What's in a name? Ask any expectant parent and you'll hear: a whole lot of pressure. Moms and dads want to be unique but not bizarre, creative but not pretentious, memorable but not laughable. Understanding that her own pregnant sister is traversing these hotly debated waters, Kerry Trotter has found some saints whose names are due for a popular comeback.
Nothing gets us folks here at Word on Fire more excited than the birth of a baby. This is why we are especially thrilled that our own video producer, Megan Fleischel, will be welcoming her third child any day now. Megan happens to be my sister, and she and her husband, Jamie, have kept both the gender of their little one, and what they will call him or her, under wraps.
On the off chance that they aren’t settled on a name, I’ve taken the liberty of offering some suggestions of monikers that are inspiring, original or just plain awesome. Not content with the Top 10 trendy types, and tired of the swinging hipster pendulum to random silent letter territory, I give you these gems. Since we are a Catholic organization, I made sure that these were names of saints, too. If they don’t shelve their own naming plans for one of these, I will be offended.
In alphabetical order, my suggestions:
Abundius — If baby Fleischel winds up a boy, this would be an obvious pick. Both strong and memorable, it has that Latin suffix that screams, “I’m important, and my dad studied the Classics in college.” But moreover, in a twist of nomenclature irony, there is little known about him. Abundius? Not so abundant. Abundius Fleischel, then, has the liberty of writing his own story without anyone too pious to live up to. Score.
Apollonia —I highly recommend this one if baby is a girl. A nod to Megan’s teenage fascination with the film “Purple Rain,” Apollonia would both serve an important cultural touchstone as well as a reminder to maintain good dental hygiene. Apollonia the saint was a virgin martyr and suffered great torture during an anti-Christian uprising in Alexandria in the 3rd century: all her teeth were violently pulled out or shattered. She is the patron saint of dentistry. Don’t forget to floss.
The Venerable Bede — Here we have a truly great (the name wasn't a coincidence) 7th century English monk, scholar, author, linguist and, allegedly, husband. There is some indication in his writings that he had a wife, notably in an aside of his that he didn’t always having time to pray because of his “conjugal duties.” In reality, The Venerable Bede had a bawdy sense of humor, so these references were him just having a chuckle. I like his style. Perhaps this legacy might make The Venerable Bede Fleischel a scholarly chap. Or a real laugh riot. Or a good, doting husband, God bless. And with a first name like “The Venerable Bede Fleischel,” Jermajesty Jackson has a run for his money.
Columbanus — In the vein of Abundius, I give you another hifalutin, Latin-sounding male name. Columbanus Fleischel’s namesake was an Irishman, a nod to his mother’s ancestry, and a monk who spread the practice of confession and penance to what is now France in the 7th and 8th centuries. But, Megan, if you decide to give him a nickname, I would recommend Columb, over, say, … never mind.
Goar — I’m throwing this out there as an antidote to the current trend of taking a relatively common name and getting creative with the spelling. Recently perusing a very highbrow publication, I spotted a photo of Justin Bieber posing with his younger sister Jazmyn. Jazmyn? With a “Y” and a “Z”? Well, that ensures she’ll never find her name on a personalized magnet on a carousel at the airport. So, I give you Goar. If anyone questions how to spell it, they have two reasonable guesses. Personalized magnet, here you come! Saint Goar of Aquitaine was a 7th century priest, hermit and miracle worker. He’s the patron saint of innkeepers, potters and vine growers. So beyond the blessing of an easy spelling, it looks like wee Goar has a job as a Wrigley Field groundskeeper in his future — both for the vines and the miracles.
Innocent — A Russian Orthodox archbishop, Innocent is revered in the Eastern Orthodox church for his work in bringing intellectual pursuits to 19th century Alaska. I happen to like this name a great deal for the baby, as it gives him a nice out for the inevitable trouble making he’ll instigate in his elementary school years. Say a teacher walks into the classroom to find that all the chalkboard erasers had been stolen (do they even use chalkboards anymore?) and immediately looks to the impish little Fleischel. His defense? “I’m Innocent!” Cue raucous laughter and fist bumps from his peers.
Olaf: Pretty tame name, right? Nothing too out-there, nothing too hard to pronounce, nothing that any hipster with a baby name book wouldn’t have stumbled upon first. However, Father Steve recommended this one for his story, not his name. St. Olaf was the 11th century king of Norway, is its patron saint, and is credited with helping to Christianize the country. However, he was a bit of a harsh ruler with a penchant for torture. And he wasn’t much of a king. And his actual allegiance to Christianity is seriously questioned. Actually, Meg, never mind this one.
Paraskeva the Younger — I love the question that would inevitably follow hearing a baby name like this: “Wait, there was a Paraskeva the Elder?” That’s a lot of Paraskevas under one roof. Kind of makes you pine for the wisdom of George Foreman and his many kids of that moniker. At least “George” was one syllable. This might put undue pressure on Meg and Jamie to rename one of their older kids, or it just lends a degree of finality to their childbearing. You can’t get much younger than “The Younger” (the Youngest?). Oh, Paraskeva the Younger was an 11th century visionary and ascete who was from present day Istanbul. If you were wondering.
Rictrude — This might be my favorite. Immediately, we jump to the male nickname, Ric, which sounds impossibly cool, and is a one-way ticket to a life as a stunt double, catalog model, or ten-gallon hat-wearing oil magnate. The kids could call him Slick Ric, and he could write his own destiny. Fabulous, right? And when they ask, “So are you a Richard?” He’ll simply reply, “Nah, player. Rictrude.” <applause> Wait, a second … St. Rictrude was a woman?? Well, there go those theories. Now I read that the female Rictrude was an abbess in 7th century Flanders. She was married and had four kids, all of whom were saints. But no pressure, lil’ Rictrude! And don’t tell anyone you have a girl’s name.
Ubald — This is a good name if Baby Fleischel is a feisty one. Immediately, he’d have to come out swinging. The name demands it. Look a little into the future with me to a surly, 6-year-old Ubald waiting to be picked for a T-ball team in summer camp. The captain points to him and says, “Ubald” to which the Fleischel boy hastily replies, “I bald? You ugly!” When he sees the look on the captain’s face indicating the mistake, he is recalcitrant. O, the hilarity. Anyway, St. Ubald was a 12th century Italian bishop from Gubbio. He was pious, generous, meek, faithful, passionate and — woah, Ubald of Gubbio? This may just have jumped up over Rictrude to get my official endorsement.
Father Barron — I can’t submit a list of names without including this one. Father Barron (the adult priest, not the baby) frequently, and jokingly, suggests this as an idea for infants. And he’s not suggesting simply Barron, which, either one “R” or two, is having a bit of a moment in the celebrity baby name scene. He’s talking about the whole shebang: Father Barron Fleischel. Come to think of it, it’s only a matter of time before someone goes there. Be the vanguard, Meg, and make the man happy.
There you have it, Meg, some perfectly lovely names you won’t hear shouted by a dozen different moms at Chuck E. Cheese’s. I know little Apollonia or Rictrude might have some questions to answer and spellings to correct, but consider what that first Mackenzie had to go through.
If none of these tickle your fancy, there’s always Barsanuphius, Dymphina, Fructosus or Zygmunt.
Kerry Trotter is the content manager at Word on Fire and has curious taste in baby names.
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