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Saturday, June 9, 2012

Baby Girl Sowder; Narrowing Down a List

Nicolette writes:
Our first baby is due in September & baby naming has turned into a full-blown obsession for me! We found out it's a girl so at least that narrows it down. I am driving my husband crazy, so I thought it was time to get some professional help :) A few things - Sowder is my husband's last name & will be the baby's also. Antoinette is my mother's name and we would love to use it as the middle name if possible, but we're flexible. Also, we tend to like names that are unique, or a little older sounding & potentially inspired by nature (but that's not a must). 

Here are some of my rejected names or at least names I have moved away from somewhat:

Scarlett Louise Sowder (my husband's favorite)
Nickname: LettieLou 

Magnolia June Sowder 
Nickname: Lia or Maggie

Here is my current list:

Etta June Sowder

Cora Antoinette Sowder (one of my favorites)

Ophelia Antoinette Sowder
Nickname: Lia

Juniper Marie Sowder (also like this one a lot)
Nickname: Juni 
Ellamae Sowder
Nickname: Ella

Thanks so so much - we're not closed off to anything (even a completely new name not on the list) and welcome any guidance from you and the community.

I think this is one of the hardest stages of baby-naming: the list has been made, but nothing is leaping out as the obvious favorite. This is the stage where I like to do little naming exercises and games, to see if I can narrow in on what I really want. I also find it helpful to go into it remembering that no matter WHAT name I choose, it means not-choosing all the others: there will be a sad, letting-go feeling even if we choose the name that is the best one; it's not an indication that we're making the wrong choice.

One of my favorite exercises/games is Sibling Names. If you choose an unusual name with a literary tie-in, like Ophelia, are there sibling names you can picture using, or will you run into trouble? If Ella and Etta are too similar for you to want to use them for sisters, and so using one of the names will rule out the other name, which name do you prefer? If you want to use Lia as a nickname for Ophelia, would that rule out using Magnolia (Lia) for a future daughter? Things like that.

In a related game, I like to pair up similar names from the list and see which ones sound most like Our Family. Even if we might not use other names from the list for future children, or even if we might never have another girl, or even if we're not planning more children---it can still help to focus things. Which sounds more like Your Family: sisters named Magnolia and Juniper? sisters named Etta and Cora? sisters named Juniper and Scarlett?

And there are the tricks in the post Choosing Between Two Finalists, which also work for more than two finalists. Some of these will require participation from the other parent, but some of them can be done on your own if one of you has a greater interest than the other in such exercises.

When Paul and I got down to seven candidates for Henry's name, we each ranked the seven names to see if there were any we both had at the bottom of the list. But we didn't do a plain 1-7 ranking: we could assign the same ranking to as many names as we wanted. So for example, one of you might have this:

1. Scarlett
2. Etta, Ellamae
3. Juniper
4. Cora
5. Ophelia, Magnolia

And the other one might have this:

1. Cora, Juniper
2. Etta, Ellamae
3. Ophelia
4. Scarlett, Magnolia

Looking at the two sets of rankings side by side, you might think, "Well, we both have Ophelia and Magnolia below the top three, so let's try striking those two. And if one of us has Scarlett first and the other of us has it last, it's not likely to be The Name. But we both have Etta and Ellamae and Juniper in our top three, so let's see if it makes us happy to make those the three finalists now." It is important to remind less-enthusiastic baby namers such as Paul that this does not mean the others are ACTUALLY eliminated. They MIGHT be eliminated, but it's more of a practice elimination to see how you feel about those names no longer being candidates. It can happen that as soon as one gets knocked out, you realize you like it better than you thought. Or it can happen that as soon as a name is in the top three, you realize you're not really willing to use it. But it can also actually narrow things down: we found we had several names that we both liked, but that neither of us liked better than the other names on the list, and it was a relief to cross those out and have fewer names to consider. Getting down to the top three made me feel like we now had a solvable problem instead of an impossible math equation.

Imagine announcing the name to others: friends, family, internet. Do you feel particularly glad to imagine any of the options? particularly uncertain about any of the options? Do any of the names feel like a name you'd love if someone else used, but the name doesn't actually fit with your family?

Imagine having each of the names as your own name; picture introducing yourself to someone else. Are there any where you wouldn't really want to have the name? Any you'd particularly love to have?

Imagine the names on a backpack, on a school desk, being told to a parent/child on the playground who asks. When you're out in public, look at a variety of different people (well, female people!) and imagine the names on each one. Imagine arriving for an appointment at the pediatrician, saying "This is ______, she has a 9:30 appointment." Imagine the names on a receptionist, a teacher, a doctor, a lawyer, a check-out clerk, a landscaper. Imagine them on someone plain and plump with glasses. Imagine them on someone in math club, in drama club, in cheerleading, on the soccer team. Imagine them on your various relatives. Do any names seem like a better/worse fit than any others?

Say the names in different ways. A middle name can make the first name and last name sound great together---but most of the time the name will be just first-last, and does it also sound good like that?

Deliberately taking a break can also help. If you say to yourselves, "We will put this topic on a shelf for two weeks," you may find that during that time one of the finalists will float to the top on its own. Perhaps you'll catch yourselves thinking of the baby by a certain name, or having a slightly negative reaction to one of the names.

It can also help to see how you react to other people's opinions. When people in the comments section say which names they like best, do you find yourself rooting for certain names? feeling disappointed when other names seem to take the lead? feeling extra-protective of certain names? If I say that I like Magnolia best, and that I particularly like the rhythm of Magnolia Sowder, does that have an effect either way? (I would use Antoinette as the middle name: I love family names, I love long names, etc.) All these feelings can help.

Let's have a poll over to the right, too, to see which names you're hoping will win! [Poll closed; see results below.]


Anonymous said...

I like Harriet and Cosette.

Rebecka said...

I suggest Hedwig/Hedvig (I prefer the Hedvig spelling, the Swedish version of Hedwig). It has a French feeling to it even though it's origin is German. I love it with Antoinette as the middle name, Hedvig Antoinette. It sounds like the name of a queen (it IS in fact the name of a 17th century queen, now that I think of it); Hedvig Antoinette Sowder. I also love it with Eleonora; Hedvig Eleonora, which is the name of several Swedish queens. I love that combination. Hedvig Eleonora Sowder. You don't seem interested in having two middle names, but as I'm Swedish and pretty much everyone in Sweden has two or three middle names, that's the norm to me. If that interests you, I suggest Hedvig Magnolia Antoinette, or Ophelia Magnolia Antoinette. It allows you to use your mother's name as well as another of your favourites. My favourite of the ones I suggested is Hedvig Magnolia Antoinette Sowder/Hedwig Eleonora Antoinette Sowder.

Anonymous said...

I really want to encourage you to make Antoinette a requirement for middle. I love namesakes. Doing this might also be a useful exercise. You may find you like a name more with the family connection, or you might realize you don't want to let go of a name that doesn't work with it. My favorites from your list are Cora and Juniper. Cora Antoinette and Juniper Antoinette.

nikkirm said...

Why not go with Scarlett and use the nickname Etta?

Bethany Haid said...

(I say no way on Hedvig, it doesn't seem to go with the pretty, fanciful feel of some of your other name/nickname combos.)

I think your nickname list is really helpful. It sounds like you like Juni, Lia, Ella... maybe you'd like a name that is the long name for Mia or Mattie? Maybe you'd call your Cora Corrie sometimes?

Heidi J said...

My favorite is Cora. It's what I named my daughter. However, I also really like Magnolia.

If you really want unique, I would stay away from Ella even as just nickname as it is quite popular. Ellamae might cause pronunciation problems for some people too if they don't realize it's pronounced Ella-Mae.

Anonymous said...

I hear Chorus Sowder for Cora, and Ettis Sowder for Etta, and Ellis Sowder for Ella, so I voted for Magnolia.

Lindsey said...

I really love Scarlett Louise!

Patricia said...

Your mother is Antoinette, you are Nicolette, how about Juliette for your daughter? I looked at the SSA Top 1000 and also beyond the Top 1000 for names ending in -ette and think Juliette is one of the prettiest. I also like Lizette (have a cousin by that name) and Josette.

Or maybe Violette, the French form of Violet: Lettie has traditionally been a nn for Violet(and Letitia), not Scarlet. Violette Louise would give you Lettie Lou as a nn and also a 3 generation -ette naming pattern.

From your names I voted for Cora Antoinette. I'm much in favor of using a close relative's name -- especially a grandparent's name -- as a mn.

Anonymous said...

Vivian Antoinette Sowder you can call her Viv, Vivie or I call my niece Vivers!

Rebecka said...

As suggestions of names that aren't on your list, how do you like Amelia and Lillian? I think they fit into your style, especially Lillian with the nature meaning. Amelia Antoinette/Amelia Marie. Or Lillian Antoinette/Lillian Marie. With these names you can use nicknames Mia for Amelia, and enhancing the nature feeling in Lillian by using Lily as a nickname. (Are there any traditional nicknames for Lillian? Is Lily one?)

Jamie L. said...

Love Cora Antoinette!!! Here's my list:

1. Cora
2. Scarlett
3. Ophelia
4. June, Ellamae
5. Etta
6. Juniper

A few more suggestions... I too love Antoinette as the middle name!

1. Linnea Antoinette
2. Juliette
3. Seraphina Antoinette (phina)
4. Genevieve Antoinette (evie, Eve)
5. Elodie Antoinette (Ellie)
6. Evangelina Antoinette (Eva, Lina)
7. Fiona Antoinette

Sunk Costs said...

Harriet! Oh, that is so dreamy. And what about Agatha? Agatha Sowder is lovely. Or Felicity? Felicity Antoinette. Liss, Fliss, Fette...

Anonymous said...

I had a friend growing up named Antonia. If you like Etta a lot, but think Etta Antoinette is too much, what about Etta Antonia Sowder? I LOVE Magnolia, but I'm not going to push it if you're shying away from it :) I just think it would be so adorable to see a little girl backpack with "Magnolia" embroidered on it!

AirLand said...

All of your names are lovely- you can't go wrong!

But for something new, I suggest Cordelia nn Cora or Lia. I love the name, and I think it's very similar in style to Ophelia and Magnolia.

Cordelia Antoinette or Cordelia June sound great!

Beth said...

I know a sister set named Loretta and Cora. However, Loretta goes by Yetta (to distinguish her from her grandmother, Loretta). When I met them I just thought Yetta was such a pretty name and suited her sweet, spunky demeanor. I thought I'd throw it out there, since you already had Cora and Etta on your list.

Jamie L. said...

In addition to Swistle's suggestions on narrowing down your names, I would go get coffee at some place like Starbucks where you have to give a name to the barista. It helps you get a feel for if you would like having the name as your own, if they had trouble spelling it, etc. :)

Nicolette said...

Thanks so much for all your comments - you have helped tremendously!! We've picked the name thanks to your help...I'll let you all know end of September when our little one is here :)


Lisa A said...

We just had our first baby in April and we named her Linnaea Antoinette. Antoinette was my grandmother's name and Linnaea is after the native woodland flower known commonly as Twinflower. We call her Naea for short! Best luck to you for a healthy and quick delivery!