Aug 31, 2009

What’s In a Name?

by Joyce DiPastena

I sit here in rare utter blankness of what to write for my ANWA blog turn. I read though the blogs that came before me this week. All of them so inspirational. I read them with a mixture of joy and discouragement, for I find that I’m not feeling very inspirational myself at the moment. (Oh, except that I feel very inspired to attend the ANWA Writers Conference in February. Thanks for that post, Marsha!)

Still, I find myself at a loss for words to type. Shall I let my sisters down, allowing Monday to slip by without a post to read? Never! (Well, not this week, at least.)

In desperation, I cast my eyes about the room. (Not literally, of course. Thankfully, they’re both still planted firmly in my head.) They alight (figuratively again) upon a book sitting on the top of a stack next to my computer chair. E.G. Withycombe’s Oxford Dictionary of English Christian Names. ’Tis a book I sometimes use to help me name the characters in my stories. (How’d you like that ’tis I threw in? No? Okay, I’ll save it for my novels after this…maybe.)

Hmmm, I think to myself, I wonder what this book says about my name. It’s been a very long time since I looked it up. Let’s see:

Joyce: this common medieval name [cool! that seems appropriate for me!] was used for both men and women [men??? ack!] in the forms of Josse, Goce, etc (Latin Jodocus, Jodoca, Jocea) [well, at least my parents didn’t name me Jodaca!]. It is of Celtic origin, being the name of a 7th C Breton saint, Jodoc, son of Judicael, a hermit of Ponthieu. [Sigh. So I really was named after a man.] His cult spread through north France, the Low Countries, and southern Germany. The Dutch Joos(t) [Oooo, I’m glad my parents didn’t name me Joost! Thank goodness neither one of them were Dutch.] is a form of it. As a man’s name, it died out in England in the 14th C [Whew!], but as a woman’s name it survived, though in rare use. [I’ve always thought I was quite rare, myself.] It has been noted in the 17th C, and in the 18th and 19th C survived in country districts. CMY [Hmm, I wonder what that is. Better look it up under “Abbreviations”. Ah! CMY: Charlotte Mary Yonge, History of Christian Names, 2 vols, 1863.] says of it, ‘once not uncommon amongst English ladies.” [Oh, I like the sound of that!] It was revived as a fashionable name, probably in part owing to Edna Lyall’s use of it for the heroine of her popular historical novel In the Golden Days (1885), and is now once more in frequent use." [I was the heroine of a historical novel? I’ve gotta track that book down!]

Well, that was quite an interesting and fun little diversion, at least for me. Don’t you wish you had a copy of E.G. Withycombe’s Oxford Dictionary of English Christian Names so you could look up your name, too? I suppose you can try to Google yourself. You never know what you might find.

I know what you’re all really hoping. That Joyce/Josse/Jodoca/Joost will be feeling more inspired the next time her blog turn rolls around!


  1. Actually Joyce I find an endless fascination with names. Do you supposed all authors do? I mean could there be a better guy than Darth Vader?

  2. Joyce, your post is quite delightful. I always have so much fun reading what you write. I love names and finding their meanings and origins. People can do such funny things with names. ..sometimes without knowing it. Our daughter Elizabeth Wright kind of liked the idea of using her mil's maiden name for a middle name for their first son...that is until her husband pointed out that his name would be Duncan Kilman Wright. Say that slowly and Think about it. so yeah...that name's not gonna happen!

  3. Joyce, I too love names. Maybe this is true about most writers. I feel like I am a collector of names to use for my stories. I just bet a man that worked in the same office building as my husband with the name of Clayne. I asked his permission to use it sometime and he laughed and told me sure. I know my name has to do with the moon. (Cindy, a derivative of Lucinda, Lucinda is from moon and ash.) I kind of like those ideas. It gives me backing for my childhood wish to be called Cinderella, you know, Cindy in the ashes. Names really can be quite enchanting.


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