Baby name story: Sacvan

Canadian academic Sacvan Bercovitch (1933-2014)
Sacvan Bercovitch

Canadian academic Sacvan Bercovitch has an interesting first name. How did he get it? The story begins with his parents:

Bercovitch is the son of Alexander Bercovitch and Bryna Avrutik, Jews born in the Ukraine in the 1890s who grew up during a time of deep poverty, social upheaval, and periodic pogroms.

Alexander and Bryna, both “idealistic communists,” ended up having three children:

Circumstances took them to Moscow, where their first daughter, Sara (later Sylvia) was born; then to Ashkhabad, Turkestan, where their second daughter, Ninel (Lenin spelled backwards), was born. In 1926 they emigrated to Montreal with their two daughters, helped by Bryna’s brothers, who had preceded her. In October 1933 their son Sacvan (his name an amalgamation of Sacco and Vanzetti) was born.

Sacco and Vanzetti, of course, is a reference to Italian-American anarchists Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, who were convicted of murder (perhaps wrongly) and sentenced to death in the 1920s.

Thoughts on Sacvan?

(This one is reminding me of the Swedish baby named Alfred Zola Labori Dreyfus.)


3 thoughts on “Baby name story: Sacvan

  1. Although I am not a fan of names spelled backwards – in this story “Ninel” (Lenin)and the somewhat current popular “Nevaeh” (Heaven), I do think a name which is an amalgamation might give a person an interesting sense of belonging, especially is those names are family names. I have a neighbor who has a son named Simran. The father’s name is Simon (he’s from Ireland) and the mother is named Anoop (from India) and they met in boarding school in England. (They added the R because it was the first initial of the father’s middle name and makes the name flow better). When their son was born, they felt his name should reflect both their cultures and having a name that was an amalgamation of their names would give him connections to both cultures. In this story above, the amalgamation was from names that were present in their lives that had meaning to them although I don’t know the particulars of the supossed murderers.
    My father-in-law’s name was Orland. When my husband was born, the decision was made to change the letters around for a name. The two choices – Roland or Ronald. I am pleased they chose the latter. I wonder how common a practice this is?

  2. Cool story, Diana – thanks for sharing that!

    Mash-up names are fun to spot. (Here’s a list, from commenter Erin.)

    I’m honestly not sure how common the anagram names are. Not all names are rearrange-able, so that’s a limitation. The ones I hear about most often are the flips — Ramon/Nomar and the like — but that might just be because they’re easier to recognize at first glance.

    I would guess the mash-ups are more common. It’s just a lot easier to create them.

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