Name Spotlight: Sawyer

May 3rd 2010

Join me for a journey down the Mississippi with an all-American name.

Sawyer is an occupational surname that originally referred to someone who sawed wood for a living. Its free-spirited style, though, comes straight from Mark Twain's boy hero Tom Sawyer. Sawyer started to rise in popularity in the 1990s as part of a trend toward tradesman names, then spiked up after its prominent appearence on the tv series Lost. Like other literary surnames (Harper, Beckett), it has a broad appeal, luring in an educated slice of parents who usually prefer more traditional given names. It is pronounced...well, that's where today's story starts.

A site visitor clicked the "Report inappropriate content" on the Sawyer page in Namipedia. The visitor wrote:

There is an error in the pronunciation of this name. I named our son Sawyer and we have spent 22 years correcting people you (sic) slovenly say "SOY-yer." The word AND the name are correctly pronouned just as it reads: "SAW-yer." One wouldn't say, "I soy your mother at the store." :-)  I hope you will change this. Thank you.

22 years of correcting people can't be any fun, but there's a reason all those folks said SOY-er. It's the standard pronunciation of the word and name in both the U.K. and the U.S. -- take a listen at this Oxford dictionary page. SAW-yer is an acceptable variant, used by a small minority of people. I added it as a second listing in Namipedia, but parents of a SAW-yer should know they're fighting an uphill battle. (As for the idea that not pronouncing a word phonetically is "slovenly," hey, this is English we're talking about. Even the word English itself isn't pronounced phonetically.)

As I learned more about the word sawyer, though, I came to realize that the standard listing for the name really is wrong. Not the pronunciation, but the meaning.

Look up sawyer in a modern dictionary and you'll find two definitions. First is the person who saws wood, second a beetle that bores into trees. Look it up in a baby name dictionary and you'll find just the first definition. That's proper, since little Sawyers are hardly likely to be named for the beetle. But look up sawyer in a 19th-century American dictionary and you'll discover something quite different. Here's an excerpt from Noah Webster's 1828 edition:

In America, a tree which, being undermined by a current of water, and falling into the stream, lies with its branches above water, which are continually raised and depressed by the force of the current, from which circumstance the name is derived. The sawyers in the Mississippi render the navigation dangerous, and frequently sink boats which run against them.

In the words of John Bartlett's 1848 Dictionary of Americanisms, "This may truly be called an American word; for no country without a Mississippi and Missouri could produce a sawyer."

It was this all-American word, this peril of the Mississippi and scourge of steamboats that gave Tom Sawyer his name. Tom, in turn, gave all the first-name Sawyers their names. After all, as a surname Sawyer is less common than Glover, Decker, Collier, Skinner and many others. Its style mojo comes from the book. So arguably, the "real" meaning of Sawyer that should be listed in baby name dictionaries is a submerged tree.

Just think of it. All of this uncertainty about the pronunciation and meaning of a name that is an English word, a familiar surname, and one of the most recognizable names in American literature. Meanwhile new names are being introduced every day. A Baby Name Wizard's work is never done.


May 3, 2010 3:24 PM

i'm laughing right now because laura caused quite the controversy/discussion by making an offhand comment in a post!

amanda w,
amander from canader! hilarious.

oh, i see, okay. that makes sense. i pronounce them with different vowels, but i could envision using different vowels. however, i just couldn't figure out how you were pronouncing the g's the same!

By hyz
May 3, 2010 3:24 PM

dude, I can't even wrap my mouth around sing with a long e, lol. I mean, I can, but it feels very unnatural. It's so funny to hear about these "invisible" accent differences. I mean, there's lots of talk about obvious things like don vs. dawn, chowder vs. chowda, hollow vs. holler, creek vs. crick, y'all vs. yous, etc., but I feel like we haven't discussed this variation at all.

I wonder if this is related at all to something my mom does--she tends to reverse her short i and long e. So, she pronounces hill sort of like "heel" and heel sort of like "hill" (as in "my hill hurts from walking up that big heel" or "I fill like I've eaten my feel"). It's not quite so pronounced as that--in fact, the words fill/feel, hill/heel actually sound pretty similar coming from her--the difference between them is subtle. She's from western PA.

By Eo (not verified)
May 3, 2010 3:33 PM

Great news, NAMG! There does seem to be a joyous population explosion going on...

Guest #35, how observant of you to notice that the actress (I've never watched the show) who says SAW-yer is Canadian. Yes, there are some Canadians who pronounce it that way, including my Canadian mother.

I used to tease her about saying "LAW-yer" and of course she did the same with "sawyer". My Canadian Dad used to switch back and forth between the two pronunciations, I believe.

Laura M., you make a good point about some Southerners also saying "SAW-yer". I've noticed that as well. It is so fascinating to find pockets of diversity all over the English-speaking world...

rocster, "Margaret" is a fashionable classic, and one that meets with favor, especially with people who like traditional names. I wouldn't worry about teasing-- and so many of the Margaret nicknames are adorable.

That said, I do prefer your other choice, "Jane", personally-- it is so beautiful, pure and simple! I love the literary and historical associations, from Jane Eyre to Jane Austen to Lady Jane Grey...

If Jane were my first-choice, all-time fave, I would give it even to a child with a surname beginning with "n". A lot of the name aficionados here would disagree with me on this one. Only you know if it would bother you over time-- but Jane Norris, Jane Nijinsky or Jane Nissenbaum all sound super to me!

May 3, 2010 3:36 PM

EVie- I grew up in Brooklyn so that is definitely a possibility. I also know a good amount of people (including my DH) from New Jersey who say it that way. Not sure if it's a Manhattan thing at all. I've noticed that within Manhattan there are tons of different "New York" accents. I used to have such a strong Brooklyn/Long Island accent (if any of you watch Real Housewives, think Jill Zarin). But since moving to Manhattan almost a decade ago my accent has almost totally faded.

May 3, 2010 3:36 PM

haha, i love your incredulous "dude"! :]

also amused because i've never been able to wrap my head around don and dawn being different. they are always the same to me.

this may or may not be related to the issue with your mom, but it isn't for me. heel and hill are as different to me as sing and singe. so...are all "ing" endings a short /i/ for you? like for me, running is run-eeng (like eeng-lish). do you or something?

By Philippa The First (not verified)
May 3, 2010 3:44 PM

With my Australian accent I definitely say SOY-yer. And there is a world of difference to me between 'soy' and 'saw'. I say 'saw' exactly the same as 'sore'. Ah, the joys of a non-rhotic accent! SAW-yer sounds really odd to me. That jump in the middle is hard to do.

And speaking of names I will definitely "mis"-pronounce, we are considering alternatives to Alexander. Can I get group feedback on these, please?


I want internationally, instantly pronounceable (by English speakers), not too trendy, but classic/popular is fine. The middle name is Scott and the last name is a Dutch surname that sounds like 'Bemelmans', but with only one 'm'. My daughter's name is Rose.

Anything you want to suggest?

May 3, 2010 3:45 PM

Ok, after reading everyting, Specifically after seeing what Amy3 said.
I say Sawyer as SAW-yer, like LAW-yer - but with a slight 'twang'.

Egg is EHG to me. Basically, it's egg. AYGG is a bit odd to me lol

Singe & sing are completely different to me. Sing is more of an 'ee' sound. A short one.

Don & dawn are as different to me as night an day ! Lol. You've got to love accents


Names are tricky, because 9/10 people can love the name you pick and your kid could not like it; or, 9/10 people could hate the name & your child loves it.

Margaret fits in perfectly with the very classic, introuding vintage names trend occuring at the moment, so I think it'll be on point. She will possible be in high school with a Greta. Gertrude , Harriet etc so, she'll fit in with the other or not your daughter will like her name will only be known in the future. She might dislike her name at a certain age & love it at another.This could be for any names.

If you truly love the name, go for it.I don't think it would be burdensome to have. A possible, less common nickname could be Milly

I think the 'n's' could possible run in to each other. However, some people like alliterative sounds, so it's not a bad thing. I don't really think it's a major thing, to be honest. If it was Jane Lane Delaney, then that would be a bit much. If you love the name, then go for it !

It's great to see another Lost fan ! That's my main, inital association as well

@another Laura
That's intersting. I always said Laura as LAW-ruh

May 3, 2010 3:51 PM

philippa the first,
though i love all your choices (especially elliott, miles, anders, and andrew), i'm casting my vote for julian. it's my favorite boys' name, and i can't say enough good about it. also, i think julian scott sounds fantastic.

By hyz
May 3, 2010 3:50 PM

:) emilyrae, yes, it's definitely run-ihng, etc. for me. I did grow up with a friend who said -ing like -een, so it was run-een, read-een, jump-een, etc. I always found that odd and noticeable--I didn't know if it was some weird accent he picked up from his parents (New Yorkers, maybe?), or if it was just a personal quirk. Do you have a definite G at the end of your -ing verbs?

By hyz
May 3, 2010 4:00 PM

Philippa, I also vote for Julian. I don't quite know why (since it doesn't fit my normal nature-y theme of beloved names), but I totally love the name Julian. My second choice for you is William--classic and handsome. I think both sound great with Scott B. Andrew and Anders are also both nice, but I place them third for opposite reasons--I feel like I know a lot of Andrews, so it's a little less interesting to me, and Anders is very cool but seems a little more risky than the other choices (it seems very ethnic to me, so I wouldn't want to use it unless I felt connected to a country where the name is standard). Lewis and Elliot I don't really love, and Miles is nice, but seems trendier than your other choices.

May 3, 2010 4:01 PM

hmmm. i THINK i have a definite G at the end of my verbs. however, it's possible that when speaking quickly that it is dropped. i can see myself saying read-een if i'm in a hurry. i have to confess, i kind of love it when conversations turn this way, because it is just So Interesting to me (remember that thread where someone mentioned that they pronounce pasta with a short /a/? that totally blew my mind). i am trying to say "run-ihng" in my head and it sounds terribly strange. however, maybe, in some cases these variations aren't very different in real life. i really do think that eenglish and inglish end up sounding pretty similar in normal speech. so maybe that is the case with these "ing" sounds as well.

also, as a side note, though i grew up and currently live in indiana, my dad is from the east coast (maryland). some people have speculated that this affects my speech, but i'm not sure if this is true.

May 3, 2010 4:02 PM

@Phillipa the First

The only one with a 'possible' mispronunciation is Julian. They might say it as joo-LYE- an.The only other pronunciation change that is possible is due to accent. Example. AM-ders or AAN-ders.

Andrew -- it works very well with the middle name & surname. If you want a 'similar style sibset', it doesn't really have the same vibe as Rose does. I'd rather use Lewis,Miles,William or Julian with Rose if that's a criteria

Lewis -- It reminds me of Louis, so I think of European Royalty, so it fits in with Rose in terms of the 'vibe'. If you're concerned with how the name flows with the MN & LN, then I think one of the other options is better

Miles --I'm not really a fan of this name because of what it reminds me of, but it seems to fit your criteria.A possible taunt is that 'Miles has Piles'. I really hope that I dind't just ruin the name for you. At a stretch, possible mispronunciation is MIL-es, however, I doubt you'd experience that.

Julian --- this seems to be getting more popular in the 'Name World', so that could or couldn't be a deterrent. I think it fits in best with Rose & the selected MN. It also works well with your surname

Anders --- I keep on wanting to say it as AAN-ders, as opposed to AHN-ders. It seems like it's possible of accent damage.The other names just seem more striking & seem to flow better than this one

William -- It's a perfect for your criteria, the only negative is are you ok with it if your son prefers to be known by one of the nicknames i.e. Billy,Billy,Bob,Will,Willie?

Elliot -- I like the possible NN of Lee. Elliot & Rose sound fabulous together as a sibset. It also works with the MN & FN. I think this & Julia fit your criteria the best

Hope that helps

By Anna S (not verified)
May 3, 2010 4:03 PM

I think I'm incapable of saying SAW-yer - it sounds like SOY-yer no matter what I do. SAW and SOY are different, obviously, but the /y/ from /yer/ sticks to the SAW part so the combination becomes SOYyer - a bit like the ice-cream/I scream situation.

English is /ˌɪŋglɪʃ/

Sing and singe - same vowel sound (short i)

Amander from Canader - this is just veddy, veddy wrong ;-)

May 3, 2010 4:08 PM

Sorry, I meant

AN not AM

A word that is a huge accent name here, is the Afrikaans 'song' which is said more like 'sawng'. It's kind of like a half English/Afrikaans merger of the two.

Another sound that's a huge accent problem is the 'a'. Example, CAHR-ah, CAR-ah or CAIR-ah.

By hyz
May 3, 2010 4:26 PM

emilyrae, funny, the "mid-Atlantic area" where I grew up was in Maryland, and I'm pretty sure most people did not say eeng-lish or run-eeng there. :) Although some areas in Maryland have their own distinct accents, like Baltimore and the eastern shore, so I can't speak to that. And when you say pasta "with a short a" I'm not sure what you mean, since the American A has 3 standard sounds, as Linnaeus mentioned. I say it with the same a as in father, but I think some people (was it Canadians, etc.?) say it with the a as in apple. Which are you?

May 3, 2010 4:29 PM

oh, yay, maryland! :] we visit my dad's family every year. i quite like it there. i can't recall how my grandparents pronounce "ing" though. i think i say most things in an indiana-esque way, not a maryland-y way, but i was just throwing it out there, in case it might make a difference.

oh, no, no, i definitely say pasta with the same /a/ as father: pAHsta. when i say "short a", i mean "a as in apple." i remember a while back when we had the discussion about that; i had never heard pasta said with the apple-a before. i was completely flabbergasted. and i think it was the canadians, yes.

May 3, 2010 4:43 PM

Amanda- adding an r where there isn't one is also a feature of a lot of british accents- swedish furniture store Ikee-er has loads of great idee-ers for your home. and so forth :)

Which leads me to asking any of the brits on the board- how do you pronounce sawyer? is there a difference between saw-yer and soy-er? do you rhyme sawyer and lawyer?!

May 3, 2010 4:53 PM

I'm canadian, and I say pasta with an apple 'a'- though i've heard the pAHsta pronounciation used here too.

for the record I say "inglish" and all of this talk of ammerican accents saying "eenglish" has me baffled- and sin, sing and singe all have the same vowel sound. the 'i' in sing might be marginally shorter, but not by much. so do you pronounce "sing" like "seen" with a g on the end?

May 3, 2010 4:55 PM

i also pronounce english "eeenglish"...a definite long e. i live in the chicagoland area, and believe it's the accepted pronunciation here.

May 3, 2010 5:02 PM

forgot to add an 'in my accent' in the middle of that last paragraph- oops

And since I'm writing another comment, Philippa, I think Julian, William and Elliot absolutely fit your criteria. It's a minor detail, but I don't really like how Miles, Anders and Lewis run into the s in Scott.

May 3, 2010 5:03 PM

i just looked at several sites that pronounce words for you, and "eeenglish" or "inglish" [the "ing" sounding like the ending of "king" is what i hear.
is this just my ear? how do other's among you pronounce "english"?

By Amy3
May 3, 2010 5:05 PM

Ok, I *do* have the same /i/ sound in sing and singe. It's the /g/ sound that differs. :)

@Philippa, I like Julian or Elliot best.

By hyz
May 3, 2010 5:21 PM

conana, could you post links to those sites? I'd be interested to hear them.

May 3, 2010 5:48 PM

yes, sing is *roughly* like seen but with a g on the end, but...not quite, for me. for sing, the "ee" sound is shorter in length, i think...just...faster. i just said "seen" out loud and then tacked a "g" onto the end and it does not sound like how i say "sing." it sounds too...drawn out/overly-ennunciated or something. for me, sing is like "zing" only, with an "s." sing! all fast and zippy. er...assuming you say "zing" with an "ee" sound....

so, do you say "king" with a short i as wel? kihng?

By hyz
May 3, 2010 5:43 PM

Yep, king, sing, zing, ring, finger, etc. all have the short i.

May 3, 2010 5:51 PM

now, finger, i DO say that with a short i. (or at least i think i do. my brain is starting to get a little fuzzy and confused the more i repeat these words.) it's hard for me to imagine that there is another way to say "ding." how could a doorbell ever say dihng-dong? :]

By hyz
May 3, 2010 5:57 PM

Interesting that you say finger with the short i (if you do, lol). Ding rhymes with the rest of them, for me, short 'i's all around.

May 3, 2010 6:02 PM

A sounds in the USA:

"short a" is the apple a.
"long a" is the acorn a.
The father a doesn't really have a name in grade-school phonics, but in my accent, the sound is identical to "short o", which is the top o. (result of the Don/Dawn merger)

In my accent, "sing" has the same vowel sound as "seen". The ending consonant changes from the single n sound to the single ng sound. (That sound is called "long e".)

The gerund end "-ing" is "-eeng". Walkeeng, runneeng, waiteeng. When spoken informally to -in', the i becomes short i: walkin', runnin', waitin'. However, what really happens is that the short i becomes a schwa, or (somewhat embarrassingly for me) is completely elided: walk'n, run'n, wai'n. My accent embarrassment when I'm not thinking about it: that pile of land to a high elevation is a moun'n.

(I know some linguists talk about "crossed i" but I don't have a crossed i distinct from schwa. Usually, though, the same linguists combine schwa with "short u" (the fun u) into a stressed or unstressed schwa, but my short u sounds very different from schwa.)

May 3, 2010 6:08 PM

OK, clearly I should have put more than three seconds of thought into the choice of the "English" example! Let's just pretend I wrote "Worcestershire" instead. :-)

It's been fascinating reading all the variations, though. It goes to show you how subtle and multifaceted local accents are.

May 3, 2010 6:09 PM

if i don't say finger with a short i, then at very least, it sounds like a natural pronunciation to me, where as the other words with -ing do not sound natural to me with the short i. i think it's because i think of finger as fin-ger. the ing isn't together in one syllable (in my mind, at least), so it doesn't have to have the characteristic "eeng" pronunciation. if that makes any sense at all.

By hyz
May 3, 2010 6:13 PM

So, emilyrae and Linnaeus, does the word "thinking" have two different vowel sounds for you, or only one? It's only one for me, short i throughout.

Linnaeus, thanks for the "a" clarification--I tend to think of the father a as the short a (it goes with all the other "short" vowels in my mind--"ah" "eh" "ih" "uh"--but then I see where you get into trouble since short o is also basically "ah"), but it sounds like that's not right. Don/Dawn are also the same for me.

And to be clear, I don't always say the g at the end of my words (in informal/lazy situations), but even when I don't, it's still definitely talkin', runnin', etc., no long e to be found.

May 3, 2010 6:20 PM


It's one sound: theenkeeng.

May 3, 2010 6:23 PM

i don't know how to post links. my computer skills are limited, but here are a few sites to listen to:

i definitely hear the word as eenglish, or actually, more accurately inglish.
let me know what you think.

By mersey (not verified)
May 3, 2010 6:37 PM

I had a friend growing up whose mother always pronounced her name MAY-gan, with a heavy emphasis on the long a in the first syllable. In college, I commented on it once, only to have her contradict "No, it's Meh-gan. We all say it as Meh-gan."
We come from a region where long vowels are common, so maybe my friend didn't pick up on the distinction her mother made, which was perfectly clear to me!

May 3, 2010 6:43 PM


yup, it sounds like linnaeus and i are basically identical in our speech (at least on paper).

thinking only has one vowel sound for me too, but it's the long /e/ (ee) in both cases: theenkeeng.

and yes, i was taught in elementary school that a short /a/ was "a as in apple." as linnaeus said, i was never taught a name for "a as in father," though since elementary school, i have heard it referred to occasionally as a "broad a," but i'm not positive that's the official term. but that sound is the same as a short /o/ for me also (thus me not being able to tell the difference between don/dawn).

and laura,
ha, yes! perhaps worcestershire would have been the less controversial example!

By knp-nli (not verified)
May 3, 2010 6:46 PM

I thought a short i was like in 'it' or 'fit', but I do not use that same vowel in 'sing' or ring or anything else with -ing. I say fin and finger differently!

May 3, 2010 7:07 PM

yes, exactly. ditto. or whatever. a short /i/ IS like in "it" or "fit." i do not use that vowel in sing or ring or anything with -ing either. but some do!

May 3, 2010 7:50 PM

Speaking of the word father, the other day we were in the park when Judah said something very conspicuous. I plopped myself down on a park bench near the entrance to the park, and Judah knows he's not supposed to go where I can't see him. Here's how the dialogue went:

Judah: Mom, can we go father?
Me: (after a second) Can we go where?
Judah: Father. I want to play on those rocks over there.
Me: (after another curious moment) Ohhh, you mean farther. No, we're staying here. But, there's an "r" in that word, honey. Farrr-thur, not fahh-thur.
Judah: Mom, they're the same thing.

So in my almost faded NY accent farther and father do sound exactly the same. But in my brain I know they are different. Oh Judah... always there for a good laugh.

By Guest B (not verified)
May 3, 2010 8:06 PM

Wow, a LOT of the "American" pronunciations you guys are bringing up sound incredibly strange to me.. eenglish? Oh my! (I'm Maritimer Canadian)

rocster - The Margaret's I know are all my age (clinging desperately to the last month of my mid-twenties) and go by Margaret or Maggie. I don't see it as old lady, more a "mom-name" if it comes off as something other than traditional.

I recently made friends with a Swedish Anders, and he pronounces it like AHND-ersh with the /sh/ sound on the end as opposed to the /s/, maybe more 2.5 syllables.. I'll have to nitpick him on pronunciation tomorrow.. That being said, I love the name, and think it would sound great with Rose as well as a Dutch last name. William, Julian, or Elliot are all great.

Ooh.. speaking of which I found a beautiful name today.. another Swedish friend incidetally: Lina Ur$ula Kerstin pronounced oor-soo-lah and sh/chair-steen (that last one's tricky actually) The European Ursula really does wonders for the name for me.

May 3, 2010 8:18 PM

OK, Modern English does not make quantitative distinctions between vowels.* It makes qualitative differences. Hence, Modern English does not have short and long vowels. Instead it has tense and lax vowels, and the tense vowels are all technically diphthongs, because they all end in glides. Since the glides don't add any information, the tense vowels are not usually listed with the true diphthongs. The 'a' in father is a broad 'a'. The 'a' in grass (American pronunciation) is a flat 'a'. The 'a' in game is a tense 'a'.

Sing does not end in a 'g', and neither do running, jumping, etc. These words end in a consonant called an eng. There is no English alphabetic character for the eng (although there is one in the International Phonetic Alphabet ŋ) Hence it is spelled 'ng'--but it is not an n+g. Thus, people who say runnin instead of running are not dropping a g; they are substituting an en for an eng. Singe OTOH dooes not have an eng. Instead it has a nasal plus an affricate (an affricate starts as a stop and ends as a fricative). Singer has an eng medially; finger has an eng plus a g.

*There are a few instances where English does make a quantitative distinction, one being balm/bomb. Here balm has a long vowel and bomb a short. Otherwise the two words are identical--except for those who pronounce the l, which is ordinarily not pronounced (like the l in salmon). It maybe that younger generations are using a spelling pronunciation and sounding the l in balm, but frankly I don't think I've heard a younger person say balm in a very long time. BTW Old English did have short and long vowels. Once again the Great Vowel Shift can be credited for this mess. In the GVS each (genuine) long vowel shifted up and forward one position in the mouth, thus changing the quality of the sound, so that English no longer had pairs of short and long vowels differing only in duration.

By Jan (not verified)
May 3, 2010 8:21 PM

Tom's name makes so much more sense now! How much we lose by not knowing the cultural context of what we read...

By Philippa The First (not verified)
May 3, 2010 8:36 PM

Listening to you all "theenkeeng" about your "eeenglish" makes you sound like Natasha from Rocky and Bullwinkle to me! Which is to say, I think my vowel sounds are considerably shorter than most Americans'!

Thanks for all the feedback on the names. I think the first one off the list will be Anders. There seems to be some confusion about pronunciation. I was going to go with AN-ders. Like in Anderson. But nevermind. Julian and Elliott are favorites with me. Miles too. My husband likes Andrew and Oliver (which wasn't on the list).

Does anyone have name suggestions?

By Qwen
May 3, 2010 8:36 PM

Another Westerner (I'm an Oregonian) chiming in with Eenglish - in fact just repeat everything linnaeus and emilyrae have said for me. I love it when we start talking dialects and regionalisms in naming!

Congratulations Namedaftermygrandmother! I'm excited to hear your name thoughts.

Also, Congrats to Hyz, I saw on the last post that you were but I never managed to get a comment in on it. :). When are you due?!

@Phillipa the First - I LOVE Elliot and think it goes so VERY nicely with both your last name and with your daughter's name.

May 3, 2010 9:00 PM

Jan, I am so used to seeing "lose" misspelled as "loose", that I had to read your post twice to get the meaning! Isn't that pathetic? Your comment is so true...

Fascinating discussion of accents and pronunciations. I can't wrap my brain around all the differences--how uncreative of me!

May 3, 2010 9:06 PM

philippa the first,
ha! if it sounds like natasha from rocky and bullwinkle to you, then you're dragging it out too long. it's a very *quick* ee sound. just as quick as it would be if it were the short i (ih) sound.

i like your husband's choice of oliver (it's my second favorite boys' name after julian). other than that, i really do think you have a great bunch of names.

May 3, 2010 9:09 PM

Thanks for all the well wishes for our new baby Llnnea!

We just got her brand new Social Security card, and - imagine our surprise! - her name is listed as Z1nnea Marie Lastname! After a day of phone calls, it appears that her name got mixed up at the hospital. We can't change the SS card without a correct birth certificate, and the birth certificate correction needs to be requested in person and them confirmed with the hospital. All of this has to get straightened out in the next 10 days to get L1nnea (Z1nnea?) on our insurance!

Maybe Z1nnea isn't so bad after all! :-)

By cileag (not verified)
May 3, 2010 9:30 PM


Oh I love Linnea! It was in the running for my daughter in Oct. (who is a Phoebe) but we ultimately couldn't use it with our middle name choice of Louise--too many Ls for us. So glad it's being used though and congrats!

So crazy about the mix up though---I HAVE seen on baby Zinnea though at the hospital I work, but think Linnea is a much better choice. :)

Margaret will be teased only because EVERY kid is teased at some point. I think this name has substance and versatility that are hard to find--and such a lovely meaning--Pearl.

May 3, 2010 9:58 PM

@Philippa- My favorites are Elliott and Andrew. I think Miles Scott would be hard to pronounce with the s sounds running together in the middle. As for other names, you could try:
Hope these suggestions help!

By moll
May 3, 2010 10:09 PM

I say Eeen-glish and SOY-er; do with that what you will.
I'm also from a region where pen/pin, caught/cot and dawn/don are very distinct - but none of those involve the tense E, so maybe that's neither here nor there. I agree with the poster who said that it's not a drawn out Eeeeee, and actually sounds rather close to I - but not exactly.

"SAW-yer"'s mom reminds me of my friend named Anna who becomes incensed when people pronounced it ANN- a instead of AH-na. I understand being upset if you've already told a person how you say a name, but you have to expect that the first try will yield the standard pronunciation.

L!NNEA! So pretty! It's a name I see tossed around by NEs, but have never run across in real life.

And - topic - good sleuthing, Laura! I knew a Sawyer growing up - now 23 or so - and always made the Twain association rather than the occupation-name association.

May 3, 2010 10:29 PM

julie- congratulations on Linnea, but oh NO on Zinnea! Though, Azalea was a very well-received suggestion here a little while ago, and Zinnia would make a pretty cool sister :)

Miriam- thanks for the proper terminology. i studied old english as part of my undergrad, and i remember being a bit startled to learn that the long and short designation was wrong- it's what i'd been taught since kindergarten, and i think that's probably the case for most people here. I wonder why we don't just use tense and lax in general discussion?

I talk like hyz, it seems, minus the pAHsta. moll- my accent differentiates between pen and pin, but not cot and caught. don and dawn are interesting, though, as i do make a slight variation- actually, it's pretty close to the differentiation between "bomb" and "balm"- Miriam, could that be another example of true long and short vowels, or is there something else at play?