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Boy Baby Names: Can Remy Be Saved?

January 16, 2018 Abby Sandel

They have the perfect name for their next child – if they can resolve spelling and pronunciation challenges. Can it be done, or should they move on to another choice?

Marie writes:

My husband’s family has a great name that has been passed down (to boys only so far) for many generations: Remy. I love names that aren’t too common, are familiar, pack a good historical punch (either familial or popular history), and feel nice to say.

The only holdup is that the family pronounces it Ray-mee. My husband’s family has been in the US for many generations, originally from Belgium. My mom’s side of the family is very French. To them, this pronunciation sounds like an Anglicized version of the French original (which it likely is). I’m not French enough to feel comfortable committing to the ‘r’ rolling French pronunciation.

So … is there any way we can salvage this name? I think this name could work for either sex and aside from a bit of confusion, no one in my husband’s family would be insulted by a different take on the name.

I think an obvious solution would be to use the “Rem-mee” pronunciation and maybe use the Remi spelling to signal that it is an ode to Remy but a different name. I need some convincing on this though.

Our older son has a name that has two possible pronunciations. I am constantly correcting people. If possible, it would be a bonus to find a name with a straightforward pronunciation and spelling … which might be challenging with this name!

The Name Sage replies:

Remy is a great name! All that family history combined with a stylish sound make it a logical choice for a child. And you’re right – it has potential for a son or a daughter.

Now here’s where it gets interesting: Remy feels like a rarity to you, a name heard mainly within your family. (And perhaps with others you know in French-speaking countries.)

But that’s not quite the case anymore.

First came 2007’s Ratatouille, featuring a talented chef who just happened to be a cartoon rat. Since then, plenty of fictional characters have answered to the name on television and in movies. There’s X-Men character Remy LeBeau, a.k.a. Gambit, who appeared in a 2009 film. Add in characters from House of Cards, The New Girl, Devious Maids, and Reign, and this name is slowly becoming mainstream.

In fact, Remy debuted in the US Top 1000 back in 2009. It currently stands at Number 468 for boys, and Number 717 for girls. Remi ranks Number 295 for girls. Surname name Remington is also on the rise, with many of those children potentially using Remy/Remi for short.

This could be good news for you.

First, it means that more people will recognize the name. It also means that there’s general agreement on the pronunciation: Rem-mee. Would your families pronounce it differently? Maybe. But it sounds like your concern is with the wider world – teachers and classmates, neighbors, other kids on the playground. As long as you don’t mind the Americanized pronunciation, I think you’re in the clear.

Next, let’s talk about I versus Y. Very rarely does changing spelling result in a changed pronunciation. We keep trying, of course – hence, Alivia and Madelyn. But in this case, Remi seems to signal something different. Like Jordyn or Charleigh, Remi looks like an attempt to transform a masculine name into a feminine one. Nearly 1,100 girls were named Remi last year, versus fewer than 200 boys. The –y spelling, on the other hand, leans masculine.

This raises another question: is Remy still wearable for a son? I’d say yes, with enthusiasm. First, the numbers still give this one to the boys. And remember that X-Men character? In 2019, we’re expecting a big screen version of Gambit, featuring Channing Tatum as Remy LeBeau.

My suggestion: use Remy with enthusiasm, and confidence that spelling and pronunciation challenges will be minimal. (Though you may have to say Remy-with-a-y, or explain that it’s not short for Remington, from time to time.)

Should you decide to use the name for a daughter, Remi seems like an equally good option – as long as you don’t mind repeating Remi-with-an-i now and then.

The downside, of course, is that your Remy won’t be the only one. While it’s not Noah or Jackson, it is increasing in use. But it seems like that works to your advantage here, allowing you to use a beloved family name without the associated challenges of a truly unfamiliar choice.

Readers, how do you pronounce Remy? And do you like this name better for a boy or a girl?

Also, we have an update on an earlier post from August. So glad they used their favorite name!

About the author

Abby

Abby Sandel is nameberry's Senior Editor and resident Name Sage. Look for her baby name news round-ups every Monday, and her Name Sage columns on Wednesdays. Abby is the creator of the baby name blog Appellation Mountain and mom to Alex and Clio. For a chance to have your questions answered, contact Abby at namesage@nameberry.com.

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