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
October 30, 2014 10:20 PM

A Scots nickname for Thomas is Tam, as in Tam O'Shanter.

I think the story of Nicholas Owen is particuarly interesting.  He was a carpenter, and he had a serious spinal deformity which enabled him to scrunch down in tight quarters.  He used his carpentry skills and "scrunching" capacity to make the priest holes in the homes of Catholic gentry and aristocracy which hid the priests, mostly Jesuits, who came over from the continent to minister illegally.  Many of those priest holes can still be seen today, and some believe that some were so well hidden that they haven't been found to this day--but who knows?  He was arrested in the aftermath of the failed Gunpowder Plot (Guy Fawkes Day is coming up next week) and died under torture he was unable to withstand because of his deformity. The torturers are said to have placed a metal plate over his abdomen to keep his innards, well, in, but apparently it did not work.

Garnet had a bit of a run in the Victorian era for both males and females.  For males it was a matter of an occupational surname used as a given name, and for females it was part of the Victorian enthusiasm for genstone and flower names.  I think it is ready for a revival for those who are looking for a "fresh" name which has current appeal.

October 30, 2014 10:01 PM

Actually Laura Ingalls Wilder's husband was named Almanzo, not Alonzo.

The only person I ever met named Wilder was female, and that was a typical instance of using a family surname as a given name, southern style.

October 30, 2014 02:06 AM

Avi is just a nickname.  It doesn't have any special cultural or religious significance.  IMO anyone can use it without raising the specter of inappropriate cultural appropriation.  Yes, it is very likely that many (most?) people will assume Jewish when they see/hear the name, but is it so terrible to be mistakenly assumed to be Jewish?  I in fact am Jewish, but I have been taken for Irish, Dutch, Austrian, and even Estonian (!).  In my case the mistaken ethnic identifications were more a matter of appearance than name (except being taken for Dutch because Mirjam is a very popular name there), but in any case the sky did not fall.  Although being taken for Austrian and having people there think that I would surely appreciate their anti-Semitic remarks did rather sting.

October 30, 2014 01:03 AM
In Response to Help loving a J name?

Really it is impossible to know the subtle nuances of pronunciation in the Middle Ages.  Today the same person might well pronounce a name like Jolicia with four syllables in some contexts and three in another.  It also should be remembered that during the Middle Ages names were often written in Latin, but spoken in an vernacular form.  This is true even today in the southern Netherlands where people generally have formal (birth certificate) names in Latin, but those Latin names are never used.  For example, I have a good friend whose name is Jacobus Petrus Lambertus, and he is always called Jack (not Sjaak or Jaap or Kobe).  His brother is Petrus Henricus, and he is always called Peter (not Piet).  (Their parents were very grateful to the English-speaking troops who liberated the Netherlands at the end of WWII and chose English call names.)

If I were to use Jolicia today (and I think it is usable), I would pronounce it like Felicia and Leticia.  Jolicia was used in England, and in that context the J would be pronounced like the J in John, not like the J in Johan.

October 29, 2014 08:22 PM
In Response to Baby Jesus?!?

Yes, in German it's a hard g.

October 29, 2014 04:46 PM
In Response to Baby Jesus?!?

It's funny.  My first encounter with the name Iphigenia was Goethe's Iphigenie auf Tauris, and forever after my first inclination is to pronounce the name  auf Deutsch.

My own maiden surname was Anglicized in both spelling and pronunciation, although neither was a great departure from the original.  However, my married surname, which I still use, is a translation--think Schmidt>Smith (although that's not it).

October 29, 2014 04:34 PM

Another thought: Geoffrey for Geoffrey Chaucer whose Parlement of Foules is the first association of Valentine's Day with lovers, in this particular case, avian lovers who choose their mates on Valentine's Day according to the poem.

October 29, 2014 03:23 PM

David (beloved)

Charles, after Charles d'Orleans who wrote the first Valentine's poem ever while imprisoned in England after being captured at the Battle of Agincourt  (Charles's mother was, as it happens, Valentina Visconti)


And here is the poem (the translation is based on Charles's own English)


Original French


Je suis déjà d’amour tanné,

Ma très douce Valentinée,

Car pour moi fûtes trop tard née,

Et moi pour vous fus trop tôt né.

Dieu lui pardonne qui estrené

M’a de vous, pour toute l’année

Je suis déjà, etc.

Ma très douce, etc.

Bien m’étais suspeçonné,

Qu’aurais telle destinée,

Ainsi que passât ceste journée,

Combien qu’Amours l’eût ordonné.

Je suis déjà, etc.

I am already sick of love,

My very gentle Valentine,

Since for me you were born too soon,

And I for you was born too late.

God forgives he who has estranged

Me from you for the whole year.

I am already, etc.

My very gentle, etc.

Well might I have suspected,

Having such a destiny, cousin

Thus would have happened this day,

How much that Love would have commanded.

I am already, etc.


October 29, 2014 10:31 AM
In Response to Baby Jesus?!?

There is Americanized (or perhaps more inclusively, Anglicized), and then there is wrong, although drawing the line may be tricky.  For example, my son's first girlfriend was Polish (came to the States as a small child).  Her name was Katarzyna. Now Katarzyna is hard for an English speaker to pronounce, and so she was universally Katie, Americanized.  Pronouncing her name with a Z sound as in zebra, just plain wrong.  I once met an Israeli woman whose name was Michal.  She told me that here in the US she tells people her name is Michelle, because few can pronounce Michal correctly, so that is Americanized.  Calling her Mitchell would just be wrong.  So that's kinda how I would draw the line.  Like pronouncing Penelope to rhyme with hope....Or pronouncing the River Thames with the th in thigh and rhyming with names--I once interviewed a woman applying for an assistant professorship teaching Shakespeare who did just that--she didn't get the job.

October 29, 2014 01:39 AM
In Response to Help loving a J name?

Medieval names (female) starting with J: Jehanne, Jacquetta, Jocosa, Joetta, Joia/Joya, Jolicia, Justina, Jonet, Janet, Jennet, Jutta


Male names: Jehan, Jankin, Jordan, Joris, Jeronimus, Joachim

Note:  Overwhelmingly medieval male names are John and James/Jacob, and female names are Joan, Johanna, and Julian(a).  Several of the names listed above are alternate forms of these popular names.  Also J is a relatively little used letter (and in some languages used not at all).  I was used instead, and even sometimes Y.

October 28, 2014 10:02 PM
In Response to Help loving a J name?

Well, there's always Joyce Kilmer, or parents could be fans of James Joyce.  Joscelyn/Jocelyn is originally a male name, and to me it still is, although not to everyone.  As for Joss, there is Joss Stone and Joss Whedon, so at least somewhat unisex.

October 28, 2014 09:58 PM
In Response to Baby Jesus?!?

There are differences in pronunciation from one Germanic language to the next.  For example, skirt and shirt are the same word, but skirt is Danish and shirt is Old English.  Skirt was borrowed into English in the Danelaw, and both words remained in the English language, but with differentiated meanings.  With Halloween coming up, you might find interesting that shriek and screech are hybrids, the sh- of shriek being English and the -k Danish and the sc- of screech being Danish and the -ch being English.  Just so, -ric in English is -rich.  On some thread I posted the text of Caedmon's Hymn along with a link to a recitation.  If you listen, you will hear "heofenrices weard" (guard of the heaven-kingdom), and -rices is pronounced -riches.  OTOH the Scandinavian name Eirik is pronounced like Modern English Eric/Erik.  Wulfric is an Old English name, and hence it's pronounced -rich.  If it were Danish it would be Ulf-, not Wulf-.  Continental German of this period is divided into a number of dialects, some High German (Old High German), and some Low (Old Saxon, Old Low Franconian).  In the continental Germanic languages, you would expect -ric to be pronounced like Dietrich (originally Theoderic) or Friedrich or Ulrich, the -ch roughly like Bach.  So in English we have Richard (-ch- as in church), in Scandinavian we have Rikard, and in German we have Richard (-ch- as in Bach).

I don't know what your maiden name is, but in German -ck- is pronounced -k- as in Becker, while -ch- is pronounce like the -ch in Bach as in Fenstermacher.  And -sch- is pronounced like -sh- as in Fischer.  I don't know why your maiden name had a -ch- pronounced like -k-.

My advice is to be very wary of using a name with which you are not familiar.  In that case research into the pronunciation using a reliable source would be a good idea.  And not all sources are reliable, far from it.

October 28, 2014 04:58 PM

You can forestall the Nate/Kate issue by using one of the several other Catherine nicknames from the get-go.

Since you are Catholic and have an interest in saints' names, may I suggest checking out the names of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales who were martyred during the religious struggles of the Tudor-Stuart period: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forty_Martyrs_of_England_and_Wales

To my ears at least, a number of the full names of these saints would make distinguished first and middle combos.  Examples: Philip Evans, Thomas Garnet, Nicholas Owen, Edmund Campion, Alexander Briant, Philip Howard, Richard Gwyn, Robert Lawrence, Luke Kirby, Henry Morse, David Lewis, Ambrose Barlow, Richard Reynolds.  I myself would pass on Cuthbert, Polydore, Swithun, and Eustace.  Of the forty only three were women: Margaret Clitherow, Margaret Ward, and Anne Line, not much to choose from there.


October 28, 2014 10:24 AM

Daphne means Laurel, so perhaps Matilda Laurel?

October 27, 2014 11:57 PM

I have run across Benjamins nicknamed Benji or Benj whidh would avoid the Ben Derr problem.

October 27, 2014 11:53 PM
In Response to A serious issue!

I thought the stereotypical chav names in the UK were Kevin and Sharon :-).  The only Chantals I personally know are Dutch.  BTW the name Chantal is derived from St. Jeanne-Francoise de Chantal (her husband was Baron de Chantal).  A quick google tells me that in the US she is generally styled St. Jane Frances de Chantal.  So the use of Chantal as a given name is a relatively late development.

ETA:  I have never actually run across anyone named Chantelle, and I lived for 25 years in New Orleans where French and faux-French names abound.

October 27, 2014 05:26 PM
In Response to A serious issue!

Or you could follow French custom and use Marie-Chantelle as a double name.

October 27, 2014 04:32 PM
In Response to A serious issue!

Both my brothers-in-law go exclusively by their middle names.  I doubt that most of their friends/acquaintances even know what their first names are--or even that their call names are not their first names.  In my experience there will be zero problem in getting people to use a middle name as a call name if that is what the parents model.  The only exception to that I can think of is the family member who insists on using the first name because of some sentimental attachment--e.g., the first name is that of the relative's beloved grandmother.

October 26, 2014 11:12 PM

Comfort/console, yes.  The word for peace is shalom which is the root of the name Solomon (Shlomo).

October 25, 2014 04:24 PM
In Response to Baby Jesus?!?

Just a note: Wulfric is an Old English name and is properly pronounced Wulf-rich (like Aldrich and Goodrich). not Wulf-rik.