Hester: disaster?

I really like the name Hester, especially since there's an Esther in my family that I'd like to honor, but I'm vaguely worried about the impact of That Stupid Novel (fellow graduates of the American public school system surely know which one I mean). Our daughter would hopefully be a confident young woman raised far from any kind of Puritanical sex nonsense, and I'm sure neither side of her extended family would give half a damn about the literary reference, but I do wonder whether it'd be an intolerable name to grow up with in the USA.

What do you folks think?

(I'd prefer to avoid Esther itself, because it'd read too Christian on a Chinese-American and too Jewish on someone ambiguously-Eurasian, and either one's misleading.)

Replies

1
November 11, 2015 3:41 PM

I know a part Chinese Esther that's about 10. She wears it well. 

2
November 11, 2015 3:53 PM

Personally, I do think that Hester has a taboo in the name– I never had to read the book, but when I hear the name it is the first thing I think of.  

Personally, I think you would be fine with using the name Esther.  It sounds nice and is becoming more and more racially ambiguous, I think.  You could also call her Essie, which sounds less Judeo-Christian.  

 

Estelle, Estella, or Estrella could also work as  names- they sounds similar, and  also means star.  You could then have Stella or Essie as a nickname.

3
November 11, 2015 4:03 PM

I really like Hester and Esther, I think the worst that will happen is that many people will consider them "old lady" names, but personally they sound ripe for revival to me. I don't think the novel will be a big deal, I had totally forgotten the characters name even until you mentioned it. Either name seems well suited to me on someone who is Chinese-American or ambiguously-Eurasian. The little girls in my neighborhood of east-Asian backgrounds all have old fashioned names so I think a little Hester or Esther would fit right in. (But of course, so does most everyone here)

4
November 11, 2015 4:46 PM

I don't immediately associate the name Hester with the novel, largely because I didn't remember the character's name until I read your post.  Importantly, it's a reference a little Hester probably wouldn't understand until she is in high school, giving you a lot of time to teach her reasons to love her name. 

Personally, I like the name Esther better. It doesn't sound especially Jewish, Christian, or racial and wouldn't feel any cognitive dissonance to find it on a non-Judeochristian ambiguous Eurasian.

Some other names you could consider are Hestia (sounds alike, but different derivation) or Stella (sounds different, but means star like Esther and Hester).

5
November 11, 2015 5:10 PM

I think Hadassah would be odd on someone of Eurasian descent, but Esther would be perfectly fine in a non-Judeo-Christian family. If you really want to avoid all religious associations, you could always go with Myrtle. :-)

For me, Hester is Ms. Prynne, no question, and we only read snippets of Hawthorne in high school. I do think the name is ready for rescue, though, just like her daughter's name, Pearl. If you're willing to be a trailblazing family in the rehabilitation of Hester, I'm ready to cheer you on.

6
November 11, 2015 7:04 PM

Well, Hadassah is derived from the Hebrew word for the myrtle plant, but Esther isn't.  Esther is an Indo-European star name.  The story of Esther is set in Persia, and the Jewish characters have the dual names typical in the Jewish diaspora., hence Hadassah/Esther.  Mordechai is (supposedly) derived from Marduk, the Persian god; his full name is given traditionally as Mordechai Bilshan ben Jair.  Even Moses had dual names--Moses is Pharaonic Egyptian, as in the Pharaoh Thutmose, and aeveral names have been advanced as his Hebrew name, most usually Avigdor.

In my experience Esther is most frequently used in the Jewish community, but it (and other biblical names like Miriam and Salome) were also used by the Pennsylvania Dutch, both gay and plain.  The Hesters OTOH whom I have run across have been African-American (I haven't met many).  I don't think Hester is overly tied to one ethnicity or religions, but it is as far as I am concerned definitely attached to Ms. Prynne.

Another variant you might like is Estée.  The only association I have with Estée is the late cosmetics mogul.

7
November 11, 2015 8:26 PM

I mentioned Hadassah and suggested Myrtle because of the pairing/association of Hadassah and Esther as the two names of one woman. I don't know what the latest scholarship is on the etymology of Esther; the entries in the usual sources do not offer a consensus. Withycombe says "in the Old Testament book of this name, Esther is given as the Persian equivalent of the Hebrew Hadassah 'myrtle'; it is probably not, as usually supposed, from the Persian word for a star." The Hungarian baby-name book, on the other hand, claims that it is a concurrence of two names, one derived from the Hebrew for 'myrtle', the other from the Persian for 'star'. Behind the Name mentions another possibility, the Near Eastern goddess Ishtar. I have no idea what the Persian word for 'star' is, nor what the Hebrew for 'myrtle' is, so I can't decide which derivation is most likely to be correct.

8
November 11, 2015 9:20 PM

The Hebrew for myrtle is hadas הֲדַס

10
November 11, 2015 5:21 PM

I did remember Hester Prynne, and I did think of her.  However, it was really just a passing thought before I thought that Hester is a rather pretty name.  

I'm honestly not sure that the book is still being taught the way it was back when I was in school.  I remember reading it in jr. high and my 7th grader just said he's never heard of it. Perhaps a quick survey of jr. high & high school age kids is in order to see how many of them even make the connection.

Google feminist & Hester and you'll get several sites talking about the work through a feminist lens (which was not taught when I was in school).  I think if you make the connection for her early you could help her successfully deal with any teasing that might come up.

If you decide not to use Hester, I think the suggestions of Estelle/Stella/Estella are great.  Astra is another star name that could work to honor an Esther.  Having a nickname ready for Hester could also help, just in case.  Essie, Hettie, maybe Hattie?

11
November 11, 2015 5:36 PM

I think Hester has two strikes against it. The first is the association with the novel (great book!) and the second is that it rhymes with the word molester (I believe the character in John Irving's A Prayer for Owen Meaney was teased for this). Both have sexual implications and could lead to potential nasty teasing, especially in the middle-school years (although as NotAGuest stated, most middle schoolers will never have heard of the book and high schoolers are hopefully old enough to have moved on from name-based teasing). That being said, there is nothing wrong with the name Hester on its own. It fits right in with other "vintage" names. Personally, I'd never be brave enough to use it, but like the name and would salute anyone who had the guts to use it on her daughter. And as a lover of literature, I support reclaiming the name of characters from literary classics.

12
By rooo
November 11, 2015 5:38 PM

My first thought was Devin Hester (the football player), and my second thought was "that stupid novel". I think it's fine with the exception of the month or two in which her class reads the book when there might be some teasing. As a young child and an adult, I don't expect that to be an issue.

I don't think Esther reads Christian on an Asian-American, but it does read Jewish, especially on a caucasian.

Perhaps you would like Esme?

13
November 11, 2015 7:27 PM

I was going to mention Owen Meany as well. My first thought when you mentioned 'that stupid novel' was Hester the Molester, then realized that you meant Hester Prynne. I think that the molester rhyme might find it's way to the teasing forefront even without knowledge of the book.

14
November 11, 2015 7:49 PM

I googled Hester to get an idea about current usage and discovered Hester Ulrich, one of the sorority girls on Scream Queens (played by Lea Michele).  I don't watch that show, but the synopsis I read is positively stomach-turning.  I think that the Hester Scream Queens vibe is very different from the Puritan Hester Prynne, although judging from the awful reviews I don't think Scream Queens is going to have anything near the staying power of The Scarlet Letter.  To give some idea of the naming environment on Scream Queens, some of the other characters besides Hester are Chanel, Grace, Zayday, Gigi, and Jennifer.

15
November 12, 2015 8:53 AM

"I don't think Scream Queens is going to have anything near the staying power of The Scarlet Letter"

Thanks, Miriam! I just choked on my cereal. That's an awesome sentence. :)

16
November 12, 2015 1:04 AM

I do think of the novel you mentioned (which is still a frequently read one, particularly in high school AP lit classes), and also of the unfortunate rhyme Elizabeth mentioned. 

For me, it would be out. 

I am a low-risk namer, though. 

I think Esther could be worn by a child of any background without any problem. 

Essie or something similar would be a cute nn. 

Tessa or Tess also seem like they could be possible Esther tributes. If you mix up the letters you get Theres....Do you think the Esther in your family would be pleased with Hester as a tribute? That may be another wrinkle to consider if she is still living. 

 

17
November 12, 2015 2:14 AM

Therese or Theresa are brilliant ways to honor Esther! 

Sorry, but I really don't like Hester. I think it is so loaded with negative connotations that it would be a really hard name to wear. If you were naming her after aunt Hester, it might be worth discussing as a middle name, but if it's to honor Esther, I'd go for another option. 

As JnHsmom suggested, Therese or Theresa would be great. If you go with the "star" meaning of Esther, Celeste would be a great choice because of the "est" sound, plus the shared "celestial" meaning. Estella or Estelle would also fit the "star" meaning and it sounds similar to Esther, without the Biblical connotations. 

18
November 12, 2015 2:31 AM

I'm an English teacher, so for me it would be a no go for sure. I just think it would be hard to pile on more opportunities for teasing during the already hard high school years. 

What about Vesper? It seems more known since the Bond film. 

19
November 12, 2015 3:04 AM

It does make me think of the book, and now I've got the line from the Music Man song "The Sadder But Wiser Girl" running through my head: "I hope/and I pray/for Hester to win just one more A!" I don't know how widely known the novel is to kids today, but the scarlet letter motif has been taken up in the name of protesting slut-shaming, maybe starting with the movie Easy A, so I don't think it's going to drop out of general culture anytime soon. I don't think she'd get teased, per se; I'd more expect maybe raised eyebrows behind her back. 

Esther mainly feels like a grandma name to me, but on a young child it does strike me as somewhat religious.

As someone who is herself ambiguously Eurasian, I think really any kind of name is fine. If it's not already reflected in her surname, I do like the idea of a nod to her Asian heriitage somewhere in her first or middle name. It cuts down on cognitive dissonance to have a name that somewhat matches people's expectations.

20
November 15, 2015 12:53 PM

Oh, we're definitely going to give them a Chinese name as well. Both my husband and I now have names of the format "Anglo-given-name Asian-given-name his-Cantonese-surname my-Scandinavian-surname", and we're sticking with that. We both mostly go by the first and last ones, as we live in the US, but if convenient it's easy to switch to the other set. (I just have to make up a hanja transliteration of my Korean name, since my namesake is dead and nobody else in my family seems to know what it was supposed to be.)

Kind of glad to see that I'm not the only one hearing the religious overtones. And it IS, in fact, my grandma's name, so: well spotted.

Regarding ethnicity and name, though, my husband's a little wary of the kind of Western names that Chinese people who don't speak much English pick for themselves or their kids. I'm also trying to look out for that one.

21
November 12, 2015 6:19 AM

I haven't read the novel, but I know the basics.

I WOULD use it. Well, I wouldn't, because it's not my kind of name, but I wouldn't not use it on account of the novel. I find it fascinating the way literature can completely subsume a name sometimes. Hester was presumably fairly common at the time the novel was set, and if the character had been given another name, then by now Hester would just be old and dusty and slated for revival. I'm currently reading "My Ántonia," which is another book which seems to have completely taken ownership of its character's name.

Basically, if a few people start naming their babies Hester, the name will recover, and become a plural-opportunity name again. If nobody does, it's going to stay associated with one character for as long as that book is taught in school. I agree a nickname like Hettie could get her through the high school years.

As I said, I haven't read the book, but what I've heard leads me to think that the main character is essentially persecuted. The feminist readings were very much promoted when I was in university, and I think the film Easy A could give a real teenager an Easy Out.

22
November 12, 2015 11:31 AM

I also dislike Hesther -- quite unrelated to the book, which I only vaguely remember -- and love Esther. Amazing what a difference a letter can make.

Iagree that Esther would be absolutely great on a little girl of any ethnic background, really.

My experience so far of having named my 6 month-old daughter a commonly-used Old Testament woman's name here in the US is that no one thinks that it indicates Jewishness (even though she is part Ashkenazi) EXCEPT for Israelis. One Israeli called my daughter's name a "shtetl name" (I assume this was not a compliment) and another said that her name sounded "very Orthodox." It seems from this sample of two that secular Israelis tend to use Modern Hebrew names and associate Old Testament names = old fashioned/not cosmopolitan at all and/or Orthodox.

But this shouldn't matter to you. My sense is that in the US OT names are on the rise, quite independently of Jewishness. Think Noah, Naomi, Asher (so huge in my area, I think because people are saying it to rhyme with the -er occupational names like Carter, Baxter, etc., even though in religious contexts in local accents it rhymes with share) etc. In fact this trend is international. 

23
November 12, 2015 12:49 PM

Dorit, your observation is completely accurate.  When Israel was founded in the wake of the traumatic shock of the Holocaust, the new Israelis of Ashkenazic heritage rejected the traditional biblical names (Moshe, Shlomo, Rivka, Dovid, Ruchel, etc,) as being literally too ghetto. Israelis born in that post-war period were often given the names of pre-Abrahamic biblical figures as a sort of rebellion against the European past.  I know a man named Nimrod who was born in that period.  Yuval is another pre-Abrahamic name that found use.  More recently secular Israels and some Zionist Orthodox have gone to Modern Hebrew names (like Dorit).  Many of these names are unisex, and also deliberately short and suited for international use.  They tend to be "word" names: nature names, place names, virtue names, and so forth.  The Chareidim (ultra-Orthodox) continue to use the traditional limited number of "holy names," most of which are the Hebrew names of the "good" biblical characters, although the name stock includes a few Aramaic names, non-biblical names (like Chaim, Shraga, Meir, and so forth), and a Greek name or two (e.g., forms of Alexander).

Here in the US in the last forty-fifty years the rise of evangelical Protestantism has seen a rise of Hebrew biblical names in the non-Jewish population.  Names like Joshua, Daniel, Jacob, Rachel, Rebecca, Hannah, Sarah, etc., were almost unheard among my schoolmates, but common among my son's.  My little grandson's agemates include Elijah, Isaiah, Isaac, Asher, and even the occasional non-Jewish Shoshanna.

As for my name, it has been chugging along around 300 on the SSA list for many decades.  I can testify that although Miriam has been in use all along in the Jewish community, it has also been in use by non-Jews.  Since I married, I have used an extremely common surname which is not identifiable with any one ethnic group.  However, people occasionally comment on my given name.  Oddly or not, the only person who ever assumed that my name Miriam identified me as Jewish was an Israeli.  Otherwise an Egyptian commented on my beautiful Egyptian name (which it actually probably is), and people in the Netherlands asked me why I have a Dutch name (Mirjam is very popular there).

24
November 12, 2015 1:50 PM

So interesting, Miriam! 

I was actually trying to decide between an Old Testament name and a name that I like but that is, at least in one spelling, Modern Hebrew. I chose the OT name because it was more international, whereas the latter is specific to Israel, which I don't want my DD associated with because we aren't Israeli and because I am vehemently opposed to the occupation. 

So it's really funny to me that Israelis see OT names as "ghetto" and Modern Hebrew names as cosmpolitan, whereas I feel it's something like the opposite. Not exactly the opposite, but you see what I mean.

"Funny" or "annoying." 

Sorry to hijack!

25
November 12, 2015 1:51 PM

Also funny that, although I'm a name nerd, I chose my screen name for this forum without any thought to its origins. I didn't realize that it was Modern Hebrew, and indeed hadn't really heard of it before, but liked the sound of it! 

26
November 12, 2015 2:40 PM

For those who aren't familiar, Dorit is derived from the Hebrew 'dor' which means 'generation.'  Dor l'dor (from generation to generation) is an important Jewish concept of cultural and religious continuity, in spite of the passage of millennia and a worldwide diaspora.  The "international" Modern Hebrew names include names like Ron, Tom, Gil, Aliza, Amalya, Bar, Aviva, Carmel, Dafna, Dalia, Talia, Dana, Dora, Dov, Edna, Heda, Ilana, Keren, Libbi, Lilach, Liora, Nina, Orli, Paz, Oz, Rimona, Roy, Sharon, Sheli/Shelley, Shira, Shirley.  These names are either identical or nearly identical to names from other languages with other "meanings" or feature sounds that are currently internationally popular.  However, they are all derived from Modern Hebrew words and have obvious meanings which differ from those of their international counterparts (well, except for Dafna which is a Hebrew borrowing of the Greek Daphne 'laurel').

ETA:  I too am completely fed up with the policies of Bibi Netanyahu and the current Israeli government.  The current Israeli government makes me want to crawl under a table, cover my ears, and say "I don't know you."

27
November 12, 2015 3:30 PM

Interesting. I had assumed that Dorit (at least the screen name) was related somehow to Charles Dickens's Little Dorrit. Gotta love those convergent evolutions!

28
November 12, 2015 3:58 PM

The Little Dorrit Dorrit is a surname.  William Dorrit, the imprisoned debtor, is the father of three children: Fanny, Edward, and Amy.  Amy is the "little Dorrit."  Nothing to do with the Modern Hebrew name Dorit.

29
November 12, 2015 7:24 PM

Yes, but as Amy is called 'Little Dorrit' (and surname names are pretty popular, anyway) I can see someone using it as a given name.

30
November 12, 2015 11:13 PM

Certainly someone can use Dorrit a la Dickens as a given name, but it still isn't related in any way to the Modern Hebrew name Dorit.

31
November 13, 2015 7:12 AM

Dorit is also a German name, is it not? I read a book from the 1930s, about a non-Jewish character in Berlin, and her name was Dorit.

 

32
November 13, 2015 11:17 AM

Yep, that's what I meant by "convergent evolution"--two (or maybe three?) very similar-sounding names, with completely separate origins. That's one of my favorite "categories" of names, so I always like to run across a new one. I wasn't previously aware of the modern Hebrew Dorit (not a lot of Israelis in Iowa, and I hadn't ever given a lot of thought to "our" dorit's screen name beyond "maybe it's Dickensian"), so I appreciated learning about it. I'm curious whether the German name Emily.ei encountered makes a third point of origin.

33
November 17, 2015 12:38 PM

ETA: Miriam, I am SO with you! That's why I find it annoying when the Israelis I meet seem to think that they have final say on whether my daughter's Old Testament name "Is" or "Is not" a "shtetl" name. I just bristle at the idea that Israelis get to define Jewishness around the world. They don't speak for me.

34
November 17, 2015 3:01 PM

As far as the Israelis, especially the Israeli chief rabbinate, are concerned, they do get to define Jewishness for the world.  They decide whose conversions "count" and don't count.  They decide who can marry whom, where people can be buried, etc., etc.  They don't accept the non-Orthodox streams (e.g., Conservative, Reformed, Reconstructionist, etc.).  They ban women from the public square, restricting women's attendance  at the Western Wall, forbidding the public display of women's pictures, even disallowing women's presence at the funerals of their family members.  They demand documentary proof of Jewish birth--this is construed to mean presentation of four generations of maternal marriage contracts, as if those documents survived WWII.  I can present two generations of burial in Jewish cemetaries, and that might or might not be enough.  I find it profoundly offensive that this would even be an issue.  And Bibi's power depends on the ultra-orthodox political parties' presence in his coalition, so the ultra-orthodox call the shots.  This is what happens when there is no separation between state and religion.  We in the US are (or should be) grateful for the wisdom of our founders.  I wouldn't step foot into Israel, and I wouldn't send that benighted country one thin dime.  They don't speak for me either, and I hope your daughter enjoys her biblical "shtetl" name as I enjoy mine.

Well, enough off-topic rant I assume to be of little interest to anyone except Dorit.

35
November 17, 2015 4:01 PM

FWIW, I have found your off-topic rant very interesting. I appreciate the opportunity to hear perspectives on the state of things in Isreal outside of what is typically portrayed in the news.  

36
November 12, 2015 1:00 PM

I am just reminded by an internet meme that my animal rights activist relatives keep sharing on Facebook:  Esther the Wonder Pig.  Just sayin'....

37
November 12, 2015 10:45 PM

I don't even know what this book is, but when I saw 'Hester' I thought you were naming a boy.  Please give her a pretty name :(

38
November 13, 2015 7:21 AM

"Pretty" is very subjective. The sound of Hester sounds non-pretty to us because it is currently unfashionable, much like names that I find similarly "unpretty," like Susan and Barbara, and some that I think are actually beautiful sounds but still fusty -- Gladys anyone?

Hester willl no doubt sound a lot "prettier" once there are some pretty young children/later women  running around wearing it. There's nothing intrinsically horrible in the sound, they are just currently unfashionable combinations of letters. In any case, it lends itself to nicknames, such as Hettie, that are right on trend and "sound" adorable.

Also, Hester is not even remotely a boys' name, any more than Harriet or Henrietta, both of which contain rather more prominent male elements.

It's also worth keeping in mind that not all parents aspire to "pretty" for their female children, just as not all aspire to "strong" for their male children. There are many names that parents choose that are very perplexing for me personally, but I try to accept that they are aspiring to a different image of a perfect offspring than I am.

39
November 13, 2015 11:20 AM

Well said, all of this, Emily! I am one of those who find the perpetual "pretty" requirement for girl names a bit wearying, and you just put this very diplomatically.

Weighing in on the original question -- I think my mind would have gone to Hester Prynne first, but I would not find it shocking at all (it is a name that has a long history of use before that novel, and I would be saddened if there were no possibility for use AFTER the novel) and I think a young baby/toddler/school-age Hester would very (like, same afternoon) quickly become the dominant association for me if she were in my life.

I would not be particularly worried about a rhyme with molester -- there are so many other names that rhyme in unflattering ways to things, most of which are used so much more than the word molester these days, especially at the ages at which rhyming-based name teasing is in full bloom. (Cooper -> Pooper is one that I would find inherently far more likely to be a problem given the age at which my children have started trying to rhyme things with potty words, but that doesn't stop thousands of parents every year.) I have met children named Chester and it didn't come up then.

Also, for what it's worth, I just completed some child safety training with my eldest where we had a lot of difficult talks, and thus have read a whole lot of childrens' books on the "my body belongs to me" theme recently, and the word "molester" really hasn't been used at all even when TALKING about the issue of child molestation. As such, I think the word is rather out-of-use and children won't be familiar with it well past the age of finding the rhyme with Hester amusing... and even then, people seem much more inclined to call it "sexual abuse" than some euphemism that makes the situation sound less bad. I think the term molestation is on the way out; it is such a less-serious sounding thing ("oh, just a spot of BOTHERING, not like it was anything serious") and people are increasingly recognizing that language really matters in this arena.

Anyway, I know an nonreligiously-raised Esther (internationally) and all of the Esthers I have met in this country have been of Asian ancestry. I wouldn't be too surprised to find otherwise, though.

Anyway, I'd be happy to see a baby Hester, and would not assume anything about the parents except perhaps that they were feminist-leaning and thus particularly inclined to take back the name from the Scarlet Letter.

41
November 13, 2015 9:36 AM

Nnames: As Emily.ei said, "pretty" is in the eye of the beholder.

Also, where do you live that you've managed to stay ignorant not only of one of America's most famous novels, but also of the origin of the name Hester?

(FYI, the book in question is The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne. It's set in Puritan New England, and tells the story of Hester Prynne, who has a child out of wedlock and is sentenced to wearing a red "A" (for Adulterer) on her clothing.)

Oh, and a suggestion for the future: if you phrase your opinions as opinions, they will not annoy people the way your current style of opinions-as-fact tends to do. For example: "I haven't read the book. To me, Hester sounds masculine and not pretty, so I wouldn't choose it."

42
November 13, 2015 7:05 PM

Like someone women don't take consideration of giving a girl a pretty name, some woman don't take pleasing everyone into consideration when sharing their opinions. 

I grew up in 3 different continents and my worldview is bigger than one great American novel, hence I have not read it.

 

43
November 13, 2015 7:57 PM

In fairness to Nnames, it took me a minute reading OP's post to remember the book being referred to was 'The Scarlett Letter'. I agree it's incredibly famous, but it just slipped my mind. I know that's not was Nnames was saying, but I just wanted to put it out there.

 

To answer OP, I think Hester is perfectly fine. By the time her peers are old enough to get the association, it probably won't be a big deal.

44
November 14, 2015 1:10 AM

Thank you NoakQuade.  My point was that even though I was unfamiliar with the tainted name in a literary regard, it simply felt totally masculine upon first look.

45
November 14, 2015 9:45 PM

"Pretty" is not something I value.

46
November 13, 2015 9:38 AM

The responses here for Hester are overwhelmingly negative but I think it's important to remember that this site isn't necessarily going to be representative of the people your daughter goes to school with. Most people aren't so well educated and literary. The book is not universally read in school, and even if it were that doesn't have to mean she will be given a hard time about it. the concept of "slut shaming" is a part of our culture and kids today are being taught that women have the right to their sexuality. Not to mention that the culture these days is pushing sex very strongly. Hester is a victimized prude by their views, I would guess. If they would even know who she is, I imagine a number of school districts  wouldn't even want to touch the book for fear of upsetting a vocal minority. Besides, controversial names are big now. Scarlett (which I personally associate with the book more) is racing up the charts ...people call it "cute" which I find kind of mind blowing considering how strongly sexual it's pop culture image...and other similar names like Juliet, Lola, Delilah, Lilith. These names I see are very polpular on another site (Nameberry) which is much younger and less educated on average. I like to go there to get a sense of what teenagers today think of names, since they seem to be the majority there.

47
November 13, 2015 10:08 AM

I think this is very true. In particular, the children who will go to school with Hester will have known her long before they ever have any idea of the novel. I'd say she's get a couple of week's teasing out of it, maximum.

49
November 13, 2015 1:14 PM

Wow, so many people are so against the name, and it surprises me! I thought Hester Prynne was a good role model anyway, she was strong and did what she believed was right in the face of the crazy puritanical society around her.

I think the name is perfectly usable, one book written a couple hundred years ago can't possibly ruin a name for the rest of us for the rest of our lives. If you like Hester, use it! And as a couple other people have said, I think Esther is not too Christian or to Jewish sounding, so if you like that, know that most people wouldn't bat an eye or make any assumptions. The only Esther I know is a Chinese-American. I don't think she is religious at all. 

I think Hester and Esther are both beautiful names, and the idea that people will mock them for the "molester" rhyme is also rather absurd to me. I think that's the kind of thing John Irving would write about that wouldn't actually happen in real life. I've never heard of Esthers being teased about that, why would Hester be any different? 

Go for it.

50
By mk
November 14, 2015 11:15 PM

I agree with all of this. I do prefer Esther, though. All Esthers I have known (4) have been Asian except one, and none were religious as far as I know. Vesper actually seems more religious to me, since I think of the evening prayers.

But Hester to me just sounds like Esther with an H, so if you prefer it than use it. I imagine most modern teens aren't going to care much about the fact the character had a baby out of wedlock, or that she has the same naem as their classmate.