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 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 My mother feels that it is much too “Victorian” by which I suppose she means excessively frilly and/or feminine, outdated, etc (she hates the Victorian era of decorating by the way, as do I).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?
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:
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.