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“What in Thy Name?”—The History and Geography of Girls’ and Boys’ Names

Submitted by on October 24, 2013 – 12:10 pm 81 Comments |  
As a university lecturer, I noticed that certain first names are common in different cohorts of students. A few years ago, I would often have two or three Jessicas in my classes, then it was Ashleys, then Jessicas made a come-back. This personal hunch is confirmed by a series of maps, published recently by Jezebel.com and reproduced at the bottom of this post. Based on data from the Social Security Administration, these maps show the most popular names for girls by state, for babies born from 1960 through 2012. While some parents select unusual names for their kids, most opt for safe or fashionable choices. As with clothing, certain names sweep the country, stay popular for a while, and then fall out of fashion, rarely to return. The only name that came back after a brief period of lesser popularity is “Jessica”: for two years it ceded the crown to “Ashley”, but then gained it again in 1993. The most popular girl’s name for the longest time running was “Jennifer”: after taking the top position in just one state—Utah—in 1969, it swept the country and by 1973 it was the most popular girl’s name in all states. It remained at the top-of-the-charts across the country through 1978, but in 1979 started giving way to “Amanda”. Yet, “Jennifer” continued to be the most popular name in most states through 1984.

Several fascinating historical patterns in girl’s names emerge from these data. According to Reuben Fischer-Baum, the author of the Jesebel.com post,

“the recession seems to have put a temporary damper on creative baby naming. In 2007, eight different baby names made the map—including less-traditional names like Addison, Ava, and Madison—and all carried at least two states. By 2012 the map has just five names, and 47 states went with either “Sophia” or “Emma.” A yearning for simpler times?”

At the first glance, the oil crisis and the subsequent stock market crash of 1973-1974 seem to correlate with the unprecedented homogeneity in the most popular baby girl’s name: all states at the time went for “Jennifer”. However, this pattern represented a continuation of the rising popularity trend for “Jennifer” that actually began earlier: this name topped the list in 31 states in 1970, 43 states in 1971, and 47 states in 1972. All in all, “Jennifer” remained the most popular girl’s name for fifteen years, despite the ebb and flow of the country’s economy. Nor does the pre- and post-9/11 data confirm the pattern identified by Fischer-Baum. In the period from 2000 and 2004—before and after the events of 2001—each year five names carried at least one state—except in 2002, when six names appear on the map.

Mary_LisaThe changes in the popularity of various names do seem to correlate with cultural factors. The two names that were most popular through the 1960s, “Mary” and “Lisa”, are old regal English appellations. The name “Mary”, which goes back to the Old Testament (derived from the Hebrew Miryām ‘sea of bitterness, sea of sorrow’), saw its popularity peak in the United States in 1880s (the charts on the left from BabyNameWizard.com show the popularity in the US). Its frequency decreased only gradually over the next six decades and it was still the most popular name as late as 1961.

In 1962, “Lisa”, newly abbreviated from “Elizabeth”, supplanted “Mary” as the most popular name nationwide. The Swinging Sixties, a cultural decade that many historians define as beginning in 1962-63, was no time for the long and ceremonial “Elizabeth”. Throughout the 1970s, “Lisa” remained in the top-10, but eventually lost popularity. A similar fashion for “Lisa” is apparent on the other side of the Atlantic: in the United Kingdom, this name began to gain popularity during the 1960s and by 1974 was the fifth most popular female name.

jennifer.fThe tendency for choosing newly popular names continues throughout 1970s and 1980s, a period characterized by economic upheavals and the transition of the geopolitical hotspot from Southeast Asia to the Middle East. In 1970, “Jennifer” emerged as the most popular girl’s name, replacing “Lisa”; it retained that status for the longest period of any given name, 15 years. Of Celtic origin, “Jennifer” is a Cornish version of Guinevere (Gwenhwyfar in Welsh); until the 20th century, it was largely a regional name. Although George Bernard Shaw used it for the main female character in The Doctor’s Dilemma, “Jennifer” did not appear in the top 100 list for baby girls in Britain until 1934, more than a quarter of a century after Shaw’s play was first staged. In the UK, “Jennifer” never reached the same heights of fashion as it did in the US: its record popularity in Britain was #11 in 1984, by which time it already began to give ground to “Jessica” in the US. According to the Wikipedia article on the name “Jennifer”:

“though its popularity is often attributed to the use of the name in the novel and film Love Story, Jennifer was already the number three name given to baby girls in the United States in 1969, the year before the book and movie were released.”

Jessica_Ashley

The late 1980s and the early 1990s—the period that saw the end of the Cold War —is the time when “Jessica” became the most popular name, with the exception of the two-year period when “Ashley” briefly overshadowed it. (Originally a male name, “Ashley” was the most popular girl’s name for only two years, although it was a runner-up for six years prior to that.*) Probably of Biblical Hebrew origin, “Jessica” is the name of Shylock’s daughter in Shakespeare’s play The Merchant of Venice. In England and Wales, the age of “Jessica” ascendancy trails that in the US by about 15 years, as its height of British popularity was reached in 2005.

emily.f

The last name to retain its top ranking for more than a couple of years is “Emily”, which crowned the charts from 1996 through 2007. With roots in ancient Rome, this name has been hugely popular in the English-speaking world over the past two decades, ranking at or near the top in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand. Its cultural associations include Emily Dickinson, “evoking images of a woman who is both beautiful and smart”, as noted in a May 2008 Associated Press article.

Isabella_Sophia

From 2008 on, the most popular names began to replace each other at a faster pace: “Isabella” and “Sophia” were most popular for two years each, and “Emma”, whose initial popularity peaked in the 1880s, made a comeback, winning the top ranking in 2008.

 

 

 

Madison

What gives a certain name mass popularity is typically the appeal of some cultural figure, real or more often fictional, carrying that name. For example, “Madison” was originally a male name meaning ‘Maud’s son’ that turned into a surname; as a female given name, it was virtually unknown before 1985. Madison first appears on the map of most popular names in 1996, when it won three states: Utah, Oklahoma, and Kansas. Its popularity continued to grow and by 2002 it has become the second most popular name, carrying twenty-two states in the Plains, the South, the Mid-Atlantic, and the Midwest. The popularity of this mane is evidently due to the 1984 movie Splash, in which Daryl Hannah plays a mermaid who picked up English from watching television all day and chose her name from a Madison Avenue sign.

michelle.f

A somewhat similar story can be told in regard to the name Michelle. It briefly rose in popularity in selected states starting in 1967, when it emerged as the most popular girl’s name in Colorado. By 1969, it was the second most popular name after “Lisa”, carrying twelve states. Michelle’s popularity then continued to wane until it disappeared from the map of most popular names in 1972. Its brief surge in popularity is due to the eponymous Beatles song, which was written in 1965 and won the Grammy Award for Song of the Year in 1967. As “Michelle” became one of the most popular Beatles song in France, it would be interesting to see if it had an effect on name fashion in that country.

The geographical patterns in name choices are instructive as well. Surprisingly, the most fashionable names tend to first rise to the top of the charts not in the states that are commonly regarded as cultural leaders, such as New York, California, or Massachusetts. Quite the opposite is true: top names generally gain popularity initially in states such as Nevada (“Lisa”, 1960), Utah (“Jennifer”, 1969), Alaska and Maine (“Jessica”, 1980), Louisiana, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Indiana (“Ashley”, 1983), Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Connecticut (“Emily”, 1993), Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, and Vermont (“Emma”, 2002). However, the West and New England are the two region that are most likely to stand out from the rest of the country as forward-looking and experimental, choosing names that do not necessarily sweep the country. In 1960, names such as “Susan”, “Donna”, “Lori”, “Julie”, and “Karen” win the top spots in these states. In 1961, “Lisa”, which won the top spot in Nevada in the previous year, spreads across the entire West and most of New England, as well as Kansas, Oklahoma, Indiana, Tennessee, and Hawaii, in preparation for its accent to the national top ranking in 1962. “Mary”, however, continued to be popular in many states, except in the West and New England, through 1964; it was still the most popular name in Alaska as late as 1966 and in Mississippi as late as 1967.

Other regional patterns include the popularity of “Angela” and “Kimberley” in the South in 1970. “Angela” remained fashionable in such Southern states as Mississippi, Arkansas, Tennessee, and the Carolinas in 1971 and in Mississippi and South Carolina in 1972. Many Southern states tend to pattern distinctly from the rest of the country, choosing “Amanda” in 1979, “Ashley” in 1983, and “Brittany” in 1989 and 1990. In contrast, “Emily” virtually never made it to the top in the South during its twelve years of nationally ascendancy, with the exception of Georgia in 1999 and 2003-2005, and the Carolinas in 2005. Likewise, “Sophia”, the most popular female name nationally in 2011-2012, never made it big in the South, nor did the male name “Oliver”, which has become wildly popular in much of the rest of the country in the past few years.

baby-names_052413

More diversity is apparent when it comes to boy’s names according to the maps from Nick Mom (reproduced on the left). While only five girl’s names occupied the top position in at least one state in 2012—Sophia, Emma, Olivia, Isabella and Ava—twelve boy’s names did the same: Jacob, William, Liam, Mason, Alexander, Benjamin, Michael, Elijah, Noah, Ethan, James, and Jaden.

 

 

 

 

 

England_Wales_names

Parents in England, Wales, Scotland, Australia, and elsewhere in the English-speaking world have their own preferences for names (the maps on the left are reproduced from MindfulMum.co.uk). Interestingly, in the UK more geographical diversity is encountered in the popularity of girl’s names than boy’s names. Generally, Welsh parents fancy “Oliver” for boys and “Lily” for girls. The latter is also most favorite name with parents from southern England and the North East. In the Midlands, the most popular girl’s name is “Amelia”, in Yorkshire & Humberside and in North West it is “Olivia”, and in London it is “Isabella” (an American import, perhaps?). As for boys names, only three made it onto the map: “Jack” in the North East, “Daniel” in London, and “Harry” elsewhere—the only name to retain its popularity from the traditional trio of “Tom, Dick, and Harry”. (In the U.S, “Harry” does not even make it into the top 100 list.)

Scottishbabynames

In Scotland, more diversity is found in the geography of both boy’s and girl’s names than in England: “Jack” is popular in some areas, as are “Alexander”, “Logan”, “James”, “Charlie”, “Harry”, “Daniel”, “Lewis”, and “Connor”. As for girls, the popular choices include: “Sophie”, “Isla”, “Olivia”, “Ava”, “Lily”, “Jessica”, “Amy”, “Emily”, “Eva”, and “Hannah”.

Australia_names

In Australia, four girl’s names and three boy’s names take the top slot in one state or territory each. “Ruby” is popular in New South Wales and Tasmania, “Olivia” in Victoria, “Charlotte” in Western Australia, South Australia, and Queensland, and “Chloe” in Northern Territory. As for boys, contrary to the jokes, “Bruce” is not among the most popular choices. “Jack” is the winner in Victoria, South Australia, Queensland, and Tasmania, “William” in New South Wales and Northern Territory, and “Noah” in Western Australia.

MaleNamesMap

The final set of maps shows the most popular male name by country; note the popularity of “John”-variants in Iceland, Ireland, Portugal, and Lithuania; of “Luke”-variants in France, Norway, Switzerland, Austria, Slovenia, and Croatia; and of “George”-variants in Greece, Bulgaria, and—unsurprisingly—Georgia. In Russia and Ukraine, versions of “Alexander” are most popular.

 

___________

ashley.m

*As a male name, the frequency of “Ashley” dropped virtually to zero around the turn of the twentieth century and rose again in the early 1980s.

 

 

 

1960_Mary1961_Mary1962_Lisa 1963_Lisa1964_Lisa     1965_Lisa1966_Lisa1967_Lisa1968_Lisa1969_Lisa1970_Jennifer1971_Jennifer1972_Jennifer1973_Jennifer 1974_Jennifer 1975_Jennifer 1976_Jennifer 1977_Jennifer 1978_Jennifer1979_Jennifer 1980_Jennifer 1981_Jennifer 1982_Jennifer 1983_Jennifer 1984_Jennifer 1985_Jessica 1986_Jessica 1987_Jessica1979_Jennifer 1980_Jennifer 1981_Jennifer 1982_Jennifer 1983_Jennifer 1984_Jennifer 1985_Jessica 1986_Jessica 1987_Jessica 1988_Jessica 1989_Jessica 1990_Jessica1991_Ashley 1992_Ashley 1993_Jessica 1994_Jessica 1995_Jessica 1996_Emily 1997_Emily 1998_Emily 1999_Emily 2001_Emily 2002_Emily 2003_Emily 2004_Emily 2005_Emily 2006_Emily 2007_Emily 2008_Emma 2009_Isabella 2010_Isabella 2011_Sophia 2012_Sophia

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  • SirBedevere

    Is the Turkish “Can” also a John variant?

    I find the popularity of Bence in Hungary and Leon in Germany very interesting, since they both sound very old-fashioned to me and certainly have not been overly popular in recent times. Jakub in Poland and Slovakia is also interesting to me. When I was studying Russian in college, my teacher would call me by the name Yakov Feronovich (my father’s first name and my middle name is Theron), which Russian friends found oddly Jewish sounding. They seemed to think that Yakov was so Jewish sounding that it would be odd for a gentile to have it, yet here in two Slavic countries–albeit West Slavic–the most popular boy’s name is now a version of Jacob/James.

    • nachasz

      When I was studying Russian in college, my teacher would call me by the name Yakov Feronovich, which Russian friends found oddly Jewish sounding.

      It’s not strange, because that’s the Hebrew form of this name. If your teacher called you Yakob, they would found it sounding rather German. In Poland the name Jakub is present from quite long time and so it’s not regarded as foreign, but I too have no idea what drives its current popularity.

      • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

        Yakov (Яков) was a perfectly useable Russian name (http://ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D0%AF%D0%BA%D0%BE%D0%B2_%D0%90%D1%84%D0%B0%D0%BD%D0%B0%D1%81%D1%8C%D0%B5%D0%B2%D0%B8%D1%87_%D0%9B%D1%83%D0%BA%D1%8C%D1%8F%D0%BD%D0%BE%D0%B2), despite its Biblical origin. BTW, the Biblical name Jacob in rendered in Russia as “Yaakov” (Иаков).

        • Nicéphore Jünge

          Another potential explanation for the use of OT names among Europeans, is that among the legendary legitimation attempts of dynastic ruling castes in Europe, along with descent from the Trojans and what not, has been the theory of descent from the ‘lost tribes of Israel’ (Anglo-Israelism is a typical, even extreme, case of this trend, and actually likely influenced the Puritans). Which might explain why some monarchs and lower-ranking hierarchs could take OT names, which still lower-status people could then take as well in an effort to symbolically elevate their status by partaking in the prestige of those higher up called the same as them. But also often, even with this, the OT names where much adapted (Yakoub is barely even recognizable as James or Jacques, for example ; same goes for Yohannan -> John, Jean, Ivan), probably – at very least in part – so that the European carrier of the OT name would precisely not be mistaken for a Jew of his day & time, I think it’s fair to assume. The main exception being the names of the leading figures bridging the Two Testaments, such as Joseph (both name of one of the sons of Yakoub in the OT and name of the father of the Christ in the NT), Michael (one of the leading Archangels, hence in office both in the OT and NT periods, evidently), also Daniel (OT prophet held by Christians to have particularly heralded the NT coming of the Christ)… But there are also outliers hard to account for, like David, popular among Christians – though it might be recent and Protestant-influenced, I don’t know – while Salomon isn’t.

          • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

            “so that the European carrier of the OT name would precisely not be
            mistaken for a Jew of his day & time, I think it’s fair to assume” — the adaptation/modification of OT names in this fashion has nothing to do with non-Jews not wanting to be taken for Jews. It’s simply a result of the language-wide phonological changes. The change from ianuarius to January/janvier etc. is part of the same process (which curiously is an example of fortition rather than the more cross-linguistically common lenition). Naturally, the Jews kept the (Biblical) Hebrew pronunciation of the names.

          • Nicéphore Jünge

            I don’t really see a contradiction there. There would be one if the Jews did not keep the pseudo-original pronunciation (I say pseudo because nobody know the “original” pronunciation, and there likely isn’t such a thing in many cases – e.g. what’s the ‘original’ pronunciation of “Moses”, considering it’s used in the Bible in Hebrew, a Western-Semitic dialect that was a vernacular language some 2500 years ago is some little county in Canaan, and it’s been introduced in that context after having been used for millennia in Egyptian). If the Jews changed the Biblical names like the phonetic laws changed the languages in general, and others were content to sport the same names pronounced the same way, then my hypothesis wouldn’t hold at all. But I actually know that sometimes Jews were even forced to use distinctive names (including names considered different because precisely pronounced differently than the ones people used in accordance to their evolved language patterns?) so I think maintaining a difference was intentional (probably on both parts), and the linguistic shift was probably a useful coincidental way to have it happen rather than a totally unrelated occurrence.

          • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

            Phonological changes are “unrelated” in the sense that they actually predate the name choices. Once both European languages underwent certain phonological changes, the result was distinct forms of originally the same name and one could chose the Jewish or the non-Jewish variant. It wasn’t the case that the Jewish names were arbitrarily changed by non-Jews to avoid confusion.

            As for knowing or not knowing the original pronunciation of Biblical Hebrew, nowadays there’s a great deal of knowledge/understanding among linguists as to how ancient (e.g. Tiberian) Hebrew was pronounced. How do we know? I’ve described some of the techniques in a recent post:
            http://www.geocurrents.info/cultural-geography/linguistic-geography/proto-indo-european-sound-like-can-know
            There’s also internal reconstruction, which is a bit too complex to explain in a couple of sentences here.

            There is also the so-called Massoretic pronunciation, which is probably quite distinct from the “original” Biblical pronunciation (as there almost certainly were different dialects of Hebrew around the time the OT was written). But in most cases it’s the Massoretic pronunciation that has become the standard since then.

          • Nicéphore Jünge

            So you have proof that Christians used OT names, and pronounced the same as the Jews did, before these names took on peculiar dialectal variants? How could this even be possible, the lingua franca of Christianity was Greek and Latin, wouldn’t they have hellenized and then also latinized the names right of the bat, before making even further-sounding forms in the vernaculars? Heck, even in the NT you don’t have the OT names/pronunciations. Are you telling me that Jews of say year 0 CE called the guy the Bible says conquered Canaan, and gave their kids the name, Yehoshuah, or Iesous? Some hellenized and then also latinized Jews might well have used hellenized then also latinized version of OT names, but I highly doubt that you had Hellene and Latin Christians calling themselves OT names in the Hebrew/Jewish fashion.

          • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

            They might have adapted the Hebrew names to Latin/Greek, though I doubt many pre-Christian Romans/Greeks used those names at all. The change I was particularly talking about, the fortition ia>ja etc. is a much later process.

          • Nicéphore Jünge

            I know about the Masoretic entreprise, but as you imply, it happened much later. Anyhow, I don’t mean to be harsh in my comments so I apologize if I’ve been here and there. I’m just a little tense, I’ve something important to do. And I’ve got to quit chatting here for that matter, or I’ll just stay for hours still. Later, Asya. :)

          • Sarah

            Sarah and Susannah were very popular female names in England before the Protestant Reformation, whereas in Germany, a name like Sarah, until the 20th-century was only found among Jews and even Jews before WWII would rarely use that name as it sounded too Jewish.

            Across Europe, Susannah and its appropriate forms have been popular since Medieval times. In the New Testament, Susannah is the name of a close friend of the Virgin Mary and she is revered as a Catholic saint.

            However, certain OT names were in popular use in one Medieval Christian country, but hardly heard of in another. It is a mystery to me.

            Sarah for instance was a very popular female name in Medieval England, but very unusual to find among Christians in other European countries.

            I have studied naming trends throughout the centuries for years and I have no idea why one name is popular in one Jewish group or Christian group but is taboo or unheard of in another. For instance, why was the name Jessica so common among Medieval English Jews but was unheard of among other Jewish groups in Europe? Jessica is a form of Iscah, which is the name of a minor female figure in the Old Testament. Another one which baffles me and which has no religious connotations is the name Liquoricia. This was a very popular female name among Medieval French and English Jews but it was seldom heard among gentiles. It is simply Latin for “Liquorice.”

            I have a few theories..

            OT names were in use among Christians as well. As I have pointed out before, Sarah was very popular among English Christians but seldom heard among French of German-Christians. I am not sure for this reason, but I have a theory for this as well. The average person, Jew or Christian, was not literate in Medieval Times. They got their Biblical sources from the local Rabbi or priest who would perhaps do a reading from the Torah on the Sabbath or the Bible on Sundays. One priest in one country and one parish may emphasize the trials and tribulations of the Biblical Sarah while a priest in another parish may talk about a particular saint. It was probably the same with Jewish communities. One rabbi may have had an affinity to talk about Iscah for whatever reason while another would hardly ever mention her. These trends of course would influence baby names.

            Also, Medieval Jews liked to directly translate Hebrew names into local vernacular names. So Peninnah (pearl) became Perla in Spanish and Italian and Perl in Medieval German. Ari (lion) or Ariel (lion of God) becomes Leo in Italian/Spanish and Lev in Russian. Nathaniel (gift of God) became Bogdan (gift of God) in Polish etc.

            Another thing which should be taken into account is that when it came to female children, Medieval parents (Jewish or Christian) tended to favor nature-related names vs religious names. Names like Alice (noble-sort), Damson, Pavie (Pear), Elfleda (beautiful elf) were far more common in England than a lot of religious names. The same goes for Jews. Names like Elfleda, Liquoricia (Liquorice), Almunda (almond) and Alice were far more commonly found among Medieval Jewish girls than OT names.

            Many Yiddish names are a legacy of this phenomenon. Shayna (beautiful), Feiga (bird, though this can easily translate from Zipporah) for example actually come from Medieval German names that were popularly used among both Christians and gentiles. They fell out of use among the German population by the Protestant Reformation and Counter-Reformation when saints names or Biblical names were encouraged while random names with no religious connotations were discouraged. These names remained common in the more isolated Jewish communities and as they pushed eastward in Slavic countries, these name came to have specific Jewish connotations.

            Names of one particular saint would be popular in one country but unheard of in another country. St. Flora was the name of a Spanish saint and hence a popular name in Medieval Spain, but would have been unheard of in Medieval Poland. On the otherside, a Roman saint, Florian was a popular saint in Central Europe as a Church was dedicated to him (I forget if it was in Austria or Poland) while Florian would have been an unheard of name in Medieval England. Verena and Regula are two names which have been popular among Swiss-Germans for centuries due to the cult of two saints of the same names whose cults were popular in Zurich, but these same names would have been unheard of in neighboring German-speaking countries.

    • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

      I am afraid I don’t really know about the Turkish name. Maybe some of our readers do?

      As for Jacob being a Jewish-sounding name in Russia, thanks for bringing up this topic. You are absolutely right there are such names, and Jacob is one of them. Mark is another. But since many Jews russified Jewish names, often by selecting a Russian name that sounds similar, those originally perfectly Russian names became “Jewish”. Borukh became Boris (originally a Slavic and not even a Biblical name!), Hannah became Anna, Arye became Lev (yes, it’s not really similar-sounding, but Arye in Hebrew and Lev in Russian both mean ‘lion’), etc.

      • SirBedevere

        Well, I suppose those kinds of identifications happen in all languages. The name Irving sounded like a sort of aristocratic English name to Americans in the 19c, I think, but now it definitely sounds East Coast Jewish to me. I assume it was used for boys whose name was Yitzhak, or something similar. On the other hand, when I have asked students, they don’t connect names like Benjamin, Noah, or Joshua with Jewishness, nor even with the Hebrew Bible.

        • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

          Interesting comments about Jewish- and American-sounding names!

          Irving could be Yitzhak or Israel (like Berlin, the composer). But more on that in my next post! Stay tuned!

        • Nicéphore Jünge

          A lot of Old-Testament names don’t sound Jewish to Americans because of the Protestant, and especially Puritan/Presbyterian/Congregationalist…, roots of the country, as this movement has tended to identify strongly at least originally with the Jews (it shows in such things as the Pilgrims fleeing oppression in Europe and conquering and settling the New World, America, as the Hebrews are told to have fled oppression in Egypt and conquered and settled the Promised Land, Canaan; you also have the concept of “Manifest Destiny” which is a form of American exceptionalism likely pretty modeled on Jewish exceptionalism – with America designed to be “a shining city on a hill” (from Puritan Winthrop paraphrasing the Sermon on the Mount) like Israel is to be a “light unto all nations” (Isaiah). Protestantism and especially its most radical versions oft tended to blend in the Two Testaments rather than consider the New as transcending and mostly superseding the Old (e.g. the Münster theocrats, who tried to bring about the immediate return of Christ through the creation of a concrete Kingdom of God on Earth, much like the Jewish messianic movements of the first centuries of the current era had tried to bring about the end of times through the expulsion of non-Yahwists from Canaan (see ‘Jewish-Roman Wars’ in Wikipedia on that, for instance). Hence the fact that in Early New England, many first names were Semitic names from the Old Testament, e.g. Elijah (from the OT) and its Greek version Elias (same character, but as written in the NT, and many took him to mean another guy), Isaac, Moses, Solomon, Ira, Seth, Jedediah, Benjamin, Samuel, Daniel, Abraham,
          Bethiah, Ebenezer, Susanna,
          Ruth, Josiah, Joseph, Japhet, Naphthali, Hannah, David, Nathaniel, Jonas, Obadiah, Tahan, Zerubbabel, Hezekiah… Cf. here, for a Massachusetts cemetery record of quite later date that still clearly reflects this trend : http://www.accessgenealogy.com/massachusetts/phinneys-lane-cemetery-centerville-barnstable-county-massachusetts.htm
          You’d have been, or would be hard pressed to find anyone in England (or even in the Virginia colony then) with those kinds of names, who’d seem ostensibly Jewish, or just plain weird for the lesser known among them. It’s somewhat akin to circumcision, most people consider it pure and simple genital mutilation, including most Christians (all Catholics, all Orthodox, and even most Protestants) who consider that it was a Jewish ritual that Christ abrogated (replacing the ceremonial laws with the law of grace, accomplishing the law by suspending it in the cadre of messianic times, and all that) but somehow many (though its fading fast now) Protestant Americans have been massively having it done (though I don’t remember when that started, it might be quite recent in fact, but its still in accordance with the general Protestant closeness to the OT) and many have been trying to find fanciful hygienic justifications for it too now (I’m sure if you cut your arm off you’re less likely to have a sore elbow too… but maybe there’s a reason all humanity’s males have a natural protective sheath protecting the most innervated part of their body most of the time).

          • SirBedevere

            You are, of course, absolutely right about Puritan Old Testament names. That said, many recently fashionable names, such as Ezekiel and Zachariah, were not really terribly fashionable in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, but have made a come-back. The only connection they might have to John Winthrop is that they have a suitably old-fashioned, even early American, sound to them, precisely like girl’s names like Sophie and Emily have, even though neither one has anything to do with Judaism, coming as they do from Greek and Latin.

            You can find discussions on the tedious topic of circumcision on other parts of this site. That said, it has bugger-all to do with Protestantism, though the vast majority of Americans do not find it to be “genital mutilation” either. To my knowledge, Puritans did not circumcise their sons. It came with ideas about hygiene in the early twentieth century and was popular among American Protestants, Catholics, Orthodox, and everyone else. I grew up in a religiously diverse part of the American Pacific Northwest, in an age when kids still were required to shower after gym, and circumcised penises were only seen on kids who immigrated (usually from Asia, but that was probably just an artifact of the geography).

          • Nicéphore Jünge

            I agree with the first part of your comment. As for the second one, it mandates further investigation (which I had done some of, but forgot) that said I’d bet you a nickel that those who popularized the notion that circumcision was a healthy thing were circumcised themselves (probably Jews, that and/or members of some minority group or groups of ‘restorationist’ Christians, perhaps, like a splinter group from Campbell’s Disciples of Christ or something). I think that’s more than likely because it is a bizarre notion to come up with out of nothing, and once you have been submitted to such a procedure, especially as a kid, you will naturally have a strong incentive to justify it, otherwise you’ve just been butchered for some superstitious nonsense without even having agreed to it (without even adding the small %age of disastrous operations’ results and the massive tendency to suffer keratinization of the glans throughout life after circumcision, which even quite routinely leads to anorgasmia – it’s no wonder so many WASPs, Jews, and Muslims are so prone to abnormal sexual propensities – hehe, I’m playing with you a bit here, though I do mean it anyway). And I don’t know how you justify refusing to recognize it as a form of genital mutilation, which isn’t even value-laden as such, but a simple statement of fact – you’re welcome to embrace any kind of bodily mutilation you want as far as I’m concerned ; heck, I have a tattoo, just to remind me that young people tend to make stupid decisions, lol.

            And I don’t get the reference to “an age when kids still were required to shower after gym,” you mean kids don’t shower after gym today? That’s pretty gross.

            And I do know that circumcision became an American thing in general, regardless of differing faiths, under the pretext of hygiene, but I was talking about how it came to be as such.

          • SirBedevere

            I don’t know that it is such a bizarre notion. I have only a daughter, but friends who have sons have told me that cleaning an infant’s penis is something one must do more when the boy is uncircumcised. I am sure that, in the age of Pasteur and Koch, this must have made it seem more hygienic. As to “genital mutilation,” I suppose I have engaged in oral mutilation when I had my daughter’s overcrowded teeth taken out or when I had laminates put in. When my ENT shortened the flanges inside my nose (can’t remember the anatomical name), I suppose he was engaging in nasal mutilation.

            Actually, the Campbellite thing is interesting, since I was raised in a Campbellite church. Just as most Presbyterians in the twentieth century, though, had no idea that their church was founded on ideas of Predestination, by the late nineteenth century, the Campbellite churches had mostly melded into the mainstream of liberal Protestantism by the end of the nineteenth century. When I was growing up, the only required doctrine seemed to be a sort of watery McGovernite progressivism.

            Unfortunately, as I understand, kids have been so scared about molestation that most refuse to take showers after gym and simply douse themselves with body spray. There are complaints from teachers and hygienic concerns, but most schools, at least in the Chicago area, seem to have given up on the issue.

            Of course, I take your humorous characterization in the spirit it was meant, and will own up to abnormal sexual propensities, though not anorgasmia. That said, if I had adopted the handle you have, I think I would limit my mock prejudice to WASPs.

          • Nicéphore Jünge

            A circumcision is closer to a clitorectomy than to the pulling out of wisdom teeth in my opinion, though admittedly much milder.

            Funny that you were raised a Campbellite. I know a bit about them because I studied the Mormons, and as you might know, they were somewhat of a de fact offshoot of the Disciples of Christ, through Sidney Rigdon, who went from number 3 of the Campbellite movement to number 2 of the Mormon one, and who likely composed much of the Book of Mormon (cf. the Spalding-Rigdon authorship of the Book of Mormon hypothesis, which I believe to be strong). Campbell didn’t want to structure his movement firmly, he was too much of an idealist and a liberal, he sabotaged his own creation, in my opinion.

            On the shower issue, really? Wow. What the hell’s going on there.

            And sorry but I didn’t get what you mean about my handle. Quid?

          • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

            “A circumcision is closer to a clitorectomy”—on what grounds? (other than involving genitalia rather than teeth)

          • Nicéphore Jünge

            It reduces sexual pleasure by desensitizing. Removing the clitoris does so radically and suddenly, removing the foreskin does it less so and progressively, but still, there is a clear analogy there.

          • SirBedevere

            It strikes me that this analogy would be like comparing clipping one’s fingernails to the declawing of cats.

          • Nicéphore Jünge

            Before man made his first tool, maybe that analogy could be somewhat relevant… :p

          • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

            I don’t have a first hand experience with either procedure but from what I understand circumcision does not affect the ability to have an orgasm (in fact, perhaps even prolongs the pleasure, so a good thing), whereas clitoral removal does. So the parallelism is rather dubious.

          • Nicéphore Jünge

            It prolongs the act, because it’s less satisfying. Hence porn stars having to jerk of like crazy after penetrating 12 broads for an hour and a half to manage to come…

          • SirBedevere

            Transsexuals pay good money to have an operation that is much more like a clitorectomy. The closest comparison for a female would have to be the sort of cosmetic labia reductions that I understand are popular among female porn stars.

            What serendipity, I was thinking of Sidney Rigdon too, since I am currently reading Bowman’s _The Mormon People_. The Campbell’s though seem to have been looking for a lowest common denominator of Christian doctrine, though.

            Ah, well, Jünge sounds a bit Teutonic to be talking about the decadence of the Jews.

          • Nicéphore Jünge

            Are you promoting transsexuals as a model for sexual health, lol? And no, labia reduction has no significant effect, at least as far as I know.

            Awesome about Rigdon, I’m fascinated with the guy. You have to check out this series of videos (most of the first one is introductory superfluousness, so you might want to skip that, or speed through it a bit) : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=utDU45lm210&list=PL659F8CE138B4FB5D

            And I totally recommend “Sidney Rigdon: A Portrait of Religious Excess” by Van Wagoner. Great Stuff.

            Is the book you mention any good?

            I actually visited a bunch of Mormon sites like Palmyra/Manchester with its hill ‘Cumurah’ where the Book of Mormon was supposedly found, Nauvoo on the Mississippi (but Rigdon’s house isn’t opened for visit, though the post office which he ran is), the Carthage jail where Joe Jr. died… and SLC of course. I love the Mormons. The kindest of folks. And one of the rare White populations not racing to extinction as well.

            Ah, lol, yeah, well, Jünge – besides meaning “young” – is a reference to Ernst Jünger, who was one of the driving forces of the “conservative revolution” during the Weimar years, but who was not a nazi. As for Nicéphore, it means “bringer of victory, and it’s after the Byzantine emperor who conquered back a bunch of lands from the Muslims.

          • SirBedevere

            While I have no problem with sex reassignment surgery, I was simply saying that a clitorectomy is far more like penectomy than like circumcision.

            The Bowman book strikes me as a perfectly nice, balanced look at the LDS movement, though I have only gotten up to the 1860s. It’s not actually something I am particularly interested in, but I like for pleasure to read histories of things I feel less familiar with. My own specialty has been medieval East Central Europe, so I am quite familiar with a number of the Nikephoroi (I assume your name is from Phokas), and I had some passing familiarity with Ernst Jünger, generally from some mentions in Hungarian writers. I must admit, though, that I would now love to visit Nauvoo, which is not far from where I live in Chicago.

            I would just say that a member of a group can make jokes about that group that would be in quite poor taste for someone outside the group to make.

          • nachasz

            I love the Mormons. The kindest of folks. And one of the rare White populations not racing to extinction as well.

            What

          • http://geocurrents.info Martin W. Lewis

            Many thanks for your consistently measured and informed comments! Perhaps future GeoCurrents post or two on the Mormons would be a good idea. The Mormon concern with genealogy has generated a huge database that is of great use to scholars. The geographical reach of the Church, and its missionary efforts, are also of interest. In East Palo Alto,California, a substantial community of Mormons from Tonga has found an interesting niche in providing low-cost elder care.

          • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

            Very interesting! I knew about the East Palo Alto folks working in elder care but I had no idea that they are either from Tonga or Momons (let alone that there are Mormons in Tonga).

          • http://geocurrents.info Martin W. Lewis

            Roughly a third of Tongans are LDS (“Latter Day Saints”=Mormons), and the rest are mostly Methodists. When my father was declining a few years ago (he has since passed on) we hired a kindly Tongan woman to look after him. It was a bit of a disaster, however, as my father was a “Jack Mormon” (he was raised in the faith but left it), and he could not tolerate the fact that that his caregiver would proselytize.

          • SirBedevere

            The actual geography of the Mormons is fascinating–I hadn’t realized how successful their early missions to Britain and Scandinavia had been–but I find their sacred geography, with the stories of the Nephites and Lamanites, even more interesting.

          • http://geocurrents.info Martin W. Lewis

            Yes, the British and Scandinavian connection is quite interesting. My great-great Grandmother (if I have the genealogy right) was from Denmark, converted by a missionary. And as I am sure you now, Mormon doctrine locates the Garden of Eden in Missouri.

          • Peter Rosa

            As gross as they may be, these extreme body modifications are very rare. Much more distressing is the fact that at least 85% to 90% of adult women do something horrible to their bodies. About the only holdouts are Asian women, lesbians and hippie chicks, and even these groups are succumbing to its temptation.

            This loathsome practice actually began among male porn stars, as a way of making themselves look bigger. It soon became universal among female porn stars and then somehow made a leap to the female population in general. Its near-complete hegemony among women cannot be due to the influence of porn. For example, a 40-year-old churchgoing, Republican-voting soccer mom probably hates pornography, yet she would never even think of letting a single hair follicle remain.

            People are strange, that’s all I can say.

          • Nicéphore Jünge
          • SirBedevere

            I must admit that I shave all of the hair off the sides of my face and use deoderant to mask the odor the Almighty gave me, so I lack the moral authority to comment on this topic.

          • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

            Haha!

          • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

            “at least 85% to 90% of adult women do something horrible to their bodies” — such as what? I can’t think of anything, save maybe ear piercing if that, that such a high percentage of women is doing to their bodies, but it’s hardly “horrible”.

          • Peter Rosa

            Let’s just say that it involves making adult women look a bit like prepubescent girls.

          • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

            You can’t be serious. It’s not all that common…

          • LarrySiegel

            It’s pretty common where I live but I sure wouldn’t describe it as “horrible.” As I used to tell my parents when I was a longhaired hippie, “it’s only hair.”

          • http://geocurrents.info Martin W. Lewis

            According to the standard historical account, the popularity of circumcision in the U.S. stemmed mainly from the work of Lewis Sayre, a founder of the American Medical Association, in the late 1800s. Sayre’s reasons for supporting the practice were medical, not religious. Many of his ideas were incorrect; Sayre and his contemporaries were obsessed about masturbation, and they wrongly thought that the removal of the foreskin would reduce its practice. They also thought that circumcision might cure insanity.

            But debates still rage over the medical usefulness of circumcision. Some evidence suggests that the practice reduces the rates of cervical cancer in women and of urinary tract infections in men. But as far as I can tell, the current medical wisdom is to recommend circumcision in areas where AIDS/HIV rates are high, but to maintain neutrality in other places.

            Circumcision may be regarded as genital mutilation, but it is a rather mild form. For something much more extreme, check out subincision: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Penile_subincision.

            In pre-colonial southeast Asia, men often surgically implanted a variety of metal balls, studs, and spikes in their genitals, supposedly to enhance female sexual pleasure. Anthony Reid has a fascinating account of such practices in his book Southeast Asia in the Age of Commerce, Vol 1 (with illustrations).

            I can also attest that growing up in the United States in the 1960s, and showering after gym class, I never saw an uncircumcised penis.

          • Nicéphore Jünge

            Every few months, a study comes out praising circumcision, and every few later months, it’s debunked. It’s getting old, and I don’t think it has much to do with real science. As for this Lewis Sayre character, I’ll have to check out his biographical information. I doubt he pulled his obsessions out of his hat.

            Jeez, thanks a lot for the subincision pic. Urgh. Who the heck would do such a thing. Brrr.

            About showering in gym class, first of all, where you inspecting everyone else’s junk? I know I did my best to avoid doing so, personally. Anyhow, here are some stats for the US : http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/08/22/u-s-circumcision-rates-are-declining/?_r=0

          • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

            Well, many other topics have similar pattern of articles arguing this way and that, from climate change to the structure of noun phrases in Slavic (to name one my favorite topics). It doesn’t mean that the issues have nothing to do with real science.

            As for “urgh” pictures, try pearling.

            The stats you link to are unsurprising, but they reflect a more recent trend than what Martin has discussed.

          • Nicéphore Jünge

            Thanks but no thanks for “pearling.” Another day, perhaps.

          • Peter Rosa

            Pearling … that’s when you dive to catch oysters, right?

          • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

            “so many WASPs, Jews, and Muslims are so prone to abnormal sexual propensities”—what’s that based on? And what “abnormal sexual propensities” do you have in mind? as opposed to “normal” sexual propensities in other cultures? Such as “surgically implant[ing] a variety of metal balls, studs, and spikes in their genitals” in pre-colonial Southeast Asia (see Martin’s comment)?..

            Re: tatoos, I’ve never heard of any medical/health benefit possibly associated with the practice (except reminding one of ones earlier mistakes, haha). Anyone has any ideas here?

          • Nicéphore Jünge

            I was referencing for WASPS (or rather Americans, cause a lot of Jews are in that trade as well) to the mass porn industry, combined with the veneer of a prudish ethos to boot ; for Jews, to the library-filling novels about sexual weirdness, inadequacies, perversions, and the such, including obsessing on incest (Freud being only one of many cases of that kind of stuff) ; as for Muslims, I was alluding to the sadistic propensity for rape, objectification, hiding of women from view, sex-slavery, harems, all of that.

          • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

            When it comes to porn industry, I don’t know that it’s a WASP/Jewish thing. Plenty of Asian porn, not to mention European (particularly, German, urghh, porn).

            Similarly nothing particularly Jewish about “obsessing with” (or discussing, if you will) incest. As for “Muslim sadistic propensity for rape”, it has more to do with the status of women in their society than circumcision.

            Point being that there is nothing particularly Christian/Jewish/Muslim in terms of sexual propensities, obsessions and the like. Other cultures have their own. Whatever is considered “normal” in sex, like with other cultural norms, is simply a cultural/social thing.

          • Nicéphore Jünge

            You always want to decompose things that are combined and feed off each other in reality. You don’t think that having less sensitive a glans will tend to make a man want rougher sex, and thus tend to be more brutal towards women, and thus have a natural propensity to adhere or sustain or promote a religion which justifies it?

            To me, and beyond any consideration of sexual practices, Judaism is obviously sado-masochistic (“keep us down all you want since you can, but when our savior will come he’ll make you all our b*tches, for if we our powerless in fact, in reality we are the elect of some absolute power that will make himself manifest, and turn all things upside down, you’ll see”), Christianity is mostly masochistic (a voluntarily tortured and murdered God, need I really say more), and Islam is mostly sadistic (a Muslim is kind of like a Jew in a state of sovereignty, like if the guy I was displaying before got his wish: he believes all is due to him, and all power and happiness any non-Muslim possesses or experiences is an injustice born by Satan which it his divine duty to correct by killing and robbing the guy, and what not). You may not agree, but that’s what I gather, in ideal-typical terms.

          • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

            “You don’t think that having less sensitive a glans will tend to make a man want rougher sex” — no I don’t. I don’t see a connection between less sensitivity and a propensity for rougher sex. It takes older men longer to reach an orgasm than younger men, and women longer than men (on average) but neither group has a clear propensity for rape or rougher sex (and by the way, the two are not the same either).

          • Nicéphore Jünge

            You don’t think feeling less stimuli necessitates stronger stimuli to feel if only as much? If you don’t get such a simple thing as that, there’s not much I can do for you, ‘mam.

          • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

            P.S. As for your interpretation of Judaism is so far off the mark, that it’s hardly worth addressing…

          • Nicéphore Jünge

            Why do you bother making such a pointless comment, then?

          • Peter Rosa

            Ron Jeremy is partly the reason why porn is sometimes associated with Jewish people.

          • Nicéphore Jünge

            lol

          • LarrySiegel

            You are full of fascinating information, but you lost me with your comment on the sexual proclivities of WASPs, Muslims, and Jews. What do we like to do in bed exactly? I am not aware of any stereotypes that join those three large groups.

          • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

            Regarding the medical justification for circumcision, I agree with Martin’s comment below. Although it may seem too invasive as a preventative measure, let me point out that in the Soviet Union, even a mild case of apendicitis often resulted in the removal of the apendix, mostly to prevent a more severe (or possibly lethal) inflammation later on. It’s a much more invasive surgery, but it was done in such a routine fashion that it seems bizarre from the American point of view.

            Regardless of the medical benefits of circumcision, the Jewish practice has nothing to do with that, as its justification is spiritual, not physiological. If you want to play the God card (“maybe there’s a reason all humanity’s males have a natural protective sheath…”), if God wants the Jews to cut it, you’d think He’d create males with it to begin with? Surely God is that good at planning, no?

          • Nicéphore Jünge

            I’m no theist. And the reason Jews took over that practice is to mark the belonging to their group in the flesh of their kids from their infancy, to augment its saliency for them and their commitment to it, like many other such signs. The greater the sacrifice one is required from a group, the greater the intensity of allegiance felt to that group, all else being equal.

      • Nicéphore Jünge

        Mark sounds Jewish to Russians ? But its a version of the ancient Latin Roman Marcus, that is only present in the New Testament… And as the name of the putative author of the oldest of the Gospels, I would tend to expect it to sound not only not Jewish but, if anything, quite a bit anti-Jewish to Jewish ears, really. oO As opposed to Jacob, which is obviously a legendary Hebrew name from the Torah (the name of the son of Isaac, and whose also called Israel, and father of the 12 tribes, and all that), though it might well also have a pre-Biblical origin (like “Moses” originally just means “son of” or “spawn of” in Egyptian, and you can find it in many Pharaohs’ names – Tut-’mosis’, Ra’mses’, Ah’mosis’…) but that’s another story.

        • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

          Indeed it does. And as I explained in my comment above, it has everything to do with the more recent naming practices, not the origin of the name. Mark is no more Jewish in origin than Boris—but that’s not the point.

          • Nicéphore Jünge

            Weird. And you wouldn’t happen to know how Mark got that Jewish connotation for Russians, please?

          • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

            I am not sure. Probably enough Jewish parents named their sons Mark for it to get that connotation. I am not sure why…

          • Nicéphore Jünge

            K. Thanks.

          • Lev Stesin

            Mark is an interesting case. I would combine it with Lev, Ilya and Gregoriy (the letter two to a lesser extent). Four very Russian names which after the Revolution and even more towards the WWII had become “Jewish” names. The most likely reason is after moving to big cities and in many respects becoming the new intelligentsia of the new Soviet State, the Jews wanted to acquire certain Russian traits of the old class they had replaced (one never meets a Russian Jew named Vasya or Vanya) There are many side stories to this phenomenon (e.g. in major cities the Jews would be called “The French” by their Russian neighbors for not being able to correctly pronounce the roaring Russian “r”).

          • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

            Ilya is actually different from the other names in this category, I think, as it is at least historically a Biblical name (Eliyahu). The common choice of Lev is to commemorate a (dead) relative by the name of Arye, Gregory is probably a russified version of Gershon and the like, but Mark I can’t think of anything… But I really do like your theory about picking up names that were associated with the Russian intelligensia!

          • Lev Stesin

            If you were to ask parents of those named Mark, Lev, Ilya or Grisha they would sure come up with a relative with a similar sounding Yiddish name: Mordche, Leiba, Elke or Girsh :) I, for instance, was “named” after my grand-grandfather Leib. But as you have correctly pointed out the phonetic similarity is the only thing in common between these two.

          • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

            Mordche, of course—I haven’t thought about that! Excellent point, “Reb Leib” :)

      • SirBedevere

        Of course, Yakov is pretty darn close to Ya’akov, a lot closer than the Yitzhaks who became Irvings and Barukhs who became Borises.

    • nachasz

      Is the Turkish “Can” also a John variant?>

      According to Wiktionary it might be.

    • Sarah

      Jakob has been popularly used in Poland among Jews and Poles for centuries. Among Polish-Catholics, it was used in honor of St. James the Apostles. The Polish form of James is Jakob. It is not odd at all. You also have to take into account that Poland is Roman Catholic and Russia is Eastern Orthodox. In Russia, the name Ilya was popularly used among both Jews and Christian. In the Russian Orthodox Church, the cult of the prophet Elijah is strongly emphasized, while in neighboring Poland the Polish form of Eliasz would have been mainly found among Jews. The same Biblical figure is not as important in Polish Catholic culture as he is in Russian Orthodox Culture, hence Eliasz would have been a Polish-Jewish dominate name. I don’t know how Russians have traditionally viewed the Apostle James, he may not have been strongly emphasized in Russia as he was in Poland and hence his name was mainly found among Russian Jews.

      • SirBedevere

        That is really interesting. I actually see it more often as Jakub among Poles, but it is rather common. It had me thinking about the other West Slavic languages, since I know I had seen the name Jakob among Czechs. It turns out to be the 71st most common name in the Czech Republic, according to Wikipedia. I then figured I would see it as less common among Slovaks, since in traditional matters, Slovaks sometimes resemble the Hungarians more than the Czechs, but according to the Wikipedia, it has been the second most popular name for newborns in Slovakia since the 1990s. Iacov and Iacob do appear to be rather rare in Romania, and I would bet that they have a Jewish or old-fashioned feel, as in Hungarian or Russian, but the diminutive Cupsa is listed as a surname from Transylvania. It doesn’t surprise me that this rarity is shared by Hungarian and Romanian, but not the Slavic languages around them. It does, however, surprise me that it is found in Russian too.

  • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

    Update: here is the set of parallel maps for boys’ names…

    http://jezebel.com/map-six-decades-of-the-most-popular-names-for-boys-st-1450787771

  • HoundsTooth

    in australia there is a current (and quite silly) trend of trying to ‘out-create’ other parents by giving their children somewhat ‘odd’ names. it’s quite recent, and i believe that it’s come from america.
    what most parents do is choose a common surname, and then come up with an ‘alternative’ spelling. this leads to ‘jaxxyn’-style names. i’ve seen ‘addasynn’ and even ‘rhyleigh’ being used. it’s some sort of formulaic attempt to give the offspring ‘you-neekh’ names, but yet confirm with current trends. it leads to situations where you have students in class with the ‘same’ name, but veeerrry different spelling. my friend has a name based on the abovementioned criteria, and he hates having to spell out his common name every time he meets someone or makes reservations. “it’s bill with a Y and a silent GH…

    • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

      I don’t envy those poor kids!

  • Peter Rosa

    It is surprising that Luca is the most popular boys’ name in France. I had thought it was Italian rather than French, no doubt because of the fish-sleeping hitman Luca Brasi in The Godfather. Another observation from popular culture is the way that two trendy girls’ names were combined to create the notorious website Ashleymadison.com :)

    • Nicéphore Jünge

      It’s usually spelled Lucas in French. I don’t know why it’s not there.
      And it’s Greek originally I think, meaning luminous, akin to lux in Latin.

      • nachasz

        Nope, that would be Lucius, while Lucas means “man from Lucania”.

        • Nicéphore Jünge

          I enjoy it went people make definitive statements for the heck of it. But as a matter of fact, it is a highly debated issue. Varro proposes two etymologies for Lucas, one of which is yours, and then goes on to deny them both and to ascribe its origin to “Luce” after shields carried on soldiers’ backs which caused great flashes of light all around. Lucretius agreed with that theory. Furthermore, what might your Lucania mean? According to Horace, it’s a part of the Mezzogiorno, Calabria, who got its Lucania name as “Lucani appellati dicuntur, quod eorum regio sita est ad partem stellae luciferiae” : Lucania got its name by being part of the region situated by the luciferian (“bringers of light”) stars… So there you have it, even your objection confirmed what you were objecting to. Thanks for the effort, though.

    • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

      Hmmm, it doesn’t seem to be a lesbian dating site so I wonder why two girls’ names, as you point out yourself…