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Thanks so much for the responses! It's really helpful to hear from all of you and start to see some consensus, as well. Is there a way to signal pronunciation of the first syllable through spelling, too? Ah-ne-LEES, rather than Aan-ne-LLES. Or is that just something that will have to be done verbally?
Thank you again, name folks!
I just heard that tennis star Roger Federer and his wife had twin girls yesterday and named them: Charlene Riva and Myla Rose.
I'm mostly posting this because, well...Charlene? Really? That was totally not one that I saw having a revival anytime soon. Of course it's possible that she's named after a relative or something similar. Myla fits more into that geek-chic trend that everyone was talking about recently (the only Myla I know is a great-aunt) and has some contemporary sounds. But Charlene really surprised me.
Confused Mama: I think you first instinct was right: Josephine/Josie will fit right in with all the Ellies and Sadies of today. I think any person fully aware of the huge responsibility of naming another person will feel a some of that namer's remorse--how could you not second-guess yourself?--but I think you can be confident that you didn't do you daughter a disservice. Josephine is a wonderful, strong, lovely name.
And, for me at least, Jo isn't a boy's name. Jo will ALWAYS be smart, imaginative, adventurous "Little Woman" Jo March. It's hard to get more feminine that that--even when she cuts off her hair.
I went to my local Barnes and Noble last night and was delighted to find the new BNW2 there! Huzzah! I spent all evening poring over it--it's a real pleasure to read. Thanks, Laura.
When I took the BNW2 up to the counter to buy it, the cashier took one look at it as she was ringing it up and said, "Well, just don't name your baby Galaxy." "Galaxy?!" I said. Apparently her best friend's brother just named a daughter Galaxy, and all of his friends and family are kind of appalled. (He's a big Star Wars fan and saw it as something of a tribute.) Even better: the last name is Wolf. So not only did I find the BNW2 at Barnes and Noble, I also found another great name story! It seemed wonderfully appropriate, but oh poor little Galaxy Wolf out there. (Her name sounds like one of those air-brushy t-shirts with dreamcatchers and howling wolves on it, am I right?)
I think of Enid as a hardcore hipster name thanks to Ghost World. Agnes and Agatha are both in that hipster-y category, too, which doesn't mean that they couldn't shed that association with wider application, although I think that initial syllable has a traditionally unpleasant-to-English-speakers sound that might be hard to get over. (The only Agatha I've ever known was a resident at a nursing home I worked at and even her fellow residents occasionally called her Gagatha.)
I was also fascinated by Lizet, Lizcet, and Lizeth. Is there a context for them (eastern European community nearby, maybe?) or have I just never heard of this variation before?
I was just reading a review for the new Harry Potter movie and noticed that the actor playing the young Voldemort is named Hero Fiennes-Tiffin. I was intrigued because, to my knowledge, Hero has always been a girl's name (and one I loved! Although not one amenable to our last name, sadly.) Anyway, a little looking around tells me that this Hero is definitely a he--the nephew of actor Ralph Fiennes--and that he has a sister named Mercy and a brother named Titan!
Not only were these names intriguing on their own, but I was fascinated by the mixed message they send as a set. Hero (divorced from its classical/Shakespearean context) and Titan are big, conquering, imperialistic names; Mercy is just the opposite. I wonder what their thought process was...?
coranell: I can see Dickory as potentially having some of the same charm as Ellery or Quincey, but I just can't go that extra mile and give a girl a name that features "Dick" so prominently. As several posters have mentioned previously, people are even shying away from Richard for those very reasons, and, at least in that case, it's a dying nickname attached to a well-established men's name. Dickory for a woman is fine--even endearing--in fiction, but I couldn't do it in real life.
But, if considering transferring fiction to real life, I want to second Rhett as a substitute for Cash. I could be wrong, but I feel like enough time has passed that people can hear Rhett without immediately thinking of Clark Gable (not that that's a bad thing! I do love Clark Gable), but it's still impossibly cool. Rhett is rakish and romantic without the hyper-macho associations of other more overtly cowboy names, which provides your child with a little more flexibility. (Holt or Judd seem kind of one-(twangy)-note to me. But Rhett has facets.) Plus, anyone gutsy enough to name a daughter Calico, can definitely name a son Rhett.
Also, I really like the subtle fabric theme that exists between Calico and Levi. It creates a really warm, welcoming pair but isn't obvious enough to come off as jokey or forced, like, say, Daisy, Poppy, and Petal, or Amber, Ruby, and Pearl, etc.
I mentioned this discussion to my husband and he reminded me that he used to know a Michael Rotch who regularly went by Mike. I don't think that was high concept so much as not well thought through on the part of his parents.
As for the cutsey name debate, I'm struck by how most (all?) of the names being identified as unbearably cutsey are girls' names. Possibly this is just reflective of the fact that the era of Bobby and Jimmie as given names has passed, but I also think it is reflective of the fact that, often, people have such different priorities when naming boys than when naming girls. Boys are named after family members or heroes or given names that are supposed to call to mind strength and consistency. Girls are more likely to be given names that are trendy (although this is becoming true of boys as well) and given names are are valued primarily for their beauty. What kind of values does that communicate to our children? So I am bothered by the cutsey names somewhat, but, to me, it just seems to be indicative of a larger problem about gender disparity in our naming practices.
zoerhenne: Somehow I find Huckleberry less inappropriate than Grylls' other son's name: Marmaduke. At least Huckleberry has a well-known precedence as a boy's name, even if the singularity of that namesake is problematic. (I'm thinking of the Tatum problem mentioned in the last thread. I imagine that, "Oh, like Huckleberry Finn?" would be the chorus of his lifetime.) The only Marmaduke I can think of, however, is the cartoon great dane. (Okay, I take that back: there is a Sir Marmaduke in Trollope's He Knew He was Right. But I only remember this because the entire time I was reading the novel, I kept imagining him as a dog.) Plus, Huck at least sounds like other names--Hank, Chuck--but Marmaduke is hard to pass off as a variation of anything but itself. Of course, Huck sounds like other, less-appealing words, too...but, if forced, I would pick Huckleberry over Marmaduke any day of the week.
In high school, I knew a girl named Justa Wall. I realize that having a noun as a last name might make selecting a first name more difficult, but Justa strikes me as dangerous regardless of the grammatical function of your surname. (For example, Justa Smith is less initially funny, but still kind of... reductive.)
I'm in a library as I am reading this column, just this minute heard a Sydelle paged over the intercom. Sydelle is a name I've only ever encountered in The Westing Game, and the coincidence seemed remarkable. It must be an Ellen Raskin kind of day.
New baby alert! Sim0ne El0ise was born last week, heathy and well-named. Thanks to all of you for helping me help my friend decide on a middle name for the baby several weeks ago. She said that the overwhelming support of Eloise over Joanna helped seal the deal, as did all of the really wonderful middle name suggestions you came up with. She realized she really preferred Eloise when none of the other great suggestions clicked for her in the same way. Thanks again!
I don't know if this has made the list yet of literary G-names (I've been skimming through the last posts), but Gloriana is Edmund Spenser's name for Queen Elizabeth in his epic The Faerie Queene. So that has a double-commendation: literary reference and historical heroine.
I've been pleased to see Mattea coming up on a few of these lists! I know a lovely Mathea who is probably 9 or so right now, and I've always found the name to be light and feminine and European while still being very palatable to Anglo ears. Plus it seems like a nice way to honor a Matthew in the family (and given how many Matthews are aging into fatherhood these days, it might be good to have some options for how to do that.)
Okay, I thought I could resist, but I can't. Here are my fourteen:
Theodore (Theo) Jude
Elizabeth (Eliza) Selah
jenmn: What about Arden? It's close in sound to Arwen, but trades that LOTR reference for a more subtle Shakespearean one. (The Forest of Arden in As You Like It is a place of magical transformations; also it was Shakespeare's mother's family name). Plus, it's lovely and underused but still demonstrably a name.
Sidenote: I've only known one Arwen in real life (and she went to college with my parents). Her middle name? Evenstar. Yep. Her folks were serious about their Tolkien.
I've been wondering about Ginevra. It gets a passing reference in the Harry Potter books as Ginny Weasley's full name and I've been wondering if we'll see it get a kick in the next few years because of that. It's really lovely and a nice counterpart to the more popular Gianna.
I would be willing to respect the dead parent/sibling rule: Meaning that, if either spouse has lost an immediate family member and would like to name the child after that person, the other spouse should probably respect that. (I've heard a few people discuss this before--here on this board? I can't remember.) Of course, this doesn't mean you have to give them the exact same name, and middle names are certainly a way to honor someone with a less-than-desirable name. If, as with your husband, Amy3, one or the other really hates the name itself, there are ways to modify the name while still retaining the namesake (and it seems like you two came up with a good compromise.) But generally, to my mind, a loss of that magnitude trumps feelings about style, etc.