I am currently pregnant with a girl, due this winter. My husband and I have always loved the name Maisie, and I was pleased to learn it’s a nickname for Margaret, the name of a beloved family member. My problem? Our last name is Atwood, so she would share a name with the well-known author, Margaret Atwood. We do plan on calling her Maisie, so the obvious solution would be to just name her Maisie and be done with it. But I do like the idea of naming her after a family member, and I also worry that Maisie is too whimsical as a “real name”, and she wouldn’t have something more formal to fall back on when she becomes a Supreme Court justice (ahem). I have always gone by a nickname for my formal name, and liked having something more serious to use professionally, in publications, etc. So I guess I have two questions for you and your readers: First, how weird would it be to have a child named after someone famous (though, admittedly, it’s not like we’re naming her Angelina Jolie)? Secondly, do you think Maisie is too whimsical to be anything but a nickname? I keep going back and forth on this, and would really appreciate an outside opinion. Thank you!
This is a pair of questions I can see getting opinions from ALL OVER the spectrum. My own set of opinions is that I think the Margaret Atwood connection is too strong to use the name (not because of either a positive or a negative association, but based only on the STRENGTH of the association), and that I think Maisie works better as a nickname for a given name.
I had to think a bit to come up with those opinions, though, because it's so hard to tell when a name is worth using despite issues with it: I often come down on the side of "Yes, I see the issue---but if you really want the name, it won't be all THAT much hassle, and you should go for it." What I finally did was imagine it as my OWN name. Would I want to keep discussing the Margaret Atwood thing? No. And if my name were Maisie, would I also want a more professional option? Yes.
You could do some fancy footwork and make Margaret the middle name (the connection is still very strong for me there, though) and give her a different first name but nickname her Maisie. Or you could name her Mae or May and call her Maisie. (I like the sound of Mae Margaret, too, if you want to use the honor name.)
Let's find out where the rest of us are on the spectrum. Let's have TWO polls over to the right: one on the Margaret Atwood association, and one about Maisie as a given name. [Polls closed; see results below.]
Name update! E. writes:
Update! And a surprise!
Thank you so much for posting my question. As you predicted, the responses were all over the place, and it was fascinating to see such a wide variety of opinions. I really appreciated the many suggestions of alternate formal names we could use to get Maisie. I became particularly fond of Mae, and really wanted to make it work, but...well, there's something I didn't tell you. This baby is a twin. I didn't mention it when I originally wrote to you, because I didn't think it was relevant. It only became an issue once Mae came into consideration, because we decided to name her twin sister...June. MAE & JUNE. Could you imagine? I'm just not that cruel.
So Mae was out, and I didn't love any of the other alternatives. So we were back to Margaret or Maisie. My gut was telling me that Maisie was better as a nickname, and your poll reinforced my feelings. In the other poll, I noticed that 29% of the respondents didn't notice the connection at all. This really surprised me. My impression is that your readers are a very literate crowd, and I reasoned that if nearly one-third of them didn't recognize Margaret Atwood, it was going to be far less noticeable among the general public.
I also really appreciated the commenters (Heidi J, bunnyslippers, etc) who pointed out that she would be known primarily as Maisie as a child and by the time she's an adult her peers may not recognize the connection. I took special note of the comment about the child named "Ayn Rand"--the kids didn't notice it, and adults asked about it but understood once they heard it was a family name. That seemed similar to our situation, and helped me see that it wouldn't bother me that much if people inquired about her name.
Interestingly, I have a similar issue with my name. My maiden name is Elizabeth Burton, and from time to time I hear, "Hey, that was Elizabeth Taylor's name when she was married to Richard Burton!". Do I roll me eyes when I hear this? Absolutely. Do I find it annoying? Not really. People are funny, and they're just trying to make conversation. It's not a big deal to me, and hopefully won't be one for my daughter.
So without further ado, I present to you Margaret Jane (aka Maisie), and her sister June Adeline. As suggested, I gave Maisie a strong middle name/initial to separate her first and last names. She is named after my mother (and her mother), who is absolutely tickled to share a name with her granddaughter. The babies are now 19 weeks old, and the only person to comment on the Margaret Atwood connection is their pediatrician. :)