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Baby Name Mary

For the arrival of May, official month of the Virgin Mary, we revisit her name and some of its many variations.

May, as any Catholic schoolchild can tell you, is the official month of the Virgin Mary, Mother of God.  Which might make Mary an appropriate name for a girl born this month, except after a 400 year run, Mary is more than ready for semi-retirement.

The good news is that you can hold onto Mary’s symbolic value by choosing one of her fresh, appealing variations.  And there are literally dozens of them, formal and breezily nicknameish, ultrafemme and down-to-earth.  Some of the options:

MADONNA – There’s only one Madonna – and it’s not the plaster one in the blue alcove at church.  The pop star has all but taken over this formerly holy name and rebranded it with a modern in-your-face sexuality.  Do you dare use it for your child?  Do you want to?  Maybe not yet, but with names like Elvis and Scarlett gaining widespread popularity a generation or two after the fame of their original bearers, we all might end up having grandchildren named Madonna.

MAE and MAY – A mere handful of years ago, Mae was a quintessential old-lady name, barely baby-appropriate, but today it feels as sweetly simple as a warm day in the sun.  Can be a short form for any of the Mary variations and also makes a good middle name.

MAISIEMaisie takes Daisy and raises it one.  An insouciant, charming name, Maisie can be given on its own or can be used as a short form for any of the Mary variations – or even for Margaret.

MAMIEMamie is sassier than either Mae or Maisie, though definitely in the same family.  An old-fashioned nickname that’s enjoying another day in the sun, Mamie was the name of President Eisenhower’s wife and is also the nickname of Meryl Streep’s actress daughter – both mother and daughter are properly named Mary Louise.

MANON – This French diminutive of Marie is very popular in its own right there and would make a distinctive and unusual choice here, but one with some genuine underpinnings.  Parents considering Manon should see the French film, Manon of the Spring.

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Christmas Baby Names: More, please!

elfbaby

Last week our guest blogger Elisabeth Wilborn offered a great yuletide menu of names that was both inclusive and imaginative, covering all the bases from religious to seasonal to spiritual.  At the risk of being accused of overkill, I thought I’d offer a few quirkier ideas, which are tied less directly to the holiday.

One of them is to look at some first and last names that have appeared in classic Christmas movies, ranging from the vintage It’s a Wonderful Life to the more recent Elf. Some examples:

BAILEY ……..It’s a Wonderful Life

BELLE ………A Christmas Carol

CLAIRE …….Scrooged

CLARENCE ..It’s a Wonderful Life

DUDLEY ……Christmas in Connecticut

ELIOT ……….Scrooged

FAN ………….A Christmas Carol

FELIX ……….Christmas in Connecticut

FRED ……….Miracle on 34th Street

GEORGE ……It’s a Wonderful Life

JACOB ………A Christmas Carol

JEFFERSON ..Christmas in Connecticut

JOVIE ………..Elf

MARLEY …….A Christmas Carol

PRESTON …..Scrooged

RALPH ……….A Christmas Story

TIM …………..A Christmas Carol

VIOLET ……..It’s a Wonderful Life

ZUZU ………..It’s a Wonderful Life

Another possibility, even more of a stretch, could be various shades of the Christmas colors, red and green:

ALIZARIN

BERYL

CARMINE

CELADON

CRIMSON

EMERALD

JADE

NILE

SCARLET

VERDE

VIRIDIAN

Then, in addition to the Cedar and Pine that Elisabeth mentioned, there are several other Christmas tree names:

BALSAM

CAROLINE

CYPRESS

DOUGLAS

FRASER

SAPPHIRE

SPRUCE

VIRGINIA

And finally Christmas-season baby namers can consider one of the more exotic variations of Mary or Joseph:

MAIRE

MAIRI

MALIA

MANON

MARIELLE

MARIETTE

MARIKA

MARISKA

MARJAN

MIRJAM

MITZI

MOIRA

or

GIUSEPPE

JOOSEF

JOSE

JOSEBA

JOSEF

JOZA

JOZIO

Oh, and what about Santa‘s reindeer’s names?  Where did those funky names come from?  It seems that the Night Before Christmas poet Clement C. Moore gave a lot of thought to his choices,  picking names that imply speed, grace, power, and strength.  We wouldn’t recommend Donner or Blitzen or Prancer.  Comet, Cupid, Vixen–barely possible.  A little more conceivable: Dasher and Dancer.

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Great Names from the New Testament

When we talk about the strong popularity of biblical names these days, what we’re really talking about are Old Testament names.  Looking at the popularity list, we see Jacob at #1, followed by Ethan, Joshua, Daniel, David, Joseph, Noah, Nathan, Samuel and Benjamin, while for girls, Hannah and Sarah are still in the Top 20.

Sure, thousands of babies each year are still named John and Thomas and Elizabeth, but these are seen as very conservative choices, often given to honor a family member.  And then there’s poor Mary.  We’ve been known to say to parents if you want a really unusual name, how about Mary?–the most widely used female name in the English-speaking world for centuries  has long been in steep decline.  The statistics are pretty dramatic: in 1925, more than 70,000 baby girls were christened Mary, in 1950 there were still over 65,000, while by last year the number had shrunk to less than 4,000.  Similar story with John: 57,000+ in 1950 to just over 4,000 in 2007.  Why?  For one thing, their massive long-term popularity robbed them of any individuality, and for another, so many of today’s parents carry around elderly images of a Great-Uncle Jim or a Grandma Betty that they don’t seem fitting for a baby.

But there are other New Testament names besides the old standards.  Rather than being strictly Hebrew names, as those in the New Testament, these have Greek, Roman and Aramaic elements, giving them quite a different flavor.  So, moving beyond Mary, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, here are a few possibilities:

GIRLS

DAMARIS

DRUSILLA

JUNIA

MAGDALA (place name)

MAGDALEN

PERSIS

PHOEBE

PRISCILLA

SAPPHIRA

TABITHA

And for boys:

BARNABUS

BARTHOLOMEW

CLEMENT

CRISPUS

ELIAS

GAIUS

JUSTUS

MATTHIAS

THADDEUS

ZACHARIUS

ZEBEDEE

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