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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Baby Naming Issue: An 8th-Generation Hephzibah

K. writes:
We are expecting our first baby, a little girl, in early December and have yet to settle on a name. In my family, there is a strong tradition of passing along family names; I am a seventh generation Hephzibah, although I go by my middle name. I feel somewhat compelled to pass along Hephzibah, but the baby will be taking my husband's last name, Budzick, which makes for a lot of B and Z sounds. If we don't use Hephzibah, I would like to have some family name connection to my side. Other family names on my side that I've considered for middle names are Catharine and Caroline.

First names that are on our list right now are Eloise, Esther, and Nora. 

Which combinations with the family names would you suggest with our first names, or can you suggest any other first names that might work? I hope you can help. Is there any way to gracefully incorporate Hephzibah? 

Thank you!

This letter has languished in my inbox while I wring my hands over it. On one hand, I can't advise ditching an 8th-generation name; on the other hand, the zi-bah-bud-zi of Hephzibah Budzick is a significant hurdle. What are the odds that of all the surnames in this world, it would be one that specifically challenged the use of the specific family name?

Well. It would not be the worst trial a child has ever faced. I see less-than-ideal name combinations all the time in credits and class lists. And if she went by a middle name as you do, she could have the family name and yet avoid most of the name awkwardness. In fact, we could maybe even spin the combination as awesome: two Z's! two B's! A very memorable and distinctive name!

Or Hephzibah could be the middle name.

Or is there room to consider not using your husband's surname?

I think it comes down to how you feel about it. I can't tell from the letter if you want to use the name, or if it's only a feeling of obligation to keep up the tradition. Have you been glad to have the name yourself? Do you think you would have felt unhappy if your parents had been the one to drop the tradition?

As Rita pointed out in a comment on another post about naming traditions, all naming traditions eventually get dropped, so it's just a matter of which set of parents drops it. It seems to me that the set of parents to drop it should be the first set that doesn't want to use the name. My in-laws dropped a "since our ancestors came from the old country" naming tradition when they named Paul, and Paul and I were both so very grateful; if they hadn't dropped it, we would have.

It's completely different, though, if you love the naming tradition and WANT to keep it. And it's an ancient name with a wonderful meaning (according to The Oxford Dictionary of First Names: "my delight is in her"---i.e., in the daughter), and it's an important name in your family. Those things seem to me to dwarf the surname issue if you'd like to continue to pass down the name.

If you decide not to use it as the first name, I do think I'd advise using it as the middle. Any of your first name options work with it. I think my favorite is Eloise, since it plays up the repeating Z sound in the three names.

If you decide not to use Hephzibah at all, my favorite combinations are Eloise Caroline, Esther Catherine, and Nora Catherine---but I liked both middle names with Eloise and Esther. (I was more opinionated about Nora because I didn't like the "ora" of Nora with the "aro" of Caroline.)

A few similar first names: Eliza, Louisa, Eleanor.

Name update! K. writes:
I wrote to you for advice a couple of months ago about what to name our baby girl. Well, she arrived (finally) on December 18, healthy and beautiful. I really appreciated your thoughtful response to my particular situation and all of the commenters' opinions as well. I was surprised at the overall positive response to my family name, Hephzibah, and it affirmed my feeling that I really did want to pass it on to my daughter. In the end, we chose it for her middle name, which seemed like the perfect solution. So, watch out world, because Eloise Hephzibah Budzick has arrived!

Thanks so much for your help!


Mer said...

Our friend is named Elizabeth but she's been known as Zizi for all her life. I think it could be a nickname for Hephzibah--a durable nickname that the baby uses in school, at work, etc.

HereWeGoAJen said...

My husband was supposed to be the 17th, but his parents dropped it. Thank heavens because it saved me the fuss of doing it. So, from the generation down the drop, I can tell you that no one has any hard feelings or is upset about it. Obviously, I wasn't around when my husband was born, but if there was any fuss about the naming tradition being dropped, it didn't last long.

Rachel Tolman Terry said...

I think it's possible to keep the feel and style of naming traditions without keeping the actual names. I just read a great baby name book by Tabitha Klein about using namesakes instead of names as a way of preserving the ideals and values of a person. What is it the family prizes? Are there other names that embody those traits? Here's a link to the kindle version of that book:

Anonymous said...

I agree with Swistle, if you like the tradition then do it. She could go by her middle name like you do, which would lessen the problem with the first/last combination. A nickname like the above suggested Zizi would also help with this. Hettie is a traditional nickname for Henrietta, but it also seems reasonable for a Hephzibah. I do like Hephzibah Eloise or Eloise Hephzibah. If you choose not to use it, my favorite combination would be Nora Catharine. Nora Cate would be adorable if you wanted to call her by both.

Amy said...

I think Hephzibah is kinda awesome and, actually, I like the zee-bah bud-zic sound! It has such a beautiful meaning, too. I love Zizi or Hettie for nicknames.

Have you considered Ada? I think it would be lovely as a first name with your other names and fits, more or less, with your general naming style.

Ada Hephzibah Budzick

Sarah said...

I'm with Swistle. If you like it, use it; if you don't drop it.

I would, however, suggest a compromise that you could use it in the middle name slot. That way you could continue the tradition in spirit, while making room for future generations to move forward.

My great-aunt was Grace, my aunt is J___ Grace, and I am Sarah Grace. My daughter is Anna Grace. That's a lot of Graces when you stack them up, but there has been room for the tradition to move forward without confining anyone too much.

Let us know what you decide. I'm very curious!

Emily S. said...

I like it in the middle name slot!

Patricia said...

Nameberry says of Hephzibah: "A "you can't do this to your daughter" name."

However, that doesn't take into consideration the LONG standing tradition of using this name in YOUR family. Although I do wonder why your long ago ancestors, parents of the first Hephzibah, chose this name above all others for their daughter and why this particular name has continued to be used for so many generations in your family -- a sense of family obligation or did each successive set of parents REALLY like this rather unusual and unwieldy name better than any others? Too, in the early generations of Hephzibahs, parents expected to have very large families, so no problem having a Hephzibah first before moving onto other names they may have liked more. That most likely will not be your situation: you may have just one daughter to name.

If you really *like* the name Hephzibah and/or don't want to be the one to break your family's tradition, I would suggest, as others have, that you use it as the middle name and choose your most favorite name for the first name. From your list my preference would be Nora Hephzibah Budzick. I like the simplicity of Nora with Hephzibah.

However, as a pretty name, I find Nora Catherine Budzick far more appealing -- and I'm wondering if your daughter would too.

As Swistle said, someone eventually will choose not to carry on the Hephzibah 'tradition'. If you and your husband are the ones to opt for that, you may be doing you daughter the favor of not having to agonize over this years from now if she has a daughter of her own someday.

Patricia said...

Further thoughts about Hephzibah: I have at least one Hephzibah way back in my family tree --1700s as I recall-- and I think the name was quite usual -- maybe even popular -- in that time period. Far easier to name a baby girl Hephzibah then than now!

Hephzibah isn't always included in modern name dictionaries, but Penguin Reference (UK) includes the name and says of Hephzibah: "The name was consequently [OT Biblical reference] taken up by the Puritans in the 17th century. Today it has virtually disappeared from use among English speakers." includes Hephzibah in lists of "Quirky Biblical Names" and "Curiosities of the Eighteenth Century".

StephLove said...

Like many others, I think the most important thing is what you want. If you want to keep it, you can live with the repeating letters (which don't sound bad to me, btw). If you'd prefer to drop it, traditions can be broken and you can be the one to do it.

My favorite combo with it is Eloise Hephzibah (embrace the z as Swistle said, by going all the way). Without it I like Nora Catherine or Esther Caroline.

Anonymous said...

I've heard people mention the nickname Zippy for another mouthful name, Tzipporah. I think Zippy works with Hephzibah. I kind of like it by itself though, I think it looks scarier on paper than it actually sounds. If you use it, she will have a lot of Z to contend with, but in a decade when forced uniqueness reigns, I would embrace a naturally unique name. As people have said, if you don't like it then there's no shame in breaking the tradition I don't think.

Portia said...

I really don't think Hephzibah Budzik is much of a problem -- as someone else said, I think the names sound fun together. Hephzibah is going to be a mouthful anyway, so I don't think the last name presents a big stumbling block. If you like it, I'd use it.
Hephzibah Catharine and Hephzibah Caroline are both very pretty. Hephzibah Eloise is nice too.

If you use Hephzibah as the middle name, I think it goes best with Nora or Eloise -- Esther Hephzibah is a little clunky.

If you don't use Hephzibah at all, my favorites are Esther Caroline and Nora Catharine.

Jenny said...

I think Hephzibah Budzik sounds like the feisty heroine of a third-grade chapter book. And later, the heroine of a terrific, quirky indie novel, maybe by Anne Lamott or Elinor Lipman. I love it.

As for nicknames, I had a friend named Zipper in college, and it just suited her.

Anonymous said...

Another vote for the theory that you're not obligated to use it, but Hephzibah Eloise Budzick (Zee for short?) is an awesome name if you decide you do want to use it. I think a lot of people would love to name their daughter something daring and quirky like that, but are afraid of having to justify choice to people. You have an easy explanation, so in that way, you're actually pretty lucky.

Mary said...

If you feel connected to the name, use it. Zebina, Zea/Zia, Ziva, Phae, Effie or or even Fia could be nicknames if you don't want to use the full name.

Hephzibah *Zia* Catherine Budzik :)

Eva.G said...

I love Hephzibah! I just read a historical fiction series (Chronicles of the Kings) about King Hezekiah of Judah and his wife Hephzibah. I fell in love with the characters, in turn making me fall in love with their names. I also love Hezekiah!

I don't see any problem with Hephzibah Budzick. I agree that the name was more popular a longer time ago, as I've seen it on old census records - but I've even seen it on new baby announcements recently! I think it's a very fun and bold name and way more unique than your other choices. You have to decide if you want bolder/statement names or more familiar/common names. People argue in support of both camps. I personally think Hephzibah is a really cool name :-)

If you love it, use it. But if you don't, there's no reason to continue the tradition. Good luck!

Guinevere said...

I really like the idea of including Hephzibah. I'm not sure how my pronunciation is, but Ephie, Zizi, Zibah, Zibbie, all would be cute nicknames that would make the name more wearable to me.

If you don't think it's something that you can get behind as a first name, because you don't love it, I would use it in the middle name slot. That variation on the family tradition allows it more room to continue, and middle names are pretty secret. She'd be Nora H. Budzick or Eloise H. Budzick to the world at large, but I think a longstanding family tradition is much more meaningful in a middle name slot than "my parents just liked this name".

JMV said...

Oh, I emphatically LOVE the name Hephzibah Budzick. I hope that some unbiased enthusiasm will sway you to the "USE IT" camp. Hephzibah Eloise Budzick is my favorite combo. Good luck. I don't envy the pressure from bygone generations you must feel.

JMV said...

I called in a second opinion. My husband likes Hephzibah Budzick, too. Good luck!

Nedra said...

Do you know the rationale or history behind your family using this name? Is there any reason that your family started using it in generation after generation or is it just -- TRADITION! (I am singing the song from Fiddler on the Roof right now.)

I don't particularly understand naming traditions, so it's always hard for me to justify keeping them. I like the idea of family names, but I've never understood why a family would keep up one particular name for generation after generation. Was there a particular Hephzibah that did something crazy-amazing and everyone is naming their daughters after her? or is it just that the meaning is sweet and has appealed to each generation?

Maybe asking your parents why they chose to keep up the tradition would help you decide whether it's important to you to do the same. I like Swistle's suggestion of thinking about how YOU feel about the name. It's actually good advice for everyone to think about how they'd like to have the name before they give it to their child, but in your case, you can actually speak to that reality very well! Think too about how you've liked going by your middle name -- is it something that's been easy and natural or something that you've found difficult and frustrating? All my mom's brothers went by their middle names from the very beginning and they always resented having to correct teachers and paperwork throughout their entire lives. Is that how you feel?

If your family's solution has been to call the girls by their middle names (was your mom called by her middle name too?) then you might take this as an opportunity to re-think and modify the tradition. I could be wrong, but I think it's becoming less common to consistently call a baby by their middle name right from the get-go. It seems like a trend that is fading (I know a lot of folks in the 50-80 age bracket whose names are like this, but none under the age of maybe 40.) So it might make sense to take this as an opportunity to switch around the tradition -- start the tradition of Hephzibah being the middle name rather than the first name. Or, don't even think of yourself as changing the tradition of "having Hephzibah as the first name of the first-born daughter" but rather think of yourself as carrying on the tradition of "including Hephzibah in the name of the first born daughter."

Seems like it's the thought that counts -- and my opinion is that it doesn't really matter where the inclusion happens, as long as it's there.

But take that all with a grain of salt, because as I said, my family isn't really into naming traditions, so I might just not "get it."

Christine said...

Hephzibah is such a strong name on it's own that I don't find Hephzibah Anderson, for instance, to be any less strange than Hephzibah buzdzick. In fact, I somewhat PREFER the coherence of the later.

If you, as a Hephzibah, and therefore expert on having that name, like it and would otherwise continue the tradition, I wouldn't let the surname stand in the way.

Moomoo said...

If you liked having the name, good chance she will too. I think it is a magnificent combo of z's and b's. I thought Zee or Zeebee would be cute nns.
Pick an easy middle name in case she wants options later- Hephzibah Nora would be my favourite.
It is only a problem if you think it is so. I don't.

Tamara said...

I have never heard the name Hephzibah before. but I'm another one for the love camp. I think Hephzibah Budzik is a fantastic name and I love Zizi for a nn; or Ziba?

I really like Swistles suggestion of
Hephzibah Eloise Budzik
but also
Hephzibah Eliza Budzik
Hephzibah Louisa Budzik
Hephzibah Maisey Budzik
Hephzibah Daisy Budzik
Hephzibah Elizabeth Budzik
emphasis and repeat the Z.

Good luck! Please update to let us know what you choose.

Tamara said...

one other thought...
have you had a think about what names you would choose as sibling names? Do you have other family names that are as fabulous as Hephzibah? Will using it lock you into a naming style or limit your future options too much? when naming my second daughter many names that my husband and I loved were vetoed simply because they wouldn't receive the same delighted reaction from people meeting her for the first time as her older sisters name does.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the above poster that unless you love Hephzibah and would call your daughter Hephzibah or some nickname of it, I'd move it to the middle-name position and not feel like you're destroying any tradition - the tradition could be including Hephzibah as part of a daughter's name.

Anonymous said...

I noticed a post this morning that I planned to comment on later, but I don't see it now. It questioned naming a baby girl Hephzibah these days. The poster who followed said she was in complete agreement with this post. That post has disappeared too. I'm wondering why the original post was removed, as it didn't seem disrespectful, but just gave an opinion that differed from some of the other posters. It seems to me that the parents-to-be might like to read all sides of the issue -- and should be allowed to do so.

Swistle said...

Anonymous 4:08- The comment you mention was removed for disrespectful/unkind language.

The comment indicating agreement was also removed, to keep it from looking as if that person was agreeing with a different comment.

Patricia said...

According to the SSA website, 6 American baby girls were given the name Hephzibah last year. Looking deeper -- and somewhat randomly, it appears that there has been a miniscule increase in the use of the name Hephzibah during the last five years:

1880 - (no listing = fewer than 5 baby girls named Hephzibah)
1911 -
1951 -
2002 -
2007 - 5
2008 -
2009 - 9
2010 - 5
2011 - 6

I'm guessing that Hephzibah is now being used very occasionally because of the current trend of some parents looking for new or revived biblical names to bestow on their children.

This contrasts with the 18th century when it seems that Hephzibah was in its heyday: "[In] the 1750 to 1775 era...the majority continued to be named traditional Biblical names, and despite a trend toward more contemporary names, an Old Testament name like Hepzibah surged in popularity." (Naming ways of Concord [MA] 1639 - 1850.)

Noelle Spooner said...

I agree, if you love it use it and if not then don't. Thankfully my in-laws broke a long naming tradition when naming my husband and saved me the trouble of doing it.

Laura said...

My middle name is a 4th generation hand-me-down - granted, it's not as weighty as Hephzibah, but I love the connection to my ancestors. In general, I think traditions are important, but that's only if they bring happiness to those who bear the burden of continuing the tradition. If the tradition of being a Hephzibah makes you and your family happy, then I think that your daughter would also be honored to be the newest generation in a long line of Hephzibahs. Likewise, if you are ambivalent at best or resentful for being a Hephzibah, your daughter would pick up on those feelings about the name.
Hephzibah Budzick is a great name and Zizi makes me feel giddy - what a cute little nickname!

Anonymous said...

Just saw the movie Liberal Arts and it features a college student named Zibby. What a fun nickname!

Sally! said...

OK, Hephzibah Budzick might just be the coolest name ever created. Seriously. (My mom agrees, too.) No one will ever forget her! She sounds like a fascinating character from some wonderful novel. I think you lucked out with the last name, actually - they look like they were made for each other. As Swistle wrote, what are the odds?! I think it was fated. :o)

Medr1e said...

The little girl in George Eliot's novel Silas Marner is a Hephzibah. She's called Eppie. Or so I seem to remember.

Patricia said...

If you decide to use Hephzibah as your daughter's first name, have you considered using the variant spelling Hepzibah? Historically the name was spelled both ways, as noted in the naming history of Concord, MA (mentioned above). Hepzibah clearly establishes the correct pronunciation of the name (that 'ph' pronounced as 'p' seems confusing) and somehow looks more current to me.

The author of The Oxford Dictionary of English Christian Names (first published in 1945 in England) noted that Hephzibah "came into use in the 17th C, but has been more common in America than in England. It is often spelt and pronounced 'Hepzibah'."

Hepzibah reminds me of Elizabeth and "Zibby" of "Libby".

Hepzibah "Zibby" Budzick?

According to a British name dictionary published in 1983, other variants that have been found in historical English records include Hephzibeth and Hephzabah, indicating that Hephzibah and Elizabeth were perceived as similar names during the times when Hephzibah was a more usual name. These authors note that, "Hepzibah was used to name a girl in 1975, first sign of the name for over fifty years in British records." These authors attribute the decline of the name Hephzibah/Hepzibah to the previous poor choices of nicknames, especially "Hep". But parents today have many other possibilities, as suggested by posters here.

Anonymous said...

I think Jane might be the perfect middle name to pair with Hepzibah.

Hepzibah Jane Budzick

I can't wait to hear what you name your baby girl!

Patricia said...

I'm finding the name Hephzibah rather intriguing! Some mentions of the name found in Yahoo UK:

...Hephzibah Pim KEIRLE. (Hephzibah's name is given as Hephzibeth Pim on her marriage certificate). [born first half of 19th C]

...The London Collection also includes the records of baptisms in London's Docklands, some of which provide a fascinating insight into popular baby names of the 1700s, including exotic-sounding names such as 'Hephzibah'...

Hepsibah Hats -- shop in London

[genealogy website] my mother's tree contains 13 instances of the name Hephzibah!

Hephzibah Jane, born 1877

From "Silas Marner", 1861: Silas decides to keep the little girl he has found and names her "Eppie" after his deceased sister:

"Well, then, Master Marner," said Dolly, inwardly rejoiced, "I'll ask Mr. Macey to speak to the parson about it; and you must fix on a name for it, because it must have a name giv' it when it's christened."

"My mother's name was Hephzibah," said Silas, "and my little sister was named after her."

"Eh, that's a hard name," said Dolly. "I partly think it isn't a christened name."

"It's a Bible name," said Silas, old ideas recurring.

"Then I've no call to speak again' it," said Dolly... But it was awk'ard calling your little sister by such a hard name, when you'd got nothing big to say, like — wasn't it, Master Marner?"

"We called her Eppie," said Silas. "What is your absolute favorite girls name?"

--Hephzibah (or any variant spelling). If I had another girl, that would be her name regardless of DH, surname, teasing or anything else at all!

--I LOVE Hephzibah.

--I know a Hepzibah nn Eppie.

--I adore Hephzibah (nn Eppie) too - after the character in Silas Marner, one of my favourite books ever.

Leslie said...

I love the name Hephzibah, and Eloise Hephzibah [Lastname] sounds absolutely charming! Congrats to you and your family!