baby names

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Nickname Question

I’ve already been asked several times, “So what are you going to call her?” Tim and I love the name Adelaide and we intend to call her just that, the full name. However, as someone who has a short, one syllable first name, I understand that a three syllable name could be a mouthful. Before she was born, Tim and I discussed that fact that she will likely be called Addie (Addy?) and though I have nothing against that name, I prefer the less common Aida. Maybe I’m wrong, but with the popular Madeline, Maddison and Addison, I figure there will already be Maddies and Addies on the playground.

And that brings me to my question. How should Aida be spelled?

Just to be clear, I’m talking about a pronunciation with a long “a” sound. Aida as in first aid. Aid – uh. The other more common nickname would be pronounced Add – E. Make sense?

My first instict is spelling it A-I-D-A. That’s how I’ve spelled it so far in this post, and I think maybe that would be the least likely to get mispronounced. However, there is an opera  titled Aida and it’s pronounced Eye – E – duh.

This week, I saw something Tim wrote and he spelled the name Ada. While that may be the simpler spelling, I’m afraid it would get mispronounced as Add – uh, with the short “a” sound similar to Addie. Heck, I prefer Addie over Add-a, so I wouldn’t want that to catch on if I can help it.  Ava is a popular girls name. People seem to know how it’s pronounced and know that it’s said with a long “a”.  Our nickname rhymes with Ava, just with a “d” instead of the “v,” maybe I’m not giving people enough credit and Ada would be the best spelling?  What do you think? How would you pronounce Ada if you saw it written? What about Aida? Am I overthinking this?

Maybe we should just take my dad’s suggestion and go with the nickname Del. Or, what Tim often calls her, Lemonade. I know once she gets to school people will just call her whatever they want.  I’d still like to set some kind of precedent/guide if I can. Plus, even before she was born, I liked the middle name Fen in part because I liked having the nickname option of Aida Fen.

Aida Fen. Isn’t that just adorable? Or is that Ada Fen? Hhmmm….



One week ago today I brought this little lovely into the world. She was two weeks early, and it’s been a whirlwind of a week, but we are so blessed.

Adelaide Fen Pannell was born Thursday, July 28 at 12:03 pm. She was 7 pounds, 7 ounces and 20 inches long. We came home on Saturday and have enjoyed getting to know each other the last few days. I haven’t had much time to post this week, but my parents drove in from Illinois last night and I have a little more hands-free time with their help. Already she’s a highly paparazzied young lady, so I hope to post more photos soon.

Now, I’m back to stroking that beautiful dark hair and those tiny fingers…


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One of the hardest questions while pregnant is: Do you have a named picked out, yet?

An even harder question is the more direct: What names do you like?

The former is easy to respond with a scripted. “Oh, we’re still deciding.” Or, “We have it narrowed down to a few.” But, what names do you like? Seriously, that’s a hard one ignore. I get it. When my friends have been pregnant, one of the things I’m most curious about is baby names. I’ve always wanted to know what names my friends were considering. I also knew that it could be a sensitive subject, so I’ve tried to dance around the question without being too direct. I’ll say something like, “Are you and [enter spouse/partner’s name here] having a hard time deciding on names?” Then, I could get a feel for whether or not they wanted to talk about it. It opens the door for them to toss out some of the names they like, but a simple “yes” or “no” shows that they aren’t really comfortable sharing details.

If told names, I would never say what I thought about a particular name or which name I liked better unless such information was directly solicited. But now that I’m on the other end of the conversation, it’s just as awkward. Tim and I like the names we like and we don’t really need anyone’s opinion or suggestions. I don’t want someone’s love or dislike of a name to persuade our decision either way.

After the event at the liquor store a few weeks ago, I shared the story with my girlfriends at knitting. They got a kick out of it and jokingly started referring to my unborn as “Mallory.” Apparently, at least two friends who weren’t there the night I told the story and hadn’t read my blog entry, assumed that Mallory was the name we’d chosen. It’s not a ridiculous name like “peanut” or “nubbin,” so I can’t say I blame them.

A few days later a friend approached me and said, “So I heard you decided on a name.” I didn’t know what she was talking about. While we do have our favorites, we definitely hadn’t made any announcements. “Mallory,” she said.

I laughed. “No, that’s just a joke name. Did they tell you the story?”

They hadn’t.

Then, a couple of weeks later I talked to another friend who said she also thought Mallory was the actual name. She said she and her husband had talked for a long time about how Mallory was such a great choice. Perfect even.

Ugh. It kills me. My friends love our funny, joke name. I have visions of people whispering among themselves once they hear what name we’ve chosen. “What were they thinking,” they’ll say.  “I liked Mallory better.” I can even imagine that after having heard the Mallory story, our daughter herself will complain, “But Mom, why did you name me [insert actual name] – I hate that name. Mallory is way cooler.”

Well, sorry to disappoint you folks, but we are NOT naming our daughter Mallory.  Feel free to use it yourselves.


The girls in my knitting group are my Philly friends and my Philly friends are the knitters. They’re mostly one in the same. Sure, I’m closer to some of the knitters than others, but I call them all friends. I also have a few Philly friends outside of the knitting group, but I could probably count them on two hands.

Our knitting group has been meeting every Tuesday for more than 5 1/2 years.  I joined in the fall of 2006, shortly after Tim and I moved to Philly, so they were almost a full year in at that point. When I joined the group, I didn’t yet know how to knit, but a new friend invited me to the group and I was anxious to meet more friends.

The knitting group is full of strong, creative women. We have doctors, lawyers, a designer, an accountant, a musician, a social worker, two who work for the EPA. We’re an eclectic bunch.

Last Tuesday was my week to host. We run a sign-up sheet and each take turns volunteering to host at our house or apartment. The host usually provides a bottle or two of wine and light snacks.  The knitters bring anything they’d like to add: a bag of chips, cheese and crackers, fruit, a bottle of wine.

Monday night I realized we didn’t have anything alcoholic in the house. Normally, this wouldn’t be a big deal. I’d just pick up a bottle of white and a bottle of red over lunch. But, at 29 weeks and obviously pregnant, I was a little nervous about going to the liquor store (in Pennsylvania the only place to purchase wine is at the state-owned Wine & Spirits stores).


I take a deep breath before opening the door. I’ve come prepared for someone to say something to me and I have a ready response – just because I’m buying it doesn’t mean I’m drinking it.

I quickly make my selection and get in line at the register. No one says anything to me… until I get up to the cashier and she catches sight of my belly.

“Aww. How cute,” she says. “Do you mind if I touch?” She motions toward my stomach and is already coming in.

Too busy worrying about being in a liquor store, I was distracted and caught off guard. “Oh…. sure,” I found myself saying as she put both palms to my belly.

“Some people don’t like it,” she says. “Do you know what you’re having?”

“Yeah.  It’s a girl.”

“She’s small.”

“Well,” I say, not feeling at all small, “I’m not due until August.”

“Still…”  There is a short pause while she scans my bottle of wine.  “Do you have a name picked out?”

I explain that we are still deciding between a few.

“How about Mallory?” she offers.

I am surprised by her directness, but I smile.  “Why? Is that your name?”

“No,” she says. “I just really like that name.”

I almost say something about how I will save the name for her to use, but my instincts tell me to keep my mouth shut.  I can tell she’s a talker and don’t want to get an earful about how she can’t have children or about how she gave her daughter up for adoption when she was younger. I try to avoid the personal.  Instead, I make an off-hand remark about how Mallory is a nice name.  It reminds me of the show Family Ties.

As I walk back to my office, I shake my head in disbelief with a smile on my face.  I had heard about how strangers would offer advice and ask to touch my belly, or worse, touch without asking, but it hadn’t happened to me yet.  Now my first stranger had asked.  At the liquor store of all places.

When I repeated the story to my coworker she said, “Well, at least now you’ll have a good story to tell Mallory when she grows up.”

Now that I think about it, I do kind of like Mallory.  It’s not a name I had considered before, but it’s pretty.  Not too popular.  Hhmm…


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When I started writing this post, I meant for it just to be a celebratory announcement of a girlfriend’s new baby.  However, as I wrote, it digressed into a post about baby names.  Ah…baby names yet again.

Back in May, in this post, I wrote about my friend H announcing her pregnancy.  Well, it’s six months later and baby Nora was born last week.  I had been checking in on H’s Facebook every couple of days to see if there was any baby news.  On Wednesday, I saw a congratulations posted on her wall.  No status updates from the new mom yet, no word of a name, but a confirmation that the little girl had indeed arrived. Just a few hours later, a mutual friend from our knitting group forwarded a mass email that H’s husband had sent out early that morning.

At that point, she was still “as yet to be named baby girl,” so the suspense of the baby name was still there.  H had said that they were trying to limit her first name to six letters since their last name is so long, so I thought Tim and my favorite girls names were pretty safe, but there was always the chance that H would use one of them.

I wrote about the baby name race in an earlier post, and I still believe that two people in the same friend circle can name their child the same thing, but I know I would have been disappointed if she had used one of the names we loved.  If we choose to use the same name, we would look like we were copying.

The following day, H sent an email announcing the name Nora Marie. I know another friend who loves that name and would like to use it for her own daughter one day, but it was not on our short list.  I had a small sense of relief.

This desire to have a unique name, a name that no one else you know has used, is a fairly recent one.  Last summer I read an article by Laura Wattenberg titled “Your Baby is Unique, But Her Name Isn’t” and when I located it and reread it today, I wanted to just cut and paste the whole thing here.  It’s so good!  It’s about how the top 25 most popular names in the country represent fewer and fewer of the total names given.  Although there are many names that I think of as “trendy” or “popular,” the actual number of babies given those names each year is much less than the number of babies with the most popular names in the 1950s.

According to the article, the Internet was one of the major factors in causing this alteration in the concept of name individuality. When people started to think about names in the context of unique usernames and email addresses, when they started to type their names into Google or Facebook, they found dozens of other people around the world with the same name.  Their name was “taken” by someone else.

Another factor cited by Wattenberg, was the publishing of the most popular baby names by the Social Security Administration.  They didn’t start tallying the names, ranking them and publishing the list online until 1997.

Another point in the article I thought was particularly interesting was that today we “approach naming more like an exercise in branding.” We want to best position our children in life’s marketplace.

Wattenberg said that on our way to uniqueness, our tastes have become even more alike.  It reminds me of how when some kids want to be unique and set themselves apart from the conventional norm, they end up all looking alike with colored hair and piercings and “alternative” clothes.  The same is true for hipsters.  To be different, they all end up looking alike with horn-rimmed glasses, beards, skinny jeans and tattoos.  While we may like the idea of distinctive and unique names, today’s popular names actually end up sounding quite similar to each other.  They commonly start with vowels and end with “n.”

That’s why we have all the Ardens and Ashlyns and Owens and Aidens.  As Wattenberg put it, “contemporary names…travel in phonetic packs.” A third of today’s boy’s names end in the letter “n” opposed to a more even split of endings in decades past.

I can’t claim that I am above these trends.  I like many a name that begins with a vowel and/or ends with an “n.”  I want my child to have a unique name, or at least one that isn’t super trendy or in the top 25  (or 100) most popular names.  I have thought about how the name will “brand” the child, how if my child wants to be an artist, writer or musician, I want his or her name to be interesting and memorable.  This article really nails it on the head.

Welcome to the world, Nora.  What brand of baby are you?


A few posts back I declared “this is not a race.” Well, call me crazy–and I’m learning that most women in the midst of trying to conceive are a little bit of the crazy–but one of the reasons I feel a sense of the race mentality is the race for names. I know it’s silly. There are so many names out there that I like, I can surely find another name to suit my unborn. And who’s to say two women in the same circle of friends can’t name their child the same thing? Or two cousins who see each other only once every few years can’t have children with the same name?  I know this anxiety is irrational. And to top off the insanity, it’s not as if Tim and I are even 100% set on names.

Really, the only people I wouldn’t want to have the same name as my child would be his or her first cousins. I wouldn’t want to take a name my sister loves and is planning to use, and I would hope she would be respectful and not take my top names. At the same time, if I have five top names, it’s not as if I’m going to have five children. Since we’re only planning on two kids, at least one of our top three girls names will not be used. And the same for boys. So when I just found out (via Facebook mind you…see previous post) that my cousin is planning to name her son Nolan, why did I get a twinge in my gut? I don’t even think Tim particularly likes the name Nolan.  Sigh…



I’m obsessed with baby names.  To give myself some credit, I have been interested in names since I was a little.  I was probably one of the few nine-year-olds with a baby name book.  My younger sister and I used to study the baby name book, and we used the names we liked when we played house or one of our elaborate make-believe games.  I have a running list of names I like on a piece of paper I’ve kept in the baby name book since high school.  I’m not sure why I did this, it’s not as if I was yearning to be a teen mom.  I’m just a word nerd, and I didn’t want to forget some of the more unusual names I came across.  As I got older, I just hoped that my future partner would find himself attached to some of the same names.

As my dating relationship with my now husband got more serious, we were living together and making plans in our minds and hearts for a future together.  This included children.  Still, without the marriage commitment, talk of children was usually said as a joke.  I would talk about “my kids”–not to imply that my future children would be his future children.  Around the time we decided to move to Philly, I saw the movie Rocky for the first time.  (I know, I know, Tim couldn’t believe I hadn’t seen it either.)  We decided that we would name our children Rocky and Apollo and make them fight each other. When we heard weird, or funny names, one of us would say, “let’s name our first-born child that!”

Although Tim and I continue to joke around about the name of our un-born, we are now starting to have serious conversations about names we like.  Tim likes a girl’s name that I think he made up.  I like it too, but I don’t know how we’d spell it so that it wasn’t constantly mispronounced.  We both like a boy’s name that my sister told me years ago she and her husband also liked.  More recently we’ve been considering another boy’s name.  While I like the shortened version of it, I think the full name may be perceived as a bit pretentious. A couple of months ago watching tv Tim said, “What do you think about the name….”  My ears immediately perked.  It’s rare that he brings a new name to the table.

I think we’re still far from agreeing on that perfect name (good thing we have plenty of time), but it’s fun for me to think about it.  It seems like one of the few things I can do pre-baby-making season.  I just love names and for me, it’s a fun topic of conversation.  Unfortunately, I like a lot of the names that are popular right now.  At the same time, I don’t want my child to have the same name as everyone else in their class.

Tim came across this article during his daily blog reading and forwarded it to me.  10 Ways to Avoid Hipster Baby Names

Some of it made me laugh, but I actually like several of the names she mentions.  My dog’s name is on the list.  Does that mean our dog is a hipster?