BOOK REVIEW: DIVINE BABY NAMES
Divine Baby Names
Published April, 2008, by Sellers Publishing, Portland, Maine
Very few details given about the author, other than he is a student of 'classic Greco-Roman' literature. From the introduction, it is also apparent that he is a teacher.
More than 500 classic names -- some familiar, some so obscure they sound like they come from another planet -- and with each name you get at least a paragraph worth of fascinating, original background in addition to the definitions. The listings come from a broad range of classic Greek and Roman names, including deities, heroes, heroines, mythical beings, royal personages, and so forth. Many of the listings include modern-day examples of famous people who bore that name.
When you think of Greek or Roman names, you might think of Atlas, Zeus, Diana, Isis, and so on. And those familiar names are fully-represented here, along with the fascinating stories behind the names. But the book's real strength is in its choice of less familiar names, offering unique and creative baby names that have a lot of history behind them but which you won't find occupying every third seat in the kindergarten class of 2014. Names like Eos, the goddess of the rising sun; Daira, meaning 'the knowing one'; and Phaedra, meaning 'the beautiful, bright one'. For boys, how about Kyon, meaning 'the Dog Star'? Or Neilos, the river god of ancient Egypt? And of course, there is Morpheus, or 'the one who is the shape of dreams'.
The author does the smart thing by providing pronunciations for each name, which is very useful when you encounter unfamiliar names like Inachus or Eucrante. By far the best feature of the book, beyond the sheer range of names, is the in-depth background that comes with each one. Even unusual names get a paragraph telling the story of who went by that name, and what they did. Top shelf names get considerable background, such as a full page for Hermes, Venus, and the like.
Groves is less sure when it comes to the exact definitions of names, such as his definition of Michael as 'the one who is like God'. (A more precise definition of the Hebrew name Michael is 'Who is like God?' written as a question). But readers won't come to this book primarily for its definitions. They will come come for its range of names, and for the stories behind them. In that regard, Groves has put together an original and readable compendium, delivering many fresh names to an audience that is surely becoming a little jaded with the latest round of 'made-up' baby names. There are very good reasons why classic names are always in fashion, and Groves gives expectant parents a lot of classic options to consider.