Dear Duana,

Ok, so I probably shouldn't have left writing to you down to the wire but I hadn't made up my mind about my shortlist and Lo and behold, the baby arrived.

We've narrowed down to two names.

I am Chinese, and I feel like Maisie has a more Asian feel to the name. We love the uniqueness and the meaning of the name, given that I've got a great aunt Pearl and a myriad of other reasons. However, I can't help but think in the back of my head crazy lazy Maisie, which, given the trouble I've had latching she is super lazy. I also don't like that she will have a name that people just can't spell. Having recently changed my last name from Wong to my husbands, it was such a shock to me as to the number of variations that it holds. Maisie? There seem to be a million ways to spell it.

Then there is Amelia. Her aunt mentioned the name before I was pregnant even and I fell in love with it. Until, upon research I realized it is a very popular name. Even though in my circle, I've yet to meet someone who has named their daughter such, I don't like the idea of her having such a common name. I know too many an Amanda W who resented having the last initial in school. I also feel that the Asian side of her is lost in a name like Amelia, although the Asian side of the family overwhelmingly likes Amelia over Maisie. And it seems they may have picked a Chinese name for Amelia. (Without getting too far into the politics of Chinese naming, Maisie is just a bit more tricky since my Chinese name holds the 'Mai'.) I'm also tempted to give her the name to instill some work ethic in little Lazy Maisie.

Do I go with what I think is somewhat unique or normal? Maisie seems more fun, but Amelia seems more professional.

We love both names but would love to hear your opinion. Her middle name would be a family name of Bernice.

Thank you,



I suppose the day will come when I am tired of the different ways that names are interpreted according to where you come from and what your perceptions are, but it’s not soon. No matter how familiar the name, there’s no guarantee someone else sees it the same way you do….which is a point of note both in the interests of your question, C, and also for everyone else, who chooses Mason or Enid or Emma with the assumption that everyone else will find it as beautiful as they do. That’s not me throwing shade; I think it’s impossible to choose something that at least you yourself don’t think is great…

And Maisie is great. So is Amelia, actually, but we’ll get there in a minute. To me, it brings to mind a kind of bright-eyed, maybe slightly bohemian woman – the kind who makes a living as an economist and also as a poet. Or maybe she’d be the type who would write a searing and somehow-viral PhD thesis on Irish sea shanties or something, hence the title of this article. You know the person I’m talking about, right?

There’s nothing about it that makes me think of ‘lazy’ – in fact, I attribute that rhyme to crazy, lazy Daisy instead (or, while I’m up, Lazy Lousy Lizzie Jane. Who’s with me?). Both Maisie and Daisy are actually nicknames for Margaret, but I always think of Judy Blume’s Summer Sisters where it was a nickname for ‘Mayhew’, not that anyone was supposed to know that.

Which is where we come back, yet again, to ‘nobody will know what you know’.  That is, there may be a couple of ways to spell Maisie, or some confusion around Elspeth, or Adrianne versus Adrienne ad infinitum. God forbid if I wanted to name a boy with the ACTUALLY CORRECT spelling “Aidan”. The incredible number of variant spellings these days means that lots of kids will need to correct spelling from time to time, and that’s no big deal. For example—say I tell you I want to give a child the nickname for Isabella that ends in an ‘ee’ sound, that was once the name of a character on Grey’s Anatomy.

Now spell it.

No matter what version you chose, I guarantee there are children in every elementary school across Canada and the US who spell it differently, in at least two ways.

The other side of this coin is that the name is more unusual. Lainey understood the Chinese sound immediately, but it won’t be obvious to non-Chinese speakers, unless you mention it to them. Only you and your husband get to decide, though, whether that’s a plus or a minus.

The same doesn’t apply to Amelia. Boy, yes, is it popular. Hugely so, both within Asian communities and without. Quoting Lainey again: “Amelia, I think, is going to be SUPER Asian. Like I’m sure there are 7 thousand Amelias happening in Hong Kong right now.” 

I can’t speak to the exact number or proliferation of this name in Hong Kong, but I know it’s happening in North America, and it’s only going to get bigger. There are people who love it because it sounds Victorian and formal, and there are people who love it because it reminds them of Dr. Who. There are people who remember Amelia Bedelia fondly, too, for what it’s worth.

But if the popularity is the only issue, well, it’s never going to be my personal choice, but, as I often point out, having the number one name, even in a time where popularity was more pervasive than it was then, didn’t get in the way of Jennifer Aniston’s success, or Michael Jordan’s. Ask them…

(…even though there may be an entire sub-conversation to be had about how they managed some success because they DID have popular names, as opposed to if Jennifer Aniston had had a Greek first name to go with her last name. Would we be here if she were called Pelagia Anastasakis, which is the surname her father Anglicized from?)

Still, there are ways around this. Maisie, as I’ve mentioned, doesn’t feel that exotic or hard to spell, but you could root it in Margaret or Mae or hell, even Mason, if you’re feeling contrarian. Similarly, Amelia could also be the French version Amelie, which has a ‘Mei’ sound depending on your French accent, or you could take a page from the Princess Diaries and go with Mia, or even indulge me and jump to Malia, which is a name I would like to be adopted into the ‘not-unfamiliar’ category before people relegate future Malias to being ‘named after Malia Obama’, not that there’s anything wrong with that.

In the end, the names share similar sounds and qualities, and seem like they’d both work in your world and the way you hope your daughter will be seen. 

But people who name their children in the top 5 most popular names don’t generally have concerns about popularity, so that tells me you’re going to be more affected by it – or at least by second-guessing it – than you’ll be comfortable with, if you wind up choosing Amelia.


The court finds in favour of Maisie (with reasonable accommodation for subsequent investigation by the parents).

Let us know!