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 2, 2016 01:12 PM
In Response to Boy to go with Teddy

Frankly I was surprised that as part of its schedule of re-releases of its oldies but goodies, Disney did re-release Song of the South awhile back.  I would have thought Disney would have permanently retired that one.

December 2, 2016 11:23 AM
In Response to Boy to go with Teddy

Do people no longer associate Remus with Uncle Remus, and in the US is that no longer an Aunt Jemima sort of problem? OP doesn't indicate place of residence, so I don't know whether US associations are relevent.

November 26, 2016 04:30 PM
In Response to Veronique is here

Weird!  But there is a lot of weirdness in the world.  For example, a very dear friend of mine who went to school with me in my SE PA hometown and my brother-in-law from Hattiesburg MS are both descended from the same pioneer settler.  They both had family members who were genealogy buffs and who laid out the family tree.  My brother-in-law was descended from the youngest son who was born in the colonies and who eventually moved to the VA-NC border country where they stayed until the 20th century, and my friend was descended from one of the older brothers who was born in the old country, and that branch never moved from PA.  And they both have a minor hereditary condition.  Go figure!


Seriously, you have never heard of Omar Khayyam? He was one of the towering intellectual figures of the Middle Ages, famous for his contributions to mathematics and astronomy.  To English speakers he is best known for his poetry-- his rubáiyát (quatrains) were made famous by the translations of Edward Fitzgerald in the 19th century.  This is the most famous of his poems in Fitzgerald's tranlstion:

The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
 Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit,
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
 Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.

But helpless pieces in the game He plays,
 Upon this chequer-board of Nights and Days,
He hither and thither moves, and checks… and slays,
 Then one by one, back in the Closet lays.

And, as the Cock crew, those who stood before
 The Tavern shouted— “Open then the Door!
You know how little time we have to stay,
 And once departed, may return no more.”

A Book of Verses underneath the Bough,
 A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread—and Thou,
Beside me singing in the Wilderness,
 And oh, Wilderness is Paradise enow.

Myself when young did eagerly frequent
 Doctor and Saint, and heard great Argument
About it and about: but evermore
 Came out of the same Door as in I went.

With them the Seed of Wisdom did I sow,
 And with my own hand labour’d it to grow:
And this was all the Harvest that I reap’d—
 “I came like Water, and like Wind I go.”

Into this Universe, and why not knowing,
 Nor whence, like Water willy-nilly flowing:
And out of it, as Wind along the Waste,
 I know not whither, willy-nilly blowing.

And that inverted Bowl we call The Sky,
 Whereunder crawling coop’t we live and die,
Lift not thy hands to It for help—for It
 Rolls impotently on as Thou or I.

I sent my Soul through the Invisible,
 Some letter of that After-life to spell:
And by and by my Soul return'd to me,
 And answer'd "I Myself am Heav'n and Hell:"


Surely the first and fourth quatrains ring a bell.


In general, besides Arabic-speaking countries, Omar is also popular throughout Latin America and in the African-American community. (One of the characters in the tv show The Wire was named Omar.)  A recent negative association is Omar Mateen, the gunman who killed so many people in the Orlando nightclub.


November 24, 2016 08:53 AM
In Response to Sean or Ian?

Given the surname McLeod, I would go with Ian and keep it consistently Scots.

November 23, 2016 09:41 AM

I do!

November 21, 2016 10:40 AM
In Response to Veronique is here

Long ago when I began my teaching career in West Virginia, I had a student named Vickie (full legal name).  He was a great tall strong football player, so I don't imagine that anyone had anything to say about it.  He was the youngest of thirteen children, and I always wondered if by that time his parents had a case of naming fatigue.

November 20, 2016 09:21 AM

Almost none of the online "name" sites or the little "name" books they used to sell by the supermarket checkout lines are reliable. For the most reliable information consult reference books published by major academic presses.  The best handy online site I know of for general information on names is behindthename.  Sites like Nameberry are NOT reputable; much of what they say is utter nonsense.

November 18, 2016 11:54 PM

I wouldn't use Christabel without being familiar with and OK with Coleridge's quite strange poem.

As for Claribel, my indelible association is Clarabell, the mute male clown on the Howdy Doody Show, a fixture of my childhood.  Clarabell was originated by the actor who went on to play Captain Kangaroo.  Claribel is also the name of the King of Naples' daughter who is referred to but never seen in Shakespeare's Tempest.


November 18, 2016 11:35 PM

Some Hebrew names similar in style to your sons' names:

Emuna(h) (root meaning faith), Erela (root meaning angel), Eliraz (unisex name 'my god is a mystery'), Elisheva (Elizabeth, 'my god' and the root of the second element is unclear, possibly 'seven' or 'oath')

Coraline is possibly/probably a literary coinage.  Whether it is or isn't, it is very heavily associated with the book/film.  If you want to avoid that association, perhaps Coralie.

November 18, 2016 11:07 AM
In Response to Twins Names

So Elise and Esther would spell sea and Karen and Katherine would spell ska (maybe you like that musical genre?).  I don't see those initials as a problem, but some may not like monograms that spell words, even innocuous ones.

November 18, 2016 10:58 AM

Eddie Van Halen and Valerie Bertinelli's son is Wolfgang who has followed his father into the music business.  Edward Lodewijk Van Halen is Dutch, a native of Nijmegen where I myself used to live.  In the Netherlands it is not unheard of to have old school Germanic names; I personally knew a Wolfram.

I am an advocate of Wolf which was my grandfather's name--I think is a way cool name.  So I think Wolfgang is fine, and Wolf is even better.

November 18, 2016 08:38 AM
In Response to Twins Names

Considering the initial of your surname, do any of these options spell something unfortunate or conversely something cool?

November 14, 2016 11:15 AM

Liliana and Analilia? Not twins, but still....

November 12, 2016 05:00 PM

My grandfather was the fourth of six sons, no daughters.

November 10, 2016 05:21 PM
In Response to Girl name suggestions

Allison (but not Alison), Sidney/Sydney, and Averil(l) (originally derived from a feminine given name) are all surnames.

November 9, 2016 04:35 PM

You don't say where you are located, but if you are in the US, Jemima is also likely to have negative reactions.  Outside the US Jemima won't have a problem of that nature.

November 7, 2016 09:42 AM
In Response to Can a name be ruined?

He wasn't sent for darn and shoot.  He doesn't want his parents to say even darn and shoot because he is afraid that even those words will seep into his brain and come out of his mouth as the real "bad" words.

November 6, 2016 08:44 AM

Congratulations to your family on healthy niece arrival.  Parents did a great job of finding a name which is absolutely on trend, but not trendy, not made up but not likely to be duplicated on any given playground.  Sweet!

November 5, 2016 05:00 PM

Back in the hippie sixties I knew someone who named a child Eleven.