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
April 25, 2015 08:23 AM

Sarai is a biblical name.  It is the original name of the matriarch Sarah.

April 23, 2015 06:20 PM
In Response to Having A Baby Tomorrow

I was going to suggest my own name Miriam.  It is certainly a common name for Ashkenazic Jews (also Sephardim), but it is in wide use throughout the world wherever there are Jews, Christians and Muslims.  There are slight differences in pronunciation, also reflected in slight differences in spelling.  For example, Mirjam is very popular in the Netherlands--in fact, while there I was asked why I have a Dutch name which it isn't.  The French spelling is Myriam.  Once when I was getting a specialized eye exam the Egyptian tech complimented me on my lovely Egyptian name.  It is probably Pharoanic Egyptian in origin, but he meant Egyptian Arabic.  So definitely Jewish, but also international, and every ethnic group seems to want to claim Miriam as its own.  IMO Miriam is an elegant and dignified name for a professional adult, but it also comes with cute nicknames for little kids--Mim, Mimi, Miri, and the Yiddish Mirele.  In my experience Miriam has worn very well, and while it's familiar and well known, it is underused in the US at large.

April 23, 2015 06:09 PM

With Sadie and Hazel, the first thing that comes to mind is Mabel. perhaps Maud(e).

April 23, 2015 06:07 PM

Hyphens are not gendered.  They are also not computer-software friendly.  For convenience sake, I would just use John Patrick as a double-barrel name.  Double-barrel names are certainly common in the southern US, were I presume you are, given your screen name.

April 23, 2015 03:35 PM

My mother's initials were SB, and her family of origin called her Ezbee until the day she died--and even afterward.  Which she hated.  When she married and moved to a different town, she ditched the Ezbee and used her given name Sylvia.

April 23, 2015 12:09 PM
In Response to Tell me about Elias

Elias is given-name-as-surname, not the other way round.

The only Elias I know is the son of a colleague, now in his thirties.  The family was Arab-Christian (Eastern Orthodox, not Maronite Catholic) and this Elias was named for his grandfather.  I think that Elias, like other Greek-form names, is common among Greek Orthodox Christians.

Eli is a traditional biblical name in its own right, although some use it is a nickname (e.g., Eli Manning whose given name is Elisha).  Take my Great-uncle Eli.  His name on the Ellis Island manifest was Srul, which is the Yiddish nickname for Yisroel (Israel).  However, he was universally called Eli by the time I was born.  (I didn't know about the Srul until I started poking around online genealogical information.)  My guess is that he adopted Eli as a nickname for Israel because he felt it was "more American" (that would have been long before the founding of the current State of Israel 67 years ago, and so would not have had any political motivation).

Other names to consider in the Elijah/Elias family are Elliott, in this case the French diminutive, and Ellis, a medieval form.

April 23, 2015 09:54 AM

Princess Alice was the name of Prince Philip's mother, and Queen Victoria also had a daughter Alice, so Alice is not a particularly far-fetched choice.

April 23, 2015 09:49 AM

Well, the Young Pretender, Bonnie Prince Charlie (Charles Edward Louis John Casimir Sylvester Severino Maria Stuart) was the focus of the 1745 Rising, the one that crashed at Culloden.  Queen Elizabeth II named her sons Charles and Edward, so I don't think she was that upset about the Jacobites.  Not to mention that her other son is Andrew, tha name of the patron saint of Scotland.  The Old Pretender, otherwise known as the King Over the Water (leading to the Jacobite practice of holding the glass over a vessel filled with water when forced to toast the Hanoverian King George I), was James Francis Edward.  So I don't see any current royal aversion to the names of the Jacobite pretenders (or the Stuart kings).  I wouldn't bet on James, but I wouldn't consider it overly surprising or bold.  I wouldn't consider the current Prince Charles as 'bonnie', but historically speaking I don't see much difference between Charles and James in terms of expressing Jacobite sympathies.

PS: I did have to look up all of Bonnie Prince Charlie's names--I only knew Charles Edward offhand.

April 22, 2015 12:58 PM

Why would James be a "really surprising" and "pretty bold" choice for a British prince?  There were two Stuart kings named James, and Quenn Elizabeth used Stuart names for her children Charles and Anne.  So why not James?  Oliver OTOH would be a gobsmacking level of surprise in a family which values its Stuart ties, Oliver Cromwell being, among other things, one of the signatories of Charles I's death warrant.  I doubt whether members of the British royal family would care to recall the name of a regicide.

April 20, 2015 06:03 PM

If you want something similar in style to Levi, look to the Bible.  Noa is the first name that comes to mind.  Also Ada, Eve/Eva, Naomi, Lydia, Sela.  I don't think Levi and Sage are similar in style or oarticularly compatible, but then I don't see any reason why siblings' names need form a "set."  Of the three names you mention, Anya is the most compatible because it is a form of the biblical name Hannah.


NCVS is strictly a vowel shift.It's not unusual to stick a vowel between consonants.  For example, where I come from, some people say el-um and fil-um for elm and film.


You are right in the middle of the Northern Cities Vowel Shift.  If you are interested in more info on that, here are some explanations.  I would quibble with some of this, e.g., references to short and long vowels since present-day English doesn't have short and long vowels.  Also the tone of the Slate article is unwarrantedly hyperbolic.



April 18, 2015 12:14 AM
In Response to Kitty

My understanding, which may oe may not be entirely accurate, is that bunny for rabbit is derived from bun, referring to the fluffy little tail.  Thus, buns as a term for buttocks stems from the original meaning of bun, tail. To bring us full circle, male bunnies are called bucks, females are called does, but the babies are not called fawns, but rather kittens or kits. So Kitty/Kit as a name/nickname can bring to mind both baby cats and baby bunnies, two for one.

April 17, 2015 05:24 PM

My daughter-in-law asked my grandson what his daddy's name was (grandson was about three at the time).  Answer: Honey!  He calls his grandmothers by name--Grandma Mimi, Grandma Judy, and Nana Shirley--but as far as he is concerned his parents don't have names.

April 17, 2015 05:18 PM

Some Scots possiibilities: Blair, Elspeth, Janet, Greer, Iona, Isla, Lilias, Maisie, Catriona

I myself like Shaelyn Greer.

April 17, 2015 09:13 AM

Well, testicles are such a guy thing....

April 17, 2015 08:49 AM

Gee, I would never think of barbicide and herbicide (unless the surname was something -cide-y).  I would think of barb, sharp, pointy thing (as in barbed wire) and parsley sage rosemary and thyme.

April 16, 2015 11:53 PM
In Response to Help Me Pick One

My daughter-in-law's 15 year old nephew is Joseph Isaiah.

April 16, 2015 02:04 PM
In Response to Kitty

I call my grandson Bunny, just as I called his father the same.  And there's the very naughty Benjamin Bunny.  Lots of boy bunnies out there hopping around...

April 16, 2015 01:33 PM
In Response to Nicknames for Robert

I do know Roby and Doby are both used as surnames, which implies that they were used as hypocoristic forms of Robert as well.  There was Larry Doby, the old-time baseball player, and I personally had past dealings with a Roby.