Sunday, January 25, 2015

A name for the baby

I'm about 22 weeks along so it's about time we settled on a name. I was 22 weeks when we picked out a name for Rachel. I was 22 weeks when we picked out a name for Benjamin. We were rather ambitious when we picked out a name for Miriam, settling the matter by 16 weeks.

Naming children is seeming to get harder and harder the more we carry on with it. I liked nothing until the first week of January when we were sitting in fast and testimony meeting and I looked up the name Eliza on my phone. Though I generally do my best to pay attention and make my children do the same, we were in the middle of a really weird testimony about "seeing fifteen murders with my own eyes, watching people drown in their own blood..." and other seriously weird stuff that I was both happy to ignore and happy that my children were also engrossed in other activities.

(Disclaimer: fast and testimony meeting isn't always that weird)

Anyway, I was looking up Eliza and Andrew leaned over and said, "Oh! I like the name Eliza!" And then he saw one of the suggested names by Eliza was Amelia. "Oh! I like Amelia better!" he said.

And I liked both those names, too, but I still wasn't quite sure about them.


Eliza is a form of Elizabeth, which is a name that I've loved since I was a little girl and my cousin was named Elizabeth. I've named several things Elizabeth over my lifetime—the first item being the tricycle I got for my fourth birthday. Elizabeth, however, is super trendy right now (currently ranked the #9 name in the US at large and #20 in a few Canadian provinces). Eliza, however, though #9 in the Republic of Georgia is only #328 in the US—so not too popular.

Unfortunately, Eliza is a name well-loved by Mormons. Eliza R. Snow is "one of the most celebrated Mormon women of the nineteenth century." True story. Mormons use the name Eliza a lot. I can't even tell you how many little Elizas I know of running around the world:

Eliza (and her twin Isabelle) W. in our first married ward
Eliza O. in our branch in Jordan
Eliza P. in our branch in Egypt
Eliza P. was born to some friends a few years later
Eliza K. was in our ward when we lived in Andrew's parents' house
Eliza H. was Rachel's best friend for a couple of years here
And I'm sure there are more...

Basically we haven't ever not had at least one little Eliza running around. And it's the 49th most popular name in Utah, despite being ranked #328 for the United States.

But that was my top choice for a name.

Andrew was pushing hard for Amelia. It's ranked #68 in the United States (not that ranking is everything) but I only know of one Amelia, personally, and she's got to be in her teens now.

I like the name Amelia. But apparently so does my little sister and she was a little upset when this name was mentioned because we "already took Rachel!" So we couldn't "take Amelia, too!"

As I recall she was also upset when we named Benjamin because she'd been plotting to name one of her hypothetical sons Benedict.

Really, though, I think it's a bit premature to be picking out names for her children. Our own opinions on names have changed quite a bit. Rachel would have been Steven had she been a boy. That wasn't even in the running when we were considering names for Miriam, who was going to be Thomas. Thomas only made it as a middle name for Benjamin, and Madeline, which was what Benjamin would have likely been called had he been a girl, was brought up only briefly this time around.

Name preferences change over time.

My mom has been sending me names to consider (a few of which made me glad my mom named me when she did and wasn't trying to name me now):

Susanna
Lucinda
Christiana
Samantha
Diantha
Sophronia
Lydia
Zilpha Zobedia

A lot of these names are family history names, some Andrew and I discussed seriously, others we almost gagged at, others I'm sure hoping were brought up in jest.

Eliza and Amelia were still at the top of our list but neither one of us wanted to give our top choice up. We still had a good 18 weeks to convince each other that our name should be the name but I decided to keep hunting around for something we could just agree on. So to Nymbler I went.

I put in Rachel, Miriam, Benjamin, Eliza, and Amelia as my "inspirations" and kept clicking through until I found a name that sounded charming. I had a few tabs open, researching the meaning of certain names, and Andrew walked by when I was on the name Zoë. He immediately fell in love with it. Immediately.

"That's it. That's her name. You can stop looking. She's Zoë," he said.

"You are too easily swayed," I said. "You can't just see a name and name a baby that!"

"Have a shower and think about a middle name," he suggested. "Her name is just Zoë. Whatever else you come up with it can't compete with Zoë."

So I took a shower (I can't get up early enough on Sunday morning to shower, do brush my hair, and get the kids ready in time to leave for church these days. So I shower the night before. That way we only have to set the alarm with enough time for Andrew to shower and I can stay in bed until he's clean and dressed. It's a genius plan.) and I thought about the name Zoë.

Obviously I liked it or I wouldn't have been researching it. It's quasi-Biblical—it was adopted as the term for Eve by Hellenistic Jews and means "life" in Greek, which is basically what Eve means—so it fits in with our accidental Biblical theme (Rachel, Miriam, and Benjamin).

It's short—only three letters so it will be the only name in the family to fit nicely on a Christmas stocking—but has two syllables, so it's not like all the other kids will have long-sounding names and Zoë won't.

It's far more classical than I thought it was—people have been named Zoë forever—but is certainly getting to be a trendy name (currently ranked #58 in the United States, though I don't know any Zoës personally).

It works alright with our last name—and we're not the only people in the world who think so! There was once another Zoë Heiss (only one (that we could find), however) and she died in 1947.


I wasn't willing to give up Eliza for Amelia, but perhaps I was willing to give up Eliza for Zoë. We just needed a middle name.

When we were tossing around Eliza and Amelia we considered using either May or June, which are family names on my side (Celia May, Ila June, Myrna June, Piper June...) but I didn't like either of those for Zoë because it's such a short name already. So I sat and stewed for a minute before I blurted out, "Zoë Amelia."

"Perfect," Andrew said.

Amelia is a good middle name because it goes well with Rachel and Miriam's middle names (Anneliese and al-Noor). Benjamin doesn't have a matching middle name but...he'll survive (or he can change his middle name to Andrew if it's really going to bother him for his whole life (Andrew momentarily thought that we had named him Benjamin Andrew...but we didn't)). Still, he doesn't need to match his sisters completely.

My mom was quite adamant that this baby had to match because she always felt like she never fit in with her siblings.

Bruce, Colleen, Arlene and...Myrna.

The first three were A, B, and C (though not in the correct order) and Colleen and Arlene had names that rhymed. And then there was...Myrna.

But I think that Zoë fits in pretty well.

Rachel Anneliese (6 syllables, "A" middle name)
Miriam al-Noor (5 syllables, "A" middle name)
Benjamin Thomas (5 syllables, same middle name as his father (stop yer whining, Benjamin))
Zoë Amelia (6 syllables, "A" middle name)

And, as I already pointed out, Zoë is almost biblical.

"Besides," Andrew said. "It starts with a Z and how cool is that?!"

"We could have just gone with Zilpha Zobedia if Z is that cool," I pointed out.

"Please no," Andrew said.

"How about Zoë Zilpha-Zobedia?" I asked.

"No," Andrew said emphatically, "No, no, no."

So, we'll be going with Zoë Amelia.

We can even tie in family history if we tried hard enough (I have an ancestor named Amy Crumb Fackrell; Aemelia is related to the name Emily (though it followed a different path than Amelia did) and if Family Search was working right now I could probably find more...but their server is totally overloaded right now (do people do family history work on Sundays or something?)).

Then came the elephant in the room: "Do we use the diaeresis or not?" I asked Andrew.

"Oh, we most certainly do," Andrew said, though it looks (from the little research we've done) like it's difficult to actually include those marks on formal documentation. So they can be optional. But Andrew will be using them for sure.

I'm a little hesitant to announce that Zoë Amelia is the name we're going with because I'm not completely sold on the name myself, but Andrew is...so I'm sure I'll come around.

(Not that I don't like the name Zoë, future Zoë, it's just that naming children is far more stressful for me than it is for Andrew and I'm afraid to stick with a name too quickly—after all, it's a name they have to carry for their whole life and that's a little terrifying).

15 comments:

  1. Emily Mize Gurney's little sister is named Zoe. So I know a Zoe, even if you don't. Also Josie has a friend named Zoe Taylor, but her real name is Zenobia. Hey, how about Zenobia? That's a name you haven't tried on for size! I like Zoe Amelia. It is pretty.

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    1. I think Zenobia is another name you already suggested, actually...and I'm pretty sure Andrew reacted rather poorly to it. ;)

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    2. Okay. He says that had we come up with that name for Miriam he would have been fine with it. But we didn't, so...

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    3. And it looks like Zenobia is a Greek name, too. The Russian form is Zinovia, which I like better than Zenobia, personally, though my favourite Russian name is Zhenya...but that's not the Russian nickname for Zinovia (thought it might be Yevgeniya.

      Along those lines (but only kind of because the English equivalent is Eugenia), Genevieve is a name I suggested that was immediately shot down by Andrew.

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  2. ZENOBIA!!!!!!! But I also love Zoe. Beautiful.

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  3. I enjoy name talk so this was an extra-fun read! Glad to read about your process in finding a name for your little one.

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  4. Zoe has been on my list for potential future daughters for a long time because of a book I read where a girl named Zoe befriends a ghost named Zoe who lived and died in Live Zoe's house a hundred years ago. In fact, for a long time, I only wanted Z names for my kids. I think I only ever came up with 5 or 6 total though. Now, my list is a little longer, but I've also decided Zeinab/Zainab is one my favorite Arabic names AND a Z name. I just have to convince Blake . . . Z is still my favorite letter of the alphabet, whether it's in a name or a regular word.

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    1. Zenobia *is* Zaynab/Zeinab/Zainab—or however you choose to spell—only anglicized (I just learned this). It's the name of the Prophet Mohammed's granddaughter).

      Holy cow you can spell that name a million ways!

      Maybe knowing that will change Andrew's mind about it. ;)

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    2. I think it is this book: http://www.amazon.com/Stonewords-Ghost-Story-Harper-Trophy/dp/0064403548 by Pam Conrad. With a name like that, she may or may not be distantly related to me...

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  5. Oh funny story...Josie and I were at your childhood friend Emily's house getting our hair done on Wednesday and we ended up talking about names somehow. When Emily married Brandon, she did not know that he had rather strong opinions about names. So when she became pregnant with Berkelee, she learned that he wanted all of his children to have his middle name, Lee, for their middle name. (He already, of course, had Andrew Lee, but Em did not realize there was going to be this Lee fetish.) And he had picked out a favorite girl's name years before: Sara Lee. Emily was like, umm, no, we are NOT going to name a child Sara Lee when our last name is BAKER!

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  6. I was thinking of this post a bit more while I was out today. Zach's middle name starts with A. How could I forget?

    Also, if Zoë is your final child, it's kind of cool that Andrew the oldest starts with A and Zoë with Z.


    I don't know any Zoës as friends, but one I do recall was Zoë Alexandria or Zoë Alexandra.

    Andrew, Nancy, Rachel, Miriam, Benjamin, and Zoë Heiss - nice! :)

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  7. Excellent name choice - flows nicely, not too trendy, and just a nice name. We struggled a lot with names for both our kids, partially because of feeling the weight of deciding what a child will be called for their whole life. And we dislike so many names, plus didn't want a trendy name. Malcolm came home from the hospital without a name, so I'm impressed by your ability to decide on a name so quickly. We'd looked through thousands of names (every name on multiple online sites) before settling on Malcolm. Gareth is lucky that I had taken Welsh the previous year since that's where I got that name from.

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  8. Cute! I laughed at the quasi biblical part. I used to try and convince myself Sadie was quasi biblical because of Sarah but now basically I've just come to terms with the fact that I've blown my pattern. Sometimes blowing patterns is ok...especially since then I had Cheetah and completely just threw it out the window. The popularity thing cracked me up to. When we were naming Gigi we had a couple other names we threw out because we felt like they were too popular...then we settled on her name and lo and behold it was the most popular of the bunch. If you throw in the Zoey spelling you definitely have a pretty popular name there, but at least it looks like it is dropping in popularity so hopefully she won't have any repeats in her class. Gigi always has another grace in her class....well used to always. Now she is the only Grace in her school class but there is another one at church ;) That being said when things feel right they feel right!!!! That's why I have never understood the Duggar family. Why limit yourself to this one letter :)

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    1. I read "the Duggar family" and was like What? Because in our family, the Duggar family is not the same thing! :o) (Nancy is 1/4 Duggar, did you know that, Crystal?)

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