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Honoring a Loved One Whose Name You Don’t Love

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By Jackie aka callmecalliope at namesplash

When my sister was born, our relatives insisted she be named to honor a beloved, recently deceased family member.  My mother hated the traditionally male name and refused to use it, igniting a bitter conflict that lasted years (until another child entered the family and was given the moniker).  While I don’t think parents should give in to pressure from relatives when it comes to naming, there are certainly many parents who DO want to use the name of an adored family member or friend.

With older, “vintage-style” names now back into style, it might be easy to look back into your family tree and find a loveable name. But some parents prefer more modern styles, and others just can’t fall in love with their favorite aunt’s appellation. One option is to tuck the name away in the middle spot, but if this feels wrong, there are certainly other ways to make it work. Here are a few ways to transform some hard-to-love names.

1. Use a diminutive. Former ‘nicknames’ are now making frequent appearances on birth certificates.

2. Use a variation. Many names have several variants in other languages, some of which may be more attractive, and are almost certainly more interesting and modern to English-speakers’ ears.

3. Use a name with a similar meaning. This more cryptic approach is the most creative and interesting, but may take some convincing to get family members on board.

4. Use a similar sounding name.  Find a stylish name that suits your tastes and still honors the namesake.

5. Swap genders.  Many overused, dated names have an opposite-gender alternative that can sound delightfully fresh.

Here’s how I would update some names that may never again seem stylish:

Bernice- Veronica is actually a variant of Bernice in several countries. Nika is another possibility, as it is a diminutive of Veronica. For a similar sound, consider Necia.

Clarence- It’s easy to swap genders on this one and go with the elegant Claire or Clara.  Similar-sounding Clancy is a more unique unisex option.

Carol- Carol is derived from Charles, as are many other lovely names. Alternatives include Caroline, Carla, Carly, Carlotta, Charlotte, or diminutive Carrie, for girls, and Carlo, Karl, Chad, and Chaz for boys.

Edgar- Diminutives Eddie and Teddy, as well as the similar Edward, Edison, Edwin, and Edmund, are all viable options,

Eunice- Eunice means “victorious.” One might use Victoria or Victor to honor a bearer of this dated, unappealing-to-most name.

Maurice- Amaury is an interesting and potentially wearable variant.  Maura is a lovely feminine form (this form has a separate lineage from the Irish Maura).  Seymour is distantly related, and since Maurice means “dark-skinned,” names with similar meanings, like Blake, Kieran, Carey and Melanie could be used as well.

Gertrude- Wearable diminutives include Trudy/Trudi and Gerri/Gerry/Gerrie.  These names easily fit in with other stylish, old-fashioned nicknames like Charlie and Georgie.

What names grace your family tree that you just can’t seem to love as much as the original bearer? Would you consider modifying them?

Jackie (aka callmecalliope) works in biomedical research by day and explores the world of baby names in her minimal spare time.  Her fascination with names drove her to begin blogging at namesplash.wordpress.com.

 

 

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