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Monday, November 14, 2011

Baby Naming Issue: A Grandmother Insisting on a Naming Tradition

Kristen writes:
I am pregnant with my second baby due in April, and not only are we having trouble choosing the name of this little angel, but it seems that our 1 1/2 year old daughter's name is also again a subject of the name game... First of all, my name is Kristen and my husband's name is Angelo- I'm surprised our names are not up to debate. Our last name sounds like Scorus, my husband comes from Greece. Our daughter's name is Seraphina Madelyn Scorus - we just loved Seraphina and Madelyn was my Gramma's middle name. We call her Phina most times. I also have a 16 year old stepson traditionally named after my husband and his father- Angelo Jorge. Anyway... we do not know the sex of this baby although if he is a little boy we have settled on Atticus Maximilian. All the aforementioned drama occurs around a little girl's namesake.

We recently learned via a random, and very loud might I add, 2am phone call from Greece that my huband's very lovely, and very traditionally Greek, mother has used the 1 1/2 years following Seraphina's birth to stew on the fact that we did not name her Hericklia after her. Ok I went the unique, religious, traditional route with Seraphina and I am willing to push the name envelope, but I wouldn't even be sure what font to choose for the name Haricklia on baby announcements. And if you're wondering, yes we tried to satisfy this request with Lillian or Lili as a variation, even Harriet, but it's a no-go on the moniker route. I really don't think it's even our middle name style unless Swistle creates a miracle here. Which is entirely possible I've read.

So here I am, listening to advice ranging from "follow tradition" to "it's your baby, don't listen to anyone else." Whatever. Over it. My little girl can have two middle names and my mother (Ginger by the way, oh my goodness) at least understands my predicament and isn't insisting on including her name. Either that or the love of her future granddaughter has caused her to understand the possible effects of the name Haricklia Ginger or, Ginger Haricklia for that matter, stamped on her report card. So all I can think of is adding a third name, but my first daughter has only two. And this only semi-solves one problem- we still can't think of a female sibling name for Seraphina Madelyn, regardless! We've liked Scarlet (but Scarlet Scorus probably not), Charlotte (but we neither live in the city nor the web) and Genevieve (Umm it's okay we guess and Ginger appeared on it's nickname list- proof that I am not entirely an undutiful daughter). Oh, and the whole situation is compounded because due to medical complications, this baby blessing is most likely our last. Oh mighty Swistle, OH MIGHTY SWISTLE, help! Please? Or maybe I can just place an order for a little boy;)

Thank you very much!

If I'm following along correctly, the Greek tradition is to name the firstborn son after his father, and the firstborn daughter after the father's mother? So the tradition was followed for your husband's first child, but then was broken for his second. Is it possible that your mother-in-law isn't even asking to have her name used for the possible second daughter, but is just letting you know she's still mad about the first one?

It seems to me that if your mother-in-law is accepting no compromises on the name, it's unlikely she'd be satisfied by a compromise of the entire tradition (by using the name on a secondborn daughter instead of the first). Nor does it sound as if she'd settle for the second middle name slot. I think at this point it is up to your husband to say to his mother that the first daughter has already been named without following traditions, and that it wouldn't be right to give the firstborn daughter's naming tradition to the secondborn daughter.

However: I am aware that it is one thing to talk about how other people should handle things in our imaginations (where every such confrontation leaves the problematic person speechless in the face of our logic and eloquence), and another thing entirely to implement such plans with real people in real families---especially if the people and families love each other and want to get along and want not to hurt each other's feelings. It's easy for me to say that both your mother-in-law's name and her demands are unworkable; it's another thing entirely for you to have to deal with the fallout while I sit over here and don't have to take any phone calls about it. I do think firmness/resistance is justified here---but when dealing with someone who is already being unreasonable, I don't think it will necessarily help, or work, or bring her to the point of seeing reason and understanding the decision. (Except in my imagination, where she is not only embarrassed about her demands, but also very sorry for waking up a pregnant woman.)

So. That brings us to what WILL work. WILL your mother-in-law accept her name being used as a second middle name, or will she interpret that as a slap? If she will accept it, I think that's what you should do. It would bother me, too, that the sisters would have a different number of names, but it's an easy thing to explain to them with an affectionate roll of the eyes. Your younger daughter can drop the name entirely later on in life, or perhaps she'll like having her grandmother's name and enjoy surprising people with it and then telling the story.

It would also bother me to be giving in to an unreasonable demand (I'm imagining if my late mother-in-law had been making baby-name demands, and I'm not sure that would have ended well for anyone)---but again, sometimes it's the way these things go. A middle-name slot is probably worth it to avoid feuding and hard feelings. And I have some sympathy for her, if for example she winced while following these traditions with her own babies, and was thinking that the upside would be getting a dear granddaughter named after her. (DID she follow the traditions herself? If not, there's your out! If so, it makes it harder.)

If only first-name status will please her, you're stuck and you'll have to make your decision: let your mother-in-law name your babies as well as her own using traditions that are hers but not yours, or prepare wearily to handle the consequences. It's encouraging, though, that the consequence of not doing things her way with Seraphina's name led only to one single 2:00 a.m. phone call a year and a half later.

I know you said your mother-in-law rejects Lillian and Harriet, but I wonder if everyone could come to an agreement on Ariclia. (I'm pronouncing it ah-RICK-lee-ah or air-RICK-lee-ah or air-reh-CLEE-ah in my mind, but perhaps all of these are too different from the pronunciation of Haricklia.) This removes the unfortunate "hair" issue of your mother-in-law's name, while preserving much more of the essence of the name than Lillian/Harriet would. Ariclia seems exotic and usable to me (the names Erica and Leah make the sounds familiar), and a good sister name for Seraphina. I would suggest pitching it as "translating the name into English," instead of as "removing the unfortunate/unusable parts."

Another possibility is to see if she would be satisfied with ANYTHING ELSE. Would she accept a name with the same meaning as hers? Or her mother's name? Is there a traditional nickname for her name that would be usable? Or could you use your husband's grandmother's middle name, to parallel the choice for your first daughter, and explain that THAT'S the naming tradition you're using?

If the decision is made to use Haricklia as the second middle name, I like Felicity for the first name. I like Philomena even better, but I wonder if it's too rhymey with Seraphina. Or Victoria? Seraphina and Victoria. Phina and Tori.

Ooo, or Anastasia! Seraphina and Anastasia! I love that so much.

Kalliopi is a Greek name that looks like a creative spelling but isn't. I might use Calliope instead. Phina and Callie.

That makes me think of Penelope. Seraphina and Penelope. I love that too.

I know all these make for a very long name, but (1) my tastes run to long names for girls and (2) in this case, I'm inclined to think that when you're stuck with two middle names and one is long, AND your first daughter has a long name, you might as well GO FOR IT, length-wise. Anastasia Charlotte Haricklia Scorus. Penelope Charlotte Haricklia Scorus. Genevieve Charlotte Haricklia Scorus. WORK that alphabet. Or, of course, use a shorter middle name for the first of the two: Anastasia Jane Haricklia Scorus, Penelope Kate Haricklia Scorus, etc.


Meg said...

First of all, I'm sorry and I'm sending baby boy vibes your way.

Does the grandmother have a middle name perhaps? Could you start a "new" tradition to name after the grandmother's MIDDLE name?

Personally I'm not a fan of family naming traditions as it seems to put the wife marrying into the family in a really tough position, my gut reaction is to say sorry about your luck BUT....

I like the ideas of using it as a second middle name and am loving Swistle's suggestion of Anastasia. Very cute.

Another idea? If your husband is Greek is he perhaps Catholic? BAPTISMAL NAME! You can name your little one whatever you darned well please on her birth certificate and use Haricklia as her baptismal name (then make up some closer to God excuse). The name is rarely used, in my family is usually a family name and if the grandmother is religious should make her VERY happy. Best of luck and let us know!

Helena said...

OK, I seriously NEVER recommend my own name because I worry it comes across as... just bad... but have you considered Helena? You could pronounce it HELEN-a or ha-LEE-nah, both of which sound slightly Greek. I'm not Greek in the slightest but get invited to hellenic conferences all the time because of my first name.

I also think it goes with Seraphina and at least keeps the first letter of your MIL?

OK, feel free to totally disregard my own name pimping.

Anonymous said...

I don't really get the whole two middle name thing. But I don't see what's so wrong with using Heraklia as the only middle name (except for the fact that it might not satisfy the grandmother.)

beyond said...

First off: Seraphina with the nn Phina? Swoon!
I was very pregnant less than four months ago, and let me tell you, I would have had no patience whatsoever for this kind of drama... so I take my hat off to you, and I'm sending good vibes your way.
Other than that, I can't really add anything to the good Swistle-advice. I love Victoria for you, especially paired with Seraphina. Also, I think Ginger would make a sweet mn. (But that's not really the issue, is it?)
Good luck!

Abby@AppMtn said...

Heraklia is a stinker of a name to try to import into American English, and the guilt trip? Is not fair.

But ... I was thinking that if you're even slightly open to considering the name, you might respell it Heraclea and call her Clea.

I'm partial to all of the Clea/Cleo/Clio names, but I also think there would be a symmetry with Seraphina/Phina and Heraclea/Clea.

As for respelling Heraklia? She'll be spelling it her ENTIRE life anyhow. But hey, so will all those girls named Madeline. And Katelyn. :)

Anonymous said...

I like the spelling Heraclea, or even Iraclia:

Penelope Heraclea
Penelope Iraclia

Laura said...

Wait, why do you need two middle names? I must have missed that in the letter.
Could Haricklia also be spelled Heraclia? I find that spelling a bit softer, and it's a genus of moths. Heraclea is also the name of several ancient sites in Turkey, Greece and Italy. To start with I'd go with a softer spelling since it's translated from Greek anyway. I also like Swistle's suggestions of first names. If you really wanted to go whole hog and give her a completely Greek name, here are few of my favorites:

Theodora Heraclea/Heraclia
Philippa Heraclea
Jacinda Heraclea
Alexandra Heraclea
Persephone Heraclea

Claire said...

Given that the phone call of complaint came at such a late hour of the night and was "random and loud" is it possible that your husband's mother had partaken of a few too many sips of something and... basically drunk-dialed you? Apologies if that's insulting - it's only because I can see it as being something one of my grandmothers totally could have done. If that is the case, while it might have been a moment of honesty on her part, if it hasn't been mentioned since, is it possible she either doesn't remember doing it or is embarrassed by it? If that's the case, I would be tempted to say let her keep stewing - it's your child and if Grandma is going to live in Greece, you probably don't have to see her in person terribly often, and one can only hope she has more tact than to attack your children when she sees them in person for not having the name she wanted.

Would another option be to say that while your husband's first partner was happy to go with naming traditions, you prefer not to have living relatives with the same name to minimize confusion, or something like that?

I think the name you chose for your daughter is gorgeous. I think if you have tried to compromise with Lillian and Harriet and been shot down, I think you should brush the issue away and name a future child anything you like. Tell Grandma that you love her but that you live where you do, and Haricklia is just a little too foreign for your community and that you didn't feel like saddling your child with a name she would have to both pronounce and spell for everyone forevermore, and if she's a decent person, she will love your child no matter what the name is and treat him or her well.

I think Penelope and Anastasia are both wonderful suggestions (not so much a fan of Philomena if you're calling your daughter Phina - it seems way too close to me). I think there are so many wonderful Greek names that are pretty and go with Seraphina - I'd be tempted by Thisbe, personally. Or maybe Ariadne? Another comment suggesting Helen or Helena is also lovely. Best of luck to you with everything.

lifeofadoctorswife said...

First of all, Swistle, I loved this bit: "I would suggest pitching it as "translating the name into English," instead of as "removing the unfortunate/unusable parts.""

Secondly, Anastasia, Helena (from the poster above) and Calliope are all WONDERFUL. And I love the loooong name with the grandmother's name in the second slot. It sounds very strong and distinguished.

Thirdly, I love the name Philomela as an alternative to Philomena. BUT the story behind the princess of that name is HORRIFIC. So there's that. I also love the name Desdemona, which would go so well with Seraphina. But Desdemona met a pretty terrible end as well. So perhaps I should stop suggesting names.

Fourthly, so sorry you are going through this! I will add my positive boy thoughts to the mix.

plantingoaks said...

Goodness. Unless the child will live most of its life in Greece, Haricklia is out of the question. (well, I see no problem with middle) Tell grandma that's the price she paid for letting her son marry a foreigner. (in case you were waffling or in need of support).

I worry a bit that asking for other suggestions may just lead to more grief than just putting your foot down on the matter if other substitutes turn out to be equally inappropriate for this country/language.

On your ideas, I think Charlotte is really MORE appropriate when you don't live there, it's a bit contrived if you name and address match.

Carolyn said...

I kind of think Hericklia is cool, and a neat connection to the Greek heritage. I would call her Lia exclusively, though, unless I was in Grandma's presence.

As she gets older, she can decide if she wants to go by an Americanized version of the name (you as parents can pitch some options as she gets older), and then shrug at the grandmother like, "Teenagers. What are you going to do?" :)

christine said...

@Claire, I believe that the reader is in the US and the mother in law in Greece, so at 2 am in the States, it would be early morning in Greece. So not likely drinking, but who knows.

I would either skip this tradition or use Hericklia (Heraclea) as the only middle name. Is it your favorite? no, but sometimes a small concession is a nice way to keep the peace. However if the MIL is really gung ho about having the first name slot, I would suggest skipping it all together, because I'm pissy like that.

Good luck! (And fingers crossed for a boy!) :)

Anonymous said...

Oh, when this name is re-spelled as Heraclea, it is much, MUCH better. Hera, the wife of Zeus and the mother to a ton of minor gods. Clea, the muse of history. It seems much more manageable that way! Oh, but that is not the issue at hand, huh?

(1) How to frame the discussion with Ms. Hericklia? Hmm. Kristen, did you take Angelo's last name? If so, did you take it EXACTLY or use the traditionally-Greek -OU ending that the females gen do over there? How did Hericklia react to this decision? This can be a leaping off point for discussing traditions and blending them into the new culture, etc.

(2) As there are several possible ways to anglicize the name, you should pick one that works best for your daughter living in the US. To me, Heraclea is nice while Hericklia is, well, just hideous. It is so night and day to me that I'm still wrapping my head around it. :) Seraphina and Heraclea has a nice ring to me. Phina and Lea is a sweet combo.

(3) Isn't it also traditional over there to name kids after patron saints and nearby churches? With a daughter named Seraphina, this tradition seems like it would be more palitable to you. Could you come up with a name that follows this tradition? ... it meets your desires of getting to choose a unique but prounouncable name while also paying homage to your husband's culture's traditions. Anastasia, as Swistle suggested, is a saint's name. I'd suggest Saint [[Aurelia]], which has echos of Heraclea's name and has a similar LIGHT/BRIGHT meaning like Seraphina. There is also [[Cecilia]].

(4) You could leave your husband to having this discussion with his family. Ultimately, he was comfortable "breaking from tradition" with Seraphina and given that they are his traditions... (yeah, I'm having trouble imagining having this conversation with my significant other. hmm)

(5) Just forget about it and name her exactly what you want. Paired with Seraphina, I like the following names:
- Minuette, nn Minni.
- Honora, nn Nora
- Vesper
- Lelia

Good Luck!!

Erica said...

I'm following Helena's lead and shyly suggesting my own name: Erica. Or Ericka, to suit your MIL's spelling.

Also, in reading through the comments and seeing the ways that Hericklia is being re-spelled, I keep seeing Hera. Very Greek and charming, IMO.

Nicole Trager said...

Wow, I too have a similar issue as my husband is a 3rd and I do not like his name one bit.. so we wont be continuing that tradition, but have already had many "discussions" with the in-laws about it even though we are not even close to having children for a few years.

Let me first address the double middle name issue. I am one of 3 girls in my family and I have a double mn, my sisters do not. It has never ever been a point of contention, I have never regretted my 2 mn, in fact I love them, nor have I every heard my sisters long for a second middle name. Upon hearing our names there has been no outsiders ask or make rude comments about one of us having 2 middle names and the others not. So if this is the easiest solution for you, then take it!! I hope I have eased your fears in this department.

Next.. Heraklia. I like the previous suggestions of changing it to Heraclea nn Clea if you were to use it as a first name.. but have you thought of just shortening it to Hera? or using Hera as a middle name.

My overall thoughts are.. if you hate the name, dont use it as a first name, try and hide it in the middle, possibly even try and americanize it in the middle.

Here are my name suggestions

Calliope Ginger Hera Scorus
Calliope Ginger Heraklia Scorus
Seraphina and Calliope, Phina and Poppy, Phina and Callie

Penelope Ginger Hera Scorus
Penelope Ginger Heraklia Scorus
Seraphina and Penelope, Phina and Poppy, Phina and Penny, Phina and Nel

Calliope and Penelope make me think of Isadora for some reason, very girly but older and unique.

Isadora Ginger Hera Scorus
Isadora Ginger Heraklia Scorus
Seraphina and Isadora, Phina and Isa, Phina and Ida

My fave are the names with

good luck.. keep us updated!

vanessa said...

Hmm. I cannot think about this as if it were me, because if it were me I'd tell my MIL (or get my husband to tell her) to bug off and for gods sake, these are our damn kids and we can name them without help, thanks. But...thats me.

Agree that your daughters name is a bit hard to match, so I'd go with the same thing, lacy and girly and long.
Anastasia is really nice
Genevra (OH I love this!)

I love Genevra Charlotte a lot, or Valentina Scarlet.

Megz said...

I agree with spelling the name Heraclea if you decide to use it.

I'm also not sure why the issue of two middle names came up? Was there another name you wanted to use in the middle name slot?

I like the suggestions of Anastasia, Caliope and Penelope. Another name I also think would work is Ophelia.

Ophelia Heraclea Scorus

Seraphina and Ophelia, Phina and Phila (oh well maybe not)

Good luck with the MIL situation.

Anonymous said...

What does your husband think about all of this? If it matters to him I think you should use your MILs name. Family and tradition are extremely important in some cultures, and in some families. To cause problems over this doesn't seem worth it. Just because we ourselves don/t get it doesn't mean it's less valid. However, if your husband doesn't care one way or another and doesn't expect it to cause lasting problems with his mother, then go with whatever you like.

The name itself isn't that wonderful but think of it this way, your daughter would have her grandmother's name and an immediate link to her Greek side of the family. It could be sweet.

Anonymous said...

I am from Melbourne, Australia, where we have more Greek people in our city than any other city in the world, besides Athens (or so the story goes). A girl I work with is Greek, and her Greek name is Heraclia.

I assume that this is the same as the name of your in-law.

She goes exclusively by he name Claire. Claire is a very pretty name, in my opinion, and if my baby was going to be a girl I would consider it for her name!

Anyway, the Australian anglicisation of Heraclia is Claire - something you might want to consider if going for a translated version of the name.

This is really common here - people are christened in church with their Greek name but even on their birth certificates they use an 'English' version of the name, to make things easier.

Anonymous said...

I LOVE Heraclea, nn Clea. That was going to be my suggestion too (I'm pronouncing it HEH-ra-CLAY-a. Not sure how closely that aligns with your mother-in-law's name pronunciation).

It's the feminine form of Heracles, right? Really it's a super cool name (funny how spelling makes all the difference) and goes beautifully with Seraphina.

liz said...

I love Heraclea, which reminds me of Hermione, one of my all-time favorite fictional young women. I think it goes well with Seraphina, and I also think it has lots of good nn's (Leah, Erica, Claire, Clea).

ackabackasodacracker said...

I think Swistle's point about finding out just how important naming this second child after your MIL is, is the most important at this point, because if she is already scorned, and a middle name slot won't help, then there's not a lot you can do at this point. I am Greek, and am not aware of any naming tradition that involves the paternal grandmother, but I also know that traditions vary across different areas and towns and families, and so there is no way to know for certain without consulting your husband and MIL.

If you do go for H in the first name slot, I think Claire and Lia are fabulous options for exclusive nicknames.

If you go for the middle name slot, I feel like it is great on its own and especially like it with Anastacia (the greek pronunciation with the stress on the fourth syllable!)

Good luck! Would love to hear an update!

StephLove said...

I do agree some clarification from the mother-in-law is needed. If Swistle's right and she wouldn't even want a second-born daughter with the name, you are off the hook.

If it is still on the table, I like the Heraclea spelling.

Genevieve Heraclea? I like the connection to both grandmothers and that both names are tweaked somewhat (the maternal one more so I put it first to balance things out.)

Angie said...

I wasn't aware of Heraclea / Clea, and I really like it. I would use it for the name itself, not just to appease the mother-in-law.

Swistle's suggestion to explain Heraclea as translating Haricklia into English is smart.

Anastasia and Genevieve are very beautiful and go will with Seraphina.

I'm going to suggest Euphemia / Effie.

The few people I know called Effie (or Effy) pronounce it like the initials F and E. Euphemia is one of my favorite names. At first, I only liked it as a long form for Effie as I thought it was too much of a name. But I am growing to like Euphemia with or without the nickname. Euphemia has the same feel as long names like Anastasia and Genevieve.

Seraphina and Euphemia go well - maybe too well - together.

And I just looked up Euphemia on and learned it is Ancient Greek - perfect!

(Formerly Frazzled Mom)

Anonymous said...

I have no idea if this would work for you, but I really like Evangeline as a sister for Seraphina. Seraphina and Evangeline, Phina and Evie.

I would ignore the motherinlaw all together because the damage is already done, unless you want to add her name to your first daughters name via a name change - Seraphina Madelyn Haricklia. That attempts to keep in line with the first daughter rule. Personally I would find it insulting that my first children are to only be named after my husbands family, but I get that it's a tradition....I guess, I dunno but I find naming traditions silly.

I do like the suggestion of Heraclea n.n. Clea (I pronounce it hair-ah-CLEE-ah in my head). Searphina and Heraclea are a little sing-songy together, but maybe I'm pronouncing Heraclea all wrong :)

Anonymous said...

I'm going to join those who think the name Heraclea/Heraclia is actually a wonderful name, regardless of that irate MIL! And yes, the spelling really makes a difference. I would definitely consider using one of those as a full name and then calling her Clea or Lia. Clea goes really well with Phina.

If I understand the letter, your instinct to use a second middle name is because if you are going to honour your husband's mother with a name, you'd like to honour your mom's as well. Makes sense. And, guess what? I also love the name Ginger, especially in the middle name spot (you get all the coolness of the name, without the cutesiness of having it as a first name.) So, I'd actually opt for Heraclea Ginger, the name that you shudder considering!

All that said, if you don't love one or both of those names, and have already broken with tradition, keep on breaking it, I say! There have been so many great suggestions already.

kimma said...

I politely but firmly declined to use Vincent for my first son - the name of every first born for four generations on my husband's side - very early on. It was mentioned again a few times during the pregnancy, but once he arrived and had his own name the issue has never been raised again.

You describe your MIL as "very lovely" so it probably took courage for her to speak up, just be direct and respectful in your reply. I'm sure she will let the issue drop having been heard out, especially after meeting her granddaughter.

As for an appropriate sister name ... Seraphina makes me think of a fairy princess and that makes me think of Ondine and Odette. Or if you don't mind a pop culture reference, I love the name Vidia from the Disney Tinkerbell cartoons.

The Mrs. said...

I have thought about your letter for a couple of days now.

I'm in the camp for giving a second daughter her great-grandmother's name as a middle name. Since your Seraphina has your grandmother's name, wouldn't your mother-in-law be somewhat flattered that one of your daughters would be given her mother's name as a middle name? It VERY clearly locks in your reasoning and tradition. And what good Greek is going to talk trash about her own mother? It seems handy (especially since I cannot imagine a worse name than Haricklia).

For a first name, do you like Francesca? Geneva? Clarity?

Personally, Genevieve sounds lovely, wonderful even!

You have my unfailing compassion in this situation. Please let us know what you and your husband decide. Best wishes to your growing family!

Anonymous said...

I'd also like to find out more about how important the original spelling is and how much leeway you can take. I think Heraclea is a lovely spelling & name. If you can take even more liberty, would Ariclea work? That name is so great you may start a new trend!

Angela said...

If you go with Heraclea in either slot (which I think is very pretty and I love the nn Lea or just Hera) I suggest going with a second name that could be shortened to Ginny to honor your mother as well, like Genevra or Genevieve. (Two of my favorite names!)

Heraclea Genevra
Heraclea Genevieve
Genevra Heraclea
Genevieve Heraclea (my fave combo!)

Seraphina and Genevieve I think go great together without being too matchy or repetitive. I've also seen Vivi as a nickname for Genevieve, though that would bring it further from honoring your mother Ginger.

Whatever happens, good luck! Traditions can be tricky!