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Sarah Posted by Sarah at May 15, 2012 15:06:10 May 15, 2012 15:06:10


I am in dire need of your advice.  I am due at the end of November and my husband and I have chosen to be surprised with the sex. We fairly easily came to a conclusion on a boy's name - Declan, with Dex as a nickname.  My husband's heritage is Irish, and he's very attracted to Irish names, so this fit the bill.  As for the girl's name, we have always thought that we'd have a daughter named Eleanor to be called Ellie.  We've talked about it for years. Now, I know how you feel about naming things to get to a nickname, and also about how you feel about Ellie's popularity.  But we love it. 

Because I am concerned about the popularity, we've been throwing around other names, but can't all.  I love Margaret/Maggie, Louise/Lulu, and Elizabeth/Libby.  Clearly, you and I are on opposite ends of the spectrum about the nickname issue.  I just love to have a longer, preferably old-fashioned name with an adorable nickname.  My husband likes Rory and Reagan.  Again, heavily favoring the Irish.  He can't let go of Ellie, though, honestly.  I feel like I can, but I don't know if I want to.  Can you help us to either be comfortable with Ellie or pick something else that meets both of our criteria?

Thanks for any advice that you might have!




Okay, well first of all, T, I have to point out that I love Rory and that Libby is my dog’s name so we’re not as far apart as you think. But take everything that comes after with a grain of salt, OK?

Do you remember when How I Met Your Mother was still revolutionary television?  Remember that one episode where Barney explained the Crazy/Hot axis? (Would that show even exist anymore if not for Barney?) He explained that the hotter a girl was, the more tolerable a larger amount of crazy could be. Seems simple, right?

The same applies to names on the Love/Popular axis. The more you love a name, like truly get squealingly excited about calling your child that even when you’re grounding them or discovering something they pushed in their nose or whatever, the higher on the popular-tolerance-scale you can go.

This means that if you want to name your kid Isabella, you have to have been dreaming of nothing but Isabella since time began, no exceptions, no erasies, etc. You have to be absolutely sure that the fact that 25 others are going to have her name at any juncture in her life matters not one bit to you – and hope it’s the same for her. It’s the Jennifer factor.

And Ellie is not Jennifer, or even Isabella. If you love it hard? If, as you say, you’ve been talking about it for years – then why get in your own way? You’re right, I don’t love aiming for a nickname but Ellie has a long and storied history on its own, and I think it can stand as a name.

Here’s what you have to remember:

When she gets older, the stories of why she’s called Ellie/Eleanor may matter. If someone else is named for their great-aunt and your girl is named because you loved the name, it wouldn’t be out of place to also develop an appreciation for Mrs. Roosevelt, for instance.

People actually name based on sounds, more than anything. So Ellie is from Elle, which we hear in all the Bellas and Ellas but also in upcoming names like Marcella or the return of Danielle. There will be a lot of sound-alikes. So, if you do want to try something different, think of a slight twist. What about Elke? Or Drusilla?  

You’ll notice neither of those fit with your “Irish Names” inquiry. That’s because I have a confession. The Irish name thing is beginning to be a velvet noose.   

Look, I come by my love of Irish names “honestly” -- my mom is FOB and has 10 brothers and sisters; that’s a lot of names to memorize and a lot of cousins whose inexplicable spellings I had to understand. I always thought going back to the Gaelic well would set names apart.

But we’re developing a reputation as “those people” who don’t want anyone else using the names, which is gross, or of names that are only useable when they’re adapted, or where the more obscure and inexplicable the spelling, the more worthy the name, and really, it’s not sustainable. All this in favour of telling you that while you could always choose Aisling nicknamed Ash, or Aoife nicknamed Eve, or…those are really about it because I’m realizing that Gaelic names don’t really lend themselves to nicknames, well, if you find your love outside the walls of Ireland, no problem – and Ireland itself is expanding its naming repertoire. You don’t have to feel hemmed in.

Ultimately, if her name is Ellie? Then that’s her name and she’s lucky you love it so much. There’s nothing better than being given a name your parents truly adore.

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