Is Columbine usable?

I'm currently planning a novel about 6 sisters who all have unusual flower names starting with C. I have to admit, half the fun of this story is the names. ;)

Chamomile (15) "Mila"

Carnation (13) "Cara"

Chrysanthemum (12) "Thea"

Columbine (10) "Bee" (Goes by her full name at school)

Camellia (2) "Mellia" (Usually doesn't go by a nn though)

Clematis (2) "Clem"

They have a dog named Clover. :)


When I was Googling pictures of all the different flowers, I found that the Columbine school shooting is the first thing that comes up. (I had never heard of it, probably because I was a baby when it happened. Yes, I'm that young...) Does that make the name unusable, even in a work of fiction? Would the kind of parents who name their kids Chamomile and Chrysanthemum just not care? I have no sense of the importance of the event, unfortunately, so I just don't know.

If I really can't pull it off, the only other name I have on my list is Calendula (I considered Cassia and Calla, but I don't think they quite fit). The name itself fits her like a glove, but I can't think of a nn I like (Not Callie). Bee is just so perfect for her. She's outgoing and busy, but she's also little, and tends to get brushed aside by her older sisters. And I like that the name is not quite as name-y as the rest, which causes her to avoid using it with her friends. I'd love it if I could come up with another flower name with a B in it, but at the very least I need a timilar nn for whatever I do use...



October 27, 2015 9:55 AM

If the family is not from the US, I think it's workable. If they were from the US and she was born 2006-ish, I would think the parents would have seen some pretty serious push-back about the name even if they themselves didn't mind.

The Columbine shootings were a HUGE deal--mass school shootings today seem almost like business-as-usual, but at that time they were virtually unheard of, especially in high schools. Columbine was seen as a national tragedy--*the* national tragedy for the year-and-a-half until the September 11 terrorist attacks overshadowed it.

If you really want to use the name, I would suggest "tweaking" it a bit to Columbina.

I think Calendula is workable, perhaps with nn Len or Jewel? I confess it does make me think of Caligula, which is not a great association, but that's probably just me.

Other ideas:

Cymbidia (pronounced with a soft-c; cymbidium is a type of orchid--this would let you retain the "Bee" nickname, or possibly use something like "Biddy" which seems like it might also fit. You could even have Bee evolve from Biddy-bee or something)

Cattleya (another type of orchid--sometimes spelled Cataleya when used as a given name, probably to remove the "moo" factor)

Coreopsis or Calliopsis (coreopsis is the scientific name, calliopsis or tickweed is the common name; this is the state wildflower for both Florida and Mississippi)

Canna (sort of like a lily, but different from Calla)

Campanula (better known as bellflower)

Cordia (this is a genus of flowering plants; less familiar than most of the rest here, but I think it sounds particularly name-like)

Calluna (scientific name for heather--again, not as familiar, but would let you use nn Luna if you wanted)

October 27, 2015 1:47 PM

Thank you! This helps a lot with my understanding of the event. :)

Cymbidia and Cattleya feel too unusual to me. The other girls' names are all familiar at least as flowers, if not actually as names. Cymbidia is still in the running, though, if only for its nn's... Biddy is a fun one. :)

Canna and Cordia, like Calla and Cassia, just don't quite fit...

Coreopsis and Calliopsis could work, but, like Calendula, are limited in the nn area.

I like Calluna. If I can't find a way to use Bee, or to get a good nn out of Calendula, I may use this.

My first thought when I saw that Campanula = Bellflower was "Bellflower starts with B!' I could see the family calling her Bella-Bee, which subsequently got shortened to just Bee. Is that way too complicated? I can see explaining it being a bit of a pain... But it's certainly a fun story!


October 27, 2015 3:23 PM

I think cymbidium and cattleya are probably more familiar than you might think, at least to anyone who knows anything about orchids, but they're definitely not as familiar as carnations or camellias.

I think the Bella-bee derivation would work really well. Campanula actually means "little bell" in Latin, so if there's any reason her parents would know that then Bell or Bella would be an obvious nickname.

FYI, I was guessing 2006 as a birth year with the thought that if you finish the story sometime in the next several months, that would be about the time she'd be born to be ten.

Columbine happened in spring of 1999, so 2006 would be less than ten years later, when it was still pretty fresh in people's minds (and her parents would have to be old enough to remember it themselves). If she was actually born in 2004-5, that makes this even more true, since now we're potentially down to within 5 years of the event when her parents were thinking about names.

The main parallel I can think of for this would be the name Isis--it still has tons of history and positive associations, and there might be parents right now who love it so much for one reason or another that they would use, but given recent events I think it's likely to provoke a lot of negative reactions for at least a few more years. Now put the evils that ISIL/ISIS has perpetrated on US soil, with absolutely unavoidable, wall-to-wall coverage for several days and then continuing coverage, anniversary specials, etc. and you'll have a feel for how hard it would have been to name a child Columbine back then.

October 27, 2015 6:22 PM

I'm glad you think so! The more I think about it, the more I like that derivation. And Campanula also has the nn Cami, which I can see her using with her peers (since she considers Bee too babyish).

Oh, I see. I always forget about things like that... I'm actually currently writing another novel that takes place in 2013 because the main character's backstory involves 9/11, and so it can't change in time as I move along. It's interesting, because it's not historical fiction, but pop culture and current events are different.

Oh, that's a really good example. Thank you. :)

October 28, 2015 5:00 AM

It's funny how when writing something set only a few years ago you also have to change all the technology. No one had smart phones back then! And there was only one person in my 20-person class on 9/11 who had a cell-phone... and we were in university!

October 28, 2015 11:56 AM

FWIW, I asked my husband last night what he thought about using Columbine as a given name; his response was "too soon." I think your experience with googling "columbine" is probably your answer--even parents who are too young to personally remember the event are going to be put off by that, unless they're living under a rock.

October 28, 2015 11:21 AM

The thing about Columbine is that now that school and other mass shootings horrifyingly occur on a regular basis, every time there is a new one to report, the news references Columbine.  So the association of Columbine and mass shooting keeps being reinforced.  I can't imagine parents using that name for any daughter born at any time after the shootings, even if they have a pattern of C- flowers and are running out of ideas. 

October 27, 2015 9:59 AM

I think in the context of there being six sisters with C flower names, it's fine. Particularly if you often use "Bee" rather than the full name. Just make sure she´s born pre-2006.

If you just but the word Columbine in front of me, I might think of the school shooting, but in the context of all the others I would think flower.

October 27, 2015 1:38 PM

She would have been born 2004-5, but what happened in 2006? 

October 28, 2015 5:01 AM

Whoops, nothing. I misread the post above. Apparently Columbine was way earlier than that. Alzheimers...

October 27, 2015 6:51 PM

Calla nn Lily

or Calla no nickname. 

or CallaLily nn Calla.

October 27, 2015 10:58 PM

I think Columbine is ok in this context.  It is clearly a part of the flower theme, and younger readers are probably unfamiliar with the tragedy.  Personally, I like reclaiming the beauty of the floral meaning of the name as a small triumph of good over evil.

October 27, 2015 11:26 PM

It's true, my target age range probably would know even less about it than I do, especially considering that by time it's written and published, or whatever I end up doing with it, it'll be even longer since it happened. And I love the idea of it being a triumph over the evil of the shooting. :)

October 27, 2015 11:27 PM

I think I'm probably about twice your age, so I was in high school when Columbine happened. I had a visceral reaction just reading the thread title, as if imagining a baby named Nine Eleven, or "Can I name my baby Hitler?" I find it extremely difficult to imagine an American family, especially a family with an older daughter just entering school, thinking "Columbine" was an appropriate name in the early 2000s.

One way to get around this is set your story in the mid to late 2000s. If the Columbine shooting happened when little girl Columbine was already named, a shift to using a nickname becomes entirely logical. I do like hearing it as a floral, and I like the way this choice might have become a secret burden to an innocent child. It feels reminisent of how the burden of school shootings have affected a generation of innocent chidren, to me.  But the idea of a family, even a free-spirited family, using it post 1999 is unrealistic to me. 

October 28, 2015 7:31 AM

Agree with TKB - it doesn't seem realistic that anyone would name their kid that after the shootings.

October 28, 2015 12:12 PM

It looks like the general consensus is that it's still much too soon to use the name. Which is truly sad, because it's a beautiful name. :(

That said, I'm still looking for alternative names, especially ones that would be nicknamed Bee, or something similarly cute. Right now I'm leaning towards Campanula, "Cami" to friends, and "Bee" at home (Abbreviated from Bella Bee).  

October 28, 2015 4:29 PM

This is totally off your original topic, and not something you asked for at all, but I would vastly prefer the nickname spelled Cammie for a fictional character. Cammie is a name; cami is a piece of underwear. Odd spellings for names without a really compelling reason drive me up the wall in books. (I only mind this in writing--for real people, go ahead and spell your name however, but I don't want to be jarred out of my fictional world by the cognitive dissonance of reminding myself that an Eli is really Ellie every other paragraph.)

November 25, 2015 1:33 AM

Late to the party, but I do have to agree that its too soon for that name to be used. Like TKB I had similar reaction

to seeing the name. I was a senior in high school when it happened. But I am sorry. Its a pretty name and beautiful flower. If it was anytime before that day... But I am sorry I know how much it stinks when a name you like has an unfortunate imagine linked to it. I loved the name Isis, for the goddess (I like many goddess names from different religions) and hate that its now linked to terror.