That’s A Whole Lotta Name
Sitting around with another baby name aficionada the other day, discussing what she might name her next child, I suggested Henrietta, one of my long-time favorites. Yes, the aficionada said, she loved Henrietta too, and yet….
“It’s a lotta name,” I offered.
She nodded. “It’s a whole lotta name.”
I’d never thought of names in quite this way before, but the more i considered the concept of names that were too elaborate, too exotic, too quirky, too too, the more accurate I thought it was. There were a lotta names, I realized, that I thought were wonderful, but nevertheless would never actually choose for a child because they were, well, a lotta name.
Like what, beyond Henrietta? Well, like Leopold, for instance, which is in fact my second child’s middle name. In the middle, it’s great: cool, distinctive, old-fashioned but not frumpy. But in first place, Leopold would be a heavy moniker to pull off for a child or a teenager or basically anybody not as good-looking and self-confident as George Clooney.
Extra syllables can sometimes push a name into the lotta category. Olde World heaviness. An especially evocative image.
Billy Bob might be considered a lotta name, just as might Wilhelmina. Prudence or Percy, along with Petronella. I guess a name might be too much if you can imagine it preceding your child into every room, being the thing people notice and comment on earlier and more often than they notice your child’s dancing green eyes or shy smile or talent at math.
Here, some names that might qualify as being a whole lotta and maybe too much name.
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on May 4th, 2009 at 11:56 pm
Have you ever read the children’s book called Chrysanthemum? (It’s about a little mouse girl who gets teased about her name. And try saying *that* 6 times a page!) I think that one belongs here. Amethyst, Guinevere, Araminta and Casper are all on the fence for me. But then again, “normal” people who aren’t obsessive about baby names might disagree with me!
on May 5th, 2009 at 12:42 am
I have a cousin named Gwendolyn. It’s only 3 syllables, but her name was quite a mouthful for us to say growing up. She always went by Gwen (and still does). I find Guinevere rolls off the tongue easier than Gwendolyn.
on May 5th, 2009 at 1:24 am
Long, fancy names can be very distinctive if you’re looking for something that you don’t hear very often. Some old-fashioned names can be revived and some have a shortened form that can also be used.
Some suggestions are:
Ambrosia (Amber for short)
Esperanza (meaning hope)
Engracia (Grace or Gracie for short)
Euphemia (Effie for short)
on May 5th, 2009 at 1:27 am
Sorry I just realized that Cornelius and Horatio have already been mentioned! Love this topic!:-)
on May 5th, 2009 at 6:22 am
I know a woman my age (mid-30s) named Andromeda. She goes by Andi. While she’s confident and poised, Andromeda still seems like a whole lotta name.
KatieScarlett, I know two little Sebastians – I think it is common enough that it no longer sounds over-the-top. Ditto Orlando – if I didn’t hear it in use, I might think it was too much.
on May 5th, 2009 at 8:01 am
I agree. There are so many names as a NE that are so catchy, so beautiful, so perfect, but therefore so unusable. One name on your list, Peregrine, I would LOVE to use but there’s just something larger than life about it that makes it seem completely unrealistic if it were used on a kid. Persephone on the other hand treads the line between the two and falls on the side of realistic. Great post!
on May 5th, 2009 at 8:13 am
That’s what nicknames are for: Hattie or Hetty or Henny or Etta for Henrietta; Billie or Mina for Wilhelmina, etc.
on May 5th, 2009 at 10:01 am
Almost all of these were on my list when I was pregnant.
on May 5th, 2009 at 11:04 am
I know lady named Zenobia, her sister is Zinnia. Those really are a whole lotta name!! They’re pretty but they are just so MUCH.
on May 5th, 2009 at 11:32 am
Indeed Moonie, Peregrine in full, Perry for daily use!
I adore names that are a whole mouthful and then some. Give you something to bite into when they’re in trouble, eh? 😉
Henrietta, Dorothea (not Feodora), Jemima, Lucretia Pandora & Zuleika (another mouthful, like Zenobia) are on my girls list. Hattie, Dot, Mimi (or Jemma), Lucy (or Lulu), Dora and Zuzu are easily wearable on a daily basis, I think!
Caspar (alernate spelling), Balthazar, Ignatius & Lazarus ore on my list for boys. Caz, Baz, Iggy (or Nate) & Laz are easy enough to live with day to day.
And Erin, we have a copy of Chrysanthemum. One book I’d love to burn. It’s an ugly flower, smells awful, why would anyone name a kid after it? Lucky for me, Josephine dislikes it as well, so it sits, gathering dust. (maybe I’ll donate it to the library next time we go!)
on May 5th, 2009 at 1:47 pm
Actually, I would even put Isabella in that category. Don’t get me wrong: it’s a lovely, classic name, but the four syllables simply sound too long for me. I’d always choose Isabel/Isabelle over it for exactly that reason.
on May 5th, 2009 at 7:26 pm
I recently heard of a new baby boy named Odysseus, called Ody (long O), which I thought sounded really cute, especially with his Greek surname.
on May 8th, 2009 at 8:16 pm
my inlaws knew a family who named their twins oranjelo and lemanjelo. Except they spelled them Orange Jello and Lemon jello. ’nuff said.
on May 14th, 2009 at 9:21 am
I think names become “A whole lessa of a name” if there is a good nickname. Nettie for Henrietta (LOVE both of those), Gwen for Guinevere, Ari for Araminta. Leave the long name for special occasions, or if the child really wants a long, show-stopping name like Lucretia. But maybe they’d also prefer to be called Lucy.
Boston Girl Said
on May 15th, 2009 at 1:42 pm
Um…there are people who name their sons “Trout”??
Some of these names hit chords with me. I once worked with a Cornelius; he went by Neil (aren’t nicknames wonderful?). And I still have a children’s book whose main character’s name is Araminta, called Mindy.
I do like Pandora (but more for a cat!). I also have a Dutch pen pal whose middle name is Petronella. Her first name is Geertje (possibly a Dutch variant on Gertrude?), but she goes by Gerry, pronounced “Herry” with a strong aspirant on the “h” sound.
Boston Girl Said
on May 15th, 2009 at 1:43 pm
Oh yeah, almost forgot! For most of my childhood we had a wonderful short-haired collie whose name was Henrietta…but she was called “Hank”. That got a few double-takes through the years. 🙂
CLASSIC NAMES: Ten You Never Thought Of – Baby Name Blog – Nameberry Said
on June 25th, 2009 at 12:41 am
[…] – True, it’s a whole lotta name. But Bathsheba, which means “seventh daughter,” has a rich Biblical and literary history. […]
on November 8th, 2009 at 1:04 pm
Speaking as a Salome, it’s not so bad. 🙂
I think your reasoning behind it makes a difference. I was named after Saint Salome, the mother of James and John and one of the women at the tomb. (As a side note, the OTHER Salome isn’t even mentioned by name in the Bible).
To be sure, as much as I love the sound of Henrietta, I couldn’t do it to a child. But Jemima and Lazarus are fair game!
on November 9th, 2009 at 6:47 pm
I met a Stormy Rose once. I thought her name was interesting, but a bit over the top. Just as a side note: I met a 5 year old Barbara the other day. How interesting is that?
on April 20th, 2010 at 3:03 pm
My husband is a huge fan of Peregrine (his middle name), as a first name for a boy. I think I might be coming around to it, but as you said, it IS a whole lotta name. Of course we went with Ezra for our daughter, so we’re not shy about choosing off-beat names. I think my biggest hang-up is the nickname, as Perry and Reggy aren’t appealing to me, and I haven’t really gotten used to the idea of Pippin.
on August 8th, 2010 at 3:10 pm
My name is Stormie (obviously). I love my name. I haven’t found it weighty in the least. I always have fun introducing myself to new people as I never know how they will react. Most like my name and tell me how pretty it is or how well it suits me. One boy in elementary school told me I was too nice to be a Stormie and renamed me “Sunny-Storm” :P.
I don’t like the spelling you have listed. As I often tell people “Stormy” is a weather condition while “Stormie” is my name. Personally, I don’t think my name holds a candle to the other cumbersome names on your list. I do have another for the list: Ermingard. That’s a weighty name. Just look at the charater in A Little Princess.
on September 17th, 2010 at 9:02 am
Here are some big names.
Nektaria and Panteleimon.
I think they go by nicknames that are quite different from their actual names, one of them is Sasha…
on March 29th, 2011 at 8:55 pm
I love love love pretty much *all* of the girls names. I really like a few of the boys names and HATE the rest. I actually think Casper (though Caspian is way better), Dante (not a far cry from Daniel), Jupiter, Octavius (I’m a huge sucker for “us” and “ius” names), and Peregrine are all quite doable.
on April 19th, 2011 at 12:20 am
I just turned 18 and have been making lists and lists of names since I was 8. Henrietta is at my top. Love love love it. I have no qualms against using it on a child. I have a great great grandmother named Hettie, and I love it as a nickname. Etta is also a cute nickname. I love names ending in etta. ‘Vintage’ names are a deep love for me. I also adore Irish Gaelic and Hebrew names. Also love space names, astronomy has always been something I share with my father.
My girls list currently looks like this:
Eileen (but in the Gaelic spelling, can’t remember right now)
Florence (Flora for short!)
I think most of these won’t sound as out there when I’m ready to have kids, but I also don’t think they sound like a whole lotta names currently either. Guess it’s the perspective.
My boy names are all basically Hebrew, but I also love a cowboy here and there..
Orion (it sounds a little like the trendy Ryan)
Anyway, now I”m rambling. I’m sure people will think I’m crazy for my love of Lyle, but I’ve adored it (for both a boy or girl) since I was ten.
on April 19th, 2011 at 12:22 am
I forgot Felix on my boys list! And Marty! After the great Marty McFly!
I’m also a crazy 80’s pop culture freak. I wasn’t even a glimmer in my mother’s eyes in that decade, but I know more trivia about it than most who live in the 80’s.
on April 19th, 2011 at 7:17 pm
I adore long names. They make an impression on people. I have a cousin named Wilhelmina and she doesn’t go by a nickname. Just plain Wihelmina, she says “My mama namned Wilhelmina Arrow Gane for a reason so thats what I’ll stay till the day the bury me.” And truly longer names cast a “whole lotta” punch, more of a notice me feeling.
on April 19th, 2011 at 9:06 pm
I started life with a difficult name (think “Carrie” smushed with “Anne,” but spelled differently). I was always coming up with other names for myself. When I hit my mid-20’s I started to feel like that name didn’t fit me at all. This wasn’t something I could explain to my family. Luckily, my parents hadn’t given me a middle name, so I saw that as an opportunity. About a year ago I finally found the perfect name for me. Fiammetta. So I kept my first name and let my family call me that, but to my husband and anyone else I’m Fiammetta or Fia. I just have to laugh at myself, though, for choosing a name that’s even longer and harder to spell than my first name. 🙂
@ Linnie: Wow, someone else who likes Vega! I’ve loved that name since I was 15 or 16.
on April 23rd, 2011 at 1:40 pm
As yu can see my name is Cheralyn and for years I hated it always wanted to be something more common but as ive got older Ive learnt to love the individuality my nae gives me. Im not a fan of long or vintage names but Love names that can be shortened to make life easier. My son, Tyler-James, gets nicknamed Ty-Ty, TJ, Tyler, Teej or Ty and he answers to all of them. Ive always been called Cher or Chaz. All the names on this list I think are unfair for children to be called unless they are given nickname alternatives. I couldnt imagine a 5-year-old introducing themself as Lucretia or Peregrine but more so Lucy or Perry as it would be easier for them to pronounce.
on May 6th, 2011 at 10:57 am
I keep putting Julius on and off my list for this very reason. Talk about a big name with big associations… and yet I love it so.
Leslie Owen Said
on May 7th, 2011 at 10:20 pm
Some of these names may depend on your ethnic background as to how “lotta name” they are. I love Angharad, which goes well with my Welsh last name….Many of my students have names that really qualify — Kequanda, nn Kiki — or Shalocka. I also love Jemima, which is much more common in the UK. (Couldn’t really use it here in the South.) My favourite is Keziah, which I guess would really qualify.
Fetching Names: The Hermiones, Part II | Appellation Mountain Said
on January 13th, 2012 at 3:03 am
[…] Theodosia sounds like Hermione’s kid sister. She reminds me of Nameberry’s post on “a lotta name” – choices like Henrietta and Feodora that are almost too elaborate to wear. Still, […]
on January 27th, 2012 at 1:19 pm
One of my husbands favorite names belongs on this list: Andromeda. I think its pretty but I think it would be too much.
on May 9th, 2012 at 7:53 am
IMHO, Henrietta won’t be too much name in a year or two, just like Isabella is a mouthful but is the name of everyone’s cousin’s baby. The t.v. show Fringe just introduced an attractive character named Henrietta, nn Etta, and one of the biggest reasons names are used ultimately is the familiarity to it but with a twist (i.e. Emma, Emily, etc.). Etta will be big!
on May 9th, 2012 at 7:55 am
Just call her Tonks!
on May 9th, 2012 at 8:18 am
Lol, the first name I thought of when I saw this was Archibald. I love it but I’m afraid it’s too much name. Archie is super cute though.
I also love Henrietta and never really thought of it in this category but I guess when I think about it, it is. I don’t know how I missed that was the name used in Fringe. I need to pay better attention.
on November 18th, 2013 at 8:24 am
Trout?! Are you serious?!
I absolutely adore Peregrine, but then I love a lotta ‘lotta’ names – mainly Shakespeare-related ones, like Perdita and Ophelia, or Lysander and Caliban (though perhaps not the latter, due to its unfortunate connotations!) The key is definitely to have an accessible nickname.
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