Duana Names: Perfect or Pretentious?
My husband and I are in need of your help. I am due at the end of October with twins, and we are searching to find names for our new babies that we love just as much as our two older children. We already have a boy named Victor and a girl named Adair, and our twins will be a boy and a girl (how lucky are we to have two boys and two girls)! Our last name is very common, two syllables, ending in ----er (which you can probably gather from my email address). We are thinking of Frederic for our new baby boy, and have considered a few for our new little girl, the front runner being Sidonie.
I love the name but have one reservation: I am concerned with how close it is to Sydney. I am not too worried about correcting people thinking she is "Sydney," but I worry that the slight difference will just read as too much "try," and that that is something my daughter will have to carry with her. The slight difference makes me swoon at the name (as well as the connection to Colette), but I worry it might get lost on others, and that I have just fallen in love with a name that will resonate now as a "pretentious Sydney". I worry as well, that with the difference being rather small, my Sidonie is going to be similar to all the Caydens/Jaydens and Kreative spelling names; I guess I would hate to find what I love about the name reduced to this, even though Sidonie is the original name (at least from what I gather) from which the Sidney/Sydney names came. I worry that there is maybe a reason Sidney eclipsed Sidonie too (better flow?). So, I guess we want to know your thoughts on the name, and if you might think of alternatives that might be a right fit for us and our daughter.
Other names we have/are considering for her are Marguerite, Esme, Delphine and Juliet (we almost named our first daughter Juliet, then stumbled upon Adair and just could not shake how much we loved the name). We are pretty set on Frederic, but are trying to find a name for our new daughter that is as special as Adair. I've also thought of Simone, but despite wanting to, I just don't love it the way I love Adair.
Thank you so much for your help, and your column!
There are several curiosities in this letter, and I mean that in the most positive way. Yes, everyone reading is jealous of your opportunity to use four of your favourite names, and um, you’re not going to be bored at all, are you?
One of the things that’s most curious to me, though, is that until I received this letter, the idea that Sidonie would be heard as ‘Sydney’ never occurred to me. I think that’s mainly because I always hear it with three distinct syllables, and maybe even a Gallic accent attached in the pronunciation. One of the things I love about your letter is that I have no idea if you’re writing from Lake Michigan or the Lake District, even though the question is undeniably different depending on where you are.
So no – I don’t think Sidonie is ‘pretentious Sydney’. It’s very clearly to me a distinct name, with an ‘o’ sound in the middle and kind of an ‘up’ feeling at the end of the name rather than just an ‘ending-in-y’. I’ve just said it out loud about sixteen times, I wish you were here to hear what I mean. ‘SIH-do-nee’ as opposed to Sydney, which seems more ‘Sid-ish’, if you follow me. It would never have occurred to me to think of it as a misspelling or a pretentious pronunciation, since it’s very obviously a name with history and weight. The same cannot be said for Cambree.
Also, definitely don’t worry about what other people might presume the name to be. The other day I caught my husband scoffing at a name – one he thought was a feminization of a common male name. When I explained that it was a cultural name, independent from the boy’s one, he was (slightly) embarrassed to be wrong, and not for the people who chose the name.
There are alternatives, of course – the variant ‘Sidonia’, which sounds more like a place name, the related Idony and Idonia, and an underappreciated Portuguese name I love, Cidalia. I don’t think any is as nice as Sidonie, though, and neither do you.
What I do think, though, is that it’s possibly fussier than your other children’s names. Victor and Adair are straightforward and easy to pronounce, with strong syllables it’s easy to ‘anchor’ on. Frederic is longer, but familiar to people, so what it loses in brevity, it makes up in winsome amiability. Sidonie is going to be the outlier here (and possibly when your boy is called Freddie, she’s going to wind up being Sid, unless you work hard to nickname her Nonie. For what it’s worth).
Certainly if you want something easier, Delphine and Esme and Simone suit your purposes, as do Leonie and Phoebe and Yara and Cecile. But I’m not sure any of them approaches the style or distinction of Sidonie, and I’m not sure that you should walk away from it if you love it. Go forward, eyes wide open.
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