It’s Hard to Recommend Names To Go With Cheyanne…

cheyanneI used to like the name Cheyenne* a lot. It’s a place name and a Native American tribal name… both very hip, en vogue, cutting edge, etc. The more I grew and learned and witnessed– in terms of our culture and the ways in which we represent ourselves and even appropriate– the less fond I grew for such styles. It started to seem insincere to me, and maybe even rude of me, and so I could no longer really validate my preferences by telling myself how pretty and cute they still were. I couldn’t kid myself by telling myself I was honoring something I didn’t truly understand. The truth is, there was no other reason to keep these types of names on my list, and too many reasons to cross them off. The truth is, they were trendy and had no real connection to me, period.

I now value authenticity. Authentic being-you. Authentic respect for others.

There is so much for me, and for you, to genuinely celebrate! No costumes, no disguises. Choose something with a close personal connection to you when you are naming your baby and it will mean so much more.

The exchange pictured above inspired me to create a new category in the blog– Racism (where I will talk about any cultural faux pas in names, not just limited to racial differences.) Every blog link I am about to share with you now fits the new category.

For further info on this specific topic, read here: The Bastardization of Native American Names

To find out why being honest about names matters, see: Hispanic Baby Name “News” is Ignorant BS

Some brief words on Native American words becoming tweaked names, when we helped a fan here (she had a child named CheyAnne): Cowboy Prairie Style First and Middle Baby Name Combos

Where we urged readers to not take K-K-K lightly: K, K, and Definitely Not K

If you’re one of our long time readers or just an appreciative fan, you respect the fact that we always advocate smart, thoughtful naming, minus the fluff. What I like about the community we share is that you can tell we genuinely, truly love names.  Thanks for joining with us in supporting integrity and education! I look forward to the ways we’ll keep learning together.

(I will discuss the name Cheyenne [the usual “proper” spelling*] more in the upcoming book.)

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A Hint at the Content of the Book

Someday, someday, I promise I will release this book (and maybe some other surprises with it). For now, here is a preview of what sort of content you might expect (this time, in brief) when it actually does come out. Alternate working title of this post was, “The One in Which I Help a Couple of Friends”.


Now I do my disclaimer that some names have multiple legitimate meanings and origin possibilities, so I’ll just name one or the most obvious one, depending. It’s a lot easier to debunk what names supposedly are than to tell you what they are completely. There are also multiple levels of depth to names and words, so sometimes things are taken at face value but you can almost always probe deeper. I think a lot depends on your intention when you are naming.

Heather–

Lily Eden: “Lily” + “plain” = “lily of the plain”
Zoey Lila: “life” + “night” = “nightlife”, “alive in the night”, “the breathing night”
Winter Margaret: “winter” or “the coldest season” + “pearl” = “winter pearl”
Grayson Anthony: “son of the vigilant” + arguably (very arguably… I’ll talk more about this in the book) “priceless” = “priceless son of the vigilant”

A note on Zoey Lila– in the potential meaning I showed I think it’s really funny because my daughter’s name is Eve, which is commonly credited with meaning “life”, but the way I use her name it actually refers to “night”. Just a funny little coincidence.

Denee– (see a previous post about Denee here)
*notes in parentheses following the names are Denee’s info*

Caleb Eugene (middle name is my dads middle name): “dog” + “well born” = “well born dog”
Jeremiah Scott (middle is hubs deceased brothers name): “elevation” & “Lord” + “a Scotsman” = “a Scot whose height is with the Lord”
Payton Matthew (middle is hubs first name): “Pacca” & “enclosure“ & implied “from“ + “gift of God”= “gift of God from Pacca’s fence”
Jacobi James (middle is hubs middle): “supplanter”, or “to seize by the heel”, twice. Either “doubly the trickster” or “to take back what was taken from you”, if you want to get poetic.
Marlena Suzanne (middle is combo of my.moms middle “Sue” and hubs moms middle “Ann”): “Mary Magdalene” + “lily” as in “white” & “grace” or “favor” = “the pure graciousness of Mary Magdalene”
Arabella Rochelle (middle is my middle): “prayerful” + “little rock” = “prayerful little rock”



Hopefully from this little snippet you can see what I mean when I say that names are poetry.

Narcissistic Names: New Trend, or Imagined Crime?

ABC News and Good Morning America recently presented a piece called “Messiah, King Rise in Popularity for Baby Names“. Within, they quote psychologist Jean Twenge, who claims that the numbers prove our culture is on a narcissistic bend. Her outlook is so extreme that I believe that this is all sensationalism meant to stir up publicity for a book she is promoting, because a well-reasoned discussion can easily be had to negate her claims. (For instance, maybe she’s just mad her name is Jean.)

Messiah has been in news recently when a judge ordered a mother to change this name, given to her son. The ruling was of course thrown out (this is America). 811 total children were given this name in the USA in 2012. While Messiah as a name feels somewhat recent and sheds light on our taboos, this style of naming isn’t new. In Latin-influenced cultures, the name Jesus has been used for quite some time, for example. Other names we’ve come to accept include Angel, Heaven, and Salvatore (or, savior). The only thing that makes Messiah so special is people are not used to it yet. To that I say there is a first time for everything.

Yet, the author/psychologist goes on to say:

“The way people parent their kids has shifted. At one time there was the idea that you raise the child with the lesson that the world does not revolve around them and now we raise them that it does. This is witnessed in various ways from singing preschool songs like ‘I am Special’ to dressing up little girls in t-shirts that say ‘Princess.'”

I blame Disney.

Ah, the old school parenting nostalgia. Yes, there was a time you told children they were to be seen and not heard, and kids knew they were not special. This was back when wives stayed in the kitchen and if any of the household stepped out of line, they were beaten. Good times.

What times might these be referencing, exactly? Let’s look at the 1950s. Names in popular use then include dish detergents Dawn (does she think the sun rises on her?), Joy (is she going to think everyone is happy with her?), and other had-the-nerve names like Rex (who does he think he is? a king?) and Max (you mean, like the max or highest level of something?). Yes, the good old days, when kids were taken down a peg. When we had no hopes or dreams for our kids, except that they work at the mill. A nice dream, but our names don’t necessarily reflect that version of history. We’re just so used to them that they seem like conservative, safe choices for us.

And yet… in that golden era of child-rearing, princesses like Snow White, Cinderella, and Aurora (like Dawn, a narcissist) were still teaching little girls that you could be beautiful and kind at the same time. Even worse, they taught that anyone could be special and be a princess. Those stuck up witches!

Twenge’s stance assumes that a name denoting high self-worth will equate to a self-absorbed or even inconsiderate person. Isn’t it possible to be both celebrated as special and someone who cares about others?

All parenting styles have been used throughout time and culture. There were no “good old days” to be nostalgic of. There have always been loving, doting parents as there have also been parents who emphasized obedience and humility above all else. Sometimes there are parenting trends in certain times and places, and that is not constant. Even the Puritans (known for being real killjoys– sorry, Joy), who were masters of Obedience and Humility (real names they bestowed) had occasions to show softer sides. Names like Happy and Trinity were also used. Trinity– there’s a blasphemous, narcissistic name if ever I saw one. This girl doesn’t just think she’s the Messiah, she thinks she’s the whole Holy Trinity!

Or could it be that names like Messiah and Trinity are often done in homage to one’s faith, not in declaration of what one is? And either way, who are we to judge or care? Any faith-related name is a personal matter that every parent has the freedom to express in a country that upholds religious freedom and freedom of speech. If you think your child is the Messiah, who am I to judge?

In fact, another Puritan name, Christmas, was listed in this spin-off by The Stir as an up and coming narcissist name. Christmas may not be a name in popular use, but it’s not new. The article seemed tongue-in-cheek, but the lacking historical perspective of people labeling people in the present as “narcissists” (or worse, condemning our kids to being narcissists over their names) strikes as ignorant. By the way, the French word for

Noël, Noel, Noelle, Noelia, Noella– all names for self-centered jerks?

Christmas, Noël, has been in use for males and females in its various forms for ages (without criticism or spite). Again, a little cultural understanding and perspective on history and language goes a long way.

Back briefly to the subject of parenting, how dare we teach kids to sing songs about being special, or give them shirts that say “Princess”? I think the self-esteem culture is a culture created after years of damaging abuse. Everyone gets a medal, everyone is a winner, anyone can be anything, etc., were ways of combating an excess of “tough love”, or no love. Is uplifting children and giving them hope for their potential wrong? Would we prefer people sing songs about being not good enough in pre-school? Would we rather our kids wear shirts that say “Normal”? Would creating a culture of children who embrace a taught sense of only adequacy be helpful, or would it really just make other people feel more adequate? Let’s be truthful. We are coming out of a recent past where kids felt they had to constantly prove themselves to earn their parents respect and approval. Sometimes that token never came. It made for some seriously damaged adults. It makes sense that a new approach would be attempted in the aftermath.

Is it just me, or do some people in the older generations come off as a bunch of haters regarding baby names (and parenting)? Naming our kids some of these lofty things may not always be my own personal style… I prefer things a little more imaginative than Awesome, and a little less severe sounding than Major. However, if they and other names of this “narcissistic” variety are part of a parenting culture that is expressing its hopes for our children, I would never put that sentiment down.

Let’s take a look at some of the other names Jean Twenge and The Stir picked on, and really think about them:

Princess– It’s a sweet-sounding and -meaning name. Not my style because it is so literal in a common-use way, but we’ve been naming our children after royalty since forever. I don’t suppose using a title instead is terribly different. The problem here is whether or not one has a mental image of a spoiled brat when they hear the name, when it could really be a sweet little girl with loving parents.  It could be a longed-for girl after a string of boys, or an only child after years of infertility. Crying “narcissist” here is more about the psychology of the person judging than the child and parents, I would think.
Prince – This name is not just the name of one of my favorite musical artists (born in that golden era, the 1950s), but this name was also in use 100 years ago in America.

Prince was named after his father (his nickname or stage name, actually), partly because he had high hopes for his son.

Sure, the numbers have risen, but then again so has the population.
King – Roy (roi) is a French word for king, no one minds that. Ryan is an Irish word for king (+ “little”), no one minds that. Why is this any different? Because English is your only language? Keep in mind too that King is also a surname, so sometimes people are using the name to honor heritage. Or, maybe the use of the surname King is narcissistic, too? King has been used for well over a century in America.
Beautiful Bella and Belle are pretty well accepted, as is Jolie. Beautiful may seem more literal to us English speakers, and maybe less romantic or poetic, but still? So what? In the 1950s, Linda was very popular, and it essentially means pretty or beautiful. Another one was Donna, a title for lady (think of the Madonna). Similarly, Gorgeous shouldn’t faze me– not on meaning alone.
Amazing Again, so what? 100 years ago we were using names like Fairy, Ivory, and Golden. Fifty years ago we were using Ginger and Cookie. It’s all going to be okay.
Greatness- Big deal, but get this. Only 6 baby boys in 2012 were named Greatness in the USA. Just as many were named Hawkeye, and even more were named Napoleon. This is not an epidemic. But, of course, that doesn’t sell books…
Life- Eve, Vivian, Zoe— accepted girls names which literally mean “life” in their languages. The Stir jokes that this is the next name for narcissists, but how can you have inflated sense of self about being living, full of life, a life-form? Leif— an accepted, traditional boys name which is pronounced “Life” in certain accents. Lif is a legitimate Scandinavian girls name. Are they narcissists, too?
Queen– Guess which one they aren’t complaining about? Queen, and her sisters Queena and Queenie. That’s right, I added this name myself because Queen was actually more popular 100 years ago, and also in the 1950s, than it is today. Those weirdos and their delusions of grandeur! I’m glad we grew out of that era of entitlement we were burdened by for so long.

Twenge goes on:

Too bad the data actually shows that very limited numbers of babies compared against the general populace are a part of this “epidemic”.

“Vanity and grandiosity are two of the subscales for narcissism and we know that the narcissism is related to materialism and an inflated sense of self. So that’s why these names jumped out at me when I began looking at the data,”

But one thing didn’t jump out at her– materialism in our culture sometimes reflects a desire to rise above circumstances. As much as I despise brand names on a baby (like Armani), you have to recognize that a lot of this use comes from the lower classes. It isn’t that they worship material per se, but it’s an aspiration. People in privilege are often ignorant of this naming aspect. They can afford to be traditional or average when name-selecting if they choose, having all other advantages in life. In fact, sticking to tradition can signify a desire to maintain the security of status quo. Less privileged namers may decide to take more of a chance on a name if they feel it sets their child apart, gives them an advantage, or acts as a blessing on or wish for the child. This is partly a study in sociology, not just psychology.

Someone like Kim Kardashian, for example, isn’t naming her child Lexus. Why would she? She could have any car she wants.

Vanity? There’s another Puritan name. In terms of our “inflated sense of self”, is it wrong to call each other great or beautiful? Many of our names mean great or beautiful, literally or subtly. Are we saying we aren’t really great and beautiful, and we are giving our kids more confidence than they’re worth? Are our kids actually Ugly, Plain, or Mediocre?

You may be familiar with the fact that I am very picky and critical when it comes to the topic of baby names, but this is a bully mentality being applied. The misunderstanding here with names lies in the context. To label something as narcissism when it’s really a) not as widespread a problem as it’s made to be and b) more about repairing damage (years of abuse or poverty) is completely backwards and picks on the downtrodden. It favors sticking to the norm and status quo, even if that norm was dismal for many, because it suited the critic better. Narcissism may exist, but what we are witnessing is a trend into loving adoration in order to compensate for and break away from decades/centuries of culturally conditioned self-loathing and oppression. It’s a movement that needs to happen for our culture to thrive.

So is naming a child after yourself narcissistic? Some parents think so, but not Twenge.

“Naming a child after yourself has a number of elements to it. Naming a child Junior or ‘The Third’ is a long tradition and in some ways can be seen

Ah, it’s all starting to come together now.

as communalism, which is in many ways the opposite of narcissism. And

it’s actually the opposite of uniqueness because it means two people have the same name.”

Yes, naming a child after yourself has a number of elements to it. (I fixed that for you.) So basically, Twenge, you are for tradition (even though you ignore our grandiose naming of the past), but more importantly, for not being unique. And, this is a good thing, because when more of us are alike, no one is special. Got it, Jean.

You can read more about how Twenge is “Seeing Narcissists Everywhere” (“Except the One Inside the Mirror”) on this Psycritic post entitled, “What Jean Twenge Gets Wrong About Narcissism“.

When it comes to names, either we’re not narcissistic or we always have been. In any event, this is nothing new. In fact, these naming traditions are older than the profession of psychologist.

Baby Names: Often Deeper Than First Glance (Guest Post by Matt)

The following is a guest post from one of our fans– a man, a father, and lover of language. Check out his intricate explanation of his daughters’ names, and also his solid appreciation of our page.

My wife & I … share [with you] an affinity for the roots and value of good names.

My wife and I just had twin girls last month, and naming was very important to us (and more complicated for not knowing the genders pre-birth). I’m a linguist; she’s a librarian. With the odd surname, we both wanted names that wouldn’t make people raise an eyebrow, since they’ll have to spell or pronounce the surname to everyone all the time.

We ended up with Amelia Katherine and Heather Laurea.

(Backstory: Our original path got us to Heather Laurea and Katherine Linnea, cross-matching meanings with each other as you’ll see, but we also have a niece with the first name Linnea, so we decided we’d avoid it if we found a good alternative.)

Amelia: traditionally “work” or “rival” Ugh.

My wife’s name is Amy, and the “-elia” part references the name אֱלִיָּהוּ Elijah, meaning “my god is YHWH”. Our hebraic spelling, אַמאֱלִיָּה, makes that a little more explicit than English.

Katherine: debatably from “each”, “torture”, or “pure” Meh.
Our Katherine is coming from the Hebrew also: כתר [k-th-r], meaning “crown”, plus the letter nun representing “the Messiah”. There is also a trace of Greek ‘εκατερος (hekateros) “each of the two”.

Heather: Of course, it’s a beautiful flower, but it’s also a transliteration of the Ancient Egyptian word for twins. (And the determinative glyph at the end of the name will be two girls kneeling toward each other holding flowers.)

Would be something similar to this.

Would be something similar to this.

heather
Laurea: This combines the “crown” meaning found in our Katherine and the floral meaning found in Heather, and it just sounds and feels better than Laura, Laurel, and other related names. Although I saw that you had a great description of the name in one of your blog posts, we’re adding that the final syllable [-yah] be the same as the final syllable in Nehemiah, et al; the name of God.

Hence:
Amelia Katherine – “Amy’s god is YHWH”; “crown of the Messiah” (“each of the two”)
Heather Laurea – “One of twins” (flower), (floral) “crown of God”

Anyway, this is just a fan letter of appreciation. Thanks for your etymological integrity!

Matt

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With some knowledge of names and language, you can see how traditional baby names with old roots can have multiple meanings, including very deep and very personal[ized] ones. It can go beyond expectation! Research everything intensely before you select it for your child, and you can even get inventive with it. The popular can be far more exotic and poetic than you’ve imagined.

For more on Ancient Egyptian glyphs and transliteration, see An Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyph Dictionary, Volume I and Volume II.

When Names You Love Mean Bad Things

Which names do you love, but can’t fight how you feel about a

“bad” meaning?

Judy asked:

What happens when you’re not keen on a name meaning? I’m not set on a girl’s name, but like Cecelia. From what I find, it means, “blind.” I’m just not diggin’ it. How does one reconcile this? New name? Bend the meaning a little (like, I could say I hoped she would be blind to differences or blind to obstacles that hold one back or blind to colors that keep people apart, etc). Thoughts?

For me, it is sometimes a deal-breaker. A name is like a wish you make for your child, and it’s one of the first gifts you give to them. Children do often embody their names, so if something is too negative I might strike it off my list. The same way you feel about Cecelia brings to mind the feelings I have for Claudia (“lame”). Geraldine on our page recently disliked the suggestion we gave of Maeve (“intoxicating”, by most counts), feeling it was too negative.

There are a few ways to reconcile this, in my mind.
1. Strike the name off your list.
2. Pair it with a name that gives the total meaning something beautiful or easier to appreciate. Remember, names are like poetry… and you are the poet.

Name Alchemy: when life gives you lemons, make lemonade, lemon water, or anything you can imagine.

3. Find out more about the name. I recommend doing this anyway, for any name you are serious about choosing or keeping on your list. Names often have surprising histories, including meanings that seemed negative, only to find in context, they are beautiful. Of course, the reverse is often true, which is why I recommend researching even the most pleasant of names before definitively using it on your child.

So, let’s see these in action for a moment.

Let’s take Cecelia. Obviously, the first thing you could do is strike it off your list, if you felt so inclined. That’s suggestion Number 1 in action.

The next option is a little like your idea, Judy, of “bending” the meaning a little (which honestly may not be much of a stretch, anyway). It wouldn’t really be too difficult to give a positive spin to “blind”, as you suggested, and it can be even more descriptive when you factor in a middle-name meaning to go with it. Angel, a fan on our page, suggested adding a meaning that would make a phrase you love, such as “love is blind” or “justice is blind”. Those are positives, or can be in many ways. You could literally combine Love or Justice with Cecelia in a first and middle baby name combo, or you could do something figurative or symbolic. You could create a name that signifies miracles by combining Raphaelle (“healed by God”) with Cecelia, and suddenly you have the blind being healed by God. Cecelia Raphaelle just became your “name alchemy”.

St. Cecilia in Pre-Raphaelite art. Painting by John Waterhouse.

Of course, you can always find out more. Most sources indicate Cecelia (or more usually spelled Cecilia) is from the Latin root caecus, for blind. This is then sometimes romanticized to mean “the way for the blind”. However, could this be true? Wikipedia claims that Cecilia is an altered form more closely related to French and archaic French words céscelisme and céciaelism (respectively), which actually mean “one of the shining light” or “one of the world”. I’m having trouble confirming this (French scholars, I could use you right now!), but if this is true, it would make a lot of sense– Cecilia wouldn’t mean “blind”, it would mean “showing the way to the blind”. She would be like a shining light to help people see. Hypothetically. Just looking at the root words, it definitely seems to contain “cecil” (blind) and “ism” (the way of). Seems legit?

I couldn’t verify Wiki’s info this time, but if it isn’t accurate, it’s a great bluff.

Barring that, let me tell you that the Latin “caecus” doesn’t just mean “blind”, it means “hidden”. You could most certainly take “hidden” to be an alternate interpretation of Cecilia.  This is how you can research the names more to discover the meanings are more than what they appear.

Cecilia: “hidden”. Names can literally or figuratively have hidden meanings.