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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Baby Girl or Boy Luke-With-a-D

Melanie writes:
Help! My husband and I are expecting our first baby, gender unknown, at the end of February (Feb. 27). Our last name sounds like Luke but starts with a D instead of an L. We are set if this baby is a boy, but I just KNOW that it is a girl and in that area we are in trouble!

I really like classic, "pretty" girls' names that aren't TOO popular. Of course, the name I have loved since I was a child is Emily, which has been #1 or #2 on the SSA site for ten years! I still like that name, but it just feels so "used" to me that I am not sure I can use it. (And I don't think it really works as a middle name, but I would definitely consider it for that slot). Another name I love is Elizabeth, but my husband dislikes this name (he says he would consider it for a middle name, but not a first).

Some other names we have discussed:
Penelope - this name has been slightly soured for me by people's reactions. We aren't telling anyone our name choices, but someone mentioned this concidentally and called it a "weird" name. I like the nickname Penny but husband doesn't. Really loved this name before I was pregnant, but with the combo of the "weird" comment and husband's dislike of Penny, I'm less enthusiastic.
Elinor - Husband's grandmother's name. I LOVE this one too, he won't use it as a first name, but willing to use it as a middle.
Grace - Husband's grandmother's middle name. I know this is popular as a middle name, but is it used a lot as a first name? I love the nickname Gracie and I think Grace is so pretty. One problem - Husband's sister had a baby a year ago and her middle name is Grace. His cousin also had a girl a year ago, and ALSO has the middle name Grace. (All after the same grandmother). If it was just the cousin, I wouldn't mind, but my SIL and BIL seem to call their baby by the first and middle name fairly frequently. It's not like there would be confusion, necessarily, but I am worried about accusations of "copying" SIL.

It seems like we have thought of and thrown out a million other names. As you can see, we are going around in circles. At this point, none of these names really feel like the baby's name to me, and definitely not to my husband, who is a classic vetoer. I am hoping you can suggest some names that I haven't thought of. I am really feeling sad that I haven't hit upon "the" name yet - I love baby names and have been thinking about them forever (long before I was pregnant), so I can't believe that I am 8 weeks out with no idea what this baby will be named!!


The Emily situation is both better and worse than you think. Worse because it was #1 for twelve years in a row, from 1996 until 2007. Better because in 2008 it was #3, and in 2009 it was #6. Also better because in terms of percentages of baby girls being given the name, there's been a very significant drop, from a high of 1.36% in 1999, to 0.76% in 2009---that's getting close to being cut in half. And also better because despite its long popularity it still doesn't feel used-up to me. Used, sure, but that's true of all the traditional names and even the ones people think of as unique. Used UP, no.

However, if it DOES feel used-up to you, there are lots of possibilities that are a little less common. Emeline, for example, is similar to Emily but is surprisingly unusual. Or there's Emilia, Emlyn, Emryn, Emery, or Emerson. My favorite is Emeline because I think it captures more of the style of Emily. There's also Adeline and Amelia.

Since you also like Elizabeth, I recommend Eliza.

Grace is a popular first name: it was the 17th most popular girl name in the U.S. in 2009. The Social Security baby name site is great for this: not only can you see a name's current popularity, you can see if it's falling or rising---and how rapidly. Grace, for example, looks like it has settled: after a rise, it's been floating in the space between #10 and #21 for a decade. This makes it look to me as if it's not going to get super-super-popular, but is instead going to stay nicely popular. However, if your husband's grandmother has already been honored twice via the use of her middle name, perhaps there are other family members who could be honored? It seems so unfair that the family members with currently-popular names get such a disproportionate amount of honoring-via-namesakes.

Penelope is a name that seems highly unusual and yet I don't think it will seem that way for much longer. Look at this:

(screen shot from the Social Security baby name site)
(click it to see it larger)

An underlined lowercase A means the name was not in the Top 1000 that year. I cut it off at 1994, but those underlined lowercase As go back to 1974. Penelope was nowhere in sight, and now look at it go: up almost 700 rank places in 9 years, and I'm eager to see where it will be when the 2010 statistics come out in May. It's good news for people like me, who prefer to use more common/familiar names: Penelope would have been out of the question for me back when my first child was born in 1999, but if I were to have another child now, I'd feel able to use it. (And in fact, when I was expecting in 2007, it was one of our frontrunners until we found out we were having a boy.) If your husband doesn't like like the nickname Penny, maybe he'd like Nellie or Pip.

It's even more unusual than Penelope, but I wonder if you'd like the name Felicity? It has the same rhythm as Penelope, but more of the early-American style of Emily. It's pretty and feminine and underused, and it would work with any of your possible middle names (though because I prefer not to spell anything with initials, I'd avoid FED---perhaps this is a good moment to go through your family tree looking for other women you love whose names would be good middle-name candidates).

More possibilities:


Name update! Melanie writes:
Baby name update for you! Our baby GIRL was born March 2. We decided to name her Emily Elizabeth, thanks to your reassuring comments about the popularity, and all the commenters who said that Emily was a great, classic name. In particular, one commenter mentioned how special Emily would feel when I told her I had loved her name all my life, and when I read that I started crying. That's when I knew she had to be Emily!! Elizabeth, her middle name, is after my grandmother. Thanks for all your help!!!

P.S. I attached a photo too! I love the photo updates myself, so I had to include one. :)


Anonymous said...

What about Amelie?
It's a French name that's pronounced similar to Emily, but with an A, and I think it sounds so pretty!

Bethan said...

I was just coming to comment with the suggestion of Phoebe - and I see it right there in the list. Phoebe is a brilliant name. I love Penelope too. How about Pen as a nickname?

Devan said...

Lia and Cora are favorites of mine off swistle's list. What about Lila or Lyla? It's gaining in popularity, but not as popular as Lily. (of course, when i chose it i thought it was not popular. just goes to show how much things can change in a few years!)

Maria said...

I love Penelope and Penny, Nellie, Pip are all lovely nicknames. Ellie could even work. I think the name will become more 'normal' in the coming years, as Swistle said as well. I love Penelope Mae.

Is popularity a real dealbreaker for you or not? If you love, love, Emily why not use it? Emily Lenore would be beautiful. I also really like Emilia (Milly, Emmy, Lily), Eliana, Elodie, Elowen, Emery, Miley

I like the suggestions of Phoebe and Felicity. They have the same spunk as Penelope and Emily.

Some other ideas--

Olivia (too popular?)

beyond said...

If you like Penelope you might like Calliope (possible nn Callie), it has the same feeling and rhythm.
I love either Elizabeth or Elinor in the mn slot, with a slight preference for Elinor, because it's a bit more unique and has the family connection. Calliope Elinor sounds great.
A few more possibilities (I see these as classic 'pretty' names):
Good luck!

Carmen said...

Another nickname for Penelope is Poppy. Would your husband agree to that?

StephLove said...

I wouldn't give up on Emily if you have loved it since you were a child. Think how special she'd feel to know you imagined her as Emily for that long.

I also wouldn't toss out Penelope based on one negative comment. It's a lovely name. I knew a Penelope in college who went by Nell.

I'm not sure you need suggestions but I think Sarah and Sylvia could work for you. Sarah Grace? Sylvia Elinor? Or how about Jane. Jane Elizabeth?

Christine said...

I'm a vote for Emily too! I think classic, over just popular. There is good reason why the name is where it is. For what it's worth, I'm thirty and I knew an Emily as a classmate and then another who is currently 11ish. And that's it! Granted if I were a teacher, this would probably be different, but there you go!

E @ Oh! Apostrophe said...

As a 1981-born Emily, I'd say if you love it, use it. I'm amazed at how often someone tells me they love my name, given the popularity. And I've always liked it. After hesitating for a while, I just decided on a name I love for my son (due in two months!) despite it's growing popularity. Popular names are that way because people LIKE them!

kimma said...

My cousin and his wife named their daughter (now 2) Emaline and call her Emi. It is such a cute nn for a toddler and she has the more formal name to use as an adult ... you know, if she wants to be President some day or something :) I've never met another Emaline so its certainly not over used.

Jennifer said...

I love Carmen's suggestion of Penelope nn Poppy. If your husband still isn't sold on Penelope, I wonder if you'd like Philippa nn Pippa?

Megz said...

Some other variants of Emily (some have been suggested already):

Emmaline (love it!)

and going a bit further afield:


If you like Penny you may like:

Margaret nn Peggy
Philippa nn Pippi

Congratulations on your new baby!

Anonymous said...

How about:


Natalia said...

My colleague's daughter is Penelope and she calls her Peppa. I love the name, but can't use it because of 'copycat' issues.

I can understand your hesitation about Emily - I had the same with Isabelle and ended up naming my daughter Bianka (after sifting through what felt like a million names).

I really like Elisa out of the suggestions

Anonymous said...

How about


StephLove said...

I posted already but new ones keep coming to me. I think Alexandra might fit the classic, pretty, but not in the top 10 criteria. Also, it's declining slightly in popularity, which could be a plus.

Or if you decide you want something more unusual, I wonder if Matthea would work for you.

Magic27 said...

What about Lydia? My younger daughter is called Lydie (the French version of Lydia, as we live in France and her dad is French) and it's really, really rare here, though a classic name: we've never met another child with the name (our Lydie will be 7 in April). It's much more common in Britain (where I'm from), but still not really common...
Lydie's middle name is Rebecca - another classic name...

Anonymous said...

What about Gisella? It might be a little too frilly for you but in my mind it sounds abosoulutely perfect with Grace and I just HAD to post. Plus you get Gigi as a nick name (from the initials) So cute! Maybe you could variate Elinor? Would your husband agree to Lenore, Ella, Ellie, Nora, Lenora? I love Lenora Grace! But on the copycat issue......Maybe could you ask your inlaws how they'd feel? Or maybe just not use the middle name so much? Like if you called her Lenora, or Gisella, or Emmy, or Ella, or Pep, ect. I really don't think it's copying unless you call her by the name Grace.....

P.S. Penelope isn't really my style but definately not too weird a name. If you love it, use it!

Patricia said...

I love the photo updates too and appreciate your including one with your announcement of the name you chose. Emily Elizabeth is a GREAT name, timeless and classic. And your Emily is just as lovely as her name. Congratulations!

Lise said...

She's a beautiful with a lovely name. I hope that she is gifted with many books about Clifford the Big Red Dog, as a spunky little girl named Emily Elizabeth is featured in them.