Great article on name spellings

A while ago I put up a tab at the top called Helpful naming tips and info — it’s a collection of posts and comments from here and elsewhere that I think are particularly helpful. I’ve been gradually adding to it as I come across things (comments, posts, articles) that I think are particular helpful regarding a particular naming issue.

I’m just about to add Abby’s post from today: Spelling Counts: 9 Rules for Spelling Baby Names. Such a great post! A few really valuable nuggets:

  • “If you’re not sure how to spell your child’s name, choose the dominant spelling … Notice I didn’t say correct spelling.”
  • “I borrowed the phrase “phonetic transparency” from NameLab years ago, and it’s still one of my favorite finds. The corporate naming group explains it this way:A phonetically transparent name is spoken-as-spelled and easily pronounced from alphabetic notation … Creative spellings work when they stay within the bounds of phonetic transparency. Which means they work best when the changes are relatively minor. I know how to pronounce Jaymee and Lauryn, even if I expect to see Jamie and Lauren … Change too much, though, and you sacrifice phonetic transparency”
  • “If there’s one hard and fast thou-shalt-not on this list, it has to this one: avoid novelty spellings … Kneena for Nina. Kviiilyn for Kaitlyn. Airwrecka for Erica”
  • “But here’s an important rule of thumb: the more creative the spelling, the less sophisticated the name appears”

As with all of Abby’s name writing, I love how she imparts hard naming truths (“the more creative the spelling, the less sophisticated the name appears”) without coming across as offensive to anyone.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on name spellings! Do you, as a rule, like or loathe creative spellings? Are there any exceptions to your own rules (i.e., if you dislike like kr8tyv-type spellings in general, are there any that you actually think are kind of clever or attractive)?

UPDATE: I just remembered I wrote this for CatholicMom ages ago: A Name by Any Other Spelling

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Funny pronunciation video

I linked to this a while ago, but my mom sent it to me recently again, and since one of my new capabilities since I upgraded is embedding video, I wanted to try it out. The recent birth announcement for Molly Róisín made me think of it — the pronunciation of Róisín is discussed/demonstrated (hilariously!), as well as a bunch of my other (admittedly difficult) faves (from YouTube).

On my bookshelf: A Dictionary of English Surnames

I saw A Dictionary of English Surnames (3rd Edition) by P.H. Reaney and R.M. Wilson recommended in a thread on the Baby Name Wizard site a while ago, referred to as a source of info for first names, and maybe I was the tiniest bit skeptical (how does surname info translate into first name info?) but the person recommending it was a longtime reader/commenter on the site and one whose knowledge base I had come to find dependable, so I bought a used copy.

It took me a little while to get into it. I like to read name books — sit down and read — and this book initially didn’t seem to lend itself to that — the type is small and it has a very dictionary feel (where dictionary=small type, lots of words on a page, lots of technical abbreviations that you always feel like you’re supposed to understand without checking out the key at the beginning of the book, maybe a little overwhelming). But I kept at it, picking it up here and there for a couple minutes each time. I started out by looking up my own last name, and those of people I know, and I really started to get into it. For one thing, there are loads of surnames that are considered “English surnames” for the purposes of this book, that I would never have thought! Like Devereaux. Because “English surname”=surnames used by people living in England, and this book cites instances going back to the 1000s. So, using Devereaux as an example:

Deveraux, Devereaux, Devereu, Devereux, Deveroux, Deverose, Everix, Everiss, Everest, Everist: Roger de Ebrois 1086 DB (Nf); Walter de Eureus 1159 P (He); Stephen de Euereus 1199 MemR (Wo); Osmund de Deuereals ib. ( W); Eustace de Deueraus 1204 P (So); Thomas de Euereus, Deuereus 1279 AssSo; John de Ebroicis 1297 AssSt; John Deveros 1385 LLB H; Robert Everis 1495 GildY. From Evreux (Eure), from the Celtic tribal name Eburovices ‘dwellers on the Ebura or Eure River’.”

(See what I mean about the abbreviations? A little off-putting, right? Stay with me …)

Did you know that Devereaux and Everest are related? Me either! And did you see those dates? A Roger de Ebrois from Norfolk (Nf) was recorded in DB (Domesday Book) in 1086. 1086! The first fifty seven pages of the book discuss how the surnames used in England came to be, explaining a French name like Devereaux (lots of Norman influence).

And there is indeed loads of info useful for choosing first names. Many of the surnames were patronymics, for one thing, identifying a person by his or her father, and some were metronymics, identifying a person by his or her mother — so those surnames began as first names. Other surnames were nicknames, pet names, or diminutives, either for a person’s characteristics, or for their actual given first name. Some of my favorite discoveries:

Fayle comes from the Irish Mac Giolla Phoil “son of Paul’s servant”

Fiddy, Fido, Fidoe come from the French fitz deu “son of God”

Filkin, Filkins, Filson are diminutives of Phil, which of course is from Philip

Pack, Packe, Paik, Pakes, Pash, Pashe, Paish, Pask, Paske, Pasque, Patch, Patchett, Patchin are all from various words (Old French, Middle English) for Easter; another example is given of William Paskessone, where Paskessone=son of Paske.

Scollas is a last name from the first name Scolace, which “appears to be the vernacular form of [Latin] Scholastica, the name of a saint who was the sister of St Benedict and the first nun of the order. It is found as a christian name in England from the late 12th century until the Reformation.”

Vivian, Vivians, Vivien, Vyvyan, Videan, Vidgen, Vidgeon, Vigeon, Fiddian, Fidgen, Fidgeon, Phethean, Phythian are all from the French Vivian, Vivien, which are from the Latin Vivianus, which is “a derivative of vivus ‘living,’ the name of a 5th-century martyr not uncommon in England from the 12th century. Its pronunciation appears to have caused difficulty and it is found in a bewildering variety of forms, not all of which have survived. In the south, the v was regarded as the normal southern pronunciation of f and was replaced by it. As the child says fum for thumb, and fevver for feather, and the dialect-speaker favver for father, Fivian became Fithian, and this, with the common interchange of intervocalic th and d, gave Fidian. The initial Ph is merely scribal. As Goodier becomes Goodger and Indian is often colloquially Injun, so Fidian became Fidgeon and Vidian, Vidgen. The normal Vivian is much more common than appears from the above forms.”

But my very very favorite discovery was this: Marriott is from “Mari-ot, a very common diminutive of Mary.”

Aren’t these amazing finds?? Can’t you see a baby Philip being called Filkins? What about the Easter names, like Pack, Patch, Pask, Pash, Patchett, and Patchin? I can see them all being used as given names, and what an awesome meaning — offbeat Catholic names are my favorite favorites!

Or wanting to honor Grandma Vivian but expecting a boy? I love Fiddian and Fithian, I see them as absolutely doable. (Also, I posted a fun thing the other day that shows what a full name looks like written out in different styles — like a name you’re considering for your baby, for example — and Laura commented that she found a perhaps unsettling disconnect between the sight and sound of some of her name ideas, so I found it particularly interesting that the Vivian quote above included the note, “The initial Ph is merely scribal.” It’s startling, to us parents who agonize over whether to name our daughters Sophia or Sofia, to think there was a time when the spelling of a name was a very distant afterthought — and maybe never even given a thought at all, until or unless it had to be written down for official reasons, and then only written down by officials, who probably decided how to spell what they heard. I guess it’s not that different from what happened to some at Ellis Island. Fascinating.)

(The Vivian example is also really timely in light of the awesome post up over at Appellation Mountain: 9 Creative Ways to Honor Loved Ones With Your Child’s Name. As I noted on FB, I’ve been wanting to write about this very topic for some time, but Abby did it so well! It’s an awesome resource, and the examples given in the comments are really helpful as well. This book could absolutely help with her first suggestion, “Use another form of the honoree’s name.”)

I am barely scratching the surface with the examples I give here — this book is over 500 pages of small-type info like what I shared above. It’ll take me ages to get through the whole thing, so if any of you read it and come across any other nuggets, please share them here!

 

Double names on paper

I wrote recently about mash-up names and feminine first names with a masculine middle and this is related but yet a different angle — how does one deal, on paper, with having double names? By which I mean, if you were going to give your child two names that he or she would always go by, how would you decide to spell it and why?

I mean, I know a MaryAnn and a Mary Beth, a Roseanne and a RoseAnn, even an Elisa Beth; I’ve seen Marykate and Mary Kate, Marylee and Marilee. Maybe the daddy of them all for us kind of namers are the little boys honoring JP2 — I’ve seen JohnPaul and John Paul and John-Paul and Johnpaul. It all kind of makes me a little crazy because I love the idea of double names and could totally come up with some pretty fab combos, but (and maybe this is writer/editor me) how names look on paper — either written out on top of a school paper or signed on a check or filled out on a form — matters to me. I just want to know how am I *supposed* to do it?

Mary Beth, on paper, could result in a person getting called just “Mary” (perhaps assuming the “Beth” is a middle). (Actually, this happens even when hearing it out loud too, so …)

MaryAnn will forever confound people who, like me, want to get it right. (I do now with the MaryAnn I know, but it took a while.)

John-Paul’s hyphen is meant to keep the elements together, but may end up being more of a headache — do forms even take hyphens? Does it come across as overly stuffy or too particular, especially for a boy?

I know a little Marie-Therese, which I just love, but if I were her mother and I’d carefully selected such a beautiful name for her, I think I’d really hate people assuming they can shorten it to just “Marie.” Or maybe little Marie-Therese would shorten it herself when she got older, not because she wanted to but because she was tired of the hassle?

And how would you write your initials, if you had a hyphenated name? Would Marie-Therese McMahon be M-TM? Or MM? Are two names connected by a hyphen considered two names (hence initials M-T) or just one big one (initial M only)?

These are the questions that keep me up at night. 😉 Or at least, they knock out certain name contenders for me, because I just can’t come to a peace about how to write them. I really wanted John Paul (I think that spelling?) for one of our boys, but my husband’s a convert and he thought it might be a bit much for his mom to handle (especially since the boy I particularly wanted to name John Paul was born only a couple months after my husband became Catholic) — now I think, maybe I dodged a bullet? Would I have always been unsettled about whichever spelling of John Paul we decided on? Would he have finally succumbed to being called just John? (Nothing wrong with John! Just … it wouldn’t have been his name.)

This is when it’s somewhat burdensome to always be considering every aspect and angle of naming. This crazy mind of mine, it’s a blessing and a burden. :p

Please tell me, how do you handle names like these? Or what have you seen others do?