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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Baby Naming Issue: The Pronunciation of Emmaline

Amanda writes:
We are due in the next week or so with our second child, gender unknown, and I've just discovered I've been pronouncing one of our finalist names wrong this whole time! Our frontrunner for a girl has been Emmaline. I've only ever seen it written, and in my head, the ending rhymes with 'teen'. But I just looked it up in the Baby Name Wizard and found out that it officially rhymes with 'twine' which I don't like nearly as much. I had really liked the nickname options of both Emma and Lena. Is my way a legitimate alternative, or have I just made something up? Would I be dooming my child to a life of constant corrections? Our other choice for a girl is Norah. The middle name will almost certainly be Imogen. Our last name is pronounced De-FLOR-ee-o, and our older son's name is Wy@tt.

I was finally feeling prepared, and now the fretting starts anew. Arrgh!

First I found the pronunciation on Forvo, where two readers pronounce it EmmaLEEN and one pronounces it EmmaLINE.

Then I found a preference/opinion discussion on Nameberry, where a couple of people say that the French pronunciation is EmmaLEEN, and where other people say it can be pronounced either way or even a third way (EmmaLIN).

Then I found a million other message boards that had the same basic content: people claiming to have ONLY ever heard it a certain way while other people insincere-LOL-ingly claimed to have NEVER heard it that way; lots of people claiming to be personally acquainted with three babies with that name when I suspect they are only trying to bolster their personal opinion with invented evidence; lots of people stating preferences but very little discussion of what is correct/legitimate.

Message boards give me a headache, but I think the consensus here is that EmmaLEEN is considered a legitimate way to pronounce it, and that no matter which way you chose to pronounce it you'd have some people pronouncing it wrong. I think I would come up with a standard correction ahead of time---something like, "Oh, no---it's EmmalEEn, like Emily," or "It's EmmalEEn, like Pauline or Christine."

If you want to make the pronunciation more clear, there's also the option of altering the spelling. Emmaline is already spelled a ton of different ways (Emeline, Emmeline, Emaline), and none of the spellings are common enough to seem like a "main spelling." Emmalene (like Irene and Arlene), Emmaleen (like Colleen and Kathleen), or Emmalena (to make it clearly a blend name) would all work, I think.


Name update! Amanda writes:
Thank you so much for all your help with our naming problem. All the comments really helped us make the final decision, and the work was not in vain! Despite the majority of friends and family predicting another boy, Emmaline Imogen arrived in the early hours of August 8, weighing in at a quite respectable 8lbs 12oz. We were keeping our name options top secret until she got here, and the reactions have all been very positive so far.
Thanks again!


35 comments:

Anonymous said...

I have always heard Emmaline, as in line. This may be influenced by the Ben Folds song "Emmaline" where it's pronounced line as well.

Slim said...

I just love this:
"people claiming to have ONLY ever heard it a certain way while other people insincere-LOL-ingly claimed to have NEVER heard it that way"

I mean, must people bring their passive-aggressive self-righteousness to NAMING discussions?

And I'd assumed the "twine" thing, but if someone said "like 'Christine,' I'd have said, 'Oh, OK,' and not in that amused derision sort of 'Oh, OK' way that certain in-laws perfected.

StephLove said...

I had guessed beforehand this would be a rhymes-with-twine or rhymes-with-bin question, so I see there's a third way to say it. Sounds like this one has a lot of legitimate pronunciations. My personal preference is rhymes-with-twine, but that's not the question at hand.

Susan said...

If the French pronunciation is "een," I'd be reluctant to give up the French spelling (which I think is "Emmaline," right?). On the other hand, I think the spelling "Emmaleen" would absolutely end any pronunciation confusion ... so I'm not sure what I'd do in your shoes. The one thing I WOULDN'T do would be to give up that lovely name! It's beautiful -- and speaking for myself I also like the "een" pronunciation best. And it's what I would have thought it was.

Amy said...

I have never met anyone with the name, but I have always pronounced it Emmaleen. I learned French in high school and studied in France for a semester during college, so I tend to pronounce things the "French way" if I don't know how to pronounce them. Plus, I prefer it pronounced the French way, but I may be biased. :)

Anonymous said...

I would hazard a guess that the "most French" spelling is actually Emmeline, not Emmaline, for what it's worth.

Ellen said...

Oh, I so wish this had been discussed a month ago! My husband and I named our one month old daughter Emeline after finding it in the Baby Name Wizard. We kept our name choices a secret and the -leen pronunciation never occurred to me. I love our daughter's name, but have had to mentally adjust to frequent corrections on the pronunciation. Annecdotally, I'd say about half the people who say her name that I haven't said it to first (e.g. the medical assistant at the pediatrician's office) say -leen and about half say -line. I've gotten one -lyn.

I think you're right, Swistle. One just needs a standard line to correct people. In my case I've taken to saying, "Like Caroline." To person with the original question, it's a beautiful name either way and I wouldn't let the pronunciation issue stop you! I just wish I would've thought of it ahead of time like you have so that I could have been mentally prepared for the corrections.

Anonymous said...

Don't give up this great name you love! Yes, I think you will need to correct people occasionally, but once is usually enough, and I wouldn't worry about the people you're in contact with sporadically (like the the rotating receptionists at the dentist's office).
And, in case you're interested, I would pronounce (and slightly prefer) Emmaline with the French ending -een.
Emmeline Imogen is really lovely.
Good luck!

beyond said...

oops, that anon right up there is me.

Lawyerish said...

In my head I've always pronounced the name with the long "i" (like "twine"). But this may be because I grew up in the South, and most Carolines there are CaroLINEs and not CaroLYNNs.

When I look at the spelling Emmeline, I am more apt to think "Emma-LEEN" for some reason, maybe because it looks more French.

Regardless, it's a very pretty name and if you love it, you'll get used to correcting people's pronunciation!

-R- said...

I would pronounce it to rhyme with twine, but I agree with others who said once someone said no, it's like Christine, I would not think it was a big deal.

I like Lawyerish's suggestion of Emmeline, but I don't like the suggestions of Emmaleen. Emmaleen looks like a fake name or a misspelling to me.

Anonymous said...

This makes me think of the name Jacqueline. In North American/English pronunciation the final syllable is Lin. The French pronunciation, however, is Leen. So,I think how you pronounce the ending is up to you.

Amy said...

That is a name that we are considering if we have a girl also as it is my husband's Grandma's name. She always went by the nickname Emme but officially was EmmalEEn. Although I do prefer the sound of line at the end. Either way it is a great name!

Alice said...

oh my, i just LOVE this name! you should definitely still use it! i automatically went with the "leen" pronunciation personally (but i'm another french student, for what it's worth). i agree with -R-, that the mod to "Emmeline" works well as a clarification without modifying the structure of the name as much as "Emmaleen."

It's an absolutely beautiful name, and I hope you still use it! I love both Emma and Lena as nicknames, too.

AirLand said...

I too, think of the Ben Folds song, Emaline- rhymes with twine. Love the song, so I like that pronunciation.

But I think the pronunciation that ends in "een" is valid. I would spell it differently if you really want to make sure people pronounce it your way- I like Emmalene.

natalee215 said...

I've never known anyone with this name, but on first sight, I pronounced it Emmaleen, so I think your pronounciation is just fine. Yes, chances are your daughter will have some diffculty with people pronouncing her name, but there are problems with every name.

Carolyn said...

I know two babies (not trying to bolster anything, but sometimes personal experience is helpful!!:)) pronounced Emmeline rhymes with twine. I think Emmaline pronounced leen sounds totally legit and it would just be a matter of setting the record straight when meeting someone new. And sometimes people already know how to pronounce it!

It's sort of similar to the Caroline/Carolyn issue (although I think they are two distinctly different names). Most of the time I'm introducing myself and it's fine. Sometimes even if I say Carolyn, they'll refer to me as Caroline. Even in the movie 16 Candles, the characters pronounce the name Caroline two different ways. It's not that big of a deal to correct people, or just let it go, which I often do as well.

e said...

When I read Emmaline I pronounced it Emma Line. I'd change the spelling if I were you so you'll hear it the way you love it more often. I think swistles spelling suggestions are good although I'd pronounce Emmalena with the A (like Lana with an e) so you might run into another pronouncation problem with that one.

Anonymous said...

My daughter's name is Emilene (leen) and we went through the same spelling/pronunciation battle. We hoped the spelling would eliminate any confusion as to the pronunciation (line) and it has. However, people almost never HEAR it correctly. The always think her name is Emily and I hate stressing the LEEN, her name is EmiLEEN!! It's not nearly as pretty that way, so I usually just tell strangers her name is Emi. I actually think the French spelling is Emilienne, but it's also pronounced Em-il-E-en. So, I would suggest spelling it however you like best and you're probably going to have to correct people in one way or another since we have chosen such a lovely albeit unusual name. :)

M.Amanda said...

In my head it's always sounded like Emma-LEEN, but like other commenters, if a person corrected me and said it was Emma-LINE or Emma-LIN, I wouldn't think anything of it. They all seem like pretty valid, non-made-up pronunciations.

bluedaisy said...

Totally agree with Swistle that there are options...don't give up this beautiful name!!
Sometimes you get stuck with questions/corrections on even the simplest of names. I can't tell you how many times I've had to correct the spelling of Michael...and we spell it the most basic way! Spell it the way you like best and pronounce it the way you like....others will adjust & you'll give your daughter the name you truly love :)

Megan said...

Not a lot to say here, either way seems valid to me, and I think that I would easily adjust to either pronounciation. Very pretty name. I mostly wanted to say: YES! What is up with the snootiness on baby name boards??

Anonymous said...

Oh, what a pretty name! I am proposing it as a possibility to my husband tonight, we just found out yesterday #3 is coming in March. FWIW, I like it as Emma-LEEN...
I'm posting as anon because we're not "out" yet about the pregnancy and I know there are people who I "know" who read Swistle, so...

Jennifer said...

Very pretty name! I also think it's gorgeous with your surname. Both pronunciations seem legitimate, and a simple correction should be enough to get people to use the correct/preferred one. For what it's worth, I don't think any name is immune from corrections - oddly, I had someone misspell "Jennifer" the other day - soI wouldn't let that scare you off from such a lovely choice. Best of luck!

Joanne said...

The only French I know is from Pepe Le Peu and I thought "leen". I had a great Aunt named Evaline, which we pronounced Ehv-ah-leen". I think you'll be fine and I think it's *beautiful*.

Anonymous said...

I went to school with an Emmaline, pronounced Emma-leen. She never had any problems with it :-)

brooke said...

I know a baby Emmaline with the Emma-lin pronunciation. I saw her name in print before I heard it and thought it would either be pronounced Emma-line or Emma-lin. I had not considered Emma-leen until I read this post. Still, it seems like a legitimate/reasonable pronunciation and it is a beautiful name. I think you should stick with it!

Anonymous said...

Wow, I have always pronounced it "Emma-lynn". The first time I ever heard it was early in the series "Army Wives"; one of the daughters is named Emmaline and they pronounced it with the -lynn sound... though I just googled the character and I guess her name is spelled without the E on the end, which makes a difference, I suppose. Honestly, I think any way would work. You'll correct people constantly, but if the name is worth it I say go for it!

Susan S said...

This is a link to Behind the name . com

http://www.behindthename.com/name/emmaline

They pronounce it Emma leen.

Magic27 said...

As someone who's lived in France for almost 20 years, I can confirm that the most likely spelling here would be Emeline (Em-euh-leen) but that instinctively I would pronounce Emmaline the same way. Another suggestion was Emilienne, but for me that's a totally different name (the female version of Emil/Emile, a form of Emilie/Emily), though obviously in the same "family".
I think Emmaline (or Emeline) is a beautiful name, particularly with Imogen!
Congratulations!

Megz said...

I would have said it Emma-leen and like the Emmeline spelling best. It's a very pretty name. Congratulations.

Anonymous said...

I know someone who named their baby Emmaline & I only saw it written, so I automatically assumed it was Emma LINE. Then, I started Googling to see if that was correct before I put my foot in my mouth. It turned out, in fact, to be Emma LINE, but I learned both pronounciations were common. Like Sondra/Sandra. Probably have confusion either way, but not enough to change your name. Good luck with baby Emmaline.

Patricia said...

Amanda, from the research I've just done on the name, it would seem that your way of pronouncing it -- EM-e-leen -- is the usual way in the UK and the correct way overall considering the name's French background. (Think, Josephine, Nadine... -ine is always pronounced as -een in French.)

Behindthename says the name Emmaline (pronounced EM-e-leen) is an English variant of EMMELINE (same pronunciation), "From an Old French form of the Germanic name Amelina... It was introduced to England by the Normans [in 1066]."

Penguin Reference Dictionary of First Names (UK) reminded me that a famous bearer of the name was the British suffragette leader Emmeline Pankhurst (1858-1928). According to the following pronunciation guide, her name is pronounced as EM-e-leen. You can listen to the pronunciation here: http://www.forvo.com/word/emmeline_pankhurst/

Checking SSA records, I see that while it appears that the usual UK spelling -- and older spelling of the name -- is Emmeline, Emmaline has been the more popular spelling in the US. According to the Oxford Dictionary of First names, in the UK Emmaline is a "modern variant of Emmeline, influenced by Emma." If you used the more traditional Emmeline, you could still use the nn Emma.

As for using Imogen for the middle name, I find Emmaline Imogen too sing-song together: same number of syllables, same rhythm, similar beginning syllables -- Em/Im, and both ending with the 'n' sound, but maybe that's what appeals to you? I liked Norah in either the middle or first position until I combined it with your surname: Norah rhymes with the accented syllable of your surname - NORah deFLOReeo). Maybe Emmaline (or Emmeline) might sound better with a shorter middle name, especially with your 4-syllable surname?

A few suggestions:
Emmaline Iris Defloreeo
Emmaline Sarah Defloreeo
Emmaline Jane Defloreeo
Emmaline Sophie Defloreeo

Emmeline Frances appeared in a recent UK birth announcement.

Best wishes!

Patricia said...

PS I want to add that I really like both Emmaline and Norah and think Imogen is a great choice for a middle name. And while there could be a concern about NORah rhyming with DeFLOReeo, I think that could add to the appeal of the name combination as well.

Another option would be to name your daughter Emma instead of the longer Emmaline. With your lengthy surname, I prefer Emma, and it sounds like you may be calling her "Emma" anyway. Naming her Emma would avoid your concerns about how Emmaline is correctly pronounced and how others will pronounce it.

I think either Emma or Norah would sound very well with your son's short, 2 syllable name and with your extra long, 4-syllable, surname:

Emma Imogen Defloreeo / Emma Defloreeo
Norah Imogen Defloreeo / Norah Defloreeo

Wyatt and Emma
Wyatt and Norah

Christina said...

When I saw it I immediately thought EmmaLEEN. It'd take effort for me to pronounce it EmmaLINE and I'd probably forget and slip each time.