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Category: middle name Ann

Classic Girls’ Names: The Ann Clan

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By Linda Rosenkrantz

There are few names that have given birth to as many variations as Ann, the simplest and softest of the classic girls’ names.  But while others like Mary and Margaret and Elizabeth have spawned almost unrecognizable progeny—from Daisy to Bessie to Peggy to Polly—most of the Ann derivatives have stayed pretty close to their mother name.

Yet Ann herself is an offshoot, coming from Hannah, a Hebrew name meaning ‘grace,’  who in the Old Testament is the mother of the prophet Samuel. This version was taken up by the Puritans in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and remained a commonly used name in the Jewish community for several generations.

Anna is the Latin form widely used in countries across the world, while Ann was originally the English spelling and Anne the French. St. Anne was the traditional, non-biblical name of the mother of the Virgin Mary, which explains its popularity among Christians—and is the name of several saints.  In more modern times, the affection felt for the character Anne Shirley in the childhood classic, Anne of Green Gables, also contributed to the spread of this spelling.

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Bestselling novelist JACQUELYN MITCHARD, whose new book No Time To Wave Goodbye, a sequel to her Deep End of the Ocean, will be published this month, meditates on the middle name as payback, placeholder…..and downright embarrassment.

Middle names often are payback – a best friend, a deceased auntie, a family crest. My son Will‘s name is William Gordon Pendragon Brent, because of contributions from his brothers and godparents. Many, many people hate their middle names, especially if they’re names such as Miriam, Ursula or Von. Others adore them: Novelist Harper Lee‘s real first name was Nelle (pronounced “Nell“), Carson McCullers’ first name was Lula, and, in the modern era, the great Lorrie Moore‘s given first name is … well, Marie.

Some people don’t have middle names. My agent does not. Her name is Jane. Plain Jane, while her sister has a first and middle name. My husband doesn’t have a middle name. When he fills out documents, his middle name is “NMI,” or “No Middle Initial.” So the kids say his name is Christopher Nimmie.

Recently, I took a desktop poll. It was based on my old pal Tim Cuprisin’s contention that everyone we grew up with in Chicago had the middle name Marie.

Indeed, Marie was a favorite among our 50s or 60s-born contemporaries. Horsing around between fitful bouts of writing the news, Tim and I gave even our male co-workers the middle name Marie (James Marie, Tommy Marie). Years later, my 13-year-old and I play this same game, asking around to discover the hidden middle Maries. Kazart! Many young girls’ middle names are either Marie or that other ’50s-60s favorite, Ann, even if the person’s first name is Keihley or Phyllis, Maya or Serena.

What is it about Ann or Marie that makes those names such a great afterthought?

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