More About Our Girls’ Names Than You Ever Wanted to Know

You know how when you have a million things to do, and you don’t know where to begin, you just grab for the quickest, easiest thing on your to-do list?  Like, when you have twenty people arriving at your house in two hours for a birthday party and you haven’t made the cake or wrapped the presents yet and your house is totally a mess, so you think… ‘I guess I should just start by checking my email one more time because maybe that one person who may or may not be coming to the party has written in the last three minutes to say if they’re coming or not?’  (No?  Just me?  Really?)

Anyway, that’s how I’m feeling about my blog situation right now.  We’re just back from a week away visiting friends and camping, we’ve celebrated Bea’s third birthday this week and went to a wedding today.   (Oh, and we finally got our van back, and June’s tooth is fine.)  I have so much to blog about, I don’t know where to begin.

And so, in this deer-in-the-headlights moment, I’m going to point you in the direction of something far less interesting than any of those things would be.

Over the last two weekends (in two installments, because I couldn’t be concise to save my life) the stories of our girls’ names have been published over at Appellation Mountain, one of my favorite baby name blogs.  The first post tells the stories of how Pippa and Ro were named, and the second, Bea and June.

I feel just a little bit famous!

*** Update: the links are no longer live, so I’ve copied the text of the girls’ name stories below for posterity ***

1.  What is your child’s name? Philippa Violet, called Pippa. Siblings: Romilly Alice, Beatrix Joanna and Juniper Lucy 

When did you choose?  We’ve never known the sex of any of our girls before birth (although we increasingly assume girl with each pregnancy), so the question of when they were named can only truly be answered, “At birth.”  As for when our girl name was nailed down, I can remember it vividly.  We were living in Scotland when our first two were born (my husband is from England and went to university in Scotland).  When I was 19 weeks pregnant with Pippa, we went on one last “vacation” before baby to the highlands of Scotland, where my hubby’s idea of a good time was to drag pregnant me on long walks through all sorts of terrain in all sorts of weather.  It was pretty fun, to be fair, but the best part was I had a captive audience for discussing baby names.  At first, I was pushing for a family name, either Alice for both of my grandmothers or Violet for his maternal granny who had passed away just bfeore I had gotten pregnant.  I probably would’ve used both together in either order if he had been on board,  but he found Alice a bit boring (only to an Englishman!) and Violet a bit lacking in nickname options since neither of use cared for Vi.  Once we ditched the family name idea, I can’t remember us considering any name other than Pippa.  I had heard it and fallen in love with it since living in the UK.  He liked it too; it was an easy choice.  What wasn’t easy was whether my grandma or his would get the middle name spot.  In the end, the fact that he had lost his granny recently was what sealed the deal.  It was important to him, and my two grandmothers were (and are!) both still living, so they could wait for a little namesake to come along later (just 17 months later, as it happened!) Who was involved in the decision?  I can’t remember discussing names with anyone but each other until we had a name pretty settled for each sex. What were the other options?  Alice and Violet, and I also pitched Imogen, which we still haven’t used, but hubby has now, *after* four girls, decided he likes.  Sigh… 

Did the meaning matter?  Pippa means (like Philip) “lover of horses” which was neither here nor there for me.  It was meaningful that it was a uniquely British name reflecting her Daddy’s culture, and I liked the (very tenuous) connection to my hometown, Philadelphia.  

Did you second guess yourself?  Only before she was born.  I have adored her name ever since the first time I held her, and I still smile every time I see the whole thing written out. 

2.What is your child’s name?  Romilly Alice, sometimes called Ro.  Siblings Philippa Violet, Beatrix Joanna and Juniper Lucy. 

When did you choose?  Again, we didn’t know the sex, but Romilly came up around the halfway mark of the pregnancy.  I had been trying to sell hubby on Cecily for the whole pregnancy so far, but for both of us, it niggled at us that we didn’t love any of its nicknames.  Since it was the ending of the name I loved most (a name-loving friend of mine believes that what I really wanted was an Emily, and she may be right!), I began to hunt around for similar names.  We discussed Amelie, Coralie, Felicity, Verity… and then I discovered Romilly.  I don’t remember where I first heard it.  It’s around enough in the UK that I had a vague awareness of it without actually knowing why.  I remember realizing during a sleepless night while on vacation with hubby’s family that a Romilly could be called Romy for short, and that sold it for me.  And kept me awake for the rest of the night, too excited to sleep.  Incidentally, we *never* call her Romy, just Ro, or Ro-ro.  That same trip I found out that my mother-in-law had a Romilly at the school where she teaches and loved the name.  She hated Cecily.  We don’t always worry about others’ opinions, but I have to admit, it was a factor in this case. I then set about making sure it was a “real name”.  Someone on a messageboard directed me to this website: , which sealed the deal with photo after photo of sweet baby Romillys (ours is there now, too!).  I’m still not sure the purist in me belives it is a “real name”.  It’s a first name, by way of surname, by way of French place-name, but I still wish it had a longer history of use as a girls’ name.  Whatever, I love it.    

What were your criteria?  We have an ever-growing list of “rules” for our names.  At this point, the main restrictions were that it not start with any initial we already had in our immediate family (T, J or P) and that it complement Pippa’s name.  What were the other options?  We continued tossing around Cecily, Verity and Felicity until the bitter end, but we were really only looking for a back-up name, in case she came out *not* a Romilly. 

Did the meaning matter? Ha!  No one really knows for sure what it means.  The meaning I give if people ask me is, “Rock of a thousand flowers”, but the place name is so old that no one really knows, so I guess it didn’t matter to us that much!  Her middle name, Alice is full of meaning, since both of my grandmothers are Alice.  That was set in stone long before she had a first name. 

Did you second guess yourself?  Maybe slightly more than with Pippa, but really not much at all.  I love her name now, and it suits her perfectly. 

3.What is your child’s name?  Beatrix Joanna, called Bea sometimes.  Siblings: Philippa Violet, Romilly Alice and Juniper Lucy.  

What were your criteria?  Her middle name *had* to be Joan, or some form thereof.  We had honored three out of four great grandmothers so far, and hubby’s paternal grandma Joan was the odd one out, and still living to know it, too!  This middle name proved problematic with a few of the names I was liking: Georgina/Georgiana, Imogen.  Nothing was grabbing us and we just had a list through the whole pregnancy of unsparkly girls’ names.  Beatrix/Beatrice was on it.  

Who was involved in the decision?  Our usual sounding board of family and friends (but not all of them), as well as the trusted circle of name freaks at the messageboard who helped me name Romilly. 

What were the other options?  Cornelia June, Cora for short.  The one big ah-ha moment of the pregnancy was about this name.  Frustrated with Joan, I had taken to scouring hubby’s family tree for another name that would be meaningful to grandma Joan, to honor her side of the family without using her name.  There was a string of Corneliuses in her ancestry, and I briefly convinced hubby that this would cover us for honoring her.  The middle name, then would have honored my Aunt June (funny how that one vowel sound difference makes me love June and … um… not love Joan).  He soon enough came to his senses, though, and we went back to the drawing board with Joan in the middle. A friend suggested tweaking it to Joanna, and that was when some of the unsparkly names on our list started to shine a bit more. Our hospital list also included: Georgina/Georgiana, Harriett, Kerensa, Sibyl, Seraphina, Imogen, Felicity, Verity and probably a couple others I can’t remember. 

When did you choose?  When we met her!  We arrived at the hospital with a list of about ten names.  She was born about twenty minutes later, so there wasn’t a whole lot of time to discuss during labor!  Beatrix had been a frontrunner until a few days earlier when we realized she would be “Bea Young”, which she is.  We temporarily nixed it for that reason, but nothing else rose to the top in its place.  When she was born they asked me her name.  I said I needed a minute, and the nurse gave me a look that said, “Didn’t you think about this already?”  I shot her one back that said, “You have *no* idea!”, and hubby and I discussed.  I made him go first in saying who he thought she was, and he said Beatrix, thinking I was still going to fight for Cornelia.  I had known the moment I saw her she was a Beatrix, so there was really no discussion at all. Naming her was such a different process from naming the other girls.  She was our third baby in less than three years, and I think we were just burnt out.  It felt like a very mechanical process of adding names to the list, striking them off, and weighing pros and cons, but in the end, she still got a name that suits her prefectly and that I 100% love. 

Did the meaning matter? More for Bea than any of the others.  Although we have a very strong Christian faith, we had never sought out names that reflect this beyond honoring beloved family members who loved the Lord.  Bea’s name means “sojourner”, and was used by early Christians to reflect that they were strangers in this world and citizens of Heaven.  That is just what we want for our girl, so it couldn’t have been more perfect. 

Did you second guess yourself?  Only on the middle name.  A part of me sometimes wishes we had just bit the bullet and used Joan as is.  But Grandma Joan does know it’s for her, and she feels honored, so it’s all good. 

4. What is your child’s name?  Juniper Lucy, called June, sometimes Junie.  Big sisters Philippa Violet, Romilly Alice and Beatrix Joanna. 

When did you choose?   Our girl name hit me like a bolt of lightning on a long road trip with hubby and our three little ones when I was five weeks pregnant.  We had about a six hour drive ahead of us, so I had purposed to get a bit of name discussion in along the way.  

What were your criteria?  Again, we chose the family member we wanted to honor first, my Great Aunt June (whom I’ve called “Junie” since I was a little girl), and talked names around that.  We also wanted to work in something about the Chronicles of Narnia, since that was meaningful to us that pregnancy.  We were still avoiding duplicating sisters’ initials, but by baby number four, we decided it was time to throw our own two initials, J and T, back into the bag (she actually shares all my initials, JLY, so once we ditched that rule, we really ditched it!), and we were looking to stick with our theme of British-flavored names. I found from my earliest name thoughts this time around that I was more in love with June (which we thought would be her middle name) than with any of the names we had previously considered as first names.  But Just June wasn’t going to work with frilly sister names or with our common one-syllable last name. 
Confession time: we had always had the name Juniper in mind for a dog, should we ever get a girl dog down the line.  In hindsight, I had always loved it, but it just seemed a little too “out there” for a person.  A couple of my friends had suggested it when I was pregnant with Bea, but I had dismissed it because it started with my initial, and because in the back of my mind I was saving it for a puppy.  Because *that* makes sense. At some point I started hearing it as more botanical than hippy, and I was immediately in love.  You always hear of British ladies called Peony and Hyacinth; why not Juniper?  My mother-in-law remains unconvinced that Juniper is anything but a hippy name, on a par with Rainbow or Moonflower, but on our most recent visit to England, I spotted a Genevieve Juniper in a local birth announcement.  So there. Still, using “the family name” as the first name left me feeling completely at a loss for a middle name, until we thought of using a Narnia name.  So, I’m in a car on my way to Ohio, five weeks pregnant, and I suddenly shout out “Juniper Lucy!”  Hubby was unconvinced at first, but after a few hours of me randomly saying the name and holding up my hand for a high five (this is what he was doing every time the radio had something good to report about the Phillies, so I thought I’d try it), he was definitely warming to it. Who was involved in the decision?  Just us this time.  Actually, that’s not true.  I did check with my Aunt June to make sure she didn’t mind sharing her nickname.  I hoped she’d be flattered (and she was), but didn’t want her to feel she was being replaced.  She’s delighted with her little namesake. 

What were the other options?  All the major name drama surrounded boy names this time around.  Juniper was the only girl name we ever really discussed, and it was settled before the end of my first trimester! 

Did the meaning matter? The meanings are fine, but weren’t important to us this time around. 

Did you second guess yourself?  I don’t think so.  I don’t always think her name fits that well with our British vibe, but I love it too much to care.  Ironically, the two I had to work hardest to sell hubby on, Romilly and Juniper, are now his favorites.  Names, that is; we like all the children!   

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