Spotlight on: Damian/Damien

Today’s the feast day of one of my fave saints with one of my fave names — St. Damien of Molokai! (Also known as St. Joseph de Veuster.) Perfect day to post a spotlight of his name!

In the universe of names that need to be reclaimed, Damian/Damien is at the top of my list, as was glaringly showcased in the consultation I posted for Grace a couple of weeks ago. Let’s just get it out of the way: For those who don’t know, there’s a 1976 movie called The Omen in which the boy character, named Damien, is revealed to be the Antichrist; there was a 1978 sequel called Damien: Omen II, and I only recently found out that the original movie was remade in 2006 — I’m not super into knowing every movie that comes out, but I know a fair bit, and it was a total surprise to me to find out this remake (1) exists and (2) is so recent. (Another post for another day: Do writers consider the way they can ruin lives and baby name lists through the names they choose for their bad characters?? I am a writer, and I love saintly names, and I will come up with a solution. Stay tuned.)

(Also, have any of you actually seen any of these movies? I haven’t, and I don’t know anyone who has, and the original was made before most of my friends and I were born, and we’re now approaching the later end of the childbearing-age spectrum, so how is it that *everyone* knows this reference and is *still* allowing their babynaming to be influenced by it??)

So yes, I’m sure the name was chosen for the movie because of its visual and audial similarity to “demon,” but they’re actually not related at all. Damian/en comes from the Greek for “to tame,” while demon is thought to be derived from the Greek for “to divide.” (“Demon”=”to divide” … that’s something to muse on, no?)

Now to focus on the positive: Damian/en is an amazing name!! It’s got similar sounds and rhythm to the Aidan/Brayden/Jaden family of names, with *centuries* of use and lots of holy men so named, with the most familiar probably being St. Damian (twin brother of St. Cosmas — they’re in the Canon of the Mass!), and today’s St. Damien of Molokai. There’s also Doctor of the Church St. Peter Damian, and how cool is that combo?? (I actually know a little Peter Damian — I swooned over his name when he was born and I still do!) Also, the church where St. Francis was instructed by Jesus to “rebuild my church” was the church of San Damiano, and the cross before which St. Francis was praying when Jesus spoke to him is called the Cross of San Damiano. You’re likely familiar with it:

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Via Wikimedia Commons

So the name Damian/en has a LOT more going *for* it than it has going against it.

Fortunately, we have quite a few current Damian/ens we can look to as well, like Homeland and frequent BBC actor Damian Lewis

Damian_Lewis_Berlin_2015
By Siebbi (Damian Lewis) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
(who has a brother named Gareth and children named Manon and Gulliver 😍 — some good naming genes in that family!), and so many other famous Damian/ens that I really wonder why we don’t hear more of it! Especially since Damian has actually been in the top 200 names for the past 15 years, even breaking into the top 100 in 2012 and 2013 (Damien has always been less popular, but not by too much, and had an unfortunate spike in popularity following the original movie’s release). So is it mostly Catholic namers (like, all of us here) who are very concerned about the connection with the movie? We who have so much less cause than those who are unfamiliar with the faith? I get it, and at the same time I don’t.

Fortunately we have sweet little Damien Edmund, whose birth announcement I posted a while ago, to look to! If you remember, his mama wrote,

After your consult I realised how much I really love St Damien of Molokai and it seemed like the right name. My husband was hesitant because of THAT movie, but right after he was born my husband said a little prayer and felt it was the right name. And we added Edmund for Edmund Campion and Edmund Arrowsmith. So far, all our Catholic friends love the name Damien, and non Catholics haven’t said anything negative. Reclaim the name!

Amen sister!! 👊👊👊

I think that maybe Damian/en’s lack of familiar nicknames is somewhat problematic — it’s always nice to have a good nickname to hide behind, if hiding is desired (yes, I do think it’s A-okay to use a name you love that you’re not totally 100% sure will be received well. Choosing a nickname in case you [as the parent] or your child [with the name] wants to be incognito is a great way to manage this. And it [issues with one’s given name] can happen with names with no objective issues at all! I think I’ll do a post on this soon. My own personal example is my beloved Joachim — I totally get that if we were to ever have a son named Joachim, we or he might get tired of the confused looks, botched pronunciations, etc., and so I’m ready with the fab nickname Jake. Easy peasy).

So anyway, I (of course) have spent many hours over the last several years thinking long and hard about nicknames for Damian/Damien, and my favorite is Danny (for Damian) and Denny (for Damien). I think they’re perfect! You could also do just “D,” and I could even see Ian working for Damian. “Dame” is fine as a spoken nickname (not sure a guy would like to put that in writing though). (Also, fun future topic: “heard” nicknames vs. “written” nicknames — Swistle discussed it in a recent post, and I’d love to talk about it with all of you. Soon!)

And one last thought: If we all agree that it’s pretty terrible that some great saints’ name is being avoided because of a pretty terrible pop culture reference (that should really be forgotten anyway, name or no name), can we all agree to stop linking the two? Maybe when the name comes up, you can focus on the awesome saints instead of the negative association? Seriously, the more we talk up the good and ignore the bad, the more helpful we are in making that association fade away. (And conversely, the more we say, “The only thing I think of when I hear ‘Damien’ is that satanic movie!” the longer the names are going to be linked.) I do get that it’s good for parents to be aware of potential issues, but if you feel you must mention it, at least overcompensate by focusing extra hard on the saints. Deal? (You all are the best ever. 😘)

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July CatholicMom column!

My July column posted yesterday at CatholicMom! In honor of our new feast day: the name of Magdalene.

You’ll see that I wrote about different ways the name of Magdalene has permeated the naming landscape (and words in general!) (I know you all probably know them already), but two examples that I didn’t know of until ScottishReader pointed them out the other day are Oxford’s Magdalen College and Cambridge’s Magdalene College. I looked them up, and indeed, re: Oxford’s Magdalen College:

Magdalen College was founded by William Waynflete, Bishop of Winchester and Lord Chancellor of England, on the site of the Hospital of St. John. In this charter, dated 12 Jun 1458, Waynflete formally inaugurates his new foundation. It will have a President and Scholars (i.e. Fellows) who will study theology and philosophy, and he nominates William Tybard as its first President. The College was named after St. Mary Magdalene, Waynflete’s patron saint, and is dedicated to her, the Virgin Mary, St. John the Baptist, and the Apostles Peter and Paul.”

Really interesting is this added tidbit:

People are regularly surprised at why Magdalen College is pronounced “Maudlin”. This charter offers a reason why. Waynflete decreed that his College should be known as “Collegium beatae Mariae Magdalenae” in Latin and “Maudelayne College” in English. In the 15th century, English speakers called St. Mary Magdalene “St. Mary Maudelayne” (or “Mawdelayne”), without the “g” – like “Madeleine” in French. It was only later that we put the “g” back. Magdalen College, however, like Magdalene College, Cambridge, has preserved the old pronunciation of her name.”

That pronunciation ties back to something I mentioned in my article as well. And re: Cambridge’s Magdalene College:

One of the questions we are asked most commonly is about the pronunciation of the name of the College! Though nowadays spelt in the biblical and continental way, ‘Magdalene’, the College name is customarily pronounced ‘Maudlyn’.

The College at its refoundation by Lord Audley in 1542, was dedicated to St Mary Magdalene. The choice of the name of Mary Magdalene appears to have had a touch of vanity. In many early documents, the name is clearly spelt as pronounced: ‘Maudleyn’, containing within it the name of Audley himself! The final ‘e’ on Magdalene was an attempt, with the advent of the postal service in the mid nineteenth-century, to distinguish us from our sister College, Magdalen Oxford.”

Also this, which I’m more interested in because of the fact that Cambridge was named after the River Cam! I never even knew there was a River Cam! I love the name Cam, but have always thought of it as a nickname for Cameron, Campion, Camilla, etc., but I’m kind of really intrigued at “just Cam”!:

The College of St Mary Magdalene is located in the centre of Cambridge beside the bridge on the River Cam, from which the city takes its name. The College has its origins in the year 1428 when King Henry VI approved the establishment of a hostel on the site for Benedictine monks coming from their abbey monasteries in the Fenland to study Canon Law at the University.” (source)

St. Mary Magdalene has been really important to a lot of people for a really long time!

I’d love to know what you all think of the article, and any other instances of Magdalene in language/culture, etc!

 

Cemetery headstones

I’ve been visiting my mother-in-law’s grave at the cemetery a fair bit since she died — I find it really soothing to pray for her and my grandparents who are also there, and then I usually walk for a bit, looking for surnames I recognize or fresh graves and saying prayers for them and all those buried there. I hope it’s not weird to say it’s been really lovely and grounding to do so. One day recently I had just my youngest with me, and he wanted to be held, and he put his head on my shoulder, and we just walked and listened to the birds and smelled the breeze and said Hail Marys (and I might have cried a little) (or a lot) (my kids are used to it, I’m a crier).

I’ve also been noticing names — first and last — and taking pictures in order to share them with you. I posted one on Instagram the other day of Br. Joachim’s headstone — he was a Redemptorist brother I knew when I was small, but embarrassingly I’d totally forgotten about him until I saw his grave! I’d also not known that Joachim was his religious name, replacing his birth name Wesley.

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The Redemptorists of my parish had a residence for retired and ailing priests for years and those who died were buried in the same cemetery. It’s so moving to see the rows and rows of uniform headstones, for all those men who gave their lives to God. I also love that each one says, “Hic Jacet” — “here lies.” The C.SS.R. stands for the Redemptorist Order: Congregatio Sanctissimi Redemptoris.

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(I’m sorry that some of these are hard to read.)

This is Fr. Joseph Ignatius Sims. Joseph Ignatius is so handsome! I wonder if his parents named him Joseph Ignatius, or if Ignatius was his Confirmation name? I assume Joseph is his birth name …

 

 

 

 

IMG_2993I love this one: Fr. Clement Cyril Englert. Clement Cyril! St. Clement Mary Hofbauer was a
Redemptorist priest, so I’m not surprised to see it here, and because of that I assume it was Fr. Clement’s religious name.

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_2996Here’s Br. Liguori Englert, birth name Frederick. Maybe he was Fr. Clement’s brother? Though I’ve never seen Liguori in real life, Withycombe lists it as a feminine name of exclusively Roman Catholic use — so I’m surprised to see it on a man, but not at all surprised to see it on a Catholic. 🙂

 

 

 

 

IMG_3002I’ve been loving Anselm recently — I’ve even seen it considered as a way of honoring St. Anne on a boy. But Br. Anselm Dnooge (that’s a last name!) was probably thinking of the Doctor of the Church when he chose his name.

(Do you think I’m reading his last name correctly? I looked it up and found one site in Polish where it was listed, but no info offered on it at all, so I assume I do have it correct, since I did find it one place, and I assume it’s Polish?)

 

 

IMG_3003What do you think of O. Benedict? I’d love to know what the O stands for, and whether Benedict was Fr. O. Benedict’s given middle name or a religious name? (I can’t make out his last name.)

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_2990Moving on from the dear Fathers, I saw this surname and loved it: Ignatczuk. I can’t find any info on it, but I assume it’s related to Ignatius? Does anyone know for sure?

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_3007This one — Magdzinska — I’m guessing is related to Magdalene?  I wasn’t able to confirm that though — like Ignatczuk, I couldn’t find any info on it — but all the Magd- names I found on behindthename were related to Magdalene.

 

 

 

 

We talk almost exclusively about baby names here, but I love bringing it full circle with looking at the names in the cemetery as well. It’s weird to think that each one of the people at rest there were once tiny babies whose parents spent time deciding what to name them. I also love to try to imagine the process of choosing one’s religious name.

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May these souls, and all the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

IMG_2794
Some of the Redemptorists at our cemetery.

New CatholicMom article up

My June CatholicMom.com article posted yesterday, and I’m eager to hear your thoughts on itcatholicmom_screen_shot-06.16.16 — it’s a topic I’ve been thinking about for a while: Name definitions vs. name meanings

I have a few people to thank for their role in the writing of this article — Jen, for sending me the Brandon Vogt FB post that he then published on Catholic Pop (and Brandon Vogt himself, who wrote the post that Jen sent), and Abby at Appellation Mountain, whose Mallory quote I’ve been thinking about for a long time and I’m delighted to finally use it in a piece. Also the mama who I was emailing with recently who was worried that Lydia didn’t mean anything more than “from Lydia” and would therefore make a questionable name choice. I hope this piece is helpful to her and anyone else who feels hindered by name “definitions”!

The names of Longmire

Do any of you watch the series Longmire? My mom got my husband and I hooked on it, and we really enjoy it — there’s suspense (each episode is a murder mystery) and romance, and a lead actor that I think is perfectly cast (and I recently found he’s Australian, which amazes me, just like Hugh Laurie in House and Renee Zellweger in Bridget Jones’ Diary — brilliant at hiding their true accents!).

But the names are what I wanted to share with you — I’ve been loving them!! Starting with Longmire (whose first name is Walt)’s daughter. When I first heard her name I thought it was Katie and I didn’t have much thought about it. But when I found out it was Cady, I was much more into it! Spelling makes a difference!

One of the deputy sheriffs is Branch Connally. As far as nature names go, if I saw Branch on a list of possibilities, pre-Longmire me might have secretly scoffed and thought What next? Twig? But guys! He is SUCH a Branch! Hearing this hunky cowboy sheriff called Branch totally makes it feasible for me. It does have a little soap opera feel to it, but I definitely don’t think it’s as silly as I would have before.

The other deputy is Vic, short for Victoria, but Vic so suits her, and far better than Vicky or Victoria ever would. She’s a tough girl!

Other names that I love hearing:

Henry (played by Lou Diamond Philips!)
Mathias (police chief on the reservation)
Mica (criminal)
Barlow (Branch’s bad-guy dad)
Lizzie (Walt’s lady friend. It perfectly suits her.)
Dacus (a character’s son, said DAY-kuss)
Fiona aka October (!)
Vehoe (sounded like Vio)

And those are just the characters I’ve encountered already … the full cast list shows these treats as well:

Malachi
Eamonn
Trot
Jeremiah
Hugo
Owen Bennett (what a great first+last combo!)
Duncan
Zip
Daxner
Rosco (what do you all think of this name? I came across it in some research I was doing of names popular in the 1890-1910 time period [spelled Roscoe] and I thought huh. It doesn’t seem to have any saintly connection though …)
Gus
Merwin (!)
Gareth
Dunston

Those are just the names that jumped out at me from the really long list of characters. Interesting right? (Zip and Trot!)

I thought it was so awesome and totally unexpected that one of the episodes I watched recently involved a Basque family that had moved to Wyoming and were sheepherders! And St. Ignacio’s feast day played a role in the episode! There was all sorts of info about Basque culture and history (Walt explained. He knows everything.), it was really cool — Mary (skimac)’s our Basque expert — have you heard of this show and that episode Mary?

The series is based on The Longmire Mysteries book series by Craig Johnson, and usually I love books more than their TV or movie counterparts, but I don’t know … I’ve really fallen in love with the characters as they are on TV as played by the actors that play them.

Have any of you read the books? And seen the show? Can you compare them?

Spotlight on: Juliet(te)

Ages ago Grace asked for a spotlight on Juliet(te), specifically to figure out the faithy connections. Juliet is one of my favorite favorite names, and I’m delighted to finally post this spotlight!

So Behind the Name tells us that Juliet is an anglicization of Juliette or Giulietta, which are diminutives of Julie or Giulia, which are the French and Italian variants of Julia, which is the feminine form of Julius, and it’s through Julia and Julius that Juliet(te) gets its faith significance.

As the DMNES points out, Julius is Caesar, and also three popes, one of whom is a saint. Julia is a figure in the New Testament, greeted by Paul and numbered among other “holy ones” (Romans 16:15) as well as several saints (CatholicSaints.Info offers a whole bunch of Sts. and Blds. Julia, as well as several Sts. Julius. Focusing on the holy women, a couple that jump out at me include Bl. Rose-Chretien de Neuville, one of the Carmelite Martyrs of Compiegne whose religious name was Sr. Julia Louise of Jesus; the more recent St. Giulia Salzano, who had a devotion to Our Lady and the Sacred Heart of Jesus and was canonized by our Pope Benedict; and St. Ursula Ledochowska, whose birth name was Julia — she started the Ursulines of the Sacred Heart and her body is incorrupt. And others! Regarding Juliet specifically, there’s a devastatingly sad Golden Legend entry about St. Juliet, aka Julitta and Juliot, and her son St. Quirine, aka Cyriacus, which may or may not be true.)

So Juliet(te) has some impeccable credentials faith-wise! I suppose the question becomes, do you prefer just Juliet/Juliette, or would you rather use it as a nickname for Julia? I think using Juliet/Juliette as a nickname is pretty rare, but I love the idea of it because it offers more options, and it’s also so sweet! I always think of diminutives as being particularly lovey, so calling a Julia “Juliet” I think makes it seem really like, “Oh my sweet little Julia!”

And which spelling do you prefer? Juliet, Juliette, or even Juliot like the old French? And do you nickname a little Juliet? We’re big nicknamers here, and I think the full Juliet would automatically get shortened to Julie or Jules, which aren’t my favorite … I’ve seen Jilly as a nickname for Julia, which I think is sweet, and I think it could work for Juliet. Or Jet, which is edgy and cool, so if your Juliet decides to punk out when she’s a teen she could have all her friends call her Jet. I love that idea more than I probably should! 😂 ✈✈✈ There’s also the old nickname-from-a-mashup-of-first-and-middle, so Juliet Noelle can become Juno or Junie. But I think, if it were me, I’d really push for the full Juliet, it’s just so beautiful.

Also, Catholic Digest Editor-in-chief Danielle Bean has a Juliette, and mentions the thing any Juliet(te) will have to deal with: Romeo. She says it’s no big deal, and it isn’t to me either, but maybe you all feel differently? Even with the Romeo connection, I feel like it gives Juliet all the good feels from that story (sweet young love, romance) and none of the bad (foolish youth, defiance, disobedience, suicide). Do you agree?

What do you all think of Juliet(te)? Would you or have you named a daughter Juliet(te)? Do any of you know any Julias who go by Juliet(te)?  Do you know any Juliet(te)s who go by a nickname?

Reading round-up

Buckle up guys, I’ve been adding to my “reading round-up” list for months now — today’s the day! I’m getting it done!

Grace told me about a NYC gathering she’d gone to called Catholic Underground, which is totally the kind of thing I would have loved when I was in college, and the name of the director:

Of course, it was fabulous with an hour of adoration and getting to see one of the actual missionary images of Our Lady of Guadalupe. But the reason I’m emailing you is not just to tell you about a great experience but to share with you an awesome religious name I spotted. On the little flier we got walking in the door there was a nice little letter from the director of Catholic Underground, and his name is…….Br. Mark-Mary!!! How cool is that!? It’s so rare that you see men take feminine names, so it just makes me so happy to see it when it happens!

I love that!! #MenWhoLoveMary

Emma wanted to be sure I’d seen this post (from early December) over at Swistle’s blog, saying, “Oh boy, does Swistle ever need Sancta Nomina over at her blog today!!!!” Haha! The mom writing is expecting her third, and her older two are Harriet Paloma (“Hattie”), and Hugo Campion. Ohh my! In her dilemma letter she writes things like,

Their middle names feel (to my ears) more modern and have religious significance (“Paloma,” meaning “dove” which stands both for peace and for the Holy Spirit, “Campion,” after St. Edmund Campion)

and

[regarding the fact they’re considering Consuelo] I have always been fascinated by the French and Spanish-language tradition of naming children after the Virgin Mary, but using her many titles or apparition locations. English is pretty limited when it comes to honor names for the Blessed Mother. We have Mary, Marie, and some more unusual, but related, variants such as Mae, Mamie, Maren, Molly. But nothing compared with the range and diversity of the French/Spanish naming tradition: Lourdes, Carmel, Soledad, Guadalupe, Luz, Amparo, Araceli, Socorro, Belen, Pilar, Delores. And on and on! My daughter’s godmother is Monserrat after Our Lady of Monserrat (love!!).”

I would indeed have loved to get my hands on that dilemma! But this bit from Swistle sums up my feelings pretty exactly (the question was Margaret vs. Consuelo as a first name):

Margaret Consuelo is a pretty kick-butt name, and coordinates beautifully with Harriet Paloma and Hugo Campion. Paloma (peace) and Consuelo (solace) are particularly well-matched.”

Speaking of Swistle, I also loved the sib set in this post: Charles (Huck), Isaac, Katherine, and Seth. (I love Huck for Charles!!) One of the commenters (our very own eclare!) said she guessed the family might be Catholic, based on the size of the family, the kids’ names (which she accurately described as “saint/biblical”), and some on their list (including Xavier), and I agree. I was disappointed by Swistle’s reply though — she said, “I don’t think Seth or Charlotte are saint names,” which is misleading. Seth the Patriarch (from the Old Testament) appears in Book of Saints by the Monks of Ramsgate as well as Our Sunday Visitor’s Encyclopedia of Saints, and his feast day is March 1. There are also several Blesseds Charlotte, and, as eclare correctly pointed out, Charlotte can be and is often used as an honor name for any of the Sts. Charles/Karl/Carl/Carlo/Karol.

One more Swistle post: Baby Names to Consider: Classic/Traditional Names with Atypical/Non-Traditional Nicknames. I loved reading the ideas from her and the commenters!

Shelby told me about this article: The Saint behind the Jagermeister Logo is also one of the 14 Holy Helpers. I love finding out stuff like that! As Shelby put it, it “goes well with your post about Catholic things in plain sight like the Sophie the Giraffe.” “Catholic things in plain sight”! I love that!

It reminds me of something else I read recently: Nutella Founder Dies, Said Secret of Success Was Our Lady of Lourdes: Devout Catholic took employees to visit site of Marian apparitions. Yes, Nutella is now my new favorite food. 🙂

Then there was this: A 3yo boy named Diesel will only answer to Popcorn, and so his parents are going to legally change his name.

The Dictionary of Medieval Names from European Sources is one of my favorite resources, and I was so struck by one of its recent blog posts about the rise of certain names in Protestant records after the Reformation that I raised a question:

dmnes1-01.27.16

The Apocrypha in this context are the books (or parts of books, as in the case of Daniel) that are part of the Catholic bible but not part of the Protestant bible. (As opposed to books Catholics consider to be apocryphal, like the Protoevangelium of James.) It was so strange to me that Judith (the book of Judith is rejected by Protestants) and Susan (the English form of Susanna(h), from the part of the book of Daniel that’s considered apocryphal by Protestants) would receive an uptick in use by Protestants after the Reformation. So interesting! And even better — the DMNES team (including our own Sara) is on it!

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I find stuff like this so fascinating. As I said to Sara, I learn so much about culture, religious, politics, history, and language through names. I can’t wait to read what she comes up with!

I was also interested by this bit in the DMNES post on New Testament names after the Reformation, about our dear St. Anne:

Anne: This name could be classified as either an Old Testament name or a New Testament name. In the OT, this was the name of the mother of Samuel (more often modernly transliterated as Hannah); in the apocrypha, Anne is usually identified as the mother of Mary, though she is not named explicitly in the NT. Whatever the origin and whatever the spelling, this name was always common; it was, in fact, one of the most common feminine names throughout all of Europe throughout the Middle Ages, due primarily to the early veneration of the mother of Mary. The name was so well entrenched that the Protestant turning away from the veneration of the saints did not cause any reduction in its popularity.” (emphasis mine)

How cool is that! It’s also particularly funny that its entrenchment was “due primarily to the early veneration of the mother of Mary” — not only a saint, despite “the Protestant turning away from the veneration of the saints,” but a saint who’s never named in the bible we all agree on, nor even in the apocrypha rejected by Protestantism — Mary’s mother’s name is only given in the Protoevangelium of James, so its use is totally due to Catholic tradition. She’s a great lady, that St. Anne. 🙂 ❤

Finally, I was enjoying these dilemmas on the Baby Name Wizard site recently:

Thoughts on Gemma

Bishop as a first name?

Religious or not religious? (this mom has since figured out a solution, but I really liked some of the ideas offered in this post)

(Also, I think the commenter Optatus Cleary would like it here. 🙂 )

Whew! I think that’s all I have for today!

ETA: Oh! Also this: Twitter Reveals That All Kids Hate Their Names (my takeaway: pray and do the best you can, and then don’t worry), and this: Are There Any More Z Names? Neither the author (Laura Wattenberg herself) nor any of the commenters mentioned Zelie/Azelie!