Happy Independence Day!! And a question

I know no one’s reading today, so I’ll probably reblog this later this week, but just in case someone’s looking for something namey to read on this great day and some questions of life-altering import to consider (ha!), here ya go. 🙂

We all have strong opinions regarding names, yes? We all have our tastes and styles, we like what we like. All of which is totally fine, since, as long as we’re not talking about Lucifer or Eva-Braun (hyphenated double first name thankyouverymuch), names are not a moral issue. We’re free to disagree! You can like John and you can like Hezekiah and you can like Kayden and none of it has a lick to do with your worth as a person or how much you love your child or whether you’re a good parent or not or your status before God.

I’ve found that the more conversations I have in which I find out why parents chose the name(s) they did for their child(ren), the more and more obvious it is to me that parents in general choose names for their little ones that they love. Names that really sing for them, that make them light up with joy that yes! This is the name for my child, my beloved.

Now I do think sometimes it’s a kindness to point out to parents trying to decide on a name for their unborn baby if there’s a glaring issue with a name. Like, if you knew parents were considering “Tiger” and you knew there was a chance they didn’t know about Tiger Woods as a celebrity personality, nor as a person with some negative associations due to unsavory information about his private life that was made public, I would think it important to find a quiet moment to gently point it out. Then, once it’s pointed out, you’ve done your job! No need to harp on.

Criticisms of a child’s name after he or she’s already been named? So uncool. So unkind.

I was thinking of all this because I received my very first negative comment!! Not here (as if! You all are so wonderful ❤ ) — over on my Nameberry post. In one few-sentence comment, (1) choosing names like the ones I’d written about was declared “tacky” and “chavvy” and (2) I’m pretty sure our country was one of the “certain countries” said to be “on the decline” intelligence-wise because of, I assume, some of the names American parents have chosen for their children. Ha!

I honestly truly do not care about disagreements in names. I do find it very sad that anyone would feel the need to throw parents and entire countries under the bus because of disagreements in names. I don’t have any interest in engaging in conversation with people who have such opinions, because I would imagine there’s some hurt there, and I don’t want to be the (even inadvertent) stick that pokes at a sore spot. Like when my kids are just totally beyond keeping it together, they often need extra softness from me. But it did make me want to ask you all:

What do you do when you know someone’s considering a name for their child that you think is unfortunate? If there’s a real issue with the name (like some obvious negative connotation), do you point it out? If it’s just a name that’s not your taste, do you tell them? Do you have real-life experiences like this, and how did you handle it? OR — have you been on the receiving end?

Have a wonderful 4th of July everyone!!

Land where my fathers died! Land of the pilgrims’ pride! From every mountainside, let freedom ring!”

Eleanor=Helen after all?

I have long been familiar with the idea that Eleanor is actually not related to Helen, despite the fact that Elena and Ellen actually are Helen variants and Eleanor seems like yet another of those, no? Behind the Name, which I take to be the best and most trustworthy online source of name meanings and etymology, says this about Eleanor:

From the Old French form of the Occitan name Aliénor. It was first borne by the influential Eleanor of Aquitaine (12th century), who was the queen of Louis VII, the king of France, and later Henry II, the king of England. She was named Aenor after her mother, and was called by the Occitan phrase alia Aenor “the other AENOR” in order to distinguish her from her mother.”

I even referenced this “fact” in my article at Nameberry about how the intention behind the choosing of a name matters more than the actual meaning of the name, using as an example one of you dear readers who had named her daughter Eleanor for St. Helen and then was horrified to discover months later (after the birth and after the naming) that Eleanor is not believed to be a variant of Helen. (Add to the confusion that in the Eleanor entry at Behind the Name, Ellen is listed as the short Dutch form of Eleanor. This is different than the English usage of Ellen, which is as a variant of Helen. Oh dear.) (Hence my assertion that if the mama wanted her daughter to be named for St. Helen, and she genuinely believed Eleanor to be a form of Helen, then then baby *is* named for St. Helen.)

THEN, I was checking in with the Baby Name Wizard forums the other day, and came across this:

So a mention in another thread of the probably spurious etymology for Eleanor as “the other Aenor” from Alia Aenor reminded me…”

Wait a minute, what?

Of course I had to find the other thread with the “mention” of the “probably spurious etymology for Eleanor” (I’m sorry but “mention” is too casual a word for this rock-my-world bit of info), and indeed found this:

“… K.M. Sheard’s Llewellyn’s Complete Book of Names (with the very long subtitle) … says (any typos mine): ‘Although Alianor is almost certainly a medieval Provencal form of Helena, there is an outside chance that its origins are actually Germanic — being possibly one and the same with Aenor. Alianor is often said to be the source of Eleanor, and the two were often used interchangably in the middle ages; the English Queen Eleanor, Duchess of Aquitaine, for istance, was known as Alienor in Aquitaine. Her mother’s name was Aenor, and folk-etymology likes to derive Alienor from a combination of L: alia “another (female)” + Aenor. This play with words may have been in the minds of her parents, but it is not the source of either Alienor or Eleanor. Both had already been in use for at least a hundred years at the time of her birth; Eleanor of Normandy (c. 1011-aft. 1071) was the aunt of William the Conqueror, while the wife of the tenth-century Aimery II de Thouars, was called Alienor. Thus the superficial “other Aenor” meaning can only really have been an influencing factor in the naming of the Duchess. Such thinking is often a factor in choosing names today and there is no reason to suppose that things were all that different a thousand years ago.'”

Color me flabbergasted. And ecstatic!!! How fabulous that there’s actually a legit and reasonable argument in favor of Eleanor being a Helen variant!!! What do you all think??

(And now I’m off to think some more about that book by K.M. Sheard referenced above, which I’ve long been intrigued by, but so put off by its title: Llewellyn’s Complete Book of Names: For Pagans, Witches, Wiccans, Druids, Heathens, Mages, Shamans & Independent Thinkers of All Sorts. Yeah. Bet you never thought you’d see those words on this blog! The commenter, whose thoughts and insights about names I always really enjoy and respect, made a point of saying, “I have been enjoying this book, for what it’s worth. I was initially a bit put off by the subtitle … but I’m glad I got it!” And a review on Amazon says, “Definitely not for Pagans only, this scrupulously researched volume covers a wide range of names, from the traditional, Old Testament Benjamin to the medieval French Goddess name Bensozie. A wealth of onomastic information.” That description just makes my mouth water … If I could actually consider myself an academic onomastician I would definitely need to have it, but as a mom of littles? I just don’t know if I could in good conscience let a book with that title in the house with all my still-forming boys. Maybe if I paper-bag-covered it? Like a school textbook? Or maybe I should look at it in the library … Have any of you read it? I’m such a sucker for good meaty name books with lots of info and commentary …)

Thank yous all around!!

My very first thank you goes to our fallen soldiers, all those who died for me and mine. I’ve thought of you often today, and prayed for you and your families, and told my boys about you and your demonstration of the greater love. Happy Memorial Day to you all!

Thanks also to Jenny‘s readers who hopped over here to take a gander at my suggestions for her, and to leave your own! Such good ideas, and such thoughtful responses! Aren’t name conversations the very best??!! ❤


And my final thank you to Nameberry for posting another of my name articles: Problematic Baby Names. I’d love to hear your thoughts on that too! And any others you might add to the list?

I hope you all have a great start to your week!

New CatholicMom.com contributor (me!)

I’ve been holding onto this exciting news until it was okay to tell you, and today’s the day!! Starting this month, I’ll be writing an article every month for CatholicMom.com, and my first one is up today: Patrick vs. Polycarp!

Photo: Gabriel by JDPotter (2009) via Flickr
Screen grab from CatholicMom.com; photo: Gabriel by JDPotter (2009) via Flickr

Some of you may recognize some of the content, as I drew from and combined a couple different posts I did a few months ago in putting the piece together. Please click on over to CatholicMom.com — I’d love to hear your thoughts on the questions I posed!