About Me

Per EVie's suggestion: Here is some information about me: Since personal names currently in use are derived from a multitude of languages and sources, no one can be an expert in all of them. My PhD is in Old and Middle English and Old Icelandic, and I also have had formal training in almost all the Germanic languages (Old and Middle High German, Old Saxon, Gothic, Old Low Franconian, Middle Dutch, Yiddish, Modern German, and Netherlandic/Flemish). In addition I learned Hebrew, Latin, and French before I left high school. Cobbling together my French and Latin, I know something about some of the other Romance languages (including Old French, Anglo-Norman, and Occitan), but I am no expert in Romance philology, although I have had formal training in Germanic philology. So that gives me a better than average background in many of the languages from which our current namestock is derived. However, what I know about Greek and Greek-derived , Balto-Slavic and Celtic names comes from my general knowledge of Indo-European philology, and my general knowledge of Indo-European philology does not really cover names from Sanskrit and other Indian languages and Persian. Knowing Hebrew gives me a bit of insight into cognate Arabic names, but I know nothing about Finno-Ugaric (happily we have our Hungarian sisters for that), Chinese, Japanese, the many indigenous languages of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas.

My Favorite Names

No favorite names yet.

My Recent Blog Comments
November 30, 2015 04:24 PM

IMO these "rules" are all nonsense.  The best names are those the parents love and which have meaning within the context of that particular family.

November 30, 2015 04:20 PM
In Response to Weekend name sightings

Since I don't actually know them--they are friends of my son and daughter-in-law--I'm not likely to find out any details.  I do know they picked the name early on, because they posted updates every month or so during gestation, always using the chosen name.

November 30, 2015 11:25 AM

You are mistaken.  It is much more complicated than simply five years residence to acquire American citizenship and an American passport (I assume ciizenship is what you mean by nationality).   I believe that to get citizenship a person must be resident for at least five years, but there are many additional requirements.

I don't know about any citizenship requirements to change names, but I do know that immigrants routinely change their names upon arrival.  Whether these are formal legal changes or simply informal changes I don't know.  In the US you can call yourself anything you want to as long as the name change is not used for criminal purposes.

November 29, 2015 03:24 PM
In Response to Me again. Girl name.

Gwyn is a masculine name.

November 28, 2015 03:41 PM

Nicodemus is in the Greel scriptures; Nicholas isn't anywhere in the Bible.  However, Lucas and Benjamin are biblical.

November 27, 2015 09:30 PM

The origin of Caedmon is unknown.  The first element may be Brythonic (the ancestor of Welsh), but that's conjecture.  Caedmon himself was Anglo-Saxon and composed in Old English.

November 27, 2015 06:48 PM

If you want domething similar to Reuben, you can look to Jacob's other children.  I would suggest Asher, Levi, Judah, Dan (not Daniel), Joseph, Benjamin, and Dinah, plus his wives Leah and Rachel.

November 26, 2015 01:53 PM
In Response to Weekend name sightings

A lovely young couple in my son and daughter-in-law's social circle just welcomed their first-born, Vlad!m!r Er!k.  From the picture posted of his social debut, little Vl@d is a cutie.

November 24, 2015 08:39 PM

Judging from what I read here, those expecting a second or subsequent child have just as much naming angst as those expecting their first.  Now I only have one child, so I can't speak from personal experience.  However, if I had had multiple kids, it still would have taken me one second to choose their names since I have plenty of deceased family members.

November 24, 2015 05:42 PM

",,,naming a second and subsequent child...." (no edit button for some reason)

November 24, 2015 05:31 PM

Genya, the Russian diminutive of Evgeny?  I had a colleague with a son named Evgeny (Dad was Russian) who called him Genya as is Russian custom.

November 24, 2015 07:51 AM

In the Middle Ages Guinevere was spelled numerous ways, including starting with a W.  Somehow of all the historical  variants today Guinevere seems to be the most likely.  Maybe peop;e would find one of the other variants like, say, Guenevere more intuitive.

November 23, 2015 01:14 PM

Since Bennett is a medieval form of Benedict, it's not exactly an upstart.  Benedict, of course, is another source of Ben.

November 23, 2015 10:52 AM

One of my fellow grad students in medieval studies named her daughter Guinevere.  That Guinevere is now forty-ish, but not having kept up with her mother over the years, I have no idea how well the name has worn.  I assure you though that the name was not bestowed as a joke.

November 21, 2015 03:40 PM

Being unfamiliar with that book, I just read through the sample entries provided in the Amazon entry.  If you just want lists to browse through to jog your memory so to speak, that should do.  However, even in the small amount of text provided, there is plenty to question.  For example, in the American section it says that Violet as a flower name has been replaced by Holly, Ivy, and Willow, and that in the gem names Ruby has been replaced by Chalcedony. 

The African-American section does list names that are particularly popular in the African-American community, but it also lists names that are not in any way specific or exclusive to that community but can be found in families of many backgrounds, albeit also in African-American families as well, e.g., Dominic, Edwin, Jesse, Laurence, Lucas, Malcolm, Nathan, Phoenix, Raymond, Roman, Sean, Theo, Theodore, Tyson, Candace, Cheryl, Denise, Jade, Janet, Janice, Rachel, Rhonda, Savannah, Simone.  The list also includes names that are exceedingly rare and seldom, if ever, given to anyone African-American or not.  All of this strikes me as misleading.  A parent looking for a distinctively African-American name will be introduced to names that are completely mainstream, and people who are not African-American may be put off some of these names for fear that they represent some sort of unacceptable cultural appropriation.

The American section intro says " Currently, about forty-four separate ancestry groups are represented in the United States...."  I wonder where that number came from.  Just today the mayor of Roanoke VA in apologizing for comments that appeared to approve of the Japanese-American internment program during WWII meantioned that Roanoke has residents representing 105 different ethnicities. Many of the American names are exactly those we encounter here every day, but some raise my eyebrows:  Bannock (know anyone named after a Scottish oat cake? She says it's derived from a Russian word, still the country is not overrun with Bannocks), Brazier, Camas, Dack, Deston.  I can't say I see anything distinctively American about those names, except of course these days a child can be named almost anything a parent can think of.  Nonetheless if someone is looking for a quintessentially American name these ain't it.

As with just about all name reference books, a large grain of salt is required.

November 21, 2015 01:42 PM

I can't recommend any books along the lines you've described but there are more specialized websites.  For example, if you google you will find websites that that every legally acceptable name in Iceland which will give you a great lot of Scandinavian names.  I'm not listing a link, because links give this site spasms.  If you indicate other categories/origins of names that interest you, someone can probably direct you to more comprehensive lists than what are available in BNW and behindthename.  For example, there are good sources for medieval and Renaissance names and Hebrew names from the biblical to the modern.

I know what you mean by finding screen browsing uncomfortable, but these days the screen is often the only available medium and it is generally the most readily accessible in any case.

November 21, 2015 08:59 AM

There was a push for an English Academy to "police" the language, the lead pusher being Jonathan Swift.  Here's what Wikipedia has to say about it:

"Jonathan Swift in his Proposal for Correcting, Improving and Ascertaining the English Tongue,[47] advocated an academy for regulating the English language. In the form of a call for a "national dictionary" to regulate the English language, on the French model, this conception had much support from Augustan men of letters: Defoe, Joseph Addison (The Spectator 135 in 1711) and Alexander Pope. At the end of Queen Anne's reign some royal backing was again possible, but that ended with the change of monarch in 1714.[48]

The whole idea later met stern opposition, however, from the lexicographer Samuel Johnson, invoking "English liberty" against the prescription involved: he predicted disobedience of an academy supposed to set usage.[49] Matthew Arnold, in an 1862 essay The Literary Influence of Academies, was positive in assessing the French and Italian cultural academies; but marks an endpoint in the tradition.[50] In Culture and Anarchy Arnold denied that he supported setting up an English Academy, guying the likely membership as establishment figures.[51"

Instead of a prescriptive academy, Johnson's dictionary served the purpose of standardizing spelling, and the same period saw the publication of several books of prescriptive grammar which aimed to "schoolmaster" English and largely succeeded.  Somewhat later Noah Webster's books did the same for American English.  Instead of an Academy such as the French had and have, English has dictionaries, spellers, and grammar books, and a populace trained to "look it up."

November 20, 2015 11:15 AM
In Response to Isis

NYTimes today on the effect of the acronym ISIS on those individuals and businesses named Isis: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/21/world/europe/when-youre-named-isis-for-the-goddess-not-the-terror-group.html?ref=world

November 19, 2015 07:18 PM

Yaya is a Greek term of endearment for a grandmother.

November 19, 2015 02:20 PM
In Response to Old School Boys names

The only Orchard I know is named Andr3w.