Hi Duana,

Our daughter is called Dorothy Wynn and we absolutely LOVE her name. We love it for many reasons. We love nicknames so we call her Dot or Dotty. Wynn harks back to my Welsh heritage and my partner’s Grandmothers were called Dorothy and Winifred. Mine were called Patricia and Peggy - both of which we aren't that keen on.

Our problem lies in what to call our second child if it's a girl. (We have our boys name down.) I am a bit miffed we used Wynn as a middle name for Dot as I love Winifred and that she could have been Win or Winnie. I then realised this short forming of a name is really important to us. We lean towards a long, rare, ''old fashioned' name that can be shortened into 1 and 2 syllable nicknames. I know, very specific!

Names we have discussed and we kind of like are Mabel, Peggy and Beatrice. I like them but none of them feel like the one and don't fit the nickname rule. My partner also has a really annoying aversion to names that remind him of anyone famous ("I don't like the name Beatrice because of Princess Beatrice”) it's infuriating. I am a huge name nerd and feel I have done all the research I can and we are getting nowhere. 

The middle name will be one syllable and of Welsh heritage (think Gwen or Bron). Also, being 'old' when I am having my children means that a lot of great names have been taken by my friends offspring - Betsy, Iris, Matilda, Leila, Tabitha, Cassie, Nancy....so these are out and don't quite fit the bill anyway. The baby will have my partner’s surname which rhymes with Minton.  

I am SO interested in what you might suggest!! Please help!

Yours excitedly, 




I’m a bit unsure on how to approach this letter, because the first and most obvious thing to do is to change your partner’s mind on Beatrice because WOW is he missing the boat – but that’s actually probably at odds with the more practical option, which is to avail you of the millions of options that also fit your criteria. So let’s go with those first… 

Okay. Number one on my list is the beautiful Wilhelmina, which of course can be shortened to Will or Willa but also to Mina, and needs more time in the sun. Plus, with your demonstrated affection for W sounds, it’s a no-brainer. Or of course there’s Henrietta, which is going to charm the hell out of you with its obvious ‘Henry’ or ‘Henny’ short forms. I could almost stop there… 

But something about your letter makes me think these are going to be seen as ever-so-slightly too “long, rare, and old-fashioned that can be shortened”, so while I don’t agree, I’ll hold my peace on that one, at least nominally, and move on to a billion other amazing options. 

Margaret is crying out for your attention here – obviously can be shortened to Mara or Margie, but also to Greta or yes, to Peggy, or to Marta or any of the other million nicknames for this renewed classic that strike your fancy. I do think there are a couple of intrepid parents who have beat you to the ‘Peggy’ punch, but that doesn’t make it any less charming, so give it a second look. Or think about the lovely Cecily, which gives you Ses or Sis-style nicknames as well as something like Cecil or yes, Cece, which I have previously failed to cartwheel over, and as a result have been chastised by some of y’all. But still, the name isn’t too extra, it fits with Dorothy, and yet it has a rich well of nicknames to draw from… 

I think if it were anyone else writing this column they’d be urging me to suggest Josephine, which I only avoid because I think ‘Josie’ is so complete that people neglect the beautiful long form – if you want that sound at the end, I’m much more partial to Evangeline, or even something like Celestine (and this reminds me that when I had a coworker named Christina, I annoyed and charmed her in roughly equal measure by referring to her as ‘Stina’. What? Say it out loud and tell me it doesn’t catch your ear).  

Penelope is an almost obvious option here, but allow yourself the Peppa or Pippa or Nella options rather than feeling restricted only to Penny. Or if you want to get into a different sound altogether, maybe the choice is to go with Lucretia (yes, really) to get you to Lucy or Lulu, or something like Jacintha to get a nickname like Jane. Remember that in nicknames there really are no rules! For example, if I point out that Veronica is sorely neglected, I know people will come back with, “Oh, we don’t like the nickname ‘Ronnie’. But you can call her Vee or Rona or Nico or anything else that comes to mind – there’s no legality here, I promise! 

Finally, I couldn’t let this go without pointing out that Beatrice is so popular and delightful that the Princess is hardly most people’s first association with it – there are dozens of references to choose from, but depending on your preference, Tris from the Divergent series, or Bea from the still-so-under-acknowledged (and Toronto-set!) Depression-era Booky series are two options that will utterly undercut any unpleasant associations. 

Let us know! 

PS – Sharp-eyed readers will note that there’s one obvious favourite name of mine that I would suggest, but haven’t, here – that’s because it’s already in use for the LW’s family, I’m protecting privacy by not saying which one, but I know you guys can figure it out, right?