Thursday 28 April 2011

April A to Z blogging challenge Xanthippe

A common shrew sits on a moss covered log
Common or Eurasian shrew (Sorex araneus)
Image copyright Andy Sands

Parents often wish to give their children unusual names, to endow them with some individuality. Xanthippe trips off the tongue quite neatly but should be avoided, for fear that the characteristics of Socrates’ wife are imparted with the name.

Xanthippe was a shrew – not literally, of course, heaven forefend. Why would anyone marry a small furry beast? If the small bright eyes and long pointed snout didn’t put off a potential suitor, then the red-tipped teeth might prove less than attractive. Add to that the potential for a female to raise four litters of seven babies each year – that’s fifty-six babies in two years (they only live for just under two years) and you can see that a shrew is not a desirable mate for anyone earning an average wage, whatever that is these days.

No, Socrates married a scold, a nagging, vexatious woman and so such women are sometimes referred to as Xanthippe. Some scholars believe that Socrates’ delight in outdoor discussions was a direct result of his wife’s irritability. Others assume that because he was unconventional he was difficult to live with and tried Xanthippe’s patience so that she became exasperated.

Anyway, don’t choose Xanthippe for your sweet new-born daughter. Xanthe could be a good choice, so long as she isn’t jaundiced – that might not be thought very diplomatic. 


  1. great blog - forgotten her - might use it for a villen - will drop by after this madness is over and catch up on your a-z posts - so many to get around so little time left!

  2. Sweet little creature--thanks for the back story. Xanthe has a nice ring to it.

  3. Researching a name before giving it to your child is definitely good advice. One may also want to consider any possible repercussions of the name they bestow upon their kid. What may seem like a good idea when we are young may not be as good to them when they get older.

    Tossing It Out

  4. Janice, I know many people from Brazil and Mocambique who have strange names....some of them you don´t know what the parents wanted to say with...
    I adore to read you...I learn more about the life and also I improve my skill in English ...
    Thank you ver much
    Have a nice weekend, janice.

  5. Seems like parents are trying very hard these days to give their children unusual names. It's rare to meet a young Bobby or Jane...but even rarer, I'm sure, to meet a Xanthe.

  6. The shrew looks kinda cute but, really, red-tipped teeth? Ugh.
    I didn't have children of my own, but did enter into discussions on the subject with my siblings. I don't remember any names from mythology cropping up in our family, however.
    The only X names we knew would have been Xavier (as in Xavier Cugat) or Xerxes (although I don't know why we'd have known that).
    Very interesting responses you've produced for the A to Z challenge, Janice. Interesting and informative.
    — K

    Kay, Alberta, Canada
    An Unfittie's Guide to Adventurous Travel

  7. Janice, there is an advertisement on your blog. It just popped up, and it reads: Meet Mature Females Now. Meet Fun Local Ladies Right Now. (Something called

  8. And all this from a shrew! How interesting.

  9. Nice story. Lovely blog. Please do visit my blog and leave your footprints behind by posting comments:-

  10. Xanthe is a very pretty name which I've never heard before.


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