Saturday, May 08, 2010

Is it a saint’s name?

Remember this cute little number?

Published by TAN Books since time immemorial, it contains over three thousand names of saints for boys and girls, by which your little one should be baptized. Every child baptized into the Catholic Faith should have a saint's name, and the priest or deacon who lets a family slide without allowing a special patron for their child, does that family (to say nothing of the child) a disservice.

As the Faith has spread to the far corners, even saints of non-European ethnicity have ended up with European names (like the Korean saint Andrew Kim, and the African saint Charles Lawanga to name two). This makes it hard for non-European names to make the cut, I should think, thus the list of names probably doesn't expand by much over the years. The last new one I imagine hitting the scene would have been Faustina, but even that is European.

So, what's been happening lately? What is the inspiration for baby names these days? According to The New York Times, the series of "Vampire" films based on the best-selling novels by Stephenie Meyer are stealing the show.

The most popular boy’s name was Jacob, an eternal favorite that happens to be the name of the buff rival of paler-than-thou Edward: Jacob Black. The most popular name for girls was Isabella, the progenitor of Bella, the love interest of both Edward the vampire and Jacob the werewolf. Just plain Bella logs in at 58.

I imagine that neither Her Catholic Majesty of Spain, nor the patriarch who wrestled with an angel, are going to be the inspiration for these names in the near future, unless the parents decide to stretch the truth when meeting with the good Father.

Another sign of the End Times? You decide, people.


Ellyn said...

Why is that baby smiling? Not only is (s)he being baptized but without a goofball name that will be an embarrassment in 10, 25 or 50 years. (BTW, I have a son named Edward - if I had seen this book coming back when he was born we might have chosen a different name. Maybe... :-) )

Suburbanbanshee said...

Check the Social Security baby name website. You'll see that Isabella and Jacob had become very popular names _before_ the first Twilight novel ever hit the bookstore. Jacob, in particular, has been popular since the early nineties, and the most popular name for 11 years (as the article notes). It's part of the Biblical name craze. Isabella, OTOH, is part of the old-fashioned Victorian girl names comeback. (You know: Olivia, Emily, etc.) Consider the Bettinellis' daughter, for instance.

This has been accompanied by a lesser Victorian boy name comeback trend, which is probably why it ever occurred to Meyer that "Edward" was a cool name. (Well, that and Gothic novels.) "Old names" even is mentioned as a motivation by one of the folks.

Now, I'm sure that some people have picked baby names that also remind them of the books. But the names themselves are unexceptionable and have been popular for long enough that the parents' butts are covered. (A lot better than naming your kid Arwen or Galadriel, God save the mark.) It's maybe added a small percentage on the side, but no more.

Spelling "Colin" as "Cullen" is about the only real trend here. But since respellings are endemic, I wouldn't be surprised if Meyer had originally taken that from an existing mini-trend in Utah. (Where they have much weirder names than that every day.) A little websearch reminds me that Countee Cullen and others have kept this name before folks' eyes, and of course surname-names have been a big trend for the last twenty years. So even that's not really all about the books.

In short, Don't Panic.

It's the soap operas you really have to worry about, when it comes to names.