Spotlight on: Stanley and Stanislaus

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you!! Today’s the last day of a novena to St. Anne I’ve been praying, in which I included all of your intentions; your children both living and deceased; those of you who are hoping for babies and those of you struggling with your motherhood; and in thanks for all of you. ❤ Be sure to check in again on Friday — I’ll have a special Black Friday gift for you all!!

Meghan asked for a spotlight on Stanley in light of the recent beatification of Bl. Stanley Rother, and Natalie had previously mentioned considering Stanley because of that same Blessed, and Annie said she *couldn’t wait* for this spotlight, and I heard Bl. Stanley mentioned quite a bit in the press for Bl. Solanus’ beatification this past weekend including in this article (in which my sister is also mentioned! Nbd), so! I think we need a Stanley spotlight!

I’m coupling it with Stanislaus because of their shared first four letters and nickname; because Stanislaus is another name and holy man I’ve had on my mind for a while because of the JP2 story included in this post; and because Stanley has been used as an anglicization of Stanislaus/Stanislaw (but they’re actually two totally separate names).

First, Stanley: from an Old English surname meaning “stone clearing” (according to behindthename). According to the SSA it was a top 100 name from 1900 until 1960, peaking at no. 34 in 1915, 1916, and 1917. I did some brief research into what might have inspired that peak, and found this comment on this post:

Stanley was extremely popular among Polish-Americans at the turn of the century. It was used as an Anglicization for Stanislaw. In fact, it was so common among them, that some areas refered to any Polish guy as Stan or Stanley.”

I looked for events in 1914 that might have contributed to the first year of the Stanley peak of popularity and found the 1914 naval Battle of the Falkland Islands that involved its capital, Stanley, and the 1914 Stanley Cup Finals, which is described as “the first officially sanctioned series for the Stanley Cup between” the champions of the Pacific Coast Hockey Association and the National Hockey Association. I don’t know enough about either historical battles or hockey to know if either/both of these events might have really inspired the peak, though. Do any of you?

One of the interesting things about Stanley is that, until Bl. Stanley, it wasn’t a holy name — not the kind of name Catholic parents might have considered (unless it was a family name, or a nod to Stanislaus, etc.). It reminds me of this sentence from this post by a Canon Lawyer on whether today’s Catholic children need to be given saints’ names:

Perhaps if we all raise our children as committed Catholics, names like ‘Ashley’and ‘Jennifer,’ ‘Curtis’ and ‘Todd’ may some day in the future indeed be the names of saints.”

And now Stanley! (It’s important to note that his middle name was Francis, which satisfied the then-requirement for a Christian name; this article about him noted, “When he arrived at the mission, the Tz’utujil Mayan Indians in the village took to calling him Padre Francisco, after his baptismal name of Francis.” So if Stanley isn’t your style but you love Bl. Stanley, Francis is a good alternative. Or Rother, if you prefer more unusual names? I’ve heard RO-ther, is that how you say it? Or RAW-ther?)

Now for Stanislaus: “Slavic stan ‘to stand, to hold, to become’ + Slavic sława, slava ‘glory, fame'” (according to the DMNES), and also known in variants Stanislav, Stanislaw, and Stanislas. Besides the St. Stanislaus of the JP2 story I linked to above (St. Stanislaus of Cracow, patron saint of Poland), another one that I love is St. Stanislaw of Jesus and Mary, also known as Stanislaus Papczynski, founder of the Marians of the Immaculate Conception of the National Shrine of Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, MA (they call him Father Founder) who was canonized in 2016. I’ve also seen Kostka used as a name in honor of St. Stanislaus Kostka. There are a few other holy men with this name, and I even included Stanislaus in my CatholicMom article Unmistakably Catholic Boy Names.

Whether Stanley or Stanislaus, Stan is an easy, natural nickname. It’s funny too, because before I’d ever heard of Bl. Stanley or had Stanley/Stanislaus on my radar anywhere, my husband told me he kind of likes the nickname Stan! At first I was like Stan?? But I’ve been thinking about it, and I can totally see it! Stan is a familiar, friendly nickname — easy to say and spell and with that old-man feel that’s currently so appealing. In fact, when I was researching this name, I saw a couple different places online where people likened Stan to Max and Gus, so clearly it’s the next Big Thing. Like Max and Gus, it also has usage as a given name on its own — Stan was a top 1000 name from 1933 to 1973. If Stan isn’t your thing, there are other nicknames that are traditional to Stanislaus that are kind of cool, like  Stas and Stane (I’m assuming it’s not actually said to rhyme with rain — Forvo has the Czech pronunciation more like “stah-NEH” — but rhymes-with-rain is do-able here in America I think). (I might advise American parents to stay away from the traditional Stanko though).

Stan- has some pop culture references that may or may not be interesting to parents, like Stan Lee (stealth way to name for a Blessed AND your comic book obsession!) and Stannis on Game of Thrones (which is a [nick]/name I would find SO COOL if it wasn’t for GoT), and the Stanley Cup mentioned above (holy+hockey!). I’ve always been interested in the fact that Obama’s mom’s given name is Stanley, and by her name story as presented on Wikipedia: “According to [her], she was named after her father because he wanted a son, though her relatives doubt this story and her maternal uncle recalled that her mother named Dunham after her favorite actress Bette Davis’ character in the film In This Our Life because she thought Stanley, as a girl’s name, sounded sophisticated” (in that movie, Bette Davis’ character was Stanley and the character of her sister, played by Olivia de Havilland, was named Roy!).

You all know about my devotion to St. Anne, and because I have all boys, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking of ways to honor St. Anne with a boy’s name — I’ve known a couple of parents who have also wanted to do so, and the ideas they and I have had have revolved mostly around the “Ann” sound — Anselm, Anthony, Anton, Anson, Ansel. But more recently I’d thought that the Stan- names could do it — you know, ST ANne! So Stanley/Stanislaus could nod to her as well. (I love getting lots of saints into one name!)

What do you all think of Stanley and Stanislaus? Would you consider either one for your son, or have you? Do any Stanleys or Stanislauses that you know like their name? Do they go by a nickname other than Stan? Do you think Stanley is the next Big Thing, both secularly and Catholicly?

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Spotlight on: Balthazar/Balthasar

Don’t forget to enter the giveaway! It’s live until midnight tonight! And happy Veteran’s Day! Thank you to all our veterans for their service!

(I recently activated an ad thing on the blog, which I’ve been meaning to do for a while but was so hung up on how much I hate ads on web sites, and how much I love the clean look of this blog, that I kept putting it off. But with Christmas coming and finances being top of mind, I thought I would go ahead and do it. Oh how I hate it! I hate how the blog looks! But I’m trying to give it a fair chance. I’m so sorry that you all have to deal with it.)

The last name spotlight I posted was for Callixtus, and in the comments Melissa asked if I would do a spotlight on Balthazar (I didn’t forget you Meghan — I’ll do Stanley next!). I love the name Balthazar! It’s unusual but impeccably faith-y, a very cool combination.

Balthazar, also spelled Balthasar (which is what it’s entered as at CatholicSaints.info and at the DMNES) is the name traditionally given to one of the Three Wise Men. Though Behind the Name doesn’t give it the best meaning, the DMNES one (related but with a key word change) is quite nice. (If the former definition bothers you, this article I wrote on definition vs. meaning might be helpful.) It’s perfect for a baby born on the Feast of the Epiphany, and the Three Kings are also revered as saints, and January 6 is their feast day (Gaspar/Casper/Jasper and Melchior are the other two).

You might also recognize Balthazar from The Neverending Story, where Bastian’s middle name is Balthazar (full name Bastian Balthazar Bux! Wow!); Balthazar is used in several Shakespearean plays, and I just read that there’s a Balthazar in Despicable Me 3; and there’s actor Balthazar Getty, whose given name is actually Paul Balthazar Getty. Such a cool way to jazz up a more “normal” first name.

And I love it as a first name! A good nickname would probably make it easier to deal with. These were included in the comments on the Behind the Name entry as traditional nicknames: Balt(ek), Baly, Tazara, Baltík, Baltazárek, Baltin … I’m not sure what language, but Baltek seems like a good option. Bart could work I think, and even something like Bear or Bo. I wondered if the name Balto is related, and it doesn’t seem to be, but I like that option too — but is the fact that a famous Balto is a dog problematic? (Also be aware that Balthus, which is also a traditional nickname, is tied pretty strongly to an artist that I don’t think many parents would want associated with their child.)

What do you all think of the name Balthazar/Balthasar? Would you give it to a son, or have you? Do you like it better as a first or middle? Do you know anyone with this name, and does he like his name? Does he go by a nickname?

Spotlight: Callixtus

I really wanted to post a name spotlight today, and could not for the life of me think of a name to spotlight! I have a running list of names I’d like to feature, but I can’t put my hand on it at the moment (and if any of you are waiting for one that I’ve promised, maybe shoot me an email to remind me! So sorry!). So I asked my oldest, who I had to pick up early from school because he wasn’t feeling well, what some of his favorite names are, and was surprised that Callixtus was in the mix! So that’s today’s name!

My son was like, “I’m not sure you’ve heard of this name,” and I was like, “Do you even know me, boy?!”, but beyond being a collector of Catholic names (although I admit I’ve been surprised a time or two by new-to-me names), I knew a friar/professor in college with the variant Callistus (his religious name), and I’ve actually given it some thought, mostly because of the nickname Cal, which I love (the friar went by Fr. Cal).

Behind the Name gives Callixtus as a variant of Callistus, “the spelling perhaps influenced by Latin calix ‘wine cup.'” Callistus is from the Greek Kallistos, meaning “most beautiful,” and the feminine name Callista is from the same. I just said to my son, “Callixtus is from the Greek for ‘most beautiful'” and he said, “Oh! I thought it came from ‘chalice.'” What a smartie! Our “chalice” comes from “calix,” so he really did know more about the name than I did!

There are a bunch of Sts. Callistus, including two Popes (Pope St. Callistus I and Pope St. Callistus II), and funny enough, when I searched CatholicSaints.info for Callixtus, only Pope St. Callistus I comes up — he’s got an interesting story. I kind of like the X spelling — X is a hot letter right now, and I really do like the connection to “chalice.” I also looked up Calix because I thought I’d remembered seeing that name on a child before, and it does seem to be mostly given as a short form of Callixtus, though a calyx is also the “chalice-shaped” part of a flower. I’m loving all these connections to the chalice! Callixtus is such a meaningful name!

What do you think of Callixtus (or Callistus)? Would you name a boy so, or have you? What nickname would you tend toward (Cal or Calix), or would you use a different one?

Spotlight on: Mina

Kathryn requested a spotlight on the name Mina, which is such a sweet name — I’m happy to do so! Specifically she asked,

Could you do a spotlight on Mina (as a nickname and/or on its own)? I’m really digging the name lately, but curious about catholic/saintly connections.”

Firstly, Mina can definitely stand on its own, though I’m pretty sure it started as a nickname. Behind the Name says Mina is the “Short form of WILHELMINA and other names ending in mina,” like Giacomina (!), but also includes names that don’t end in mina as possibilities:

Zhaklina
Jacobina
Jamesina
Jacqueline

I can definitely see Mina being used as a nickname for Jamesina, and I assume Jacobina and Jacqueline are on the list because James, Jacob, and Jacques are the same name, even though Mina as a nickname for Jacobina and Jacqueline would be unexpected. Giacomina is also related to James, via its Italian form Giacomo. And Zhaklina’s definitely unexpected! Though I just looked it up, and it’s actually a variant of Jacqueline. I think Mina could work for Thomasina too, since, like Jamesina, it ends in ina and has that M in there. And the saintly connections there are obvious, any of the Sts. James, Jacob, and Thomas, and in fact, because James/Jacob is so well represented in this entry, I’m feeling like an argument could be made that Mina could honor Grandpa James or Uncle Jacob?

But I think Wilhelmina is the name that most people would think of as the most natural fit for Mina-as-a-nickname or variant. Wilhelmina is clunky-chic, used by such amazing namers as Natalie Hanson (though they use the nickname Willa), and Mina trims Wilhelmina down for everyday use really nicely. I wasn’t able to find any holy Wilhelminas (unless they use a different spelling?), but there are a bunch of Sts. William to choose for patron.

I could also see Mina working really well as a nickname for something like Minerva or Mary Christina, or any of the names Minnie can be used as a nickname for (for example, actress Minnie Driver was born Amelia, and Nameberry argues Minnie can be used as a nickname for any M name — so Mina too?). There’s also an Italian singer that goes by Mina, but her given name is Anna Maria. I love that!

What do you all think of Mina? Do you prefer it as a given name or a nickname, and if a nickname, what is your favorite formal name for it? Do you know any Minas, and if so what do you know of their name story?

Updated to add: How could I forget Philomena?? Such a great given name to get to the nickname Mina/Mena!

 

Spotlight on: Kelly

One of you readers emailed me asking about the name Kelly! I haven’t heard anyone consider the name Kelly in a long time, it’s definitely in hibernation until its spring comes again (which it will, as it does for most names).

You know I love doing name research! So off to the dusty shelves I went and did indeed find a saint whose name is sometimes anglicized to Kelly: St. Cellach of Armagh. How cool! Behind the Name concurs that Kelly is a form of, as it spells it, Ceallach, whose meaning is uncertain but could include “bright-headed,” or from Old Irish ceallach “war, strife” or ceall “church.” I love the “church” meaning!

And in fact, that ties into another very cool thing about the name Cellach: there was a Cellach, the Abbott of the monastery at Iona (not the St. Cellach mentioned above), who fled raiding Vikings with his brethren and went to the Abbey of Kells (though “kells” here not having any connection to Cellach), which had been founded by St. Columba a couple hundred years earlier. Kells strikes me as a really easy way to update the name Kelly while retaining its Irishness and adding a shot of faith, no? Kells gave its name to the Book of Kells, the illuminated manuscript by those monks from Iona of the four gospels that has been described as one of Europe’s greatest treasures, and my favorite tidbit about it is that it “presents the earliest Madonna and Child image in any western manuscript” (source).

So I could see a Kelly taking St. Cellach of Armagh as patron, and loving the gospel/Marian/St. Columba connection of the similar-sounding and similarly spelled Kells. This could work for both a boy and girl, and in fact Kelly started as a male name, from the Irish surname. These days Kelly is nearly 100% girl (no. 514 for girls in 2016 as opposed to not at all in the top 1000 for boys), but thinking about St. Cellach and the Abbott Cellach definitely shows Kelly’s initial masculinity. I can also see parents loving Kells as a given name, and that might work better for boys these days.

For girls, names like Callie, Kayley/Keeley/Kiley, Ellie, and Zelie seem to have filled the Kelly spot for current parents, do you agree? But Kelly’s still familiar and fits in easily with those names I think.

What do you all think of Kelly? Do you know any little Kellys? Would you name your daughter Kelly, or have you? What about for a boy? Can you see Kelly working, or do you think Kells is a better option? Or neither?

 

Spotlight on: Sunniva

Don’t forget to enter the Feast of Sts. Anne and Joachim giveaway — it ends tonight at midnight! I’ll announce the winners tomorrow!

A fellow name enthusiast recently told me her Confirmation name is Sunniva and I was like Sunniva! I knew next to nothing about the name or the saint and I knew I had to do a spotlight on it!

St. Sunniva of Bergen, also known as St. Sunniva of Norway and of Selje, and sometimes known under the variants Sunnifa and Synnöve, has a pretty interesting story: she was the daughter of an Irish king who fled to Norway to escape an arranged marriage, and died there in a cave; years later her body was found incorrupt. The Irish-Norwegian connection makes her name a perfect one for a family with Irish and Norwegian ancestry (like mine!), especially because her name, though used in Scandinavian countries (especially Norway and Sweden as far as I can tell), is actually Old English in origin.

Regarding pronunciation, I’ve seen sun-EE-va on behindthename (by a mom living in the U.S. who named her daughter Sunniva) and SOON-ee-va on Nameberry, and the four examples on Forvo sound more like sun-ee-VA to me. So it seems there are choices, but unless you all know which is the predominant pronunciation for native English speakers, I’m going to recommend the first, because it rhymes with Geneva, which I think makes for a really easy way to help others learn and remember it. I also like that it highlights the -iva part, which can lend itself so naturally to the nicknames Eva and Evie, Neva, and even Vivi. I also love the possibility of Sunni, so sweet! And Synne appears to be a Norwegian short form of the name, pronounced SIN-na according to Forvo.

Sunniva is pretty rare here, having been given to 9 girls in 2016, 10 in 2015, less than five in 2014, and 5 in 2013 (I didn’t go back farther than that). So a true rarity that has history and faith significance and some sweet and on-trend nicknames!

What do you all think of Sunniva? Would you name your daughter Sunniva, or have you? Do you know anyone named Sunniva? What does she think of her name, and does she go by a nickname?

Spotlight on: Beretta

So my post on Beretta got a lot of attention! Not only did I get a lot of great comments here, but even Linda from Nameberry weighed in on Twitter! The overwhelming reaction was, “That’s a gun name,” followed by, “Don’t name your child after a gun.”

I posted that post, followed by this one, because a mama had emailed me asking about Beretta used in honor of St. Gianna Beretta Molla. Despite my love for that saint, I admit my first reaction was “that’s a gun name!” (and I have very little familiarity with guns), but I wasn’t sure if others would feel the same, so getting all of your feedback was really helpful to me and that mama, I’m sure. I also loved discovering that the name also calls to mind for many the car by the same name (which also reminds me of Shelby), as well as a hair barrette, and also biretta, which is the name for that square hat for priests, and according to one of our Italian readers also the word for “small beer.” (She also said that Italians don’t use surnames as first names, which is so interesting to me! I love learning about other cultures through names.) In hindsight, I wish I’d left out the part in my post about it being used as an honor name for St. Gianna, just to see if anyone would have that association right away as well.

My FB feed is regularly filled with gun posts — posts by those who are rabidly anti-gun, and by those who have no problem with them, and responses by both sides to the other side (often nasty) — so I can see even in my limited experience that the name Beretta definitely comes with some baggage that parents would need to feel comfortable with. But as the comments showed, as well as some quick research I did, there are some people who *like* gun names, whether because they just like tougher-sounding names, or because they nod to their profession or their hobby. There are many who see this as a negative (see The Frightening New Wave of Baby Names: Aggressive names from Gunner to Raider to Danger are on the rise [Nameberry] and Americans are naming their babies WHAT? We all know American are obsessive about their guns. But this is taking things too far. [Australian web site]), but I thought what Laura (Baby Name Wizard) wrote in her post Son of a Gun: The Firearms Baby Name Report was more balanced and well articulated:

What does the trend mean? I believe it points to two different cultural threads in the United States over the past decade. The first is the rising role of guns as a cultural identifier. For hunters and firearms enthusiasts, guns can be both a passion and a symbol of a way of life … Some gun owners perceive their lifestyle as being threatened by those who don’t understand them or share their values. Choosing a gun name, then, can summon up happy memories of hunting with your dad — or be a statement of cultural defiance. It’s an in-group statement, designed to speak to those who share your cultural touchstones.”

I’m sure we all have friends or relatives who we can see liking names like this for the reasons mentioned above, and we can certainly all relate with cultural defiance.

Beretta is a particularly interesting name in light of all this, for us especially. What Laura said about gun names being “an in-group statement, designed to speak to those who share your cultural touchstones” is exactly why so many of us choose the names we choose for our babies. Zelie, Jacinta, Kolbe, and Karol are examples of names that will likely only be fully “gotten” by those who share our worldview. It’s likely only we would also be able to understand the saintly significance behind the name Beretta, if chosen by a Catholic family. And in fact, being that it’s an Italian name as well, so many of which are loved by so many of Italian heritage and even those who aren’t, Beretta’s the amazing, solitary result of the Venn diagram of gun names, Italian names, and Catholicky Catholic names. For a certain kind of family, fully informed, Beretta is exactly perfect.

This reader suggested Beretta’s a name that should be reclaimed, because of its faith significance. She wrote:

I think, as a Catholic, one would have to ask the question: to what extent should worldly associations impact the choice of a saintly moniker for a child? Yes, there is a gun, but it is the maiden name of a saint nonetheless. And when other surname names (or place names) like Kolbe, Becket, Vianney, Avila, Lourdes, etc. get fair usage among Catholic circles, it doesn’t seem like Beretta should be an immediate write off. Actually perhaps there is reason to use it to “reclaim” the name so to speak, and when you are asked the child’s name it can be an evangelization opportunity to inform about St. Gianna Beretta Molla, and the Church.”

I do love the evangelization opportunities that names can provide! But I also think there are some names for which the negative associations far outweighs the positive, names that even I don’t think are ready to be reclaimed (Adolf comes to mind). I’m not saying Beretta’s in the same league as Adolf, but I am saying that worldly associations sometimes *must* impact the choice of a saintly moniker for a child. (Poor holy Adolfs.) Is Beretta one such name? I’m not convinced, not in a universal way anyway (I mean yes, if parents feel that way regarding their own child, but not in regards to a blanket disavowal of the name).

Another good point to make, which answers the question, “why not Molla, if using a saint’s surname instead of given name is going to be the ‘thing’?” is that personal taste is so often the deciding factor. It’s why some parents choose to honor St. Thomas Becket with the name Becket instead of Thomas, why Grandma Pearl’s namesake is named Margaret instead of Pearl, and why Catherine is chosen instead of Katherine or Elisabeth instead of Elizabeth. St. Gianna has three names — for some, Gianna is the best and only way to go; for others, Joanna or Jane or some other anglicized variant; for others Molly as a nod to Molla; for others Beretta or a spin-off of it.

In fact, some of you who appreciated Beretta’s connection to St. Gianna offered ways of working around the gun association by using its nicknames Retta or Etta as the given name, for example, or a sound-alike like Britta, or mashing up Gianna and Beretta to get Greta, or naming a boy Barrett. Some might be willing to go farther by choosing the full Beretta, but then tucking it in the middle spot where it can stay hidden if desired.

I suspect, though, that a family who loves Beretta isn’t going to be thrilled by the idea of using Retta, Etta, Britta, Greta, or Barrett-on-a-boy instead (though perhaps they be happy enough to use nicknames on a day-to-day basis, and/or might go for it as a middle name). Though many of us wouldn’t feel comfortable with giving our child a name rife with so many charged viewpoints, I’m going to guess that parents who choose Beretta are more than willing to defend their choice to the naysayers.