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Thursday, May 10, 2012

Baby Girl Oliver, Sister to William (Liam)

C. writes:
A Facebook friend has been watching my struggle in naming our baby girl. I'm due in 4 weeks, so she decided to put me out of my misery and recommended your site. I perused through your site to see if anyone had a similar struggle, and I didn't come across one. So I thought I would see if you could point me in the right direction or perhaps post about it.

Here is my perceived problem. Our last name is Oliver. 3 syllables. Begins with a vowel. Ends in a strong R. It seems, in our quest for a girl's name, that every girl's name begins in a vowel or ends in one. For example, Carina or Emmaline (which we like.) And names like with an R don't work because of the two strong Rs. For example, Riley or Jennifer (which we don't like anyway.) To throw a wrench in the mix, I'm also wedded to the idea of a name with nickname possibilities. So even though I like the name Coraline, the nickname Cora puts me back in the "girls names that end in a vowel" category.

This is all rather frustrating since we have a son whose name we love and found pretty easily. We went with William and his nickname is Liam (Irish nickname vs. the common Will or Bill in the U.S.) It seems to be a strong first name with a cute nickname. Yet, if he wants, he can go by Bill or Will in the future. Plenty of options. The name is only two syllables, which makes the point about syllables seem valid. His middle name is Rockwell - a family twist on my husband's name that means 'rocky ledge' and my father's name.

The one name that I really like is Gwendolyn. Elegant. Classy. Not too popular. With great nickname options like Gwen or Wendy or Lyn. And I think Lyn and Liam may be cute sibling names, and both would have a variety of nickname options to choose from in the future. Plus, the nicknames are different from their actual first names, though both using the last letters of their given name, making the use of their names similar, if you follow me on that logic and potential coolness factor. Until someone told me that Gwendolyn Oliver is a mouthful since it is a dual three syllable name. 

I've also been considering the middle name Annabeth, which combines my Mom's middle name of Elizabeth with my grandmother's name of Ann. Again, since my son's middle name is a family twist, I thought it should carry through to her too. But Gwendolyn Annabeth Oliver may be syllable overkill.  

All in all, hoping you can help. Because what is currently making me hyperventilate, I'm hoping is either a fun challenge for you or something you think is a piece of cake. Neither, of which, I'm currently thinking or may be overthinking.

I think it would be useful to start by separating preferences from requirements. Right now you want the name to:
  • not contain a strong R sound
  • not end with a vowel
  • not start with a vowel
  • not have too many syllables
  • have a nickname
  • have the nickname not end in a vowel
  • have the nickname not start with a vowel
  • have a middle name that is a mash-up of relative names
  • line up with your son's name at each comparison point

And all those are in addition to having a somewhat difficult surname to work with. (If it would be helpful, we've done a couple of posts with the same surname: Baby Boy-Girl Twins Oliver and Baby Girl Oliver.)

I think the first preferences I'd suggest eliminating are the ones about vowels and syllables. Those are matters purely of taste and not of name law, and can instead be taken on a case-by-case basis. Some names that start or end with vowels might sound bumpy, but some will not---and some consonant sounds will run together with Oliver. Some longer names may sound, as Laura Wattenberg puts it, "like falling down stairs"; others will sound great. And names that sound great to you may sound like a mouthful to someone else and vice versa, but this just means it's a nice thing we all name our own children.

So my first question is: Do YOU think Gwendolyn Oliver sounds like a mouthful? My own tastes run toward longer names for girls, and I'm not put off by lots of syllables. Syllable-wise, I would use Gwendolyn Annabeth Oliver without blinking; in fact, my daughter's name has more syllables than that. If the 3-3-3 pattern is not to your own tastes, I'd be equally likely to suggest going longer as to suggest going shorter: Gwendolyn Elizabeth Oliver is nice, and is more of an honor to your mother than using the fourth syllable of her middle name.

As you can see from the Elizabeth suggestion, the next preference I'd suggest letting go of is the one where your daughter's name has to line up with your son's in every element. Not only is success in this area unnecessary, it will make things exponentially more difficult if you have more children later. I do enjoy it when sibling names coordinate, and it does please me when things line up nicely (everyone having a family middle name, for example, or everyone having a similar type of nickname), but you can drive yourself crazy requiring it for every single element of the name. I suggest choosing the part or parts where it's most important to you that it match, but then seeing if you can keep it loose: for example, giving both children family names in the middle-name slot, but not requiring that both family names be clever mash-ups. Or giving both children names with good nicknames that go well together, but not trying to match the end-of-name source.

If nicknames are important, most of the candidates will be longer names. One possibility is to use a name like Margaret: it has tons of adorable nicknames (Greta, Daisy, Meg, Maggie, Maisie), but is commonly pronounced with two syllables (MAR-gret). Margaret Annabeth Oliver; William and Margaret; Liam and Greta.

Or Charlotte has Charlie or Lottie. Charlotte Annabeth Oliver; William and Charlotte; Liam and Lottie.

Or Violet has Vi and Lettie. Violet Annabeth Oliver; William and Violet; Liam and Lettie.

Or, Elizabeth has four syllables to break up the 3-3 pattern, and also has tons of nicknames (Bess, Betsy, Libby, Lizzie, Beth). Elizabeth Ann Oliver; William and Elizabeth; Liam and Beth, or Liam and Lizzy, or Liam and Libby.

But if you agree on Gwendolyn and it meets all your preferences, I'd ignore the "mouthful" objection: one tiny (and subjective) downfall like that doesn't seem like much when balanced against all the preferences it meets.


liz said...

Oh, I love Gwendolyn Elizabeth Oliver!!

May I suggest Gwendolyn Amy Oliver? I like the rhythm of it (Dah da da DAH da Dah da da)

What about Rosalyn? The R at the beginning doesn't mimic the sound of the R at the end of Oliver, but it does bookend it nicely. Tho I'm not loving it with William or Liam.

Or what about Vivian? Vivian Oliver. Vivian and William. Viv and Liam.

Portia said...

I think Gwendolyn Oliver is beautiful. I tend to prefer shorter middle names with longer first names, but that's just a personal preference. There's absolutely nothing wrong with Gwendolyn Annabeth Oliver. But if you think it's a mouthful, maybe Gwendolyn May or Gwendolyn June, depending on when she's born? Or is there another family name that could work?

Other names with good nicknames:
Rosemary (Rose, Rosie, Mary)
Catherine (Cat, Cate, Catie, Cathy)
Carolyn (still gives you Lyn, also Carrie, Cara)

I still like Gwendolyn the best!

Jan said...

I love Gwendolyn Oliver! I think you should use it and any middle name that you like.

M.Amanda said...

I wouldn't worry about the name seeming long, especially if it flows nicely and she will be using a nickname most of the time.

Gwendolyn sounds fine, though maybe not with the nn Gwen. The flow of Gwen Oliver feels to me like the name of some quaint Irish village. I'll also second the suggestions of Margaret, Elizabeth and Catherine. Classic names with loads of nickname choices.

monicabenson said...

If you like Gwendolyn, what about Genevieve or Gretchen? I feel like the "gw" adds to the burden of the vowel sounds, whereas Genevieve or Gretchen sound lighter. Lots of nn possibilities, too - Gen, Eve, Evie, Viv, Greta. Best of luck!

Shannon said...

What about Lilian (nn Lily)? I think Lily Oliver sounds great and Lily and Liam is too cute!

Anonymous said...

You could use Gwendolyn Bethann and reduce the length by one syllable...or Gwendolyn Bethany for a slightly different flow. I personally think Gwendolyn Annabeth flows the best of all three, but as mentioned above flow is subjective.

StephLove said...

I have a friend with a daughter whose name is Gwendolyn Elizabeth and I've always thought it was a beautiful name. Gwendolyn Elizabeth Oliver is great.

Holly said...

Oooo, I agree that the Gwen Oliver is not so great. I say it Gwenoliver, almost sounds like stenographer or something.

A friend named their daughter Genevieve, but liked Gwendolyn too - and almost used Gwenevieve.... And their last name is 3 syllables too.

Anonymous said...

I don't think Gwendolyn Annabeth Oliver is too much at all. It has a lovely flow and I really like it. I slightly prefer the combined Welsh & Irish feel of Gwen and Liam as nicknames over the alliteration of Liam & Lyn-although you really can't go wrong either way. Of the other names you mentioned liking, Carina Oliver sounds fine-I actually like the flow of the 2 Rs in this case, though Carina seems to have fewer nickname options and I think the A ending in Carina runs into Annabeth-making it sound a more like Corrine Annabeth. That would be an issue for me because I use my kids' first & middles often, but a lot of people don't so that might not be an issue for you. Coraline Oliver is also very nice and again I like the repeated R in that & Cora Oliver. Emmaline Oliver would probably be my least favorite, but it has more to do with the Emma family of names being over used in my area and less to do with sound or flow.

Mary said...

I love Gwendolyn Annabeth Oliver! Lyn and Liam is cute!

Genevieve or Gwyneth would also be cool- Vivi and Liam, Liam and Neve, Liam and Ginny, or Liam and Gwyn,, Liam and Wyn, Liam and Wynnie.

Bea said...

Hi! Another Oliver mommy here! I wrote to swistle a month ago about help naming our twins (Oliver last name). In the end, we named our son August Everett Oliver (triple syllable), and that is quite a mouthful. We absolutely love his name, and have gotten NO comments that it sounds too lengthy or weird. He goes by Gus, (Gus Oliver sounds a bit like Gwen Oliver) and everyone we've met so far thinks its adorable. My advice is; if you are in love with the name and it doesn't bother you, use it!

Anonymous said...

Use Gwendolyn for sure! You are over thinking it, and if you just decide, it is done! I would lean towards Lyndie as a nickname though, Liam and Lyndie. Lyndie Oliver is sweet on a girl and adapts well to adulthood. It would be unusual to use all three names at once "Gwendolyn Annabeth Oliver!" but it flows ok, although the "th" from Annabeth runs into Oliver "Annaba Tholiver". So if that bothers you, you could play with Bethann or Bethany. I really liked the suggestion of using the month from when she was born as a middle name- Gwendolyn May or Gwendolyn June. I really really like that! In short, use Gwendolyn. Nicknames will evolve. There are Not too many syllables. Good luck!

Another Erin fro said...

Go with a first name you love and don't worry about how it sounds with Oliver! As it is, it is not often that a child is called by his/her first AND last name. Ok, so her entire name will be said the first day of each school year, when she wins awards, and when she graduates. So what if it doesn't sound "perfect." What is important is that she has a "perfect" first name.

Wendy said...

I LOVE the name Gwendolyn! My given name is Wendy, and I always wished that my real name was Gwendolyn. And I think it's lovely with Oliver.

clueless but hopeful mama said...

I love the name Gwendolyn too! But if it's too long for you, I second the idea of Gwyneth. I have a friend named Gwyneth and she loves her name, unusual but pretty. And, no, no one bothers her about Gwyneth Paltrow.

Anonymous said...

Char is also a nickname for Charlotte

I think gwendolyn is great and don't think it's a mountful!

The Olivers said...

I can't begin to thank you all enough! Appreciate the post and the comments. Can't wait to show my husband and I feel much better that we will have a name that we love! Looking forward to sharing our decision!

AirLand said...

I do see your point though about picking a name that doesn't end in a vowel sound, but I don't see a problem with choosing a name starting with a vowel. I think Emmeline Oliver is lovely.

Hillary said...

I love the name Gwendolyn Oliver and don't think it's a mouthful at all. I have dual 3-syllable names broken up by a 1-syllable middle name - is that something you'd consider? Gwendolyn Anne Oliver or maybe Gwendolyn Beth Oliver?

The New Girl said...

I love the name Gwendolyn Oliver and second suggestions to give her the middle name Ann(e) or Beth rather than Annabeth, if the cadence bothers you.

Tara said...

I agree that a mouthful isn't always bad. My daughter's first name and our last name have 4 syllables each, but it doesn't seem boggy to me at all, and no one has ever said, "Oh, what a mouthful!" I really like Gwendolyn Oliver.

Anonymous said...

I also think Gwendolyn Oliver sounds great, and was also going to suggest Bethany as an alternative to Annabeth if necessary.

If you're still looking for suggestions then Bronwyn might also work for you. Bronwyn Oliver. Bronwyn Bethany Oliver. Liam and Wyn.

Congratulations and good luck.

Grace said...

My daughter has a short syllable name (two syllables in her first name, one in her middle name, two in our last name) but I don't think a long name is a name turn-off at all.

I think you really found your name already. Gwendolyn Oliver sounds very pretty and stately. As you've laid out, she will also have many nicknames to chose from for shorter expectations. But, I have a little girl and I know little girls love to tell you their full name with pride. I bet she will love saying that her name is Gwendolyn Annabeth Oliver. It sounds like a princess name (in terms of like a Julie Andrews princess, not a Disney princess).

Anonymous said...

I happened to stumble across your blog and wanted to share that my name is Gwendolyn Oliver. Although I'm a little bit biased, I believe it is a beautiful name. I understand what you mean about the 3 syllable names, which can be a bit of a mouthful (so I often go by Gwen). Gwendolyn isn't a common name, and most people are surprised at my age when I introduce myself because Gwendolyn isn't a name you hear among young people nowadays. I loved that growing up-I could always be sure I wouldn't have to share my name with any one in my classes or work. Hopefully this helps you in your decision making of naming your new bundle of joy!