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Monday, May 30, 2011

Baby Girl SSS: _____ _parks _eevens

S. writes:
I'm hoping you can help us out. After thinking we were all set, serious doubt has set in with only 2 weeks to go and we are in need of advice. My husband and I decided not to discuss baby names with friends and family as we want to choose a name we like and everyone has an opinion and we do not feel the need (and I don't have the energy) to explain/defend names to everyone. But now here's where we stand:

My husband and I are having our first child, a girl, in mid-June. After going through long lists of names we feel like we have it narrowed down to two.

My last name is begins with an S and rhymes with Parks and my husband’s last name also begins with S and rhymes with Leevens. We would like for baby to take my last name as her middle name and her dad’s last name as her surname. We won’t do this for every child necessarily, but who knows if we’ll have more than 1 (although we’d like 2 or 3) and so we wanted to get my name in there on the first one.

It actually took us about a week of thinking of baby names to figure out that all the cute A names we like are definitely out! The ones we liked the most were Alexandra (Alex) and Ava.

The two first names that we are considering happen to be S names. That will make baby’s initials SSS and that there will be a lot of S sounds in her name, but I think that’s ok for us.

The two first names we like are Scarlett and Sofia. Here’s the case (as we see it) for each:

Sofia is not only my well-loved, legendary great-grandmother’s name but also a derivative of the name of one of my dearest childhood friends, so it has lots of good feelings associated with it for me. My husband very much likes the name too. Although I know Sofia is enormously popular in the US, we live overseas and are unlikely to return to the US anytime soon. Also my name is quite popular (it was in the top 15 on the social security names list for 20 years - five years before to fifteen years after my birth) among my age group and it hasn’t bothered me all that much.

It is quite possible we’d end up living in Europe at some point in the next decade and it would be nice to have a name that works well in most European languages – which Sofia does. Also Sofia would be easy to say in the SE Asian language of the country where we are currently living – although we do not plan on living here permanently so I do not want this to be the defining factor. This name feels ‘safe’ to me as we have a solid family connection to it and it’s easy to form cute nicknames and it seems to work in other languages.

Scarlett is more daring for us. We both very much like the name and have strong positive feelings towards the name Scarlett – mine for the heroine in Gone with the Wind, my husband because a family that he is very close with has a Scarlett. The name feels bold and a bit different but still familiar. Also my favorite tree is currently in bloom and will be when baby’s born and the flowers are a deep red color.

Negatives for Scarlett include not finding a nn that we like: Lettie, Letta, Carly, Scout, Scar, Scarly, Scarletta, Scassy, Sassy, Star don't appeal to us. Also it would be really hard to say in the local language, again this wouldn’t be the defining factor in choosing or not choosing the name, but it does mean that a nn would need to be used and it would not be able to have the ‘sc’ letter combination which is unpronounceable here.

If we were in an English speaking country or somewhere that the full name could be pronounced (most of Europe) then I would just use her full name and it would be fine not to have a nickname. Unless the nn from here somehow stuck!

Other short-listed names that we considered were Madeleine, Eve, Catherine, and Lucy. We just kept coming back to Sofia and Scarlett.

If you think the triple S combo (with Ss on the end of the last two names to boot) is just too much, please feel free to suggest other names.


For first-time parents, unless they have specified that they're planning only one child, I have the same advice every time: make your job HARDER now, in order to make it EASIER later.

That is, even though right now it feels so hard to choose even ONE name, this is the time to think ahead to future names as well. If you choose Sofia now, what does that mean for your future children's names? What if you choose Scarlett? The two names are of very different styles, and it would be helpful to try to figure out which style is more yours.

Also, using a triple initial such as SSS is such a distinctive and noticeable move, will it make you feel locked into doing the same for each subsequent child?

A note on popularity: the spellings Sofia and Sophia combined are given to almost exactly the same percentage of baby girls as were given your first name the year you were born---even though together they rank much higher than your name did. But the name Scarlett is racing to catch up:

(screen shot from the Social Security Administration)
(click it to see it larger)

Look at that! Not even in the Top 1000 until 1992, and since then it's gone almost to the Top 100! Look particularly at what it's done since 2003: from 1992 through 2003 it dawdled around in the Very Uncommon ranks and was still a pretty startling choice---but in 2004 it started leaping. I'd expect it to be in the Top 100 when the 2011 rankings come out---though I don't expect it to go quite as high as Sofia/Sophia.

BUT, all this is just chatting, because in reading your email several times, I think the name you prefer is Sofia. You love the name Scarlett, too, and I think you find it a more exciting choice than the name Sofia---but if I look over your pros and cons for each name, Sofia clearly wins: more pros, fewer cons. Your connections to the name Sofia are strong and meaningful and timeless (a dearly loved grandmother; a dearly loved friend); connections to the name Scarlett are weaker and less meaningful (another family's child; a character in a book; the color of a plant). Sofia works as an all-over-the-world name; Scarlett doesn't. You don't like any of the nicknames for Scarlett, yet would need to have one. The other names on your shortlist (Lucy, Madeline, Eve, Catherine) are mostly of the style of Sofia, not the style of Scarlett.

Thinking ahead to future children, perhaps this daughter could be Sofia _parks _eevens, and the next, if there is a next, something like Lucy Scarlett _eevens: you could still use the name Scarlett, but in the middle name slot where it beautifully parallels a sassy name like _parks, but also where its daringness won't make it difficult to find sibling names that don't clash with it.

If it weren't getting over-the-top, I would suggest using your surname as a second middle name for all the children (which I can say from experience is less hassle than I'd thought), so that you can use BOTH names for this baby: Sofia Scarlett _parks _eevens. This lets you give each child your surname too, but without giving up the fun of choosing a middle name. But the SSSS! Well, I do still think it's a viable option: having four S's in a row is indeed a lot of S's---but when we're starting at three S's already, it's not as big a leap.

But: now that you have read my opinion, how do you feel? Do you think "Whew, yes, Sofia it is!"---or are you thinking, "Oh! Noooooooo! I WANT TO USE SCARLETT!!" This can be a very important decision-making tool: seeing how you feel when the decision seems to be going one way or the other. Using EITHER name will mean giving up the other, so there will be a feeling of loss and regret either way---but in one direction there may be a stronger, more desperate feeling. (For more on this, see also Baby Naming Issue: How to Decide Between Two Finalists.)

I wonder if it would be helpful or unhelpful to have a Sofia/Scarlett poll, over to the right, for doing some of the exercises in that post on deciding between two finalists? Yes, let's do that. [Poll closed; see results below.]

Name update! S. writes:
Thanks so very much for your suggestions and everyone's comments. They really helped us a lot. We had so much fun announcing baby SSS's name to our family - Sofia! She was born healthy and happy in June.

Thanks again!


StephLove said...

I voted for Sofia and I think it's the best choice for you, but I also like Lucy if you decide not to go the SSS route.

Marcie said...

From a European point of view, I voted for Sofia because for me it works with many European languages. And I personally love the name and have it on my future name list :) Scarlett could be more complicated in some languages.

Anonymous said...

If your daughter's name were going to be a hyphenate, I would want to steer you away from using a first name that starts with an S. In your case, though, it doesn't bother me because it will be SO rare that she's called by all three of her names. I see it as merely having an alliterate name. Now, let ms segue into why I think Sofia is the better choice.

Because she will be primarily called Sofia/Scarlett S"leevens", I would focus more on how your mouth wants to form that. For me, Scarlett is significantly harder to get out with your surname than Sofia. The hard "c" and deep "r" and hard "t"... It just doesn't flow right into the last name like I want it to. Sofia doesn't give me that problem.

If I were choosing between Sofia and Scarlett based purely on the name and taking nothing you've written into consideration, I would pick Scarlett because I like it better. But for YOUR BABY specifically, I prefer Sofia.

Erin said...

One thing that surprised me recently (and may affect one of your positive associations) was finding out that scarlet is almost orange: I was picturing more of a lipstick red.

Ms. Key said...

I like Sofia best, but that's also based on personal preference in general (I'm just not a fan of the name Scarlett).

I do also agree with Swistle, that it sounds like you have more pros for Sofia than Scarlett anyway. :-)

kimma said...

As you sound like you will be living in your current location for several more years, I would place a great deal of importance on your friends and colleagues being able to pronounce her name comfortably. Go with Sofia this time and possibly save Scarlett for a future daughter (presuming you have changed location by this time.)

If you do have second thoughts about the number of Ss in her name (I think the S issue is exacerbated further by the fact both _parks and _eevens end in an S as well), I would avoid Eve _eevens. Of your other contenders my favourite is Madeleine _eevens.

Barb @ getupandplay said...

I prefer Sofia and I think it goes with _eevens better. Congratulations!

Anonymous said...

If your husband's surname actually begins with an ST then I think Scarlett St...ns works really well. But otherwise I find Scarlett S...ns difficult to say.

Leslie said...

I agree whole-heartedly with the reasons Swistle gave for endorsing Sofia. Besides, Sofia S_parks S_eevens has such a gorgeous, lilting quality to it! Scarlett is pretty, too, of course (your daughter will have a lovely name no matter what), but I would find it hard to resist a darling little Sofia S S. Best of luck!

Alice said...

I am in a similar situation right now with two names -- one is the "safer" choice and the name we liked all along and the second is the "daring" choice that just seems more exciting, especially since we've been discussing the former for so long. That said, I vote for Sofia...not because I like it a bit more (although I do, for the nickname reasons you outlined) but because I think it's the name you know in your heart is the right one. Once Sofia the person arrives, she will take on the name and totally change it for you (for the better), thereby giving it the excitement and novelty anyway.

Carolyn said...

In addition to the locals having difficulty pronouncing the sc- sound, the child herself and her peers will struggle for a few years after that as she learns the sc-blend. A child's pronunciation of the name might sound like Darla or Dara. If you like these, they could be nn's, although on paper it looks like a stretch!

Joanne said...

Oh, I would use Sofia. It's clear that you love it and did you say LEGENDARY for your grandmother? How wonderful! Also I think SSS would be super cool on a monogram. It's a beautiful name and I like the idea of maybe using Scarlett for a middle name for a future child. Best of luck!

Megan said...

Not only is Sofia my personal fave, and very beautiful, I wonder if you may regret not naming her after your great grandma. And how special to be named after someone who is well loved and legendary in your family!

S said...

Thanks everyone for all your thoughtful comments. You have been a real help to us. I'll make sure to let you know the final decision.

Leslie said...

Sofia is a lovely choice! Congratulations!!!

Patricia said...

Sofia's a little doll, with a great name! Thanks for letting us know which name you chose.