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Sunday, December 12, 2010

Baby Girl P.

D. writes:
My husband and I are expecting our first baby, a girl, in mid-January (EDA 13th). With just one gender to focus on, and so much else in common, I really thought picking a name would be easy. However, I was completely wrong and we cannot agree.

Since our last name is a tricky one (Greek origin, starts with P), we should be considerate to give her a strong first name. My husband loves the name Sofia (with an ‘f’), and wants nothing but his name. He’s been calling and referring to her as this from the moment we found out we were having a girl. Although I adore the name for its strong, feminine character, I do not like the popularity of it at this time – top 10 for the past few years. My husband and I were both blessed with unpopular names and never had to go by our last initial in school like many others. I want this same thing for my child.

I love different, yet still not off-the-wall names like Portia, Matea, or even something Greek to honor her heritage. Every name I come up with, my husband declines. At one point, it was okay with Alia, Riely or Emma (again, quite common), but ended up back at Sofia and that one and only name.

Please help! Even a Top 5 list would be more desireable going into the delivery room with.

My secondborn, whose blog pseudonym is William, has most years been in class with two other boys who have his same name. In fact, the year he was the only "William" in his class, kids who'd been in class with him before still called him "William T."---and soon everyone was doing it. And as a mid-seventies Kristen, I went by a surname initial or nickname a couple of times myself. I talked it over with William to make sure we agreed, and we do: it is no big deal. I know a lot of people disliked it in their own situations, but neither of us cared at all, or wished we had a different name. (In fact, he says it's fun: he says "Hi, William!" and the other boy says "Hi, William!" and the third boy says "Hi, William!," and so on.) And as I feel like I keep repeating, the common names of this generation aren't the same commonness as the common names of our generation: the spellings Sophia and Sofia combined beat Isabella for the highest-ranking girl name in the U.S., but at 1.12% of baby girls born in 2009, that's still only about 1/4th the percentage of baby girls given the name Jennifer in 1974 (4.03%). (Source: Social Security Administration.) That's just over one Sophia/Sofia per 100 girls, or about one per six classrooms (assuming 15 girls per classroom).

In short, if your husband loves the name and thinks of that as his daughter's name already, and you adore the name for all the reasons you mention, it would be foolish to abandon it merely because other little girls are also being given the name, or because she might have to endure the common experience of occasionally using her surname initial or middle name along with her first name. I think it's helpful, too, to remember that you can reduce the odds of your daughter having the same name as another child, but you can't prevent it: even if you give her a much less common name, sheer chance can make her Portia P. anyway (and I'd avoid the initials P.P.), as in my other son's class where there's not a single Michael or Joshua but are two boys who share a name that wasn't even in the top 100 when they were born.

Name her Sofia. It sounds like you won't be able to get your husband to agree to anything else anyway, no matter what you or we say. Give her an uncommon name as a middle name, and then if she DOES find it unendurable to sometimes need to use a surname initial, she can instead use her middle name, or have a fun first-and-middle combination instead of using the first-and-initial. (This could be a bargaining chip with your husband: he gets the final say on the name Sofia and you get the final decision on the middle name.)

21 comments:

Janelle said...

I love Sofia, and it's a wonderful name for a little girl with a Greek heritage. Sofia- wisdom- is a great quality for your daughter to have. Name her Sofia!

christine said...

I love Sofia too. There's good reason it's popular. If you really want to avoid the popularity of Sofia, maybe you could swing your husband to Sonia?

Either way, good luck and congratulations!

The Mrs. said...

*Sigh* I'm going to be the nay-sayer here...

I DID grow up with a 'last initial necessary' sort of name and HATED it! Shoot, I even got a legal name change after graduating.

Sofia, Sophia, Sofie, Sophie... it feels like they are everywhere.

Now for the silver lining:
there are LOTS of beautiful Greek words that are already girls' names in English!

Margaret ('margrit') means 'Pearl' (Greta, May, Gretchen, Maggie, Margo, Marguerite, Marjorie, and Daisy)

Acacia is from 'akakia' and is a beautiful tree (Cay, Cee-Cee, Catie).

Alexandria is a city named after Alexander the Great (Alex, Sandra, Andrea, Dree, Lexi).

Aletheia means 'truth' in Greek (Leelee, Thea, Allie).

Calista means 'most beautiful' (Callie, Calla, Lissie, Staci).

Other non-Greek names with the same feel as Sofia are:
Marisa, Nicola, Alessandra, Coralie, Lydia, Melaina, Siena, and Julia.

If you really LIKE Sofia, what about Sonia... it's derived from Sofia.

If the popularity doesn't bother you in the end, I agree with Swistle. Barter for the middle name, and make it something unusual. It DOES make a sweet story that her Daddy gave her the name he loved.

All the best to you, your husband, and your darling daughter!

mixette said...

I have an fairly uncommon name, but by some weird twist there were 3 of us in our little neighborhood growing up so we did the last initial thing. My mother will still call me, 30 years later and say, "I ran into E**** A. the other day."

Sofia is a lovely name so if it works for you don't be intimidated out of it! But I'll throw in a similar sounding suggestion:

Sylvie / Sylvia

StephLove said...

I'd use Sofia for all the reasons outlined above. Maybe you could call her by her first and middle, e.g. Sofia Anna, or whatever. I think ends-in-a-names often lend themselves to that anyway.

Mrs S said...

I like Sofia best for you too. Sylvia or Fiona are lovely too.

Sarah said...

I'd name her Sofia, too. It's a great name! I totally considered it myself for my firstborn (who ended a boy, as it turns out).

I was Sarah T. growing up and I couldn't have cared less. In fact, it was kind of "cool" to have a friend with the same name as you in elementary school. You were part of a club. In fact, in my class of 27 kids (17 girls), THREE of us were Sarah! And as I got to middle and then high school, I was glad not to stand out with an unusual name. Tastes differ, of course, but that was my experience. And, as Swistle says, 'common' names of today are far less common than the popular names of our generation.

Patricia said...

I agree with everything Swistle wrote. You both love Sofia. Your husband loves Sofia so much that he can't consider any other name for long. Sofia is a GREAT name. And other parents -- less concerned about popularity or less aware of Sophia/Sofia's ranking or even especially liking popular names for their children, will be naming their daughter Sophia/Sofia in 2011, so why not you?

As Swistle said, naming your child a less popular name is no guarantee that she will -- or won't -- be the only one in her class, year after year, with that name. My 7-year-old twin grandsons James and Andrew have never had another child in their classes -- from 3-year-old pre-school to 2nd grade -- with either of their names, both of which were top 20 names (#5 and #18) the year they were born. And like Swistle's William, they wouldn't care if there were another boy with one of their names.

As for "Sofia P.", one of the twins' teachers this year had the surname intial (eg., Andrew C.) on the name cards on every child's desk when school started -- perhaps to make adding the first initial of the last name no big deal if it were necessary to differentiate between 2 children with the same first name.

I hope you stick with Sofia; it sounds like the perfect name for your daughter.

The Schwant Family said...

I have to add that if your last name is uncommon it might be nice for her to have a more common first name so people don't get hung up on or have trouble remembering both of her names.

Ana said...

I am totally biased since my daughters middle name is Sophia :) I love name.

Patricia said...

I too have personal experience with the name because of my beautiful 15-year-old granddaughter Sophia Anne, called both Sophia and Sophie.

But objectively, this Greek origin name does seems perfect for a baby girl with a Greek surname and parents who "adore" the name Sofia.

And the name Sofia/Sophia has a long and excellent history:

"Sophia - Greek first name meaning 'wisdom' now common to numerous cultural traditions. St Sophia is a saint in the Eastern Orthodox Church... The name spread from Greece through Hungary to Germany and taken up by English speakers in the 17th century, promoted by James I's granddaughter Sophia Electress of Hanover (1630-1714), mother of George I. It reached a peak of popularity in the 18th century but suffered a decline from the late 19th century. Variant forms include Sofia..." "The name has been increasing in popularity since the 1990s." (UK dictionaries of first names)

Jenny Grace said...

I'm a Jennifer, and I'm very sensitive about name commonness as a result, because...GAH. JENNIFER. EVERYONE IS JENNIFER.

But Swistle is right. There aren't as many PEOPLE who are named the top names today as compared to when I was born, because there are just MORE NAMES. So I don't think it's quite as big a deal.

kanah said...

You could always give here a MN that serves as a double name...like Sofia Jane and call her by both. OR, which I think this is awesome, do something creative like Sofia Joanna and call her Sojo. I know a little girl name Sasonia who goes by Sassy. You could always use the nickname Scout if you really find Sofia to be common in your area. However, I too find it very sweet to say that her daddy named her. You are going to be crazy about her as soon as you see her no matter what her name is!

Susan said...

I vote for Sofia for your little bundle. One big advantage -- and I do consider this big -- is that when you tell people what you named her, everyone will break into joyful approval. No one will ever say, "What was that again? That's ... uh ... different" with their eyes darting about.

Kayt said...

My name is Katherine. It's not super common, but not unusual. In my thirty person English class in high school, I was one of six Kates. At my work, the only repeat name among my fifty person work group is April. I had only met one other April before starting work here. My sister is Amelia, and she went to a 100 person high school, with one other Amelia, whose last name even started with the same letter.

So, go ahead and use Sofia. It may not be super uncommon, but it's a name you guys love. Why give up a name you love?

SaraM said...

I've always felt that a name should get to be the decision of both parents. Since you do not want the name Sofia, that should be just as important as dad wanting the name.
You could always try vetoing the name and asking that you both come up with a list to work from.
Acacia, Agatha, Calypso, Cybele, Halia, Phoebe, Thea,
There are some great Greek names. Maybe finding a greek goddess with a name you like? Good luck!

Ashley said...

I too have a very Greek last name , which was in fact shortened by my great grandparents upon arrival at Ellis island as no one could say it. I love my Greek heritage and wish i had a stronger name to go along with it, however I was named Ashley, along with usually 3-4 others in my classes in school. I truly love the name Sofia, but some alternatives I'd suggest are, Anastasia and Memphis. Memphis has the f sound like Sofia and means established and beautiful. Good luck!

Jenny said...

I agree with SaraM. I think Sofia is a lovely name but if its popularity makes you unexcited about it, then I strongly feel that your husband needs to make a compromise in the name department. You should both love the name you choose and be excited to bestow it upon your little baby girl!

For my money, there is no name with a better derivation (Greek or otherwise, though it happens to be Greek) than Helen. Another name with a similar feel to Sofia is Emelia. I think that one is Latin rather than Greek in derivation. Anyway, best of luck and do post an update so we can know what you pick!

Anonymous said...

Is it purely the popularity that makes you hesitant to use Sofia, or does it just not feel right? You could always come up with a nickname for Sofia, like Fia, Sia, Siri, etc.

Some other possibl names perhaps -

Athena
Serena
Calista
Talitha
Delia

Anonymous said...

Jenny said, You should both love the name you choose and be excited to bestow it upon your little baby girl! I agree that would be ideal -- for every baby. But here we have a dad who really, really wants their daughter to be named Sofia and is already thinking of her by that name (whether he should or should not be doing that) and a mom who says she adores the name but not it's popularity. How likely is it that they can find a name they both equally LOVE? If Mom really disliked the name, then she should insist that they find a compromise name, but since she does like Sofia a lot, then why not? A compromise name is often just that -- a compromise; both parents like it enough, but neither really loves it.

I agree with Swistle. Name her Sofia.

Frazzled Mom said...

One advantage of a popular name is that you know what to expect - meaning you expect your child will need to go by a last initial and you are prepared. Whereas picking an uncommon name is risky because the uncommon name could suddenly get discovered by everyone else and become common.

However, as someone who really derives satisfaction from using underappreciated name, I feel its well worth the risk. That probably doesn't help you in your situation.

I don't know. The argument everyone is making about having a popular name is true and makes perfect sense. But I only feel it is sweet that the baby's Daddy names her, if you are completely on board with his choice. Your reasons for being hesitant with his choice really don't matter - whether you want a more or less popular name or the name was someone you hated - it doesn't really matter. Your feelings should be validated. And I'm here to validate your feelings, even though I'm probably not helping you in the short term.

This is easy for me to say because like you, I too prefer less popular, although not "way out there" names. I hope I would give the same advice if your husband wanted the more unusual name and you wanted something more popular. Names are so personal.

Sometimes the compromise name that both parents like but neither love is the name that is meant for your baby. Going to the hospital with a list of 5 names is a good idea. I like the suggestions of Sonia, Fiona, Calista, Sylvia, and Phoebe. Daphne is another good option. Note that Phoebe and Daphne are becoming more popular.

Maybe you can tell your husband that you feel it is more fun to keep your options open because to you, the one who is carrying the baby, she just doesn't "feel like a Sofia." I'm not suggestion you are confrontational about it; you can still keep Sofia on your list of 5. Heck, maybe once she's born she will just "look like a Sofia" and you will come to the realization that your husband was right, and you could tell your husband that too. Since you are the pregnant hormonal one, I feel your husband should humor you.

Good luck.