Hi Duana,

After some struggles with infertility, my husband and I are finally pregnant and out of the danger zone! Of course having all this extra time trying to get pregnant has lead to much name debate. Now that we will finally, offically have someone to name, we are stuck. Boys name is already decided, it's the girls that we are struggling with. So I need a professional opinion from you.

My family has a tradition that every girl in the family has the middle name Jean (sometimes spelt Jeanne - this is the spelling I prefer). My Great-Grandmother was adopted, here in Canada, after her parents passed away on the crossing from Ireland. After years of research it was by tracking the "Jean's" that my Grandmother finally found our extended family in Ireland. Because of this, the tradition is important to me and very important to my Mom.
My husband has a very dear sister named Jeannette, whom he would love to name a daughter after. I want to stick with tradition. My husband doesn't see the harm in adding a "tte" to the end. This, he claims, will make the name meaningful for both of us. Is Jeanne the same as Jeannette? Will we still be following tradition if we go with Jeannette?

For the first name it is between Elena and Erica.

Thank you so much for your advice.


Wow, what a story! First of all, I want to take advantage of my position by answering a question I wasn’t asked. I love the name Elena. It is so perfectly right now while also being kind of timeless and beautiful. Sometimes I wonder about whether part of the success of The Vampire Diaries is due to the fact that the names from the 80s books – Caroline, Elena, Stefan & Jeremy – are so on point right now.

But that’s not why we’re here.   

We’re here to figure out which family tradition is which where the middle name of your baby girl is concerned.     

So, to start off with, let’s just point out that Jean – or even Jeanne – is not the same as Jeannette. They come from the same place honestly, of course, but over the years Jeannette has become much more of a twin to Janet than to Jean. Choosing one does, in fact mean not choosing the other, if we’re talking about pronunciation – they just don’t sound like the same name.

If it’s more important that it look the same in the middle, though, then I have less of a problem thinking they could be used interchangeably. When your daughter’s name is entered onto the family tree by future generations, seeing “Jean” followed by “Jean”, then “Jeanne” and then “Jeannette” is going to make sense to them. It will still have the visual throughline that means your daughter and all her female predecessors are of the same line.

I know the solution here is not to throw in a third name, but I’m going to anyway.   What about Jeanine? It retains more of the “Jean” sound while magically adopting the “JA”-beginning, as in Jeannette. After all, if you were naming a child after your husband’s sister with all the other issues about your family notwithstanding, would you be inclined to adapt it? Honor her literally, or with something resembling her name?

Lastly, can you call her Jeanne but pronounce it as the French Jeanne, giving each side of the family something?

I’m anxious about this one. I feel like my Irish ancestors are watching me, willing me to say the right thing. Let me know!