Duana Names: Clarification, Androgyny, Elizabeth

May 30, 2016 19:17:52 Posted at May 30, 2016 19:17:52
Duana Posted by Duana

My husband and I are expecting our first, and likely only, child in late May. It’s a girl. I’m a huge believer in the Supreme Court Justice test – no made up, frilly names. No nicknames as first names. Nothing too trendy or popular, although, my name being what it is, I don’t know why I really care as having a common name never really bothered me. At one point I was heavily leaning towards a gender neutral name, though I would want one that is just starting to make the transition (Elliot) vs. one that is long established and overused (Taylor). I’m ok with girly nicknames, but there needs to be a solid, resume worthy first name.

I’ve been collecting names for a long time. I have a name picked that I think fits all the criteria and that I’ve liked for quite a while – sort of in the vein of the cool grandma names that are on trend, but not as popular as Evelyn and Eleanor. But I’m still not sure it is the one. I’m feeling tempted to break my own rules stated above as there are a few more girly names that I can’t quite brush off yet – Stella (which I loved for a long time, before it climbed the popularity lists), Elsa (a family name but I know I should “Let it Go” – ha, sorry, had to, but it sort of proves my point, right?), Ruby, Iris, Lydia. Mabel.

My husband’s taste is terrible (think names of all the girls in his kindergarten class in 1984) so he’s basically agreed that I have carte blanche. Which is great, but also makes it harder than I thought it would be. Middle name is open and will be picked to go with the eventual first name winner. Thoughts? Should I stick to my guns or give into the girly names? Is this just pregnancy hormones? Suggestions on girly old lady names that meet the SCJ test?


I hope I haven’t misled you.

I hear you on wanting a solid and responsible name, a name that will do all the things that you want for your daughter, and that will take her to all the places she needs to be. I share the desire – for a son or a daughter – to have a name that has no preconceived notions or images attached to it. I love people who want those things in a name, and who recognize that those things are important.


I don’t think that ‘girly’ names are mutually exclusive of the above characteristics. Somewhere along the way people got the idea that supposedly gender-neutral names were better or stronger or less frilly, and while I get the idea in theory, there’s a tipping point for everything. How many Emersons and Elliots and Carters are there in your local 5-year-old ballet class? A lot more than you think.

There is nothing inherently weak about names like Stella or Elsa or Lydia or Iris. They are unabashedly feminine and very, very unlikely to be used for boys, but that does not make them lesser names. I want to be very clear about this because I worry that we’re doing the exact opposite of the thing we want to, and ghettoizing girls’ names. The names you list above are beautiful, and are going to keep your daughter in very good stead wherever she is. And please, don’t worry about the Elsa thing. I promise you can name her that if you want to!

There’s a difference between feminine and made up. No, I don’t necessarily think ‘Cece’ or ‘Mimi’ are super-professional names on their own – but that’s why we have Cecilia and Cynthia and Caroline and Ceridwen and Millicent and Mirielle and Madeleine. Sure, I’d advocate not calling your child Daisy Boo as her straight-up given name but it doesn’t mean that the only acceptable alternative is Dalton. There is nothing inherently better about the name Taylor than the name Katherine – in fact, Katherine strikes me as by far the more classic/less susceptible to popularity ebbs and flows.

I might have contributed to this misconception by once opining that names ending in an ‘ee’ sound were a little more casual, to my ear, than others. This applies more to the Beckys and Katies, nicknames that were used as real names for years, than more naturally occurring ‘ee’ sounds in names like Briony or Elodie. But I’ve also heard people say they don’t like names ending in ‘a’ because they’re too feminine, which is fair enough but eliminates a massive faction of female names. I don’t want to do this. I don’t want to make a pink name ghetto, where the only names that are considered acceptable for girls are the ones that boys wear first. Do you? 

In short, I think you can do both, and encourage you to do so. A name like Lydia (or Leona, which I’m newly infatuated with), Mabel or Marcella, Iris or Ilse (trust me, everyone, especially those of you worried about the Elsa trend), and Penelope and Anthea and Eunice and dozens upon dozens of others will still afford your girl all the strength and power you want, with the style and charm you are also entitled to have.

Let me know!

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