Has-descendents, Fly-debate, and Tace walk into a church
January 30, 2019 10:25 AM   Subscribe

Puritanism has its roots in the late sixteenth century, after Henry VIII broke ties with the Catholic Church. The Puritans believed that reforms had not gone far enough and advocated for a church entirely divorced from Catholic ceremonies. For over a century, Puritans argued amongst themselves, schismed, predicted the end of the world, and still found time to fight the English Civil War and start colonies in the Northeastern United States.Perhaps their greatest gift to history, however, is their wonderfully strange taste in names.
posted by sciatrix (65 comments total) 43 users marked this as a favorite
 
I love Puritan names! It’s just as well I don’t have children, or they would be named something like Increase, Temperence, Cotton, or maybe The-Sword-of-the-Lord-and-of-Gideon, which would be hard to get on forms.
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:33 AM on January 30 [6 favorites]


I love that Praise-God Barebone's son, If-Christ-had-not-died-for-thee-thou-hadst-been-damned Barebone, changed his name to Nicholas.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 10:33 AM on January 30 [14 favorites]


This is ripe to be converted into a "Puritan name or Emo band?" quiz.

I've always been intriged by Increase Mather and his son Cotton.
posted by gwint at 10:34 AM on January 30 [10 favorites]


n.b.: Tace does not quite translate to silence, as is implied in the article: it's an imperatory verb, not a noun, and might better be translated as "be silent!" in English.
posted by sciatrix at 10:36 AM on January 30 [15 favorites]


First 3 reactions:

1. Fly-fornication is a CLASSIC, glad to see it on this list
2. Man, and I thought my eighteenth-century ancestor Job Smith had it rough
3. This really makes me want to play the Sims
posted by sunset in snow country at 10:37 AM on January 30 [4 favorites]


Bookmaking this thread to post to every “help me name my cat/dog/offspring” askme.
posted by Grandysaur at 10:39 AM on January 30 [18 favorites]


I've always adored the Barebone family names.
posted by Making You Bored For Science at 10:39 AM on January 30


Always liked the characters in "Witch of Blackbird Pond"--Prudence, Mercy, Thankful, etc.
posted by Melismata at 10:40 AM on January 30 [2 favorites]


My favorite Puritan name is Preserved Fish, who had a son and grandson also named Preserved Fish. Preserved Fish III was born in the mid-18th century, way after people stopped being Puritans, and I assume his name sounded pretty funny even at the time he was alive.

(Preserved was pronounced Prez-erv-id, with three syllables, and was a perfectly normal name. But maybe not for someone whose last name was Fish.)
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 10:41 AM on January 30 [17 favorites]


If you go to the Mutter Museum in Philly you can see the various skulls sponsored by people and they are still some old school Constance Rising/ Tremble Before God names.
posted by The Whelk at 10:41 AM on January 30 [3 favorites]


Also I think some of these are definitely miscategorized. "Joy-in-Sorrow" should be under "sweetest" or at least "strangely pleasant," not "utterly strange." "Fly-fornication" not under "cruelest"? Okayyy...

Also, "Remember" immediately brought to mind a book I read as a kid where the main character was named Remember Patience Whipple. Just rolls off the tongue. No trouble remembering it twenty years later. I googled it and apparently it was one of the Dear America books (historical fiction in diary format) and now I'm completely down a rabbit hole
posted by sunset in snow country at 10:43 AM on January 30 [5 favorites]


it's "fly, fornication" as in "go away, fornication," right?
posted by prize bull octorok at 10:48 AM on January 30 [5 favorites]


I choose to believe he’s really fly at fornication.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 10:50 AM on January 30 [15 favorites]


Thomas Pynchon (with Puritan forebears) riffs on these here and there in Gravity's Rainbow and Mason & Dixon.

Constant Slothrop.
Variable Slothrop. (One of the math jokes GR is full of.)
Tenebrae (a young woman's name in M&D)
posted by bad grammar at 10:53 AM on January 30 [1 favorite]


One of my very favorite jokes in Terry Pratchett's ouvre is the Morris Man Bestiality Carter, whose parents named their daughters after virtues, and sons after sins.
posted by BungaDunga at 10:55 AM on January 30 [10 favorites]


Humiliation. Humiliation Hynde had two sons in the 1620s; he called them both Humiliation Hynde.
posted by Glinn at 11:03 AM on January 30 [2 favorites]


I checked the referenced text for a strange name in my family tree - a gentleman by the name of Gibbon Blackamoor, born in the 1600s. Looks like Gibbon may have been a Puritan name! So interesting.
posted by tinwhiskers at 11:03 AM on January 30


Has-descendents seems a little presumptuous in an age of high child mortality, doesn't it?
posted by Kitty Stardust at 11:05 AM on January 30 [7 favorites]


What a great post!! Now I'm dying to know what these amazing names taste like to Julie McDowall!
posted by riverlife at 11:06 AM on January 30 [9 favorites]


Terry Pratchett's ouvre is the Morris Man Bestiality Carter
I wonder if he ever met Visit-The-Infidel-With-Explanatory-Pamphlets?
posted by pointystick at 11:13 AM on January 30 [9 favorites]


gwint: "I've always been intriged by Increase Mather and his son Cotton."

Cotton's name lives on in a Pittsburgh CPA.
posted by Chrysostom at 11:16 AM on January 30 [3 favorites]


So, is it accurate to say that names like Temperance, Hope, and Joy first came into (somewhat) common usage in England/America because of the Puritans? The article seemed to imply that but didn't really assert it strongly.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 11:20 AM on January 30 [3 favorites]


A woman in the records of the parish I grew up in had the very glorious name of Admonition Bastard. She shall be known more widely.

As for maths jokes, I hope I'm not the only one who remembers and cherishes El Camino Bignum.
posted by Devonian at 11:22 AM on January 30 [9 favorites]


I come to metafilter to read sentences like this:

Kill-sin Pimple did Jury service in the 1650s.
posted by infini at 11:29 AM on January 30 [14 favorites]


I'm here to give a shout-out to one of my favorite fictional puritans, Solomon Kane, the hero of a bunch of stories by Robert E. Howard, creator of Conan the Barbarian.

One of my very favorite jokes in Terry Pratchett's ouvre is the Morris Man Bestiality Carter, whose parents named their daughters after virtues, and sons after sins.

Pratchett and Neil Gaiman had lots of fun with this trope in their collaborative novel Good Omens.
posted by Gelatin at 11:29 AM on January 30 [6 favorites]


Chrysostom: "gwint: "I've always been intriged by Increase Mather and his son Cotton."

Cotton's name lives on in a Pittsburgh CPA.
"

Oh yeah. I'd seen his sign on McKnight and always had a chuckle over it.
posted by octothorpe at 11:31 AM on January 30 [1 favorite]


I choose to believe he’s really fly at fornication.

Per the fascinating Albion's Seed:
A classic example was an unfortunate young woman named Ffly fornication Bull, of Hailsham, Sussex, who was made pregnant in the shop of a yeoman improbably called Goodman Woodman.
posted by zamboni at 11:33 AM on January 30 [18 favorites]


From the first list, #7 was Wrestling Brewster, a passenger on the Mayflower and son of William Brewster. Futility Closet recently listed the full family: Jonathan, Patience, Fear, Love, and Wrestling.
posted by Paragon at 11:37 AM on January 30 [12 favorites]


Jonathan, Patience, Fear, Love, and Wrestling

And the greatest of these was Wrestling.
posted by zamboni at 11:38 AM on January 30 [33 favorites]


I thought Futility Closet was another Puritain.
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:41 AM on January 30 [21 favorites]


As my wife commented, Jonathan must have been thinking "phew, dodged a bullet there."
posted by Paragon at 11:49 AM on January 30 [4 favorites]


I had recently-ex-hippie neighbors as a kid -- the children in the family were named Moons, Cloud, and Matt.
posted by clew at 11:53 AM on January 30 [13 favorites]


From the first list, #7 was Wrestling Brewster, a passenger on the Mayflower and son of William Brewster.

Wrestling is my 7 times great-grandfather. For some reason he gave his kids much more standard names, except for the son he named after himself.
posted by tavella at 12:02 PM on January 30 [12 favorites]


"Fly fornication"?

Wasn't watching golf about the same level of excitement, according to George Carlin?
posted by notsnot at 12:07 PM on January 30


Wait, no, I tell you wrong -- my Wrestling is the son of *Love* Brewster, and is Wrestling-son-of-William's nephew. William's Wrestling didn't have any kids.
posted by tavella at 12:09 PM on January 30 [12 favorites]


This lazy article misses out some of the best stories: e.g. that Fear-God Barebone rebelled against his upbringing:

We only know of his existence because there survives a collection of verses made by him in the seventeenth century. The verses are decidedly bawdy .. Examples are the lines which begin:
I dreamed my love lay in her bed
And twas my chance to take her
or the refrain:
Tumble, tumble, tumble, tumble
Up and down the green meadow.
He also sums up his philosophy of life in the following quatrain:
No foe to fortune,
No friend to faith,
No, no to want,
So Fear-God Barebone saith.
(From Nicholas Tyacke, 'Popular Puritan Mentality in Late Elizabethan England', 1979)

It's never been proved that Fear-God's nephew was named If-Christ-had-not-died-for-thee-thou-hadst-been-damned Barebone, but there is no doubt that he was familiarly known as Dr Damned Barebone.
posted by verstegan at 12:12 PM on January 30 [6 favorites]


Dancell-Dallphebo-Mark-Anthony-Gallery-Cesar.

This one pings my radar a little as the kind of name Puritans gave enslaved people. They generally did not name their own white descendants after figures from Greek or Roman history or mythology because they considered all that pagan. Often when you see an "Apollo" or "Anthitrite" on the rolls it's an enslaved person. Researching was interesting - versions of this article itself have been appearing in various outlets for decades with almost no original reporting. I found the name listed with other weird Puritan names in this clickbait book from 1892, but no evidence as to whether it was a black and/or enslaved person, though it could well have been.

So, is it accurate to say that names like Temperance, Hope, and Joy first came into (somewhat) common usage in England/America because of the Puritans

Yes, they absolutely did.

"Wrestling" refers to wrestling with your conscience and - wait, I just read it was a traditional Brewster name and refers to a Bible story about Jacob wrestling with an angel. My husband is also a Brewster descendant by the way.
posted by Miko at 12:13 PM on January 30 [13 favorites]


I regularly wonder where the US got many of its names that are odd in other anglophone countries, the likes of Tipper, etc. This starts to answer that question.
posted by deadwax at 12:15 PM on January 30


The article kind of misses a major point: it wasn't just that ordinary given names were too "worldly." They were mostly saints' names, and/or names of members of the royal family. In that sense this practice should be seen in the light of, e.g., the French Revolution leading to renaming of the days and months.
posted by praemunire at 12:18 PM on January 30 [14 favorites]


If only some odd names were the Puritans' sole lasting legacy.

Near me is a monument to two Revolutionary-era soldiers, named Moses Sleeper and Constant Bliss. The 17th and 18th centuries did give us some wonderful names! Then the 19th century went full Old Testament.
posted by The Nutmeg of Consolation at 12:20 PM on January 30 [3 favorites]


Well, "Moses" is about as Old Testament as you can get, no?
posted by Chrysostom at 12:38 PM on January 30 [1 favorite]


it's "fly, fornication" as in "go away, fornication," right?

I suspect that the "fly" part is directed to the listener, rather than to fornication, i.e. "avoid fornication" but it's pretty much the same meaning either way. Or maybe with the name they were showing their knowledge of the latest scientific breakthroughs of the day.
posted by phoenixy at 12:52 PM on January 30 [3 favorites]


Hello, list of new D&D character names! I already have a paladin named Steadfast, but that barely even rates.
posted by Faint of Butt at 12:54 PM on January 30 [3 favorites]


Every few years I fire up the ancient Gold Box games inside dosbox, and I always make a fighter or paladin named Sir Kilz-a-Lot, a cleric named The Bishop!, and a magic-user called Tim. Clearly my emergency backup cleric should be Kill-Sin. I only wish Kill-Sin Pimple would fit in the name entry box.

Dammit. Now I want to check.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 1:13 PM on January 30 [2 favorites]


I love (to hate) Puritans! Though there wasn't really a clear definition and the name "puritan" was given to them by their detractors.

At my Canadian undergraduate university, I had a professor who called them "the hotter sort of protestant" (I think he was in sympathy with them); the first time I said this in an American graduate school class, all the Americans laughed at me. Also, for some reason I always spelled it "puritain", but then studying the 17th century will destroy your spelling.
posted by jb at 1:23 PM on January 30 [2 favorites]


I regularly wonder where the US got many of its names that are odd in other anglophone countries, the likes of Tipper, etc. This starts to answer that question.

Proving white people have been on a serious weird name trip since they got here, and just kept it up from all the Miffys, Biffs, Chips, & Happys through to today's Jaxsons, Breighdens, Kayghlees, and Maddisyns.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 1:24 PM on January 30 [3 favorites]


is it accurate to say that names like Temperance, Hope, and Joy first came into (somewhat) common usage in England/America because of the Puritans? The article seemed to imply that but didn't really assert it strongly.

Since the vast majority of names in 16th century baptism records are Mary, Elizabeth, Jane, etc., I'd say yes. I can't think of any occurrence of those names before the Puritans.
posted by jb at 1:26 PM on January 30 [1 favorite]


So, according to the US Social Security administration, in 1975, 105 babies were given the name Liberty, and 73 in 1977.

In 1976, 337 babies were given the name Liberty.
posted by ckape at 1:33 PM on January 30 [4 favorites]


Forget naming people, I've got several new names for my WiFi networks!
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 2:03 PM on January 30 [6 favorites]


the likes of Tipper, etc

Miffys, Biffs, Chips, & Happys


Those are a different category, and a clear and definite one that has little to do with Puritans. My friend calls them "WASP names" (old relevant AskMe) and that is what they are. They are the kind of nickname you give kids who are the 4th or 5th person in their family line to bear that name - it's how the 5th Elizabeth becomes "Bippy" or "Bitsy" or "Bet" or "Sissy" or "Tibbie" or "Ellie" or "Liza."
posted by Miko at 2:04 PM on January 30 [7 favorites]


Somewhere on my family tree was a woman named "Freelove". I've always suspected/hoped she was kind of a proto-hippie.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:06 PM on January 30 [3 favorites]


I have colleagues named Liberty, Destiny, and Constance.
It's an inspiring place to work.
posted by librosegretti at 3:28 PM on January 30 [4 favorites]


"Wrestling" refers to wrestling with your conscience and - wait, I just read it was a traditional Brewster name and refers to a Bible story about Jacob wrestling with an angel. My husband is also a Brewster descendant by the way.

I wonder whether they originally could have been avoiding "Jacob" because the Puritans were staunch allies of Oliver Cromwell, and the forces who wanted to restore the English monarchy called themselves Jacobites.
posted by jamjam at 4:02 PM on January 30 [1 favorite]


I didn't realize that study of mating behavior in drosophila went back that far.
posted by biogeo at 4:20 PM on January 30 [3 favorites]


And this is why I named myself Clarity (Clara for short).
posted by haltingproblemsolved at 6:47 PM on January 30 [3 favorites]


Moses Sleeper and Constant Bliss? Caspian Lake, by the blockhouse?
posted by Earthtopus at 7:18 PM on January 30 [1 favorite]


I wonder whether they originally could have been avoiding "Jacob" because the Puritans were staunch allies of Oliver Cromwell, and the forces who wanted to restore the English monarchy called themselves Jacobites.

(a) "Jacobite" is after "James" (Jacobus in Latin), not after "Jacob"
(b) The timing is off. Cromwell was only prominent for about 17 years (1643-ish-1660 [death]), and really only definitively in power from around 1649. The Interregnum, the first time the Stuarts lost power in England at the hands of rebels including Cromwell, was 1649 (execution of Charles I, accomplished, by the way, by literally sending in soldiers to purge the Commons of those who wouldn't vote for it)-1660 (restoration of Charles II after Cromwell's death). The Jacobites were supporters of Charles II's brother and successor, James II, who lost power in the so-called Glorious Revolution of 1688 (around the time the weirdo names began to die out), and his descendants, against the Dutch invader William of Orange and his wife, James's sister Mary, and then the Hanoverians.

Early modern English history = best history
posted by praemunire at 9:38 PM on January 30 [7 favorites]


To the King across the water!
posted by Chrysostom at 9:41 PM on January 30 [1 favorite]


I'm feeling guilty for simplifying the timeline by lazily saying Cromwell died in 1660 when in fact he died in 1658. There, I feel better now.
posted by praemunire at 12:03 AM on January 31 [5 favorites]


For everyone here who, like me, is super into this kind of thing, the Bardsley book mentioned in the article is free on Project Gutenberg and very funny/accessible for a work of its time. It also goes into a ton of detail on the history of English naming conventions in the run-up to Puritan times. Fascinating all round.
posted by terretu at 12:49 AM on January 31 [4 favorites]


I'm feeling guilty for simplifying the timeline by lazily saying Cromwell died in 1660 when in fact he died in 1658. There, I feel better now.

Any Monty Python fan could have corrected you.
posted by Faint of Butt at 5:04 AM on January 31 [2 favorites]


Thank you,
Thanks
posted by Dokterrock at 6:23 AM on January 31 [2 favorites]


update: last night I acquired The Sims 2 through dubious methods and it is 90 percent the fault of this post (I blame the other 10 percent on a client at work named Dagmar). Now off to create If-Christ-had-not-died-for-thee-or-whatever-will-fit-within-the-character-limit Barebone and his wife, Handmaid (a romance sim, obvs). THANKS
posted by sunset in snow country at 8:14 AM on January 31 [3 favorites]


Probably more Baptist than Puritan, but I knew a lawyer in North Carolina who was doing a document for a client and said: "I need your full legal name here." "My full name?" "Yes."

"Glory Be Free Salvation Holly Hazel Basil Brown"

(And of course he went by something like "Buddy.")
posted by straight at 5:09 PM on February 1 [2 favorites]


Fly-fornication is a CLASSIC

According to Wikipedia, fly fornication requires a long, flexible rod and some sort of movement, vibration, flash, or color to attract attention.
posted by straight at 5:28 PM on February 1


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