Great article on name spellings

A while ago I put up a tab at the top called Helpful naming tips and info — it’s a collection of posts and comments from here and elsewhere that I think are particularly helpful. I’ve been gradually adding to it as I come across things (comments, posts, articles) that I think are particular helpful regarding a particular naming issue.

I’m just about to add Abby’s post from today: Spelling Counts: 9 Rules for Spelling Baby Names. Such a great post! A few really valuable nuggets:

  • “If you’re not sure how to spell your child’s name, choose the dominant spelling … Notice I didn’t say correct spelling.”
  • “I borrowed the phrase “phonetic transparency” from NameLab years ago, and it’s still one of my favorite finds. The corporate naming group explains it this way:A phonetically transparent name is spoken-as-spelled and easily pronounced from alphabetic notation … Creative spellings work when they stay within the bounds of phonetic transparency. Which means they work best when the changes are relatively minor. I know how to pronounce Jaymee and Lauryn, even if I expect to see Jamie and Lauren … Change too much, though, and you sacrifice phonetic transparency”
  • “If there’s one hard and fast thou-shalt-not on this list, it has to this one: avoid novelty spellings … Kneena for Nina. Kviiilyn for Kaitlyn. Airwrecka for Erica”
  • “But here’s an important rule of thumb: the more creative the spelling, the less sophisticated the name appears”

As with all of Abby’s name writing, I love how she imparts hard naming truths (“the more creative the spelling, the less sophisticated the name appears”) without coming across as offensive to anyone.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on name spellings! Do you, as a rule, like or loathe creative spellings? Are there any exceptions to your own rules (i.e., if you dislike like kr8tyv-type spellings in general, are there any that you actually think are kind of clever or attractive)?

UPDATE: I just remembered I wrote this for CatholicMom ages ago: A Name by Any Other Spelling

Name thieves

Reader Anna posted a story to my Facebook wall today — one of Abby’s Name Sage posts on Nameberry that had gotten quite a bit of feedback: Baby Name Theft? Sibling rivalry over a name.

This is the issue:

I have always loved the name Josephine, called Josie or Jo. My sister likes it, too. She doesn’t have kids yet, but really wants them. To be considerate, I asked if she was okay with us using Josephine for this baby. She said it was fine.

My husband and I decided to use the name. [Their older daughter] calls her sister Josephine, and we’ve been referring to the baby by name, though we haven’t officially announced it.

Just recently, my sister told me that she’d changed her mind, and she wants to keep Josephine for herself. Now she’s not speaking to me.

We don’t want to change the name. It fits for many personal reasons, and it’s the name we both love. Yet now when I hear it, I feel frustrated and sad.”

Oof! So maddening! So unfair! So ridiculous! I’m certain all of us can understand the mama’s perspective (who’s actually pregnant, actually expecting an actual baby who actually needs an actual name in the actual near future), but I’m sure even the most laid-back among us can imagine the sister’s perspective as well. What a dilemma!

I love that the expecting parents showed consideration and asked the sister for her permission (for lack of a better word) — we did this also with one of our boys. I hate that the sister said okay, and then changed her mind after the decision was already made. I hate that the sister isn’t speaking to the mom. I hate that the once-beloved, perfect name now evokes anger, frustration, and sadness.

I posted once about naming “dibs” and included a bunch of links that I thought were useful. Given that we add the element of faith to our name discussions, I think we might all agree that relationships are, objectively, more important than names? This is something I try to keep in mind myself, though I know I’m more laid back about this particular issue than a lot of other namiacs. I also feel like we can all intellectually agree that no one owns a particular name, so the idea of “name theft” is somewhat misleading. There are also a zillion other names (and Abby had some awesome suggestions for this couple). I also don’t at all mind the idea of first cousins having the same name, and I think I would love the challenge of coming up with different nicknames.

But. I also know that this can be a hugely emotional topic (especially for emotional pregnant ladies! I’m sacrificing my body, my hormones, my sleep, and my comfort for this baby, let me have my name!), which can override any objective understandings of anything. And relationships are more important than names, but it doesn’t sound like the sister in this situation agrees, and it’s hard to have a good relationship with someone who refuses to play by loving-relationship rules, and who insists on behaving in a way that feels traitorous, petty, and selfish (and I can see how both the sister and the mama could feel this way about the other). But then we’re supposed to rise above and do the right thing regardless. Gah! What a mess.

My dibs post is almost two years old, so let’s revisit it — what are your thoughts/reactions to the Nameberry post? Any personal stories you’d like to share?

Number names 2.0

Abby at Appellation Mountain posted a piece at Nameberry today on number names (I should’ve realized that her tweets likely indicated the topic was brewing in her mind, but I didn’t even think of it) — definitely check it out, she has a lot of better ideas than mine! Numeric Baby Names: Una, Ivy and Octavia: Counting from Una to Eleven

Sancta Nomina

[I apologize to all the people waiting for an email back from me! This is the first week of school and I’m just now starting to catch my breath. Soon!]

Happy Birthday Mother Mary!! My bishop tweeted the greatest thought today: “Mary’s birth is the dawn of hope, humanity’s second chance.” A perfect thought not only for Our Lady’s birthday, but also for the Year of Mercy! ❤

Ages ago (like, back in January) Krista asked for a post about number names, and it’s been on my mind ever since. I’d had a rough idea of doing so around the first day of school — you know, ‘rithmetic and all — and then Abby at Appellation Mountain and I tweeted a bit the past few days (in response to a Haley Stewart tweet) about number names, so it’s definitely time to do this.

I was thinking of all…

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Two things

Abby at Appellation Mountain did the awesomest post last week on one of my favorite super duper Catholicky Catholic names: Cajetan! She attributes hearing the nickname Jet to me, which is so flattering because it’s so cool — I totally wish I’d thought of it! But the only ones I’d come up with were something like CJ for Cajetan Joseph, or perhaps Caj (though I did suggest the possibility of Jet for Juliet(te) and Jetta for Jacinta). Anyway, be sure to check out her post because it’s all about the saintly Cajetans! (And I’d love to know if any of you know any little Cajetans, and what they go by!)

Also, I’ve updated the Sibling Project tab to include the new John Paul info from this post. I hope you think I’ve represented all your thoughts/input well! If you have any new info to add, please add it to the comments in the original post. Thanks again!

Repeating names

Yesterday’s post about the Campos-Duffy family prompted me to look more into what people think about repeating names among siblings. If you remember, they used Pilar (one of my fave Marian names!) as a middle name for three of their girls, and Margarita as a middle for one girl and a first name for another. I’m just noticing too that they used Jack as a middle and John-Paul as a first (it’s the John connection that I’m finding interesting between them).

I think the majority opinion is that names shouldn’t be repeated? Grace (Camp Patton) once said, “Simon came up with Xavier as the middle name and I wish we’d saved that for a first name because I love that name as well.” In the Name Lady’s Can I Recycle a Middle Name post she describes it as “not an ideal situation,” though she also acknowledges that it’s not “totally out of bounds,” and “In fact, quite a few parents give in and reuse older kids’ middle names. You never know it, because they carefully avoid mentioning their children’s middle names at all.” (I would find that so hard! I love each firstname-middlename combo my hubs and I came up with for our boys — I’d hate to feel like I had to “carefully avoid mentioning their … middle names at all”!)

I know a few people who gave multiple children the same middle name — one family gave all the girls the middle name Marie, and two other families I know gave two daughters the middle name Catherine (but not all the daughters). There does seem to be a difference between giving all your children, or all your children of the same gender, the same middle name vs. only giving some children the same name and not the others.

The mumsnet thread Would you reuse a middle name as a subsequent childs first name? brought up several potential issues with reusing names — both using one child’s first name as another’s middle, and even repeating first names:

  • “many people have said to me that in the future DD1 may resent the fact that DD2 “took” part of her name. Or DD2 may resent being “named after” DD1″
  • “I personally wouldn’t do it, although the middle name we’re about to use is gorgeous and I would love to use it as first name, but I don’t want to hold it in reserve in case I don’t end up having another child to use it on!”
  • “I know a guy who is named (first name, middle name, surname) after his older brother who died from SIDS! That’s V weird!” and “I do know a boy who has the same name as his brother, who was stillborn sad and I know somebody who is pg who already have a DD but they are expecting a DS, and they are going to give him the same middle name as their DD’s middle name!”

I was particularly intrigued by the second bulletpoint — I think a lot of people might load up all their fave names at the front end of their family because of not knowing how many they’ll have of one gender — or how many kids they’ll be blessed with overall — and not wanting to miss out on using a beloved name.

Regarding the third bulletpoint, in the old days reuse of names from older deceased child to younger sibling seems to have been somewhat common. says that,

Up until this century, parents could usually count on one third of their children not surviving. If a child died, the name was often used again. If a baby died, the next child of the same sex would often be given the same name. When checking birth records, you should never stop when you find the name you are looking for. You should continue for a few more years, because the first child could have died and your ancestor could have been the second child in the family with that name. If an older child died, a younger one would often be named for him or her. If you see George in the 1850 census as a six year old and then in the 1860 census as an eight year old, it may mean the first one died shortly after the 1850 census was taken.”

And we’ve seen how at least one Catholic royal family reused names with abandon, and not necessarily because of infant/child death.

I’m not sure what I think about the first bulletpoint. Probably that kids (big and little, adult and not) get in a huff about a million things that parents don’t think they will, and don’t get upset about things parents were sure they would … if I’d chosen to do this with names, my approach would probably just be to be sure to always positively talk about the choice we’d made — make a big deal about how wonderfully meaningful it was meant to be and a choice given in love — so at least if the kids hated it later, they would know it wasn’t done to upset them. And then pray for the best!

I’m also thinking that sometimes, as with one of the families I know that used Catherine as a middle name for two of their daughters, the reasons for using it were different each time — which then sort of makes it like two different names being used: one daughter was named after St. Catherine of Siena, and the other was named after Grandma Catherine. I myself would have used the name once and been pleased with the double honor, but that’s just my personal preference — I can definitely see it seeming like two different names in this scenario, even though it looks and sounds the same. It kind of ties into what Abby wrote in one of my favorite of her posts, The Secret Meaning of Names:

Some of the best names have backstories that are unique to the family in question. Mallory doesn’t mean sorrowful if your parents met in Mallory, Indiana. Then it means “small town where my parents met.” And if your parents happened to meet there because it was a dark and stormy night, and your mom had a flat tire and the repair shop was closed and your dad just happened to be in town for a meeting and suddenly, there they were nursing coffee at the Mallory Diner just one seat apart … well, then your name means “serendipity, twist of fate.””

And it ties into what I wrote in my Nameberry post Good-Intention Baby Naming: “The intention behind the bestowing of the name can be as important—or more so—than the name’s actual origin or meaning or other specifics.”

In the case of the Campos-Duffys, their repeating of names is so exuberant — one of you used the word “confident,” which was so great — that it really strikes me as not that strange at all. And the gorgeousness and saintliness of the names they chose makes me think of that royal names post — each one is sort of decadent and fabulous, really beautiful choices.

What do you all think? Would you (have you?) use one child’s middle name for another’s first name? What about other types of repeating — using the same middle name for all the children, or all one gender, or the names of lost babies (miscarried/stillborn/died when they were older) being given to younger siblings?

Baby name consultant: Five-syllable firstname-middlename(s) combo needed for Baby Boy!

Amanda and her husband Vince are expecting their fifth born baby, a boy, and his firstname-middlename(s) combo has to equal five syllables. How I love a good name challenge!! 🙂

Their other kiddos are:

Oliver Lawrence
Elizabeth Joan (“Ellie or Ellie Jo … I sometimes call her Betty just because I can. 😉 “)
Theodore William (Theo)
Henry John Vincent

As you can see, the firstname-middlename(s) combos equal five syllables, which is, like, Master Class naming. Especially since they did it so well — such great names, all! And, as Amanda explained to me, each combo is full of saintly and family significance.

Names they’ve discussed for this baby boy include:

Sylvester (“my maternal grandfather’s name [and Vince’s top choice] … we really like Sylvester for the middle name and are pretty positive we want to use it there (unless there’s some nickname I’m not thinking of [other than Syl, Sly, and Slivy, which is what her grandfather went by] so that we could use it for a first name“)

Felix (“my top choice. St. Felix and the Spider is one of the books the kiddos received for Christmas, and I love the story … [but] there’s the reference to a cartoon cat… along with Sylvester the cartoon cat… I don’t really care – should that be an issue?!?“)

Declan (“It’s Irish, and I know it’s a saint’s name but I don’t know his story. I like it because it is different and I know no one by that name [but it’s] not as “soft” sounding as our other names… We don’t have any hard D or K sounds“)

Aidric (“Again, it’s an Irish saint’s name but I don’t know the story. Same with Declan on being different and obscure“)

Ivan ([Vince’s other top choice.] “I don’t know the saint story… I think it’s Russian, so it doesn’t go with our Irish/British thing, but it is regal sounding, like Elizabeth“)

And others that aren’t as serious as those listed above:


Finally, Amanda doesn’t want to repeat any names already used by family or close friends, which knocks off:


Whew! Amanda concludes,

Again, we really like Sylvester for the middle name and are pretty positive we want to use it there (unless there’s some nickname I’m not thinking of so that we could use it for a first name). Vince is almost sold on Felix, just can’t see it for a baby. We used to really like Raphael, but it goes over my 5-syllable limit if Sylvester is the middle name. We’re open to more suggestions but I think those five we have go well with Sylvester as the middle name. Which of them fit best with our other boys, or is there a better one out there we haven’t found yet?

So first off, a couple thoughts about their current name list:

Sylvester is a NAME! Whoa! I’ve never known anyone considering it! Kudos to Amanda and Vince! Syl and Sly I’ve heard of, but not Slivy – that’s interesting! The only other nickname I came up with that might be doable is Sully. Maybe? I agree it’s a great middle name with the other names on their list, though it does lock them into a two-syllable name. Not that that’s a bad thing at all.

Felix is definitely getting a lot of love among Catholic families these days — I see it on people’s lists a lot, and there’s one Catholic family on the Baby Name Wizard forums that has three boys: Felix, Xavier, and Raphael. So it’s definitely out there, and at least among young Catholic families I don’t think the cartoon characters are an issue, like Amanda said. Although … even as I typed that and reread her Felix paragraph … Felix Sylvester … all of a sudden the two-character-names thing is really hitting me! I don’t know, I think it could go either way. Totally depends on who’s hearing the names. I think a deciding factor would be if it bothered Amanda and Vince if people pointed it out a lot after they’d already named the baby? What do you all think?

I personally love Declan. I know a few, including my cousin’s 2yo, and she’d chosen the name 15 years ago when she and I were in Ireland together and she heard it for the first time – that’s some name love! I actually didn’t know his story either, other than he was a saint, but because of Amanda’s email I looked him up, and while you can certainly get his basic story from Wikipedia and similar sites, I loved this one the best – it was written in 1914 and translated from the Irish (!); it has a long explain-y intro; and the main bulk of it is the life of St. Declan – he was preaching when St. Patrick arrived! And he seems quite beloved in Ardmore. It’s definitely an authentic Irish Catholic name!

Aidric I’d actually never heard of, but when I googled it, a post by Abby at Appellation Mountain came up – she does a great review of the name as both a saint’s name and a boy’s name in today’s America. I’m only seeing that he was French though, not Irish? Though it definitely sounds Irish, like a mashup of Aiden and Patrick.

Ivan, another WOW name! I think immediately of both Ivan the Great and Ivan the Terrible. It’s Russian for John, so when I googled it I saw references to both St. Ivan Rilski and St. John of Rila – same guy. It’s a cool way to honor a John, if you like heavy Russian names.

So of all those, I think Declan Sylvester is my favorite. It continues their Brit/Irish theme, and it’s got the right number of syllables, very handsome!

Okay! On to my suggestions – I can always come up with some! And holy cow – alllll the names that are off limits!! I think I did okay though – I always shoot for three suggestions, but came up with a couple more than that (they’re all two syllables, to go with the three-syllable Sylvester):

(1) Patrick
As far as I can tell, neither Patrick nor Brendan (below) has been used by someone in Amanda’s friends/family (fingers crossed!). I know they’re pretty basic as far as Irish-y boys’ names go, but I like them both with Sylvester, and there are some great nicknames for Patrick too: Patch and Packy are my faves, but I know a couple little Patricks who go by Paddy, which is beyond darling.

(2) Brendan or Brannoc(k)
St. Brendan is certainly a great Irish saint, and St. Brannock is a British/Celtic/Welsh saint as well — I like that Brannoc(k) has similar sounds as Brendan but is more offbeat/unusual.

(3) Ian or Ivo or Hugo (or Conrad!)
Ian and Ivo were inspired by Ivan, but I thought Ian especially fell within Amanda’s taste better. It’s a Scottish form of John (the Irish Sean doesn’t have enough syllables), and I like it with Sylvester. Ivo is definitely an offbeat choice, but it’s the name of several saints (more familiar under the forms Yves or Ives). It’s not an Irish or British name, but I believe it’s well used in England, which is why I thought it might work for this family. Then I thought of Hugh, but it doesn’t work because it’s only one syllable, but the variant Hugo is the perfect length. (My husband kind of loves this name, and really wanted me to suggest it to Amanda!) (Incidentally, two of the names we considered for our youngest were Hugo and Conrad – which reminded me immediately that Amanda shared that Vince’s middle name is Conrad – I’d be a big fan of adding Conrad to the list! Conrad Sylvester is so cool!)

(4) Robert nicked Rory
Finally, I thought of Rory, but it didn’t have a formal enough feel to me, to go with the other kids’ names. Robert might work though – St. Robert Bellarmine is great – and I’ve long thought Rory could be a nickname for Robert. Robert Sylvester is very handsome.

Those are my ideas! What do you all think? Amanda and Vince would love suggestions, so go ahead and fire away!