The Name That Launched a Thousand Female Sons

Jul 4th 2011

Androgynous names are always controversial. But right now, one group of gender-bending names is generating more than the usual heat: -son surnames names for girls.

These names have an explicitly masculine meaning, "son of," that's hard to miss. Applying them to girls drives a certain segment of the populace bananas. On Namipedia, in comments on this blog, and wherever people talk about names, you'll find harsh opinions like this:

"Sad to see that people are still giving their girls masculine boy names like Addison, Emerson, Madison etc. News flash people, the suffix  'son' literally means son. For instance, the origin of the name Addison is 'son of Adam.' These parents put as much thought into naming their girls as a toddler would in naming his hamster."

Buried beneath all the vitriol is an interesting question. Why did parents start naming their daughters "sons"?

Let's take a look at the three top examples: Madison, Addison, and Emerson. All of them feature the powerhouse combo of androgynous formal name and familiar girlish nickname. Maddie, Addy and Emmy surely take part of the credit for the female "son" boom.

Then there's the mermaid factor. When the mermaid in the 1984 movie Splash took the name Madison from a street sign, she made the name fairy-tale feminine for a generation of girls. Once Madison was a hit, Emerson and Addison could easily follow.

Even Madison, though, owes a lot to a name that blazed a trail before it, one that seldom gets credit or blame. It's a traditional female name that's not a bit controversial on its own. That name is Alison.

Alison is an old Norman French pet form of Alice. (Compare to Marion, a pet form of Marie.) It was very common in the Middle Ages; the Wife of Bath in the Canterbury Tales is one period example. The name eventually faded away in France and England, holding on only in Scotland. By the early 20th Century the name was very rare. Americans were more likely to encounter Alison in a Scottish historical novel like The Master of Ballantrae than on a living person.

In the 1940s Alison started to rise in the UK and US alike. And it kept on rising, with popularity eventually spreading to Allison and other spellings. (Allison is actually a surname of separate, unclear origin that used to be mostly masculine.)

I can't find any cultural spark to account for this comeback -- actress June Allyson doesn't quite cut it. I believe we can call it an organic style phenomenon, a traditional-but-fresh name of the time like the Scandinavian import Karen. And just as Karen paved the way for hit names like Megan and Lauren, Alison established a sound that made us ready for Madison the mermaid.

You can see the Alison influence in the rhythm of the new female -son names. Madison, Addison and Emerson all follow Alison's pattern, while most of the hot -son names for boys are two syllables (Jackson, Hudson). You can also see Alison's heirs returning the favor to their ancestor by keeping that name's sound current. The surge of new -son names has helped Alison and Allison maintain rare staying power in this age of fast fashion changes. Allison in particular has ranked in America's top 100 for an impressive 37 years running.

Allison is now the traditional choice in a contemporary genre, the one name that you, your mom and your grandma can all agree on. It's also a popular stepping stone for talking mom and grandma into Emerson. Sorry, messageboard critics. Sons just aren't as male as they used to be.


By Molly O (not verified)
July 4, 2011 3:52 PM

Using a "son" name for a girl was something I never thought I'd do. Until we had our third daughter who we're planning on our last and still wanted to honor my husband's step-dad in her name somewhere. Curtis James doesn't exactly lend itself to a plethora of feminine names and neither of us cared for the traditional feminine James names so we chose Erin Jameson because it does SOUND more effeminate in spite of that pesky "son of" meaning. :)

By Allison (not verified)
July 4, 2011 3:54 PM

Then I'll re-post/reconstruct my comment, too. :)

I'm a 50+ year-old Allison, and I never knew another until I went away to college and there were two others in my dorm, both spelled the same. Weird!

I was named after my paternal grandfather, Alistair. The priest who baptized me balked at first, because Allison wasn't a Saint's name, but my parents were able to persuade him that it was a feminization of Alexander/Alistair.

Laura, maybe you're too young, but Allison became started its rise to popularity in the 60s because of the popular Peyton Place (a best-selling novel and hit TV show) whose lead character was Allison Mackenzie. I grew up with people asking if I were named after her, and I was always happy to tell them the story of my grandfather.

By Pip(nli) (not verified)
July 4, 2011 4:01 PM

I'm really sorry to hijack this thread and to post something so long, but I'm desperate! My baby is here and I have namer's remorse! Below is a cut-and-paste of a submission I made a few days ago to Swistle. She hasn't published it yet, but I really could use the help. Thanks!

We just named our new baby girl Vivian Pearl, and now we're not sure! She's 11 days old today. We really wanted to use Josephine to honor a relative (DH's very cool grandpa named Joseph), but we chickened out on doing Vivian Josephine because I worried that the initials had teasing potential (VJ, which is text slang for vagina). It also seemed to be a bit of a mouthful compared to her sister's name (Sylvia Grace, usually called Sylvie). But now I feel terribly that we didn't use a family name, especially since we did for my first daughter (Grace after my grandmother).

So, now we're thinking we want to change it. We have to do so by next Wednesday (2 days from now!), when the pediatrician can certify a new name. After that, the route to change it gets much more complicated. We either want to change it to the possibly tease-worthy Vivian Josephine, or to Josephine Pearl. Last name sounds like "Brew-so," but looks very French.

I love the sound of both Vivian and Josephine, so I could go either way there. I think I prefer the full Vivian slightly over Josephine, yet I am finding Viv/Vivi/ a little less natural to say than I would have thought, especially Viv. But I'm sure I would get used to that over time. I've also already been asked how it's spelled a lot, and one of my hopes for my child's name is that it would not be misspelled or mispronounced since I grew up with a challenging name and am very weary of having to spell and pronounce it all the time now.

Over this past week, I've been thinking she looks a more like a Josephine, but that obviously can change since she's still mostly a wrinkly little thing. She is fair, long, and petite, her eyes are currently a muddy blue, she has a straight non-baby-like nose, and she has darker hair than her blonde sister, but it is still on the light side of brown (with perhaps a touch of red). Just today, though, I really thought she was starting to resemble a Vivian. I probably shouldn't even consider her looks, though, since her sister looks absolutely nothing like she did as a newborn.

I would try to just call her Josephine if we named her that, but since shortening is likely inevitable, I'm OK with Josie. Not head over heels with it, but I like it. Vivian would probably be Viv or Vivi. Oh, and one thing about Josie - I pronounce it "Jo-zee" while my husband says "Jo-see." That might get annoying. I know Josephine has lots of other nickname potential, some of which I really like (Posey, Effie, Fee), but they all frankly seem a little bit of a stretch and I'm not sure I'd really use them in the day-to-day (though maybe I would). Posey would be the most likely out of the three, but I don't think my husband would go for it, since it doesn't even rhyme with his pronunciation of Josie.

I like the more hefty historical precedence of Josephine and, silly as this is, I love that there are so many songs dedicated to Josephines. I made an album of all the Sylvia/Sylvie songs I could find for my first, and I'd love to do that for #2. There are almost no songs dedicated to Vivians. I think this is probably a really silly reason to change someone's name, but it's another factor in my mind.

Please help! We really need advice! Is VJ really worth worrying about or am I over thinking that? Is Vivian Josephine too much of a mouthful? Does Josephine Pearl sound good with Sylvia Grace? What would you name her? Oh man, we had 9 months to think about this, and we still can't decide!

Thanks you for any and all opinions! 36 hours left to act (or not)!

July 4, 2011 5:01 PM

Pip-Let me first say that it's YOUR child, YOUR/HER name, and YOUR final decision you have to live with...but since you asked for help-
I remember your original inquiry to the board, you may want to search out the responses to that as well. Both names are equally nice as far as flow and frenchiness to go with your LN. My personal feeling re: Vivan vs. Josephine are mixed. I don't care for Viv but do like Josie. I wouldn't care about misspelling-people will figure it out eventually. As far as the songs go, I'm sure you can find meaningful songs for a Vivian even if they don't have the name in them. I think Josephine Pearl matches better with Sylvia Grace and I think it's great to name after a relative. Maybe you could use all 3: Vivian Josephine Pearl. It's a tough decision-let us know.

By alr as guest (not verified)
July 4, 2011 5:27 PM

Pip- I wouldn't worry AT ALL about the VJ thing. Kids will find tease-worthy nicknames for anything if they try hard enough, and I don't even think "VJ" is as obvious as you might be thinking. (I never would have thought of it.) I also don't think Vivian Josephine is too much of a mouthful or weighty to pair with Sylvia Grace. If your gut says to go that way, don't shy away based on either of those two reasons. I quite love the name both as a stand alone, and in your sibset. That said, Josephine Pearl is also lovely and I honestly don't think you could go wrong either way!

By walshe44 (not verified)
July 4, 2011 7:59 PM

Trust your instincts; the VJ thing doesn't seem like should be a big deal, but hey, you thought of it and others will too.

I love, love, love the name Josephine. And Josephine Pearl sounds just lovely with Sylvia Grace. I think if the name was supposed to be Vivian you wouldn't be having namer's remorse--that is, unless you're the type who tends to second-guess with regularity (I am!).

I have a dear friend who was named Angelica for the first week of her life; her mother then changed the name to Shanley, also a family name, like Josephine is for you. And this woman is definitely glad to be a Shanley rather than an Angelica.

Good luck, and post back with your decision!

By Elaine (not verified)
July 4, 2011 9:45 PM

My grandfather (born 1911) was named Allison. When he was a young adult he had it legally changed to Alson, and people called him Al.

(People called him Doc, too, even though he wasn't one, but that has very little to do with his name.)

Even though NameVoyager shows me Allison was a top-1000 name for boys in the 1910s, I've always been amused at the idea of a boy named Alison, because I grew up in a generation and area full to bursting with girl Allisons and Alisons. It always made perfect sense that my grandfather changed it the first chance he got.

By Cecily (not verified)
July 4, 2011 10:02 PM


I'd also like to reassure you about VJ. Her initials will be VB; no one in her class will even think about her middle name. Go with Vivian Josephine, if you like it best. All the names are beautiful. Your kid will be made fun of for something else entirely :)

As for the spelling, Vivian is the traditional choice. There are so many "kreative" names out there that people just want to check. Don't worry about it.

By Cecily (not verified)
July 4, 2011 10:03 PM

Also, VJ for vagina wouldn't occur to me, either. There isn't even a "J" in "vagina."

By Kern (not verified)
July 4, 2011 10:10 PM

Pip, I wouldn't worry about the VJ thing. It's not like the MN is often used in public. Sounds like you're overthinking it a bit--go with your gut.

I too am sorry to hijack so early, but I did wait til comment #52 before the database failure... we had Ansel picked for a boy but found out last week we're having a girl. I had been almost set on Ottilie (OTT-uh-lee) but DH is worried it's too rhymey with our last name (sounds like Hardy).

So another option we're now considering is Cora, but I see it's rising and I don't want to inadvertently use the next Emma/Isabella/Ava. What do you all think--is it rising but never going to be top 30? Final option is Cora Jane (as one first name) in part after DH's grandmother Mary Jane who went by Jane.

By ClaireS (not verified)
July 4, 2011 10:24 PM

I'm so sorry you're so stressed about your daughter's name in addition to all the post-partum hormones:) My main worry about Vivian would be the similarity of Sylvie and Vivi--that's a mouthful to call for dinner:) Sylvie and Josie I think are nice together, and the difference in pronunciations might be a good thing, since it means she'll be used to them both so she won't be offended when people pronounce it differently out in the world.
Good luck--whatever you choose will be HER.

By JB1112 (not verified)
July 4, 2011 10:35 PM

Your post sounds like you really want Josephine. Go for it! And why scrap Vivian altogether? Can Josephine Vivian be an option?

Her initials didn't stand out to me as they likely won't to many people--especially children, since most don't make use of both their first and middle names. However, once you pointed out that they'd be "VJ," my mind immediately went to the slang for "vagina." Sorry. That said, I agree with others that that's not reason enough to avoid a name you love. I would anticipate that it would likely be a non-issue throughout her life.

July 4, 2011 11:36 PM

Regarding the initials, the only way that anyone is ever going to think about her first and middle initials alone, without her last initial, is if you call her by both names on a regular basis. I have never ever thought of my initials as First middle. Ever. I'm either my first and last or all three names. My husband's mother, however, called him by his (very embarrassing) first and middle initials, B.J., so that was something that was evident to others. Otherwise, no one would have ever known!

By mk (not verified)
July 5, 2011 1:40 AM

Pip: VJ as slang for vagina is news to me. By the time kids are old enough to understand what it means well enough to tease it could very well be outdated and no longer used anyway. Besides, like others said, most people ignore middle names unless the person actively uses it (say, by going by the nickname VJ), so they will think of her initials as VB.

I'm kind of sad to here about the switch from Angelica. I love that name! I do know someone who switched her son's name a week after he was born to her original choice, and she is glad she did.

By Amy3
July 5, 2011 7:45 AM

@Laura, sorry about your database snafu. There were some great comments about this post originally. It's too bad they've disappeared.

@Pip, it sounds to me as though you should work Josephine in there. If you're concerned about VJ (and I can see how it could become a teasing point, esp for middle-school aged kids) then why not Josephine Vivian? I also love Josephine Pearl.

As for pronouncing Josie differently, someone here has mentioned a girl whose parents say her name - Lena, maybe - differently. I agree that might make your daughter more flexible as to others' pronunciations of her name.

@Kern, I'm sure Cora will continue to rise, but I'd be surprised if she really took off into top-of-the-chart territory. I think Cora Jane is delightful - like a spunky heroine out of a storybook.

July 5, 2011 9:50 AM

Pip-I wanted to also add a comment about the initials. My dd has initials that correspond to an organizations initials (NRA). I didn't realize this till we were out of the hospital and it was too big of a hassle to change. She is 8 now and I think it's been mentioned by others maybe 1 or 2 times. So initials really aren't a big deal unless they spell an actual bad word.

Kern-Are you in the USA? I think I remember you are NOT. Cora is a lovely name, Ottilie is nms. But just because I don't care for it doesn't mean its not the right name for you. I don't think Cora will rise in astronomical proportions. Cora Jane is pretty. Ottilie Jane will have the initials OJ if that concerns you as in Pip's dilemma.

By Kern (not verified)
July 5, 2011 10:39 AM

Zoerhenne--thanks. I am in the US. We wouldn't use Jane with Ottilie, I just think Cora-Jane has a nice sound to it. In that case the MN would likely be my last name.

By Max (not verified)
July 5, 2011 11:45 AM

As the (lone?) guy around here, I'd discourage you from using VJ as initials. If your last names starts with B, I suppose it's doable. But if your last name also begins with J, ye gods! (That would leave you with VaJayJay. Once an eighth grade boy gets hold of that, he will never let go.)

@ Kern - Don't give up on Ottilie! I think it sounds lovely. And Ottilie Hardy sounds like some great girl detective in a children's story.

By hyz nli (not verified)
July 5, 2011 12:17 PM

Pip, I'd like to ditto Karyn's comment. I think VJ is a non-issue for that reason. It's also not the first thing I think of when I hear those initials--I think of V-J Day (ending WWII). So I think Vivian Josephine would be totally fine, and lovely. I have to admit that I prefer Josephine Pearl, though--it's ravishing. I think Sylvie and Josie go together better as nns than Sylvie and Vivi, and I just love Pearl. I think any combination of names you choose here will be great--you can't lose. As for the Jo-zee vs. Jo-ssee issue, I don't think it would bother you too much over time--almost sounds like more of an accent thing than a real pronunciation difference, to me. And I like the idea of Posey as a nn, too--if it were me, I'd probably end up calling her Josie-Posey a lot (or, to be honest, something more ridiculous like Josey Posey Pumpkin Pie, because that's how I roll), and then shortening it back to Posey, which would make it feel petty natural/organic. Good luck!

Kern, sorry to hear you won't get to use Ansel this time, but I think Cora is nice. I haven't met or heard of any in my extended circles, so it doesn't sound too common to me. I also think Cora Jane is pretty adorable, although I have mixed feelings on combined names. They are sweet and charming, but can be a mouthful, and I think they can be too much on an adult. I would definitely leave it as two words with no hyphen, so she'd have the choice to just go by Cora later in life if she so chose.

By AMC80 (not verified)
July 5, 2011 1:26 PM

I'm an Allyson with a Y, so I thought this article was pretty interesting. Especially the part about June Allyson. I'm somewhat named after her- she was friends with my mom's friend's mom, and my mom's friend's middle name is Allyson after June Allyson. My mom liked is so she used it for me. I really wish she would have used an I instead of a Y, though. Constantly correcting people on the spelling gets old.

July 5, 2011 3:42 PM

When I read the initials VJ, I thought "video deejay." Not genitalia. And previous posters are correct in that her oft-used initials would be VB. Nothing there to stop you from using the name you love, in my opinion.

I know a little three-year-old Vivian who goes by Viv. Her little brother is Wesley.

By C. Andrews (not verified)
July 5, 2011 3:52 PM

The problem is that people don't distinguish between Allison, which doesn't mean "son of [X]," and Madison, Emerson, and Addison, which do. This is why it's good to know the meaning of a name before you bestow it on a child. And don't forget that the use of the name Madison was intended as a joke in "Splash," precisely because it was so ill-suited. As Tom Hanks' character said in the movie, "Madison? That's not a name!"

Same thing goes for "Mc" and "Mac" names. They also mean "son of [X}." Sorry, little girl MacKenzies out there.

By TM (not verified)
July 5, 2011 3:54 PM

@Pip: Honestly, the VJ thing might bother me a little, but if you really love the name then go for it. I can sympathize a bit with wanting to name the second after someone like the first. (My first has all sorts of meaning behind her name, and now it seems odd to name the second one something "just because we liked it.") Not sure what we're going to do yet . . . I think it's nice to have some meaning behind a name though so I guess I'd probably go with Vivian Josephine.

@Kern: Ottilie might be hard for people to figure out how to pronounce. I was set on Cora for my baby that's due in Oct. until I found out there was already one in my husband's extended family. (Named Kora though.) I'm looking at Nora for this one and have gotten a positive response from everyone I've mentioned it to, so I think Cora would likely be equally as well-liked.

That said, which is best?
Nora Annmarie,
Nora Marianna,
Nora Janet, or
Elizabeth Annemarie.
We're stuck and I'd really like to use Ann, Marie, or Janet in there somewhere. (DD is Julia Rose.)
Elizabeth would likely be Elle or Ellie as a nn. I'm not fond of any of the other nicknames.
Also, does Della sound dowdy? Can't sell DH on Della.

By Short_thumbs (not verified)
July 5, 2011 4:00 PM

I'm a bit confused about the etymology discussion in the original post—maybe somebody can clear this up for me?

I think what people are debating is the usage of female name + son or just plain traditionally male names / surnames that end in -son for girls. If "Alison is an old Norman French pet form of Alice" and Alice itself has always been a female name, then whether or not it has -son in it is not really relevant to the etymology of other male names, am I right? We're talking about old French / Norman diminutives for female names vs English surnames... so that really isn't relevant that another name exists from another language that has (by coincidence) the same element in it. It would be like comparing Dorcas (a Hebrew feminine name) with Doran (an Irish male name) because they appear to have the same Dor- element. But they do not have the same etymology and are therefore linguistically unrelated.

Now, all that aside—name your kid what you want. I really don't care and we're picking some unusual names for our kiddo too, so really, it's not that big of a deal. I was just perplexed about what linguistic argument the original poster was making. :)

By TrixiesMom (not verified)
July 5, 2011 4:04 PM


I have a 2-yr-old Josephine, and I have moments when I wonder about all the other wonderful names on my list, and if one would be better, so I feel ya! We call our daughter Josie, and it gets pronounced both ways, and we don't even notice. We also rotate all kinds of other nicknames around, and think she might pick one for herself when she is older.

I came to Josephine because I wanted a strong name, that was traditional, had a lot of nicknames and didn't sound at all trendy. Vivian is a great name too, and I love all the flower names. You are on the right track, and you will make the right decision, even if you sometimes lie awake at night wondering "what if". Good luck!

By Alli (not verified)
July 5, 2011 4:46 PM

Kern - I love the name Cora, but am not a big fan of double-barreled first names. I don't think Ottilie "Hardy" sounds too rhyme-y, maybe because of the differences in syllables/rhythm of the two names.

TM - I really like Nora. Personally, I'm not really feeling any of the middle name combos. What about just keeping it simple with Nora Anne or Nora Marie? I feel like those match better with Julia Rose (which is a great name, by the way).
I totally agree with you on nicknames for Elizabeth. I'm a fan of the full name and Ellie/Elle, but not Lizzie, Liz, Beth, Betsy, Betty...

By Guest 1 (not verified)
July 5, 2011 4:48 PM


Of the ones that you posted, I would probably choose Nora Marianna. I also really like Della - it sounds like a cute, spunky little girl - not dowdy at all. I think Della Marie flows nicely. (I, too, have a Julia Rose, so it sounds like our naming styles might be similar).

July 5, 2011 4:49 PM

"It would be like comparing Dorcas (a Hebrew feminine name)...."

Um, Dorcas is Greek, not Hebrew. In the Greek scriptures Dorcas is a translation of the Aramaic (not Hebrew) name Tabitha. Both names mean 'gazelle'. But certainly the Greek Dorcas has nothing to do with the Irish Doran.

July 5, 2011 4:51 PM


You could also shorten Josephine to Jo.

If you're looking for a name to split the difference between Josephine and Vivian, I'd personally be willing to completely invent a new name and call her Josivian. Rare names like Jova or the Serbian Jovana might work too, but they aren't Josephs anymore. My instinct is to keep Josephine Pearl--that's the combination I like best.

July 5, 2011 5:02 PM


I like both Ottilie and Cora (Cora Jane is very good). But if the husband is worried about rhyming with Ottilie, there are other names that could be used: Odette, Odalis, Odile.

What do you think of Corisande?

By izzy nli (not verified)
July 5, 2011 5:14 PM

@pip: Honestly, go with what you love. That being said, I would vote for Josephine Pearl. I love love love Josephine, and there are plenty of nns to choose from, (Jo, Josie, Sophie, Fifi, Effie). Gorgeous name, and it goes very well with her sister's name, and as someone else said, Vivi and Sylvie are maybe a little too similar. So, I prefer Josephine Pearl. Regardless, any choice you make is right.

@Kern: I really like Cora Jane, but I wouldn't hyphenate them. Ottilie is a very pretty name ,and I would go for that. I don't think it seems exceedingly rhyme-y. But, OJ would be a problem in the US (especially after the Casey Anthony 'Not Guilty' today - "The 21st Century OJ Simpson." I've heard that 10 times in the past half-hour!)

@TM: I love Nora Annemarie. Also, I think Norah-with-an-H is a really pretty spelling. A little more fanciful, perhaps, but very pretty. Either way, it is pretty, but I slightly prefer Norah.

By TM (not verified)
July 5, 2011 5:21 PM

Thanks for the input. I feel like Marie as a mn is so overused that it needs something with it, but maybe not. I would pick Nora Anne, but I don't know if I can get over the whole "ends in a then starts with a" thing. Maybe that's just me. I just don't know if Nora Marie is "enough." Plus, she'd really be named after my aunt, but my mil, sil, and two nieces have that middle name as well.

Glad to hear at least one vote that Della doesn't sound dowdy! The namesake was a Berdella, so it would be after her. I usually get weird looks and responses of, "Well, that's different," when I ask people about Della. It's not so different from Ella, right?? I'll keep working on DH . . . Nora Berdella perhaps?

By mk (not verified)
July 5, 2011 6:21 PM

TM: I like Nora Janet, actually. Janet is not common like Anne and Marie are, and I think Nora Janet sounds cute. Or what about Nora Mary or Nora Jane?

By Pamela S (not verified)
July 5, 2011 6:42 PM

Names can be identical and still unrelated, as in the Hebrew Ariel "lion of God", a man's name, or the Little Mermaid girl name that, according to the baby books (whose accuracy is NOT to be depended upon), means "water sprite". As far as Allison is concerned, I always figured it meant "Son of Allistair", though I have read the explanation that it's a diminutive of Alice. I would think though, that if that were the case... wouldn't there be other girl names of French origin that end with -son?

Anyway, yeah, the -son names on girls bugs the heck out of me, as do the Mc and Mac names on girls, same meaning. It just ... I dunno... I regret the fact that my name means nothing at all, that my parents put no more thought into its meaning other than the fact that they thought it sounded pretty. I think names can have tremendous importance and can be a real gift to a child, and somehow, to me... it just seems like a cop-out to go with what sounds trendy or pretty and not digging into it any more deeply than that. And now, we do have baby name books contributing to that superficiality by recording that 'Madison' is "a feminine form of Matthew". I think that's even worse than all the baby books which report that my name means "all honey" or "sweat as honey" or some other such sweet thing from the Greek. It's just something a novelist made up back in the 1800's and it has nothing to do with honey or Greek or anything else but that one novel.

When you look at the depth of meaning the Hebrew names have, with the superficial meaning of the root words, the numerical values of the Hebrew characters, the pictographic meanings of the characters, the Rabbinical meaning of the pictographs.... (Check out the levels of meaning for Channa/Anna/Hannah, for example) Slapping 'Madison', 'McKenzie', or 'Pamela' on a kid 'cause it sounds pretty, seems pretty meaningless.

July 5, 2011 6:54 PM

Max: You're not the only guy here; I'm one (and I've posted here for quite awhile). Yes, my name is Kelly and I'm male (which is why I put the "XY" at the end of my name since there many be another "Kelly" here).

July 5, 2011 7:23 PM

"As far as Allison is concerned, I always figured it meant "Son of Allistair", though I have read the explanation that it's a diminutive of Alice. I would think though, that if that were the case... wouldn't there be other girl names of French origin that end with -son?"

Alison is not a -son name. A common Middle English spelling is Alysoun. The 's' belongs to Alys (Alice), so the name should be broken down as Alis-on, not Ali-son. Other examples of French feminine diminutives ending in -on are Marion, Manon (diminutive of Marie) and Ninon (diminutive of Anne).

July 5, 2011 7:31 PM

Pip@#3: OK, we're moving into the realm of total personal preference here, so feel free to take anything I write with a grain of salt.

Middle names never get used, but sibling names get said out loud, in succession, all the time, and I think that "Sylvia" and "Vivian" together are indeed a mouthful. I'd worry more about that than whether Vivian Josephine is too much of a mouthful (for what it's worth, I think it's fine).

I'd be inclined to stay away from the initials VJ. I'm a 38-year-old woman, but when I see those letters together, the 14-year-old boy part of my brain automatically wants to say "Vajayjay". Not a good nickname. :-)

Josephine Pearl and Sylvia Grace have the exact same rhythm, and the names are stylistically similar, yet not too matchy-matchy. I'd be inclined to go with that, to be honest. Then you'll be shouting "Sylvie! Jo!" across the playground instead of "Sylvie! Viv!". It's just better. Plus, Josephine Pearl is a pretty name in its own right.

By mk (not verified)
July 5, 2011 8:30 PM

If we are going to argue that -son names on a girl are meaningless, then we will have to argue the same for a boy, unless he is actually "son of [X]". I don't even like the majority of -son or Mc- names but I don't have a problem with people using them.

Naming your child something because you like it is a perfectly reasonable thing to do and in fact does have meaning.

July 5, 2011 8:36 PM

TM-I like Nora Janet and also Nora Marianna. It doesn't bother me that the fn and mn both end in -a. I think Nora Anne is a bit plain. Nora Marie, yes seems filler. I'm guessing you dont want ot use Janet as a first to avoid the same initial. Della is kind of cute and spunky as another poster said. How about: Annabelle, Jamie (to emphasize all the namesakes), Ellen, Maren, Janelle, or some other combination/extrapolation of two of the names combined??

Short thumbs-You've got it all. Alison is NOT the same as Madison and the others. Laura was stating where they were all derived from and mentioning how Madison is used for girls because its trendy and Alison is not, even though it ends in -son.

Pamela-I like that name. Do all names have to mean something substantial in order to BE substantial?

Kern-How about something of a combo name such as Cordelia?

By Short_thumbs (not verified)
July 5, 2011 9:05 PM

Ack! My bad, you are completely correct. Sorry 'bout that. :)

By alr as guest (not verified)
July 5, 2011 10:38 PM

Forgive me for not addressing these to the right people, I'm trying to be fast:

I love Cora! And I don't think it will be too popular, so I don't think it needs the "Jane." I like it better alone.

I also love Della! And I don't think it's too out there. That being said, this was on my list of potential middle names for our next daughter (also in honor of a family member) but DH just couldn't get behind it. So I feel your pain.

I also love Nora! (I really wanted to use it, but our last name starts with "Ra-") As I recall, Marianne wasn't on your list of middles? Did you say why? I think Nora Marianne is lovely! Nora Mariana is too many "a" endings for me, personally.

...and for what it's worth, I don't love all names -- just happen to really like the ones being discussed on this board currently. ;) But I can be discerning, I swear.

By wadfweftw2 (not verified)
July 5, 2011 11:05 PM

@Pip: I LOVE Josephine Pearl. I think you can't go wrong with it. The plethora of nicknames is something I envy. It was always hard for me to come up with nicknames when I was younger, so I ended up just going with "D" which is pretty boring. I am not a huge fan of the name Vivian because to me it still sounds like a grandma's name. Also, as far as the VJ thing goes, I would definitely caution against it. I am a college student and although this may speak to my demographic I made the jump immediately. And to people who say there is not "j" in vagina, there is, however a "j" in vaj, which is the one-syllable abbreviation for vagina which is then shortened to vj in texts.
Good luck! I vote for changing it today!

By cateycae (not verified)
July 5, 2011 11:32 PM

TM- I love Nora- was our girl name for this last go-round... it was to be Nora Hazel; I like Nora Elizabeth- it's just me, but I don't like a name ending with an "a" & the middle one starting with an "a". Good luck!

We are expecting #4 & are in a naming rut- we love Celtic names, & aren't finding out- what sounds good with Megan Charlotte, Rhys Martin, & Finn Patrick? Thanks!

By Dr Brooks (not verified)
July 6, 2011 12:06 AM

Josephine is, in my opinion, the prettier first name. And as many pointed out, there are good nn options.

By just me (not verified)
July 6, 2011 12:48 AM

Pip-- VJ isn't great. My husband's first and middle names are Brian John, and he has grown up HATING the BJ initials. I didn't think it was a big deal, but he assures me that it is.

July 6, 2011 2:02 AM

I commented already, and only just now read through the other comments. Some say that the initials VJ are not a big deal (especially since the last name begins with B, so the actual initials are VJB). I've already cautioned against using VJ, but the more I think about it, the more strongly I feel. It's very common slang. It's not just a texting thing anymore. Like I said, I'm 38, so I'm not even in that demographic (and I don't text), yet I immediately make the jump from VJ to vagina. Vajayjay it such a catchy word.

I've taught a lot of teenaged boys, too. Believe me, once one of them discovers a girl's initials are VJ, they will not let it go!

July 6, 2011 2:03 AM

@Pip: I commented on this earlier today, and only just now read through the other comments. Some say that the initials VJ are not a big deal (especially since the last name begins with B, so the actual initials are VJB). I've already cautioned against using VJ, but the more I think about it, the more strongly I feel. It's very common slang. It's not just a texting thing anymore. Like I said, I'm 38, so I'm not even in that demographic (and I don't text), yet I immediately make the jump from VJ to vagina. Vajayjay it such a catchy word.

I've taught a lot of teenaged boys, too. Believe me, once one of them discovers a girl's initials are VJ, they will not let it go!

By Guest1234 (not verified)
July 6, 2011 8:04 AM

Attention Baby Name Nazis:

I’ve been a’lurking here awhile, reading the blogs here, but on this topic, I just couldn’t be silent. I find it so terribly insulting that some of you can sit here and assume that just because someone isn’t thinking YOUR thoughts on a name than they’re just NOT putting any thought into it. I pour over baby names, go to countless websites (this being my favorite!), and spend hours combining and arranging my favorites. Baby names matter to me. Just because the meaning and history doesn’t mean everything to me, doesn’t make me less of a person.

When I was 10 I cared immensely what my name meant. Then I grew up. I realized, for me, it’s interesting, but would rarely make or break a name for me (only in extreme cases). I could sit here and poke fun at you and say it’s corny and juvenile to put so much weight behind what a name originally meant. But I have the presence of mind to realize it matters to you and we’re just not the same. Doesn’t mean you’re an idiot, just means we come from different backgrounds and see things differently. In other words, we’re human. So why the rude, stuck-up sounding comments on the issue? Seriously!

Besides, what’s funny is I was reading Laura’s blog and feeling very interested because I happen to like a certain “-son” name if my husband and I end up having a girl. I had never wrestled with the “-son” issue since it seems overall accepted at this point. I started having second thoughts as I read her blog just better understanding the situation. Then I read some persnickety comments and found myself not caring at all. Here’s the thing, if you actually want to convince people of the argument you’re making, try harder not to degrade and insult people who may differ in opinion. It works wonders for arguments to handle it in a kind, gentle manner. You can feel strongly about something without making yourself sound like a snob. Honestly, you writing these comments--your name may mean “sweet, gracious, perfection” but if you treat people in a jerkish manner, what does it really matter in the end?

I’m done. Some of these responses just made me sick to my stomach (or maybe that was the morning sickness....) and I just felt like spewing my two cents worth.

July 6, 2011 8:24 AM


You're right, it works wonders for arguments to handle it in a kind, gentle manner.

By Kern (not verified)
July 6, 2011 8:26 AM

Another vote for Della not being too fuddy duddy.

cateycae--how about Maeve for a girl?

linneaus, thanks for the Corisande suggestion, which is intriguing. DH is basically ready to call her Cora and be done. I still have several months to go so I'm going to stew on it for a bit.