Tuesday, Jun 28, 2016
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People share the stories behind their unusual monikers

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Dayspring Jubilee Evan, 19, of Swanton is flanked by her father, Jerry, and her monther, Janet.


As a child Dayspring Jubilee Devan used to dislike her name.

“I offered to trade my mom,” the 19-year-old Swanton woman says jokingly. “I wanted a name like Susan or Mary.”

The youngest of five siblings, Miss Devan says her brother often teased her as a child, calling her “Bedspring.”

But over the years, she says, she grew to love her name and appreciate its uniqueness.

“Now, I think my name is pretty,” says Miss Devan, who received her bachelor's degree early from the University of Toledo and is working on her master's degree at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. “It's so unusual. It sort of sounds like a dessert,” she says, joking that her only problem with her name is finding a future husband who has an appropriate last name to complement hers.

Miss Devan's siblings have more traditional names - Jerry, Jessica, Laurie, and Rachel.

Her mother, Janet Devan, says that when she was pregnant with her fifth child, she looked for a Biblical name and had always been interested in the Jewish faith.

“I came up with the name Dayspring from Luke, chapter 1, verse 78, where Jesus was referred to as the `dayspring from on high,'” says Mrs. Devan, referring to wording in the King James Bible.

Jubilee is from the Old Testament Jubilee, which was celebrated by the Hebrews every 50 years. “I've always been interested in the Jewish people and honoring that side of the Lord,” Mrs. Devan says.

It is important for people with unusual names to know the stories behind those names, says Cleveland Kent Evans, an associate professor of psychology at Bellevue University in Bellevue, Neb.

“If you have a very unusual name, you can be proud of it when you have the full story behind it,” says Dr. Evans, an executive council member of the American Name Society, a group founded in 1951 to promote onomastics, the study of names and naming practices.

Some uncommon names don't have any stories behind them, but simply sound good to the parent, Dr. Evans says.

“Since the '60s, people have felt free to create brand new names out of syllables that are fashionable. ... There is also a bit more willingness to take nouns out of the language - this trend started a bit with Chastity Bono, and then there are names like Destiny, or you'll have people taking names from geography, such as Phoenix and Ireland,” says Dr. Evans. Chastity Bono is the daughter of entertainer Cher and her former husband, the late Sonny Bono.

Giving names that simply sound different is a more accepted practice in the African-American community, except among highly educated blacks, who tend to give their children cultural names with special meanings or familial ties, Dr. Evans says.

He added that research shows that there is also a social class association in naming trends. The higher the socio-economic level, the more traditional, and historic the name, says Dr. Evans, adding that this is a sensitive subject in onomastics.

“People who are upper middle class tend to go for the names along history ... where blue collar workers are a bit more likely to give their children names that haven't been names until recently, or that sound futuristic,” says Dr. Evans, who adds that a possible reason is that the past has been good for those in higher socio-economic levels, so they tend to borrow traditional names from the past. In contrast, those from lower socio-economic tiers want a better life for their children, so they tend to look more toward the future when choosing names.

Cultural pride is the main reason behind Song-in-the-Night-Sarah Eleanor (Sushnik) Mercurio's name.

Her mother, Mary Margaret Sushnik, is a white woman who had been married to Mrs. Mercurio's father, the late Running-over-Water-Roy Anthony Sushnik, a Native American from Oklahoma.

Mrs. Sushnik says she wanted her daughter to have a link to Native American heritage.


Song-in-the-Night-Sarah Eleanor Mercurio with her husband, Randall, and their sons Jacob Benjamin, 18 months, and Isiah David, 5 weeks. Mrs. Mercurio says she is proud of the bond that her name gives her to her father and his culture.


Mrs. Mercurio says although her parents divorced when she was an infant, and she never had a relationship with her father, she is proud of the bond she has to him and his culture.

“Many people call me Sarah, and in college I had to use my legal name on term papers, and so many people who knew me then still call me Song,” says Mrs. Mercurio, who considered giving her own children Native American names, but chose mainstream names instead - Jacob Benjamin, 18 months, and Isiah David, who is 5 weeks old.

When Heide Higgins named the second of four children, Freedom, now age 8, she learned something surprising about her family's history.

“I knew I was having a boy, and I wanted to do something different, something unusual, and as soon as I thought of [Freedom], I knew it was right,” Mrs. Higgins says. “The word itself is flawless to me. There's nothing bad about the word.”

Mrs. Higgins and her husband, John Love, have three other children: Thomas, age 11, Hayley, 6, and infant John, 8 months.


Freedom Higgins, 8, holds his brother, John, 8 months, in the family's front yard.


The surprise came when Mrs. Higgins, then a Phoenix resident, phoned her grandmother to tell her that she had given birth, and to let her know the baby's name.

“I was so nervous to tell her the name I had picked, not wanting her to think it was too extreme. As soon as I told her, there was a long silence and she quietly said, `That was my father's name. How did you know? Everyone called him Fred all his life',” says Mrs. Higgins, who said Freedom goes by his full name or Free.

Dr. Evans of the American Name Society says, “What has happened over the last 15 years is that there's been a particular drop-off in the kids who get the most popular names. People now want to name their kids something different, but not too different.”

The movie The Matrix single-handedly influenced baby girls' names, Dr. Evans says, noting a rise in girls with the name Trinity, a female character in the film.

Annette Troyer named her two daughters Vanity Lace Del- campo, age 13, and Tygre Lily Troyer, 11 months.

Mrs. Troyer, director of nursing at the Kingsbury House, an assisted-living facility in Defiance, says she chose Vanity Lace because she thought of a vanity with lace on it as a precious item in a little girl's room. She named Tygre Lily after her favorite flower, the Tiger Lily.

“My mother-in-law was like, `No way!' but now she likes the name Tygre Lily. Everybody seems to love the name. And my other daughter, Vanity Lace, is very outgoing and she loves that nobody else has her name,” says Mrs. Troyer. She also has three stepsons with her husband, Jeff. The three have Biblical names: Jeremiah, age 20, Benjamin, 17, and Levi, 13.

Unusual names discovered through e-mail and phone calls in our informal reader survey include Queneva, Cleves, Maverick (female), Ryland (after guitarist Ry Cooder), Geniece Golda Gacik, Amarilla Signora, Jama (female), Amber Moon, Espen, Peachyes, (pronounced Peaches), Jaye (female), Luman Christian Wyatt, and Zeda Beans.

Many respondents shared the stories behind the names. Donnie Grames, for example, named his son Jagger-Paul, after two of his heroes - Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones and French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre.

One reader sent an e-mail about her three grandchildren, all named after cars, Lexus, Bentley, and Tucker. Another said her name is Cherity, her daughter's name is Charly, and her son's name is Chance. (She added that her cat's name is Caesar.)

Tana Marie told us that her name is part of Toledo's retail history - her mother named her for the former Tana Marie Shoe Shop, a store that opened in the 1950s with locations on Madison Avenue downtown and along West Central Avenue in the Colony neighborhood.

Andy Huff shared the story of his daughter Liati, 23, which is an acronym for the sentence, “Love is all there is.” Liati was named by Mr. Huff's former wife, Lynnea, a spiritual and healing consultant who now goes by just one name, Alaya.

“We lived out in Denver, Colorado, at the time, so it wasn't unusual for people to name their children unusual names like Rainmaker,” says Mr. Huff, who chose his daughter's middle name, Angelique, because she reminded him of an angel.

Liati Angelique Huff, a recent graduate of Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colo., says she loves her first and middle names.

“Most people think my name is either Italian or Hawaiian. The most unique guess was Russian,” she says. “When I tell them it's an acronym for `love is all there is,' they usually think it's so sweet, or a lot of people will respond by, `Oh, your parents loved the Beatles, right?'.”

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