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Alternate Appellations: The names that might have been

This week, Appellation Mountain‘s Abby Sandel talks about the almost-names that might have been if circumstances were just a little bit different. 

Do you ever imagine an alternate life?  Specifically, what you might have been named, or what you might have named your children if your life was just slightly different?

My husband’s taste in given names is buckets more conservative than mine.  From the color of their eyes to the shape of their toes, I cannot imagine our children even a scintilla changed.  And yet imagine just one twist in life’s journey, and all of a sudden they’re Dexter and Domino instead of Alex and Clio.

The given name that I so actively disliked as a child was chosen, in large part, because of a clumsy surname, poorly exported into English without harmonizing the improbable consonant clusters.  What if my parents had decided to overlook the glaring limitations of a let-me-spell-it-for-you last name?  Or what if my ancestors had blanded out their surname to something that accommodated any number of appellations?

The thought was triggered by the next Judd Apatow’s movie, This is 40, due out at year’s end.  I hadn’t realized that his nicely named daughters, Iris and Maude (shown above), co-star with their mom, Apatow’s wife, Leslie Mann, in several of the couple’s films.

Let’s begin with the alternate names that Iris and Maude Apatow have donned on camera, in their slightly different cinematic lives.  What a fascinating challenge to rename your kids for movie roles, more than once!

Sadie – Big sister Maude answers to the just-a-little-bit more-mainstream Sadie in the fictional family from Knocked Up and This is 40.

Charlotte – The second daughter of Debbie and Pete in the big screen bunch was played by Iris.  Like Sadie, Charlotte feels slightly unoriginal for the daughter of the couple depicted in the film – but then again, the first movie took place in 2007.

Ingrid – In the edgier, more dramatic Funny People, Iris dons the name Ingrid.  It’s pretty close to her given name, and yet a smidge riskier.

Mable Maude also wore a similar-sounding moniker for 2009’s Funny People.  Can’t you hear parents trying to decide between Maude and Mable?  (Or Mabel – I couldn’t find an explanation for the alternate spelling.)  I wonder if the girls weighed in on their characters’ names?

Archie – Along the same lines, American parents, do you think we would find Archie an incredibly cool name if we lived elsewhere in the English-speaking world?  Waltzing More than Matilda shared a birth announcement from Australian rugby player Berrick Barnes – speaking of great names! – and his wife, Bec.  The couple named their son Archie, which seems to be the rough equivalent of Landon in theUS.

Emet Kuli – If not for Natalie Portman’s Aleph, would Lisa Loeb’s second be called Emet?  The Hebrew word for truth sounds an awful lot like the homespun Emmett, but has a completely different, spiritual and virtue-name vibe.  Emet joins big sister Lyla at home.

Poppy JamesGrey’s Anatomy star Jessica Capshaw is now mom to three!  She and husband Christopher Gavigan have gone for slightly more daring names with each child, from the solid Luke Hudson to the vintage Eve Augusta to the botanical, gender-bending Poppy James.

Cecilia Delphine – Actors David Walton and Majandra Delfino gave their firstborn a vintage, feminine name paired with a clever spin on mom’s surname.  Isn’t it surprising that Cecilia isn’t more popular?  She ranked #241 in 2011, a position she’s hovered near for years.  Another fun bit of name trivia: Majandra is a smoosh of Maria and Alejandra.

Dixie Pearl – Let’s end with what is perhaps the most interesting name from the past week.  Kings of Leon frontman Caleb Followill and model Lily Aldridge welcomed a daughter, Dixie Pearl.  Followill has Southern(ish) roots, suggesting that Dixie may indeed be a nod towards Nashville, where Kings of Leon got their start.  Or maybe it’s just yet another in the style of Moxie and Pixie.  The half-English, California-born Aldridge has siblings named Miles and Saffron and Ruby, so I might have imagined names like Freya or Imogen for her daughter.

What are the names that were might-have-beens for you – the ones you would use if your life was just a little bit different?

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23 Responses to “Alternate Appellations: The names that might have been”

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aunt_ning Says:

June 25th, 2012 at 6:35 am

I always knew that one of the choices for my name was Maggie Lee, but the other day my mother threw out the fact that she had been considering Henrietta Louise as well…Shudders… Thank Goodness my big sister (she was almost 10) stepped in and named me Jeannie Marie. How in the world did Henrietta Louise fit in with Amanda Jewel and Kristina Richelle (pronoucned Rich-Elle) not that I think Jeannie Marie fits in either, just better

PinkPenguin87 Says:

June 25th, 2012 at 7:12 am

I know some of the other choices for my name were Emily, Ashley, Joanie (my Dad was a huge Joan Jett fan), or Stevie (after the Steve Miller Band, another of my Dad’s favorites). I kinda wish they had gone with Stevie, because its so cute. Instead I ended up with Elizabeth, after my Mom’s great Aunt, who she was very close to.

Alexia Mae Says:

June 25th, 2012 at 8:48 am

I would have used safer biblical names, and more traditional middle names. My all time favorite girl name when I was a teen was Bethany JoAnn, which I am grateful now that I have seen the light. 🙂

GoodHope Says:

June 25th, 2012 at 9:58 am

I was almost a Tamara, and I’m so glad my mother decided it (well, mostly Tammy) failed the “Supreme Court Justice” test. I try to imagine being called Tammy, and it just does not compute. Tammy would fit me as poorly as a too-small shoe.

If I had had my son as a teen instead of as a 30 year old, he would be Cody, not Noah. Despite their obvious differences, Cody would fit him surprisingly well. Better, actually, than the stylistically similar Ben, my #2 name when I was expecting.

Flick Says:

June 25th, 2012 at 10:16 am

Well if I had had a backbone, my son would be named Maxwell and it would have fit him to a T. Instead, his name is Caleb, which does seem to fit him, but I think he would have been the perfect Max.

ppgsss77 Says:

June 25th, 2012 at 10:25 am

My little girl is Bobbi. Just plain ole Bobbi. It fits her to a T. I’m glad I picked it. Had she been a boy, I would have named her Daniel.

miloowen Says:

June 25th, 2012 at 10:34 am

My daughter was always going to be Caitlin Louisa, so no surprises there, but I wish I had called her Louisa instead of Kate. (She’s 26 and has been calling herself Kitty since she was 15.) However, I wanted my son to be George Thomas, and I didn’t have the guts….I also wanted him to be Thomas Gideon, and I let my husband overrule me with Thomas Caleb. While Caleb is an okay name, it’s current popularity has made me like it less, for some reason.

Were I naming my children now, instead of then (1985 and 1991), I would still use Louisa, although I would probably go with either Katharine or Martha, and I would definitely have gone with George Thomas for my son.

AmandaRhiannon Says:

June 25th, 2012 at 11:52 am

My mom wanted to name me Susan Elizabeth, after one of my late great-grandmothers on my dad’s side. My paternal grandma nixed that idea, though. She didn’t get along with her mother-in-law and told my mom that there should NOT be another Susan Elizabeth in this family. My mom also liked Scarlett, but it would have sounded silly with our last name.

Tristan Says:

June 25th, 2012 at 12:11 pm

My youngest daughter, Lucy, was almost named Penelope. But our last name starts with a “P” and I thought the alliteration would be too much. It’s her middle name instead.

Emily Ila Says:

June 25th, 2012 at 12:31 pm

I was almost a Summer and I’m so glad I escaped that one! My sister was called Daisy for at least 2 months when Mom was pregnant, but thankfully ended up with the very classic Kathryn Anne.

On a personal note, I have hated my middle name-Ila for years, but am making peace with it since joining nameberry 🙂

jpruitt76 Says:

June 25th, 2012 at 12:52 pm

My parents briefly considered naming me Nadia since I was born during the 1976 summer Olympics (in honor of gymnast Nadia Comaneci as, evidently, I exhibited a propensity to grab onto the bar in the hospital incubator). Instead they went with Jaime after my father (James) and my grandmothers (JAne and MarIE).

It’s hard to imagine how different my life might be with a much more exotic given name!

Both my girls were named the names I really wanted for them (Norah and Lucy) but my youngest, Henry, would have potentially been Rufus after my grandfather had my husband been more adventurous. In the end, we went with a safer short list (Graham, Reid or Henry) and I let my husband make the final call.

Reeny Says:

June 25th, 2012 at 2:17 pm

You know, I’m quite stressed about being in this situation of having name regret. I’m less than 10 weeks away from naming our firstborn (a son) and we have a very small shortlist.

I’m worried we’ll pick the wrong one – the adventurous one that I’ll later regret, or the safe one that quickly bores me.

I hope when we meet him we’ll just know what’s right. Otherwise I might be on here frantically asking for everyone’s opinions…!

BritishAmerican Says:

June 25th, 2012 at 9:49 pm

So I was going to be called Rowan. Which wouldn’t have been so bad – except that my maiden name was Atkinson. So I would have been a female Rowan Atkinson in England, right when Mr. Bean was popular. Way too much teasing potential, so I’m glad I missed that one.

Maisie was high on my list for a girl in 2005, but my husband disliked it because it rhymed with “crazy”. He said something the other day about our daughter being crazy and I said “See, we should have called her Maisie!” 😉 I much prefer her name (Rose) instead.

Henry could have been Oliver. My husband picked between my top two: Henry & Oliver. He does suit Henry better. Though it’s more popular. I think about it sometimes when we read a book called ‘Ollie’ about a gosling who won’t come out of his egg. My son was overdue, so the story fit him and I read it when I was pregnant with him.

George was either going to be George or Lucy. We didn’t know his gender until he was born. So his alternative name was him being a whole other person.

I sometimes wish I’d picked different middle names for my 1st and 3rd children. My husband picked a family name for the middle name of our 2nd – that was definitely a better way to go.

Abby Says:

June 25th, 2012 at 9:53 pm

@Reeny – I think there is something more gentle than name regret. It is just the acknowledgement that there are other possible names in the universe. The name you chose isn’t wrong – though hopefully it will, indeed, feel right. It will just be the best of all possible options when you choose it.

@BritishAmerican – Fascinating point about delivery surprises. If you don’t know the gender until birth, then it is very possible that there’s a whole other sense of meeting a stranger … even though you already know each other so very well.

Reeny Says:

June 26th, 2012 at 6:46 am

Thank you Abby, your perspective of the name being the best possible option when it is chosen is a much more apt way of looking at it – and has alleviated my worry significantly 🙂

isabel_r Says:

June 26th, 2012 at 6:49 am

Well all my parents choices revolved around twin sets.

For boys, it would have been Thomas Hale & Theodore Harrison (Tom & Teddy)

Once they found out we were girls, my mom wanted Sophia & Olivia (SO INCREDIBLY less popular when we were born) and my dad wanted Roberta & Elizabeth (my parents are Robert & Elizabeth), he still jokes about us being Bertie & Betty.

Another strong contender was Sarah & Elizabeth, considering my dads side is FILLED with Sarahs and my mom’s Elizabeths.

They both really, really wanted Lucy but it was given to out cat a few years earlier.

My mom also loved Vivian, my dad Claire and Amelia.

As I’ve said before, they’re all so lovely. I can easily see myself as an Amelia, Claire, or Lucy. I don’t think I could get away with Roberta, and Elizabeth bores me. Sophia and Olivia are both fabulous but too girly for me, and Sarah & Vivian would not fit me in a million years.

marinadancel17 Says:

June 27th, 2012 at 4:15 pm

My name would have been Leah, Miriam, or Bronwyn(yikes!) I cannot imagine any of those names on myself, I am perfectly happy as a Rachel. 🙂

My parents decided against Leah, because I have six girl cousins on my mom’s side, and most of their names either start with ‘l’ or have lots of ‘l’ sounds.

I don’t know about Miriam, and have no idea where that came from. Plus, I feel like a name like Miriam would stand out in my generation of names.

My dad was a big fan of Winnie in “The Wonder Years” and thought he should have a little girl named Winnie. They didn’t like Winnifred(thankfully!) but liked Bronwyn… I am very glad to be Rachel!

afmastro Says:

July 2nd, 2012 at 12:09 pm

Speaking of not knowing the gender before birth, this newest generation of kids may miss out on the story of what they could have been named if they were the opposite sex. So many parents decide to learn the sex beforehand and once the sex is known, don’t even bother coming up with a name for both sexes.

I did have a boy name for my daughter though. I can say with confidence she would have been named Maxwell. And I’m glad she was a girl because I would have regretted Maxwell I think. My son who was born after my daughter is not Maxwell.

With my son, we had such a hard time agreeing with girl names that I am not sure what he would have been named had he been a girl. My husband nixed my entire list: Cecily, Sylvie, Daphne, Nora. I was ready to fight for Cecily, but I don’t think my husband would have come around. My husband could have changed his mind with Nora. That name seems “safe” to me. I had also considered Cecilia as a “safer” alternative to Cecily. At first he seemed ok with Cecilia, and then when I brought it up again, he started saying it with a lisp and laughed.

Since my husband had no ideas of his own, I think eventually he would have come around to Nora rather than think of something on his own. If my son ever asks what his name would have been, I think I will just tell him Nora, but I really really wanted the name Cecily in the worst way : )

afmastro Says:

July 2nd, 2012 at 12:13 pm

Had I been a boy, I would have been named Alan, and I had a brother named Alan. So with me, there is no name that would have been – my brother ended up getting the name. But there was a possibility I could have been named Alana. If my brothers had been girls they would have been named April and/or Kristin.

WaltzingMoreThanMatilda Says:

July 14th, 2012 at 1:01 am

I was going to be an Anneliese, sometimes I wish they’d gone with it, and then I think I don’t seem beautiful enough to be an Anneliese, which sounds swimsuit-model pretty to me.

My parents were convinced I was going to be a girl, so they didn’t really have any serious boy names picked out for me. Their emergency boy name was Neil.

(I did have boy names picked for the girls, but would never use them now – I’ve moved on from them).

HerMajesty Says:

November 2nd, 2012 at 9:22 pm

My name was almost McKinzi Dawn, but instead they named me Helen McKinzi because my papa didn’t like the commen and to overused Dawn. My sister would have been named Sarah had circumstances been different, shecwas almost Tarah, but being Mas exboyfriends name was Terry, it obviously was not used, so she became Karah.

pheebly Says:

March 3rd, 2013 at 10:44 pm

I was always Phoebe. Phoebe Katherine actually. Named after each of my great-grandmothers. I used to be annoyed by my name because I wasn’t a “normal” name like Stephanie, Ashley or Jessica. But I LOVE my name now. Couldn’t imagine myself as any other name.

My son could have been Atticus or Judah. Instead he is an Ezra and I can’t imagine him as anything else. And thank goodness he is an Ezra! His father and I couldn’t agree on a girl’s name to save our lives… I liked Magdalen and Eleanor; he liked Paisley and Layla.

jessieo Says:

June 9th, 2013 at 12:57 am

I was almost Samantha, but they went with Jessica. I always wished they’d went with Samantha. Besides it being the most popular name at the time and the obvious confusion with every other Jessica out there, I’ve been told I don’t even look like a Jessica!
If I was a boy I wouldve been Thomas William after my grandpop.
My sister was actually called Rebecca Joe, but after taunts from her siblings my mum changed the
Joe to Jae on the certificate at the hospital!

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