Paula Kashtan

Welcome to In Name Only, the new baby naming blog from! The blog will cover everything from trends to celeb babies to user names and more. For the first post, I'm going to introduce myself to all of you (and further acquaint myself with myself!) by going in-depth on my own name, Paula Miriam Kashtan (Hebrew name: Margalit).

Story I'm Jewish, and in my culture it's traditional to name children after relatives who've passed away. (Naming after living relative is considered bad luck.) My mom's grandma was named Pauline, so she went with what seemed to like an updated version of the name: Paula. (I actually prefer Pauline – it's very retro-cool to me – but to my mom, it seemed dowdy and old-fashioned.)

My parents call me Paulie Girl, which I always found endearing... until I was of drinking age and found the beer St. Paulie Girl's. I asked my parents if that's where the nickname came from, and after a few confused looks, I got a couple of sheepish "yeses." Oh, well. It's still sweet.

My middle name, Miriam, comes from my dad's grandma. Her name was actually spelled Meriam – I know this because I have some old handkerchiefs of hers – but my parents missed this fact and went with the traditional spelling, Miriam. I'm not too upset about the mistake, because Meriam is extremely rare, and would just get misspelled all the time. (We think the spelling is probably a quirk in translation from when my great-grandmother immigrated to the United States.)

My Hebrew name, Margalit, means pearl. The rabbi chose this name for my parents at my naming ceremony because it's the closest translation to Paula, and because my great-grandmother sometimes went by Pearl.

Meaning Almost anywhere you look, Paula is defined as some variation on "short and small." This is fitting, because growing up I was very tiny, and I'm still definitely on the smaller side. My parents say it fit the grandmothers I'm named after as well.

Miriam is (I hope) a little less fitting – it means "sea of bitterness and sorrow." When I told this to my father, he got a wistful look on his face and said, "Oh, but my grandmother Miriam was the sweetest woman you ever met..." Ok. I can deal.

Kashtan is a whole other story. First, it means chestnut in Russian. (So I'm a little bitter chestnut. Cool.) And, thanks to Wikipedia, we found out a few years ago that Kashtan is also a Russian war machine. Hmm.

Popularity According to social security data, Paula was the 249th most popular name in the US in 1985, the year I was born. According to my own personal research, not very many people my own age are named Paula. It's more popular among the baby boomers – it reached a peak popularity of 46 in the '50s. Since then it's only gone down, to a ranking of 817 in 2010. Pauline is similarly unpopular among my generation, but my favorite Paul- name – Paulina – is experiencing a comeback. Unranked in the 1980s (actually, it had been unranked since the 1890s), it peaked at 416 in '04, and has now settled at 723. I still wouldn't call it popular, but its feminine, romantic and old-fashioned feel make it similar to other retro names coming back into vogue.

Pop Culture Paula Abdul, Paula Abdul, Paula Abdul, and Paula Jones. Funny story: I used to want to be a member of my friend Candy Jones' family, so I called myself Paula Jones. A few years (and a few Bill Clinton scandals) later, all those notebooks with "Paula Jones" written on them became pretty embarrassing. Oh, and if you want to date yourself, sing "Hey Paula" to me upon our introduction.

Tell us your story! It's fun to talk about myself, but now I want to know – what's your name story? Leave a comment and tell us all about you! If you don't know much about your name, leave that as your comment – in the future, I'll go in-depth with user names in this blog.