How I Named My Baby: Magnolia James

August 19, 2020 Sophie Kihm
baby name Magnolia

Jacqueline Brown lives in Southwest Ohio with her husband Dan and their son, Luca Emerson. This June they welcomed their second child, daughter Magnolia James.

Here, Jacqueline talks to us about how she and Dan chose the baby name Magnolia for their little girl.

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How long did it take you to decide on a name?

We have had our girl name picked out since we were married (eight years ago). When we found out our first was a boy, we decided we would save our girl name in case we ever had one. Fortunately for us, Baby 2 ended up being a girl and we were able to use the name we have both loved for so long!

When did you know you found “The Name?”

Magnolia was actually a name my husband really loved from one of his favorite songs. He shared it with me one day when we were talking about baby names and once I heard it, I knew it was it. I loved how beautiful and unique it was while tying in my love for the South!

How many names did you take into the delivery room?

Just the one this time! Towards the end we went back and forth about her middle name – we considered James and June. James is a family name and June was the month she was born and the month we were married so it held some meaning to us. I was pretty settled on James from the beginning so that’s what we ended up going with. Plus, I think James used for a girl is just adorable!

What strategies did you use to narrow down your name choices?

I have always kept a list of baby names I love in my planner or phone. Every year I do an “edit” and purge the names I no longer care for or have been used by friends and/or family. My husband and I would discuss possible names and he would share his opinions until we settled on a few we both liked!

Is your baby named after anyone?

She is! Her middle name is James which is after my father and grandfather. They are two of the men I look up to and admire the most so it was an honor to pass the name on to our girl!

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What name did you hate to let go of?

Since we have both always been set on the name Magnolia for a girl, I didn’t really have a name to let go of this time around. Another girl name I loved was Saylor, but my husband is not a fan so I know we will never use that one.

What would your younger self have liked to name the baby?

Some of the other girl names I loved when we were first married were Ava, Sophia, Harper, Olivia, and Penelope.

What would your baby be named if it was totally up to you? If it was up to your partner?

It probably would have stayed the same since it was at the top of our list!

How do you feel about your own name and how did that influence your choice?

Growing up, most people called me Jackie instead of using my long, formal name (Jacqueline). After getting married I decided to start going by Jacqueline again since it sounded better with my new last name and it felt more professional. I was named after my dad’s sister who passed away so the name means a lot to me. We always do middle names that hold some sentimental meaning to them.

Was it important to choose a name that ‘matched’ your baby’s older siblings’ — or future siblings’ — names?

Yes! So important for them to coordinate (not match). I want the names to flow together nicely and sound good with our last name. Syllables and endings are important to think about as well! We have a one-syllable last name so I always want the first names to be at least two syllables.

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Was it easier to come up with girl or boy names?

Boy names actually! I have always had more boy names on my list, which I thought picking a girl name would be much easier (there are so many cute ones). Now that we’ve used our girl name I have had to start thinking of other girl names I would use if we ever had another girl someday.  

What would your baby be named if it was the opposite gender?

I have always loved the name Miles for a boy. I also love the names Theo and Oliver (Ollie). 

Did you have different requirements for first and middle names?

We like to choose middle names that have special meaning – either a family name or something that holds significance to our relationship. For example, my son’s middle name is Emerson which is the name of the dorm my husband lived in during his freshman year of college. We were friends before college, but both ended up at the same school and that’s where we started dating. It is a special place for both of us, so we were happy to use the name of our son (plus it’s such a cute name)!

How important a consideration was the flow of the first, middle, and last names?

Very important! I wanted the names to flow together nicely and sound good with our last name. Syllables and endings are important to think about as well! We have a one-syllable last name so I always want the first names to be at least two syllables. Our two children are named Luca and Magnolia, which both end in “a” but we call her “Nolie” most of the time which I also think sounds cute with Luca. If and when we have a third baby, I will think long and hard about how the name sounds with the other two (if definitely gets harder the more kids you have).

What are the trendy names in your social circle?

So many cute ones! A few that come to mind…

For girls – Maeve, Collins, Eloise, Juliet, Nora, Wren, Charlotte (Charlie), Lucy

For boys – Everett (Rhett), Leo, Henry, George, Grayson, Jack, Ezra, Roman, Liam

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What was your biggest fear related to baby names?

I used to be an elementary teacher so my biggest fear was having a student with a name that was high on my baby list. It sounds silly, but sometimes it can change your perspective of the name. I also knew which names were popular after seeing them year after year in my class, so I always tend to lean towards names that are somewhat unique and not as trendy.

Did your baby’s older siblings have opinions or suggestions for names?

If her big brother had it his way, I think he would have named her “Baby Sissy” (which he said even before we found out the gender). He also called her “Huge Baby” while she was in my tummy which is funny because she ended up being 9 pounds when she was born. It’s like he knew!

What’s the worst/funniest name suggestion you received?

Our son’s name is Luca and someone suggested we name her Lucy. I think they were kidding but Luca and Lucy wasn’t an option for me! 

Which partner had more fun with the baby name process?

Definitely me! I think the fact that I’ve been keeping a running list in my planner for almost 10 years gives that one away. I love to scour Pinterest, baby name sites (such as Nameberry), and blogs for new ones all the time!

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Probably me. It can be hard to name your children after being a teacher! I love every single one of my former students, but certain names will always stick to the face of a student I’ve previously had in class. I like the name to somewhat unique as well. It can be tough to find something that won’t be super trendy by the time our children are in school – I don’t want there to be multiple students in class with the same name.

Did you share your baby’s name before s/he was born?

No, we did not. We prefer to not have other people’s opinions/advice about baby names so we never share them (with anyone) until after the baby is born. We don’t want to feel influenced by others on how we name our baby and we have always found out the gender, so it’s nice to have something we keep to ourselves until the end.

Have any unexpected nicknames come up for your baby?

We call her “Nolie” for short and “Birdie” because she is quite the squawker!  

What was the most surprising part of the baby name process?

I never expected it to be so hard to find names that coordinate and flow when it comes to having more than one child. Not so much this time, but I’ve already started thinking about names for a potential third baby someday and it seems to get harder the more kids you have. They have to sound good together without being too “matchy.” I might be over-thinking it too much!

What advice would you give someone just starting the baby name process?

The thing that matters most when choosing a baby name is that you and your partner love it! Try not to worry about what other people think about the name and if they like it or not…it’s not their baby. Use the name around your house – say it, yell it, put it together with your last name and/or other kids’ names, and see how it sounds. Sometimes it’s best to wait until you need the baby as well! If you are unsure, go in with a few you like and wait until you see their sweet face to name them.

Thank you so much, Jacqueline!

Photos via Renee Kristine

About the author

Sophie Kihm

Sophie Kihm has been writing for Nameberry since 2015. She has contributed stories on the top middle names of 2019, the top baby names in each state, and the hottest nickname names of 2018. Sophie is Nameberry’s resident Name Guru to the Stars, where she suggests names for celebrity babies. She also manages the Nameberry Instagram and Pinterest. You can follow her personally on Instagram or Pinterest, or contact her at Sophie lives in Chicago.

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