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
July 26, 2017 11:49 PM

Another notable normal celebrity-kid name: Billy Kimmel, son of Jimmy and whomever he is married to. I took note of this because Billy is SO retro. Lots of little Williams and Liams, and even Wills these days, but Billy really takes me back to my childhood.

July 26, 2017 11:36 PM

Oh, Karyn, I have had quite an adventurous life, mainly because, as my mother repeatedly observed, I have no common sense. Not at all what one would expect from a short, plump, not all that nice Jewish girl, the antithesis of the Jewish American Princess. You are not the first to express an interest in reading my autobiography/memoir, but I have preferred just to tell an anecdote here or there. I have zero imagination, so every story I tell really happened, fiction not being my thing. Probably some of my stories are still floating around the net, but at this point I wouldn't know where to look for them. Just as well....




It's Italian,  but familiar from Dante. I think that the two-syllable bee-tris may be more likely in the US, at least in some regions, than the three-syllable bee-ah-tris.


Beatrice is also pronounced bay-ah-tree-chay (chay as in chair). And some say bee-tris.

Edmund is the English spelling and Edmond is French. Ted is a traditional nickname for any of the Ed- names.

July 26, 2017 02:58 PM

He was, alas, very much up in years and not entirely in command of his faculties, but still, it was a thrill. It was a very strange evening. The chancellor of the university was drunk as a skunk. I was sitting next to Borges as he had requested when the Chancellor came up with some woman and pushed me with both hands so I fell on the floor. Since Borges was blind he was spared the sight of me sprawled on the floor. During the presentation the Chancellor continued with his drunken antics, and an unstable junior colleague stood up in the audience, stripped off his shirt, and demanded that Borges autograph his chest. A debacle of an evening, but still Borges! Sometime later the Chancellor went to a meeting of the Board drunk out of his gourd and exposed himself, and that was the end of him.


July 26, 2017 10:13 AM

Since language is arbitrary, there is no inherent anything. You have to configure the computer program not to file under Lois, for example. It's all a cultural comstruct. Without cultural consensus, "language" would just be a stream of sounds without inherent meaning.

July 26, 2017 09:10 AM

I don't see your point about Hispanic names. In Spanish-speaking countries people use the surnames of both parents, father's surname first, and the father's name is what is used for alphabetizing. It's not a "second" name; it's the first surname. As for Borges, his name is Jorge Francisco Isidoro Luis Borges Acevedo, and so it is completely consistent to file his works under Borges, not Acevedo. BTW I actually had the privilege of meeting Borges and having a brief conversation with him about Old English. He was speaking at my university and specifically asked to be introduced to the Anglo-Saxonist--me!

I ran into this problem when I was giving a paper in the Netherlands. Professionally I style myself as Miriam Maiden Name Surname, partly because this is the correct style for divorced women, but mostly to disambiguate myself from the gazillion other people with my given name and dirt common surname. The program listed me wrongly by my maiden name, and when I complained to the conference director, she flatly told me that she knew better than I how my name should be listed. Rhymes with witch....

Elizabeth T., I don't know why Borges didn't use Acevedo, but I will venture a complete guess. He was very enamored with the English language, and he may have chosen to follow English practice...or not.

On an adjacent issue: students were constantly complaining to me that our library didn't have anything on Chretien de Troyes or Geoffrey of Monmouth or Wolfram von Eschenbach. It wasn't a great library, but it wasn't completely devoid of material. But you can't look under Troyes or Monmouth or Eschenbach. The names are simply Chretien, Geoffrey, and Wolfram. Troyes, Monmouth, and Eschenbach are descriptors that indicate which Chretien, Geoffrey, or Wolfram.


July 25, 2017 02:02 PM

Just an observation: Vivian and Elaine are both names from Arthurian legend.

July 24, 2017 08:33 AM
In Response to Ava and ..............

Also, usually spelled Emelye, it is the name of the Amazon who is the beloved of the two rival suitors in Chaucer's Knight's Tale.

July 22, 2017 04:22 PM
In Response to Gender Neutral Names?

Well, Jan is legitimately gender-neutral, at least when written down.

July 20, 2017 09:58 PM
In Response to Ava and ..............

Anyone can use any name, but naming a daughter Christopher or Thomas or William does not make those names unisex. Rather simply those girls were, for whatever reason, given masculine names.

July 20, 2017 08:31 PM
In Response to Ava and ..............

Elliott is not a unisex name. It is a masculine name, the diminutive of Elie, the French variant of Elijah. A few parents have named their daughters Elliott in the same way there are girls named Michael, James, Elisha, Micah, and President Obama's mother Stanley.

Genuine unisex names include word/place names with no history of use as given names and certain surnames which are not grammatically gendered or derived from masculine (or very occasionally feminine) given names.

July 19, 2017 09:06 PM

Diana is the goddess of the moon. A plus or a minus?

July 19, 2017 07:07 PM
In Response to Arabella & Auden?

Since Emrys is a male name and has been for well more than a thousand years, and Auden is gender-neutral leaning masculine, Auden Emrys would be interpreted as a boy, rather like Taylor George or Jordan Thomas or Peyton Christopher.

July 19, 2017 07:00 PM
In Response to Opinions, please!

Are you thinking HELL-uh-nuh or He-LAY-nuh?

As for naming my son, that took less than ten seconds. I belong to a culture in which children are given the names of deceased. My parents and my father-in-law were all deceased, so my son was given the names of his grandfathers. No questions, no lists, no debates.

July 19, 2017 10:37 AM
In Response to Opinions, please!

I don't understand why the name France would be confusing to French people. It's a variant of Francoise and not that unusual. I've run across it myself in the form Marie-France.

Now Estonia as a given name would be unusual and probably would occasion questions and comments. OTOH place names like Asia and India are used as given names. I too would say that Estonia is best in the middle.

July 18, 2017 03:50 PM
In Response to Sister for Ruby

If you are considering Edith Anne, check out Lily Tomlin's Edith Ann character. While it's been a long time since Tomlin created the character, it has appeared in cartoons since its hey day and may yet appear again. Not IMO a deal breaker, but something to be aware of



July 17, 2017 03:56 PM
In Response to Beyonce's twins

Here's the confirmation: https://www.yahoo.com/news/beyonc-apos-mama-shares-meaning-184356364.html

The daughter is indeed named for the Persian poet.

July 16, 2017 04:44 PM

My son will turn 38 next month, and every single mom in my pregnant lady class who had a girl named her Heather. This is not hyperbole, every single one. Now that he is an adult, there are quite a few Heathers in his adult social circle, but so far there have been no Heathers among my little grandson's cohort.

When I was a girl, Sadie was my great aunt and Sophie was Sophie Tucker, the last of the red hot mamas. And no one thought they were cute names for little girls.

July 16, 2017 04:30 PM

Kallisto is feminine.

There is some variation in the pronunciation of Sunniva depending on regional dialect: sunnEEva or sunnIVa or something in between. I have heard English speakers apply the Great Vowel Shift and say sunnEYEva, but that's not what you would hear in Norway.