Baby name consultant: Lots of restrictions, lots of creativity

Tanya, from the blog Our House, and her husband are expecting their fifth baby, a girl. She writes,

We ALWAYS have a hard time with names. ALWAYS. I’m Armenian and my husband is French Canadian. Our kids are dark haired and have dark eyes so I don’t like any names that sound super American like Hunter or Emily etc. I like unique names that aren’t too weird or hard to say. As a general rule I don’t like any names in the top 100 list by the SS. We did break this rule once with Samuel. I like names that start with E and A and L … No names that start with other kids letters (I,S,K and N) and last name starts with V … I feel like girls names should be feminine and boys names should be manly.”

As soon as I read this paragraph, I felt like rubbing my hands together with glee — I do so love a good name challenge! Then I read their kids’ names … oh my! I love them!

Keira Joyce (Joyce is Tanya’s mom’s name)
Israel Benedict (Benedict after Fr Benedict Groeschel)
Nairi Anne (pronouced NY-rie, rhymes with Riley)
Samuel Fulton (Fulton after Fulton Sheen as dh loves him)

Tanya and her husband know they’re having a girl, and have a couple strong contenders for her name, but I did this consultation for them a few months ago, and I’ll post it in full (minus the boy suggestions — it was before they’d found out the gender), juuust in case. (Also, just because it’s fun. 🙂 )

Names on their original list for a girl included:

Meliné (Tanya’s grandmother’s name, said mel-eh-NAY) (“I love the name but I don’t think anyone will pronounce it correctly and that will drive me nuts. Plus the accent issue…. I honestly don’t even know how to type an accent“)
Constance or Madeline as middles (Tanya’s hubs’ mom’s names)

Names that can’t be used because of cousins:

Elyse
Kateri
Illana

So here are my original thoughts and ideas:

This consultation was such an interesting one! Between the names they’ve already chosen (especially Nairi), and their restrictions/preferences (no I,S,K,N,V; no American-sounding names; prefer E,A,L; no using cousins’ names), and Tanya’s Armenian heritage and her husband’s French Canadian heritage and Tanya’s grandmother’s French name and Keira’s Irishy name, it was a lot to consider, and a lot that I’m not familiar with. I really loved learning more about Nairi, a name I’ve never heard before – it’s an old name for Armenia, which is such a clever/cool/beautiful way to work in Tanya’s heritage! As you all know, I often start with the Baby Name Wizard book for inspiration, as it offers for each entry boy and girl names that are similar in style/feel/popularity. But the ideas it offered for Keira and Samuel didn’t seem like this family’s style, and Nairi and Israel weren’t even listed, so I felt like I was flying blind a little. So I was extra interested in whether or not Tanya would think I was circling the right areas with my ideas.

Before I list my own ideas though, I had some thoughts about their list: first off, Meliné is just gorgeous. I love that it’s Tanya’s grandmother’s name, and that its Frenchiness is a nice nod to her husband as well. I do agree with her though that its pronunciation will likely be skewered at first pass (I assume most people would say meh-LEEN, especially in absence of the accent), and that accent will definitely be somewhat problematic. I don’t mind the pronunciation meh-LEEN – it’s quite pretty on its own – but I can see why it might feel a big lackluster to Tanya in light of the real pronunciation, as well as not being her grandmother’s pronunciation. I thought maybe a different variation of it, or a similar name, might be a reasonable alternative? I wasn’t able to find it online though … I found Méline, which I think is pronounced more like may-LEEN, which was said to be a French form of Melina, which itself was said to be English, French, and Greek, an “Elaboration of Mel (either from names such as MELISSA or from Greek μελι meaning “honey”). A famous bearer was Greek-American actress Melina Mercouri (1920-1994), who was born Maria Amalia Mercouris.” So that wasn’t terribly helpful … I looked at the variants listed for Melina and thought Melantha and Melania sounded intriguing. Or maybe something like Mila? Similar sounds, but more familiar to Americans. Depending on how close to the actual name a name has to be for Tanya to consider it an honor name, I found some other French M names that I thought might be worth a look:
— Marise (diminutive of Marie – I’m a sucker for a Marian name!)
— Magali (I’ve long loved this one – it’s the Occitan [southern France, et al.] form of Magdalene)
— Margot (solid choice)
— Mireille or its Catalan variant Mireia (gorgeous! They may be trading one difficultly pronounced name [Meliné] for another, but at least there aren’t any accents!)

I also wondered if they might consider Meliné as a middle name? Then it can be said and spelled (accent and all) just as they please with no issues.

Otherwise, I scoured all my go-to sites as well as the BNW book for other ideas that thought might work for them, and while I always shoot for three ideas, I came up with quite a few more, which I’ve grouped into five broader ideas:

(1) French A names
I really like the idea of a French name for this baby, since Keira has an Irishy feel, and Nairi is Armenian – it seems, between Tanya’s grandmother and her husband, that French would make a lot of sense. Using Tanya’s fondness for A names, I looked through listings of French names and loved:
— Amélie (can have the accent, but doesn’t need to, which is a bonus) (I know this is similar to Emily, but doesn’t read “American” to me at all)
— Annick or Anouk (I’ve always loved these variants of Anne. But maybe they wouldn’t care for that, since Nairi’s middle name is Anne?)
— Aurore (I think this is my favorite suggestion for them. It begins with an A, it’s French, it’s got a beautiful sound, and it has R’s in it like Keira and Nairi. It’s also Marian!)

(2) Names “for France”
Because Nairi is an old name for Armenia (and I was clutching at any idea that might work), I looked up old names for France and Canada (and I apologize too if there’s a real political/emotional difference between France and French Canada, where Tanya’s husband wouldn’t feel at all honored by a connected-to-France name … I’m not aware of any, but it’s not my area of expertise!) and found:
— Britta (Brittany would be the actual name, for that part of France, but I’m sure Brittany’s not their style … but when I typed all their kids’ names into nymbler.com, Britta was one of the results, so … maybe?)
— Frances or Franka/Franca or Francesca/Franziska/Franciska (since the Francis names literally mean “from France”)
— Gallia or Galia (Gallia’s not technically a given name, but it’s the old Latin name for France. Galia *is* a real name, though not related to Gallia except in appearance and sound [which I assume they share], it’s a Hebrew name, which could be a nice connection with Israel and Samuel’s Hebrew names while being a nod to French heritage)

Frustratingly, one of the only names I could find connected to Canada that seemed doable – and I was really excited about it for a few minutes – was Scotia (from Nova Scotia). I’d seen someone else consider it recently, and I thought it was brilliant. But then I remembered – no S names! Interestingly, according to Wikipedia, one of the names that was proposed for Canada, when it was being officially named, was Borealia, which is Latin for “northern,” but it makes me think of aurora borealis, which reminds me again of my suggestion above of Aurore. An extra nod to her husband’s heritage? Love it!

(3) Élodie or Laure
I also looked through the E and L lists, and Elodie and Laure both jumped out at me. Like Amélie, Élodie can be spelled with an accent, but it doesn’t have to be. And like with Aurore, Laure has an R in it, which I like as that small thread through the sisters’ names.

(4) Genevieve
Genevieve has been getting more love recently than ever, but it’s still out of the top 200, and St. Genevieve is the patron saint of Paris! So cool.

(5) Azélie (with or without the accent) or Zabel
Zelie’s recently popular among Catholic families, for St. Therese’s mom Bl. Zelie Martin (born Marie-Azélie), but I haven’t seen anyone consider Azélie/Azelie. It begins with an A! And Bl. Zelie’s going to be canonized this fall, so that would be a really nice connection for a little girl born soon after. And I checked out Armenian names, just to see, and came across Zabel, which is an Armenian form of Isabel – Isabel is listed in the BNW as a style match for Samuel, which makes a nice connection. And can you beat Z as a cool letter??

Those were all my original ideas for Tanya and her hubs. As you can see, I’m big on trying to make connections with names, but I also tried to include names just because I thought they might like them.

As an extra bonus, as mentioned above, Tanya emailed me with their updated list and ideas, and an added dilemma. So fun!

[Email from a couple weeks ago] As of now we are still not sure on a name for her. We are considering Azelie and Ani and Constance (Coco?) … I do love Aurora but I think its too popular and the French Aurore sounds like its missing something to me. I liked some of your M suggestions but two close friends just had girls and both went with M names (Mary and Mariella) so I want to avoid M for now … [Email from just the other day] Since someone posted on your comments the other day about Constance … I would say the strongest contender now (26 weeks pregnant) is Constance Rose with a nickname of Cora/ Coraline or Coco. Dh says he will call her Constance but he is fine with a nickname too … Cora is my fav but our oldest is Keira so it’s kinda close….would love to hear any other creative C names that could work for Constance.”

So coming up with nicknames is one of my very favorite things (as I’m sure you all know!). I had a ball trying to think of more ideas for Constance besides Coco, Cora, or Coraline and came up with (and as you’ll see, I felt very free to be offbeat!):

— Cosette: If they’re willing to consider Coraline for Constance, then I don’t think length or even that close a connection to the name is that important. I really like Cosette because it’s got the C,O,S of Constance, which overlaps nicely with the O,S,E of Rose if they went with the combo Constance Rose.
— Colette: Cosette made me think of Colette, which is a saint’s name, and since Cosette is sort of a mashup of Constance Rose, I immediately thought Colette could be a sort of mashup of Constance Meliné, which just made me want to fall over with happiness. Beautiful!
— Cosi, Coley — Not only can these made sense as nicknames for Constance (especially Cosi), but they were both listed as nicknames for Cosette and Colette, respectively.
— Costa: I believe this is technically a man’s name, a traditional nickname for the Greek Constantine, but it makes so much sense for Constance.
— Stanzi: I read that Stanzi was the nickname for Mozart’s wife in the movie “Amadeus,” short for her given name Constanze. I thought that was cool!
— Tia: According to Behind the Name, Constance is “a Medieval form of Constantia,” so I think Tia could totally work!
— Tacey/Tacy: I thought at first of Maude Hart Lovelace’s Betsy-Tacy books, where Tacy is a nickname for Anastasia, but I definitely think it can work for Constance (and fun to have a literary connection too!).
— Tasia: I say this TAH-sha, which echoes for me the “ah” in the first syllable of Constance, never mind the shared T,S, and A.
— Stacia/Stasia: I know, I know, it begins with an S, but on the slight chance an S nickname is okay, I couldn’t leave it off the list. It’s got the “Sta” of ConSTAnce and the sss sound at the end, like Constance. It can be pronounced STAY-sha or STAH-sha.
— Scotia: See Stacia/Stasia — I know it doesn’t stand a chance, but this original idea of mine (from “Nova Scotia,” a nod to hubby’s Canadian heritage), like Stacia/Stasia, shares some letters and sounds with Constance.
— Nicknames for Perpetua: Okay, this is another of my crazy ideas, but since Constance has a very similar meaning to Perpetua, I thought maybe one of the Perpetua nicknames might intrigue? Like: Pia, Pippa, Peppa, Pip, Pep, Poppy.

And finally, I did have one more idea that came to mind very recently for Tanya and her hubs, and it specifically goes against her new no-M-names rule, but it seemed like it might be the very kind of name they like: Meike (said like Micah) or Mieke (said MEE-ka) — the former is described as a German and Dutch diminutive of Maria; the latter is said to be only a Dutch diminutive of Maria. I love the pronunciation of Meike especially, though Mieke gets away from mirroring the “ei” of Keira … they’re similar in length and share some letters with Keira and Nairi, and I love that they’re Marian! Meike Rose, Meike Meliné, and Meike Madeline all strike me as really beautiful combos. (Unfortunately I don’t think Meike Constance has a great flow because of the k-k sound. But that doesn’t have to matter, if they love it.)

Whew! That’s a mama of a consultation! What do you think of the nicknames I suggested for Constance? Do you have any other ideas for first names (given that Azelie, Ani, and Constance are the current finalists) or nicknames for Constance?