This is really just food for thought. While reading the responses to the dark names post I made I started thinking of about the name Salem. I’m always thinking about the name Salem if I’m being honest. Something I find very interesting is why some associations are so strong and aren’t.
Salem Witch Trials: Bad, yes, but horrible things have happened in other places. Like the Dawson Massacre, St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, Lawrence massacre, Everett Massacre, Kent State sh—tings, Aurora sh—tings, etc. These names haven’t been “ruined” because of these things. Could it be because of the sensationalism of witchcraft makes us want to talk about it more?
I saw a comment of Reddit that said people who like the name Salem are “edgelord teenagers who think witch shit is cool and didn’t read up on the history.” It’s hyperbolic but I know for me (others I’ve seen use the name) it’s not true. I have degree in history and anthropology. Honestly, I think this makes me more open to the name and see it less narrowly. Especially with being taught the importance of not viewing things through an ethnocentric lens. This doesn’t negate the bad but allows it to be more.
Salem the cat: My boy! Love that dude! Why’s this bad? I think the association is so strong with this because Sabrina the Teenage Witch hasn’t really gone away since it was created. Thus making this a reference point for multiple generations. Some other pet characters that overcome their associations: Milo, Otis, Clifford, Brian, Max.
The forgotten Salem’s: Salem is such a prolific place name! There are cities called Salem in Canada, Germany, Israel, India, Sweden, the UK, Burma, Spain, Indonesia, and South Africa. In the United States alone there are over 30 cities in different states called Salem. I think it’s so interesting that one event that could’ve happened anywhere in the colonies “tainted” such a prolific place name.
Meaning: Salem is Hebrew in origin and means “complete, safe, peace/peaceful.” Such a great name meaning! It’s also part of Jerusalem, making it a biblical adjacent name. This is highlighted in How I Named My Baby Salem Tate
Popularity: Salem has been steadily rising in the US charts since 2019. For girls it’s #453 and #680 for boys. If it gets more popular, would knowing someone in real life make the negative associations fade? Even just a little?
I’d love to hear your thoughts! Are there any polarizing names you like? Should we give names like Salem, Lilith, Cain, Leda, Delilah, Bathsheba be given a chance to rise above their negative associations?
I just came to say I agree. [name_u]Salem[/name_u] is a lovely name, despite the assocation I think it has everything else going for it. & good point about [name_f]Lilith[/name_f] and [name_f]Delilah[/name_f].
I like it, darkness and all. The sound, the earthiness, the levity, and the nickname potential of [name_f]Sally[/name_f], one of the sweetest ever!? It’s a recipe for a great name.
It’s definitely one marked by history—yes, that is clear to see. I don’t find that the Witch Trials render the name unusable. That said… I am no [name_u]Salem[/name_u] expert. As far as my knowledge extends, the name feels macabre and witty, novel and sharp.
This is a woefully sour and close-minded take. The internet at large can be quite a place for them… I hope you won’t let it deter you.
Also, FWIW… “witch sh!t” is cool.
I’ve loved [name_u]Salem[/name_u] for a long time, although now I think I prefer the sal-EM pronunciation, which hopefully would help to separate the name from the witch trials. It’s a famous story in my family that when my mom told her mother that she intended to name a girl [name_u]Abby[/name_u], my nana’s response was that she absolutely couldn’t because “that’s the wicked little girl from The Crucible.”
(my name is [name_u]Abby[/name_u] and my nana denies this comment to this day)
I think if someone chose the name [name_u]Salem[/name_u] because of the witch trials or to invoke something ‘witchy’ I’d find that a bit dubious and honestly disrespectful to the people killed in the trials. But liking the name in general I don’t see a problem with, especially as it has pleasant roots in the Hebrew. [Source: I have postgrad qualifications in the history of witchcraft!]
I’m not religious myself so can’t really speak to the biblical names you’ve mentioned but I think it all depends on motivation and context.
I love [name_u]Salem[/name_u]! I think it’s a beautiful name, in all its pronunciations. It does make me think of the trials, but I’m aware that that’s not the only association and I wouldn’t meet a [name_u]Salem[/name_u] and think they were named after the witch trials, so in my eyes it’s fine!
(Sidenote, I also love [name_u]Salem[/name_u] the cat - in my case from [name_f]Sabrina[/name_f]: The Animated Series from 1999. He was my first introduction to the name so I’ll always think of him too, but I think that’s a positive association, he was my favourite character!)
salem is such a lovely name, at least for me!
my first association with salem is the place in massachusetts, which leads me to thinking about halloween, because in salem they hold a bunch of cool hallowen fests! i never neccesarily think the salem witch trials, which might be unusual becsuse the witch trials were held right in the place where associate it with.
i definitely agree with your takes, though i do find salem to have an edgy vibe, but not neccesarily enough to fit this description:
since its climbing up in popularity, i find the name usable!
I think the issue stems from the fact that when you say [name_u]Valentine[/name_u], most people’s thoughts would go to the holiday. When you say [name_f]Aurora[/name_f], people might think of the [name_f]Disney[/name_f] princess. Whereas [name_u]Salem[/name_u] has one, overwhelming association - the [name_u]Salem[/name_u] witch trials in MA.
It does feel like something an edgy teenager would like. I can’t say I’m too fond of the pronunciation either - it’s the sail sound.
There is also the Arabic name [name_u]Salem[/name_u], but that’s a) strictly masculine b) pronounced SA-leem, and usually transcribed as [name_u]Salim[/name_u].
In my eyes the [name_u]Salem[/name_u] Witch Trials is a very strong association with [name_u]Salem[/name_u]. Honestly, it’s the only thing I think about when I hear [name_u]Salem[/name_u]. I don’t think about the other events at all when I hear [name_u]Dawson[/name_u], [name_u]Valentine[/name_u], etc. So indeed those names aren’t ruined for me.
I don’t know [name_u]Salem[/name_u] the cat and I don’t think it’s a problematic association. It might even help to make the [name_u]Salem[/name_u] Witch Trials less dominant.
I didn’t know so many plaves are called [name_u]Salem[/name_u].
I love the beautiful meaning of [name_u]Salem[/name_u].
To me, knowing people with a certain names always helps me get used to it. I think the increasing popularity will soften the negative connections.
For me, [name_f]Delilah[/name_f] is a good example of a name which popularity has already faided the associations.
Interesting questions. I’m all for “taking back the names” like [name_u]Amos[/name_u] and [name_f]Jemima[/name_f], which were simply beautiful Biblical names that got used wrong/badly.
[name_u]Salem[/name_u] is a place name and I tend to love place names.
I don’t know the show or cat, but I love cats and cat associations (Calico, [name_f]Tabby[/name_f], etc.).
[name_f]My[/name_f] question has always been, for what gender? Naming a male [name_u]Salem[/name_u] feels off to me as I associate [name_u]Salem[/name_u] and witch trials with misogyny. Yet naming a female [name_u]Salem[/name_u] seems to set her up with a negative association.
She could be named [name_u]Salem[/name_u] and called [name_f]Selah[/name_f].
[name_u]Or[/name_u] I suppose a male could be named [name_u]Salem[/name_u] and called [name_m]Lem[/name_m].
I’m not keen on [name_f]Ophelia[/name_f], [name_f]Eurydice[/name_f], [name_f]Persephone[/name_f], etc. so this name is not my cup of tea, but I do think it’s usable if loved by someone like you.