Hi Duana,

My husband and I are expecting our first, probably only, child in April – a baby girl! His last name (and future baby’s) is a Filipino name pronounced E-bay-as. Lots of vowel sounds, which is challenging.
We fell in love early and hard for the name Mayari. She’s the goddess of the moon, revolutions, and gender equality in pre-colonial Tagalog mythology. Badass right? It’s also totally uncommon, I had never heard it before and a bit of googling has yielded only a Philippine TV character and a type of Birkenstock. We love Maya as her nickname.
My husband suggested Elizabeth for a middle name. It honours my Grandma, the most tenacious 85-year-old around, and it’s a nice nod to my pan-British Isles heritage.
So, here is where I come to the issue of vowel sounds. Is Mayari Elizabeth E-bay-as too many back-to-back “ee” sounds? I suggested a short staccato middle name instead but I haven’t come up with anything we love. My husband, good feminist that he is, likes the idea of inserting my last name (two-syllable, H-name) before his but I think that’s getting into the territory of too damn long. I’m also aware that most people will use just her first and last, so Mayari E-bay-as ("ee" "ee") or Maya E-bay-as ("ah" "ee").
Other names we like but don't love: Tala (another Tagalog goddess) and simply Eliza (and Peggy, no, just kidding).
What do you think?
Contemplating Vowels 


WOW is this a name. I love that you told us about it, and to be clear, I think the fact that you wrote a paragraph about it, love associated nicknames, and have a great association both with the origin, the history, and the sound make this a no-brainer. Her name is of course Mayari, and frankly, I kind of like the trapeze-swing feeling of Mayari E-bay-as. 

Maybe I’m just high on the sunshine that’s finally gracing us with its presence, but I don’t have a big issue with it. True, the two names together require a hard stop in between (or a ‘glottal attack’, as I was taught to call it in choir) but because the name is so lyrical, it almost feels like it’s intentional, like it makes the name into an announcement. “Mayari (pause) E-bay-as!” Plus, though you point out that Maya E-bay-as is also a vowel-to-a-vowel, it’s a different enough sound that I don’t think it’s difficult to pronounce. 

But I have to admit that ‘Elizabeth’ in the middle made me struggle a bit. The sound coming out of ‘Mayari’ automatically makes you (me) pronounce it “Eeelizabeth”, as opposed to a consonant, which might be more likely to elicit an ‘Uh’ sound. That is, we’d say “Mayari Elizabeth” because your voice is already making the ‘eee’ sound, but “Kristen Uhlizabeth” – isn’t the English language absurd? 

I don’t want you to think this is an actual problem, though, and here’s why. Unscientifically, I bet if you poll every woman you know named Emily, 72% of them would say their middle names are Elizabeth (I assume the combination was subtly planted by the Clifford The Big Red Dog books.) There’s nothing that says you can’t have two ‘e’ sounds back to back, and I’d venture you wouldn’t even be worrying about ‘Elizabeth’ if you weren’t also thinking about Mayari’s surname. 

That said – if you’re using Elizabeth because you’re thinking about honouring your grandma and your heritage, we’re talking about one of the most versatile names in existence, with literally dozens of variants, so why not have fun? 

The first option that comes to mind is Lisbeth, which might be seen as just a quick garbling of Elizabeth, but is definitely consonant-heavy and provides a bit of a break between the new names – or you could go with Liza, which eliminates that front ‘e’ that’s causing you problems, and is close enough to the Eliza that you love to maintain the spirit of it. Or choose something where the beginning sound is “El”, not “ee” – Elsie (but not Elise) or Elka, or, oooh, Elspeth! Elspeth is an underrated version which has that ‘L’ sound right at the beginning, or my personal favourite, the Polish variant Elzbieta. Or, if that feels like too much of a cultural mix, the beautiful Ilse ironically starts with the same letter Mayari ends with, but a totally different sound. The possibilities are endless, and I endorse just about all of them. 

One other thing in your letter jumped out at me – that this is your possibly-only child, in which case I’d say go nuts and throw another middle name in there. I don’t know if your H-surname is the one to go with, but if this is an otherwise perfect name that’s bothering you because of those two ‘e’ sounds, there’s no reason not to go with Mayari Tala Elizabeth or Mayari Lane Elizabeth or Mayari Jean Elizabeth or whatever else will give you a little more rhythm there, because why not? Don’t come at me with ‘oh there’s only so many spaces on the forms’, I promise this is not a thing anymore, and anyone else who has a problem with it is not qualified to name your daughter anyway, because you’ve already got it down cold. 

It sounds like a lot of this is already in the bag, but that doesn’t mean we don’t want an update! Let us know!