On How Our Girl Got Her Name

Names are kind of a big deal to me, you know.  So you might have guessed that although I didn’t give you much of a glimpse into our name deliberations this time around, our new girl’s name was not arrived at lightly.

Her middle name, Audrey, was a no-brainer.  Having honored all four great grandmothers and a special great aunt from my family already with our girls’ names, it was finally Trevor’s Auntie Audrey’s turn.  I have long loved her name and hoped to bequeath it to a daughter at some point.  (Who knew I would actually have enough daughters to use all of these fantastic names in our family trees?!)

Auntie Audrey with Great Grandma Joan, Beatrix's middlenamesake.

The name Coraline is a long-used variant of Coral, like Coralie, so on the surface of it, it means “coral”, as in reef. (And since a few people have asked, we’re pronouncing it with a long i at the end, just how it looks: COR-a-line.)

But to me, all the significance of her name lies in its first syllable, Cor, the Latin word for “heart.”

Back in February when we found out we were were expecting, we almost immediately had reason to fear the worst.  At our early ultrasound, we hoped against hopes to see a 7-week baby with a nice beating heart.  The first glance with the ultrasound wand showed a 5-and-a-bit-week baby… and no heartbeat.  It was just like the ultrasound of the baby we lost back in November, and for a few brief moments, I believed I’d lost the baby again.

The tech took a closer look, though, and suddenly everything changed.  “Oh wait,” she said… “it is measuring 7 weeks after all…”

“And the heartbeat?”  we asked tentatively.

“”Yes, there it is.”

But our relief was short-lived, as just a few days later I began spotting again.  Having never had this symptom with any of my healthy pregnancies, I once again feared the worst, though my morning sickness persisted.  It wasn’t until my 11-week midwife appointment that I was once again able to hear that sweet beating heart and be reassured that our little one was still safe and sound.   So, you see, it was all about the heartbeat with this baby.

The name Coraline came up very early on in our name discussions, but we kept waving it away.  If only it weren’t for that movie, it would be perfect!

But when a name is that close to perfection for both of us, it’s worth taking a closer look at the “if it weren’t for” to see if it is *really* a dealbreaker.

We had seen the movie.  I’m not going to recommend it – it’s definitely creepy – but we didn’t *not* like it.  The actual title character herself was pretty sweet.  So we dug a bit deeper.

We discovered that the movie was based on a novel.  There you go: it’s a literary name, not a movie name after all, much more like naming a child Charlotte than naming her Ariel.  And the author is British, which, despite the fact that the book’s author believed he was making up the name, somehow gave credence to our perception of the name having the “British-y vibe” that we go for.

The final test was an old British baby name book I had in my collection.  Published in 1974, so not that old, but old enough to predate both the movie and the novel.  And there she was, sitting with her sister Coralie in the variants of Coral.  A real name.

We were sold.

And this little ditty, from the creepy movie we had so often wished didn’t exist, ended up only strengthening our affection for our girl’s name.

It’s written and performed by They Might Be Giants.  How fun is that?  Our big girls know every word already.

Still, if you’re reading this and had never heard of the movie, as many people we have mentioned the name to hadn’t, you can go ahead and forget I mentioned it and go back to thinking we just dusted off a beautiful old English classic that has never once appeared in pop culture.

7 thoughts on “On How Our Girl Got Her Name

  1. But it isn’t just pop culture! It’s Neil Gaiman! Who is wonderful! (You’re right that his stuff can be a bit creepy, but he’s an absolute literary genius. The book Coraline definitely isn’t a children’s book; it’s kind of an arty adult/teen novel, but it’s really clever and original. To me “Coraline” completely echoes Gaiman, but in a GOOD way, and I think it will endear her to any modern literary fan she meets!) Fabulous name! And congratulations on baby Coraline. 🙂

    (Also, sorry for being a random new commenter; I had noticed your daughters had really pretty names and was watching for the new name. Which is gorgeous, by the way.)

  2. Yes, while he may not write a style you would necessarily be keen on, Gaiman is a brilliant writer. He has even written a true children’s book (“Coraline” may be about kids, but it’s not for them). Take a look for “The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish”.

    Congrats on the new addition and another lovely name choice!

  3. What a gorgeous name. I adore your daughter’s names Jodi and loved reading their name stories over at Appellation Mountain. I was waiting to hear what you would call the new addition and pictured an Imogen, Felicity, Cordelia or perhaps even Penelope (where do I get these ideas from? These names probably aren’t too your taste at all!) but suffice it to say that Coraline is just darling!

  4. Another random commenter (but long-time reader) popping up to say I LOVE the name Coraline (as I love your other girls’ names). I actually really love the movie and book, and how spunky and brave the title character is. My husband and I agree Coraline would be on the short list for our yet-to-be-conceived future daughter, were it not for the fact that our last name begins with an “N.” Instead, Coralie and Cora (which also happened to be the name of a wonderful great-great aunt of mine) are high on the list! Congratulations on your newest arrival!

  5. I love the name Coraline. As to THAT movie, I know the feeling. My sister named her boy Ariel and then didn’t the little mermaid hit theaters right when he was heading off to Kindergarten. I have been blessed with 2 boys but have always dreamed to name my little girl, Fiona. I still love the name Fiona but really it would be a test of my fortitude to hold to it now. I love all your daughters names! Very pretty names.

  6. I loved names ending with ‘us’ sound for my boy. Names such Fergus, Augustus, and Octavius were too ‘different’ we deemed while Thomas was too plan. We were leaning toward Amos or Thomas though when we found the ‘perfect name’ for our little guy—Jonas! The few we told agreed. He was born and favorable responses. Then fast forward to grocery line and teen clerk is saying ‘oh..so cute. Jonah..hi Jonah…’ I correct ‘no,it’s Jo-nus’. She replies ‘oh, Jonas, like the Jonas Brothers!’ Now we get it every week–‘Jonas like the Jonas Brothers’. Never once did I think Jonas Brothers. Never once than anyone I told pre-birth mention Jonas Brothers but as soon as born it slammed home I had picked ‘one of those (celebrity influenced) names’.

  7. ‘There you go: it’s a literary name, not a movie name after all, much more like naming a child Charlotte than naming her Ariel.’

    But… Ariel is a literary name, too.

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