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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Baby Girl H., Sister to Harrison H.

E. writes:
I’m writing for baby-naming advice! I’m due on November 18. We already have a son, Harrison. This baby is a little girl (and our last). We didn’t decide on our son’s name until our last day in the hospital and we would like to name this little girl before getting to the hospital, but we can’t agree.

Here’s some background about our naming tastes:

I knew I wanted to call our son Harry, which we do. I know that Harry is the traditional nickname for Henry (I felt that Harry was a nickname and needed a “real” name behind it). But, Henry was way too popular in our crowd and so I went with Harrison. It isn’t quite as traditional as I would have wanted in a perfect world, but it certainly (I feel) is still traditional (even if it isn’t a William, etc.). My husband and I both go by names which are also surnames and so that is a nice similarity that Harrison has, too, not that we are requiring that of this girl’s name. We also really like the alliteration that Harrison has (our last name starts with “H“). I know that many people detest alliteration, but, at least with Harry’s name, we think it sounds quite nice. Also, I do NOT want a name that is popular (heavily used) either overall or within our particular demographic. I do not want anything trendy or that will be associated with this time. I don’t want a unique name simply for its uniqueness, but I don’t want anything too popular either. I prefer classic/traditional/timeless names.

I had had a second boy’s name picked out for years: Edward, “Teddy.” (I actually wanted Theodore, “Teddy,” for awhile, but then switched to Edward). I LOVE the nickname and the “real” name and think it matches perfectly with Harry. Of course, we’re having a girl.

Here are our respective lists of names:

My list:

His list:

My thoughts on each of the names:


Pros: I love this name (and saw that you were a fan of it in 2007). The traditional but not at all popular nature of the name appeals to me. How adorable would it be to send out birth announcements with a quote from Much Ado About Nothing (my favorite of Shakespeare’s plays) whose main character is a smart and sassy Beatrice? The name is ranked 833 on the social security index of names for 2008.

Cons: This name is not popular with family members that I have floated it out to. My mother feels that it is much too “Victorian” by which I suppose she means excessively frilly and/or feminine, outdated, etc (she hates the Victorian era of decorating by the way, as do I). My husband has outlawed the nickname “Trixie” (which I think is adorable) because of its illicit connotations, but by choosing the BeatriCE spelling over the BeatriX, I think I’ve eliminated this possibility anyway. Also, the only Beatrices that family members can think of are “Aunt Bea” from The Andy Griffith Show and Bea Arthur (of Golden Girls fame) not exactly the image one immediately wants to bring up. Yet, I think “Bea” would be an adorable nickname. Finally, my father noted that the most famous Harry (today anyway) is Harry Potter and the most famous Beatrice/Beatrix is Beatrix Potter and therefore I must have a strange obsession with Potter names. Interesting, but I don’t think the observation should hinder my use of the name. Finally, I’ve only recently become enamored with this name and I’m afraid that if I use it, I’ll come to regret it in the future (though I probably like it the best of all the names right now).


Pros: It is traditional but not staid. It sounds similar to Catherine and Charlotte, but isn’t nearly as popular (in my perception).

Cons: It has been pointed out to me that a popular nickname for Caroline is Carrie. I didn’t know this, but I absolutely despise the nickname Carrie, not to mention it would be weird to have children named Harry and Carrie. Furthermore, Caroline is easily confused with Carolyn and it may be annoying to have to constantly correct people. It is ranked 94th on the SS list which isn’t too high, but certainly very much more popular than some of the other names that I’m considering.


Pros: I’ve always like this name. I think you can’t go wrong with it. This name would have the least amount of disapproval from extended family and of the names on my list is the one that my husband likes the most.

Cons: I greatly prefer the British spelling (Catherine versus Kathryn or Katherine), but I would inevitably want to nickname her—either Cate or Catie, but I feel like these names look odd spelled with C, but that it would be odd to switch from a Catherine to a Kate or Katie. It is ranked 149th, though Katherine is 45th, Katie is 128, Kate is 139, Kathryn is 190 and Kathy is 992, so if you added all of those together I’m sure that it would be a much higher ranking.


Pros: Solid, traditional name but with a more fresh sound. Charlie would be a wonderful nickname for it.

Cons: I’ve loved this name for a long time and therefore was disappointed when it was used for a character name on Sex and the City. I don’t want people to think that we named our daughter after the show. Also, the name is very popular and will only continue to become more popular (I think), which is a negative in my book. (I’d prefer a less popular name, but not at the expense of kr8tif spelling!). In addition, I think it will become more popular in our demographic than in other demographics. It was ranked 87th (which is fairly high) and is on an upward trend (it has been in the top 300 since 2000, but just broke the top 100 in 2008).


Pros: I feel that this name is still in the traditional vein, but sounds newer (at least to my ears) than names that never fully fell out of popularity such as Elizabeth and Catherine. The –nor ending sounds strong to me. If we went with Eleanor, I would most likely nickname her Ella. It is currently ranked 256, which is much lower than some of the other names we’re considering.

Cons: I know that this name is popular in the NPR set these days (and has been for several years) along with the most common nicknames for it, Ella and Nora. However, we only know one Eleanor and she lives out of state, so though it is popular, I am aware that it isn’t anything like Jennifer in the 70s. That said, Eleanor was somewhat a late addition to the list and I haven't had as much time to live with the name as with the C names.


Pros: It starts with H so it would have the alliteration with our last name that we liked with our son’s name. I’ll admit that I like it the best of all the feminine names that begin with the letter H. It also fits into the pattern of surname as last name that everyone else in our family has.

Cons: I’m afraid that it is too popular (at least among the people that we’ll interact with)-- ESPECIALLY now that the baby name wizard herself included it in her top ten list of baby names for the year 2019 (prediction for Parents magazine). The two authors of Freakonomics listed it as a prediction for a top ten boys name in the future. I’m simply afraid that it will continue to rise in popularity and become the next Madison/X-aden, etc. It sounds too trendy to me, especially since Lisa Marie Presley just named a daughter Harper (not the kind of name-giving company I want to keep). (Other celebs with a Harper include Paul Simon and George Stephanopoulos.) Finally, since this will be our only girl there is a part of me that really wants to give her a feminine name. Last year it was only ranked 297, but it has had a quite steep rise in popularity (in 2007: 439, 2006: 508, 2005: 743, 2004: 887) which I know can often signal a future spot in the top 10.

Moreover, I’m afraid that people will think it is an homage to Harper Lee. It isn’t that I don’t like Harper Lee, it is just that I wouldn’t name a child after her. (Plus she didn’t use Harper as her name in real life, but was called by her first name Nelle.) Also, it clearly falls into the –er trend in names AND the medieval trade name category (of which I am not a fan). Finally, this is the name most likely to be disliked among extended family.

That said, my husband REALLY wanted to name our son Henry but gave in and went with Harrison. Perhaps I should let him have his Harper?

Any thoughts?

Wow, I bet you’ve never had someone write you an email this long, huh? Sorry about that. Even after we decide on a first name, then we’ll have to tackle the middle name (ack!), but I promise I won’t bother you with that one.

Generally I think people should spend more time considering more issues before choosing a baby name, but I think at this point, 2 weeks before the due date, it is time to simplify. I think I would start by considering what is most important to you: the alliteration? the uncommonness? the timelessness? the name being a surname name? how your family feels about it? what other people might think the namesake is? These are all important issues. You and your husband could each make a list ranking them. My husband and I like the ranking style where more than one thing can have the same ranking; for example:

Uncommonness 1
Timelessness 1
Family 2
Surname 3
Alliteration 3
Namesake issues 4

It sounds to me as if your wish to have a timeless/traditional name is warring with your wish to have an uncommon name that will not increase in commonness. Many names that stand the test of time are more common than not---and if they weren't common, they wouldn't belong to this time in addition to the other times, and so wouldn't be timeless. And since many parents are looking for the magical mix of traditional and unusual, any name that finds that mark is likely to get more common. This can lead to tremendous disappointment, with every parent wishing the culture and the other parents hadn't ruined their choice by making it popular.

I'm with you on wishing to avoid names that are going to spike in popularity. I think it helps to remember that there is no predicting it: you can look at trends, you can consider influences, but you're already totally on top of that. You're educated enough on the rankings, and now you're at the point where you have to take a risk and choose the name you want most and hope for the best. And if the name does spike? Well, you did all you could, considering none of us can see into the future.

It seems like it might be easier if you left your family out of the discussions. Many people will say some pretty critical things during a name discussion that they would never say, think, or feel if presented with a baby and told the name---and many people who dislike a baby name on first hearing will grow to love when it becomes inextricably woven with the dear baby. Furthermore, people a generation older than the current parent generation tend to have radically different perspective on what names sound good and what names don't. We say "Henry" and they say, "Ewwww, old mannish!" We say "Eleanor" and they say "Ewwww, old ladyish!" Just as THEIR parents said, "Jennifer? I've never heard of it! Why can't you use a normal name like Barbara?"

My top recommendation is Helena. It's got Shakespeare, it's got ancient, it's got feminine, it's got alliteration, it's got uncommon (500s/600s). I'm pronouncing it heh-LAY-nah, in which case you've got the nice nickname Lena (LAY-nah). Or it can also be pronounced like Helen with an "ah" on the end: HEL-len-ah. I like it with Harrison/Harry, and I also like it with the middle name Harper and think HHH would be an excellent monogram.

Another H name I'm fond of is Henrietta. Since you both liked Henry, I wonder if you'd like the way-less-common girl version? It's very uncommon yet completely familiar. It has the cute nicknames Hennie or Hettie or Nettie, or sassier nicknames Etta or Henri or Ree.


Anonymous said...

what about Theodora? and you could call her Teddy? or Thea or Dora.

Rarely Sara said...

Since this is going to be the last baby, which means Theodore won't get used, what about Theodora or Dorothea? I love the nickname Thea, and I don't think Teddy or Teddie on a girl would be to masculine at all. I do think that Harper is too masculine compared to all the traditional names on your list, though. I'd like to suggest Harlow and Hazel, but I think those are going to get too popular. Maybe Hadley? Sorry, I'm not much help. You've thought out so many of the issues already. Hopefully Swistle readers will help you find the right choice. Best of luck!

KL said...

I would definitely second Swistle's advice about shopping the name around to family - don't do it!

Beatrice is lovely and uncommon yet classic. Bea is a sweet little nn.

I wouldn't be concerned with using the nickname or spelling Cate from Catherine - it reminds me of Cate Blanchett, and I've always felt it has quite a pretty look to it.

Charlotte is such a classic name that I wouldn't worry about associations to Sex and the City. I think its a beautiful name that works for a little baby and a mature woman.

Caroline, Harper, and Eleanor aren't my favourite names but they are solid names. I did notice that Harper sounds much less feminine and classic than your other name choices, but I liked Swistle's suggestion of it as a middle name. Just my opinion :)

Helena is a favourite name of mine, but it seems like you have a great selection already so why introduce more names if you already have ones that you love?

Good luck!

Anonymous said...


Clarabella said...

Wow, Swistle's suggestions are SPOT ON, I think. I just love the idea of a little Henrietta, nn Ettie. So cute.
But now you've got me thinking about Shakespeare names, and there are some lovely ones, though without the "H" that seem to meet most of your criteria. What about:
Rosalind/Rosaline/Rosalyn: similar to Caroline but with the sweet nn Rosa
Viola (Love it!)
Those are just a few that occurred to me.
Others you might like:
Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Here's a question I've always wanted to know about Catherine--what is the correct way to pronounce it, with 2 or 3 syllables? I looked it up on the Namipedia and between Catherine/Katherine it lists 3 pronunciations: KA-thrin, KA-the-rin, and KATH-rin. I've always pronounced it the first way, but is that considered wrong?

Oh, and I guess my vote is for Catherine--as long as you can agree on a way to pronounce it!

Leah said...

I have a dorothy nn dorrie and people love the nickname for it - it is uncommon and classic the the nn makes it cute.

That said, I was all "OOH! charlotte, nn Lottie!" Until I read Swistle's suggestions and now am in love with Henrietta. I would use Etta as a nn though.

Barb @ getupandplay said...

My favorite old-fashioned H name for a girl is Hattie. I think Harry and Hattie is quite cute.

I like Henrietta a lot, too.

Your other choices are all beautiful (although I don't think Harper is in the same vein as Harrison, if matching names concerns you). My favorite of them is Catherine nn Cate.

And I know a girl named Teddy (in her twenties) and she's darling.

LoriD said...

My daughter has a friend named Beatrice and they call her Bea, pronounced bee-ah. I think it's sweet.

I like Charlotte from your list (SATC didn't even come to mind) and Catherine (nn. Cate).

Caitlin B said...

I love your name list. And your thoughtfulness! You've really thought about each name.

I hope one day to have a Beatrice of my own, but that aside, I thought I'd offer some comments on Catie and Caroline.

My sister's name is Caroline. No one has ever called her Carrie. It is a reasonable nickname, but for whatever reason, no one in our family, none of her friends, no one has ever thought to call her Carrie. That's a good thing as far as I'm concerned.
She is sometimes called Carol, but that's a recent development - and she's not a fan. Also, she's only rarely confused w Carolyn. As a kid, we used to call her Cline, but only to tease her!

I am a Caitlin - but I've always been Caitie to my family. This is a much more unusual spelling, I've found, but I quite like it. I don't think you should let the C nicknames discourage you from using Catherine as opposed to Katherine. I also prefer the C, and I know a few Catie's as well as Katie's. Cate Blanchett is also certainly well known enough to make the C spelling more familiar to the general public.

Like I said, I love your name list - even with of Harper, which is not my style, they all go very nicely with Harry, and you have very good reasons behind each choice.
Good Luck!

Carolyn said...

I'm a Carolyn, and I always get my name pronounced with the long "i" in Caroline. Even after I pronounce my name myself! It's not a huge issue, but in my experience, common enough. I was never called Carrie, but in college friends called me Caro as a nn.
I've heard of Carolines using Caro as a nn and I think it's really cute. (One of the characters in Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood was a Caroline, nn Caro)

Just another perspective for you :)

Hillary said...

I'm not biased at all (okay maybe a little) ... what about Hillary?

Meg said...

I think it's time to go back to the drawing board....

I really like Swistle's suggestion of Helena, very cute.

Other suggestions:

Mathilda nn Molly or Tilda
Josephine nn Josie
Saraphina nn Sara
Margaret nn Maggie
Virginia nn Ginnie
Rebecca nn Becca or Becky
Winifred nn Winnie
Adelaide nn Laidy, Lia or Addie
Lenora nn Nora
Elizabeth nn Bess

Names without nns


Good luck!

Rachel said...

The character in Harry Potter is named Bellatrix, not Beatrice. I really like Beatrice! A little 2 years old called Bea? Totally adorable.

Roz said...

Someone also made this suggestion, but Rosalind (my name!) pronounced Roz-ah-lind has a couple of great nns. I was Rozi/Rosi growing up and now most people call me Roz. Of course it has that shakespeare quality and timelessness too!

millennialkelly said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kelly said...

Catherine is my favorite from those you mentioned; I wouldn't worry about the C/K initial thing with the nicknames (personally I like Catherine without a nickname).

Anonymous said...

Rachel, I don't think that E. was saying that the character in Harry Potter was named Beatrice. She was noting that Beatrix POTTER and Harry POTTER are both POTTERs.

Rayne of Terror said...

I love the name Dorothea, but I think Swistle hits a homerun with Helena.

mamarose said...

To Leah - I have a Dorothy nicknamed Dorry, too! I've never met another one!

Sorry, just got excited about that.

I love the idea of Harper as a middle name and a more feminine name as the first name. I think you should put aside all your worries (SATC, C-Cate, etc) and go with your heart, they're all lovely choices!

Melio (MelissaInk) said...

I think Beatrice is a perfect compliment to Harrison and, from your post, it appears to be your favorite by a long shot. Don't let the "potential" nicknames be deal breakers. Three-syllables doesn't guarantee a nickname.

I also see Harper as a "popular, trendy" name, but I don't know a single little girl (or big girl or woman) with that name. For me, it's just a little too matchy with Harrison, both starting with Har-.

Frazzled Mom said...

I think Swistle's suggestion of Helena is perfect. And I must say, it is nice to know that there is someone out there like me who could write on and on about name choices with detailed pros and cons.

I like Beatrice the best of your choices. Harper is nice, but I don't consider it classic like your other options.

For more ideas you may want to consider:

Susanna - Susie or Sukie
Rosemary - Maybe Romy or of course Rose

Steph the WonderWorrier said...

Catherine is always a beautiful choice, and Cate/Catie would be perfectly fine. The Cate Blanchett example has been said a couple of times by other commentors already. :-)

My personal favourite from your list is Charlotte. Harrison and Charlotte are a really nice sibling set (the "rr" and the "tt" just look so cute to me). Charlotte is timeless, sounds lovely to the ear, and you can call her Charlie, Char ("shh-ar"), or the ever-so-cute Lottie. Charlotte Harper would work good too.

Even if a Charlotte was a SaTC character, at least she was the beautiful, innocent, sweetheart of the bunch. Also: it's a name that stands on its own so well, I don't think people would automatically think of SaTC when they think of Charlotte. I'm pretty sure almost every name has some sort of fictional character associated with it, I wouldn't worry about it.

So my vote is for Charlotte Harper H.

Steph the WonderWorrier said...

Also: you're worried about popularity... but I personally think it's moot -- you can't predict who she'll meet in life, and know who in your personal area of the world will be naming their children what, so I'd just choose a name you love and throw the popularity ratings out the door. I think they just drive people nuts.

Hobo Mama said...

If you do go with Dorothea, don't use Dodo as a nickname, like in Middlemarch. Just a suggestion.

I had the same horror of too much popularity. I keep being afraid someone famous will come along with our baby's name.

I love Caro as a nn, and Cate with a C. And Bea pronounced bee-ah sounds adorable. I like Helena pronounced HEL-len-ah, but then I'd wonder what nn would work: Hennie?

Karen said...

I think you've got great choices and Swistle and the commenters have made great suggestions, too. I particularly like Helena.

My two cents: I don't think Harper is going to get super-trendy. I think it's a name (like Archer) that lots of people have on their list but very few people choose.

Margaret is a timeless choice that is rich in nn potential.

Patricia said...

What an amazingly well-thought-out presentation of your pros and cons for each name you're considering. I like all the classics girls' names on your list, but find Harper totally non-classic and non-feminine. I would stick with a classic name, like your son's name Harry.

I love Catherine called Cate or Catie. That's a very usual pairing these days. I also like Catherine without a nn. (I have a daughter who prefers to be called Catherine; her daughter Catrina often goes by Cate.)

I also like Caroline called "Caro". Beatrice is nice, as is Eleanor. I like Charlotte, but I think Harry and Charlie sounds like a couple of guys. Lottie would be a cute nn.

But as your husband likes Catherine best of the names on your list, why not go with that name with maybe a family name as the middle name?

Anonymous said...

Wow - excellent post and comments here - lots of good, thorough analysis; love it!

I can't pick a clear favorite (lots of good choices!), but I can add to the discussion on Helena (has been a fave of mine for a long time, along w/Charlotte!) I have heard Helena pronounced THREE different ways (HEL-en-ah; he-LAY-nah; and he-LEE-nah), and I think all 3 pronunciations are great. Personally, I have always leaned toward using he-LEE-na to get the nn Lena (LEE-na) And in your case, I love Harrison and Helena/Harry and Lena as a sib set! For the middle name, Harper, Catherine, Charlotte, and Caroline all work really well w/Helena.

Of course, as mentioned, I also LOVE Charlotte . . . but none of its nicknames! (I don't think any of them are nearly as pretty as the name itself, and it's only 2 syllables, so I don't feel it needs a nn . . . but that's just my $.02!). Re: popularity, I had NO IDEA it was rising in popularity - dang! But I wouldn't let that stop you, nor would I at all worry about the SATC connection. Harrison and Charlotte/Harry and Charlotte - great sib set! (Sounds very regal, I think!)

As another poster mentioned, though, it sounds like Beatrice is your favorite (I TOTALLY love that you've thought about the birth announcements already, BTW! Sounds like something I would do!), so I would not hesitate to use it! Popularity won't be an issue; it's lovely and timeless, and Bea as a nn (I would pronounce it BEE) is fab! If you need any convincing that "Bea" isn't old-lady-sounding, one of the main characters from the "Traveling Pants" book/movie series is Bridget, nn Bee (different angle, but the sound is familiar as a nn). Oh, and I def. agree not to let family discourage you - they will love your little Beatrice/Bea, and in time it won't be an issue! (Ooh - another thought: Beatrice was the cool aunt in the Ramona books of my childhood. :)) For the middle name, how about Beatrice Harper or Beatrice Helena (pronounced HEL-en-ah, in this case)?

Final thought: I've known far too many Katherine/Kathryn/Katies in my lifetime, but only one Catherine, and one Cate (who is a Caitlin). I think the "Cate" nn is spunky and fab - Harry and Cate go so well together! But actually, now that I think of it, I'm not a huge fan of Harrison and Catherine together (the "n" sound at the end of both, I guess), probably not a deal-breaker, but that's up to you of course!

In sum, I think you can't go wrong! Enjoy your new little one when she arrives!

Meg said...

As someone with the birth name Ramona (please GOD do NOT name your child Ramona, it's amazing how the name can be made fun of), I'm sorry but I wanted to correct the previous poster...

Beatrice is the sister of Ramona not the aunt.

TweePopACap said...

A few notes:

If you decide that you like the suggestion of Helena (pron. HEL-ah-nah), you can still use the nickname Ella that you like. Or Ellie. I think either is perfectly reasonable - and cute!

I like Charlotte and I LOVE Charlie on a girl (or boy, for that matter), but just something to keep in mind is that Harry and Charlie are the brothers on that "Charlie bit me!" video that is so popular, so some people might make that connection.

I also think that Theodora would be a cute way to get the Teddy nickname you like. Cute on a girl! :]

StephLove said...

I like all the names on your list so from my perspective, you can't go wrong, but Caroline is my favorite. I'll even throw in a middle name for you. Caroline Anna.

Theodora is a great suggestion from several other posters.

Tracy H. said...

My advice, don't worry about what you think other people's associations are going to be the name you pick. Once you name your baby the only association people close to you are going to have with that name is your little bundle of joy. Same goes for running a name by your loved ones, none of the names on your list are "out there" they are all nice, classic names, once you decide on one, your family will be so overjoyed when the baby comes, they will love the name as much as you do. Most people aren't crazy-obsessed with baby names like those of us that comment on this site ;), so I say just go with your gut, stop putting so much thought into it and you will find a name you fall in love with! But, of course, I still have to give my 2 cents, LOL! I am also a fan of alliteration and I love the name Harper, but also will add Hadley, Hazel & Hollis to the list and I think Catherine as a middle name to an "H" name would be great. Of the non-H names, I Love, love, love Charlotte. Charlotte and Harrison is a great sibset. And I love Harper as the middle name. One more thing regarding popularity, I agree no one wants that next popular name, but like Swistle has said before, a popular name today is not nearly as "popular" as a popular name 30 yrs. ago. There are so many more choices out there, it's very doubtful your daughter would end up in a class full of Harper's or Charlotte's. Good Luck, keep us posted!!!!

Erin said...

Another person weighing in - I don't love Beatrice honestly, and Harper isn't quite my style though could be nice with the funkier part of Harrison, but I do love all your other choices. I think Cate is MUCH better than the millions of Kates and Katies running around too, but Charlotte and Caroline are both very nice. I also LOVE Helena as a suggestion. What about something like Johanna nn Hanna so you have a classic name and an H nickname? Just a thought, though I like your choices already, and if I had to pick one I would probably go with Caroline - the least trendy of the three. I would use the nn Cara if it were up to me, not sure if you like that or not, but Caroline is just fine as it is. Good Luck!

Anna said...

I think Beatrice nickname Bea is perfect with Harry, Beatrice Caroline and Beatrice Catherine are pretty.

Alice, Amelia, Eloise, Gwendoline & Jemima as suggestions to ponder :)

Good luck :)

lili said...

Another nn for Helena (HEL-en-ah) is Leni. Super cute on a little girl :)

And Harry and Leni is a great sibset.