through them all yet, but I love the conversation!

I’m not as familiar with Latin as I’d like to be — I took two semesters of it in college, because I wanted to, which is how I was able to name this blog 🙂 — and I’ve been to too few Latin Masses to have picked up much more than just what I know from some common prayers and hymns, like Salve Regina. So I liked this, and thought some of you might find it helpful too: Latins Words or Phrases Every Catholic Should Know.

In case you missed it ( 😉 ), there’s this: How to Name a Large Family (by me!)

I mentioned before that I couldn’t wait to read all Arwen‘s posts on naming, and I did love the first one I read, on the naming of her first two: Insufferable Parental Name-Gazing (edited to add: Please don’t mis-read this as me saying I didn’t like the rest of her naming posts! What I meant was, I’ve only read that one so far, and I liked it!)

Somehow — and now I can’t remember how — I found Arwen’s mom’s blog post where she explains how she and her husband chose all their kids’ names. With a child named Arwen, you know the rest are going to be interesting, and wow — they are: Coming Clean

That’s all I got for now! Happy Saturday!

Reading round-up

The U.S. Bishops posted a story this week spotlighting a few of their “newly professed men and women religious to tell us something about themselves that others might find surprising. Their answers below provide some insight to how each discovered their vocational call”: Meet the Profession Class of 2014. I loved what each one had to say, and of course I couldn’t help but notice some their beautiful names:



Stella Mary

Maria Francesca

Ann Kateri


Abby Aurea

Some of these were likely new names chosen for religious life (my guesses: Stella Mary, Maria Francesca, Ann Kateri, and maybe the Aurea of Abby Aurea?); others may not have been (maybe not Elizabeth, probably not Thomas, being a priest, and in all likelihood not Ryan, being that I don’t believe there’s a St. Ryan?), but all are names of men and women who have given their whole lives to God (and maybe Fr. Ryan will be the first St. Ryan 🙂 ). Congrats to them!

I came across a couple ethnic-name posts/sites in the last couple days:

International Names: From the Catalan culture — there are some really beautiful names listed here, and I particularly loved that “Catalan names – with their Romance language base and Catholic heritage – are fresh but not unfamiliar.” One that jumped out to me right away: Èlisabet (it reminded me of the Elisabetta I suggested for Baby Girl Stark).

Greek Name Day Calendar — I thought this was quite a find. “According to Greek Orthodox tradition, nearly every day of the year is dedicated to some Christian saint or martyr. When someone in Greece is named after one of these saints, that saint’s celebration day becomes their “name day” and is celebrated much like their actual birthday.” This site lists all the names and all their days! They’re Greek names, of course, which would be amazing for anyone with Greek heritage, but I learned a lot about nicknames and name variants. One of my favorites: Genovefa and its variants Jenevieve, Genevieve, and Genoveva. I know a little Jenevieve, and I thought the J-spelling was used just because her parents wanted a J- name — very cool to find out it’s a common enough spelling in Greece!

Finally, speaking of Greek names, I came across the name Photine on — a name I never would have given two thoughts to; I would have seen it and passed it by — but I had cause to click on it, and guess what? It’s “[d]erived from Greek φως (phos) meaning “light”. This is the name traditionally given to the Samaritan woman Jesus met at the well (see John 4:7). She is venerated as a saint by the Eastern Church.” Did you know the Samaritan woman had a name associated with her? I didn’t! I thought that was a very cool little nugget. Another cool connection is, the reason I came across it was because I was looking up “Toula,” the character’s name on My Big Fat Greek Wedding, and I remembered her saying on the movie that it was a nickname for what I thought she said was “Fortoula,” but it turns out it was actually Fotoula, so I looked that up and discovered Fotoula is a diminutive of Fotini, which is the modern Greek form of Photine. Mind blown.

Happy Saturday! Day of the Blessed Virgin Mary!

Reading round-up

Swistle posted an update today to a fun dilemma that could easily have fit in here: Baby Boy or Girl Seewald-without-the-S, Sibling to Urban, Charles, Levi, and Matthias. Those are some great Catholicky names! I especially like how there are the more unusual, like Urban, Levi, and Matthias, right alongside the more common, like Charles and new baby Thomas. That’s Catholic naming for you — all part of one big family. 🙂

I liked this article over on The Power of Names. Totally agree with this: “But I find it a daunting prospect each time, to name another person. To shape the beginning of identity by vowel and consonant. To help mold their life by the meaning of what they are called.” But totally disagree with this: “Sometimes I wish the perfect name would be dropped in our laps, so we wouldn’t have to worry about choosing the right one.” (Um, no. The list-making and sometimes-heated “discussions” and worrying that the baby will never have a name are some of my favorite parts of choosing a name. For real.) I also love considering that “Mary and Joseph probably had their own pet names for their young son.” That’s a mind blower.

Then there’s this article, from Pamela Redmond Satran: The Pope, My Catholic Girlhood, and Baby Names. Some fun points, like: “Nuns got to pick new names for themselves when they entered the convent. That itself was appealing enough, but what was really amazing was that their choices were not confined by ethnic background, historical period, or even gender,” but in general a sad bummer of an article:

  • “I couldn’t wait to hear who the new pope was going to be, not because I’m a practicing Catholic any longer or because I cared which Cardinal got elected. No. As usual, I was in it for the name”
  • “… sites as Catholic Online, Which sends out a Saint of the Day newsletter that I get for — what else? — the names”
  • “What was most appealing about Catholicism was the ritual of renaming, which extended far beyond the nuns to include pagan babies, popes, and even yourself … The only thing more exciting than naming the pagan babies was getting to pick our own Confirmation names. Not strictly a renaming, this meant adding a second middle to our own lineups. My choice, I’m chagrined to admit, was the pedestrian Mary, but for very name nerdish reasons: Combined with Pamela Ann, it made my initials P.A.M. Brilliant!”

I’m pretty sure we all here get the excitement she’s talking about when she swoons over Sr. Miriam Gervase’s and Sr. Jacinta’s names, but please, Catholic namers, be in it for more than the name. As Jen commented over on our FB page, “There’s more to a saint than just his/her name. But I thought everyone knew that.” Amen sister.