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Monday, August 16, 2010

Baby Girl Cavenner

Kristi writes:
We really need some help! I’m due with our second child, a girl, Sept 8. We had very little problem coming up with our son’s name – wanted something uncommon (but not unusual) thereby ending up using family names of Warren Geoffrey (Jof-free). Our last name sounds like Cavenner, and I’m conscious of the mouth-full effect of a 3 syllable last name. My name is Kristi, so growing up in the 80’s-90’s there were always other “Christy/Christie/Kristy/Kristie’s” around and I don’t want an overly popular name where my child has to go by last initial for differentiation. My husband is highly attracted to historical names, especially those with roots in the US founding, and doesn’t care if the name is popular or not. We are attempting to keep the strong contenders and possible final decision a surprise so I’m not discussing this with friends and family.

It seems that all the names I have originally been attracted to are either popular or gaining popularity. My favorite girl name since I was in high school is Charlotte, but apparently that is supposed to be “the name” this year. Other names I like but am dismissing due to popularity are Samantha & Madelyn. My husband really likes Abigail (I suggested this before I realized its popularity, but he likes it because it is the name of John Adams’ wife). Now he thinks that since I suggested the name and he likes it, it’s carved in stone – I’m not sold! I like the name Rose, for its simplicity, implied grace and lack of over-use. For middle names my husband is adamantly stuck on either Madison, after James Madison, or Pinckney (Pink-nee) a family surname.

I’d really like your opinion and possibly outside suggestions for classic, feminine, fresh names. Unless you can help me come up with some good ammunition/alternatives, my daughter’s name is going to be Abigail Madison Cavenner. Two of the most popular names today and a 3-3-3 syllable name. Not a bad name, but not the unique moniker I wanted.

We could look to the second President Adams's wife, whose name was Louisa Catherine (source: Wikipedia list of first ladies). We still end up with a 3-3-3 pattern (though I like that), and we end up with names that are currently in favor but not as common as Abigail and Madison.

I think if I were you I would find some names you like and then see if you can find anyone with those names in the right time period. This is what I did with my own husband, who likes scientists: when I thought of a name I really wanted to use, I pitched it to him as being after a scientist with the same name.

Or, look around in early U.S. history and see if any of the names interest you. Look at surnames and middle names and maiden names as well as first names. Here's where I started searching: Wikipedia: Women in the American Revolution. Margaret Corbin and Margaret Kemble Gage give us the name Margaret, and also the name Kemble if you want something very uncommon. Esther de Berdt gives us the name Esther, a name that's stayed consistently in the 200s/300s for decades. Do you like the name Molly? There's Molly Stark and the story/nickname of Molly Pitcher (maybe a real woman or maybe something like Rosie the Riveter). And there are plenty of Catherines, Kates, Janes, Marys, Elizabeths, Sarahs, Annes and Annas, if you like any of those. And for something more unusual, Frederika, Bailey, and Lindley.

I really like the name Pinckney for the middle name, if it works with the first name you choose: it's unusual, it's a family name, and the "pink" sound keeps it girly.

If you want to avoid popular, avoid fresh: anything that sounds fresh will also be sounding fresh to thousands of other parents. Test the name: say it to yourself, and if you get a little smack of cool, moist freshness, cross it off because we can almost guarantee it will be swooping up in popularity.

I like:

Esther Pinckney Cavenner; Warren and Esther
Frederika Pinckney Cavenner; Warren and Frederika
Louisa Pinckney Cavenner; Warren and Louisa
Margaret Pinckney Cavenner; Warren and Margaret
Molly Pinckney Cavenner; Warren and Molly
Rose Pinckney Cavenner; Warren and Rose

I also like Abigail Pinckney Cavenner. Abigail is a Top Ten name, but in my area they all seem to be going by Abby---so if yours goes by Abigail she might not need an initialed surname even if there's another in her class. The national usage of the name is at .71%---or roughly 7 Abigails per 1,000 baby girls. Charlotte may indeed jump this year, but last year it was roughly 2 Charlottes per 1,000 baby girls. That's not too bad, commonness-wise.

Name update 09-19-2010! Kristi writes:
Thanks so much for all the suggestions! Rose Marion Cavenner was born last week. Seeing all the responses helped sway my husband to Rose and reevaluate the middle names. We decided on Marion, another family name that had been previously discissed and dismissed. After meeting our little lady we decided Rose Marion was perfect!

Thanks again for all the help!


Kayt said...

I vote a thousand times for Louisa Pinckney. I think it's a perfect combination of familial and historical connections. Louisa is unusual and more subtly historical, and I think she's a nice alternative to Charlotte.

Patricia said...

I think it's highly unlikely Charlotte will be the #1 name in the near future, if ever. Unfortunately a March 2010 article in the online Daily Beast (widely quoted in baby name articles since then) misleadingly implied that Charlotte is the #1 name of "the elite". This came up on "Swistle" last spring when another couple thought they couldn't use Charlotte because of its popularity:

I've always loved Abigail (long before its current popularity), primarily because of my admiration for Abigail Adams and interest in Colonial America. But now the name is everywhere. If you want to avoid giving your daughter a name currently as popular as Kristi in all it's spellings was when you were growing up, Abigail is probably not the name you're seeking. Here's Abigail with all it's SSA Top 1000 spellings in 2009:

With combined spellings, Abigail ranks #8 (same as SSA ranking): Abigail, Abbigail, Abagail, Abigale

Then there's Abby as a given name, ranked #176 combined (#257 SSA): Abby, Abbie, Abbey

And not making the Top 1000 are many more "creative" spellings of both Abigail and Abby.

How about Susanna, the name of another Adams daughter? (The first was named Abigail after her mother and called "Nabby"). Susanna was a family name in Abigail Smith Adam's family.

I also like Swistle's suggestion of Louisa, and Louisa Catherine, the name of John Q. Adams wife and daughter, is elegant. Louisa May Alcott adds to the appeal of the name. Louisa Charlotte would be a lovely combination too -- or Charlotte Louisa.

Erin said...

oooo, love Louisa Pinckney! Warren and Louisa match very well in my opinion. I like Jane a lot too.

Maybe Clara? Some history there,(Clara Barton, Clara Schumann, Bow, etc.) love it with Warren, and not too popular or too long!

Suzanne said...

I would discourage you from using Pinckney as a girl's name - I know it's not super common but it's definitely still a boy name in use in the South (my college class president was Pinckney).

Besides that, you have the EXACT SAME list of former potential girl names I did when I was younger - Abigail, Samantha, Charlotte, Madeline. Unfortunately, we're not the only ones. I really REALLY love Louisa (it's on my short list for this baby) and think Louisa Catherine Cavenner sounds absolutely gorgeous - like someone who could already be a historical figure.

How about Amelia?

I also really love the suggestions for Clara & Susanna.

Patricia said...

Ooo, I love Jane too! Jane is a great suggestion, a much underused classic. It would go well with your 3-syllable surname.

Jane Pinckney Cavenner sounds superb!

Jane in American history:

Jane was the name of Thomas Jefferson's mother, a sister, and second daughter.

Jane Addams, the first American woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize: "She was the most prominent woman of the Progressive Era and helped turn the nation to issues of concern to mothers, such as the needs of children, public health and world peace. "

The Mrs. said...

Dolley Madison was the presidential wife who had the presence of mind to save the paintings from the White House when it was invaded. She was one of those cool-under-pressure women. Her full name was, of course, Dorothy.
And Dorothy comes with waaaaay better nicknames than 'Dolley'.
Thea and Dot and Rhee are charming.

There are two presidential wives with the first name of 'Julia' (Tyler and Grant).

There are two presidential wives with the first name of 'Eliza' (Monroe and Johnson).

Warren & Thea
Warren & Dot
Warren & Rhee
Warren & Julia
Warren & Eliza

And, yeah, Louisa is absolutely darling.

Best of wishes to you all!

Barb @ getupandplay said...

Great suggestions so far! What about Martha (after Martha Washington)? I think it's a classic, very underused name and I think it has the potential to be darling on a little girl. I know a young woman named Martha and I just love it on her!

I just read Cokie Roberts' book, Ladies of Liberty, (the follow-up to Founding Mothers) which was all about the women during the beginning of our country. It's a great read anyway, but I was LOVING all of the names!

christine said...

I really like Luisa for you guys, and I am a vote for Pinckney. Unfortunately with the middle name Madison more people are likely to think trend than history. And I like that Pinckney is a family surname, and it aslo breaks up the 3 syllable pattern you have going with a lot of your first name choices. I don't find it particularly masculine, plus the fact that she can always point it out as a family surname really negates that issue. (For the record I plan on burdening my children w/ my surname as a middle name and it's essentially Harris.)

I wonder if there are any family names on your side that you would like to use? Either first names or sirnames? It might be one way to get your husband to like some of your suggestions if you tie it into family history. For what it's worth, I still like Abigail, and I don't find it particularly common where I am in the North East.

Good luck!

Jenn said...

I love Rose Pickney- elegant, feminine, classic, not overused. If you want to keep 3-3-3- you could also use Rosemary.
Other ideas that seem to be your style:

StephLove said...

I'm not a fan of Madison, but I like almost all the other names you've considered, plus most of the suggestions. I like too many of them to list, in fact.

I think my favorite suggestion was Martha, though. If you want something spunkier, maybe for a middle, you could go with Liberty (nn Libby). Another idea is Virginia, for Virginia Dare, the first child of European descent born in the colonies.

beyond said...

Louise is one of my favorite names so my vote goes to Louisa. I really like rose too, for the same reasons you do. I like Pinckney better than Madison with either of them. Abigail is a good name too, but I totally understand your reluctance because of popularity... (Or maybe Rose Louisa or Louisa Rose is a possibility?)
Good luck!

Kelley said...

I'm obsessed with variations on Rose. So for some other options: Rosalie, Rosaline, Rosalia, Roselind, Rosemary, Rosetta, most of which have Shakespearian ties if that helps.

Ok, now this might be crazy, but doing a nameberry search on "Ros" brought up Rosevelt. It may be too masculine for your tastes, but I think that's a cool way to get a historical name, plus you could still use Rose as a nickname!

I really like all of Swistle's suggestions, but Lousia, Molly, and Margaret are my favorites.

fi said...

How about after Sarah Louise Delany, an author and civil rights pioneer? Delany, or Louise Delany, would be beautiful.

Or Sadie.

Victoria Claflin Woodhull - American suffragist:

Opha Mae Johnson was the first female marine.

Patricia said...

Aww, so you got your little Rose. What a perfect choice for you, with all the qualities you like about the name - simplicity, implied grace and yet not overly popular.* And she has a lovely family name for her middle name too. Congratulations on the birth of Rose Marion.

(*My granddaughter and husband named their baby girl, born in February, Jane Violet, for much the same reasons.)