What’s in a name? Honor, Providence, and Arrow

I knew three different girls named Mercy as a child, though Bible names were more common in my community. For every Faith or Patience or Grace, there were half a dozen Elijahs and Hannahs and Rebeccas. But there were no Tiffanys or Stephanies or Ryans. Names are very important in families in the orbit of the Quiverfull and Christian Patriarchy movements.

Let me offer an example. Doug Phillips is the president of Vision Forum. His children are named Joshua, Justice, Liberty, Jubilee, Faith Evangeline, Honor, Providence, and Virginia Hope.

Want another example? Nancy Campbell of Above Rubies has grandchildren named Zadok, Sharar, Rashida, Crusoe, Jireh, Arrow, Tiveria, Sahara, Iqara, Saber Truth, Meadow, Bowen, Rocklyn, Noble, and Autumn Rose.

But I have more! Michael and Debi Pearl of No Greater Joy have grandchildren named Joseph Courage, Ryshoni Joy, Hannah Sunshine, Elijah Music, Chaiyah Eve, Alitsia Rin, and Laila Truth.

Let me finish with a final example. Peter and Kelly Bradrick have named the five children they’ve had so far Triumph Perseverance, Knox Defender, Loyal Cromwell, Geneva Constance, and Michael Courage.

One thing that is really fascinating is that you can sometimes tell when a family came under the influence of the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements by their children’s names – the first few children will have names like Erika or Jake, and the rest will have names like Ruth or Honor.

So what’s going on here, exactly? It wasn’t until I read the following passage in Mintz’s Huck’s Raft: A History of American Childhood that I really pondered this. In this passage Mintz is talking about naming practices among the New England Puritans.

Although some parents bestowed common English names on their children, many first-generation Puritans, who had joined the movement after breaking with their parents, underscored this new beginning by choosing names with religious and moral significance. Some drew names from scripture (such as Zachariah) or their English equivalents (like “Thankful”); others chose phrase names (such as “If-Christ-had-not-died-for-thee-thou-hadst-been-damned”). Roger Class and his wife named their children Experience, Waitstill, Preserved, Hopestill, Wait, Thanks, Desire, Unite, and Supply. These names gave tangible expression to the first generation’s basic values and religion’s importance in their lives. 

The author goes on to explain that this practice didn’t survive the first generation.

Parents in the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements are doing the same thing these first-generation New England Puritan parents were doing. They are “underscoring” their “new beginning” and giving their children names that “give tangible expression” to their “basic values” and to “religion’s importance in their lives.” I find this fascinating.

I remember hearing that some of those involved in the flower child movement of the 1960s and 1970s gave their children names like Vishnu or Willow. And I remember hearing that more than one Stardust and Blossom changed their names upon adulthood rather than have that following them around their entire lives. I wonder if the same will be true for Perseverance Phillips or Loyal Bradrick.

Stop Stressing Out and Give Your Kid a Snuggle
Red Town, Blue Town
When Marriage Looks Like the Only Escape
The Cold, Unforgiving World of Geoffrey Botkin
About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • http://noadi.etsy.com Noadi

    The history nerd in me did a double take at “Loyal Cromwell”. Please tell me that there is some other Cromwell to name a kid after and that they didn’t name their kid after Oliver Cromwell. He was not a good guy and pretty much the poster boy for the phrase “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”.

    • Petticoat Philosopher

      He was a raging anti-Catholic zealot. Sure that makes him a hero to some people…

      • http://ripeningreason.com/ Bix

        Maybe they named him after Thomas Cromwell, one of the engineers of the English Reformation.

    • cjmr

      I have a great-granduncle named Oliver Cromwell [ourlastname]. One of his brothers was named Martin Luther [ourlastname]. I’m sure they are rolling over in their grave at my conversion to Catholicism.

      • herewegokids

        That just made my day! Hahaha!!! I am a convert as well and my parents were Baptist missionaries.

      • ButchKitties

        I always found Martin Luther King’s name ironic, considering that the original Martin Luther was a virulent racist.

    • Karen

      Why use Cromwell when Cranmer is available. Thomas Cranmer was the first Protestant Archbishop of Canterbury and the author of the first and still greatest Book ofCommon Prayer. They could even nod in the direction of normal by naming the kid Thomas Cranmer Lastname.

    • Pauline

      Pretty dang sure they mean Oliver… when I homeschooled for a year and my parents accidentally (well, naively) exposed me to curriculum based on the movement that became CP, there were readings in the *literature* textbook that glorified Cromwell.


  • Petticoat Philosopher

    Also…”Arrow?” I get the significance, obviously, but are there any other fans of the film “The Point” here who thought of Oblio’s loyal dog? “Me and my Aaaaarrow…”

  • machintelligence

    And then there is Frank Zappa, who named his kids Dweezel and Moon Unit. Moon had a hit top 40′s single called “Valley Girl”. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moon_Zappa

  • http://www.miacucina-marisa.blogspot.com Marisa

    Saber Truth? Knox Defender? I couldn’t stop laughing, because all I kept thinking was “these are the kind of names Dwight Schrute from The Office would give his children.” I mean…really??!! I don’t comment very often, but I couldn’t help myself with this one! :)

  • Cathy W

    Best Puritan-era name ever: Preserved Fish. He married a distant cousin of mine, and possibly provides evidence that the New Englanders of the time had either much more or much less sense of humor than they’re given credit for. The name seems to have survived through a few generations of his family – the “original” was born 1679, but he had at a bare minimum one great-grandson named after him. If the naming custom described above – intentionally naming children for aspirations and virtues – didn’t survive the first generation, a lot of unusual names still got passed down as new babies were named for relatives, also much more common at the time.

    • Petticoat Philosopher

      Lol! My mother (a historian) told me about a Preserved Fish! I wonder if he was the same one as yours? Gotta be. lol

    • http://ripeningreason.com/ Bix

      That is amazing. Maybe they named him that because preserved fish was so important to their survival. Or maybe his mother craved preserved fish during pregnancy.

      I also have Puritan ancestry, and I love reading their names. Nothing quite as good as Preserved Fish, but I rather like Experience Holmes. He sounds like a detective, or an explorer. Also: Spurgeon as a first name. Use of family names as first names was very common, so a lot of my ancestors had names that are also towns in Massachusetts (Gardner, Winthrop). My last name is still used as a feminine first name. Sometimes I think it would be amusing to name my kids after the most common names in my genealogy, but I’d probably have to name a son Ichabod.

      I’ve also read that English colonists looked to the Old Testament for names because they had larger families (more of their kids survived) , and they ran out of common 17th century English names.

      • Stony

        My family is very big on family names, and the interchanging of last for first names. Also using last names of ancestors for middle names. I write it off as being of Scottish descent and too frugal to splurge on new names.

      • Lainey

        I was assuming Fish was the surname and the Preserved was short for ‘He who is faithful to the Lord shall be preserved’ or something of that sort. Still you’d think someone would have spotted an issue with this at some point.

    • Noelle

      Preserved Fish is a great name!

  • Karen

    I can’t help thinking Saber Truth is going to become very tired of having his name changed to Saber Tooth.

    • Attackfish


      • Karen

        Thanks. Puberty will be utter agony for that boy.

    • Petticoat Philosopher

      I actually read it that way at first..,hey, maybe he’ll become a Power Ranger and Sabre Tooth will be his zord…/dating myself

    • http://equalsuf.wordpress.com Jayn

      He’s probably going to start wishing his name WAS Saber Tooth. Or that he had a regular name that he didn’t have to constantly correct. (Having an unusual name, even one that seems otherwise ‘normal’, gets very old after years of having to correct EVERYONE you meet.)

    • http://kagerato.net kagerato

      Either that, or he’ll end up with an arch rival named Wolverine.

    • http://sundaysinthestorageunit.wordpress.com Sarah

      Does Creation Theology allow for saber toothed cats? Might be a moot point if no one else in his peer group knows what a saber tooth is.

  • Uly

    On a similar note, apparently there was a bit of a trend in the 70s (and possibly part of the 60s as well) for African-American parents to give their children African or Arabic names. I was born in 1983 and the Black kids in my classes largely missed that trend, but my sister, born just three years earlier, has a number of friends from Christian (at least nominally so), non-immigrant backgrounds with names like Irshad (his two younger sisters are something like “Sally” and “Jane”, having skipped the trend entirely), Abdul, Afua, and so on.

    My understanding is that these name choices were every bit as meaningful as those in your circle growing up, ditching ties to slavery and so on.

    • Petticoat Philosopher

      Are you sure they were Christian and not Nation of Islam? I knew plenty of Black kids at school (I was born in the mid-80s) who had Arabic first names (and in some cases, last names) but they were mostly NOI. (Although some names caught on in general too.)

      • Uly

        I’m positive. One of them’s my brother-in-law, to start, and as a group they were all pretty tight-knit for a while there, so I know a fair amount about each of their families and religious backgrounds.

      • smrnda

        Went to a mostly Black high school and it didn’t seem to exclusively or even mostly associated with the Nation of Islam, and I was born in the early 80s.

  • Uly

    I will also say that it’s interesting that despite the fact that these families are clearly all choosing names for religious and political significance, there’s still four distinct styles in your post. Looking at just the names, I think I could easily sort the kids into the right families based on style. Hannah Sunshine’s name fits into two of them, but otherwise the name styles manage to still be pretty distinct from each other.

  • Karen

    I named my sons Andrew Nathan and Aaron Michael, quite intentionally because they were Biblical names. That said, they are also about as bland as possible. I read somewhere that kids with creative names make poorer grades, earn lower salaries, and even go to prison more than the ones with dull ordinary monikers. I made as sure as I could that my sons names don’t advertise much more than that their parents spoke English. If you want to name something creatively, get a pet.

    • http://thaliasmusingsnovels.com/ Amethyst

      Amethyst is is my given name, and I have a 4.0 GPA and no criminal record.

      • Knaight

        Unless the creatively named group is small enough for you to have a significant effect upon the statistical distribution as a whole, that doesn’t actually mean much regarding the veracity of the claim. With that said, treating the names as a causal factor based on the data isn’t sound from an epistemological perspective. There are plausible mechanisms by which it would be a causal factor, some of which have been verified; most notable among these is the data that suggests that names marking one as a member of an out-group* on a resume drastically reduce chances of employment, though others include the psychological effects of bullying and correlation between bullying and unusual names.

        At the same time though, there is the matter of counter-cultural values, and the connections between countercultural values and unusual names. The use of salary as a proxy for success is very much within mainstream culture, and the rejection thereof is a common counter-cultural value, which could put this as a cause with the name being an indicator instead of a causal factor. GPA is similar – a low GPA can be caused by a lack of respect for grades and the school system as an institution as easily as by lack of intelligence, with a lack of respect for grades being very much possible within highly intelligent individuals. Similarly, there are biases within GPA towards wealth, and biases within teachers against members of out-groups, in which the factors mentioned regarding salaries thus become relevant as well.

        Then there is the matter of which groups are assigning names deemed unusual. It’s not just a matter of counter-cultural movements, but instead connects to several demographics. It’s comparatively uncommon among the rich and upper middle class, and is disproportionately common among the comparatively poor, among African Americans, and among several other marginalized groups. It goes without saying that marginalized groups tend to be disproportionately targeted by law enforcement, discriminated against by employers and schools, and located within a system where these problems are exacerbated. Thus, unusual names would correlate to the factors listed even without the aforementioned effects of being part of a counter-culture.

        *This was specifically U.S. research, and out-group essentially means any sign that the person isn’t a white male, among other things. As assigning these names is generally bucking society to some extent, this is a plausible mechanism in this case as well, though by no means verified.

      • http://thaliasmusingsnovels.com/ Amethyst

        Knaight, I certainly wasn’t trying to say that the experience of one person negates the whole sample. I agree with all the points you made about causality and correlation. My point was that naming a child something like Amethyst doesn’t guarantee she’ll be an impoverished, unaccomplished felon any more than naming a child something like Timothy guarantees he won’t blow up a federal building.

    • Pauline

      I read that too, but I think it was on Cracked.com.

  • Katty

    Only in America…
    In my country, such names can simply not even be put on a birth certificate, it’s just not legal. I guess most Americans would consider it an outrageous infringement on their individual freedom to not be allowed to give their child whichever name they choose, but in this case I’m inclined to think it saves a lot of kids from utter trauma… *lol*

    • Petticoat Philosopher

      Um, I don’t usually find myself in this position but I guess you can count me as one of those Americans who consider it an infringement on individual freedom to control what people name their children. And an infringement which can be easily used in an ethnically and culturally discriminatory way.

      Nice to be reminded that my country doesn’t do everything wrong…

      • Katty

        I was expecting a reaction along these lines and I do see your point about the potential for discrimination when limiting people’s choice of name for their children. I do however also consisder some restrictions justified in the interest of the child.
        Let me clarify that where I live any name commonly used as a first name anywhere in the world can be used as a first name for your child. That means that denying a name for purely cultural reasons is clearly against the law and would never hold. However, obviously derogatory names are prohibited – as is the use of place names, last names or brand names as first names. Since this kind of name would appear extremely weird over here, it would in fact very probably lead to the child being mocked or bullied for it, so there is a case for protecting the child from this. Also, if the last name you would like as a first name is commonly used as such in any other country, you can still use it… ;-) And I also seem to remember – though admittedly, I do not know in detail – that there are a lot less restrictions on middle names.
        I will concede that if this type of name were more common, the “mocking potential” would also be less. But meanwhile I personally am of the opinion that children sometimes have to be protected from their own parents.

      • Alexandra

        I agree, Petticoat. I’m not normally one to be in this sort of camp, but I’m pretty glad that we maintain people’s rights to name their kids whatever they want.

      • Paige

        I disagree. I think it’s necessary for the law to step in and say, “hey, you can’t name your child with numbers or symbols. It can’t be a profanity either nor degrading for the child. ”

        The kinds of people who would choose names like those for their children need to have their naming rights infringed.

    • Uly

      The birth certificate is not the be-all and end-all of naming possibilities. I know at least two people who are called something entirely different from what’s on their birth certificate, without ever having “officially” changed their names. (Properly speaking, that would constitute a common law name change, but I seem to be the only one who cares.)

      One had a priest who refused to baptize a child without a saint’s name, so her parents gave her a saint’s name and proceeded to call her the name they’d already chosen. The other, my uncle, simply hates his name and changed it to “Bill” when he was five. To my knowledge he signs all his checks and whatnot “E. W. Lastname” and people just assume the middle initial stands for William, but it doesn’t.

      It’s also worth noting that many of the names listed by Libby Anne, though old-fashioned, are still perfectly acceptable in the US.

      • Attackfish

        I know a kid who is named Walter, but has gone by Charlie and nothing else since he was six.

      • LeftSidePositive

        “Her name was McGill, and she called herself ‘Lil, but everyone knew her as Nancy…”

        [This concludes this evening's McCartney references...]

    • Anat

      Katty, see my post a few ones down – in Israel inventing names is very common, and newly invented names become trendy very fast. School teachers tend to be trend-setters, BTW. One year one of my teachers named her daughter ‘Re’ut’ (meaning friendship), and it was a completely new name, five years later it was all over the place. Your laws would have prevented my teacher from using the name, but a while later it might have passed. In the 1990s an Israeli couple staying in Germany was prevented from naming their son ‘Gesher’ (meaning bridge) for this reason. Well, to my knowledge the name never caught, but I see no reason not to use it. It fits with Israeli naming patterns even if it isn’t a name that is commonly used. As for forbidding place names as personal names – the two categories often draw from the same sources. Sometimes it is hard to tell if a new name you hear is a person’s name or a place name (or both). Heck, we have people whose names translate to valley, hill, hilltop etc.

      And its hard to predict which names will draw fire. Though there used to be someone in the Tel Aviv phonebook by the name of Goliath the Philistine – he used to get prank calls from kids identifying as King David. But even the most common names can be twisted, rhymed and otherwise used for ridicule. I remember the story of a boy named Jonathan who was ridiculed because the name is used in a common children’s song.

      • Petticoat Philosopher

        Not to mention, “protecting” kids from their parents doing anything that might make their kids stand out from their peers is a piss-poor reason for a law and that kind of reasoning could justify all kinds of unsavory things. My parents shouldn’t have been allowed to raise me Jewish, for example. It made me a minority which, on occasion, caused me to be mocked. I could go on with this.

        And why NOT allow place names as given names? That’s just silly. We Americans take it too far and I’ll be the first to say it, but a LITTLE individualism is nice…

    • Noelle

      But place names are very common first names, so how can your country both say they allow names that are accepted in other cultures as first names while at the same time prohibiting place names? Not to mention many places are named for people. When this occurs, does your country then strike it from the accepted name-base? Some popular names as places: Brooklyn, Sydney, Darwin, Alice, Asia, Paris, London, Austin, Camden, Dallas, Denver, Gary, Pheonix, Aspen, Charlotte, Florence, Geneva, Helena, Jersey, Jordon, Madison, Savannah, Victoria, China, Kenya, Chad… There are so many. How can they all possibly be banned?

      • http://brokendaughters.wordpress.com Lisa

        It’s actually not quite correct the way Katty explained. You may not give your child a name that is obviously degrading to a human being. Names like Brooklyn and Paris may not be common here, but are allowed. Generally, ANY name that is recognized as a name anywhere in the world is permitted. There are plenty of kids like San Diego, Dallas and Syndey.
        What will not be permitted is, for example, giving your kid a name that is (in our culture) highly degrading – you can’t name your child Hitler, to be accurate. Stuff like Che or Mao would still go through. Hitler is really the only one I can think of. Adolf would still go through.
        Other stuff that will not go through is brand names at times (though I can think of a bunch of names which are brand names and are still used, eg. Apple, Philadelphia and such).
        Also, objects are a toughie. A couple was denied naming their child “The Thing” for obvious reasons. Naming your kid “Idiot” or “Pussy” or “Bitch” is off limits.
        However, that permission is NOT given out by the state but by each individual city. If your name won’t be permitted in one city, you can just try in another. If you think it’s unlawful, you can sue (and many succeeded).

    • wanderer

      I disagree….. this is not something that happens only in America. There are a LOT of weird names out there from a LOT of different countries.

      • Ray

        Plus what is consider strange in one country is common in another. Plus a lot of names started as words for places and objects (“Rose”, etc). My middle name is a word for “deer”. While I understand profanity, I think there would be only a handful of parents who would name their kid something like that. As for symbols, eh you can make an argument that letters are symbols. There are also social an cultural context with the use of symbols in names (Chinese characters, certain spellings, etc).

        Plus names change over the years. Dakota would be an eyebrow-raiser 70 years ago, now it’s common.

  • http://boldquestions.wordpress.com Ubi Dubium

    A distant ancestor of mine was one of the Puritans on the Mayflower: Fear Brewster. What a name to give a girl! She had siblings named Love, Patience and Wrestling.

    When my father was a boy in the backwoods of Virginia, he knew a family who named their first four sons Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. So when they had a fifth son – yep! They named him “Acts of the Apostles”

    • http://kagerato.net kagerato

      I’m sure cute lil’ Acts just loved that one and didn’t feel out of place at all. At all!

      • Attackfish

        Seriously, they couldn’t have named him Paul?

    • Uly

      If you visit Baby’s Named a Bad, Bad, Thing they have a page on Theme Names Gone Wrong. Apparently there are many parents out there who start out with Matthew, Mark, and Luke and then decide to name the fourth kid “Anthony” or “Philip” or “Mordecai” instead!

  • Jeremy Shaffer

    Maybe there was a thing with the local Catholics during the mid- 70′s when I was born because I went to school with quite a few girls with names like Charity, Chastity, Prudence and the like. From kindergarten through high school I went to private Catholic schools and by the time I was a Senior their names became a somewhat reliable, if inverse, indicator of their personalities.

  • http://elliha.blogspot.com Elin

    For some reason I like the name Arrow…

  • Anat

    Politicizing children’s names goes back to the Bible. See the names of Isaiah’s children. Poor little maher-shalal-hash-baz’ (or whatever the English spelling)!

    Israelis also like finding new sources for names, whether by using the biblical names that were not used traditionally or by choosing words that are meaningful to them. Much of that trend has to do with wanting to avoid traditional names in non-Hebrew languages. Anyway, even with biblical names, you can tell a lot about the parents’ views. The parents of Neriah are likely to be religious whereas the parents of Omri or Nimrod are guaranteed to be secular. Made up names often come from nature – names of trees, flowers, animals (besides the traditional flower and animal names), water-related names, light/fire-related names, other weather pattern-related names or agriculture (though these are mostly falling out of use).

    It is funny how fast a name transitions from novel to familiar and trendy.

    • Petticoat Philosopher

      Haha, one of my Israeli cousins is a secular guy with an accidentally ultra-Orthodox sounding name. His first name is the name of one of the Big Players in the bible and, since his father is American, his last name is a non-Hebrew, typical Russian-Jewish name. He gets a lot of funny looks when he tells people what his name is.

      • smrnda

        I also read an article of names being gender-swapped in Israel these days (names usually used for boys/girls being used for girls/boys) but does anyone know more?

    • Mark Temporis

      Mahershalalhashbaz Ali is a moderately well known actor (The 4400 and Alphas). Name don’t seem to have slowed him down none.

      I love the phrase names, especially imagining horrifically inappropriate ones (“Justice-is-mine-sayeth-the-Lord”; “Happy-shall-he-be-that-dasheth-thy-little-ones-against-the-stones” ; “Him that-pisseth-against-the-wall”)

  • http://AztecQueen2000.blogspot.com AztecQueen2000

    My last name is very unusual. My father went through life with an unusual first name. So, when I was born, he insisted my mother give me a common first name.

    • Shayna

      My name is weird, at least is where I’m from. According to my baby name website research, it is from the Hebrew for ‘beautiful’ or ‘pretty’. No one says it right or spells it right, even people who have known me for years will still spell it wrong, but I like it. It is unusual enough to be unique, but not so unusual as to be /weird/ weird.

      I joke with my husband that I’d like to go on one of those church trips to Israel, just to meet people who know how to say my name.

      • http://AztecQueen2000.blogspot.com AztecQueen2000

        It’s Yiddish. The Hebrew word for “pretty” is “yoffie.”

      • Shayna

        LOL, goes to show what baby name websites are good for, I guess.

  • Judy L.

    Arrow is actually a really pretty name, although I would spell it Arroe so that my child would have to spend his or her life constantly correcting other people spelling it Arrow (it builds character).

    My immigrant background is that of mid-late 19th century Jews from eastern Europe coming to America and giving their children very upper-class English (British) names like Lester and Irving and Harold, which of course lost their English cache and became typical names of Jewish men of my grandfather’s generation.

  • Karen

    My parents were extremely sensitive to the name they chose for me, worrying about how it would affect me. They wanted something simple and clean, without any interesting connotations that might dog me as I got older. I’m grateful for their thoughtfulness.

  • http://stuckinthered.blogspot.com Evelina

    I think naming your kids like that can be another way of showing you control them. Instead of treating the children as real people who will have to live with these names, they’re a way of showing off what you believe. It’s always rubbed me the wrong way, but I’m finding it hard to put exactly into words why it bothers me so much. Around here, Grace is a very popular name, which at least is recognizable as a name and not something that people will struggle to spell or that will provoke teasing (like Saber Truth). Also, it bugs me that girls get the “nice” names and boys get the “strong” names.

    • machintelligence

      On the other hand I don’t know if my (adult) daughter has forgiven us for naming her Katrina.

      • Katty

        OK, that’s just bad luck!

      • http://stuckinthered.blogspot.com Evelina

        Yeah, that’s unfortunate! My former sister-in-law insisted on naming her kids oddly spelled variations of common names. My real first name is rather uncommon and an uncommon spelling as well, so I know what a pain it is to go through life constantly having to tell people how to pronounce and spell your name.

  • Petticoat Philosopher

    Sheesh, what’s with all the unusual name-hate on this thread? My parents were both attracted to old-fashioned and classical names and although they decided that “Hermione” might be too burdensome for a child (although they couldn’t have predicted Harry Potter, there are probably plenty of Hermiones to come in the future!), both my sister and I ended up with somewhat unusual, though spellable, names. (Both of our names appear in classic works of 19th century literature, although that’s only intentional in the case of my sister–the literary character that shares my name is not particularly admirable.) As kids, we both rather liked not being lost in a sea of Ashleys and Emilys. Not that those aren’t nice names too.

    I also grew up with some friends whose parents had chosen to give them traditional Irish names which, as anyone familiar with those knows, have some pretty crazy spellings. A lot of them are beautiful names though and the wacky spelling became part of an identity for them. At least one of them has gone in to name his own firstborn in the same way, so he can’t have been too scarred. A lot of ethnic names in general are going to stand out more and possibly be harder to spell for Americans. So should we all name our kids Jill and John?

    I get that it’s funny to laugh at the idea of naming your kid “Knox Defender” and it’s good for parents to be considerate of these things but I don’t like this undertone of “If you name your kid something remotely distinctive, you’re a cruel and controlling parent.” I mean, c’mon.

    • Noelle

      I’ll agree with ya. I frequented mommy boards when I was pregnant, and some people are weirdly vocal in their position for or against certain names. In reality, I’ve met very few children and adults who dislike the name their parents gave them. And for those who do, it is simple enough to change.

      My mother was a hippie, and wanted to name me after a flower. I know flower names for girls have always been popular, but I’m no flower and I’m glad dad stepped in with a better idea. But I bet I would’ve never notice the difference had I borne the floral moniker instead. Though my personality would never a true flower-child be.

    • http://stuckinthered.blogspot.com Evelina

      It’s not the “something distinctive” part that I object to; in fact, I like unusual names and we chose a classical (but fairly easy to spell and pronounce) name for our daughter. I don’t think it’s necessarily cruel, either (although some names could be). I actually even kind of like names like Constance, etc. I think what bothers me is that it’s become a trend for parents to show off how Christian they are by how they name their kids. The examples that Libby Anne gave were at least equal opportunity; in my experience it’s only girls who are named that way while the boys get “normal” names.

      • Petticoat Philosopher

        Well, I feel like there’s always a sense, and not just in Christian culture, that you can mess around and be creative with girls names but with boys, you have to get serious and name them something square and manly. lol. I’m with you on that one.

  • Lainey

    OK, I can’t resist posting this quote from a terry Pratchett novel – “Well, it’s like this… The Carter parents were a quiet and respectable Lancre family who got into a bit of a mix-up when it came to naming their children. First, they had four daughters, who were christened Hope, Chastity, Prudence and Charity, because naming girls after virtues is an ancient and unremarkable tradition. Then their first son was born and out of some misplaced idea about how the naming business was done he was called Anger Carter, followed later by Jealousy Carter, Bestiality Carter, and Covetousness Carter. Life being what it is, Hope turned out to be a depressive, Chastity was enjoying a life of negotiable affection in Ankh-Morpork, Prudence had thirteen children, and Charity expected to get a dollar’s change out of seventy-five pence—whereas the boys had grown into amiable, well-tempered men, and Bestiality Carter was, for example, very kind to animals.”

    • Noelle

      I need to read more Pratchett.

    • http://stuckinthered.blogspot.com Evelina

      I love Pratchett and this quote makes me happy.

    • Uly

      I’ll take your Lords and Ladies and raise you a Wee Free Men:

      Miss Robinson had stolen a baby, Punctuality Riddle, who had been much loved by his young parents, even though they’d named him Punctuality (reasoning that if children could be named after virtues like Patience, Faith, and Prudence, what was wrong with a little good timekeeping?)

      • Anat

        Pratchett also spoofs the Puritan naming customs with his Omnians:
        Visit-the-Infidel-with-Explanatory-Pamphlets, Smite-the-Unbeliever-with-Cunning-Arguments, and Mightily-Praiseworthy-Are-Ye-Who-Exalteth-Om Oats.

    • Christine

      Thank you, I didn’t want to have to go look that up, and I was definitely thinking of it.

    • Rae

      And of course let’s not forget Thou-shalt-not-commit-adultery Pulsifer in Good Omens!

  • http://www.texannewyorker.com jwall915

    Libby Anne, I’m curious, since you have so many siblings – did your parents pick unusual and meaningful names or were they more common? And did they have to be biblical names?

  • Christine

    I can sympathize somewhat. It’s very difficult, if looking at biblical names, to pick one that a) doesn’t make it too easy for the kids who pick on your child (Dorcas was right out). b) is the name of someone that you don’t really want to honour by using their name (my husband vetoed Joshua) c) doesn’t sound stupid/overly old fashioned/would be too difficult for someone who doesn’t already know it to pronounce (Nehemiah wasn’t even tabled).

    I can see, given that, why c would be dropped first. I know that a lot of the themes Libby listed aren’t Biblical names, but the same principle applies. (You can call a girl Faith, but any of the other virtues is either too obviously naming after a virtue. Honor has never been a problem to me, because I honestly find American spellings to be that noticable.)

    • Petticoat Philosopher

      “Honoria” is kind of cool. It’s even a Dickens character!

      • http://thaliasmusingsnovels.com/ Amethyst

        It is also the name of my favorite historical figure, Justa Grata Honoria. She proposed to Attila the Hun in an attempt to take the Roman Empire back from her brother.

  • jose

    Devout catholics could give their daughters really scary names back in the day here in Spain:
    - Dolores (sorrows)
    - Martirio (martyrdom)
    - Angustias (anguish)
    - Soledad (loneliness)
    - Socorro (I have no idea how to translate this, but it means literally SOS, like the distress signal)

    • Uly

      Succor, perhaps?

    • Paula G V aka Yukimi

      Those aren’t even fringe ones, they are pretty mainstream. Dolores/Lola (which I would translate as “pains”) is one very common name and Soledad too. The others are more old fashioned than anything else. One typical name of awful naming that’s probably an urban legend is Dolores (name) Fuertes De Barriga = Strong stomachache (Dolores=pain; fuertes=strong, de barriga=of the belly).

      I know a cases where the parents started with names of spanish kings and wanted to put a number but were forbidden (like callin their Carlos II) and some funny cases but it loses all the fun in the translation.

      My grandparents wanted to call my mom Rosa but they had to go with María Rosa because at the time you had to use a name that appeared on the Santoral (saint’s name registry??) and by himself the priest who baptised inscribed her as María Rosa de la Santa Petra and something more but fortunately for her that was only for the religious registry :P

      • Paula G V aka Yukimi

        One very famous theatre play by Federico García Lorca is a pretty awesome example. La casa de Bernarda Alba. The daughters of Bernarda are called: Angustías (anguish, sorrow), Magdalena, Amelia, Martirio (Martyr) and Adela.

      • Paula G V aka Yukimi


    • OurSally

      I think you’ll find that Spanish girls with those names are always called Maria. Thus they are Maria Dolores (Maria of Sorrows), Maria Soledad etc etc. But since they are all called Maria they have to use the second one to distinguish them.

      My in-laws are Bavarian, thus tend to be called Maria, Joseph, or Elisabeth. So they use endless variations on those names. Elisabeths get to be Betty, Lisa, Lizel, Lissi, Lischen. Josephs are Zepp, Zeppel, Zeppi. Maria tend to stay Maria, though the younger ones are called Mary or Marri. Very old people from large families have the saint’s name from the day they were born, so you get to meet Meinrad or Kunigunde. Fortunately this is no longer in fashion.

      We chose normal but slightly unusual names for our kids, so they’d be the only one in class but not get laughed at. And they got two each so they can change if they want. Children are merciless.

  • Judy L.

    In Ontario there are prohibitions for names on birth certificates: no punctuation marks (including hyphens and diacritics), no capitals except the first letter, no non-letter symbols, and no spaces (so you can’t have two first names).

    My father has been an atheist since he was old enough to think (he says six years old), and yet he saddled me and my sister and brother with heavy Old Testament names (granted, my sister was named for a great-grandmother). My brother got two middle names but my sister and I got off easy with just one. I was told that had I been a boy I would have been Aaron Benjamin Solomon. I’m rather glad I turned out female and didn’t end up with B.S. as my middle initials.

    • JeseC

      That seems like it would rule out an awful lot of common names around here…do these rules apply for last names as well? I’d be pretty pissed if I couldn’t give my kid my own last name.

      • Judy L.

        You can spell your name however you like and use whatever name you like for any and every other purpose. But for the birth certificate, those are the rules (or at least they were 9 years ago when my niece was born).

    • http://cfiottawa.com Eamon Knight

      Aaron Benjamin Solomon. I’m rather glad I turned out female and didn’t end up with B.S. as my middle initials.

      That, and ABS is the kind of plastic from which domestic sewer pipe is made (but also Lego, so it’s not all bad!).

    • Little Magpie

      Judy: re: Ontario birth certs. I know a couple whose little girl (16 month old, I think?) is called Amber-Lynn. That said I don’t know if that’s actually what’s on the birth cert. :) My only problem with it is that to my ears it sounds a bit too close to “Anne Boleyn” but hey :)

      • Whit Johnstone

        What’s wrong with being named for a Queen of England? My little sister is named for Anne Boleyn’s daughter!

  • http://rollforpainting.wordpress.com Evs

    I kind of like the idea of virtue names. Why not? :)
    People can have such strong opinions. But if Rose is a perfectly normal name, I don’t see how Daffodil has any less right to existence. It’s less common, but so was Poppy and it got pretty commonplace.
    Where I live it is common to snigger at immigrant’s kids called names like Blessing, while calling own child an Irish word for freedom.
    Alexander actually means Defender in translation. So why is Alexander ok and Defender not?
    At the end of the day every name was a word with a meaning even the plainest Jacks and Amys.

    I wanted my kid to have a nature name (because I’m a closet hippy :) ) and he ended up being called Robin after the bird :))

    • Attackfish

      The only problem with Daffodil is that odds are, you’re going to get called “Daffy” by everybody. According to my mother, this is the reason I’m not named that.

      • Anat

        In Israel Dafi is a common nickname for Dafna (Daphne). Hasn’t caused any of the Dafis I knew any problems (despite the fact that ‘daf’ means foil, sheet of paper).

      • Attackfish

        When it becomes common, no one associates it that way, but when the only association the kids have is Daffy Duck…

  • smrnda

    I kind of like unusual names. My name is actually pretty unusual (and hard to pronounce) which is kind of fun (especially my last name.)

    My only worry with virtue name is that they kind of feel pretty loaded and politicized sometimes – people named their daughters things like “Obedience” and “Chastity” in the past, and I’d hate to have a tag like that stuck on my name.

    • Rae

      That, and every girl named “Grace” or “Chastity” that I knew ended up embodying the opposite of what their name meant. Especially “Grace”.

      • smrnda

        With some virtue-based female names, you should just name your daughters “sub-male 1″ through “subm-male” whatever (at least that’s how I read a name like “Obedience” or “Chastity.”

        I actually always think of Grace and even Faith as just a name, since I wasn’t raised in a Christian environment. Especially Grace. It might also be that I’m bilingual (sort of) so the notion of 2 words being the same but *not* being connected comes up more often.

    • Little Magpie

      Yeah the thing about virtue names… that turned out so well for Chaz Bono.

  • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com WMDKitty

    Oh. My. Ceiling Cat. I thought it was bad with “kreeaytyffe” spellings and the “-aden” trend, but this is a whole new level of bad names!

    …”Jireh”? Please, please tell me this is a legit foreign name and not the result of throwing a hand-full of Scrabble tiles on the table!

    • http://thaliasmusingsnovels.com/ Amethyst

      “Jehovah Jireh” is a name of God in the Old Testament that means “The Lord provides.” I doubt Jireh is actually used as a name outside these circles, though. And I’m kind of surprised they’d give a name to their kid that’s part of a much-revered name of God.

      • Anat

        Well, all the -iah Jo- Yeho- El- -el – etc names include parts of the names of God. Elijah has 2 names of God in one (essentially translates as ‘Yahweh is my god’). So why not this one two? Anyway, technically it is a place name, it’s what Abraham named the place where he nearly sacrificed his son.

  • A Reader

    “The author goes on to explain that this practice didn’t survive the first generation.”
    Well when you name your kids things like “If-Christ-had-not-died-for-thee-thou-hadst-been-damned”… ;)

    • Whit Johnstone

      The man who was stuck with that name apparently abandoned Puritanism for Anglicanism and changed his name to Nicholas, which is, of course, the name of a saint from outside of the Bible.

  • http://thaioldmarket.com/index.php?action=profile;u=87672 Maia Esera

    DC utilized to be considered a wasteland for pizza, but now there are actually many pretty fantastic sites: Mias, Have, and Pizzeria De Marco in Bethesda, 2 Amys, Pizza Paradiso, Pete’s, and a few many others in DC, and there are a bunch in VA that I can’t recall off the top rated of my head. For basic takeout, Naked and Flippin are not lousy.

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SPFQgZ9nC4w website cms

    Great remarkable issues here. I¡¦m very glad to peer your article. Thanks so much and i’m looking forward to touch you. Will you kindly drop me a e-mail?

  • http://racingjunkies.nl/link/569 visit the next website

    The very core of your writing while sounding agreeable originally, did not work perfectly with me after some time. Somewhere within the paragraphs you managed to make me a believer unfortunately just for a very short while. I however have a problem with your jumps in assumptions and one would do nicely to help fill in all those breaks. If you actually can accomplish that, I will definitely end up being fascinated.

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WZB7yswo6a0 Merry Christmas

    Hey! Someone in my Myspace group shared this site with us so I came to look it over. I’m definitely enjoying the information. I’m bookmarking and will be tweeting this to my followers! Superb blog and excellent design.

  • http://services|foodsandculinary|funandgames|gamblingandcasinos|gifts Donovan Talboti

    I got what you mean , appreciate it for posting .Woh I am lucky to find this website through google. “Remember that what you believe will depend very much on what you are.” by Noah Porter.

  • Diana Diaz

    These sound like hippie names, you’re right! However, some of the names are quite cool like Liberty, Justice, and Constance. Autumn Rose and Meadow aren’t too bad. I’m being serious about that. But some of these names are NUTZ and I’ll bet Shadrack, Mesach and Abednego had issues with their names. People have named their kids all kinds of things throughout history. Back in the day Pepsi was a girl’s name not a soda. Spanish-speaking kids are named Jesus, Mercedes, Ignacio/a, Pablo, Pedro, Augustin, everyone has Maria in their name – even the boys – even famous composers – even in other countries. Karl Maria von Weber comes to mind. My grandmother was named Asuncion. Her sisters named Concepcion, Encarnacion. (Yes, The Asumption, the conception, the Incarnation) Their nicknames were Asun, Conchita, The stars of Mexican cinema had gloriously long names which were still religious. Pedro Infante Cruz dropped the Cruz and kept Infante as his last name. Yes, the Infant meaning Christ. Bethlehem would suck as a name, but Belen as it is called in Spanish is a another frequent girl’s name. Victoria isn’t so bad it’s just old fashioned.

    It’s not so bad when everyone around you is Catholic and everyone is stuck having large families because there is no birth control, or access to birth control is limited, and no one is concerned because it’s always been that way.

    But these quiverfull names kinda suck. Most Mexis would stay far far away from them.

  • Whit Johnstone

    I want to name my kids King Charles Martyr and Canterbury Augustine just to balance out “Loyal Cromwell” and “Geneva Constance”. We could throw in a William Laud and a Lancelot Andrews in there too.