Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Morag? Hildegaard? Euphemia?... Baby Name Adventures!

The Babe remains Nameless. She is blissfully nameless, but her parents slightly less blissful. I have struggled with a baby naming addiction for three years now, spending hours and hours and hours researching names and thinking about names. In the past I have explained and justified this habit by connecting my name obsession with my interest in language (the necessary precision and suggestive mystery of words). Poetry attempts to name reality, the world that we interact with/move through/leave behind—when we name our children we presume to name another en-souled body, another person. How strange! What a privilege! What a frightening responsibility!

Apparently we are failing in this responsibility. It - is - so – hard! This is the post where I ask your help.

My name must be perfect and possess these qualities:

1. 1. Significance (especially religious, though not limited to)

2. 2. Family Connection (Most of our rejects did not fill this category…)

3. 3. Beauty (and that doesn’t mean sibilant, vowel-y frillies like Isabella, Eleanora, Olivia, etc. We are very much attracted to the more Germanic sounding consonant-heavy monikers as well.)

4. 4. Rarity (I have the social security list of top 1000 names practically memorized. My first name was one of those *very* popular choices back in the 80s, and I disliked being one of many mes in any group. Thankfully, my name was a popular CLASSIC which I love. Still, T.M. and I tend to gravitate toward those names which do not appear on the popularity chart at all, or are ranked no higher than 200…This excludes many nice names such as Sophia, Emma, Audrey and Charlotte.)

A name that fulfills each of these requirements...This isn’t so much to ask—right? WRONG. Though I have a list of hundreds of names we like—nothing has blossomed, nothing sparks joy when I refer to my Inside Baby as Miss X or Little Y. SO, I appeal to you, gentle readers, for help. Below I list a few names from our list—names that have been rejected over the past months. This will give you a feel for our taste. Are any of these old favorites worth saving? Have we missed something similar or related? Your suggestions!!

Iris. I love the sound of Iris—striking, clean, easily recognizable and pronounceable. Though it has no direct family or religious connection, Iris has remained high on our list…till last week when we attempted to call the Small One Iris for a whole day. Something (??) didn’t feel right. Maybe too striking? Cold?

Imogen. I love Imogen. T.M. does not. Imogen is very popular here in the UK as well as Australia. Why haven’t parents Stateside caught on? Easily pronounced (Imma-gen) and bearing similarities to such perennial favorites like Emma and Jennifer. Imogen is the heroine in Willy S’s Cymbeline, virtuous and beautiful. What is the problem here?

Georgia. A feminization of George with the very cute nick-name of Georgie. I am an anglophile. I love St George. I love the sound of this name. But--the State. “Georgia Winter” sounds like the title of a song. Stink.

Lucy. Once again, we’ve got our saint—a virgin martyr no less! And an appealing meaning—light. Adorable sound. Everyone loves the name Lucy. And everyone naming babies loves the name Lucy, which ranked 112 in 2008 (and is still rising). Not going to happen.

Audrey: Same problem as above. Ranked 51 in 2008 and rising.

Beatrice: I like Beatrice a lot, but she sounds cold and too formal for me. I don’t like the nicknames “Bea” or “Trixie.”

Jane: A feminization of John. I love the apostle St John and so have always been attracted to Jane, which I find elegant and simple. But—Jane is plain. Too plain.

Isadora: A feminization of Isadore, and a saints name! Easily pronounceable though very rare. I like the idea of calling her Ida. However: she sounds very close to the white-hot Isabella. AND Isadora Winter sounds like a sentence: “Is a door a winter?”

Consuelo: Spanish name meaning Consolation (especially Our Lady of Consolation). I love the sound. However, I worry that my perhaps-blond daughter might not be able to wear such an exotic moniker. Besides the fact that we are moving back to the boring Midwest where names like “Sophie” and “Charlotte” are considered bold and inventive.

Paloma: I – love – Paloma. Paloma means “dove” in Spanish, which symbolizes the Holy Spirit as well as peace. I love the sound of Paloma. It is beautiful and easy to pronounce even for Mid-west Anglo Americans. If no one else in the world existed, Paloma would be a constant contender for first place. But—once again—whitey white Midwesterners, blond baby, and our own fears about our family’s reaction, keeps Paloma off the table…or safely in the middle spot on the birth certificate.

Jemima: Jemima is our true love. Jemima trumps every name on our list—including Paloma and all the real possibilities we are still keeping secret. We both love Jemima with our whole hearts. The biblical Jemima was the daughter of Job—born after he was restored. A blessing and a renewal. Like Paloma, Jemima means “dove.” Have I mentioned? I love this name. BUT. Jemima, as I have been told time and again, has pancake issues. And worse—carries all sorts of racist baggage, since “Aunt Jemima” brand depicts a stereotyped “mammie” figure on all its boxes. I cry for Jemima, which has none of these problems here in the UK. Here she remains Job's daughter, or the adorable child from Chittie Chittie Bang Bang or Beatrix Potter’s Jemima Puddleduck. Rawrg!

So, here is our reject pile, which sadly includes our Best Beloveds. Any thoughts? Are there any we can pull out and use after all? Can you think of any other names we might have missed???

Thank you!!!


  1. Lol, sorry can't help (although I do like Jemima) - was drawn into your blog from british catholic blogs simply because my grandmother is a Euphemia (or rather, Eufemia).

    Random suggestion - Siri? It's 'Iris' spelt backwards, and the only person I know of who has that name is the writer Siri Husvedt, so it may well be rare.

  2. Hello M.E.! "Siri," I discover, is a diminutive form of the Norse "Sigrid" which means "fair victory." How charming!

  3. I like your rejects! Is Paloma really too crazy? I think it's amazing. Plus, the trick is not to tell your padres and padres-in-law (hi! are you reading this blog? We love you!) until the babe is born, and then they can't help but love her and her name. Or how about a double name that involves Jane? That is not so plain. But can people outside the South get by with double names? This is something I have wondered often when naming my nonexistent children.
    I have more to say on this topic but do not want to be overwhelming.

  4. Ali--
    Thanks for the Paloma love... AND--double names are awesome. I support your use of them in places outside the south! However--there is a kids book here in Scotland that uses a very uniquely Scottish double name: "Katie-Morag." Maybe skip "Morag"?

  5. Paloma Jane Winter. Nice to meet you.
    love, ALi
    (this might say Preston bc he is logged into google)

  6. I think that whatever name you choose (and that includes your beloved Jemima!) will quickly become attached to that little one...and in your world and hers and everyone who knows her, any outside connotations will fade away. You will choose the perfect name for your little girl, and she will be perfect for her name!

    I must also say that I cracked up at "Is a door a winter?" And that when I ponder names for potential future children, I too, have struck names from the list because of associated nicknames.

  7. Thank you Dancing L! I'm sure we will think of something!! And I will just be happy if she has all the necessary parts.

    Ali--Paloma Jane is very nearly perfect.

  8. I need to be stopped. But if you like Georgia, how about Georgina? Georgina Winter does not sound like a song -- unless it is a country song about falling in love with a beautiful thin poetical girl named Georgina.
    Positive association: I have met one Georgina at church who is one of the prettiest, nicest people ever (and is in her 20s and makes the name glam).

  9. Is Katherine too obvious/too high on the popular list? It's your name and the name of a Saint.
    I vote Paloma. It makes me think of a palomino and what little girl wouldn't love to have a name so close to such an elegant being?

  10. Ali--Georgina is somewhere on the my "keep" list. D. isn't quite convinced, but I very much like it! And you could still call her "Georgie," which I love.

    Brandy--my middle name is "Kathryn," which I don't like quite as much as "Katherine." It's my grandmother's name. I have though, known too many people named Katherine/Kathryn/Catherine, and have some unfortunate associations. It is quite an elegant name in itself!

  11. Just don't name the child after an old girlfriend of T.M. - one of our criteria for naming you. Also, Beatrice was our librarian in high school and we never dignified that name by pronouncing it correctly. Or, do what some celebrities in Hollywood do and don't immediately name the child upon birth. Wait a few days. Observe the child and determine what name fits best....like "Apple" or "Blanket" or........

  12. Dad--
    In the crazy celebrity name vein: Moon Unit (Frank Zappa's Kid) and Moxie CrimeFighter (child of Penn Jillette--whoever that is.)

    Or--in the crazy Scottish name vein: Morag, Donaldina, Morven, or the practically un-pronouncible Fionnghuala.

  13. Paloma leapt right out at me. I don't see why a nice midwestern American baby, who is going to grow up passively learning Spanish anyway, shouldn't be called Paloma. It makes me think of Paloma Picasso, who is (or was) very beautiful. Also of palomino horses, who are also beautiful (and American).

    The problem with Imogen is the Beatles, i.e. "Imogen there's no heaven, it's easy if you try..." ;-)