Welcome back to another round of name updates – I love how excited you guys have been to read these, and I especially want to thank people who have sent their own updates after seeing some of last week’s columns!
One glorious thing that happens in the writing of this column is that people write in constantly even if they’re not naming a baby or named theirs years before. I haven’t always been sure how to deal with these comments outside of when you guys send awesome observations from your kids’ classrooms or sports teams.
But then one day I got a letter from someone whose letter was in the queue, but hadn’t yet been published. This was her original letter, sent in late June:
I am currently pregnant with our second (and final) child due in November, which seems far out, but I can't spend the entire pregnancy looking at name websites. We had a boy, named Grant, two years ago, and his name came to us early and felt like the "one." This time, I was convinced I was pregnant with a boy and we had already narrowed it down to George (family name), Cole or Clark. We liked that the style of name mirrored Grant: short, strong and simple. Of course, I found out I was pregnant with a girl and we are stumped.
I tend to gravitate towards older/classic names (our dog is named Phyllis), and prefer names that aren't overly flowery - if Grant was a girl, we were pretty sold on Bronwen, but it doesn't feel like the one anymore. Other names we both don't hate are: Phoebe, Maeve, Cecily, and Clara (well, my husband more than me). Unfortunately, none of these are giving me the feeling that I got from Grant, except maybe Cecily. I suffer from some name PTSD because, although I love my name, it is constantly misspelled, mispronounced or misheard, and I worry Cecily will suffer the same fate, so I hesitate.
Can you sell me any of the above or have other suggestions that feel like they fit what we are looking for?
Then, in September, when she saw my response to Around The World, she wrote this:
I wrote to you awhile ago about a sister for Grant and in the letter I expressed that I'm really feeling Cecily, but worried about pronunciation. We've been calling my bump Cecily for a few weeks and I told my husband I just need a sign, and then today, this.
I'm doing it, Duana. I'm naming her Cecily. You can take my letter out of the running, if it was still in there.
I proposed doing… more or less exactly what I’m doing now, running her letter and her update all in one, and like clockwork, she was true to her word…
We had a baby girl yesterday and named her Cecily Charlotte. She can go by CeCe if she wants to have an option. It’s about 50/50 when it comes to people mispronouncing or asking how it’s spelled v. people who see familiar with it. However, my sample size was low ;)
I love it, and I’m so so happy the column helps people who feel like they’re not sure they can take the plunge for the name they love – Cecily, in particular, is one that really seems to give people both anxiety and heart-eyes, so I’m so happy this turned out the way it did!
Obviously, I try to get to as many of the letters I receive in as timely a way as I can, but sometimes infants have other ideas. That was sort of the story with the update to Long But Not. Popular But Not. Elspeth, But Not, back in 2017:
Thanks so much for your email! Our little girl ended up making an early arrival a couple of weeks ago :) We decided to go with Cecelia, since we just kept coming back to it. For the middle name we ended up choosing Joy, and we’re very much in love with our Cecelia Joy.
I’m a bit sad that we didn’t get the opportunity to consider your suggestions, since some of them are lovely, but hopefully they might inspire someone else!
Gorgeous name, job done – but wait, there’s more! Look what rolled into my inbox in the beginning of December:
I just wanted to drop you a quick email, since I loved corresponding with you about our name choices during our previous pregnancy. We are expecting our third girl at Easter! As you can see from the email trail, our older girls are Althea Lorely and Cecelia Joy. For our newest arrival, we have chosen Rosalind Elaine, with a backup of Beatrix if we decide not to use Rosalind for some reason. I think Althea, Cecelia and Rosalind will be a nice trio :)
Althea, Cecilia, and Rosalind will be a STUNNING trio. Call me when someone decides the names are so perfect they want to write a sweeping epic series about three beautifully-named sisters…
I think the thing I love about these updates is the sense of achievement parents have when they finally choose the names they want. Names can sometimes take bravery. It’s hard not to do what everyone else is doing, and it’s hard to make what can seem like a monumental decision in a bubble. But the joy that comes off people when they do is incredible.
So in that spirit, please come on a journey with me. I received this email a few weeks ago. It contained two things: a letter, looking for name advice, that was never sent – and an update, all in one:
In the spirit of updates, here is a letter I never sent you, and the outcome thereafter. I wanted to write and say thank you for all the love and work you put into your column. It might seem a little odd to write now, when our daughter has already been born (and named!) but I really wanted to, because honestly, without your column I might never have had the courage to give her the name I loved so much. She is two months old today, and every day I love her name more.
Thank you, thank you, thank you.
I wrote the letter below in about October last year, and saved it in my drafts folder. Every time I wavered on the name, I opened the folder and read it again.
My sister recently told me about your column, and I have been devouring the archives ever since.
I am pregnant with my first child, a girl, and I'm due around the end of November. My husband and I resolved whose last name the baby will have fairly easily (mine, which is a three syllable Irish name, with his last name as a middle name) and generally speaking we have reasonably similar taste, which has enabled us to come up with a shortlist of six possible names. This has in part been achieved by him absolutely refusing to suggest any names himself, but instead allocating himself veto powers to my (seemingly endless) list of names I like. It's worked surprisingly well! While he has vetoed many of my beloved suggestions (Honour, Beatrix, Margaret) and I've vetoed others because they are wayyyy too popular in our neck of the woods (Harper, Harriet, Hazel, various other non-H names), we have the shortlist and I feel fundamentally good about every name on there.
But. (Of course there's a but, or why would I be writing to you!) One of them is a real humdinger, a name that I know every single person who hears it will raise an eyebrow and go "...really? They named her that?" BUT I LOVE IT.
It's currently top of the list, despite my misgivings. We would call her Cleo for short most of the time. I love the history and the power it connotes and the "smart boss lady" element. It sounds good in my mouth, if you know what I mean? It feels right saying it. But is this a little like calling my child Madonna or Cher or something? If I'm honest, I'm less concerned with other people judging the child (given the names some of her peers will have, I don't actually think it's that out there) and more with people judging me (I work in a very conservative field and also suspect some members of my family will think I have lost my mind.) I don't want to spend the rest of my life telling people my child's name and bracing for blowback. But I also don't want to give up on calling her Cleopatra because of other people's judgement -- because really, screw that. I am also aware that we are hoping to have two kids, and finding another name that sits well next to Cleopatra may be tough, especially if we have a second girl.
The other names on our list:
Veronica (this was our frontrunner for ages - Veronica Mars! Veronica Lodge! - but my husband hates all the associated nicknames and we live in an area where any long name will get automatically shortened)
Lyra (may be too similar to my first name?)
Natasha (though I hate Nat as a shortening but I love Tasha and Sasha)
Valerie (a late stage contender)
Maybe also Clara?
I want something elegant yet punchy, not impossible to spell, something that feels timeless (but my husband hates anything that sounds too old-fashioned). Something that says "this is a girl who can knock it out of the park", whatever 'it' is at any particular time.
What am I missing? Or should we go with Cleopatra, critics be damned? Of course it is possible that she will turn up and one of the other names on the shortlist will just be right... but what if it's not?
Thank you so much for your thoughts,
Cleopatra was born in December. We kept our options open until she was born, but the second they pulled her out of me and handed her to my husband he said "oh, she's a Cleopatra!" And he was right.
E, your daughter’s name is wonderful! I’m so glad you went with the name you really loved, and that ultimately, the answer to the question you had right at the end, ‘what am I missing’ is obvious – absolutely nothing.
I’ll be honest, I felt a little embarrassed about all the praise and thanks you were giving to me and considered cutting some of them out, but ultimately I left them in because I think it will be obvious to anyone reading this letter… the person you need to thank is you. You chose a name that very, very clearly says ‘this is a girl who can knock it out of the park’, and you should remember that you are the parents who gave her that gift in the first place.
Finally, and joyfully, I’m keeping my promise – here is the update, for now, to Their Dead Chicken Stole My Baby Name.
Firstly, THANK YOU for taking the time and thought to answer my pertinent poultry query so quickly. It’s given us a lot to think about while we sussed out Chicken Matilda’s true status: longtime family pet or easily replaced generic chicken. We’ve come to the conclusion that she may have been the latter (sorry Chicken Matilda), and our concerns have abated.
I will give you the final update in a few weeks when baby arrives. We have until then to settle on a middle name. I love all your suggestions but I have a niece Roisin and a LOT of Delaney (surname) cousins so both are out I think. And hilariously, Chicken Matilda’s human owner is Aoife, so I think us using her name, coupled with her dead chicken’s name, may seem like we are taking the absolute piss? Argh! We’ll have to wing it, and decide what/who she looks like when she comes out.
Thank you again, though. I’m sure you’re inundated with queries much more urgent than mine, so I really appreciated the quick reply!
Talk to you soon,
(Hopefully. My insides are smushed here, hurry up, Baby)
P.S. your Ma probably found out for you, but my name is pronounced ‘blaw-heen’ with fada’s on the a and second i. I KNOW.
P.P.S. Himself is delighted to know another man across the sea has been saddled with the ‘Himself’ moniker. Please note you are now ‘Herself’ by default.
...and another thing...
Why would anyone think my Very Serious Query was a fake?? Unfathomable.
Obviously I have to stop here because this letter is un-toppable. I look forward with bated breath to the ultimate update, and all the others that may be rolling in!
The final installment of my backlog-clearing updates will appear on Friday, unless I get a ton more updates before then… if you’re reading this and hesitating – let us know how it all turned out!