Thursday, April 11, 2013

J is for John

In yesterday’s post I wrote about the Information Age and how we have phenomenal amounts of information literally at our fingertips. For today’s post I thought it would be interesting to explore some of this information by investigating something that I have not really bothered to look into much – the meaning of my given name. So today, J is for John and with the help of t’internet let’s take a (somewhat tongue in cheek) look at the origins and meaning of my name.

Let’s start with, which announces that John is a boy’s name, pronounced jahn. Well maybe it’s pronounced that way in the good old US of A but not where I come from! It’s john, as in jon. I’m glad to know it’s classified as a boy’s name – when one of your middle names is Mary you need some level of reassurance to avoid any gender issues. According to this website, my name means “God is Gracious” and it is possibly the most popular name in history. Very well put, don’t you think – sounds a lot better than ‘common as muck’.

It goes on to tell us that kings, popes, saints and heroes have all borne the name. Well, I mean, it goes without saying. But – wait a second – it goes on to include villains in the list and every degree of character in between. Well, that just about covers everyone! I think this website is playing it safe.

Across numerous websites, I learn that there are many translations of the name. Having been born in Ireland, I am John or Seán (as gaeilge, an dtuigeann tú?). If I had been born a German, I could be Johann or Johannes. Had I been Breton, I would be Yannick. In Spain, they would call be Juan – though in the Catalan region that would probably be Joan, but that might be stretching the gender thing again. I could go on – but I won’t.

Referring to another kind of dictionary altogether – the urban kind – I find many different usages of the word ‘john’. I won’t go into them here (sighs of relief all around), except to mention that in the good old US of A, what we refer to in Ireland as the ‘loo’ or the ‘bog’ might be referred to as the ‘john’.

There have been many famous Johns throughout history – oh, sorry, I should have explained – I’m back talking about people again. To name a few – John F. Kennedy (assassinated), John Lennon (assassinated), John Ivory (ass). Well, at least I haven’t been assassinated – yet.

Having said that, I wonder how long my name will actually be around. Looking at some statistical websites, what once was possibly the most popular name in history appears to be on the wane. For example, in England and Wales, between 1998 and 2010, the name dropped from being ranked around #50 as a boys name to being ranked #94. In the US, records started much earlier – back in 1880. At that time, more than 8% of boys were christened John. Today, it is less than 1%. But then, who wants to be named after a toilet?


  1. there's fine line between 'most popular in history' and 'common as muck' you know... :D


  2. Well I live here in the good ol USA and all the John's I know are spoken "jon" I also had a beautiful baby in 93 who we named John. I love the name. Sadly our John died as an infant. I think highly of your name obviously since it belongs to someone I loved dearly. My husband and I also have uncles named John. Yes we do call the loo a John sometimes but we also call it the throne and the pot. Although I swear the "pot" thing is from my mother who is Canadian. I was born and raised there but married and moved here. SUCH A MIX. ;p Well John, glad you are alive and well and thanks for sharing. I also checked out your photos , they are beautiful!!!!! I'm book marking you so I can come visit again. Happy a to z

  3. Hi Dee,
    Thanks for visiting. I really do like my name and my post was very much tongue-in-cheek! So sorry to hear that you lost your son John at such a young age. I always feel it is not the natural way of things that our children should ever go before us. Thank you for your kind comment on my photos. I have paid a visit to you blog and very much enjoyed it. Keep up the great writing!