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Naming Names


BackStory with the American History Guys—our sister program at the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities—hits the airwaves today as a weekly radio broadcast. This week’s episode, “Born in the USA,” is a fascinating one, dealing with the history of birth, personhood, citizenship, and, as it happens, naming. One of the “Guys” interviews Laura Wattenberg, the creator of The Baby Name Wizard, a website that tracks the popularity of names, and that informs me my name, Brendan, derives from the surname Branton. In Old English that translates to “dweller near the brushwood hill,” while the Irish-Gaelic actually means “prince”—which, let’s face it, probably makes more sense. Wattenberg makes the point, though, that naming is all about the parents’ hopes and dreams for you, so it’s funny that my parents named me after a writer who drank himself to death. I sometimes half-joke that they also named me after Saint Brendan, hoping I might just split the difference.
Stream the episode of BackStory here.
IMAGES: The Hostage by Brendan Behan (1958); Saint Brendan the Navigator

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