Category: saints’ names
AUGUSTUS, the pater familias of the group, actually started out as an honorific rather than a name. It was first applied to Octavius, the adopted son—actually a great-nephew– of Julius Caesar when he became the undisputed ruler of the Roman world. The Senate decreed him the title Augustus, corresponding to Majesty and meaning great, magnificent, venerable. It was after him that the month was named.
Augustus then became the official designation of every Roman Emperor who followed, but was never used as a personal name until 1526, when it was given to Augustus of Saxony, at a time when German royalty was imitating everything Roman, from palaces to sculpture, dress and wigs—and impressive Roman names.
Seen now as somewhat fusty (but really no fustier than Atticus or Maximus), Augustus is now #797 on the Social Security list, having peaked in the early 1900s, but it could find favor with parents looking for a path to Gus, and/or who like venerable Latin names. It has several literary namesakes, in books ranging from The Pickwick Papers and Martin Chuzzlewit to Lonesome Dove to How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Harry Potter.
It also dates back to that ancient time when those Roman emperors were assuming the title Augustus upon their accession; Augusta became the honorific bestowed on their wives, daughters and other female relatives. It was introduced to England in the 18th century by the German Princess Augusta, the future mother of King George III. Well used in the US in the 1920s, it’s rarely heard today—except in the guise of yet another Harry Potter character and the formidible Aunt Augusta in the P. G. Wodehouse Jeeves stories.
AGUSTINA, the Spanish version, is very popular in South America—ranking #5 in Uruguay. It’s also spelled AGOSTINA.
With the possible exception of Jay, no first name has been in more headlines in the past few weeks than Conan. Which got me to thinking about all the image reversals this name has gone through over the years. In our first book, Beyond Jennifer & Jason, for example, it was listed between Clarabell the Clown and Ebenezer Scrooge as a definite no-no, because of its barbaric associations.
But that in itself was a turnaround from its one-time saintly aura. The original St. Conan– then pronounced kun-awn– was a zealous 7th century Irish missionary—also known as Mochonna—one of the earliest bishops of the Isle of Man,. He was followed by a few other minor Irish saints by that name, including St. Conan of Assaroe and St. Conan of Ballinamore. And in Irish legend, Conán mac Mórna was a member of Finn MacCool’s warrior band.
For centuries the name remained within the confines of Ireland, except for gaining some middle-name recognition via Sherlock Holmes creator Arthur Conan Doyle, who, though born in Scotland, was of Irish heritage and who, as a struggling young doctor, had so few patients that he took to writing stories to make ends meet
Then, in the 1930s, a pulp magazine writer named Robert E. Howard created a wandering barbarian hero who eventually became a Marvel comic book character in 1970. At first a sword and sorcery hero in a magical world, within a few years he had morphed into the more familiar muscle man materialized by Arnold Schwarzenegger in the 1982 movie Conan the Barbarian.
That remained Conan’s seemingly immutable image until the lanky red-haired O’Brien came on the scene as a writer for Saturday Night Live in 1988, occasionally appearing in sketches. When he got his own late night show in 1993, suddenly the witty Conan O’Brien became CONAN—a single name celeb—overshadowing his hulkier fictional predecessor.
Despite or because of all this, Conan, unlike such Irish mates as Connor and Colin, has never appeared on the US top thousand. Is it because of the lingering barbarian association? I’m curious to know if it’s a name you would ever consider using, and if not why. Do you see it as just another Gaelic possibility or forever tied to one of those two personas?
And what about the other names on that old J&J taboo list? Some of them have managed to escape their stereotypes: Felix is no longer only a cat or fussbudget, little Lulu a comic strip character, Olive Popeye’s girlfriend, or Oscar still just a grouch. And there are signs of hope for Kermit, Casper, Linus and Grover.
There are so many unusual, beautiful, intriguing saints’ names that it’s hard to know where to start when considering them as a source for baby names. The collection that follows are the names of saints with winter feast days, which might be a source of inspiration for choosing the name of your own baby. There are lots more wonderful choices (and saints) where these came from, but among the most intriguing winter saints’ names are:
AMBROSE – Patron saint of candle makers.
ADELARD — A cousin of Charlemagne who became a monk, a devoted gardener, and eventually a powerful abbot.
ANSKAR – Missionary to Scandinavia in the 9th century who tried to ease the harsh conditions of the Viking slave trade.
APOLLONIA – She had all her teeth knocked out for refusing to renounce her faith, and is now the patron saint of dentists.
BASILISSA – Also known as Basilla, this Roman noblewoman was beheaded for her belief in Christianity. She is the patron saint of breast-feeding.
BAVO – Nobleman who gave away all his money and became a hermit. He is the patron saint of the Netherlands.
CAIAN – A Welsh saint who was said to be the son or grandson of a king.
Not only is old Tom Turkey again making his annual holiday sacrifice, but the poor guy has also had to bear the shame of seeing his name slide down the popularity list, now being out of the Top 50 for probably the first time ever in this country. Multiple Thomases arrived on the Mayflower, it was a favorite of the Colonists, and remained in or near the Top 10 boys’ names in America until 1966.
BIBLICAL: The name Thomas, which in Aramaic means twin, wass first given to one of the Apostles, who was originally named Judas, in order to distinguish him from Jude and Judas Iscariot. The expression Doubting Thomas arises from the fact that he refused to believe in Christ’s Resurrection until he had touched His wounds.
SAINTS: The expression every Tom, Dick and Harry is said to have been a result of the spread of the name in England due to people’s reverence for St. Thomas of Canterbury and the martyred Archbishop Thomas à Becket. Also there were Sir Thomas More, Henry VIII’s Chancellor, a scholar and wit, and St. Thomas Aquinas, the 13th century Sicilian friar, considered the greatest thinker of the Middle Ages.
KIDDIE STUFF: Along with Jack, Tom and Tommy are the most popular boys in the nursery rhyme world, as in Tom, Tom, the Piper’s Son, Little Tommy Tucker, Little Tommy Tittlemouse. Other notable young Toms: Tom Swift, Tom Sawyer, Tom Corbett, Space Cadet; Tom Mix and Thomas the Tank Engine (and Train).
CULTURAL ICONS: Writers Thomas Hardy, Thomas Mann, T.S. (Thomas Stearns) Eliot, Thomas Wolfe, Tom Wolfe, Tom Stoppard; painters Thomas Gainsborough,Thomas Hart Benton, Thomas Eakins; inventor Thomas Edison—and lots of politicians, sports figures and entertainers, including two of the top-ranking male stars of recent years—Tom Hanks and Tom Cruise.
And now, it’s Tom Turkey time for us—so…..
HAPPY THANKSGIVING !!!!!