I am a devoted reader of your blog - I absolutely love it and think you give the best advice. I was convinced that because I'm such an avid reader I would never need to ask you for help, but here I find myself 30 weeks pregnant and at a total loss!and
My name is Jessica, my husband is Patrick and we both have a hyphenated last name that sounds like Rinn-Loven. We have a two year old son named Milo Thomas and are expecting a little girl in early November who will definitely be our last child. After spending a LOT of time thinking about names, we are 99% certain that this little girl will be named Cora. We love that it's short, classic, feminine without being frilly and "Cora, Unashamed" is a favorite short story of mine. I'm a little concerned that it's getting too popular but think I love it enough that I don't care. If for some reason she comes out and absolutely is not a Cora, other favorites are Olive, Rosalind, and Matilda. But I'm pretty sure she's Cora.
But I'm writing because I am terribly stuck on a middle name. Middle names are important to me; we often call Milo by his full name and I love that Thomas is after my father in law who passed away soon before Milo was born and was a wonderful man. Since Milo's middle comes from my husband's family, we decided this baby's middle would come from mine. The problem is that my parents split up when I was very young and my family has always been very divided and I'm afraid if I choose one side I will be letting down the other. So here are our current favorites and the concerns we're having with each one:
Cora Hazel (husband's favorite) - Hazel was my paternal grandmother and someone I was very close to. Concerns are that the names don't seem to flow all that well together and my mother and grandmother very much did not get along, so I'm worried that my mother would be upset if I chose Hazel.
Cora Shane - my sister is named Shaynee and is the person I am closest to in the world. Plus, like me she represents both sides of my family. Problem is that I usually really don't like traditionally male names on girls, so I'm worried about using Shane (but Shaynee really isn't my style) plus I have a younger half-sister so is it awful to use the name of only one sister?
Cora Frances - this is a bit of a stretch but researching my ancestors I saw that my great-grandparents came to the U.S. on a ship called the France and I thought it would be nice and not too controversial in my family if I used Frances. My husband's not thrilled about the name, though.
We tried to think of non-family names that still have meaning for us and we both seem to like:
But none of these feel quite right. If we're not using a family name, we'd like the name either to have a nice meaning or for it to reflect a literary character or strong historic woman so that it still had some meaning for us. I know I might sound crazy to some people because it's "just" a middle name, but middles are really important to me and since this will be my only daughter I desperately want to get it right.
Any suggestions or advice you or your readers have would be much appreciated. Thank you!
Me again with one quick update in case you choose to post my question. We're still 99% sure our little girl is Cora and top contenders for middles are still Hazel, Shane or Frances but we've decided that our second favorite name is definitely Olive, so if the baby is not Cora she'll be Olive. My husband is 100% settled on using Cora, which I still love but I'm finding myself incredibly sad at the thought of never having an Olive, which is a name I have adored for a long time. So the question is, should we go with Cora Olive? Does that sound terrible together? Am I missing the chance to give her a special connection with a family member if I don't use an honor name like her brother has?
I think honor names end up being primarily for the satisfaction of the parents. I do think many people feel happy about their own honor names, and that they do feel a connection to that family member or historical figure as they tell their naming story over the years---but that many other people don't care much either way and/or don't feel an increased connection. I continue to feel so happy that I gave my eldest son my grandfather's name as his middle name---but my eldest son barely cares at all. My grandfather died when my son was very little, so there's no special connection there; the name was instead about my own connection to my grandfather. I think Rob likes that he has an honor/family name (and my grandfather definitely liked that I used it), but I think he would also have liked a non-honor name.
So for me, the sadness at never having an Olive would trump the connection to a family member or literary character---especially in a family where an honor name is likely to come with stressful issues and possibly hurt feelings. Your daughter would have the same middle-name naming story as my daughter does: that one of her parents loved the name so much, it had to be used. It's a good naming story; it has gone over well at our house in our tellings of it to her. The special connection of the name would be to you, because of your love for it. Furthermore, it's fun to think that because of that story, your daughter might use her middle name as her own daughter's first name someday: you might get a granddaughter named Olive!
But that's only how my own feelings are ranked. Your own feelings might not be the same: maybe when you think it over, you'll find that your sadness at not using a namesake name trumps your sadness at never using the name Olive. Maybe you'll find it would be enough to instead use the name Olive for a pet, or for a doll for your daughter.
If you don't use Olive, I think Shaynee is the clear best choice. With the name Hazel, I was thinking of my late mother-in-law and how I'd be okay (if a bit teeth-clenched for a moment) if one of my kids named a child after her---but I think my feelings would be more extreme if Paul and I had split up and it was my EX-mother-in-law we were talking about. I would hope that a sweet little granddaughter would give me a new association with the name, but it would be a hurdle because I'd know the association was MEANT to be there. With the name Frances (for the boat France), it feels like too slim a connection to be worth giving up the name Olive.
But with the name Shaynee, I love that it would be for someone you have a close relationship with (someone your daughter could also hope to have a close relationship with, hugely increasing the odds that the name WOULD give her a special connection with a family member), and I love your reasoning that your sister belongs to both families equally. I'd use the actual name, rather than modifying it: I think naming style is only a tiny, tiny issue with an honor name---and since neither the original name nor the modified name fit your style, I'd use the original. (If you do go with the modified version, I think I'd go with the spelling Shayne: it makes it more feminine AND makes it more like your sister's name.) Cora Shaynee Rinn-Loven. I am trying hard not to PUSH you to use this, because I anticipate it bringing you so much satisfaction in the future---and I'm imagining what a thrill it would be for your sister!
Another option is to use two middle names: give her a family honor name AND the name you love, and it's win-win. Cora Shaynee Olive. It's a lot of name with a hyphenated surname, but the names are short and most of them will be tucked away; for everyday use, she'd just be Cora Rinn-Loven.
I don't think you have to use the names of both sisters. I see how it could be a little awkward if you were having two daughters---but you're only having one daughter, so it seems like it makes sense that you'd just choose one honor name, and that the name you'd choose would be of the person closest to you. I also hope it will be delicately clear to the whole family that using your half-sister's name would be more fraught with issues than using your sister's name.
So, let's see. I think you'll be most happy with Cora Olive or Cora Shaynee, so those are the two I'm voting for. But there's another possibility, and that's that she'll be born and you'll take one look and both say, "Oh, man, she's definitely an Olive!" In that case, she could be Olive Shaynee: the dearly-loved name and the dearly-loved family member.
Name update! Jessica writes:
I can't thank you enough for posting my question. You and your readers' responses gave us a lot to think about and ultimately helped us choose our little girl's name. Cora Olive was born on November 7th and is just perfect. I'm so excited that I got my Olive and already can't imagine her by any other name! Thanks again!