Duana Names: For the Win

October 30, 2015 19:43:10 Posted at October 30, 2015 19:43:10
Duana Posted by Duana
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Hello Duana!

My husband and I are (beyond) struggling with coming up with an appropriate name for our daughter who is due early November.  Prior to getting pregnant, I was obsessed with doing name research and still love a lot of names….for other people’s daughters.  For some reason nothing feels right for ours. For example, I think Emma, Olivia, Sophie, Vivian, Lily and Charlotte are all awesome names… but not for my daughter.    
We have one son who is soon to turn 3. His name is Brandt Richard (4 syllable Polish last name starting with K, ending with –ski). Brandt was my mother-in-laws last name and Richard is my father’s name. Choosing this name was easy as we knew we wanted to honor my mother in law who is no longer with us and my father, who is in general just awesome.  

Style wise I like that Brandt is strong, uncommon, and easy to pronounce.  I also like that is clearly masculine. I think the single syllable flows well with the longer last name, but that isn’t a requirement for his sister.

For our daughter, I’d like something that fits with Brandt and is similarly strong, uncommon, and easy to pronounce…as well as decidedly feminine. 

My husband has a short list of names. He likes Kate and Elizabeth. While I think those are both beautiful names, they feel a bit too common for me. My short list includes Gwyneth (gWIN not gWHEN) and Edith.  I prefer the GWIN pronunciation b/c I like Winnie as a nickname when she is young girl with the option to use the more adult Gwyneth as she ages. My husband’s concern is that we will need to constantly correct people on the pronunciation.While I see his point, I also think once people are corrected and if we are clear this can become a non-issue. I like Edith or Edie for a couple of reasons. First, my grandfather’s name was Edmund but everyone called him Eddie. Secondly, I spent my Junior year of college living in South America. My host mother there was named Edith. She was/is an amazing woman who despite many hardships in life was always positive. However, my husband does not have the same reference as I do and thinks of this name only as an 80 year old woman.

I also love the name Josephine (Josie), but will not use it b/c it is the name of a good friend’s daughter. I included it just as another data point on style.


I’m so grateful for all the letters I receive and really try to make sure the ones I select to respond to have an interesting question as well as an answer. I knew there was something about this letter I really liked, but I had to read it over a few times to pinpoint what that was. 

I don’t think I’m surprising you by telling you that there’s a disconnect here. Brandt is strong and uncommon, as you say, and while some people who think my views on names that ‘go’ are extreme, I think we can be clear on one thing – Brandt is not Elizabeth, you know? Not just because one is long and one is short. But one is determined to stay out of the box, and the other is definitively ‘classic’. One is familiar to almost everyone in lots of languages, and one isn’t familiar to everyone. So I think you’re right that your husband’s choices are too mainstream. But it can’t be argued that you’re not going to have pronunciation problems with ‘Kate’

The whole Gwyneth pronunciation makes me laugh. I think that people who want to emphasize ‘oh no, the name is “GWEN-yth” are the same ones who want to distinguish the name they’re giving their kids from Paltrow’s. But let’s be real. Things can change and all, but Gwen is from Gwendolyn, Gwyn with an ‘I’ sound is from Gwyneth, or from Guinevere if you’re being that person, and I know some of you are.  (Lainey: I say “GWINN-ITH Pal-troe”. And she’s my girl!)

So your pronunciation is technically more correct, but yes, you’ll still have to explain the pronunciation a lot – something that you say is important to you, or was important in your son’s name. Also, it seems like you don’t actually like the name as much as you like the ‘Winnie’ nickname. Which – no fault here. You can get there from Winifred, and call her Freddie in addition, if you like, or call her Guinevere, where there’s no confusion over the spelling, or Gwendolyn. Part of the reason I resist Gwyneth, in addition to, you know, her, is that it doesn’t seem short enough, at two syllables, to require a two syllable nickname of its own. My nickname tyranny knows no bounds.

But there is another option. You could go with Wynn. It’s not the type of name that comes up in my columns often, but it’s crisp, it’s easily understood and explained to others, there are no pronunciation problems – and, not least on my list, it’s the kind of name that goes with Brandt. Plus, to make my hypocrisy complete, you can call her Winnie with impunity. How about Wynn Elizabeth? That’s a name right there, if I say so myself.

Having said that, I have no problems with Edith at all. Edie is a nickname that’s definitely on the rise. You could call her Eddie as an amusing reference to her ancestor, or go for Edwina or Enid or even Beatrice.
(How did I get there from ‘Eddie’? Bea, Beadie, Edie…Eddie – it’s not like “Bobby” makes any more sense from Robert.)

But I like Edith and Wynn and Tiernan and even something like Flynn, if you have it in your arsenal, to get to your beloved Winnie. And remember that nicknames don’t have to have an understandable root. You can call your kid any old name that you want, and justify the way you get there any way you want…even to me.

Let me know!

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