Hello, I've enjoyed reading your blog, especially when trying to come up with a name for my 3 year old son and now my daughter, who is due on March 8th and will likely be our last child. I realize you probably get inundated with requests like mine but would appreciate any feedback you or your readers could give. I normally have lots of ideas for baby names and had no trouble coming up with my son's name. However, I am at a loss about what to name my daughter, and finding a name has become stressful instead of fun.
My husband and I had decided on a name, Eleanor Charlotte Hanger. We chose Eleanor because we like the name and Charlotte after my dad Charles. However, my mother's and parents-in-laws' reactions were so negative about the name, that I doubt we will use it. While I know it's our child to name, I really don't want to name our daughter something that 3 of her 4 grandparents hate and will refuse to call her (or have started to call her Eleanor Rigby). I shouldn't feel this way, but their reactions have dampened my enthusiasm for the name. I suppose this is a good example of why it's probably best to wait until the baby is born to tell everyone his/her name. My husband just wants me to find a name I like and is more interested in weighing in about what he likes and doesn't like than coming up with suggestions. So, it's back to the drawing board but I haven't found anything I love.
We tend to like names that have some history, have traditional spellings, and aren't within the top 50 of the SSA list for first names. We are less picky about popularity for middle names, but I am trying to avoid Grace, which is a family name, because it is so often used as a middle name. We prefer to have names that have possible nicknames. I'd like for our daughter to have a serious but feminine name that could work well whether she is a ballet dancer, doctor, or marine biologist. We live in the South if that helps for context.
We used family names for our son, Nathaniel Hall Hanger, and he goes by the nickname Nate. I like the 3-1-2 rhythm of his name. If he had been a girl, we would have named him Charlotte, but that was four years ago, before I was aware of how popular Charlotte is and before Charlotte jumped down to the under 30s on the Social Security list. If this baby were a boy, the baby's name would be Theodore with the middle name Charles or Stone. Charles and Stone are family names.
My husband and I have been toying with the idea of naming the baby Susannah, which is a family name. However, I'm not sure about the middle name and don't love the association with the song O Susannah.
Other names we have considered are Margaret (a family name), Josephine, and Penelope (but I'm worried that it's growing in popularity). I like Eve, Louisa (I love the sound of Louisa Charlotte), Frances, and Alice, but my husband does not. I still like Charlotte but am bothered by its popularity. I also like the names Claire and Julia but worry that they are too popular. I like the name Vivien, but my old coworker, with whom I'm still close, is named Vivien, and my husband thinks it would be weird to use the name since while we are close, we are not so close that I would name my child after her. Vivien also seems to be rising in popularity.
Names we like but cannot use because of friends' children or my son's friends are Evelyn, Eloise, Lucy, and Madeleine.
New ideas or suggestions from our list for a name that would work well with our son's name would be appreciated.
Thanks so much,
I think the name Susannah is lovely and underused, and I like the way it repeats the rhythm/syllables of Nathaniel. But if the association with the song bothers you, I think it would be best to avoid the name. Perhaps it will work as a middle name.
If you do use it, you could repeat the rhythm of your son's name with a one-syllable middle name. Grace is indeed a common middle name, but the family-name connection might make it worth it. Nathaniel Hall and Susannah Grace. Or you could use Eve. Or Claire. Or Stone would be an interesting choice.
Savannah would be similar in sound, but seems quite different in style---and loses the family-name connection.
If you like Eleanor, Ellen and Nora are similar.
If you like Charlotte, Violet is similar in sound and style, and less popular (though rising).
If you like Claire, there's also Clara and Cora.
I notice you mention popularity often. Here is the trouble: almost all the names you like are in style, and therefore fairly popular. This is natural: very few of us prefer out-of-style names, just as very few of us are wearing plaid bell-bottoms and feathered bangs. If you would like to make popularity your main priority, we will need to look at names that are currently out of style.
In which case, Louisa's your girl. It's a great underused traditional name, it repeats the syllables and rhythm of Nathaniel, and it lets you use Charlotte in the middle name position where popularity is much less important. It's too bad your husband doesn't like it. Might it grow on him with time and nagging?
The name Eliza is similar in sound and style, but is also more popular (#255 in 2011, to Louisa's #956), and rising (though it took an encouraging little dip in 2011; perhaps it is slowing/stopping). Nathaniel and Eliza.
I think the best possibility might be to go back to the name you already chose. I can see how the name feels ruined (especially if the rejection happened recently), but it's also completely classic for the grandparent generation to dislike their grandchildren's names at first hearing; my guess is that they wouldn't like many other names on your list, either. We could try to please them by choosing one of the names they consider stylish (perhaps a fresh new sound such as Kimberly or Ryan)---and then our children would have "mom and dad names" and stand out among their peers.
No, naming style moves on. I am practicing getting used to that truth NOW, because I know I will have trouble with it when my own grandchildren are being named. "SHIRLEY, DOLOROS, OR CRAYOLA??," I'll say privately to Paul. "They've narrowed it down to SHIRLEY, DOLOROS, OR CRAYOLA??" And I can picture myself two days after the baby is born, saying to Paul, "What a GREAT NAME! I can't believe I never considered it! Why did I never even SUGGEST it on the name blog?? It's ADORABLE!! It's the best name ever!!"
Nicknames can be a good way to help grandparents transition to the names currently in style. Would they like the name any better if they could call her Ellie or Nora or Lennie or Nell? (Attempts to call her Eleanor Rigby should be squashed with a wince and an "Oh---please don't.")
Based on what you know of them, do you think they really will refuse to call her Eleanor? Most people get over their initial reactions when the baby has been on the scene for awhile (in fact, those same people can sometimes be found talking about how they always loved that name). Right now, they are panicking because they dislike the name and there's still a chance you might change your mind; once it's a done deal, it would require a very unpleasant disposition indeed to continue to make negative remarks about it.
And surely a grandparent would not persistently refuse to use the name of a small child they love, hurting her feelings and confusing her? Yes, yes, I'm sure we can produce stories where this has occurred (Paul's grandfather wouldn't acknowledge his birth or name for an entire year because Paul wasn't named after him); and I, in turn, will feel safe labeling those people as manipulative, unkind pineholes. I suspect your parents and in-laws don't fall into that category, but will instead fall neatly into appropriate behavior as soon as the name is no longer negotiable. (And if I am wrong, perhaps it really would be a good idea to pass all names by them first, to avoid future pain for your daughter.)
In the meantime, does anyone have any fresh suggestions? Or a soothing story about grandparents who came around to a baby's name after initially disliking it?
Name update! Carrie writes:
Hello, thanks so much for your help naming my daughter who was born on March 4th. I appreciated all of the reassurance from you and your readers as well as the very helpful suggestions. If we ever have a third, we have a great list of names thanks to everyone. We decided to go to the hospital with two names: our original choice, Eleanor Charlotte, and what we ended up with, Susannah Eve. We were pretty set on Eleanor Charlotte but wanted to see her first. The baby made a very quick and somewhat dramatic appearance. Based upon her entry into the world and spending a some time with her, we decided that Susannah Eve fit her better. We have actually started calling her Eve for now, but it will be interesting to see how nicknames develop. The grandparents seem to like her name although my mother does not like Eve. However, we really don't care because we think the name fits her perfectly. My son (Nathaniel Hall, nn Nate), husband, and I couldn't be happier with our new addition.