• Grace A. Johnson

Name of the Week: Xavier

Welcome back to my Name of the Week! Now, considering last week's post, this one's a no-brainer. Xavier Bennet is the hero of my debut novel, Held Captive, starring alongside the tempestuous female pirate captain, Rina Blackstone. My naming process for him is surprisingly easy to recount.

Unlike Rina, his name hasn't undergone any serious changes at all. His middle name, Collin, has flip-flopped between Colin (one L, totally different origin) and Collin, which I finally settled on as his father's name. (Which is a story for another day, seeing as how it's actually his middle name and he's not really Xavier's father and yadda, yadda, yadda. 😉) And Bennet was once spelled with two Ts before I finally stuck with the one T--which works fine, since it's a less common now, more common then (and in England) spelling.

When I first devised the idea for "The Lady Pirate"--you know, that idea about two rival pirates, one of whom was a girl--I was sitting the passenger seat of my mom's car, holding a Shopkins notebook and pen in my hand (still have the notebook, by the way), driving to church for youth group. So, I was just barely twelve (I believe it was August 2nd, meaning my birthday was a week away) and it was 5:30-ish in the evening.

Lady Cathrina (Catherina) just plopped out, but Xavier took some thought. I knew only one guy (still know only one guy) who bears the name Xavier. He went to the same church and ,although I didn't know him very well, his name was very familiar. So, yeah, maybe it's a little weird that I ended up naming my first published hero after my first crush (I was only five...ish), but it fits him so well.

Bennet (two Ts at the time) followed only moments later, probably due to the fact that my mom and I were naming random people we knew (he was almost named Lawrence), but it wasn't until I sat down to actually write the story that I bothered to look up his name.

(This was also the same time I bothered to find last names for Rina: Blackstone and Winterbourne. This was the list I used: https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Category:English_surnames_from_Old_English

Great names, by the way.)

Xavier comes from the Basque place name Etexberria, meaning "the new house," and was given as a surname to the Catholic priest Francis Xavier. After his death in the early 1600s, his surname was used by many Catholics in his honor. I like to think that was why Xavier was named such--born out of misguided passion and a warped idea of love, yet a bright, splendid, new house for the Spirit of God. Either that, or named Xavier since his birth father's middle name was Francis. We'll go with the more inspiring one, right? 😉

Now, I originally pronounced the X--as in, the smooth, slightly Southern ex-zav-yer, no emphasis on any syllable--until I realized that, technically, it should be pronounced ZAYV-yer. (And that "yer" is there because I'm from Georgia and I don't say "ior.") Although both are correct pronunciations, the Z sound is probably right etymology-wise. Still, I spell it with an X, because it looks cooler and more authentic.

Both Rina and Xavier have very unconventional names--which I pride myself in--but their classic sound, beautiful and uplifting meanings, and old origins definitely make them suitable for post-Renaissance babies that are pretty unconventional themselves!

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