Friday, April 29, 2011

Samuel Sewall on Breastfeeding

It's been a wild week here. Since last Friday, I have,
  • moved to a new house with my husband, 6-month-old daughter, cat, and far, far too many boxes of useless objects that I hope to donate rather than unpack
  • presented a draft chapter of my dissertation to the Harvard Early America Workshop
  • concluded lectures and sections for the 270-student Gen Ed course for which I am head TF
  • traveled to Connecticut to celebrate Molly's first Easter
Now, I am in the midst of unpacking, revising, and advising student research projects.

Still, I am finding a little time for my own research at night. I have (re-)begun reading Samuel Sewall's diary with a particular eye toward his many descriptions of funerals and graveyards. I don't want to miss any little mentions, so I've been reading the whole thing, not just scanning.

I'm only up to 1690 (the diary runs 1674-1729), but I am already enthralled. Sewall records so many details of daily life in 17th-century Boston — not just details of his own life, but suggestive little stories that flesh out large parts of the goings on in town. In addition, he is an attentive parent and a loving husband. His writings about his children are simultaneously sweet and horrible, particularly when he laments his inability to comfort his young children when they are particularly disturbed by Bible verses he has asked them to read.

One thing I was not really expecting to find in the diary of an eminent Puritan judge was information about breastfeeding practices. At first, I just put a little check mark next to references to nursing babies (this info is not really pertinent to my dissertation), but the little check marks have added up.

Here is what Samuel Sewall has to say about breastfeeding:

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Baby Name Predictions

The Social Security list of the top 1,000 baby names for 2010 will be coming out in the next few weeks. The Baby Name Wizard always has a contest seeing who can predict the fastest rising and fastest falling names of the year, and I thought it might be fun to write down my predictions in public to see how I do.

If you are into modern baby names, leave your own guesses in the comments!

My predictions:

Fastest Rising Names (Girls):
  • Everly: not in the top 1,000 in 2009, but I think it will break onto the scene in a big way for 2010. It could be the new Neveah. Ever is right behind!
  • Tiana: ranked #609 (and falling) in 2009, but The Princess and the Frog will change that. It came out at the end of 2009, so it had the full year of 2010 to rise.
  • Aurora: this is a risky choice because Aurora was already #217 in 2009, so it doesn't have much room to rise. Still, it is the title character of 2010's most popular telenovela, and telenovela names have a track record of spiking popularity.
  • Cecilia: Pam and Jim on The Office named their baby Cecilia. It might not rise very far because SSA counts Cecilia and Cecelia as different names.
  • Harlow: All of those androgynous H names are hot right now — Harper, Hadley, etc. I'll take Harlow for +100 spots on the chart.
  • Bristol: She won't go away.
  • Bonus prediction: Amalia will make the top 1,000 for the first time.
Fastest Rising Names (Boys):
  • Archer: debuted in 2009 at #679. Similar-sounding Asher is at #165 and still climbing, so I think Archer will gain ground.
  • Bentley: we already saw a dramatic jump (from #940 in 2008 to #518 in 2009) thanks to MTV's Teen Mom Maci and her little Bentley. They were still in the news in 2010 and I think this name will rise even more.
  • Jaxton: The Jackson trend is completely out of hand. It's only a matter of time.
Fastest Falling Names (Girls):
  • Analia: This was the fastest-rising name for girls in 2009, thanks to a telenovela. I am hoping that it falls back into obscurity, both because it looks like "pertaining to the anus" and because I worry that someone, somewhere, might mistake Amalia for Analia.
  • Miley: Miley Cyrus had a bad year, and I think that this name rests on her fortunes. It burst onto the list at a shocking #278 in 2007, peaked at #128 in 2008, and slipped to #189 in 2009. I think it will lose at least 100 places in 2010.
  • Yaretzi: big spike last year — must be some celebrity I don't know about
 Fastest Falling Names (Boys):
  • Aaden: Jon & Kate are finally off the air. Hopefully, they will take their spelling issues with them.
  • Peyton: As it rises for girls, it will fall for boys.
  • Jacoby: The Red Sox were terrible last year.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Obscure Biblical Names: Z

m. Phineas Parmenter, 3 June 1736
Sudbury, MA

The KJV doesn't seem to have Y names — it renders them all as Js or Es.

Obscure Bible Names Alphabet

Friday, April 15, 2011

Obscure Biblical Names: Xerxes

Springfield, MA
emigrated to Ohio in 1798

Ok, Xerxes is not that obscure. There is limited choice in X names in the Bible, though.

This is somewhat interesting, though, because the name Xerxes does not appear in the KJV or Geneva Bibles — the KJV renders the king's name as Ahasuerus, while the Geneva Bible says Ahashuerosh. Modern translations give the king his Greek name — Xerxes. So where did Xerxes Paulk get his name? He was a Baptist preacher, and, while the 18th-century Baptists were not known for their learning, someone in his family may have been an educated man with access to a Greek testament or Herodotus.

Again, a terrible name for a Christian child.

Obscure Bible Names Alphabet

Note: There are no W names in the KJV.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Obscure Biblical Names: Vajezatha

Meet Vajezatha Daniels of Mendon, MA.

I think this goes on the list of names that may have been ok once upon a time, but are not good for the 21st century. See also Urana Daniels.

In the Bible, Vajezatha is another of Haman's sons, killed in the Book of Esther. I've given up trying to understand why New Englanders gave their children the names of people they believed to be the enemies of God. And such horrible names!

Obscure Bible Names Alphabet

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Songs of '61: The First Gun is Fired

The First Gun is Fired
by George F. Root 
April 1861

The first gun is fired! 
may God protect the right!
Let the free-born sons of the North arise 
in power's avenging might
Shall the glorious Union our fathers made 
by ruthless hands be sundered?
And we of freedom's sacred right 
by trait'rous foes be plundered.

Arise; Arise; Arise! 
And gird ye for the fight,
And let our watchword ever be, 
May God protect the right.

The first gun is fired, 
By echoes thrill the land,
And the bounding hearts of the patriot throng, 
Now firmly take their stand;
We will bow no more to the tyrant few 
Who scorn our long forebearing,
But with Columbia's stars and stripes, 
We'll quench their trait'rous daring

The first gun is fired, 
Oh! heed the signal well,
And the thunder tone as it rolls along 
Shall sound opression's knell,
For the arm of freedom is mighty still, 
But strength shall fail us never,
The strength we'll give to our righteous cause 
And our glorious land forever!

Obscure Biblical Names: Uzziel

b. 1693
Danvers, MA

Uzziel Rea had a son named Archelaus, presumably after Herod Archelaus, aka the son of Herod the Great. In the Gospel of Matthew, Joseph and Mary are so afraid of Herod Archelaus that they never return to Judea. Why on Earth would you name your New England child after the guy who followed his father in his desire to kill baby Jesus?

There are a bunch of Uzziels in the Bible, none of them particularly distinguished.

Obscure Bible Names Alphabet

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Obscure Biblical Names: Tobijah

Edited: Per Boxfoot's explanation, I hereby deem Tobijah insufficiently obscure for this series. We'll go with Tyrannus instead (see comments). It raises an interesting question: which is a worse name for a child born in Massachusetts in 1775: Herod or Tyrannus?

Tobijah Perkins
Topsfield, MA

Not Tobias, not Elijah. Tobijah.

Obscure Bible Names Alphabet

The First Shots Are Fired

Today is the 150th anniversary of the shots fired on Fort Sumter that marked the beginning of the Civil War. I'm sure there are many fine tributes to the day all over the internet.

My contribution will be to point you toward Jill Lepore's essay in the American Scholar: "How Longfellow Woke the Dead."

Lepore argues that we should read Longfellow's famous poem, "Paul Revere' Ride" in its original context — not as a piece of singsong schoolroom verse, but as a call to arms at the beginning of the Civil War:
"Paul Revere’s Ride” is a poem about waking the dead. The dead are Northerners, roused to war. But the dead are also the enslaved, entombed in slavery—another common conceit: Frederick Douglass once wrote about his escape as “a resurrection from the dark and pestiferous tomb of slavery.” Who shall wake? Neglecting Longfellow, taking the Sumner out of Longfellow, juvenilizing Longfellow, has had its costs. Decades of schoolroom recitation have not only occluded the poem’s meaning but have also made it exceptionally serviceable as a piece of political propaganda, not least because political propaganda and juvenilia have rather a lot in common.
Take a look — it's a great read.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Harvard Admissions Exam

This version of the Harvard Admission Exam (1869) has been going around among the graduate students. It includes sections on Latin and Greek translation and grammar, History and Geography, Arithmetic, Algebra, and Geometry.

Take a shot at the History and Geography section (no Wikipedia!):

Birding Bleg

Can any birders out there help me identify this little guy/gal?

He/she lives in my new back yard in Cambridge, approx. half a mile from the Charles River. I took these pics around 6 in the evening in early April. I first noticed her when she was on the ground, picking through some scattered feathers. Then, she flew into this little tree and perched about 6 ft off the ground. After a while, she flew up into the bigger tree next door, about 20 ft up.

I haven't seen any songbirds in the new yard yet – just little puffs of feathers where they once were:

I know nothing about birds, but my impression was that she was small (bigger than a dove, but not by much), drab, and had giant claws relative to the rest of her body. In my very inexpert opinion, she looked too small and drab to be a red-tailed hawk like these. She has dark bands on her tail. Even with the birding book Pete gave me, I am hopeless.

Friday, April 8, 2011

The Reinterrment of Joseph Warren

On this day in 1776, Joseph Warren was re-interred at the Granary Burying Ground in Boston. Warren had been killed by a bullet to the head at the Battle of Bunker Hill on June 17, 1775, and buried in a shallow grave with several other American dead. After British troops evacuated from Boston in March of 1776, Warren's friends exhumed his remains and transferred them to the Granary Burying Ground.

In 1824, Warren's bones were moved again, to St. Paul's Church. In 1855, they were moved again, to Forest Hill Cemetery.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Obscure Biblical Names: Ruhamah

Ruhamah Wood
d. 8 March 1791
Brooklyn, CT
Ruhamah Wood, 1791, Brooklyn, CT

Ruhamah Wood's gravestone in Brooklyn, CT reads,
In Memory of Mrs
Ruhama, wife of
Mr Be(n)jamin Wood
who died March
8th 1791 in the 28th 
year of her age.
Behold me here
you splended youth
The tale I tell
is all the truth
Tho you are young
you may die soon
My morning sun
went down at noon

In the Bible, Ruhamah is a symbolic name given to the daughter(s?) of Hosea (Hosea 2:1).

Obscure Bible Names Alphabet

Friday, April 1, 2011

Obscure Biblical Names: Quartus

b. 17 June 1810
Huntington, MA

This is not the best entry. There are only two Q names in the Bible, Quartus and Quirinius, but Quirinius is rendered as Cyrenius in the Geneva and KJV Bibles. Quartus could be named for the Biblical Quartus, I suppose, but it's probably only used for fourth sons. Boo.

Obscure Bible Names Alphabet