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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Baby Girl Story ___ B.

Andrea writes:
We are pregnant with our first baby girl in June. We have decided on Story for the first name, but cannot for the life of us come up with something that fits for a middle name. Our last name begins with B and is 2 syllables.

The issue we’re having is that Story is kind of “odd” in the circles we run in, but we love it! Most people can’t seem to get on board with Story…I guess maybe because it’s a noun?

We’ve considered:

Story Love
Story Maria (Maria is a family name)
Story May
Story June
Story Belle

Thanks in advance!

You have come to the right person. I can tell you why people are having trouble getting on board with the name Story: it is because "Story" is not a name. Of course it IS a name if you name your baby with it, but as with names such as Apple and Poet and Moon Unit, we consider them "words" and not "names." That is why they create a stir when used as names.

I think you know all this already. You'll soften the reaction you get from your family and acquaintances if you acknowledge that you know it. Something in a kind, understanding tone of voice, something like, "We know it's very unusual, but we just love it, and it's such a pretty sound!"

Because it IS a pretty sound! A VERY pretty sound! Say the name Story until it loses its "word"ness, and the surprise is that it's not already a common girl name. It sounds like many other girl names already in use: Dori, Kori, Lori, Rory, Tori.

Word names do present a middle name problem. Any usual name is going to clash---but a second word name is overkill, and confusing. I think the middle name choices you have so far (except for Maria) all fall into the word name category: June and Belle and Love and May ARE of course often used as names, but when they're put up next to Story they shift back into words. The mind struggles to make sense of what it is seeing: is this a name, a product, a location, a command, a library event requiring pre-registration?

Maria is a usual name, and like all usual names, it's going to seem to clash with a word name. One way to reduce the apparent clash is to choose an established name that reminds us of Story, and try it on with the middle name.

For example, let's use Rory: Rory Maria. Well, that's beautiful! Now that we're using a two usual names together, we can see it more clearly. Say it a few times (Rory Maria, Rory Maria, Rory Maria) and then switch in Story: Story Maria. Lovely. Story Marie is lovely, too.

Let's find more options the same way. How about Anne? Lori Anne, Lori Anne, Lori Anne---Story Anne. Nice.

Tori Leigh, Tori Leigh, Tori Leigh---Story Leigh. Nice.

Kori Lynn, Kori Lynn, Kori Lynn---Story Lynn. Nice.

Dori Elizabeth, Dori Elizabeth, Dori Elizabeth---Story Elizabeth. My favorite so far.

I think the key here is to keep the middle name very obviously a girl name. If you see Story Love, you wonder what you're looking at. If you see Story Elizabeth, you have a hint.

I KNEW my friend Mairzy would enjoy tackling this one. Here's her take:
You're probably tired of hearing that "Story" is an, um, unusual choice. (Well, it is unless you're a celebrity, a form of life not known for its responsible parenting choices.) I can see the appeal in the name: pretty word, whimsical meaning, universal concept -- not every culture celebrates Liberty, Mercy, or Charity, but every culture prizes a Story.

But although it looks good in abstract -- or in print -- it would be a hard fit for a real person. A second-grade Story will be sick to the point of nausea of hearing "What's your middle name? Book? Time? Paige?" By eighth grade, she'll react with hostility to the question, "Is that your real name?" By the time she's applying for a job, she may have made peace with and embraced her name... or she might just write down "Jane."

I know a Cinnamon, whose short answer about her name is, "My parents were hippies." I knew a Spring, who replied dubiously, "I don't know, my parents liked it?" I knew an Honor, who said, "My father blessed me with this name, and I try to live up to it," which sounded a whole lot more rote than heartfelt if you ask me. Parents always have to remember that even though they may love a bold new name, it doesn't mean the child herself will.

When it comes to a middle name, I strongly -- on steroids, even -- discourage using an equally whimsical name like "Love" or "Belle." Instead, I'd suggest using a more classic name. Just in case she ever wants to fall back on normal for a while. Fortunately Story has a great rhythm, so it's easy to match:

Maria (as you'd mentioned)

You probably can get away with using the name Story in today's naming world. Just resign yourself and your daughter to the same questions, over and over. Cultivate an empty smile and pat response. And instill in your daughter a love for the name.

Thanks, Mairzy! My favorites from that list are Story Elise (SEB) and Story Annaliese (SAB). I like Story Olivia even better, but it gives the initials SOB.

Let's have a vote! Go to the poll at right [poll closed; see below] and choose your favorite middle name for the name Story.

[Poll results:
Maria/Marie: 11 votes, roughly 12%
Anne: 4 votes, roughly 4%
Leigh: 8 votes, roughly 8%
Lynne: 8 votes, roughly 8%
Elizabeth: 38 votes, roughly 40%
Elise: 22 votes, roughly 23%
Annaliese: 4 votes, roughly 4%]


Clarabella said...

I think the name Story is beautiful, and, as Swistle and Mairzy hinted toward, if you love the name enough, you can withstand the variety of reactions it will elicit from people. On that note, I didn't vote because a) (sorry Swistle:() I don't really LOVE any of the suggestions, but also because b) I can't believe Jane didn't make it up there even though Mairzy mentioned it (though not as a middle name). I think Story Jane sounds just lovely, and what better to ground the uniqueness of Story than a very common, classic and lovely name like Jane?
So that's my vote: Story Jane. I am pretending the last name is Butler, and then Story Jane Butler (SJB) sounds just lovely. Just my two cents.

Swistle said...

Clarabella- Ha! I had Story Jane in the poll until the last second, when I took it out because when I was proof-reading it looked like a clown. Like, "Story Jane the traveling library clown." For some reason it made Story seem like an adjective.

Dallas said...

I love the name Story and actually have it on my list for possible kids names someday, but then again, I'm more on the unique name side of things and love names that are found in the dictionary or atlas.

Simone said...

For me, Story Anne doesn't work at all. It just makes me think of the word 'historian'. And Story Annaliese does the same thing. Not ideal.

I'm not a big fan of Story as a name, but I understand (and appreciate!) that different people have different tastes and like different things. Cool.

With that said, I like Marie or Maria best of the suggestions. I have a theory as to why:

Marie and Maria are so often used as 'filler' middle names (along with Anne, Lynn, and these days Grace and Rose). (I know that 'filler' probably sounds rude, and many people use these names partly because have family connections to them. By filler I just mean the name is slightly overused as a middle name, and is used way more often as a middle name than as a first name. They're used because the names sound pretty, and the rhythms work with many different first names.) So I think that we hear these 'filler' middle names paired with common first names so often that they can make a more uncommon first name sound more like a usual first name.
For example: Odyssey Anne
Trinity Lynn
Journey Marie
(those first names are from the 'Modern Meanings' section of the Baby Name Wizard book).

Frema said...

I think Story Elizabeth flows really well. That's my favorite.

I love Leigh as a middle name (my daughter is Kara Leigh), but it doesn't seem to fit here.

This entry reminds me that I love the name Paige, too!

Daycare Girl said...

I'm curious to know if you got the idea of Story from Lady in the Water- that's the only Story I've ever heard as a girl's name.

I like Story Elise.

Susan said...

I liked Simone's comment about filler middle names, using "Trinity Lynn" and "Odyssey Anne" as examples. In addition to the pleasing way a filler name complements and softens a word-name, I also think the repeat or near-repeat of the vowel sounds (short i in Trinity Lynn and short o and short a in Odyssey Anne) give both those names a great sound. They also both establish the sex of the child, which is helpful. It's confusing and embarrassing when both first and middle names are so androgynous that there's no way to tell looking at the birth announcement or class list whether the child is a boy or a girl.

But for Story, .... I can't think of any "filler" names with a similar vowel sound.

These have a similar vowel sound, though are probably too distinctive to be ideal: Story Moriah, Story Sophia, Story Delorian, Story Deloris.

It's an interesting challenge!

LoriD said...

The first one that came to mind for me was Story Leanne.

Jill said...

Maybe you could choose a one-syllable middle name, in case your daughter gets to a certain age and would rather go by both names. As Swistle points out, a name like Story Elizabeth gives a clue that it's a girl, but that's also quite a mouthful to use both names (and how often do you hear someone's middle name unless they choose to go by both all the time?)
That said, I would pick a short, girly name that has a nice flow with the -y ending.
Story Jane
Story Claire
Story Lynn

fairydogmother said...

I really like Elizabeth as a middle name for Story. It flows really nicely, and has almost a lyrical sound.

On a practical note, it also provides a lot of options just in case Story ends up not really fitting her personality, or if she doesn't like it as she gets older (or just wants a break from all the questions or teasing from other kids in school). She could go by her full middle name if she wanted to or any of the following nicknames: Liz, Beth, Lisa, Elle, Ellie, Liza, Eliza...

Mrs. M said...

I like Story Maria. Maria is such a beautiful and girly name and it's a family name so I think it makes it all the better.

My other faves are Story Elizabeth, and Story Annelise. I feel like the follow up to Story needs a few syllables.

Mrs. M said...

Oh, and I find it funny that you mentioned both my first and middle name in the examples but not together! :) (Premarriage middle name as I use my maiden name now. It's the southern thing to do you know!)

susan said...

I think the name Story is beautiful. I believe it will have it's time as a popular name some time in the future. I don't think it's anything like Apple, Peaches, or Cinnamon! I think it's more along the lines of Charity, Hope, Faith, Liberty, Honor etc. Strong names with meaning...not just some fruit. lol!

Story Elizabeth is my favorite. It sounds quite whimisical and feminine, but has a familiar sound to it; it's a name that doesn't come across as hippy or unusual. Plus I can totally see her growing into a successful woman with that name. It's unforgettable, but in a good way!

P.S. I also think Story Jane is quite cute.

Mairzy said...

Swistle, you ALWAYS remember to check initials, and I always forget! Possibly because my last initial doesn't easily spell a word, so I don't have to think about it.

I, too, considered Story Jane and decided against it. It sounds like it's funny, and makes me want to giggle, although there's really nothing comical about it. I think it's because "Dick and Jane" are so closely associated with, well, stories.

Bird said...

I'm torn between Story Elizabeth and Story Elise. I like the sound of both equally. I'm not sure how I'll vote.

I worked with a Ms. Story and she was an English teacher. Sorry, I know this is random.

Carokyn said...

I love unusual names, and I think Story is an awesome name. I voted for Elizabeth, which is my own middle name. I think Story Elizabeth has a great rhythm and flow, and (I'm also southern) she could easily go by Story Elizabeth if she wanted to.
I agree that it is a good idea to go with a middle name that is clearly a girl's name and not a word name, but I don't know that it needs to be a frequently used name. If the parents are excited about Story, they may not be frequently used name people.
Some other thoughts:
Story Amelia Brigham
Story Iona Brigham
(Writing these, my choice is still Story Elizabeth.)

Kimberly said...

I love this blog, even though Im' 90% on our name, it's just so much fun to read.

Anyway, I don't normally like "odd" or "made-up" names. But for some reason (perhaps my ridiculous love of books), Story appeals to me. I do think a clearly feminine NAME - with no other meanings or usages - is best. So I'm voting for Elizabeth, followed by Olivia and Marie