Victorian Conjoined Twins

Hi all!

In my current novel, set in a "freak show" in an early 1900's circus, there's a set of conjoined twin sisters, who I'm stumped on naming. I have three not very specific criteria, arranged in order from most important to least important: (Ideally, the names should meet all of them, but I could make an exception for a pair I really love.)

1. Very matchy matchy. The names can rhyme (Lora and Cora), have a common theme (Lily and Violet), mean the same thing (Ruby and Rose), be a letter apart (Angelina and Angelica), historically go together (Mary and Martha), or anything else that just comes across as too matchy. I actually like several of these pairings, but most of them don't fit #2 very well.

2. Have nicknames that are not matchy matchy. For example, one of the pairs I'm actively considering is Mary and Martha, with the nicknames Polly and Patty. If one girl went by her nickname, and the other by her full name, you would have either Polly and Martha, or Mary and Patty, which are not at all matchy matchy. My biggest concern with that is that Patty was not very common at that time. I'm also using another 'M' name of approximately the same length for another character

3. Reasonably common. I'm already using quite a few very uncommon names, so I'd like to tip the overall balance back in the "normal" direction. I'd also like to stay away from the Lily, Katherine, Margaret, Angela, and Sophia name families, since I already have a somewhat major character from each of those groups. The twins would have been born around 1880, if that helps.

Thank you so much!


July 22, 2014 5:51 PM

What about Margaret and Mary?

Polly and Meg or Molly and Daisy? 

July 22, 2014 8:24 PM

The old-school Martha nickname was Patsy, rather than Patty if that helps.

July 23, 2014 3:50 PM

There's already a Margaret in the story. She's also often called Midge, which makes me wary of using other 'M' names, especially ones as close in length as Mary and Martha. Patsy is a nickname I hadn't considered (and one which I like a lot better than Patty), but it still doesn't remove the potential confusion between Mary and Midge...

July 23, 2014 8:08 PM

Looking at the 1880 SSA list, I'm thinking Ida and Ada would work for #1 and 3, but the nicknames for #2 would have to be something not-name-related, like Sissy or Bitsy. Ditto for Ava and Eva, Ella and Emma, or even Celia and Delia. Another route would be a semi-obscure "same name twice" pairing, like Maude and Matilda (nicknames Maudie and Tilly/Tilda) or Alice and Adelaide (nicknames Allie and Della) -- or maybe not so obscure, like Bessie and Betty, although that would again present difficulties for #2, as they're already nicknames.

July 24, 2014 12:10 AM

Mary and Martha could meet all of your requirements if you use a P- nickname for one (Polly/Patsy) and an M-nickname for the other (Molly, May, Mamie/Mattie, Marcie). I like Polly and Mattie the best.

July 26, 2014 4:22 PM

I think flower names may be a good way to go--a fairly popular trend in the Victorian/Edwardian era for siblings. Violet and Lavender is a two-fer, with both a floral and color theme; nicknames could be Vi and Lala or, at more of a stretch, Letty and Vinny. Violet and Hyacinth might also be a good pair (Letty and Cinthia).

Even matchier: Violet and Viola, nicknames Letty and Vi.

August 9, 2014 9:46 AM

This may be strange, but I don't quite feel like Violet and Lavender are quite matchy enough, though I love the nn's Letty and Vinny.

I like Violet and Viola, but I'm not sure how most people would pronounce Viola. I'm not that fond of Vee-OL-uh, but VIE-uh-luh and VIE-let are a little too matchy.

My favorite pair is probably Rose and Ruby, but they don't really have any nicknames, and I'm not a fan of names like Sissy and Bitsy. Ruby could maybe go by Bee, but that sounds more like a pet name than something someone would actually go by. They could also be Rose Viola and Ruby Violet, and go by Rose and Letty. It seems slightly far fetched, but they're desperate. And I really like Rose and Letty.

August 9, 2014 2:11 PM

What about Rosemary and Violet? Then you have Rose and Letty as nicknames with plant names as full names?

By EVie
August 9, 2014 10:53 PM

The Rosemary suggestion made me think that you could do something with compound names like Rosemary and Mary-Rose, nicknamed Rosie and Molly or something like that, or Anne-Marie and Marianne nicknamed Annie and Mari.

August 11, 2014 1:54 PM

I have come to a sudden realization that, accompanied by all your great suggestions, has solved all my problems:

I can't use Letty, because I already have two major characters with L names, and I don't want to cause confusion. However, my two L characters are Liliane "Lili" and Lilith, and I've been trying to rename Lili for a while, but liked the name for her too well. (And strangely enough, I absolutely love the name Lilith for the other character.) So I'm going to change Lili's name to Leticia nn Letty (though probably spelled Leti or Letti).

And for the twins...

With Letty out of the running, I'm in love with Rosemary and Mary Rose. they're perfect in every way.

I'm definitely using Rose as Rosemary's nn, but Mary Rose's is still in the air. How likely do you think May or Mattie is to get mixed up with Midge (another character)? If you think it's a problem, I'll use Polly. Otherwise, my only decision left to make is whether I like May or Mattie better.

Thank you all so much!!!


EDIT: I don't know what I was thinking when I put Mattie down as a nickname for Mary Rose... But I like it so much!

And I also realized later that I do have another "R" character, named Raoul. I don't know how much that would clash with Rose, but I think that going with Rosy instead might help solve the problem. Any thoughts on that?

Here's hoping I don't have any more after thoughts...

August 11, 2014 3:55 PM

I think Rosemary and Mary Rose is perfect for the characters. I can perfectly imagine the sort of flummoxed father and exhausted mother who would come up with such a pair of names for their two-in-one daughters.

I applaud your desire to keep the repeating character initials to a minimum -- I'm definitely prone to confusion when there are two many with the same initial. In general, I'm OK with one repeat, as long as the names are "shaped" differently -- noticably different in length, or very different letters besides the first, or a different number of syllables. I think I'd be OK with telling Raoul from either Rose or Rosy, but it'd be easier with Rose, because that's just one syllable, while Raoul is two (I think). The gender difference also helps, since English helpfully has different pronouns for girls versus boys.

Midge versus May would be more problematic for me. It's not that I can't tell one name from the other, it's more that I'd have trouble keeping track of the label-to-character correspondence: wait, which M-name goes with the twin? Part of the problem is that they're both one-syllable names with a highly nicknamey feel, and of course they're the same gender. Unfortunately, I don't think Midge and Mattie is any better: the number of syllables is different, but they're visually very similar, and they both start and end in the same letter. (I vaguely recall something about an experiment: people can read text perfectly well even if the innards of all the words are completely scrambled, as long as the first and last letters are right.)

My vote is for Rose and Polly as the nicknames, not just for easier reading by people like me, but also because I love the thought of actually using Polly as a Mary nickname -- so many people nowadays don't even realize that that's the origin of Polly. (I think if you asked random people on the street, they'd be more likely to come up with an etymology based on the word "parrot".)

August 11, 2014 7:13 PM

Rose and Raoul are kind of similar to me, but not too similar