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
February 13, 2016 09:10 AM

Growing up, my sister and I were Mimi and Suzi (mother's choice).  I thought we sounded like a pair of French poodles, but the fact that the names were sort of rhyme-y or match-y was never an issue.  She ditched the Suzi when she went to university and has been Suzanne ever since.  I have lept the Mimi but also use Miriam on some occasions.  Miriam and Suzanne are, of course, nothing alike.

February 13, 2016 09:01 AM
In Response to Dutch Baby Struggles

My dearest Dutch friend is Jack as a call name for Jacobus.  In Dutch it is pronounced very like the French Jacques only with a shorter vowel.  He was born in 1953, and his parents chose the English spelling out of respect/gratitude for the liberation of the Netherlands by the English-speaking peoples.  The Dutch spelling is Sjaak.  From a Dutch perspective Jack/Sjaak is a form of either Jacob/Jacobus or Isaac.  While in English Jack is a nickname for John, and Hans is also a form of John, in Dutch Jack and Hans do not come from the same origin (Yohanan).  However, in Dutch Jan is a more common John form than Hans, although Hans does occur.

BTW when a Dutch person pronounces Jack while speaking English, it comes out roughly like "check."  No one in the Netherlands pronounces it the way I as a native speaker of American English do.

February 12, 2016 06:44 PM
In Response to Dutch Baby Struggles

I knew a Dutch woman named Xandra and also a child named Isa, but that was before ISIS.  However, I don't think Isa in any way wouldlead someone to think that the parents were endorsing ISIS.

February 11, 2016 10:15 PM
In Response to Jewish character name

There are strict rules for the choosing of male names--there are roughly 150 permissible male names, mostly Hebrew (biblical and non-biblical), but also Aramaic and even Greek (Alexander).  They are chosen from the names of deceased family.  In addition many with Hebrew names also have a Yiddish name, usually connected by meaning, as a double barrel--examples, Dov Ber (both mean bear), Tzvi Hirsch (both mean stag), Aryeh Leib (both mean lion).  Or there are pairings like Benyamin Wolf (the wolf is the heraldic emblem of the Tribe of Benjamin) or Yehudah Leib (the lion is the emblem of the Tribe of Judah).  Also men who have contact through their occupation or for other reasons with their non-Jewish surroundings often have an additional name from the language of their non-Jewish neighbors (maybe German, Polish, Russian, Hungarian, whatever).  That name is usually connected to the Hebrew name by sound or meaning, but it could be anything.

No one cares what females are named since the naming of a girl has no traditional ritual (unlike the naming of a boy).  Like the Bas Mitzvah, current girl baby naming ceremonies are a recent innovation reflecting a more egalitarian outlook.  Again girls are given the names of deceased family members.  Those names can be Hebrew (biblical or non-biblical), Yiddish, or just about anything else.  For example, Yenta/Yentl is derived from French, and Shprintze is a Yiddish version of Esperanza.

Jewish naming has been affected by the foundation of the State of Israel.  Traditional names were often rejected by the original Israelis as literally too "ghetto."  At first previously unacceptable pre-Abrahamic names and names of 'bad' biblical characters were used--like Yuval and Nimrod,  That's when some of the obscure biblical names were resurrected.  As Israel developed, and people learned Modern Israeli Hebrew as a cradle tongue, new names developed--usually nature names, virtue names, and place names.  Then Modern Orthodox Jews in the diaspora began to adopt those names too (names like Aviva and Ilana).  Unless your character was born at a time when Israel existed and when Hebrew was reborn as a modern language, the obscure biblical names and the Modern Hebrew names would not be appropriate.  In real life someone around fifty years old in the 1950s would be born about fifty years before the State of Israel.  If in your reimagined world Israel was already in existence at the time of this character's birth, then you can look at these names associated with Israelis.  If not, then not.

Since your character is involved in the corproate world, she would likely have a Polish name in addition to a Hebrew or Yiddish name (single or double barrel), and the Polish name would usually be connected to the Hebrew or Yiddish name by sound or meaning, but it doesn't have to be.

February 11, 2016 02:24 PM

Since you don't mind Alexandra, perhaps you can try being M. Alexandra, perhaps using one of its nicknames like Lexi or Xandra or Alex, and see how that goes while you are waiting to turn 18.  You can test the reactions of your family and friends and your own feelings without making any legal changes--and at no cost.  If that doesn't feel like you, then when you turn 18, you can change your name legally to whatever you like.  In the meantime your family and friends will have had a chance to get used to the idea that your name situation is fluid, that you are not going to continue to be Megan, and they may not find it so difficult to adjust to whatever you ultimately choose.

February 11, 2016 09:22 AM
In Response to Jewish character name

Your character would have been born around 1900.  She would have had either a Hebrew or a Yiddish name and possibly also a Polish name if she lived in a city like Warsaw and interacted a lot with the general culture, spoke Polish in addition to Yiddish.  If so, her Polish name would probably have a connection with her Hebrew/Yiddish name, either the Polish form of her (probably) Hebrew name or a similarity in sound or meaning. 

BTW Nazis or no Nazis there is no possible way a Jewish woman living in 1950s Poland would be the head of a multinational corporation. In the 1950s multinational corporations were thin on the ground, and if they existed would not have been headquartered in Poland, an economic backwater, and would not have been headed by any kind of woman, let alone a Jewish one.  Prior to WWII Poland was a virulently anti-Semitic society, and Jews had very limited access to whatever economic opportunities that did exist. Without WWII, in the 1950s Poland would still be anti-Semitic, and Jews would still have been excluded from the general economy.  With that idea you have crossed out of alternate history and into some sort of ahistorical/nonhistorical fantasy.  Alternate history extrapolates from real history--and your premise cannot be convincingly extrapolated from Poland as it was at the beginning of 1939.

To answer your question per se, a Jewish woman born in Poland around 1900 would not be called Merab.  She would not have a Modern Hebrew name because that came into fashion only after the foundation of the State of Israel which would not have happened without WWII.  She would most likely have a name like Deborah or Zipporah or Yocheved or Chana (Hannah/Anna) or Miriam for that matter or Sarah, Rachel, Rebecca, or Leah, or Esther, Judith, Ruth, etc.  Some non-biblical possibilities would be Chaya, Nechama, Tovah, Shoshana, Tzivya, Malka.  Common Yiddish names in that time and place would include Beila, Bluma, Faiga, Fruma, Gittel, Gluckel, Golda, Liebe, Raisel, Sussel/Zissel, Sheina.  Double barrel names were very common.  For example, my grandmother was Tzivya Chaya, my sister is Sheina Liebe.  A typical name would be, say, Zissel (a Yiddish name meaning 'sweetie') with the Polish name Zosia/Zofia for use outside the Jewish community.  Or Malka (queen in Hebrew) and Regina in Polish.

Here is a website for Hebrew names, but not all of these names would have been in use in the time and place of your story: http://hebrewname.org/

February 10, 2016 08:19 AM
In Response to How to pronounce...

The numbers are used to make real people's names ungoogleable, so in case they google their names, they won't find us discussing them.  In this case the numbers weren't necessary because this is a theoretical discussion of how to pronounce certain names in a vacuum so to speak.  And I don't think any of us is worried about Irina Slutskaya's privacy.

February 9, 2016 08:33 AM
In Response to H@dwen?

Totally agree...


February 8, 2016 05:26 PM

You and a lot of other people for many centuries.

February 8, 2016 11:03 AM

FWIW the error of associating Tristan with triste/sad goes back to the Middle Ages.  Actually Tristan is derived from a Pictish name Drustan, the diminutive of Drust, which is probably derived from a root meaning riot, tumult.  So triste means sad, but Tristan doesn't.  Drystan is among the alternate spellings/forms of the name.

February 7, 2016 11:56 PM
In Response to Which parent to honor?

She wasn't Russian-speaking and was never referred to in Russian.

February 7, 2016 04:24 PM
In Response to Mirabel?

The original form of Mildred is Mildþryð (Mildthryth/Mildthrith).  There's no 'dred' in that, but that pile up of consonants in the middle is very much not to current tastes.

February 7, 2016 04:18 PM
In Response to Which parent to honor?

Well, I wouldn't be concerned about random eyerolls at the grocery or the library.  What about Irina which would be a little more fashionable than Irene in terms of sound and would be a sort of Russian nod to Olga?  I would say that at the moment Olga is deeply unfashionable which may be a burden for a schoolgirl to carry.  I had a great aunt straight from the Russian Empire who was Tante Olya (as Olga was pronounced).  Don't know if that would be easier for a child to handle, although if Olga in any form were in te middle your daughter's peers would never know of it.

As for the boy names, Ulysses and Iago are familiar literary figures and should be well known to anyone with a high school or better education.  Joachim is a bit of a problem because it is pronounced differently from place to place.  Jo or Yo? -ch- as in Bach or -k-?  Or something else?  I think the uncertainty in pronunciation has limited its usage in English compared to other biblical names.  Caetano may be confused with Gaetano.

I will say that there is no name so simple and straightforward that someone won't screw up the spelling and/or pronunciation.  I have a very common and straightforward surname--think Brown or Johnson or Smith, and people still get it wrong.  I have come to the conclusion that there is nothing that can be guaranteed mistake-proof, so I wouldn't worry too much about it  I would also say that your father's family already has been honored twice over, and now if you choose to honor your moms, dad's side needs to keep out of it.

February 7, 2016 02:40 PM

It's also a nicname for Eustace/Eustacia.  Depends on what you mean by classic.  To me Stacy had its moment in the sun, and the sun has pretty much set, perhaps to rise again another day. 

February 7, 2016 07:55 AM
In Response to Baby Girl name

We had a Cousin Leona in my mother's generation--my mother were she living would be 103 years old.  So it's been out of fashion for a while, but that's no reason not to use it now.

February 6, 2016 07:16 PM

I've met two Danes named Rasmus, so it can't be THAT foreign.  They were adults though, so I don't know if it would sound too "old" for a newborn.

February 5, 2016 04:11 PM

My  little grandson Elliott loves the fact that his name has two sets of double consonants.  Others: Bennett, Harris/Harrison, Perry, Emmett, Everett, Ellis, Geoffrey/Jeffrey, Scott, William, Gillis, Garrett/Garrison, Mitchell

February 5, 2016 11:51 AM

Just a little note:  No one knows what Arthur "means."  Its origin/derivation is very much in dispute.  So, love it for its history and associations and for its sound, but don't love it for its meaning, since no one knows what that is.

February 5, 2016 09:53 AM

Erik, Ivar, Anders, Axel, Anton, Kai, Bo, Egil, Einar, Erlend, Gunnar, Njal, Harald, Knut, Lars/Lasse, Leif, Olaf, Morten, Nikolaj, Steen/Sten, Sigurd, Thor, Sven, Vidar, Ulf, Nils, Mads

These are (obviously) all Scandinavian names.  I don't know enough Spanish to say which could or could not be pronounced by Spanish speakers.  The vetoed Oscar would be ideal as a Spanish/Nordic crossover, and Karl/Carlos would certainly also work.

Re Ragnar:  I always wanted a Norwegian elkhound which I planned to name Ragnar after Ragnar of the Hairy Breeks (elkhounds being quite hairy) with the call name Rags....

February 5, 2016 09:31 AM
In Response to Help Please

Isolde/Iseult/Yseult/Isyllt most obviously

Others: Thisbe, Hero