How I Named My Baby: Elin Francis
Mary, a school counselor, and Michael, who works in the rubber industry, live in Indianapolis, Indiana with their 5-month-old daughter Elin Francis.
We met with Mary and discussed family names, creative honorifics, and the process of choosing Elin for her and Mike’s little girl.
Tell me about Elin’s name story!
My husband Mike and I lived in Wisconsin when we were still dating. I was in grad school and babysitting for this little girl named Elin. I brought her over to our apartment a lot and we just loved her. She was cheerful and funny and had this little tiny squeaky voice. She loved Mike. She would ask me all the time, “Mary, is Mike going to marry you?” That was years ago — she’s almost nine now.
We didn’t think about it until we got pregnant. If the baby was a boy, he was going to be Michael, because that’s a family name on Mike’s side, kind of a no-brainer. But when we found out it was a girl, we were like, “Oh, we don’t have any names picked out for her.”
I don’t even remember how Elin came up, but we both know this girl that we babysat, so I threw it out there. I have an identical twin sister named Ellen, and Elin is Ellen in Swedish. We loved that connection too.
It was mainly about the balance of finding something that’s different and not on the most popular names list and something that’s not super weird and still approachable.
It’s not hard to pronounce and a lot of people were like “aren’t people going to call her Ellen?” and that’s happened more often than we thought it would. But we’ll say, “No, it’s EE-lin,” and then people won’t have a problem with it. It’s not like people will have issues pronouncing it or have to really work at it.
Does it bother you that people are pronouncing it like Ellen?
It doesn’t bother me, but I know that if I want her to be strong enough to correct it, I have to do so. Before I got married, no one ever messed up my last name, but now people tend to invert some of the letters in my new last name. I’ve been learning to correct people over the past few years. I’ll need to teach Elin to do that as well. There were a couple of times when they mispronounced her name at the doctor and I was like, “Wait a minute — I have to say it right for them.”
At what point in your pregnancy did you decide on Elin?
It was around 30 weeks or so. I pretty much said, “It’s going to be Elin unless she comes out and feels like something different.”
I know a bunch of people who decide early, like, “We’re having a baby, and this is our name.” It definitely wasn’t like that for us. We tossed around a lot of ideas.
Clara has been my all-time favorite, but my husband says it sounds like something from the Civil War. And to me, Clara doesn’t go with Francis, and it was important to me to use my grandma’s name as the middle name. We liked Vivian and Hannah. But Hannah Francis, Hanney Franny, it just doesn’t work. There’s a lot of room to play with it and make fun of it.
We were getting on board with Hannah after a long time, but when Elin came to us, we felt so much stronger about it. Mike loves how it sounds, especially compared to all the other names we hear.
Did you talk to anyone besides Mike about baby names?
I know some people keep their names to themselves because they don’t want the opinions. I thought I was going to be like that! But I just can’t keep a secret. I just talk to people! If I’m thinking something, I’m going to end up talking about it.
My sister and I always text about baby names — we have been for years. You know how that is. I knew her first boy would be Henry.
We talked to my husband’s mom about it and she loved Elin right from the beginning. A lot of people say it takes them time to get used to it, and after a while they like it. She liked Elin immediately, off the bat, and it made me think, “Yeah, this is the level of approachability I was looking for.”
Tell me about her middle name, Francis!
I love Francis. The -is spelling is traditionally the male one, but that is my sister Ellen and my dad’s mom’s middle name. I call her Meemaw. I’m close with her — she’s in her 90s now and lives two blocks from us in a home. Her full name is Geraldine Francis Hooten Horn. She has two sisters, and they all have very big names.
Meemaw has dementia, and so every time I told her that we were going to use Francis as the middle name, she would get so excited. She’d be like, “My name? It’s a fine name. A fine name.” She always says, “It’s a much better name than Dolores’s middle name,” her sister. It’s Loyota!
She is very proud of Francis. It is really special. One time, Meemaw came over and held Elin and was just beaming. I took a picture and sent it to my family, and they said that was the happiest they’d seen her in a long time.
Her sister Marita is this 97-pound, 80-year-old woman who is kind of crotchety. The funniest joke when I was pregnant came we were tossing names out there at Thanksgiving and she said, “Well I’d like to throw my name into the hat because nobody’s used it yet.” My dad, for the rest of the pregnancy, called the baby “Darling Baby Marita.”
Would the baby have been a Junior if he was a boy?
They all have varying middle names, but he’d be the third or fourth Michael on Mike’s side of the family. Like Francis, it’s a really rooted name, so it’s very cool that we get to do that. Mike’s dad’s middle name is Paul and his is Wilhelm, which is his grandfather’s name. I really like that because we could name a baby Wilhelm and then call him Wil. I think Wilhelm and Elin sound cute together.
How do you feel about your own name, and how did that influence your choice?
A lot of people asked if we were going to have a baby with an M name since we’re Mary and Mike. I wasn’t super sold on that. I love my name — it was my other grandmother’s first name. They say it’s one of the most common names in the world, but I don’t know very many Marys.
My full first name is actually Mary Ann, and I don’t have a middle name. Everyone called me Mary Ann till at least fifth grade, but somewhere down the line, I dropped the Ann. When I was pregnant, my friend called me one night and said, “I have a question for you! You used to go by Mary Ann, where did the Ann go?”
Ellen is pregnant and will use Ann as a middle name if it’s a girl. I told her, “Whatever it is, it has to go with Ann because I used Francis!” But to me, the middle name was much more about the nod to my grandma.
Do you and Mike want more children?
Absolutely. If it’s a boy, it’s going to be Michael. I still love Wilhelm though. I feel like with Elin we had that moment of “this is it” — eventually we got there. Hopefully that’s what will happen with the next babe.
My sister Ellen keeps throwing names out there for her own baby, and I’m like, “Ehhh… I don’t like that,” but it’s mainly because I want them for myself.
What are the trendy names in your social circle?
I’m in my early 30s, so everyone is having babies right now. Three or four people I know used Bodhi for a boy recently. Harper and Chloe are common for girls. A lot of Henrys, and I’ve seen a lot of Finns lately. And Dylan for boys and girls.
Have any unexpected nicknames come up for Elin?
Her initials are EFF, so my mother-in-law sometimes calls her Effie. I think it’s super cute! It has that older, vintage-y vibe to it, which I really like.
What advice would you give someone just starting the baby name process?
You have to let it stew for a while. We would hear a name, or I would suggest one, and Mike would be like, “Maybe, I have to think on it for a while.” That helps a lot because when you first hear something you might like it, but after hearing it over and over again, it might not feel right.
Thank you so much, Mary!