This is different from my usual naming dilemma/consultation type of post in that the baby’s already here and named, but I had such fun analyzing the parents’ name style (at the mom’s request) that I wanted to post it here for you, and ask you: After reading it all, do you have any guesses on what the name of the new little one might be?
Shaunda and Chris Penny, who I actually know in real life, recently (last month) welcomed their ninth born baby. Their other kids’ names are:
Shaunda said, “I’d love to see your analysis of our kids names someday, I feel like they’re all over the place, we choose for meaning not the name itself so it’s a weird grouping of names.”
I do love a good name challenge. 😉
When I put together the post offering suggestions for Simcha’s baby, I felt like I had to first figure out her style, which wasn’t easy to see at first look. But as I thought about it more, and looked up more names in the Baby Name Wizard book (it has this amazing feature of listing boy names and girl names that match the entry in terms of style and feel and popularity … I think I’ve mentioned it a time or two? :)), which led me to look up more names, I started seeing the connections emerge, like invisible ink over a heater.
Such was the case with the Penny kids’ names for me — upon thought and research, styles emerged, and I feel like their names boil down into seven (!) different styles, with a lot of overlap:
Saints/religious names (overt): Rita, Austin, Christian, Leah, Veronica, Gianna
Biblical(ish): Christian (the “ish”), Leah, Veronica
Short and punchy: Rita, Emma, Leah, Gianna
Ends in the -en sound: Austin, Christian
Not easily nicknamed: Rita, Austin, Emma, April, Leah
Ends in -a: Rita, Emma, Leah, Veronica, Gianna
Latinate (Italian/Latina): Rita, Veronica, Gianna
I don’t usually include middle names when I’m trying to figure out a style or suggestions because so many people use the middle name spot as their wild card spot — family first names, family last names, crazy names like that saint’s name you were too embarrassed to put in the first name spot … but the Penny kids’ middle names were revealing of stylistic things as well, especially when considered with some of the first names. Namely:
That vintage-y throwback Hollywood starlet feel I got from some of Simcha’s names: Francine, Doreen (especially with Rita)
Saints/religious (overt): Karol, Grace, Clare (along with allllll the other ones above!)
Kind of cool and hip: Isabel (especially with Austin)
But even with all this overlap, the outlier to all these styles, the woman who stands alone, is … April. Her name is the only one that doesn’t have overlap in more than one of the styles the other kids’ names fall into. She’s Not easily nicknamed, and nothing else. Until, that is, you look at her name by itself, not as part of her sibling set. In the Baby Name Wizard her name is categorized as part of Charms and Graces, which is described thusly:
“The traditional feminine ideals of grace, beauty, and propriety have found natural reflections in girls’ names. Propriety was the focus for the Puritans, who favored virtue names like Patience and Chastity. In the late Victorian era, the fasion was to celebrate tender beauty with names like Lily, Grace, and May.”
How lovely! How lucky for April to have such a great name! As I told Shaunda, I’d never really given any thought to the name April, but dissecting it for her made it sparkle for me! A look at the other names listed for that category reveals further evidence of Shaunda and Chris’ taste in names, as already shown by their other kids’ names, especially Faith, Felicity, Grace (April’s middle name! How appropriate!), Hope, Lily, Mercy, Rose and Rosemary, and Verity — all of which could easily fit into some of the categories the other kids’ names fir into. And April Grace is an amazing combination of sounds and feelings to me, a sweet and sunny spring breeze. To me, it really fits this description:
“The names that surged after World War II tend to be a modest, friendly bunch. They don’t try to sound fancy or exotic … So what were the parents of the ’50s aiming for with their name choices? … the most common theme is that these names sound happy. Not breezy and carefree, like the surfer names that followed in the ’60s, but happy and relaxed … [names that represent] dreams of contentment. A comfortable home, good friends, and kids playing in the yard.”
But that description was not of any category April’s name falls into; rather, it’s for a category of names called Mid-Century America, into which Leah and Gianna’s middle names, Francine and Doreen, fall. And those two names have a similar feel to me as Rita. Wheeeeee! I just love finding things like that — connections abound everywhere!
So though Shaunda and Chris didn’t need any suggestions for their baby, who they knew was a girl, I thought I’d put together what my predictions might have been, for both a boy and a girl, if I didn’t already know the gender and name.
As you know, I usually shoot for three ideas for each gender (both to stretch myself and to limit myself), but here I had four ideas for girls and three for boys. My predictions:
(1) A Marian name (Stella)
While Grace (April’s middle name) can be considered a Marian name, it was notable to me that there weren’t any other Marian names in the other girls’ names. Like with Simcha (hmm. There’s a lot of similarity between the Pennys and the Fishers! Maybe because they both have nine born children, only two of which are boys?), Stella immediately rose to the top for me, especially because of Rita, Francine, and Doreen — as I wrote in Simcha’s post, it has “that same starlet feel.” Also, Doreen always makes me think of Tori Spelling’s daughter, whose name is Stella Doreen (I have a weird ability to remember most celebrities’ kids names. Judge away), which impressed me to no end when I first read the birth announcement. (As an aside, I actually think they did an amazing job naming their four.)
(2) Biblical(ish) (Magdalena)
I know, this is kind of vague, but they already have Christian, Leah, and Veronica (I know, Christian and Veronica don’t show up in the Bible in that way — hence the –ish), and I was just really feeling it for this baby. If I had to choose, I might think Magdalena, Lydia (but maybe too close to Leah?), Hannah, Bethany. I think Magdalena is my #1 here, it feels especially similar to Veronica to me, which I love.
(3) Charms and Graces (Hope or Faith)
This may be me letting my personal preferences leak in, which I try to avoid as much as possible when coming up with names that I think would be perfect for a family, but if I had named my children the names Shaunda and Chris had chosen, I think I’d be inclined to choose a name for #9 that balanced out the styles already used, i.e., a name that was similar in style and feel to April. As I noted above, some of the Charms and Graces names seemed really spot-on to me in terms of ones I think you would like, and in particular I could see a name like Hope or Faith being a really good fit. I like both of those with the other kids’ names, lovely.
(4) Super saintly (Cecilia or Felicity)
Felicity would by my very first choice here if it weren’t for the family last name (Penny) and even still I don’t think it’s unworkable — but I suspected Shaunda and Chris might think it is, since Shaunda told me once that girl names ending in -ie/-y are difficult with their last name. So then, Cecilia is my strong second choice. Not only do I think they fit in well with the other kids’ names, but they remind me of the Penny family and all they hold dear and stand for — faith, love of God, love of the Church.
(1) Nicholas Owen
Unlike with the girls’ names, in which categories seemed easier to pinpoint than specific names, I found picking boys’ names a bit easier. Probably because they only have two boys and their names are similar in style and feel. Nicholas Owen inspired me in three ways: first, Nicholas totally feels like Austin and Christian to me. Kind of a cool, friendly, masculine dude (in all the best ways). It also showed up in lists connected with Veronica, Emma, and Leah. Owen was another one that showed up over and over when I considered the names that had similar styles and feels to the other kids, including Emma, Grace, Isabel, Christian, Leah, and Austin. But I wasn’t feeling Owen as a first name for the Pennys, which led me to my third inspiration: St. Nicholas Owen. He was a Jesuit brother who built hidey holes for priests in England during the post-Reformation persecutions, and he was martyred for it. Such a cool saint, such a cool name (we’ve considered it ourselves).
(2) Gabriel or Michael
As with Nicholas, Gabriel and Michael just have the same feel as Austin and Christian to me: cool, strong, manly. I’ve seen Gabriel be somewhat polarizing though, so Michael I think is a slam dunk here. This is more of a gut feeling on my part than backed up by any of the BNW lists, but I like them both for a Penny boy.
(3) Benjamin or Nathan
Finally, Benjamin and Nathan both showed up all over the place as having similar styles to ones Shaunda and Chris had already chosen, like Emma, Leah, Christian, and Veronica. In addition, they’re both biblical, and both end in the -en sound.
So those would have been my predictions, based on my analysis of Shaunda and Chris’ naming tastes. Just for fun, some of the other names that showed up over and over as similar to the names they chose are: Shelby, Shane, Lily, Sydney, Lucy, Abigail, Casey, Amber, Jared, Rebecca, Rachel, Mercy, Victoria, Natalie, Joel, and Chloe. A lot of names! But I had a lot of names to work with. 🙂
What do you all think? What would you guess Shaunda and Chris named their new baby girl? If it’s okay with them, I’ll tell you all on Friday … in the meantime, let’s hear your thoughts!