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 31, 2015 10:18 AM

Well. to be annoyingly technical Gwendolen has feminity built in.  The -y- is a sign of the masculine in Welsh.

July 29, 2015 11:16 AM
In Response to Names on resumés

I think you are probably right about the differing cultural attitudes toward titles.  I do notice that Melissa Harris-Perry, who is bi-racial and an academic who holds a PhD from Duke (and who is coincidentally the daughter-in-law of an old friend and colleague of mine) does not style herself Dr. on her tv show, while Dr. Phil and Dr. Oz obviously do.

At one point back in New Orleans I was an amateur wedding planner for a colleague's wedding reception.  Given that most of the guests were fellow academics, I did considerable research into the use of titles in social contexts.  Everything I read from etiquette books to guides put out by the purveyors of (expensive) social stationery said to use Dr. only for health care degrees, so that's what I did when addressing the envelopes.

July 29, 2015 09:24 AM
In Response to Names on resumés

In general in my experience, students are completely clueless about such things as faculty rank.  They often don't even know the difference between a TA (if the TA is teaching a class rather than running a lab or leading a discussion section) and faculty.  In fact, students often didn't even know the NAMES of their faculty. BTW I myself often corrected students who erroneously called an instructor "professor," and so did some of my colleagues.  However, faculty are keenly aware of who is what, and in my experience in the Deep South will, when talking to students, refer to other faculty using the title Professor when warranted and not when not.  I don't remember anyone referring to THEMSELVES by title.  I would NEVER refer to a student by first name, only by surname and honorific, and they knew better than to even think of calling me by my first.  However, some of the younger faculty, especially the instructors, did use first names.  I suspect that a city like New Orleans which still has an hereditary "aristocracy" is probably more formal than most places in the Midwest.

Using Dr. socially when the underlying degree is a PhD or EDD is just plain pretentious--like people who have received an honorary degree suddenly styling themselves Dr. in all aspects of their lives.  Back in my Ivy days (admittedly a long time ago), the professors were all simply Mr., even though almost all of them had PhDs.  Today since I am retired, I never use Professor or Dr. anymore, except on the rare occasion when I am doing something pertaining to a loose end of my working life.  On such occasions I style myself Professor emerita followed by the name of the institution that granted me that title (which is not btw automatic upon retirement).

July 28, 2015 11:57 PM
In Response to Quadruple the fun

Rosetta Stone?

July 28, 2015 11:55 PM
In Response to Names on resumés

My son, daughter-in-law and grandson all have different surnames.  One way to address an envelope is to write all the full names list style.  Or you can write The Smith-Jones-Jackson Family.  There may be other options as well. Last Christmas I addressed a card to my son and daughter-in-law as John Jones and Mary Smith, and then I sent a separate kid-oriented card to my grandson addressed to his full name.

In the US the title Professor is used by the tenured/tenure-track faculty holding the ranks of Assistant Professor, Associate Professor, and (full) Professor.  Each person appointed to a tenure line is entitled to be called Professor with no limits as to how many professors of all three ranks are in each department or college, well, no limits except how many appointments the budget will cover.  Persons who are not tenured or tenure-track have titles like Instructor or Lecturer and are not entitled to be called or referred to as Professor.  They are called Mr., Ms., or Dr. if they hold a doctoral degree.  The convention is that people holding a PhD or EDD can use Dr. in their professional lives, but do not use Dr. in their social lives.  People with health care doctoral degrees (physicians, dentists, veterinarians, etc.) do use Dr. socially as well.

July 28, 2015 11:38 PM
In Response to Middle Names

The American Kath and Kim (title unchanged) ran in 2008-2009 and was cancelled after one abbreviated season.  It was not well received.

July 28, 2015 09:22 PM
In Response to Names on resumés

This is very common in academia.  I know many who use their maiden name professionally and their married name socially--or who simply retain their birth name and never change.

July 28, 2015 05:51 PM
In Response to Your favorite L.V.

I guess Azrael and Azazel's parents have only themselves to blame if their kids turn out to be little devils :-).

July 28, 2015 04:17 PM

I just wrote a fairly lengthy scholarly discursion on this subject, which the spam filter censored.  I don't know what the filter specifically thought to be "spam-my" or otherwise unsuitable, so I can't change it to suit.  If anyone is interested in my (pedantic) take on the subject, I will be glad to send it along if there is some way to do this without freaking out the spam filter.  I wish this software permitted private messaging.

July 28, 2015 03:44 PM
In Response to Your favorite L.V.

If someone is contemplating the name Lamia in an entirely Arabic-speaking context, then the monstrous associations are irrelevant.  But if one is contemplating Lamia in the context of various European languages, then one ought to know about the monster.  One may not care, but one ought to know upfront.  Same with Lilith.  Someone may be considering it for its fashionable sound and even for the feminist interpretation of the myth, but one day little Lilith is going to look up her name and discover that Lilith is a night-flying, child-devouring demon....Best to be prepared in advance.

I am quite sure that there are people who are fascinated by the demonic and are especially attracted to names like Lilith, Lamia, Melusine, Medea, Medusa, and so forth, but other people would be horrified to learn after several years that they had inadvertently named their daughter after a monster.   Oddly, or maybe not so oddly, male demons don't have such enticing names:  AFAIK few are rushing to name their sons Beelzebub, Mephistopheles, Baphomet, Asmodeus, Azazel, Azrael, Belial, Mammon. Moloch, Titivillus, or Belphagor.  I do think, however, that there is an occasional Lucifer.... 

July 28, 2015 03:15 PM

FWIW "Colette sounds formal" is not a fact.  It is an opinion.  To one person it may sound formal, and to another its nickname/diminutive roots are paramount.  To me personally Colette, while often used as a "stand-alone," still sounds nickname-y, but my opinion is certainly not universal.  OTOH to my ears Colin has left behind its nickname origins and sounds "formal," but that's not a fact, only one person's opinion.

July 28, 2015 03:07 PM

My friend is a Shakespearian, and she was mainly looking at Renaissance associations.  THe article didn't say anything about African-American slang.  I myself am no authority here.

July 28, 2015 09:53 AM
In Response to Middle Names

Oh, I just remembered another Australian tv show, Crocodile Hunter.  I never watched it, but I do know of the sad demise of its star.  US gossip sources are currently reporting on the lovelife of his teenage daughter Bindi.  Now that's a name I haven't heard elsewhere.

I think one or two of the shows you mentioned (Kath and Kim?) were remade here with US casts and different titles.  I would say that there isn't much overlap between Australian and US pop culture.  We do, however, know and appreciate Hugh Jackman :-).

July 28, 2015 08:13 AM

I mainly lnow about this because a colleague of mine published an article on the origin and history of bulldyke/dike and bulldagger, and she consulted me about some points.  Bulldagger pretty much went in and out of use before my time.

July 28, 2015 08:06 AM
In Response to Middle Names

And I never heard of Slim Dusty, although Keith (and Nicole) are very high profile here.  Lots of differences between US and Australian popular culture....We get a lot of UK pop culture (films, tv shows, pop stars, authors, etc.) here, but not so much from Australia.  The one and only Australian tv show I can name offhand is Prisoners of Cell Block H (Prisoners) to which I was devoted--and that was a long time ago.  So it's not so surprising that there are different naming preferences.

July 28, 2015 07:54 AM
In Response to We're at an impasse!

I have often wondered that about Mom and Dad Penney.

July 28, 2015 12:39 AM
In Response to Middle Names

Down in Australia you may not be familiar with the country music star Trace Atkins who is a giant of a man.  Here in the US I think Trace would definitely read masculine.

July 28, 2015 12:34 AM
In Response to We're at an impasse!

Well, it worked for James Cash Penney who founded the JCPenney dry goods/department store chain.

July 28, 2015 12:29 AM

Bulldagger is an old term for lesbian, a variant for bulldike/dyke.  I don't know if it was ever current in Australia.

July 27, 2015 04:33 PM
In Response to Middle Names

Yes, Lisette is a diminutive of Elizabeth.  It also has a meaning of 'yellow iris'--as in fleur de lys.  If your husband is concerned about 'girlish,' then Riley, Avery, Emerson, and Rowan are as likely these days to be girls as boys.