I don’t think it will come as a surprise to any of my readership that finding the perfect name is rather at the top of my to-do list these days. Two names, in fact, since we won’t be finding out whether this little one is a boy or a girl. The trouble is, we’re both suffering from a bit of name exhaustion after naming three children (and having to settle on boys’ names for each of them as well!) in four years. We’re tired of talking about names, we’re tired of thinking about names (well, Trevor is at least), and we’re even tired of a lot of the names we once liked. So, in the interest of livening things up a little bit, perhaps getting some outside input, or at least getting ourselves to organize our thoughts, we are letting you all have a glimpse into our name universe. As soon as our schedule permits, we will be featuring our baby naming philosophy as an HS,SSS topic (though it may be a few weeks!)
Just so you’re not disappointed as you read on, I’ll tell you upfront that I don’t plan on sharing any of the actual names that we’re considering in this post (or its sequel). It just gets too messy when people comment on names you’re considering before you’ve actually used them, so I’ll spare us all that grief. Having said that, I am looking forward to hearing suggestions from you all after you’ve read this and understand the intricate (albeit self-imposed) name infrastructure we have to work within. But that’s all for another post…
In preparation for what may be the most exciting post I’ve ever written (exciting for me to write, you understand, I’m quite certain not at all exciting for anyone to read) I’m taking myself (and my husband, who says he doesn’t remember anything about this) on a little trip down baby naming memory lane. So, for posterity as well as preparatory purposes, I present to you a thorough history of how our girls came to have the names they have.
I think we are probably thought of (at least among our American cohorts) as “out-there” baby namers, but it hasn’t always been that way (and, in fact, I could make a pretty good case that it isn’t that way at all). When Pippa was on the way, I first wanted her to be called either Alice or Violet. Violet ended up being her middle name, since neither of us loved the possibility of her being nicknamed Vi. Trevor didn’t love Alice (which ended up being Romilly’s middle name) so we decided that we would find a name that we “just loved” for the first name and use a family name in the middle. (Little did we know this would set the precedent for all of our children to follow.) Pippa was really the only name we talked about, the only one we both loved, and after that it was just a matter of working out the middle name. Once we settled on Philippa Violet, we never looked back. When I held her for the first time, I asked Trevor, “Is she Pippa?” and she was.
Romilly’s name wasn’t as easy to come by, but probably by about halfway through the pregnancy it was a frontrunner. We both loved it but had slight misgivings about its legitimacy as a name. So we did our homework. It was clearly not a name with centuries of use like Philippa (which, by the way has an interesting story itself*), but it does, nevertheless, have an interesting and colorful history, most of which we discovered on this website, devoted to the history and use of the name Romilly: first as a place name, then as a surname, then as a first name. (If you follow the link and scroll down for long enough, you will find our own little Ro among the ranks of recorded Romillys worldwide – fun!). We had intended to call her Romy for short, but for the most part, it has never stuck, at least not since Pippa dubbed her Ro-Ro when Pippa was 18 months old.
When the time came to name our third baby (and, as it happened, third girl) in three years, we found ourselves a little uninspired. We easily came up with a list of names we “liked”, but nothing we loved, and finding the perfect combination proved quite a puzzle. Beatrix was our first child to be truly born without a name waiting for her. We had gone to the hospital with a list of about ten possible girl names (incidently, the boy name was perfectly settled), and the nurse seemed very surprised to receive the answer “I don’t know yet” when she asked us what her name was after she was born. Fortunately, she had a name within about thirty seconds of that conversation, since Trevor and I both (separately) knew she was a Beatrix immediately upon seeing her.
The one thing that we did know going into the delivery room was that if we had a girl her middle name had to be Joan, or some form thereof (it’s Joanna). Violet had been Trevor’s maternal grandmother’s name, Alice is the name of both of my grandmothers (handy) and that left Trevor’s Grandma Joan. Joan caused all sorts of problems for us (the name, not the Grandma – she’s wonderful), not that it isn’t a fine name. It is one-syllable, which wasn’t our first choice for flow with our one-syllable last name. It started with a J, with made it rather too alliterative with several first names we liked that had soft G sounds in them. It ended in an n sound, which made it awkward with first names on our list that ended in and n also. Nothing but trouble, you see? Once a dear friend suggested tweaking it to Joanna, our name possibilities opened up considerably.
In the end, it was possibly the meaning of Beatrix that gave it the extra sparkle that sent it to the top of the list. It is from “Viatrix” meaning a traveller or sojourner, and was used quite a bit by early Christians to emphasize the idea that this earth is not our true home. What a helpful reminder to them (and to me and hopefully one day to Beatrix herself) not to get bogged down in the snares of this world that so easily entangle! We did consider the French form Beatrice, but we liked that the x preserved the original intent and language better. Plus x’s are just fun.
This time around, we have had a girls’ name in mind (first and middle) since I was about five weeks pregnant, long before anyone but us even knew we were talking names again. (I know, you’re dying to know. I’m sorry, I really am. E-mail me if you really can’t take the suspense.) For boys, we seem to be stuck in a holding pattern over the same five or six names we’ve considered for all of the girls, and they’re all seeming a little… eh.
If you think I’m a crazy neurotic name nut now, wait until you read about our rules… But until then, why not regale me with stories of how you chose your own children’s names? Or just tell me what you’d name a baby right now if one was left on your doorstep nameless. Oh, I would love comments like that so much. You really can’t imagine!
* The history of Philippa: a long time ago (don’t ask me how long, because I don’t remember, Philip was a unisex name, commonly used both for baby boys and baby girls. On census records, baby girl Philips were recorded as Philip(a) to make it clear that she was female, and gradually a new feminine form of the name emerged. It is usually spelled Philippa in the UK, but (interestingly) Phillipa in Australia. It is common in both countries, though not popular for little ones right now. More like a ‘Susan’ type name.