Thursday, May 16, 2013

Something about the Name Mary. Or Not.

Several times in recent weeks, folks at work have called me "Elizabeth." I'm not sure why. There is another Elizabeth in the English department, so maybe that's it. Or maybe my given name, Allison, just seems close to "Elizabeth." In any event, I did not mind. I am not particularly fond of my name. I don't feel like it fits me. Me of the dark looks, sometimes dark moods and always, loud laughter.

My parents thought I was going to be a boy. You know, they'd had a son and then two daughters so it was time for another boy. Right?  God does these patterns, right? I was supposed to be named Gregory.

So I was born.  I was a girl. My parents scrambled for a name. I was born with a seizure disorder and nearly lost my life. The doctor who diagnosed my condition was a Doctor McAllister.  So I became Allison. When my folks told Dr. A. they'd named me after him, apparently he shrugged his shoulders. (I ended up marrying a Gregory, so it all worked out.)

A recent article in America magazine bemoans the loss of the name Mary.  (graphic courtesy of The Atlantic) Mary is a fine name, a wonderful name. But it wasn't on our lists when we were expecting in the 1990s. Had our eldest been a girl, she would have been Victoria after one of her great-grandfathers, Victor. Had our second son been a girl, she would have been Juliet, a name that threads through my mother's family tree but has not continued into the latest generation. Had our third child, the one we never had a chance to name, been a girl, she would have been Caterina. I don't remember why that was, but it had nothing to do St. Catherine of Siena.

We are rearing two sons, Gabriel and Lucas.  I never have regretted the names we chose, unlike an estimated 50 percent of American parents.     Our sons' names suit them, even though right now Gabe is annoyed we gave him four names - no hyphens - because he is having a heck of a time getting a learner's permit. And no, women shopping at supermarkets when Lucas was a baby, we did not name our second child after the human pictured below, thank you very much.

Lucas will add two new names to his four names this weekend. He's being confirmed and has chosen St. Antoine Daniel as his patron saint. He likes the man's bravery and he likes the Frenchy sound of the name.

I encounter all sorts of names among teens in our town and at work. Brandon and Nick are popular among American-born boys; I have also taught many Briannas, Jessicas and Nicoles. I know more than one Suraj, Priya and Jose, too. I grew up with plenty of Mary Pats, Mary Elizabeths and Mary Ellens. But I never ever have met a girl named Mary, in more than 15 years of parenting and teaching.

Maybe it's time for a Mary revival!


  1. My daughter's name is Phoebe Clare and my son's is Miguel Henri. Phoebe is named after her great grandmas Phoebe and Clara, and after Phoebe the Deaconess. Miguel is named after a priest Charles met in El Salvador and Henri is the middle name all the oldest Rohrbacher men have. They have two first names and my maiden name is their middle name. This is confusing when filling out forms. When Phoebe was in school "Phoebe Clare" didn't fit on the forms so she was always called "Phoebe Clar" on the first day of school. Miguel's name is always mispronounced as "Migayl", "Muhgel" or "Migwell". Sigh.

  2. Our older boy is Allen Declan. My husband is Allen but we didn't want a "junior" so we call him Declan and he is officially "Declan" with the NYC DOE but everywhere else he is officially Allen. Headaches in store I'm sure. He would have been Grace Elizabeth if a girl. Elizabeth is a family name. We just liked Declan as an Irishy name which was not common at all in 1994, in fact all the other Declans we met were born in Ireland. It has become more popular lately. Our second boy is Thomas Arthur, both family names. My grandpa and Allen's great-grandfather were Thomas, and we like St.Sir Thomas More, Doubting Thomas and T. Aquinas. Arthur is my husband's uncle who died recently at a fairly young age. He had no children so he was happy to be honored this way. I love family and traditional names.