Dear Duana,

After obsessing over names for my entire life, I’m now stuck with only a few weeks left to figure this out! Duana, I’m turning to you – please help.

Here are some perfunctory details before I launch into the dilemma. I am due with baby number two at the end of December. We aren’t finding out the baby’s sex. Big sister is named Cecilia, but goes almost exclusively by Cece, which suits her perfectly. Last name will be my husband’s last name, which is two common single syllable male first names hyphenated, say “Sam-Bob”. I am Canadian, but currently living in the US – the baby will be a dual citizen (this detail will be important later!).

We feel good about our boys name option, but it’s the girls names that are tripping us up. For as long as I can remember, I have always wanted to name my daughter Honor. This was my grandmother’s name, who was also Canadian, and to me it evokes, strength, trustworthiness, elegance and style. However, living here in the States, I’m afraid the name evokes something different – more along the lines of military honor, you know like glory, victory, duty (stars and stripes etc. We are not a military family and are in fact pretty damn left leaning in our politics. The other American connotation of Honor is the association with chastity, virginity etc. (Yucky, right?) This is not something I want to label my daughter with. I hope my daughter grows up to make whatever choices she wants about having sex.

Am I crazy? Is this all in my head? I swear it's not so much of a thing in Canada!

My husband is down with the name choice, but insists that we use Mary Elizabeth as the middle names, which I’m afraid lands it straight off the May Flower (Honor Mary Elizabeth Sam-Bob). Last hesitation about Honor is that it doesn’t go with Cece (maybe OK with Cecilia though).

Our other girl name option is Fiona. I know you’ve suggested this name a lot recently – and I’m with you, I love it. There’s no family connection, but it’s gorgeous! But do you think it’s too close to Cecilia? Sure, Cecilia and Fiona sound fine together, but really we have a “Cece”. Would they be destined to be Cece and Fifi – I just can’t! The middle name would be Honor.

There you have it – I’m stuck between a first name I really love, but worry that other’s feelings about it and another name that I love, but feel like it will be too matchy-matchy. Is there an obvious solution here?

I'm missing my homeland more than ever these days!

Please help!!!


I read this over a few times and had a different reaction every time.

My first reaction is that, though I have in the past said that I find some honor names to be an overbearing amount of pressure on a child, Honor doesn’t feel that way to me. Maybe I’m always thinking of the phrase ‘personal sense of honor’, but it seems a bit more private and personal, whether or not you have Honor, as opposed to, say, Grace, is subjective and internal. I’ll also admit some bias here, because I fundamentally like the name…but, living outside the US I don’t immediately have those associations. With ‘Liberty’, yes, maybe, but not so much with ‘Honor’. What it does maybe have, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, is a decidedly upper-crust vibe—it’s a marker of posh North American names that people aren’t afraid to end girls’ names with consonants.

So my initial solution to your dilemma was to zoom in on the words ‘Canadian’ and ‘Honor’ and go “Oh, simple. Just spell it “Honour”, and you’re out of the woods, as it clearly dissociates itself with the sort of flag-waving American-Eagle stuff you mention. I still don’t think this is the absolutely worst option, but I recognize that if you’re living there, that it’s going to be misspelled all of the time, or worse, mispronounced: “Honour”, like ‘Ah-NOOR’. 

Which in turn made me realize that all this time, a relative my mother referred to as “Hanorah”, which I interpreted as being a variation of Hannah, was probably in fact “Honora”, as filtered through her accent. Is that a possibility? “Honora” still allows you to use Honor as a name but gives you some distance, lets you have ‘Nora’ as a short form that pairs nicely with Cece, and is rare nonetheless.

It’s still a mouthful with “Mary-Elizabeth Sam Bob”, but then, so will anything, up to and including “Ann”, be. Is that middle name really non-negotiable? Is there no way he’d be up for Honor Fiona?

If not, and you go the other way, I don’t think you’re under any obligation to call her Fifi. I cannot picture calling Elaine’s BFF Fiona ‘Fifi’, and I have a badass cousin with this name who would cut you dead with one masterfully-black-lined eye if you ever dared to try it. Fiona somehow seems to lend itself to women who get to be both – tough as nails and have a flowery name, or fun and hilarious and smashing the patriarchy. It’s the Teen Vogue of names, basically. Not that lots of other names couldn’t also fit this profile but it’s so relatively new to the general populace that it can do all of the things.

Both names can, really. The whole point of ‘Honor’ is that it’s personal, I think, and I would be more wary of ‘it’s an hono(u)r just to be nominated’ jokes that may come her way. But nothing about Fiona feels secondary or matchy with Cecilia, except of course that, let’s be honest, you like Honor better. I’d go with it, and like all things where Canadians are like cousins of the US, find a meaning in it to make it look very similar, but just a little bit different, which will make it your own.

He’s really not budging on that middle name, eh? Not Honor Eliza? Honor Maíre? Honor Emmeline?

Let us know!