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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Baby Name to Consider: Lysander

Jemima writes:
I am a big fan of your blog - I'm not expecting (so this is not at all urgent) but I LOVE baby names. I have lists and lists of my favourites, and I love hearing your take on my favourite names.
I have a LOT of favourite girls names (Penelope, Georgiana, Anneliese, Geneva, Felicity) and a few favourite boys names (Theodore, Felix, Hugo, Gabriel), but my big question is about a boy name I have secretly loved for a while now. The name is Lysander. Is it usable? I read a book as a kid that had a great character called Lysander in it and I loved it. But does it sound too pretentious (Shakespeare)? Does it sound too 'feminine'? Maybe a poll for readers - if they think Lysander is usable?
I think the nicknames Sander and Sandy are so cute, but I just don't know if I can saddle a kid with the name Lysander.
I am not opposed to "different" names - I love having an uncommon name (Jemima). What do you think, Swistle?
Thanks so much,

It OUGHT to work: it's similar to Alexander, which is very popular. And 31 new baby boys were named Lysander in 2011, so it's not completely unused.

To me it looks and sounds more toward the feminine and fancy end of the boy-name spectrum. It has a Renaissance Fair sound; I'd put it in the same category as names such as Percival, Leopold, and Clarence.

I think the nickname Sander goes a long way to make the name more usable; I'd worry a little about Sandy, because my experience with that nickname has been limited to girls.

I like that it's been around a long time. For unusual names, I vastly prefer the ones with long roots.

I think for myself, I would prefer to use the feminine form: Lysandra and Alysandra are both pretty, and I think it's easier for girls to carry fancy/unusual names.

Let's have a poll over to the right to see what we all think of it! And in the comments section we can discuss whether we think it's usable. [Poll closed; see results below.]

Poll results for "What do you think of the name Lysander?" (412 votes total):

I love it! I'd want to use it! - 24 votes (6%)
I like it! I'd want to consider it! - 54 votes (13%)
I like it for someone else's baby - 113 votes (27%)
No particular opinion - 17 votes (4%)
Slight dislike - 113 votes (27%)
Strong dislike - 91 votes (22%)


Shannon said...

I knew a boy named Lysander when growing up and so maybe that makes it very normal and masculine to me where it might not have been if I'd never encountered it. But I think it's a great name and considering that Xander is a well recognized name, I think Lysander is not a big jump.

Katie said...

I really like it as a name for a fictional character but I can't see it on a real, modern person- it doesn't flow off the tongue easily for me. It also seems too fancy, can you picture a guy wearing a baseball cap and jeans named Lysander?

Maybe a good alternative is Xander? It has the same feel but seems more familiar.

LiciaLee said...

When I saw the title on my newsfeed, I thought it was a girls name. I do like the name Leander a lot though..

Shari said...

I'd be afraid of the "LICE" teasing name - I love it in print though.

Alison said...

My first thought was Shakespeare, no surprise there. But I googled it, and apparently there was a Spartan commander named Lysander. (I didn't do further research, so it may or may not be true). It is an old, old, old name at least, as Swistle pointed out. I knew a Xander, so Lysander really doesn't sound "girly" to me. In fact, I knew a girl nicknamed Xan before I met Xander, and Xan's name always felt masculine to me.

Interesting contrast here! To our ears, Lysander might sound feminine to our ears, and Demetrius sounds pretty masculine, imo. But Lysander means something like "freeing a man" or "releasing a man" in Greek (again, according to Google, so proceed with caution), while Demetrius is clearly a reference to the goddess Demeter. (A Midsummer Night's Dream)

After all that, I would say use it if you love it.

Anonymous said...

This is very timely as it's a very likely conntend for the name that baby on the way would have if male, so obviously I think it's useable.

The fact that it has a more blending-in, traditionally masculine nickname would provide me with some comfort in using a more obscure name that some people might assume it's a girls' name due to the internal y. The name of my eldest son meets these same criteria, and we haven't had any problems yet. I would pair a more daring choice like this with a very obviously-gendered, common, traditional middle name, though, to provide even more options.

The feminine part of it is a little funny to me because Lysander is a name that is assembled from Greek root words that I'm very familiar with from science and English classes. I think name meanings are generally pretty hidden, but this one seems much more transparent to someone with my background: the -ander part comes from andros meaning "man", just like the word androgen means a male hormone. Similarly, the Lys- part means just what you'd expect given words like lysis, so the whole thing means something like "setting free of man". I don't generally put much stock in meanings, but this one breaks down to root words just like so many other words you learn about in English class.

Other names that might appeal if you like Lysander but it's not quite right: Evander and Leander (and variant form Leandro), both of which see slightly more use.

Alison said...

@Anon: I feel silly now! Lys- and andro-. Oh my goodness, who needs Google when I know the common Latin and Greek roots used in science. Not enough coffee yet, that's my excuse. :)

Anonymous said...

I agree Lysander reminds me a lot of Zander. I agree Sandy seems to feminine for a nickname, but Sander is usable. I think Ander/Anders or even Andy would also be reasonable nicknames for it.

Anonymous said...

And to clarify by what I mean by "not a problem" with a y-containing, unusual name that people might at first reading find female - so far, all it's taken is a "Oh, nope, a boy!" and that's the end of it. I suspect that middle school might produce more teasing, which is where the ability to use a solidly male nickname is, I think, useful, and where Lysander comes ahead of Leander, for me (though I agree with the previous poster than Andy and Anders are good nicknames for all the -ander names).

Alison - ha, no problem! Enjoy your coffee! :)

Anonymous said...

Since your name is Jemima...I wonder if you might live in the UK or at least be walking around with a British accent? It seems like that could make quite a difference. I might not want to be the only Lysander in a class full of Jacobs and Masons, but if the class had some Alfies and Olivers, why not a Lysander?

Anonymous said...

Am I the only one who isn't sure how to pronounce it? Is it LIE-SANDER, like two distinct syllables, or softer, like LICE-ander? (And if someone can parse these pronunciations better than I can, please do so!)

Anonymous said...

I would pronounce it Lys-Ander, fwiw. I think it's handsome and agree with those who suggest Andy or Anders as a nickname. If he ends up blonde than Sandy might be ok too!

Daycare Girl said...

I don't know how to pronounce it either. I'm going back and forth between LICE-ander, which reminds me of both lice and lysol, and lissander, which makes me think of Melissa and seems too feminine. Honestly I think it would take a lot more exposure and an actual cute baby face attached to this name to make it work for me.

sarahk said...

i agree with Daycare Girl about the pronunciations. I also think that if you are in the UK, you will probably have an easier time with a name like Lysander than in the U.S. It is hard for me to imagine a middle-school or high school boy in the US who will like having the name Lysander (i hope that doesn't sound too harsh). However, I can see an adult with the name Sander or Andy. I guess i am not generally a fan of naming a child one thing with the intent of calling him something else, so if you really like Sander, i would recommend just calling him Sander.

Anonymous said...

I only know it pronounced as Lih-sander. Lie-sander sounds strange to me.

I like it but I think people will tend to go for Lis as a nickname rather than Sander, unless you have him go by Sander more generally.

Jemima said...

Wow, thanks so much for all the comments everyone! And to the poster that asked if I'm walking around with a British accent (that made me laugh :) ) - I'm from Australia but I have spent a few years in England.
I pronounce it Lie-SAN-der, and I agree now that Sander is a better nickname. And I also agree that I would need a well-established accepted boy name in the middle: I was thinking Peter or David (family names). Thanks so much Swistle for posting my question!

Anonymous said...

The 'y' gives me a feminine vibe, as do the Lys/Sandy nickname possibilities, but that aside - visually I instantly thought of Lysol.

Personally, it's not a name I would choose for a baby of either sex.

JCF said...

It did strike me as a boy name immediately, but it also made me think "Lysol," so for that reason it keeps making me think it is the name of a bacteria or a disease. I'm having a hard time moving past that connection!

Maureen said...

I am not quite sure of the name (I too unfortunately think of Lysol) - but do LOVE the nickname Sander! (And I know a boy named Anders, and like that as well.)

I don't like Sandy as much, but will point out that a main male character in "The OC" was named Sandy.

Anonymous said...

I don't know that it makes much difference with the UK vs US -- I think it's a very unusual name in either location, and it would stand out comparably in a sea of Alfies and Olivers as it would in a sea of Jacobs and Masons. I think because some of the UK names seem more unusual here, it's tempting to say, "OH, well, if IMOGEN is a common name there, then surely ANYTHING Shakespearean goes!" but I don't think that's really how it works. One could say the same thing about Jessica, too, you know? Our instinct is to say "oh, that's different, Jessica is USUAL and COMMON!" but I think that's exactly what someone in the UK would say about Imogen. I lost my UK and US popularity data in a computer death recently, so I can't look it up to be sure, but I think I remember Lysander being just as rare on the other side of the pond.

I don't think that's an argument for not using it, at all... and I suspect that a Lysander wouldn't raise that many eyebrows in our American community where parents often chose unusual and sometimes classical names. Like, if people are naming their kids Beulah, Dashiell and Antigone, then a Lysander isn't going to stand out as much.

Here is a UK perspective on the name:

I was going to say that the pronunciation shouldn't be problematic because A Midsummer Night's Dream is standard reading for every (at least American) middle or high school, and it also comes up in history class... but I think EVERY name has some pronunciation dispute.
Happily, the Spartan general means it's in the dictionary, complete with pronunciation key. :)

Jessica said...

For me, the name immediately struck me as a mashup of 'Lisbeth Salander'. (In The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.)

That was probably why it seemed definitely feminine to me, but the 'y' and "lis" sound also read feminine.

Lauren said...

I think this name is delightful, either with the Lie-SAN-der pronunciation (how I would usually say it) or the LIH-san-der pronunciation. I definitely think Greek and Shakespeare, but I also think Harry Potter (this is the name of one of Luna Lovegood's children, for what it's worth), all of which are wonderful associations to me. I would tend to shorten to "Lys" before "Sander", but that's really just a matter of personal preference, and I had never made the Lys-Lice connection before.

Someone above mentioned Evander, which I love for its ease, unusual-without-being-unfamiliar, and also for its meaning (which I don't usually bother with). The Greek roots make the name literally mean "good man."

hillary said...

I met a little Lysander last year who is probably two years old now. I did a double take at the name and asked for a repeat pronunciation to make sure it wasn't another, more common name, but once I caught that it was indeed the Shakespearean name, I thought it was really cool and did not seem out of place on a toddler.

rosamonte said...

I prefer Leander, and the Spanish version Leandro, to Lysander and Lisandro. The Lisa- beginning in Lisandro reads too feminine to me, and I get a similar effect from Lysander.

Erin said...

RE: Pronunciation, every production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" I've ever seen (and lo, there have been many, in my 20 or so years of doing theatre) has pronounced it either LIE-sander or Lie-SAN-der (either way, it's a long I sound, just depends where you want to put the emphasis).

To me, it would be like naming a child Romeo -- doable, but setting him up for years of "Oh, like the play?" comments. But again, I've been doing theatre since I was in elementary school, so my gut reaction is "Oh, like 'Midsummer'!" and maybe non-theatre people won't have that.

Anonymous said...

Ok... I think an amazing combination, if you were to ever have two boys, are Lysander and Leopold. Love it! I agree with Swistle, you could definitely use this as a name, but would lean more towards Sander vs. Sandy (feminine) for a nickname.

Guinevere said...

UK popularity data: 10 Lysanders born in 2011. There were 31 Lysanders in the US.

However, if we want to know where the name is common, we really want to know the frequency of Lysanders rather than the sum total.

In 2011, there were a total 338,336 boys in the UK given names with 5+ uses (to make it comparable to the SSA data). There were 1,880,633 boys given names with 5+ uses in the US.

So, in the UK, 2.95 boys in every 100,000 were named Lysander. In the US, it was 1.65 boys in every 100,000. So, people who said that it was more fitting in the UK are correct - it's almost twice as popular. However, it's still very far off into exotic names territory.