I remember a scene in an old episode of Desperate Housewives where Gabrielle Solis ran out to her front yard yelling, “Jesus! Jesus!” She was looking for her gardener, who was a young Hispanic man named Jésus. This is light-hearted fun, so even though it is slightly ignorant, I don’t mind it. But sometimes, Americans say mean things about Hispanics and why they name their children Jesus. Which is why I was especially glad to see this article on Slate: Was Jesus a Common Name?
The article gives a detailed etymology of the name, and informs us of several people named Jesus in the Bible before Jesus Christ’s time; in other, words, it was a common name. Another important fact is that “Jesus” is derived from “Yeshua,” which is also where the name “Joshua” comes from. But we don’t make jokes about American boys named Joshua, do we?
I did a search online before deciding to write a post, because I was hoping the ignorance had been dispelled by now. I found mixed results. One Yahoo! Answers page, in answer to the question “Why do Hispanics commonly name a son Jesus,” had both insightful information about the history and etymology of the name, as well as random racist or unbelievably idiotic comments.
One side note comment on there was that Hispanics can “get away with” names like de la cruz, but that in English, it would be weird for people if their name was “of the cross.” I found this funny for two reasons. Firstly, there are people whose last name is Cross, and I doubt it’s because their ancestors were always angry. Secondly, as far as I know (English language scholars, correct me if I’m wrong), the practice of using names with the possessive became uncommon in English way before other European countries stopped using it. Or rather, in American English, things that mean “of,” such as Mc+possessive form of the father’s name, aren’t the word that is most obvious to us, “of.” So in English names with the word “of” sound strange because there’s no (or little) history of that word being used as such, whereas in Spanish and Italian, it’s quite common. Hence all the de, de la, da, d’, and del.
So please, next time you hear someone making fun of a Hispanic kid named Jésus, enlighten that person.
On a more jolly note, have a happy, merry, and/or joyous (check all that apply):
Belated Emperor’s Birthday!