Spotlight on: Helena

A reader has requested a spotlight on Helena, which I’ve been trying to get to for weeks … ta da! Here it is!

I’m always interested when variants of the same name all have different feels, and this is definitely one of those names. Helen has an older feel to me, like vintage chic, while Helena feels a bit more on trend and Helene feels mostly out of fashion, but the SSA data doesn’t totally agree with me: Helen is most popular at no. 418, followed by Helena at 516, and Helene at 943. What are your gut reactions about each name?

Then there are the non-H variants: Ellen, Elena, Elaine, Eleni, Ileana, Yelena, and Olena. And maybe Eleanor (which opens up some more variants, like Elea, Nora(h), and Lenora/Lenore). So many gorgeous names! So many ways of choosing a name in this family that suits your taste! I love the nicknames too: Ellie, Nell(ie), Lena, Leni (let’s not forget Dwija’s little Helen Margaret who got called Nellie Peg for a while in the beginning [and maybe still?]. Nellie Peg! So cute! [I can’t find the link to where I read that though!])

But back to Helena for a minute — for the mama who asked for the consultation, and for others I’ve encountered who would like to consider the name or who are, pronunciation can be an issue. There are three that seem to have fairly decent use: HEL-en-na, hel-LAY-na, and hel-LEEN-na. For those who don’t like when names have different acceptable pronunciations, that can be a problem! I did a name poll on Twitter to see if one pronunciation really rose to the surface, and there really was (though admittedly the same size was quite small):

helena_namepoll

So at least among the Sancta Nomina Twitter followers, HEL-en-na wins the day! How do you all say it?

St. Helena of Constantinople is the first holy Helen(a) to come to mind when I hear the name, and is usually the one parents tell me they’re using as patron (as well as the Eleanors), but there are others with the name or a variant as either a birth name or religious name — do any of you have devotions to any of them?

I’ve also seen people really love the meaning, which Behind the Name gives as either “torch,” “corposant” (a new word to me, but how cool!), or “moon,” and the DMNES says its origin is uncertain.

What do you all think of Helena and/or its variants? Would you consider any of them for a daughter, or have you? Do you know any little ones named Helena, and do they go by a nickname?

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Spotlight on: Faustina (and another announcement!)

These past few weeks have been so exciting for me, being able to share with you all the news of my baby and my book! So many of you immediately asked about names we’re considering for the baby, and some of you even offered to help! You’re all wonderful. ❤ I’d had the same thought myself — about seeking ideas and suggestions, including from all of you — and had reached out to the amazing Abby from Appellation Mountain to see if she had room to do a consultation for me! Abby offers name help at Nameberry as the Name Sage, and weekly on her blog with her Name Help posts, and I’ve long been completely impressed by her name knowledge and her thoughtful suggestions for expectant parents. (She’s also been a wonderful mentor to me as a name writer, and gave me an amazing endorsement for my book!)

I’m thrilled to share that Abby has indeed put together some ideas for me, and will post it on her blog tomorrow! Eek! I’m so excited! I’ll definitely post the link here once she has it up, and I hope you all weigh in with your ideas/thoughts/suggestions! Many of you also asked if we’d be finding out the gender ahead of time — we never have, and aren’t planning to do so with this baby, but even so we only need help with boy names (our girl name has been the same throughout). It’ll be a little tricky since, as you know, my husband feels strongly about not sharing our boys’ names online, so you’ll just have to give me your best and favorite ideas. 🙂 I’ve given Abby some details and clues about our style that we’re okay with her sharing in her post — I know she’ll lay it all out nicely and will give you good direction for your suggestions.

If all that isn’t exciting enough, I’m extra excited that Abby’s posting it on Divine Mercy weekend! The Divine Mercy devotion is such a special one, both because of its power and because of our beloved St. John Paul’s connection to it. And also, the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception are the ones who are publishing my book, and they’ve been given the gift and task of spreading devotion to the Divine Mercy — they run the National Shrine of Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, MA, they are *the* publishers of St. Faustina’s diary, and one of their Fathers was the vice-postulator for the cause for canonization of St. Faustina.

So I thought today was the perfect day to post a spotlight on Faustina!

Many of those who I’ve done consultations for have shared that they’ve considered Faustina as a first or middle name for their daughters, and I had the privilege of posting birth announcements for two little girls given Faustina as a first name (here, here), and one with Faustina as a middle. Two of my best friends took Faustina as their Confirmation names, and one gave Faustina to her daughter as her middle name. I love seeing it!

Behind the Name says Faustina is the feminine form of Faustinus, which was the name of several saints, and derives from Faustus meaning “auspicious, lucky” in Latin; Faustus itself is the name of several saints as well. (I think he’s well known enough that I can’t not mention Faust, renamed Doctor Faustus in at least one of the story’s reinterpretations — a literary character who makes a deal with the devil — but I don’t personally think Faustina is [or should be] at all tainted by this association.) Faustine is the French variant of Faustina, which I think is lovely as well. There are actually several Sts. Faustina, and the St. Faustina we’re familiar with (St. Faustina Kowalska) took the name as her religious name (Sr. Maria Faustina) — I’d love to know why! Was it after one of those other Sts. Faustina? Or perhaps because of its meaning?

Faustina strikes me as similar to Christina, with its “stina” ending, and it can take Tina as a nickname as well. I’ve heard it said FAW-stina, rhyming with “paw,” and I’ve heard it said FOW-stina, rhyming with “cow,” so that could be a turn off for those who prefer one straightforward pronunciation, though a minor one I think. I’ve never seen anyone use a nickname for it — other than Tina, perhaps Fia and Fina could work? If you did Maria Faustina, that opens up some more nickname options like Mia, Mina, and even something like Muffy.

I love that Faustina is, like Kolbe, Kateri, Gianna, Jacinta, John Paul, and others, a modern-day Catholicky Catholic name — its certainly got roots, but St. Faustina is a saint of and for our times.

What do you all think of Faustina? Would you use it for a daughter, or have you? Do you know anyone named Faustina, and if so, does she like her name? Does she go by a nickname?

(Find out more about Divine Mercy Sunday here, and here‘s how to say the Divine Mercy Chaplet.) (And don’t forget to check in tomorrow to offer your name ideas for my littlest one! 🙂 )

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?