About Names: Gentle “Mildred” waits, patiently, for revival

Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his November 8th column, he looks at the history of the name Mildred.

Will you see Mildred’s billboards? “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” a dark comedy in which Frances McDormand plays Mildred Hayes, who erects billboards blaming a local sheriff for not solving her daughter’s murder, opens Friday.

In the seventh century, King Merewald and Queen Ermenburg of Mercia in England had three daughters: Mildred (“gentle strength”), Mildburg (“gentle fortress”), and Mildith (“gentle battle”). All became abbesses and were proclaimed saints. Mildith was least famous. Her name died out in England by 1350. Mildburg, said to have miraculous healing powers, lived in Shropshire. Her name became Milbrough there. Brought to America in Colonial times, it shifted to Milbrey. Though very rare, Milbreys are still found in North Carolina and Tennessee.

When Social Security’s yearly names lists started in 1880, Mildred ranked 121st. “Mildred Keith” rocketed it upward. Mildred peaked at sixth between 1912 and 1920.

Though Joan Crawford won a best actress Oscar in 1945 for the title character in “Mildred Pierce,” this tale of a wealthy restaurateur who spoils her murderous daughter didn’t help the name’s popularity. Mildred dropped below the top thousand in 1985.

Want to know more? Read on to find out more about Mildreds in history!

German Couple Can’t Legally Name Their Kid “Lucifer”

Statue of Lucifer in Liège Cathedral. White marble by Guillaume Geefs

A couple from Germany was denied the ability to name their child Lucifer after the government determined that it was an inappropriate name to give to a child. The new parents reportedly wanted to name their child Lucifer because of its Latin origins. The name Lucifer actually means “morning star” or “light-bringing”, but has now become synonymous with evil because it was the angel’s proper name before he decided to rebel against God. Due to Lucifer’s demonic association, the Association for the German Language has deemed the name to be too problematic to give to a child.

Germany does not have any official laws banning names but officials do have the ability to deny name requests if they feel the name is inappropriate or potentially dangerous for the child. The official can consult with the Association for the German Language to confirm the problematic nature of the name and if the couple refuses to back down, the issue then heads to court.

Click through to this article at Fatherly to read more about this unusual naming case!

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The Names of Criminals in Medieval England


Dave Postles, one of the leading historians of medieval English society, has looked into how names developed during the High Middle Ages. His 2006 book Naming the People of England c.1100-1350 tracks some of these developments, and notes how nicknames were used as last names. Postles believes that in some cases these names were “imposed by local society on errant individuals as a disciplinary measure, as a kind of labelling of miscreants. It was the next best action to complete ostracism.”

Here are some examples:

Agnes Daythef took sanctuary in a London church, where she confessed to stealing a surcoat and many other things. She abjurred the realm.

Henry Golichtly was known to be a robber in Coventry.

John le Fatte raised the suspicions of his neighbours over his wealth, because he ate well, drank well and dressed well. While no evidence was presented of any wrongdoing at the time, six years later he fled his home after being accused of stealing pigs.

Click through to see the rest of the list!

Parents face legal challenge in France after naming baby “Jihad”

A family in Toulouse, France who called their baby son Jihad are in legal limbo after the city’s authorities took the case to prosecutors to see if the name was lawful. Until 1993, French parents had to choose a first name for their offspring from an officially approved list, but now they are allowed to pick any name as long as it does not go against the child’s interest.

But while the name might seem like a provocative choice, given its meaning of “holy war,” it literally translates to “effort” or “struggle.” Jihad is a “fundamental concept in Islam,” meaning making “the effort to achieve good,” Aderrahmane Oumachar, co-founder of the Toulouse Centre of Muslim Spirituality, told the The Local of France.

The couple, who come from the Toulouse suburb of Léguevin, tried to name their son ‘Jihad’ when he was born in August but the local town hall immediately alerted the public prosecutor to their controversial choice of name. Given the choice of name and the fact France has been on heightened alert after a series of terror attacks by homegrown jihadists, the prosecutor may well decide to refer the case to the family court.