Thursday, 23 April 2015

Naming Baby Bettie

We've had a few favourite baby names in mind for a couple of years now, but it took awhile to decide on two for sure and to come up with the right middle names. Picking out names is fun, but very tricky--there's so much to think about, and I really think that people do grow into their names (i.e. I'm definitely a Molly, and Richard's definitely a Richard, not a "Ricky", etc.). You also want the names to work well together as a family--Molly and Richard are both a bit old fashioned, classic, Irish/British, so we wanted baby names that fit with our names.

Our main criteria was that the names should be:
-- Classic and timeless, nothing modern that would sound dated in a few years, like all of the baby boys named a variant of Aidan/Jayden/Brayden/Kaden, and all of the girls named Madeleine/Maddie/Maddy/Madison/Addison, etc.

--Easy to spell/pronounce (the poor kid is already going to struggle with Bettie, which people pronounce Beatty, Battie, etc.)

--The names should work in both English and French. We have so many relatives in France, and there's always a chance we could live there ourselves someday. Richard's always liked having a French middle name, and hasn't had too much trouble getting people to spell or pronounce Philippe. Some French names don't work as well in the UK, like Yves (a male name pronounced like the female English name Eve) and Jean (the equivalent of John, but spelled like an English female name).

We also each had family names that we wanted to use, as well as certain names that were definitely off the table for various reasons. Elizabeth, for example, is lovely, traditional and a family name, but Elizabeth Bettie runs the risk of being called Betty Bettie!

George Pierre Bettie

--For years, we knew we would use George, after Richard's grandad George. His full name was Samuel George, a family name that was used for several generations, but he always went by George and it's interesting to note that he didn't keep up the 'Samuel George' tradition--he named his own son David John, after a friend he knew in the war. When Will & Kate named Prince George, we were disappointed and we briefly considered not using George. We were worried the name would be come too popular, and he'd be one of a half-dozen little Georges in his primary school class. But it turns out that George was already a popular name before Will & Kate chose it--in 2012, the year before the Prince was born, it was ranked at #12 for baby boys in the UK. In 2013, it only moved up two more spots, to #10. He's going to be in school with lots of Olivers, Jacks and Harrys, the top 3 names last year, as well as Charlies and Williams like his cousins (#5 and #8). It's very classically British, as George is the patron saint of England, but George also sounds great in French--'Georges'. I'm slightly irritated by some of the negative Georges (George W. Bush, Boy George, George Michael), but there are also some great namesakes (George Harrison, George Bailey, George Washington, George Orwell, and more importantly, Richard's grandad). It's also technically a family name on my side, too, with my great-grandma Georgia (keeping that one in mind if we were to have 2 girls).

Is it wishful thinking to name our baby after "The Quiet One"?

--Pierre, like Philippe, is a recognizably French name that works well in Britain/America. It's easy to spell and pronounce, and is the French version of the classic, Biblical name Peter. We liked the flow of George Pierre Bettie and the inoffensive initials GPB. The French painter Seurat, known for developing pointillism, was named Georges-Pierre (I like to do this kind of research before definitely deciding on a name, haha!).

Un dimanche après-midi à l'Île de la Grande Jatte 
(A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte), Georges-Pierre Seurat, 1884.

Eleanor Jane Bettie

--Just as Richard wanted to name a boy after his grandad, I wanted to name a girl after my grandma Lenore. As a kid, I disliked my middle name Lenore--it's unusual, and has very few cultural references (the garage owner's gold-digging wife in 'The Jerk', and a departed love in Edgar Allen Poe's 'The Raven'). In the UK, Lenor is a brand of fabric softener, so it's not much better over here! Over the years, though, I grew to appreciate it as a connection to my grandma. That said, I wouldn't want to use my own middle name for a daughter--using your own name for a child seems a bit narcissistic, whereas using a variant or a name with the same initial isn't as obvious. Eleanor is the British and French version of Lenore--the name was first given to Eleanor of Aquitaine, King Richard I's mother from Provence. Her mother Aenor named her Alienor, meaning "the other Aenor", like a 'junior'. It's common enough that people can spell and pronounce it, but not too popular--it was #57 in last year's UK rankings. It has some lovely namesakes, like Eleanor Roosevelt and Elinor Dashwood, and although Eleanor Rigby is a bit of a depressing reference, we love the Beatles, so it's ok, too.

First US Ambassador to the United Nations--she was so much more than just a first lady!

--It took us a long time to decide on Jane. It's a short middle name, like Marie or Anne, which works well with a longer name like Eleanor. I quite liked Eleanor Rose or Eleanor Grace, too, but Richard didn't like those. We both liked the sound of Eleanor Catherine Bettie, but weren't sure about using it because of Kelly and Jason's claim to the name Katherine Elaine, established in 1996 (I did give up my claim to the name Charlie when they wanted to use it, but that's only because it doesn't sound right with Bettie, whereas Katie Simmons still sounds adorable). We considered French middle names, but the only ones we really liked were Colette and Cosette, and I'm not sure how well they would go with Bettie--too many double-t's. One weekend, after visiting Richard's dad in the hospital about halfway through my pregnancy, I suggested Jane as the female version of his middle name John, and we both loved it. Eleanor Jane Bettie (EJB) has a nice flow to it, the names are easy to spell and pronounce, and I couldn't find any negative references online. Eleanor Jane is the name of the mayor's daughter in The Color Purple, but she's a good, kind person (among the only positive white characters in the book). Jane is classic, of course, and has a million famous namesakes, but my favourites are Jane Austen, Jane Goodall, Jane Bennet and Jane Eyre.
I did a school report on Jane Goodall when I was about 12, and I've admired her ever since.

Now that we've come up with two names (four names, technically) that we love, I totally understand why parents-to-be often want to keep their name choices a secret until the birth. The decision-making process has taken a lot of work and thought and emotion, and when you finally make your mind up, the last thing you want is somebody bringing up a negative connotation you didn't think of, a song (like 'Good Golly Miss Molly'...ugh), or a silly rhyming nickname that the kids at school might use. You don't want their reaction to be anything less than the enthusiasm that you feel for it, but that's unrealistic. We really don't like a lot of the most popular names at the moment, so it's likely that most people won't like the names that we picked out--and that's ok. The only thing that matters is that little George/Eleanor likes his/her name!

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