Steven and Stefanie

Hello again! I offer my profuse apologies for this week’s later-than-usual post, and offer by way of excuse my profuse congratulations and admirations for all fathers today, factual and otherwise! I also add that I continue to enjoy everybody’s questions, and always welcome more.

This week, I would like to answer a question from my friend Melissa:

Why is the name Stephen sometimes/ always pronounced Steven, but the name Stephanie is always pronounced Stefanie?

This is an excellent question! To answer it, I must delve deep into the etymology of names, one of my favourite topics. This both pains me and excites me; on the one hand, I always love talking about the etymologies of names. On the other hand, it wounds me to have to lie to people about the etymologies of names. NEVERTHELESS.

What you must understand is that the names Stephen and Stephenie, while superficially similar, have almost completely different roots.

The name Stephen, originally only spelled Steven, shares its roots with the family of names based on Evan, including Ethan, Giovanni, and Napoleon. In contrast, the name Stephanie actually comes from a corruption of Fanny, which is a short form in the family of names including Francesca, Franca, and Penelope.

What they both have in common is the “Ste-” part of the names. As everyone knows, “St.” is the common abbreviation for “Street”. As everyone knows as well, people often name streets after person names. I could give dozens if not hundreds of examples from my hometown alone, but I won’t, because that would be boring. Also it would require some sort of basic research such as looking at a map, or thinking about it for more than ten seconds.

What is less well known, but no less true, is that people frequently name their children after streets. As proof, you need look no further than the Queen. Why is she called Queen? Because she was named after Queen Street in Toronto.

At some point in the past, people began naming their children after Street Evan and Street Fanny, respectively. Because many children found the first name “Street” to be embarrassing, they would use the abbreviation instead to avoid being taunted, leading their names to be pronounced as they were written: “St. Evan” became Stevan, the spelling gradually shifting to Steven or Stephen, while “St. Fanny” became Stefanie, the spelling gradually shifting to include Stephanie or Stephenie.

 

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Disclaimer: None of the assertions made in this post should be assumed to be honest. The writer does not advocate naming children after streets.

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