We are having a girl. Although, I don’t have any concrete proof (we opted out of finding the gender). I just know that it’s a girl. As a result of my strong intuition, I haven’t even considered any boys…yet.
A little bit about us. My husband’s and my family are of Italian descent. My husband’s family is Southern Italian. His name, and his siblings first names, are multi-syllabic vowel combinations. His Italian last name translates into “Olympic, victor, conqueror, winner, champ, medal-winner”. It is definitely a strong last name.
There are some definite contenders for our babes. The first one is Sienna. We love this name. We agree on the name. BUT, my husband in passing mentioned the name “Sicily” and it’s all I’ve been thinking about. Sicily. Not to be mistaken for Cecilia. Sicily.
Clearly the theme here is Italian Cities or are they considered Provinces?
I googled popular Italian names and of course came across Milana, Capri, Venezia…which are nice but I don’t love them enough for us to consider as contenders.
I’m very curious to hear your thoughts about Sicily and Sienna.
I’m just going to go ahead and say it, you current namers are on a roll. Every question in my inbox is delicious and nuanced and has great new takes on names… I’m into it.
So, I’ll start by pointing out that there’s no need to be reticent about using geographical names – it’s a well-established trend. Lots of people can point to a recent-ish baby named Chicago or Phoenix or Cairo, but you know who’s long graduated college by now? Brooklyn and Madison and Kingston …hell, America Ferrara (who has explained her complicated feelings about her name several times) is in her 30s, and way, way back as a teenage camp counselor, I had a camper named Montana who was beautifully blasé about the whole thing. Plus, I saw a class list this week that included a Vienna, so this is definitely all happening. (Thanks, K!)
Similarly, I don’t think you need my reassurance on Sienna (which seems to be the accepted spelling when it’s a name, as opposed to the city name Siena), but it’s in a sweet spot for a lot of people – recognizable and familiar but rare, kind of the way I suspect people see Lin-Manuel Miranda’s second son’s name, Francisco.
But now, off to Sicily!
When I reached the point in your note that read “not to be mistaken for Cecilia” I thought ‘no, of course not. It would be mistaken for Cecily’. I know I’ve advocated for this name in this column before, and I also know it’s not used very often. I would venture that most people named Cecily have received mail or notes addressed to ‘Sicily’ (but I don’t imagine we’ll find out, because I don’t have any Cecilys who read this column, which I know because if I did they would definitely have replied to my fawning over their name by now!).
This is further complicated – but also made simpler – when you consider that actress Cicely Tyson most definitely pronounces it like the Italian region, but with a nod towards the ‘Cecily’ spelling… just to further confuse things.
So, I have absolutely no qualms about you using Sicily, and think it’s gorgeous. How can I not, when I love Cecily so much? Plus, there are existing names with larger variances in pronunciation, you know? (I’m only coming up with Helena and Lara off the top of my head and on deadline, but I know there are dozens of others.)
My cautions, if I have any (but I don’t, really) are twofold. Number one, be prepared for misspellings of all kinds – people who think they hear ‘Cecily’, or people who know you mean ‘the Italian kind’, but somehow transpose the spelling, or go with the aforementioned Tyson version.
Number Two – and this is not at all a reason not to use the name – but just so you’re forewarned…
I often tell people that there’s no such thing as teasing because a name is different, ethnically or otherwise, anymore, and that’s true. But it doesn’t preclude teasing because there’s an association with something, even if that association isn’t inherently negative. I’m sure somewhere there’s a six-year-old Arthur who’s tired of being compared to the cartoon anteater (and if so, I hope John Legend reaches out to him).
But when I read your letter, I was delighted, of course – and then, on an utterly subconscious level, started mentally repeating the “Long-Legged Italy” poem. I’m pretty sure this is very old, and that I only know it because my mom compulsively taught us anything she could remember from her (Europe-based) school days, but just in case it comes up, you should know that the ‘poor Sicily’ idea is there. (Guys, tell me I’m not the only one who knows this weird poem, please!)
I think you should choose it, and I am even more excited at what it could mean for your future children, after the beautifully named Sicily Sienna Lastname. Let us know!