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Names So Nice You Say Them Twice

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We credit Courtney Cox.  When she named her little girl Coco six years ago, she elevated that quirky Chanel nickname to a classic and made it appropriate for a modern child.

Certainly, there were notable double names before Coco Arquette, even before Chanel, from Zuzu of the petals in It’s A Wonderful Life to Mimi, heroine of the 19th century novel La Boheme.

But at no time have these names been more fashionable than they are today.  Whether given as full names or used as lighthearted nicknames for more serious appellations (my twin nieces Georgia and Louisa, for instance, call each other Gigi and Lulu), double names are worthy of consideration.

Among the possibilities:

Bebe or Bibi – Actress and dancer Bebe Neuwirth, who played Lilith on Cheers, is probably the best-known bearer of this name today, but there’s also author Bebe Moore Campbell, model Bebe Buell, and even (male) Nixon pal Bebe Rebozo.  In Neuwirth’s case, Bebe is a nickname for BeatriceBibi – born Berit – Andersson is a Swedish actress who starred in many Ingmar Bergman films.

Cece – Cece is suddenly a hot baby name thanks to Jim and Pam on The Office, whose fictional baby girl is named Cecelia and called Cece.  CeCe Winans, a gospel singer whose sister’s name is BeBe, is also named Cecilia.

Coco Little Coco Arquette was so named in honor of the first two letters in mom Courtney Cox’s first and last names.  Canadian supermodel Coco Rocha was born Mikhaila, and fashion great Coco Chanel, who was born Gabrielle, has said her nickname is a shortened version of coquette.  There was also Coco the Clown, though that image is thankfully fading.

Dede or Didi – One of the midcentury double-name favorites, Dede/Didi could be short for anything from Denise to Diane to any more exotic D-starting name.  Pioneering female film editor Dede Allen was named Dorothea and actress Didi Conn is Edith.  It’s not unknown as a male nickname, but we don’t recommend it.

Dodo – The Dodo Bird pretty much killed the viability of this one, though in the classic novel Middlemarch, by George Eliot, heroine Dorothea is called Dodo by her sister.

FifiFifi may be the quintessential French poodle name – either that or a can-can dancer – but it’s seeing new light as a nickname for such fashionable proper names as Sophia, Fiona, and Josephine.

Gaga – There’s only one Lady Gaga, though we’ve said that before about names we thought would never go beyond their one-person originator and then, lo and behold, scores of little Chers and Arlos and Elvi.  Gaga’s real name is Stefanie Joanne Angelina; the name Lady Gaga sprang from a typo of the Queen song Radio Gaga.

GigiGigi was made famous by French writer Colette’s 1944 novella and later the film starring Leslie Caron.  Another poodle favorite, Gigi can be short for any of the feminizations of George or such names as Geraldine or Regina.

Jojo – While commonly used for boys as well as girls, Jojo is a bit too jokey of a name for a parent to actually aspire to.  Rather, an ordinary Joe or Josie, Joel or Joanna may morph into a Jojo as a pet name.  JoJo the Dog Faced Boy was an infamous 19th century circus freak.

Kiki Kiki is used as a nickname in France and Spain and is also used on its own in Japan.  Favorite American Kikis include artist Kiki Smith and Kirsten – called Kiki by her friends – Dunst.  Kiki Carter and Kiki Dee are musicians, Kiki Cutter is a skier, and Kiki Magazine is aimed at young girls.

Koko – While Koko Taylor was a wonderful jazz singer, this spelling nudges the name into clown and animal territory.  Koko was a gorilla trained in sign language; there was also an early Japanese emperor named Koko.

Lala LaLa Land may be a nickname for Los Angeles, but Lala is also an increasingly common childhood nickname for such rising L names as Leila, Lola, Laura, Delilah, Allegra, and so on.

Leelee – Actress Leelee Sobieski, who has pretty much made this spelling her own, was originally named Liliane.

Lili – While Lili is pronounced just like Lily, the most popular name on this list at Number 18, the Lili spelling is not often used.  Lili was a 1953 film starring Leslie Caron, who seemed to have specialized in characters with these kind of names.

LuluLulu is undoubtedly one of the most stylish of the double-sound names, primarily because the double-L sound itself is stylish but also because it can be short for anything from Louise to Lucinda to Talullah.  The one-named Lulu (born Marie) is a Scottish singer best known for the hit “To Sir With Love” and Little Lulu was a comic strip character.

MimiMimi was heard throughout the last century as a nickname for the ubiquitous Mary as well as Margaret, Maria, Miriam, and other M names.    There are many famous Mimis, including the heroine of La Boheme and later, Rent, and Mariah Carey, for whom it is a nickname.

MiuMiu — This brand name is also the nickname of designer Miuccia Prada.

NanaNana is the name of a Manga series in which the two main characters are both named NanaNana is also the name of an Emile Zola novel.

Pippi – While Pippi technically has that extra P in the middle, we’re going to count it as a double-sound name in honor of Pippi Longstocking.

ViviVivi was revivified as a main character name in the hit novel Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya (there it is again) Sisterhood, but it really became a star with first Rosie O’Donnell and then Brad and Angelina named their daughters Vivienne, nickname Vivi.

Yo-Yo — Unless you’re a world-class musician, not in consideration.

ZsaZsaZsaZsa Gabor, who was born Sari, made her double-sound name the height of exotic Glamour.  While there have been other ZsaZsas – President Kennedy had a pet rabbit with the name – Gabor still pretty much owns it.

ZuzuZuzu, the endearing little girl who notes that an angel got his wings at the end of the classic film It’s A Wonderful Life, is so memorable there’s even a Zuzu Society.  Short for Susan or Suzanne, the name, while adorable, has not caught on in real life, though actress Tania Peterson recently named her daughter Zuzu.

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