Friday, November 12, 2010

What's In a Name? Way too Much

When you are expecting a child, there are two things people immediately want to know: "Boy or girl?" and "Do you have any names picked out yet?" I generally don't mind this line of questioning, although I admit it seems a little creepy when complete strangers want to know your name list (not that that's kept me from being said creepy stranger).

Some people want to keep it a secret until the baby is born and I completely agree with their reasoning. But I also put so much weight on names that I like to test them out on the general public beforehand - hear how they sound in conversation, watch people's reactions, hear the stories and associations ("oh my god, I went to school with someone named that and they were awful!"), etc.

This is why - the day we found out it's a girl - I forced Robbie to spend hours talking about names. And the discussion has never really stopped since then. I loved thinking about girl names at the beginning of both previous pregnancies (aka before we knew they weren't applicable), and we had compiled a pretty long list of possibilities.

I thought this would make our decision easy for this baby, but when we reviewed our previous list, 99% of them got the chopping block right away. In the past four years they had either become too popular, been used by someone else we know for their children (or in one case a pet chicken), became associated with someone famous/infamous, or we just plain fell out of love.

We (mostly me) have pored over websites and books, considered character names in novels and movies, learned about famous suffragists and ancient goddesses, and even researched our genealogy for family names (Rasmina was rejected out of hand, Georgia was a contender but couldn't make the final cut, and I'm still trying to figure out a way to make the Swedish name Kjerstina a good middle name).

At one point, Robbie's mom came to visit and we went to see a rare (and much appreciated) late night movie while she held down the fort. At the end, we sat in silence and watched the names in the credits go by. At the same time we saw a name that peaked our interest:

"What do you think about the name Novella?"

"I was just about to ask you the same thing!"

"Then that's settled - we'll name her Novella."

It's not so much that we even loved the name, it was just the rare fact that we both agreed on it. Unfortunately, the novelty of Novella quickly wore off. That and the fact that we can't bring ourselves to name our daughter after the key grip in some independent film.

All this is to say our current list is short, often changing, and there aren't any that we are particularly emotionally attached to. As of this writing, it includes:

Estella (this is a compromise between my request for Stella - at which point Robbie does his best Marlon Brandon impression - and Robbie's request to name her after Estelle Getty. Yes, the actress on Golden Girls.)

As you can see by now, we need some help. We've set up impossible expectations: We want it to be feminine and meaningful, but not common or trendy. We are not huge fans of nicknames and try to avoid names that lend themselves to that, but we could be swayed by the right nickname. And most difficult of has to sound good with the last name Hartley-Beane. (Yes, I fully expect that our children will need therapy as a result of my compulsive feminist need to hyphenate last names. And yes, I know that it's going to complicate things when they get married, so spare me the lecture.)

If you're a person who likes a challenge and wants to help us in our quest, we will happily take suggestions at this point. Don't take it personally if your names don't survive our gauntlet - very few do - just know that we appreciate the offering.

And with that, the polls are officially open....


  1. We had a hell of a time picking names. Not only for the reasons you mentioned (not too trendy, not associated with anyone infamous, not prone to nicknames) but also because the names we picked needed to work in 3 countries,
    England, Germany and the US. In the end we still got bitten with 'Fiona' (Thanks Shrek!) but I can live with that.

    Since I don't plan on having any more kids, I'll give you my list of top contenders.

    Cerise (French)
    Zoriyana (Slavic)
    Fleur (French)
    Katarina (Russian) nickname I actually like: Kata

  2. Marja the j sounds like a z
    Coco Bean

  3. I really love Tabitha. My personal favorites are Isabelle and Salome.
    As far as the hyphenated name (not a lecture, just personal experience) - just promise me you won't cry uncontrollably on the phone and then give your daughter the silent treatment if she ever decides to take her husbands name. Then continue to send correspondence to maiden hyphenated name 1.5 yrs after the wedding. Trust me, it sucks!

  4. I don't think I can help you. I mean, we named our daughter *Jane* and you seem to like names with more flair. However, I'll try to make up for the Josephine debacle. To that end....I have always been a fan of:

    Maren (kinda close to some other contenders)
    Avery (forget about 30 Rock for a moment)
    Katya (spin off of above mentioned Russian nickname. You know the Russians, they have like 8 nicknames each).

    And my personal fave: Jane Eleanor. But I guess you won't be using that one. :)

  5. I have always like the name Sonja. It sounds nice and it means wisdom. Plus Sonja Kjerstina isn't too bad ("wise little Christian"!).

    I like Leda the best of your names. Not to be negative, but I will tell you why I don't like the other ones so you can see if you can live with that. None of these are serious objections. And remember, I have a kid who constantly gets called "per" as in "per capita"! Here goes... I can't get past Tabby when I think Tabitha. Miren makes me think of rice wine vinegar (or whatever that Asian ingredient is). Mira makes me think Look! (too many years of Spanish). And Estella still conjures Brando.

  6. What happened to Harper? That was one of my favorites...Two names that couldn't be on our list because others (too close to us) used them first - Willa and Sonja (or Sonya, or Sonia).

  7. Okay... here are some names I love... love..LOVE and P.S I love almost 99% of the names you listed.
    I love:
    Marin (Much like Miren and I knew the sweetest little Girl Scout with this name... loved her!)

    Mira is a fabulous name! Beautiful!!!
    June (I just can't stop loving it)
    Zoe (it means zestful life or something in hebrew)
    Sorry... I just pestered you about names in recent email... did that spawn this post?

  8. Larkin
    (Marin is Ally's middle name...means 'by the sea'...feel free to use it!)

  9. Anika is a favorite of mine from a Swedish friend years ago.

  10. Mira was a top contender when I was pregnant with Maya :)

  11. Hi Cassi,

    If Mira is pronounced as M-ee-ra, then I like it. In the Hindu (Indian) Mythology, Meera Bai was a princess who became a devotee to Lord Krishna at a very young age .Many beautiful poems have been written by her in order to to show case her love and devotion to Lord Krishna.

    All the Meera's I know, are beautiful, smart and charismatic. They seem to have some kind of an Aura around them!!

    However even if its pronounced as M-i-ra, it still is a nice name!! In some parts like the Philippines, its even spelt as Myra (still a Christian name)