Spotlight on: Matthias

A reader asked for a spotlight on Matthias, one of my favorite favorite names! Specifically, she wrote,

Biblically, I have only seen it as Matthias, but when I ask my family members who are not as familiar with the biblical spelling, they think it is spelled Mathias. When I read the name, I pronounce it as ma-THIGH-as, whereas, in Germany, for example, where the name seems to be more popular than in the US, it is pronounced Ma-TEE-us. It has the same meaning as Matthew (gift from God), but the spelling of Matthew is far more prevalent than the use of Mathew, although there are some of those. Matthias, on the other hand, is much more uncommon than Matthew, so it seems as if there is more room for variance and not an assumed way to spell it.”

Indeed! It’s just as she said: according to Behind the Name there are two traditional spellings with the “th” (Matthias and Mathias), though Matthias is the one used in the  English Bible (not sure about other translations?), and it seems that both spellings have usage in a bunch of languages as listed on Behind the Name, with Matthias having broader usage:

Matthias: Greek, German, Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, French, Dutch, Biblical, Biblical Latin, Biblical Greek

Mathias:  French, German, Swedish, Norwegian, Danish

Pronunciation-wise, it seems that Mathias is only pronounced ma-TEE-as (and there’s also the variant Mat(t)ias, which makes that pronunciation more obvious), while Matthias can be either ma-THIGH-as or ma-TEE-as. I looked both Matthias and Mathias up on SSA and was interested by the results:

matthias

mathias

Matthias is slightly more popular BUT 2003 is the first year it made it into the top 1000, while Mathias has been on and off since 1900. Also, I found this very telling:

matias

Over the same time period, Matias — which of course has that ma-TEE-as pronunciation — has been like 100 spots more popular than either Matthias or Mathias, so just from these charts Americans might be more familiar with the ma-TEE-as pronunciation and/or might be baffled by having an “h” in the name, never mind two “t”s. (The spelling Mattias has never been in the top 1000.)

So it’s definitely one of those names that requires some decisions, and then firm consistency when sharing the name with others.

I think it’s a name that’s totally worth it though. I mean, it’s a Matthew variant, so it has the same great meaning (“gift of God”), and it can take the same friendly, accessible nicknames (Matt, Matty), but names that are a twist on the familiar are some of my favorites, and Matthias totally fits that. Never mind that I always think of Matthias as a Catholicky Catholic name because he was chosen by Peter and “the brothers” to replace Judas in, dare I call it, the first Church Council??  😉

During those days Peter stood up in the midst of the brothers (there was a group of about one hundred and twenty persons in the one place). He said … ‘Therefore, it is necessary that one of the men who accompanied us the whole time the Lord Jesus came and went among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day on which he was taken up from us, become with us a witness to his resurrection.’

So they proposed two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also known as Justus, and Matthias. Then they prayed, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen to take the place in this apostolic ministry from which Judas turned away to go to his own place.’ Then they gave lots to them, and the lot fell upon Matthias, and he was counted with the eleven apostles.” (Acts 1:15,21-26)

(I also need to point out, because it can be confusing, that the Apostle Matthew, also known as Levi, who was one of the original twelve, is not the same person as Matthias. I’m guessing that we use Matthew and Matthias (and also Levi for Matthew) to distinguish between the two, because they’re both more recent variants of the original Hebrew Mattiyahu via the Greek variant Matthaios.)

Anyway, I’ve always loved Matthias’ story, and I’ve always loved his name. Not only are Matt and Matty possible nicknames, but I’ve seen Mitt/Mitty for Matthew, which can work for Matthias as well, and the Dutch nickname Thijs and its variant Ties I find so appealing — Matt Lauer has a son named Thijs, pronounced TICE. Love it! (But that would probably interfere with getting everyone on board with the ma-THIGH-as pronunciation, huh?)

What do you all think of Matthias? Which pronunciation do you prefer? Do you like the spelling Matthias or Mathias better? Do you know anyone named Mat(t)hias? Does he like his name? Does he go by a nickname? All of which is my way of saying the same thing as the reader who requested the spotlight: “I would be interested in hearing your opinions on it and the opinions of your readers.”

Spotlight on: Klaus

A reader is considering the name Klaus for her baby-on-the-way and asked me if I’d get your feedback on it. What an unexpected name!

Klaus is a German short form of Nicholas (and so can take any of the Sts. Nicholas as patron) and is said “klows,” which can be problematic for anyone who doesn’t know that — it might be annoying to have to correct people on a regular basis (though not a deal breaker imo), and said “klaws” would bring Santa to mind right away. But is that really a big deal? It strikes me as such a distinguished name and in fact, one of the comments on the entry for the name at Behind the Name said, “it has a sophisticated brevity.” I love that! Another commenter mentioned the Austrian actor Klaus Maria Brandauer — you guys! Klaus Maria!!! 😍😍😍 So I had to dig a little deeper and I’m fascinated by this: Klaus Maria Brandauer was born Klaus Georg Steng but replaced his middle and last names with his mom’s first and maiden names — Maria Brandauer — to create his professional name. I love that so much!! What a guy!! And not really any different from a man taking a Mary name as his own (religious name, Confirmation name), no?

Klaus is such a short name that it doesn’t really need a nickname (though I did see in its entry on Namipedia the nickname Klausie, which could be cute), but it’s also got some baggage (pronunciation, Santa) that could be managed with an easier nickname. I think Nick/Nicky/Niko/Nico could work, as a nod to its Nicholas connection. Or perhaps KC, if the middle was a C name, like Klaus Christopher (I had a friend in college named Keith Christopher who went by KC). Or Kip if the middle had a P in it (Klaus Patrick), or Kit if the middle had a T (like GoT actor Kit Harington, whose given name is Christopher — Kit is a traditional nickname for Christopher, which makes an extra nice argument for Klaus Christopher nicknamed Kit). Or Kam, for something like Klaus Abraham/Amadeus or Klaus Matthew/Matthias — Kam fits in easily with the Cameron/Cam crowd.

What do you all think of Klaus? Do you know anyone named Klaus? Does he like his name? Does he go by a nickname?

 

Spotlight on: Felicity

Felicity’s one of those names that I love seeing considered. Though it’s more familiar to us here in this community than not, it’s actually fairly unusual — take a look at its popularity chart:

felicity
From SSA.gov

Isn’t that so interesting? From 1900 to 1997, it wasn’t in the top 1000 at all. Doesn’t that surprise you? Then on September 29, 1998 the show Felicity aired, which accounts for the name’s appearance at no. 818 in 1998 and the HUGE leap it made the next year! It stayed between 400 and 800 ever since, being currently at the most popular it’s ever been, at no. 360. Part of the reason for the recent increase in popularity might also be due to actresses Felicity Jones and Felicity Huffman (who’s one of eight! Six girls besides her: Mariah, Betsy, Grace, Isabel, Jessie, Jane, and one brother: Moore, Jr.) and also the Revolutionary War-era American Girl doll by the same name. But even still, no. 360 is really not that popular at all, especially given what we know about name popularity today (here, here). All in all, I think it’s sort of in a sweet spot of popularity — uncommon yet familiar.

And of course, its saintliness! St. Felicity’s story is one of the very best — as New Advent puts it (using the variant Felicitas):

Felicitas, who at the time of her incarceration was with child (in the eighth month), was apprehensive that she would not be permitted to suffer martyrdom at the same time as the others, since the law forbade the execution of pregnant women. Happily, two days before the games she gave birth to a daughter, who was adopted by a Christian woman. On 7 March, the five confessors were led into the amphitheatre. At the demand of the pagan mob they were first scourged; then a boar, a bear, and a leopard, were set at the men, and a wild cow at the women. Wounded by the wild animals, they gave each other the kiss of peace and were then put to the sword.”

Felicity was the maidservant of St. Perpetua, also a mother of an infant who was martyred at the same time — they share a feast day: March 7. That Felicity is St. Felicity of Carthage, but there are others too, like St. Felicity of Rome who was mother to seven sons and was forced to watch them all killed in front of her in order to get her to renounce her faith (it didn’t work); she was then martyred.

Felicity’s also a virtue-type name — it means “happiness” — which puts it in league with names like Grace, Faith, Hope, Sophia, and Verity. It’s got so much going for it in its full form, but I feel like a big part of the conversation around the name Felicity involves nicknames — specifically, I know parents who decide not to go with Felicity because they can’t figure out a nickname they like. Some traditional ones are Fliss(y), Liss(y), Lissa, Fil, Flick, and Flicka (Felicity Huffman has a web site for women in general and moms in particular called What the Flicka), but what else can we get out of it?

Ages ago one of you (eclare) suggested Lily as a nickname for Felicity, which I thought was brilliant. Another of you (Margaret) has a daughter named Felicity who gets called Fin — a nickname from one of her middle names, but I totally think it could work for something like Felicity Nora. Zita is a Hungarian diminutive of the name, and Zyta a Polish short form — I really like both those options. The comments for the entry on behindthename include Fee and Felly as nicknames, which are cute. Cissy could probably work, as could Liddy, which I love. What other ideas do you have?

What do you think of the name Felicity? Would you name a daughter Felicity, or have you? Does she go by a nickname? Do you know any little Felicitys?

 

 

 

Spotlight on: Jacob

The consultation and birth announcement I posted recently have me thinking that a spotlight on Jacob would be a good idea.

Jacob! Who doesn’t love Jacob! It’s been America’s darling for years now — it’s currently at #4 but it was #1 from 1999-2012. Thirteen years at #1! Top ten for nearly 25 years! The lowest it ever got was #318 in 1950; it was in the top 100 for a good portion of the first decade of the 20th century and jumped in again in 1974 and never looked back.

jacob
Screen shot from the Social Security Administration web site

Jacob has so many things going for it — it’s Old Testament, for one thing, and a big Old Testament name at that: the Patriarch Jacob, son of Isaac, son of Abraham; his name was changed to Israel after wrestling with God in the Book Genesis, and a whole nation took its name from him. Pope Benedict discussed the name change in one of his public addresses, including the significance of names in general, awesome stuff. (As a side note, Jill Duggar named her baby Israel.) It’s also got the amazing nickname Jake, one of my forever favorites. It’s also — hold onto your hat! — the same name as James:

james

I mentioned that on Instagram the other day, and one of you commented:

According to ancestry.com, one of my mom’s uncle’s middle name switched between Jacob and James on different documents.”

How cool is that?! Name knowledge is helpful in so many areas! So if you’re looking to honor a James — saint, family member, friend — and for whatever reason can’t/don’t want to use James, Jacob is a perfect alternative. At the same time, Jake has history of use as a nickname for James, so that’s an option too.

Even though the Church recognizes the holy ones of the Old Testament as saints (CCC no. 61: “The patriarchs, prophets and certain other Old Testament figures have been and always will be honored as saints in all the Church’s liturgical traditions“) (I wish I had come across that when I was researching this post!), including Jacob the Patriarch, I suspect that Jacob doesn’t come across to most people as saintly and/or as Catholicky Catholic as some other names. Any of the Sts. James can work as patron, but little Jacob Miles’ birth announcement really inspired me to find some holy Jacobs. CatholicSaints.info lists several (here, here, here), and Bl. Jakob Gapp was the one I chose for the IG post for the birth announcement. I’ve been thinking about him ever since — I’d never heard of him before, but what an amazing and holy man he was! He fought in WWI, then became a Marianist priest and teacher. The Marianists have a beautiful profile on him, and this part really got me:

Required by his superior to wear a Swastika badge and greet people in public with a “Heil Hitler,” he conscientiously refused. He felt it his duty to continue in the schoolroom and in his sermons to denounce Nazism as anti-Christian. When a fellow teacher was reported as telling the children they should “hate and kill Czechs and Jews,” he considered himself
duty-bound to refute him in his own class.”

He was eventually arrested, interrogated, and beheaded by the Nazis:

One of his interrogators (who is still alive) says that Heinrich Himmler, head of the Gestapo, insisted on reading transcripts of all that the Marianist priest said. Himmler eventually observed to one of the judges, that if the million Nazi party members were as committed to Nazism as Father Gapp was to Catholicism, Germany would be winning the war without difficulty.”

If that isn’t an amazing, holy Jacob, I don’t know who is!

Besides James, other variants of Jacob include Giacomo, Yakub, Iago, Jaime, Jamie, Seamus, and Jacques, and there’s also the feminine Jacqueline, Jacoba, Jamesina, and Jamie. Nicknames include Jake and the super cute Coby, Cubby, and Jeb; A Dictionary of English Surnames by Reaney & Wilson also says that the English surname Cobbet(t), dating back to 1275, is from:

Cob-et, Cob-ot, diminutives of Cob, a pet-form of Jacob.”

Such a cute, unusual nickname idea!

There is so much fun info regarding Jacob, a truly great name! What else do you all know about Jacob? Would you name a son Jacob, or have you? Does he go by a nickname, and if so, which one?

 

Spotlight on: Lily

Months ago one of you asked me via email if I would do a spotlight on Lily, and I’m delighted to oblige today!

There’s so much to say about Lily! First: the flower. The lily is a gorgeous flower, and a gorgeous flower name; as such it can fit in well with other nature-y names from Rose and Heather to River, Willow, and Sage. I love versatility! The lily flower also has a bunch of faith connections — according to this site they include:

The lily is a symbol of purity, and has become the flower of the Virgin. Originally, in Christian symbolism, the lily was used as the attribute of the Virgin Saints. The lily among thorns has become a symbol of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin because of the purity she preserved amid the sins of the world.  The Annunciation, is very much associated with lilies. In many of the scenes of the Annunciation executted [sic] during the Renaissance, the Archangel Gabriel holds a lily, or a lily is in a vase between the Virgin and him. Thus, the lily is also an attribute of the Saint Gabriel.
 
Sometimes the Infant Christ is represented offering a spray of lilies to a Saint, symbolizing the virtue of chastity. As a symbol of chastity, the lily is the attribute of several Saints, among them St. Dominic, St. Francis, St. Anthony of Padua, St. Clare, and St. Joseph. The fleur-de-lis, a variety of lily, is the emblem of royalty. A fleur-de-lis was chosen by King Clovis as an emblem of purification through Baptism, and this flower has since become the emblem of the kings of France. This is why the flower is the symbol of St. Louis of France and St. Louis of Toulouse, both members of the royal house of France. The fleur-de-lis was also the emblem of the city of Florence. As an attribute of royalty, the fleur-de-lis appears on crowns and sceptres of kings and Saints, and is given to the Virgin Mary as Queen of Heaven.

… The lily of the valley is one of the flowers that signals the return of spring. For this reason it has become a symbol of the Advent of Christ. The whiteness of its flowers and the sweetness of its scent it is a symbol of the Virgin Mary, especially of her Immaculate Conception. The latter meaning is based upon Canticles 2:1 ‘I am the flower of the field, and the lily of the valley.'”

A more compact list of holy people and events with whom lilies are associated is here. I also liked this bit from this site:

Flower associations with Mary’s divine prerogatives include, for example, those associated with her Assumption … Among these are the apocraphyl legend of the roses and lilies found in p[ace [sic] of Mary’s body in her tomb; St. Bede’s 6th Century discernment of the tranlucent [sic] whiteness of the petals of the white lily as symbolizing the purity of Mary’s body and the gold of its anthers as symbolizing the glory of her soul, as she was assumed into heaven … Besides the Assumption flowers previously mentioned, there is the white day lily, known as Assumption Lily from it’s mid-August bloom around the time of the August 15th liturgical feast of the Assumption

So lots of beautiful connections for Lily!

But wait! There’s more!

Lily is also a traditional nickname for Elizabeth! Abby at Appellation Mountain explains it thusly:

Before you cry, “No, nope, never – Lily just cannot be a nickname for Elizabeth. That’s all Lillian,” pause and consider this. Lily and Lillian probably started out as nicknames for Elizabeth, at least some of the time. My best guess is that the overwhelming majority of people don’t know this – I’ve found a few message boards with comments like “Lily is not a nickname for Elizabeth.” So, okay, it’s not common knowledge. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t so. The current Queen of England, Elizabeth II, was called Lilibet as a child, which makes me think that the Lily-Elizabeth connection was alive and well until sometime in the early twentieth century.”

At least one of you readers has a daughter named Elizabeth who goes by Lily (you know who you are! If you want to chime in, please do! 😊), I love that option! (I spotlighted Elizabeth here.)

There are lots of Lily names, all of which can trace back to the same faith connections mentioned above. Of course there’s Lillian, which is perfectly in tune with names like Alice, Clara, and Eleanor. Liliana is another gorgeous option, which pulls in St. Anne. 🙂  (Liliana could totally be a Mary+Anne name, or an Elizabeth+Anne name, love it!) Lilia/Lilya is a Slavic variant that I love so much it’s on my long list. Lilly, Lilli, Lili are all legit variant spellings of Lily.

What do you think of Lily, and/or what more do you know about it? Would you name a daughter Lily, or have you? If you would/did, would Lily be the name on the birth certificate, or would it be a nickname for something longer — and if so, what?

Updated to add: How could I forget to include the connection to St. Kateri?? She’s known as the Lily of the Mohawks. 💕

Spotlight on: Benedict/a

I haven’t done one of these in ages and it feels goooood to work on one! 😀

One of you dear readers asked me for a spotlight on Benedicta a while ago, so I thought it would be best to add in Benedict as well, as Benedict is the “originating name” in the sense that it was a name first, and then the female variant arose. (Withycombe says that Benedicta is, “Probably as a rule simply a f. form of Benedictus, the man’s name, though there are one or two obscure saints Benedicta.”)

Benedict/a’s meaning rocks: “blessed.” So great, right?! And for us, it also means “any of the Sts. Benedict, and/or the Benedictine Order (especially for those who have a Benedict spirituality), and/or our dear Papa Benny — Pope Emeritus Benedict XIV (aka B16 because we Catholics are cool like that, giving our popes hip nicks. 😀 ).”

Speaking of hip … this image of St. Benedict always kills me, he looks so cool, like he’s just wearing his hoodie, hanging out with friends, like (Catholic nerd alert!) your favorite young seminarian or director of campus ministry. 😀 I hope it isn’t disrespectful to say so! It’s my favorite image of him, and if I ever have a Benedict, I’ll get this icon for him.

st_benedict_of_norcia
Hoping it’s okay that I’m including this screen grab — I’ve seen this image all over the internet and only tonight discovered who wrote it — great job, Br. Claude Lane! I got it from Mount Angel Abbey’s web site.

I know some people have a hard time moving past the Benedict Arnold association that, unfortunately, continues to cling stubbornly to the name, but fortunately that’s only an American problem, and Pope Benedict, Benedict Cumberbatch, and time have all helped to dilute it, and will continue to do so I’m sure.

Benedicta suffers from no such problematic association, as far as I’m aware, and Simcha Fisher’s little Benedicta Maribel — called Benny exclusively and swoonily — is a tremendous example of how such a big name can work on a beautiful little girl.

As far as nicknames go for Benedict, there’s Ben and Benny, and I’ve suggested Bede as a nickname for it, and I’ve recently been loving the idea of Boon(e) as a nickname for it too, if you want something a little offbeat — it means “good,” a similar meaning to Benedict, which just adds to its possible use as a nickname for Benedict in my opinion (Abby did a post on Boone not too long ago, which I loved). I’ve also seen Ned (and Neddy!) — seriously adorable! Benito is a Spanish variant (though … is the Mussolini connection still too strong?) and Benedetto an Italian variant, and I think some of the other foreign variants could really work as nicknames or given names too, like Bendt/Bent (Danish), Bence (Hungarian), and Bento (Portuguese).

For Benedicta, there’s of course Benny and I think Betty, Neddy/Nettie, and even Becka could work. (Which makes me think — Beck could work as a nickname for Benedict too! Fun!) I could see Bonnie working for a girl as well. Benita is a Spanish form and Benedetta an Italian form (and Bettina its diminutive). Pretty!

I can’t not mention also Bennett/Bennet/Benett/Benet/Bennitt — medieval variants of Benedict that can be a little easier to bear while still retaining the saintliness of the name. Withycombe even says that those same variants were used for girls as late as the end of the 17th century! She also says that the surnames Benn and Benson were derived from Benedict, which provide further ideas.

All in all, I think Benedict and Benedicta are great names, very usable. I’d love to hear from any of you who have a Benedict/a or know any — do they like their name? Do they go by a nickname and if so, what is it?