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
December 20, 2014 01:49 PM

I think Amos 'n Andy took Amos out of fashion (cf. with Jemima).

December 19, 2014 12:44 PM
In Response to Still looking!

Actually the traditional full name for Daisy is Marguerite (the name of the daisy flower in French).  Margaret is a "pearl" name.  Clementine (pronounced -teen) was Winston Churchill's wife's name.  Probably she wasn't weird.

Violet, Lavender...Lilac??

My personal choices: Gilbert (possible nickname Gib) and Beatrice.

December 19, 2014 12:34 PM

Eleanor, starting with Eleanor of Aquitaine, is as royal as it gets.  The recently retired queen of the Netherlands is Beatrix.

December 18, 2014 04:45 PM

Perhaps you are thinking of Stella Maris, Star of the Sea, a Marian epithet?

December 18, 2014 03:17 PM
In Response to Book Club

Well, one of George R.R. Martin's principal naming techniques is to take ordinary English names and spell then a little off: Eddard, Rickard, Jeyne, Joffrey, Margaery, etc.  Hence Jaime.  I wouldn't call any of those names ignorant.    

December 18, 2014 10:20 AM
In Response to Book Club

I've been thinking the same thing about Brianna.

December 18, 2014 09:24 AM
In Response to Book Club

I didn't mention any trilogies.  I read one or two of Hobbs's books back in the day, and frankly I was not impressed.  Perhaps I read the wrong ones.

December 18, 2014 08:53 AM
In Response to Book Club

Maybe because people have read Coleridge's creepy poem, although in the poem it is Geraldine (rhymes with fine) who is the real creepazoid.

December 18, 2014 08:49 AM

Be very sceptical of name "meanings" as they appear in online sources.  I have my doubts about the Hadrian family of names meaning 'dark one.'  The name was certainly derived from a place name.  THe question is where did the place name come from.  The only answer I found in a quick search is that it comes from the Adriatic Sea which supposedly was named for the "dark" sand along its shores.  I wouldn't take that for gospel, but if it is accurate or even likely, dark beach sand has nothing to do with dark hair, eye, or skin color.  In short, if I were you I wouldn't concern myself for a second about that "meaning."  Adrienne is a perfectly fine name.

As for Vivienne, "on the rise" and "old lady name" strike me as a contradiction in terms.  If it's on the rise, it can't be restricted to old ladies, now can it?  FWIW my grandson's pre-school class includes a darling little elfin maid named Vivian.

I don't think Josie and Lexie are too plain.  However, to my taste they are too nickname-y to be the full birth certificate name.  This would, of course, not be a universal opinion.

December 17, 2014 11:11 PM
In Response to Book Club

I don't know about the UK, but I certainly knew Claires (that spelling) who were born about 1920; that is, they were young adults when I was born. 

I have been reading the Outlander books too.  They were all on sale at Amazon for $5/each, and since they are all 1000 pp. or so, I feel I am getting my money's worth.  I do wonder how many 18th century Scottish women were named Jocasta....

December 17, 2014 06:38 PM

Oh, and I went to school with someone named Merry.

December 17, 2014 06:36 PM

Nanna, the wife of Baldr the Beautiful, doesn't sound harsh to my ears.  Also Siv, the wife of Thor, sounds similar to the popular Liv.  I would suggest Asta instead of Astra.  Asta is a name with a long history (it's a hypocoristic form of Astrid).  I don't think Astrid sounds silly at all as a sister to Freya.  Other -rid names: Sigrid, Ingrid, but perhaps not Gudrid.  Another Sig- name: Signy.

Other goddess names which may or may not be pretentious as a matter of taste:  Anat, Cybele, Tanith, Inanna, Rhiannon, Epona, Lorelei, Althea, Anthea, Ariadne, Chloe, Demeter, Clio, Cynthia, Danae, Dione, Gaia, Ione, Leda, Maia, Rhea, Niobe (I ran across someone named Niobe just today), Pandora (I had a student named Pandora), Phaedre, Phoebe, Selene, Bridget, Maeve, Nessa, Aurora, Flora, Juno, Lucina, Vesta.

For the middle name, perhaps Lilias?

December 17, 2014 05:58 PM
In Response to Name spelling change?

Not to worry, nobody spells anything right.  I have a very common, familiar, straightforward surname, and people still screw it up.  I have reached the point where I just automatically spell my name right from the get-go.

Here's how a little friend of my 4-year-old grandson handles this spelling problem.  He introduces himself as Xander-with-an-X (all in one breath), while making an X with his little fingers.  Problem solved!  My grandson Elliott loves the fact that his name has two sets of double letters, and he happily demonstrates the correct spellng to all and sundry.

December 16, 2014 04:30 PM

Betsy Ross is not exactly famous for being a little girl :-).  Betsey Johnson, the fashion designer, is 72 and still going strong, and her name is her brand.

Some full names that could be nicknamed Betsy: Bethan (Welsh), Elsbeth/Elspeth (Scots), Babette, Bettina (all forms of Elizabeth.  Also possibly Beatrice/Beatrix and Betony (which is a botanical).

December 16, 2014 10:27 AM

Sad to say, the blog posts by authors other than Laura W. often don't live up to her standards.


Scarlett O'Riley is perhaps a tad reminiscent of Scarlett O'Hara....

December 15, 2014 10:02 AM

Miles does not mean peaceful and calm.  In fact the origin of Miles is uncertain.  It is probably of Germanic origin, but it has long been conflated with the Latin miles which means 'soldier,' pretty much the opposite of peaceful and calm.

Beatrice/Beatrix have Latin origins, probably derived from a word meaning traveler. These names have also been conflated with the Latin beatus which means blessed.  Nothing to do with "she brings joy."

Tate is of unknown derivation, no evidence that it means cheerful.

Stella does indeed mean star, and it was first used as a given name by Sir Philip Sidney in his sonnet sequence Astrophel and Stella.  However, it is also part of the Marian epithet Stella Maris, Star of the Sea, which would add to its appropriateness as a name for a Christmas baby.

Other Christmas names:  the obvious Natalie/Natalia/Natale, Winter, Nicholas/Nicole/Nicola/Klaus, Casper/Melchior/Balthasar, Gabriel (for the angel of the annunciation and who appeared to the shepherds), also Shepherd, and the much less obvious Yule.

This is also the Hanukkah season, so Judah and Mattathias and all its derivatives.

December 14, 2014 08:51 PM

Any of the other Finn- names appeal? Finbar, Finlay/Findlay, Fintan, Fingal?  I think Findlay, being a Scots masculine name, goes well with Duncan.

December 14, 2014 01:30 PM

I have to say that I personally put Selma in the Myrna category along with its rhymers Zelma, Thelma, and Helma (somehow the Irish Fidelma doesn't have the same Selma-Zelma-Helma-Thelma vibe).  Back in the day I have known people with all those names.  With all the award buzz surrounding the new film Selma, the name may now be considered as making a political statement which one might or might not want to make on the back of a child's name.  Frankly I think there is a reason why Marge Simpson's gravel-voiced sister is named Selma.

December 14, 2014 11:54 AM

I have no trouble with the sch- and do an excellent job with Schiphol (the Amsterdam airport) and Scheveningen (a seaside resort), but the ui diphthong is absolutely beyond me.  I can handle the German o umlaut too.  So I agree--it would be a very rare American who would pronounce Schuyler and Schuylkill as a Dutch speaker would.  I pronounce them the standard American way:  Skyler (not Shyler) and Skoolkill.  My Dutch friends make merciless fun of me when I try to pronounce the Dutch ui diphthong, but I don't say a word when their English pronunciation is a bit off (they tend, for example, to fail to distinguish f/v correctly).  I also get made fun of because I have a "southern" (specifically Tilburg) accent, which is stigmatized by those from the north of the Netherlands, particularly Amsterdam.