Saturday, February 19, 2011

Dorcas and Porcas, etc.

Cute piece up at the Beeb this morning about the Pope's plea that children be given more "truly Christian names."  It seems to have struck a vein--the comment thread is approaching 400, and still quivering.  I haven't read them all, but more than perhaps was worthwhile.  I surmise (a) that there are more "Zipporah"s than you might guess; (b) that "Dorcas" is not unheard of--I used to know a "Dorcas," and evidently it was the name of a onetime BBC presenter.  Commenters point out that poor Dorcas gets her evil association via "Dorcas and Porcas" in  Beatrix Potter, but I suspect that the lure of the uninflected form would be enough to ruin poor Dork's life on any playground in the western world.  Others  make a point re Gomer--forget about Mayberry, its Biblical roots are evidently  far more unsavory than I knew.  "Philemon" may be quaintly archaic, but I suspect that its female form, "Philomena" was once fairly common.  I grant that I've never met a "Methuselah" or a "Jezebel."  There's also a bit of backchat over the question of who these Old-Testament names can be called "Christian" in that they are, by definition, BC (or, if you must, BCE).  This suggestion excites the wrath of those who declare that the whole of the Old Testament is a prefiguring of the new--and the counter-wrath of those who say that the Gospels cannot be called "Christian" in that Christianity hadn't been invented yet (cf. Acts 11:26).

Many people recall beloved ancestors who deployed a richer palette of Biblical names than may be common today. My father's old New England family seems  to have been remarkably unimaginative in its selection of names "from the Christian tradition."  I do have a some-kind-of grandmother who was Christened "Relief White," and married "Lemuel Dole," so as to become "Relief Dole"--which I suspect marks her as less a Christian than a secular socialist.

1 comment:

dilbert dogbert said...

Ha Ha! Reminds me of those famous daughters of the Texas Hogg family -- Ima and Ura.