Inheriting grandparents’ names

There’s an interesting passage about child-naming customs in Éamon Kelly’s autobiography The Apprentice (Marino Books, 1995). Kelly is recounting his childhood near Killarney in southwest Ireland, and the time he spent in his father’s workshop playing with pieces of wood:

I sat in the shavings and listened to the men who came with jobs for my father. They all spoke to me and those who knew my grandfather were surprised that I wasn’t called after him. The custom then was to call the first son after his father’s father and the second son after his mother’s father. The same rule applied to the first two girls. They were called after their grandmothers. If you walked into a house at that time and there were two boys and two girls in the family and you knew their grandparents, you could name the children. Both my male grandparents, who were inseparable friends, objected to my father’s and mother’s marriage. They claimed there was a blood relationship, though fairly far out, and the slightest trace of consanguinity had to be avoided. My mother was very upset by this attitude and called me after my father to annoy the old man. My father’s Christian name was Edmund, Ned to everybody, and so was I.

The name Éamon came later, when Kelly was a carpenter’s apprentice (hence the book title) working with his father. Since both were called Edmund/Ned, confusion arose when either was hailed, so someone took to calling the son Éamon. He remained Ned to his family and neighbours, but Éamon was the name by which I first knew of him.

I’ve written before about Éamon Kelly in his seanchaí (storyteller) guise, after coming across a couple of clips of him on YouTube. That post has additional resources on Kelly’s life, for anyone interested.

The custom he describes lives on but seems much less prevalent than it was a century ago – though my sister was named after our maternal grandfather, in a nice inversion of the tradition. I was named after my uncle, who was (I think) named after my granduncle. I’d be interested to hear who you were named after, if anyone, or what other naming traditions are in your family or area.

40 Responses to Inheriting grandparents’ names

  1. stuartnz says:

    Going back at least 4 generations, the firstborn daughters in my mother’s maternal lineage have the same middle name, Margaret, and had she not strongly refused to grant it, I would have been at least the 4th generation of males on my my Dad’s paternal side with the same initials, RJ

  2. Jewish tradition as far as naming varies a bit, depending; first of all, it depends if you want to follow tradition at all. Then it depends on what your tradition is. If your background is Eastern European (Ashkenazi), you’re supposed to name your kids in memory of someone dead, doesn’t really matter who, but preferably someone who also doesn’t already have someone named after them. If your background is Sephardic (Middle Eastern, etc) you name them after someone alive (but not the parents; there are no “juniors” or III, as far as I know), as an honor. This really applies to the Hebrew names (used for religious purposes), not the English names, unless you follow Reform tradition, and then perhaps the English name might be used. Not that you can’t use both, of course. I know this sounds confusing…but for example, my mother’s grandmothers’ Hebrew names were Sarah and Leah, so my Hebrew name is Sarah Leah. I don’t know if they had English names, but I know that my mother picked corresponding English names that she liked (i.e. not Sarah and not Leah). So someone whose Hebrew name is Sarah might have an English name like Susan, Sharon, Solange, Sally, Cynthia, etc. I could just have easily been named after a grandfather, however, with the appropriate adjustment made. Like if my mother had wanted to name me after her dead grandfather Jacob (Ya’akov in Hebew), she could have named me something similar to Ya’akov (I don’t really know what the feminine equivalent would be, Ya’akova, Ya’el), and something corresponding in English, like Jacqueline, Jackie, Jamie, etc. Of course the English and Hebrew names do not need to correspond, if you don’t like one or the other. And my cousins in Israel are rebels; they don’t like to name their kids after dead people. So they just picked names they liked. And their kids don’t have “English” names because they are Israeli. When they come here, they use their Hebrew names, e.g. Yoav, etc.

  3. maeveak says:

    We all, of course, have saints’ names, and all three girls have the virgin included (which also happens to be my mother’s name, as well as my father’s mother’s name). My father was one of 13. When I think about this, I realize that the proliferation of Marys and Johns in the family is a result of these naming conventions you are writing about.

    I was expected to be a boy, the first in my family and so would be named after my father’s father. When I came out female, they still honored the man and named me Jean – spelled in a way which annoyed the priests and nuns no end – they couldn’t tell if they were dealing with a boy or a girl in grammar school!

    Next came a boy named after my dad – first and middle- he got to choose his own confirmation name.

    Next boy named like me, after father’s father – but in Gallic. Last boy named after a favorite uncle.

    My siblings have chosen to break this pattern and name their children what they wanted – some not even after saints!

  4. Claire Stokes says:

    We don’t have a naming thing, but slightly similar: my Mom, myself and my daughter all were born some weeks/months before their great-grandmother passed away. I find that .. interesting.
    As far as names, we were going to name our daughter something based on grandmother’s names (, but about 3 weeks before she was born, we both had the distinct impression that her name was Rachel. We had like one conversation about it, and it was like – yes, of course, That is her name. So that was that!
    That book sounds fascinating!

  5. shewrite63 says:

    In our large half-English, half-French Roman Catholic family, the children’s first names were taken from the Apostles or Saints and middle names from grandparents, uncles or close friends.

  6. Greece has the same custom as you describe – the son after the paternal grandfather, daughter after maternal grandmother.

    My husband and I chose some different names for our children (well, I did the choosing!) and it didn’t go down very well. Tradition is not easily to be trifled with! But they came round to the names I chose in the end – ancient names from mythology.

  7. thnidu says:

    To add to thebluebird11’s notes on the Ashkenazic naming custom: My name is Mark, but my Jewish name, used in ceremonies, is Meshulam. I’m named for my great-grandfather (MoFaFa) Maximilian, as was my uncle (MoBr) Marshall. Note the initial “M” in all of these. At least in the families I know, it seems to have been common to give a secular name with the same *initial* as the Jewish name; but unlike the Jewish name, the secular name didn’t have to be the same as the ancestor’s secular name. And just as well: “Maximilian” would not have been a good name at all (IMHO) for an American boy in the fifties and sixties.

    • Yes, usually they retain the first “sound” (like M), but as a case to illustrate the opposite, my brother is in fact named after my mother’s grandfather Ya’akov. So his Hebrew name is Ya’akov. But my mother didn’t like the name Jacob, so his English name is David. Go figure. Those who know him from temple as Ya’akov get confused when they find out that his English name isn’t Jacob; those who know him from secular environments as David are perplexed as to why his Hebrew name isn’t David (pronounced “dah-VEED”).

      • thnidu says:

        Sure, most of us regard these as custom, not law. My wife and I didn’t want to name our kids after ancestors. We gave them names that are the same in English and Hebrew: Susannah / Shoshana, Jeremy / Yirmiyah.

  8. My older brother was named for our paternal grandfather, I (the second child) for our maternal grandmother. The third child was named for nobody, the fourth for a distant (possibly already deceased) relative. Many of my cousins were named for grandparents, uncles or aunts. This tradition seemed to have dies out but my brother and his wife, in NYC, named their son after our father and their daughter after the maternal grandmother.
    There was also a strong tradition – though not in my generation – of naming sons for bachelor uncles in the hope of inheriting…. which many did, even in my parents’ generation.

  9. Gwyneth MacArthur says:

    We use the maiden names of grandmothers in our family. The first child has the paternal side and the second the maternal. After that it’s a free for all across the generations of maiden names. It’s not uncommon for siblings to share a middle name, as do I and my brother, myself as the first born and my brother as the first son.

  10. I’m Adrian son of Roger son of Gordon son of Robert son of Robert son of Robert son of Samuel son of John son of George son of George.

    There are no active traditions, but you only have to go back a few generations and everyone was called George, Samuel, Robert, Sarah or Hannah. Even now I have a cousin Robert.

    I enjoy browsing name lists, so I’m glad we don’t have to worry about tradition anymore — it would only get in the way. Not long ago I decided on Veronica Claire Morgan as the name of my female alter ego, should such a thing ever come in handy.

  11. Stan says:

    These are all very interesting comments. Thank you for joining in.

  12. Sister_Ray says:

    I’m from Germany with protestant parents (who were not particularly religious). My first name is from Finland and because the registry office did not accept it on its own – too difficult to tell whether it’s a boy or girl – I got my maternal grandmother’s name as a middle name. Lots of people only have one name here.

    As a teacher I see lots of interesting names – sometimes it is clear that the middle names must come from grandparents when they are in great contrast to the first name – the first is fashionable, ‘modern’, the second name extremely old-fashioned, as in Kevin Hans-Peter or Jacqueline Edeltraud (not real names, but close enough).

  13. marc leavitt says:

    As an Ashkenazi Jew, I was named after my paternal great-grandfather, Morritz, anglicized on the birth certificate, as “Morris.” Deceased relatives are chosen to avoid the possibility that the living might be cursed by the “Evil Eye.” My Hebrew name is Moshe. As a small child, I was affectionately called, “Meysh,” from the Yiddish, Meishe (Hebrew, “Moshe,” or “Moses”). My mother heartily disliked the name Morris – a sentiment I share with her, and somewhere between the ages of three and five, she started calling me “Marc” (French spelling), the name I have always used. Unfortunately, she never bothered to change my birth certificate, so to this day, all my official papers list me as Morris, a source’ of continuing confusion and annoyance (If you called out, “Hello, Morris,” from across rhe street,. I wouldn’t respond; it’s not my name (as fa as I’m concerned).

    • Back in my day (which may be around YOUR day?) and the community I grew up in, which was mainly Jewish but also Irish-Catholic and Italian-Catholic, people didn’t choose “weird” names for their kids. They weren’t looking for uniqueness. The Catholics used saint names (LOTS of girls named Mary, Kathy, Frances, boys named Francis, Matthew, Thomas). The Jews were just getting over the Holocaust and there were plenty of dead relatives to name kids after. Schools frowned on unusual names (like it was the kid’s fault?), and kids tended to make fun of people with gender-ambiguous or outmoded names (Leslie, Gale, Tracy, Henrietta, Ethel). Most of us had Biblical Hebrew names and fairly ordinary English names. We had twins in my class, Moshe (English name Morris) and Label (English name Leo). Nobody called them by their English names until probably after high school. We also had a Mordy (Hebrew name Mordechai, English name Morton, which NOBODY dared call him). Back then, I might have said Morritz was pretentious; nowadays I would think it is cool :)

  14. hearthrose says:

    I am a Caucasian male and my wife is Chinese. My son is named after his Chinese grandfather “Shan” (山, mountain) after the suggestion of my Mom since the name works well in both cultures. We chose to spell it “Shawn” so that he would not have to be constantly correcting the pronunciation (and, of course, the additional W is reasonably evocative of the character 山 for his name).

    • That is great! Love the idea. Very creative but not a burden to the child. In the course of my work, I come across some bizarre names, unnecessarily unique spellings of common names, and just plain “what were they thinking?” names. Truly I kid you not, I have come across a girl named Lilieigh (pronounced “lily”) and another named Lamaze, and a boy named Khristoffer and another named Odd. What were the parents smoking??

      • alexmccrae1546 says:

        Apparently the given name “Odd”, isn’t that odd as a boy’s name in Norway. In fact, one of Norway’s most famous (some may argue, infamous) contemporary figurative/ allegorical painters is a rather brooding provocateur named Odd Nerdrum.

        He unabashedly claims a technical debt to Rembrandt and other noted Flemish masters of old, but has developed a rather distinctive, to many, often disturbing, bawdy signature style over some four decades, befitting his unusual first name. But, I dare say, not that unusual in his native Norway.

      • thnidu says:

        Replying to alexmccrae1546: I remember encountering that given name in an even odder form. I’ll let Wikipedia tell of it:

        Norwegian General Odd Bull (1907–1991) was a career officer in the Royal Norwegian Air Force who eventually rose to the position of Chief of Air Staff. He is probably best known outside Norway for his role as Chief of Staff of the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO) between 1963 and 1970, a period which coincided with the Six Day War between Israel and its Arab neighbours. He wrote a memoir of his experiences during this time, a book entitled War and Peace in the Middle East: The Experiences and Views of a U.N. Observer.

  15. Frances says:

    My mother (born in 1947 in a rural town in Belgium) was named after her grandmother, who was also her godmother, but I’m not sure whether this was her maternal or paternal grandmother. A cousin, born around the same time, has the same name. My mama is the eldest of three girls, and I think only the eldest girl or boy had to carry the burden of being named after someone else. Curiously her first name is not that name, but it’s her third name. We believe my grandfather made a mistake when naming her at the registry.

    My father otoh (also born in 1947 in the same town) is named after no-one I know of. It was (and still is) quite common to use middle names to commemorate someone and choose the first name you like. The time of complete families where all the girls were named Maria Something and all the boys Jozef Something had been passed around the time my grandparents lived.

    I do think when my parents were born there still had to be a direct link to some saint when naming a kid.

  16. Lots of people have mentioned naming traditions connected to religion.

    The Catholic tendency to use the name Mary (or Maree or some other variant) on every possible occasion is well-known, but until relatively recently I was unaware of a male equivalent. Then one day I was browsing a directory at work, and noticed that the Catholic priests in the directory ALL seemed to be called Michael. It really was an astonishing majority.

  17. John Cowan says:

    am named after my father’s father, John Cowan (or Coen), and my mother’s father, Woldemar Schultz, ergo John Woldemar Cowan. I believe this name to be unique, and I use it on my books, but not in ordinary life.

    My friend Joe Zitt is in full Joseph Hirsch Zitt, and his father was Hirsch Joseph Zitt. I don’t know how many generations of alternating Joseph Hirsches and Hirsch Josephs there have been, but it ends with him. Joe’s grandfather shortened the family name; he tended to overdo most things, as when he escaped from Czarist Russia to America by way of Vladivostok.

    My wife’s given name is Gale; her father was a weatherman. Our daughter is Irene, and her son is Dorian; both fairly rare but not risible.

  18. alexmccrae1546 says:

    Curiously, the former two-time World Heavyweight Boxing Champion, Olympic gold medalist, and highly-successful inventor, and marketer of his eponymously named multi-million-dollar-selling commercial grill, George Forman, went and named all five of his sons “George”… George Jr., George III, George IV, George V, and George VI.

    Thankfully, four of the five sons have familiar nicknames… starting w/ George III– “Monk”, then “Big Wheel”, “Red”, and “Little Joey”, respectively, w/ George Jr. having his “Junior” moniker to set him apart from his other sibs.*

    The prodigious Forman also has seven daughters, w/ five ‘natural-born’, and two adopted. There’s just one named Georgette amongst the Forman sisters. Mercy!

    So clearly, when all those young boys were growing up in the Forman household, chances were pretty strong that when some sibling mischief was afoot, odds were, a George “did it”; but which one must have been a point of contention on many an occasion.

    *the Forman kids’ names (and nicknames) were Wiki-sourced to give credit were credit is justly due.

  19. Picky says:

    Saves all those arguments with the missus, though, Alex, don’t it? “I think John’s a nice name” … “Nonsense, we’ll call him Tarquin” – that sort of stuff. I think I’ll call my next five sons George as well.

    • alexmccrae1546 says:

      I hope blogmeister Stan will permit me this little personal aside. Picky, I’m so heartened to see you’re clearly alive-and-well, and I trust in fine spirits (pun intended) and good health. You clearly haven’t lost a beat in the wit department.

      Haven’t been visiting a certain alternative language usage blog, state-side, for months now, on which we both had many a fine back-and-forth in the past, on sundry subjects of mutual interest. The old ‘pay-wall’ thingy was the rub there.

      Frankly, I think you should call your next five sons “Picky”… Picky Jr. thru to Picky IV, all w/ Roman numeric designations (I-IV), save Junior. I’m surmising you’d be adopting these young lads, or perhaps I’m vastly underestimating your amazing resurgent potency. (Oh behave!)

  20. I met a man some years back whose family always used the wife’s surname as the first name of the first-born son – his mother was French, and his first name was Renault. More common, of course, was using the wife’s surname as a child’s middle name, which middle name would sometimes pop up a generation or two later as a first name, as in Sir Fordham Flower – this is presumably how Douglas, Stanley, Cecil and other aristocratic surnames became first names.

    In past times Quakers often seem to have given the same name to the first born son, every generation, then another name was repeated for the second-born son, generation after generation, who would use his name for his own first-born son, and so on down the ages, so that the Lucas family of Hitchin in Hertfordshire had at least eight generations of William Lucases, and each of them had a brother called Stephen, and each of those Stephens had a first-born called Stephen …

    Also common is using the father’s name as the child’s middle name – my middle name, Arthur, was my father’s first name (and is now coming back into fashion after 80 years), his middle name, Harry, was his father’s first name, and HIS middle name was HIS father’s first name.

  21. David Morris says:

    I am indirectly named after my grandfather. My great-grandfather was named Richard Wilde Morris (known, as far as I know as Richard – his mother’s maiden name was ‘Wild’). My grandfather was named Richard Lidon Morris (known as Don – I’m not sure where the second name came from). My father is Richard William Morris (known in childhood and young adulthood and still to people from then, as Dick). When my oldest sister was born, our parents gave her our mother’s name as her first name, but she has always been known by her second name. When I was born (after another sister), our parents named me Richard David. I have never identified with ‘Richard’ and have always associated it with stressful situations such as exams. Shortly before I turned 40 I had a big contention with my bank over my name, and officially dropped the ‘Richard’ from my name, which resulted in another big contention with another official body. My younger sister married a man named Richard. My nephew is named Joshua Richard Stephen (after his father and his father’s brother who died at a young age). My first ancestor who came to Australia, my great-great-great-grandfather through my father’s mother, had the surname ‘Grace’. As subsequent generations of girls married men with other surnames, many of my distant cousins have the first or second given name of ‘Grace’. One of my nieces is named Rebecca Grace. I had ‘Grace’ in mind for any daughter I might have had, but ‘Grace Morris’ is just a little bit too fricative for my liking.

    When I was at school, about half the boys were named David, Stephen/Steven, Michael and Peter. At my university residential college we had 13 Davids. One day we gathered 8 of us on the same dining hall table. Then a Catherine sat down …

    I know a number of parent/children combinations where the parent is known by the diminutive form and the child is known by the full form. One brother-in-law is Michael, whose father is Mick; another is Richard, whose father is Dick. I have also met a Judy and Judith, and, conversely, an Elizabeth, Libby and Liddy. One family I know gave the oldest son the father’s first name as his second name, and the *second* daughter the mother’s first name as her second name.

  22. David Morris – “When I was at school, about half the boys were named David, Stephen/Steven, Michael and Peter.”

    It doesn’t need Sherlock Holmes to work out that you were born approximately 1945 to 1955.

  23. David Morris says:

    Umm, no. But close. Maybe the names lagged in Australia (if you are elsewhere). I’ll admit to ‘1960s’.

  24. David Morris says:

    I’m getting my nieces mixed up. First sister’s second daughter is Rebecca Jean, after both my grandmothers (father’s mother was actually Jane, but was known as ‘Jean’ by everyone except my mother’s father, who called her ‘Jenny’, on the grounds that there was only one ‘Jean’ (his wife)). Second sister’s first daughter was going to be ‘Rachel Mary’ after my mother, but my brother-in-law vetoed that on the grounds that it was ‘papist’, so she ended up as ‘Rachel Anne’ after my sister’s middle name. Second sister’s second daughter is ‘Jessica Grace’ after that ancestor. At the ages of approx 12 and 10, Rachel and Jessica decided to officially adopt their grandmothers’ names, so are Rachel Anne Mary and Jessica Grace Prudence respectively. Meanwhile, my third sister and her husband adopted a girl from China, who is Emily Grace Shao, so my youngest four niblings have three given names each.

  25. Alan Gunn says:

    Here’s an interesting piece on the sometime southern US custom of giving girls family names as given names. I’ve been told that a really upper-class southern woman should have the same first and last name.

    http://appellationmountain.net/surname-names-for-girls/

    My own family, on my father’s side (northern American rural people all), had an off-and-on practice of using family members’ middle names in the family and among very close friends, but using the first name for most purposes. When, many years ago, I took my fiancee home to meet my mother, my fiancee was startled to hear my mother call me by my middle name, a name my fiancee didn’t even know I had. It can be a confusing practice, and I did not try to inflict it on my son. Now that all the people who used to call me by my middle name have died, though, I kind of miss it. I’ve never heard of anyone else doing this, but surely we aren’t the only ones.

  26. Janet Handwork says:

    Janet Handwork says:

    We are a family from (Maternal: Mellen-Taylor/English-Scottish-French) Long Island, NY and (Paternal: Handwerck-Handwerk-Handwork-Kendig-DeHaven-Parker/German-Swiss-English) Pennsylvania. I am Janet Virginia…my Mother was Sherald Virginia (her Mother made up “Sherald”); also known as “Gin, Ginny, Ginger, Suzie & Babe”. My daughter’s name is Alexandra Elizabeth “Libby”, I chose the main names, her friends chose the nickname. My sister is Judith Sherald (Judy), her daughter is Angela Sherald. My Mother did not want to start a family feud with the Grandmothers, so she chose our first names and gave us her names for the middle ones.

    Paternal Grandmother: Lillie Dell “Lillian”Parker {Adoptive name, Tompkins}. Her natural Father, Joseph Filmore Parker Sr and brother, Jr. Presumably the middle name is from the 13th U.S. President, Millard Fillmore, sans one “l”.

    Maternal: Cassandra William, who was one of 14 children on Long Island. Cassie was one of the latter born and since the first child, William David died, another brother had not been named “William” after their Father. Cassandra “Cassie” and most of her female siblings, were named for sailboats or yachts in the Long Island Sound, as their Father, William Stephen Taylor was a Harbor Pilot. Abigail Mary “Abbie” after the schooner, “Abbie-New York”, Myra Madelaine, (“Doll Heart”), Lillian Elesha Valkyrie, (a famous racing yacht). One sister, Martha Germain Taylor had their Mother’s Maiden Name (Mary Jane Germain/e who was known as “Rose”!) All of them had funny nicknames…Cassie was “Min”, likely after Cab Calloway’s popular song, “Minnie The Moocher”, Martha was “Socks”, etc.

    An Uncle, Paul Gammack Taylor was named for their local Episcopal Priest who Baptised him.

    Paternal-German & Swiss: George Heber Handwork I, II & III. Philip DeHaven Handwork,I & II. The wife of George I was Barbara DeHaven. My Dad, George III, never liked his name; his parents allowed his eight-years’ senior brother, Philip to name him after their uncle and Great Grandfather. Dad always said that “Every Porter on the Long Island Railroad was named George!” I’m sure George came from their German Ancestors from Elsass-Lothringen (this country changed hands between the German and French many times! Alsace Lorraine in French.) “Heber” is Biblical/Ancient Hebrew meaning “enclave”.

    My Grandfather was John Kendig Handwork; his Mother was Caroline Kendig Handwork and her Father was John Kendig.
    An Uncle, Andrew Jackson Williams Handwork was named for his Father, Philip DeHaven Handwork’s church friend and business partner, who had likely been named for the 7th President of the USA.

    My family has a number of “Sr. & Jr.” men. There are quite a few ancestors, both Male and Female who have middles names from Maiden Names.

    This is too long now, so I’ll stop! Please feel free to “edit”! Interesting topic! I have a Family Tree at http://www.ancestry.com, and it is VERY “addictive” regarding the “Name Game”!

    Janet

  27. Stan says:

    Thanks for contributing, Janet, and others. I don’t have much to add to the discussion, but the comments from different places and traditions are most welcome and interesting.

  28. Janet Handwork says:

    It was fun, Stan, thanks for having this site! I am so glad that someone is interested in the English language and its proper usages! (Thanks for being merciful as well, when we goof!)

    P.S. Grandmother Lillian’s nickname was “Dick”…don’t know why, and Grandfather John’s nickname was “Jack”, which I’ve seen before, i.e. President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, “Jack”, although I wonder about that reasoning as well!

    I ponder the “L.I.R.R. porters” being named “George”, perhaps in honor of our first president, George Washington?

    Also, agreeing with other posts regarding the name “Mary” for girls, I have a cousin, Sondra, whose Mother was Roman Catholic/French-Canadian, who put “Mary” among her other Christian names…”T R A D I T I O N”!

    My Dad, George III’s nickname was “Butch”…go figure on all!

    • thnidu says:

      “Jack” is the traditional nickname for “John”.

      Railroad porters weren’t *named* George. The white passengers *called* the black porters all George, a (generally) unconsciously racist convention that their names didn’t matter.

      • Janet Handwork says:

        Yes, “traditional”, although I was wondering the reason? ;-).

        Thank you for the insight about “George” and the LIRR Porters not being “named” that…how sad, but it makes perfect sense for those times. Glad some of us have changed those old attitudes along the way.

        Happy Thanksgiving, All!

      • thnidu says:

        Janet Handwork: from Behind the Name:
        Derived from Jackin (earlier Jankin), a medieval diminutive of JOHN. It is often regarded as an independent name. During the Middle Ages it was very common, and it became a slang word meaning “man”.

  29. Ben Hemmens says:

    I was named Benjamin after my grandfather, because I was born on his birthday. As it happens, I am also a second son and the youngest in the family, so it works out whatever way you like it :-)

  30. Chips Mackinolty says:

    Glad I stumbled on this a few months after the thread started. Where I am living at the moment, Palermo, Sicily, the pattern of naming boys after their (respective) paternal and then maternal grandfathers is pretty standard. The trouble/problem/whatever is that with large families in tight social networks, the “name pool” can be pretty restrictive.

    An example, Salvatore is a common name in my neighbourhood, so it follows there are a lot of grandsons floating around, maternal and paternal, who score the name. To call out the mae “Salvatore” in the quarter would be almost meaningless, as too many could/would potentially answer.

    The Palermitano solution is of course through an extended list of nicknames. Among no doubt others there is Salvo, Salva, Totò, Totuccio, Sasà, Sasi, Sasino and Turridu (a very Sicilian version). I’m told in Campania there is also Totonno and Salvatò.

    Mind you, by the time of the third son, things get a bit more relaxed. There’s one young kid in the quarter, with two Salvatore brothers, who is called Kevin! Kevin? Pronounced Kevìn down this way!

    And then of course there are nicknames acquired through life as further distinguishing signals. It’s not for nothing some know me as “il brontolo”!

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