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Monday, January 21, 2013

Baby Girl Fl@nagan, Sister to Benjamin Thomas

Helen writes:
Thank you for this wonderful blog- it's the first blog I've ever followed, and it's shown me how fascinating baby naming can be! My husband and I are expecting a baby girl in early June, and we keep coming up against naming dilemmas. I would love some help from you and your readers. My name is Helen, my husband's name is Will, and we have a two-year old son named Benjamin Thomas (we always call him Ben). Our last name is Fl@nagan. This little girl will probably be our last child.

The too much rhythm dilemma: My husband and I both love the name Anna, but I've had negative reactions from a few friends about the repetitiveness of Anna Fl@nagan. Some people feel it's OK, but others have had a pretty negative response. It's hard to know when a bit of a beat is too much rhythm. Of all the names we could pick, should we pick one that's so similar to her last name? I wish I had your magical polling skills at my fingertips! Longer names that could be shortened to Anna don't quite fit for us (e.g., Annabelle, Annaliese)- neither does using a first and middle name most of the time... We'd use the nickname Annie, but would also use Anna a lot of the time.

The too much "Be" dilemma: My husband's all-time favorite girl name is Beth. He would want her to have the full name Elizabeth to fall back on, but would want to call her Beth most of the time. I'm OK with Beth, although I wonder if it's a bit dated...  My main dilemma with Beth is its similarily to Ben. Again, of all the names we could pick, should we pick one that's so similar to her brother's name?

The too many nicknames dilemma: When considering the name Beth, I realized that I quite like some other nicknames for Elizabeth: Eliza and Eli. But can we name her Elizabeth and both call her very different nicknames? My husband is OK with Eliza, but strongly prefers Beth. We are both nicknamers, so I doubt that we'd use the full name very often, even if we planned to. Would this end up being confusing for all of us?

Related to this, another name we've considered is Rebecca. If we went with this name, my husband would want to call her Becky and I would want to call her Becca. Oh, and Sarah has also come up- he would want to call her Sarah, and I would want to use the nickname Sadie. For both Rebecca and Sarah, neither of us are huge fans of the name/nickname the other one prefers.

Yesterday, the name Dana came to mind-- as a name somewhat similar to Anna, but without the similarity to her last name. Not sure if this is just a passing thought...

We're quite flexible about our little one's middle name. I'd like an M name for family reasons-- We're considering Marcy (it combines sounds from special family member's names), or Mae (although Elizabeth May is a famous politician in Canada). We aren't likely to use her middle name very often.

We've still got some time to plan, so any extra ideas for first or middle names would also be greatly appreciated. Thank you so much!

I think Anna Fl@nagan is the kind of name where it's very difficult to tell if it's Not Right or if in fact it's Extra Awesome. I have the same uncertain feeling about names with strong alliteration, such as Christopher Cranson, or even stronger connections such as William Williamson. It's like there's a line somewhere between "Hm, no, that's too similar" and "Similar on purpose = memorable and striking!" Here it's not so much the rhythm as the rhyme: Ella Fl@nagan would have the same rhythm but no issues, while Anna Fl@nagan leads to the Anna-Flanna issue.

In this situation, though, the thing that would stop me from using it is that Ben and Anna together sound like banana. That too is the sort of thing that could in fact be Extra Awesome, but for myself I felt weary of it almost immediately, and wouldn't enjoy it as a continued joint nickname, recurring conversation topic, or running joke. And since a common Anna-related nickname is Anna Banana, and there is already rhyme with Anna Flanna-gan---well, again, for someone else it could even IMPROVE things, and if you found you were delighted with the idea then I would be delighted with it TOO and would genuinely enjoy it very much for your family and would have a wonderful time keeping an eye out for banana-themed merchandise to add to your fun family in-joke.

I think Ben and Beth would be too matchy as given names, but cute/fun as nicknames for Benjamin and Elizabeth. If you might have a third child, would you feel pressured to choose another name with a similar nickname?

I suspect that it works fine for two parents to use two different nicknames for their child, but I don't know from personal experience so I'm hoping others will chime in here. It doesn't seem like it would be confusing for any of you---only for people outside the family, who might think to themselves, "Wait, who's this Eliza she's talking about? I thought her kids were Ben and Beth." But it seems as if that would be rather minor, with no big negative consequences to the occasional mix-ups---and it also seems like you'd get in the habit of mentioning it: "These are my kids: Benjamin (we call him Ben) and Elizabeth (we call her Beth and Eliza, so she answers to both)."

My guess is that in some cases, what happens is that the plan is to use two different nicknames, but that one nickname ends up fitting the child better. And of course the child herself may have an opinion on the subject, or may choose yet another nickname.

All of this is for names where both of you are okay with the other parent's nickname choice. For the names where you both actively dislike the other's nickname choice, that seems like a different situation and would make me cross the name off the list. But that can be completely personality-based: it would bug me to keep hearing a nickname I disliked, and it would bug me even more in times when my husband and I were not getting along as well, and I'd be cheesed if my daughter decided later she only wanted to be called by the nickname I disliked. But the next person might not have any of these issues.

Now to find some more suggestions to consider. I've already mentioned Ella, which seems similar to both Anna and Elizabeth but avoids but the rhyming and Be- issues. Ella Fl@nagan; Ben and Ella. But maybe Ella is too close to Helen.

Eve has simplicity and long roots in common with Anna. Eve Fl@nagan; Ben and Eve.

Or Clara seems even more similar in style to Anna, and is also similar to Sarah. Clara Fl@nagan; Ben and Clara.

Or Cora. Cora Fl@nagan; Ben and Cora.

Or Jane. Jane Fl@nagan; Ben and Jane.

Or Rose. Rose Fl@nagan; Ben and Rose.

Or Ruth. Ruth Fl@nagan; Ben and Ruth.

Or Lena might work well. Lena Fl@nagan; Ben and Lena.

Oh, or Leah! Leah Fl@nagan; Ben and Leah. I also like the spelling Lia.

Or Lucy. Lucy Fl@nagan; Ben and Lucy.

Or Julia. Julia Fl@nagan; Ben and Julia.

But perhaps what we need is something more similar to Benjamin, where both of you agree on both the long form and the short form. Maybe Josephine, with the nickname Josie. Josephine Fl@nagan; Benjamin and Josephine; Ben and Josie.

Or Charlotte, with the nickname Lottie. Charlotte Fl@nagan; Benjamin and Charlotte; Ben and Lottie.

Or Eleanor, with the nickname Nora. Eleanor Fl@nagan; Benjamin and Eleanor; Ben and Nora.

Or Abigail, with the nickname Abby. Abigail Fl@nagan; Benjamin and Abigail; Ben and Abby.

Or, wait, maybe Bethany? It has the Beth your husband likes, and some of the sound of Anna, but it avoids the rhyming issue. Bethany Fl@nagan; Benjamin and Bethany; Ben and Beth, or Ben and Annie. That's my top choice.

Let's also have a poll over to the right about Anna Fl@nagan. [Poll closed; see results below.]

Poll results for "What do you think of the name Anna Fl@nagan?" (433 votes total):

Too rhymey - 218 votes (50%)
Not too rhymey - 129 votes (30%)
Not too rhymey, but BenAnna/Banana bothers me - 62 votes (14%)
I can't decide - 24 votes (6%)


Wendy said...

I'd love to weigh in on a kiddo having more than one nickname. My daughter is Genev!eve. My husband calls her GenGen, I call her Gigi, our close friends call her Genny, and at school/ballet/activities she is Genev!eve. I've never really thought about it much, and in real life it's no big deal (although it sounds rather complicated as I type this!). I don't think it would bother me if she chose one nickname over another, but my husband and I agree that she goes by her given name at school, which makes it simpler.

All the best to you!

Rayne DeVivo said...

We have friends who call their son by two different and unrelated names. Dad calls him Dad's name junior and mom calls him fashionable child name. It was definitely confusing at first, but after being around them a handful of times it's no longer confusing. Most everyone calls child fashionable child name instead of Dad Jr.

Claire said...

I love the suggestion of Bethany - everyone gets their favorite nickname. I think it's completely normal to have multiple nicknames within a house and that your child will not be confused by this. And Bethany Mae Fl@nagan has a good flow.

Janelle said...

I love the idea of Elizabeth with two nicknames. Benjamin and Elizabeth both go together so nicely, and I think it's sweet that your daughter would have special nicknames from Daddy and Mama. Introducing her as "Elizabeth, nn Eliza or Beth" would keep confusion to a minimum, and even if her friends call her Elizabeth, you'd still be able to use your favorite nickname as a special thing between the two of you.

Best of luck!

Anonymous said...

My 4 yr old daughter has multiple nicknames - one used primarily by my husband's family, one by my family, and another by our friends. My husband and I call her by all three nicknames at various times. At school, my daughter goes by her given name. My daughter knows and answers to all her names/nicknames. Amazingly, having three different nicknames has not confused my daughter or caused any confusion amongst family and friends.

With that being said, I encourage you to use a name that you both love, as well as the nicknames that you both love even if they are different. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

A few thoughts:
- Ben and Anna are the names of the children in the Julia Roberts/Susan Sarandon movie "Step Mom". They were adorable and I remember thinking that there names made a perfect sibling set.
- I do find Beth to be a dated/mom or even grandmother name. On the other hand, the baby in Glee is named Beth (after the song of the same name). I love the name Eliza! However, If I were you, I might try talking my husband into a deal. The deal would be that she generally goes by Eliza, but he may call her Beth as a special daddy only nickname.
- I like the suggestion of Eleanor, called Ella or Nora.

Amanda said...

My nephew, Jacob, answers to both Jacob and Jake with no issues, as does his little brother Zachary (Zach). It's really no big deal.

Love Bethany - it's the best of both world! Good luck!

Portia said...

I think using multiple nicknames is fine, as long as you both like the long form and the nicknames enough. Elizabeth Fl@nagan is great, Beth is such a sweet, pretty name, and if it's your husband's all-time favorite name, that's pretty compelling.

I do find Anna Fl@nagan a little singsongy, but it's not a dealbreaker. Nor is the banana problem.

My favorite of Swistle's suggestions is Clara. Clara and Benjamin -- so nice.

Other ideas:


Jenny Grace said...

I don't think Anna is too rhymey, but agree with swistle on the Ben Anna Banana thing.

Lashley said...

I think your potential Elizabeth+nicknames situation is special; you're not intending your kiddo to have a nickname in one situation and go by her full name in another, but to have a given name and two nicknames that are very distinct from each other and from the given name (Eliza looks like Elizabeth, but the sound are very different). I think that gets clunky.

Does the name Macy accomplish any of your honor "sounds"? Macy Elizabeth (or Marcy, I just prefer Macy) is really lovely and Dad could still call her Beth as his special nickname.

To follow the pattern with Benjamin (longer name with a nickname), could you do anything with C/Katherine, Margaret (perhaps nn Mae), or Susannah?

I like Swistle's suggestion of Leah. Hannah + Ben lessens the banana issue for me.
Anna makes me think of -

Anonymous said...

I love the suggestion of Bethany! Beth and Annie are right there in the name, your two favourite nicknames. I always had a soft spot for Bethany as it was the first girl name I ever loved (back when I was about 7 or 8 lol). While Ben and Anna don't really bother me together, I am slightly bothered by Anna Flanagan. I knew a girl in school called Kelsay Flaa (pronounced Flay) and people used to always exaggerate the pronunciation of her name which got pretty tiring.

Elizabeth said...

I wonder if Hannah would give you the sound/feel of Anna that you like, but make it a little less sing-songy with Fl@nagan? Hannah Fl@anagan has a nice ring to it for me and also helps with the Ben-Anna/banana issue.

FWIW, I love being an Elizabeth and I have always had lots of different nicknames (LIzzie from my dad, exclusively Elizabeth from my mom, Liz to friends and my extended family. Never been an issue. It's been the same for her - we each have our own special name for her.

Sarah said...

I have a sing songy name (think "benny mitty". and while it was a little bit cute as a child, it is NOT good when you become a professional! its actually embarrassing and makes it very difficult to introduce yourself to people (as you wince waiting to hear the comments). there are some pros to it--people always remembered my name (but again, it wasn't because they like it so much, it was because it was silly).

i agree about the suggestion of Bethany--great way to use both nicknames. I don't know much about having two nicknames. i know that i tried to use the long form of my name to avoid the sing-songiness but my parents had really drilled in the short form making it very difficult to change it to the long form as an adult. in the end, my dilemma was solved when i married and changed my name.

Reyzl said...

What about Anna Beth, either as a first name, middle name combo where you use both names or as a double first name like Mary Kate? I first encountered that name via great design blogger Anna Beth Chao:

I think Ben and Anna Beth fit well and adding in the Beth removes some of the Anna Banana potential.

Bitts said...

Oooh! I LOVE the name Anna Beth Fl@nagan!! That's BEAUTIFUL!!

StephLove said...

Sadly, because I love the name Anna, I don't think it works with the surname. The sounds-like name that came to my mind first was Emma. Benjamin and Emma. Ben and Emmy. Emma Mae Flan@agan. I also like Alice for you. I think it has a similar feel to Anna. Bethany was a clever soulution, too.

Erin said...

I see someone already suggested Ava as an alternative to Anna; Swistle's suggestion of Eve also made me think of Eva.

Anonymous said...

I like Abigail nn Abbie the best! Abigail Fl@nagan, Ben & Abbie.

Middle names with M:
I like Mae/May


Kim said...

I love the name Susanna nn Susie, Anna or Zanna.

Other suggestions:

Samantha nn Sam/Annie?
Jessica nn Jessie/Jess
Samara nn Sam/Mara
Caroline nn Carrie
Emily nn Emmy/Millie
Emilia/Amelia nn Emmy or Millie
Amanda nn Mandy, Manda or Andie
Elise nn Ellie
Katherine nn Kate/Katie
Jane nn Janie

Although it doesn't have any nicknames I also like Claire/Clare with your surname. There is Claire Bear of course!

Claire Elizabeth Fl@nagan

Claire Juliet or Clara Jane nn CJ
Claire Catherine nn CeeCee

Good luck!

Manday said...

I LOLed at the Banana comment! So true! Benandanna!!

Bethany is brilliant!!

I would also suggest Bethann/BethAnn, with the double barrel feel. I know a girl with this name and love it!

Anonymous said...

I voted with those that thought Anna is too rhymey with Fl@nnigan, but it is a GREAT name and goes really well with Ben. Just because it rhymes a bit, doesn't mean it has to be taken off the table! Especially if you will use Annie sometimes too.

As for the nickname connundrum, I think different nicknames from different parents is totally fine, especially when they are so similar as in the case of Rebecca (Becca/Becky) and when one parent will be using the given name in the case of Sarah (Sarah/Sadie).

I also really like Hannah and Leah, and I'll add Sophie, Holly, and Mira.

Anonymous said...

Have you considered Joanna?

I think Bethany works well.

I think Anna Fl@nna is bit sing songy, but not necessarily a deal breaker.

Anonymous said...

I think Beth and Eliza are so different that it would be a bit odd- Jace or Jason are still very clearly part of the same name, you know? For me that is where I would draw the line.

Why not go for Annabeth? Like the actress, Annabeth Gish?

Annabeth Fl@nagan sounds good.

Anonymous said...

Bethany seems just perfect for you! I also really like Abigail with the nickname Abby. Abby seems like Annie but without the rhyming-with-the-last-name problem.

If had to choose between Anna & Beth for you, I'd choose Anna. I do notice the rhyme with the last name, but that bothers me less than the closeness of Beth & Ben.

As for the multiple nicknames, my son goes by his full name and a nickname equally (husbands family only calls him full & my family only calls him nickname, at home we use both about 50/50). It has never been an issue, but he has expressed a preference for the full name at school and with most of his friends. I also have a nephew who is called his full name by some people, one nickname by others (mostly my family) and another nickname by his mom's family (both his parents call him something different). Again, it hasn't been a huge problem-but the full name is the name he introduces himself with and that he uses at school. So, my experience with multiple names for a kid is that the nicknames will likely be used by family & close friends with the full name being the name used most often at school or when the child is introduced.

Lauren said...

Personally, I like the combination of Anna and Fl@nagan. It is a bit rhymey, but for me in this case, that is a plus. Honestly, the worst that will happen is that people will like to say her full name when they greet her. That happens to me a lot, with a last name that has the same rhythm and ending as my first name (both two syllables, emphasis on the first, and ending in an -en sound)—and it still cracks me up how apparently natural it is for people to enjoy saying my full name.

Ben-and-Anna sounding similar to "banana" doesn't bother me, either—in fact, I don't think I would have thought of it if Swistle hadn't mentioned it.

I personally am not crazy about Beth, but the fact that your husband adores it is great. I think one of the commenter's suggestions above me—the name Annabeth—might be a great solution.

Maureen said...

I have never been so personally invested in a Swistle post! 

I have a little boy named Ben and(while not pregnant yet) love Annie (Anna or Anneliese are both contenders – and I would even consider Annie as the given name), Elizabeth (and its assorted nicknames) and Beth/Bethany! I also like a name (Michelle) and would want to call her a non-obvious nickname (Mischa), so am very curious how this will play out for you!

My personal thoughts:

For me, Anna Fl@nagan with your last name is a little bit too rhyme-y. Is there any other name you can think of to give you give you Annie or Anna as a nickname? I like going to the Baby Name Wizard (that Swistle always references) and searching for every girl name possible beginning with “an”.

As for Ben + Anna = banana, I haven’t thought of it before….but I actually think it is kind of cute! I for one could get on board with banana references! Calling your little ones “monkeys” could fit in this tangent, too.

In my very limited experience with nicknames-that-are-very-different, I find it confusing. Someone at work goes by Kreisha, but I had double finding her (Christine) in the staff directory. Even now that I know she is Christine-who-goes-by-Kreisha I have to pause for a brief moment before I send her correspondence. I agree with the commenters who say that Jayce and Jason have a similar vein, so thus the same issues wouldn’t arise. That being said, I haven’t completed ruled out Michelle-who-goes-by-Mischa for my own future child!

And my final opinion – name her Bethany, and call her Bethany or Annie:

Your husband gets to say “Beth” each time he says her first name

You get an adorable nickname (can I emphasize again how much I love Annie?)

(To me) it is less confusing having one given name and one nickname (versus a given name plus different nicknames)

And (to me) Ben and Beth are perhaps too similar, but Ben and Bethany (or Benjamin and Bethany) have enough differences between them to make a nice sib-set.

Best of luck!

Kayt said...

Annabeth! And my son is James, which I don't particularly love, so I call him Jamey. My in laws and my husband mostly call him James, but he introduces himself as Jamey. Annabeth gives you guys and her the flexibility of Anna, Annie, and Beth.

Nedra said...

My husband and his sister are a "Benjamin and Elizabeth" sibling set. I think they sound great together. My MIL originally planned on calling her Elizabeth by a nickname, but they only used he nickname a handful of times before they realized that it just didn't work for her. So she's always been just Elizabeth. I think Ben and Elizabeth are a great pair.

Anonymous said...

I like Bethany. How about Alessandra?

Erin said...

Bethany sounds great with Ben.

Erin said...

Also, what about Alida?