St. Oscar?

Okay, so now that Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero y Galdamez has been raised to the altars as a saint, let’s talk about his names.

There are two different Oscar names out there.

The famous one is the Irish hero of legend: Osgar or Oscar, grandson of Fionn, the son of Oisin (and Niamh). His story was very popular, and then got a boost into world prominence from James McPherson’s versions of the Fionn stories. (“Ossian” is Oisin.) Some say this Osgar means “deer friend” (“os chara”), while others think it means various other stuff like “champion” or “combatant.” I go with the latter, because all the old Irish annals spell the name “Osgar” or “Oscur” or even “Osccor;” the whole “os chara” thing just seems like found-poetry etymology, not actually word origins. Whatever it means, the name shows up very late, so it probably was invented solely by the medieval poets who wrote the Osgar lays.

The second version of the name is the Germanic/Saxon/Norse name Osgar or Askar, which means “famous spear” or “god spear.” (The os- in that case would As- or Aes-, as in the “Aesir” of “Asgard.”)

Arnulfo is another Germanic type name, “Arnulf.” It means “eagle-wolf” (ern + ulf). There are three other saints named Arnulf: the famous St. Arnoul of Soissons (bishop, Aug. 14, patron of brewers and hops pickers), St. Arnoul of Gap (bishop, Sept. 19), and St. Arnulf of Mainz (bishop, martyr, Jul. 1).

A lot of Spanish-background people have Visigothic names, because the Visigoths took over Spain and ruled there, and there are lots of Germanic roots hidden in Spanish words.

In many Christian countries, people have traditionally named their kids after their Christian godparents. There are a lot of common given names used by Christians which don’t have to necessarily be names of saints to be used. Sometimes the Church has made the rules a little harder if un-Christian names were being given, but obviously nobody was worried about the lack of an Oscar in the Roman martyrology list.

St. Romero’s mother’s family name (that’s the “y Galdamez”) may come from a Basque town in Spain. That would explain the stubbornness, all right!

UPDATE: I forgot one of the weird language quirks. In Spanish, a rosemary plant is called “romero.” So St. Oscar Romero is also now a name saint for all of you who are named Rosemary!


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One response to “St. Oscar?

  1. Pingback: St. Rosemary? | Aliens in This World

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