Be Counter-Cultural and Name Your Baby Mary

CatholicbabynamebookOne of the signs that our society has changed is the spate of crazy baby names that began emerging in the Seventies. The decade that brought us sex, drugs, and rock and roll, also brought us Moon Unit 1, the name of Frank Zappa’s oldest daughter. She has three younger siblings, Dweezil, Ahmet, and Diva Muffin.  I don’t know their gender since I’m not up on old rock stars and the names themselves give no clue.

Why pin a ridiculous name on a child for life? I want my child to be an individual is the response.  Yet, there are worse things than lacking an original name, such as being saddled with a bizarre one.  On the subject of bizarre, take a look at some of The Baby Center’s list of unusual baby names for 2012.

Ace, Admire, Americus, Couture, Deva, Excel, Hailo, Inny, J’Adore, Jagger, Jazzy, Jeevika, Joashitha, Juju, Kaisin, Kirshelle, Leeloo, Oasis, Orchid, Queenie, Rilo, Rogue, Samanda, Sanity, Sesame, Shoog, Starlit, Thinn, Twisha, Ummi, Vanille, Vinique, Yoga, Zealand.  Those are girls’ names, by the way.  Here is a sample of boys’ names on the list:  Aero, Alpha, Ball, Bond, Burger, Cajun, Casanova, Cello, Cobain, Crusoe, Drifter, Elite, Espn, Exodus, Four, Goodlck, Google, Haven’T, Hoppo, Htoo, Hurricane, Jedi, Kix, Legacy, Mango, Mowgli, Navaryous, Neon Pate, Pawk, Popeye, Rogue, Rysk, Savior, Shimon, Thunder, Tron, Turbo, Vice,  Villiam, Xenon, Zaniel.

To make the list at least two babies had to be given those names.  While typing them in, I carefully checked for spelling but then realized, what the heck difference does it make?  Still, everything seemed spelled correctly even though my spell checker disagrees. Some of those would make good pet names at best.

Individuality is overrated.  Naming a child after someone based on character or sainthood was once common. The name meant more than just the sound of the letters. When I was a child, Catholic parents, more often than not, named their babies after a favorite saint or one that in some way was connected to their birth. For instance, being born on a saint’s feast day or having prayed to a particular saint and received an answer often inspired parents to choose that saint as their baby’s namesake.

Then, there is the name Mary that reveals  how times have changed. Catholic families typically named at least one of their girls after the Blessed Mother.  Top American Baby Names from 1880 until 1959, shows that for every single one of those years, Mary was the #1 girl’s name.  From 1960-69, the name Mary dropped to #2. From 1970-79, Mary dropped to #15, then down to #35 in 80-89. The popularity of the Blessed Mother’s name kept falling continually until in 2009 it dropped completely from the top 100 name. So, when I named my daughter Mary in 1993, she had a beautiful patron saint in the Blessed Mother and a name that was no longer common.

Consider what’s in a name?  For instance, Pope Francis.  As soon as we heard that Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio took the name Pope Francis after St. Francis of Assisi, he won our hearts. The beloved St. Francis is admired for his simplicity and love of the poor.  Choosing such a name reflects what is in store for his papacy.  As we have learned more about our new Pope, we see that St. Francis of Assisi is a fitting saint for him.

Choosing a name very is serious business.  It becomes both a personal identity and the first impression over a lifetime.  As an example, if you want to make people laugh, mention a ridiculous name. Consider some of these true funny names:  Al Bino, Dinah Soares, Faith Christian, Chris Cross, (My husband knew someone with this name who had a brother named Red.) Forrest Green, Iona Ford, King Queene, Olive Green, Royal Payne, Jay Walker, and
Jean Poole.  There are many more but I’ll spare you.

For such a monumental task as naming baby, author Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur has compiled The Catholic Baby Name Book. It offers the most comprehensive book of names I’ve ever encountered, and I’ve encountered many. In 500 pages there are ten thousand names of saints and biblical figures. Yes, there are many unusual names too. Each entry includes the name’s meaning, language of origin, variations, feast days and patron saint information. Fun facts about names are included too.

This book contains names with meaning beyond a creative mix of letters. I enjoyed just flipping through the pages.  After the long and thoughtful process of naming eight kids and untold pets, I’ve developed a fondness for studying names.

The Catholic Baby Name Book is guaranteed to be a classic. After all, who else is ever going to take the time to compile another such extensive and informative list?  I can’t imagine.

If you are going to have children and even pets, I highly recommend this book.  It would be an excellent gift too. Consider it to be part of the New Evangelization:  getting rid of mumbo-jumbo names for those that actually having meaning within our Catholic faith.


Patti Maguire Armstrong and her husband have ten children. She is an award-winning author and was managing editor and co-author of Ascension Press’s Amazing Grace Series. She has appeared on TV and radio stations across the country.  Her latest books, Big Hearted: Inspiring Stories from Everyday Families and children’s book, Dear God, I Don’t Get It are both available now.

To read more visit Patti’s Catholic News and Inspiration site. Follow her on Facebook at Big Hearted Families and Dear God Books.

Looking for a Catholic Speaker?  Check out Patti’s speaker page and the rest of the ICL Speaker’s Bureau.


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10 Comments

  1. I’ve found that looking for either saint names or Biblical names is very helpful when trying to name a baby. It narrows the focus and my children love to hear about “their” saint(s). We don’t choose Mary because my husband’s family (which is Hispanic) has many Mary’s and Maria’s already. The conversations sound like this: “Maria is expecting again.” “Fred’s Maria? Anita’s Maria, Maggie’s Maria, or your sister Mary?” :) Still, there are lots of wonderful saints with unusual names too. How many Philomena’s or Gianna’s are sitting in the average classroom these days (or even Elizabeth’s or Theresa’s)?

  2. My grandmother was named Mary Josephine. She was born in 1887 and was not expected to live shortly after her birth. Her mother placed her under the protection of Mary and Joseph. She survived and lived to marry and have 11 children. I proudly bear our Blessed Mother’s and my grandmother’s name as my middle name. There are so many beautiful variations of “Mary” in the world. It should never go out of “style.”

    1. My first daughter I named Mary and the second one, Teresa, another favorite Catholic name. I agree that there are many beautiful variations of Mary.

  3. My four year old daughter is named Mary. One thing that has left me astonished is that it is very difficult to find personalized items, like cups and place mats, with the name “Mary” on them. Now that I am thinking about it, she was the only Mary in her pre-K class in a Catholic school…

  4. During my youth, many girls were usually known by double names: Mary Ann,, Mary Agnes, Mary Catherine, Mary Margaret,etc.
    I am amazed at some of the ‘creative’ names of the newly baptized in our parish church. If they did not indicate ‘son’ or ‘daughter’ – I would not have known.
    Thank goodness for Confirmation when children are required to choose a saint’s name – thus forced to learn about at least one saint.
    Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary always include Mary or Marie in their names – as do other Religious Orders (male and female).

  5. Our three girls are all named in some way after Mary to honor her. We have Evelyn Marie, Regina Elizabeth and Helen Maris. People often tell us what beautiful names our children have, and our girls love to celebrate their Marian feast days!

  6. My name is Maria Mercedes, and I’m trying to find names in case my baby is a girl…and I so want to name her Maria too because I love Maria…so this article just put a smile on my face…I’m also contemplating combinations along with it so she has a way of distinguishing herself ;)

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