Okay, it's officially Down to the Wire Time over here (T minus 10 days!), and I'm hoping you can help reassure me on a question that is dogging me a little. I wrote to you about this a few months ago, and since then there has been some progress. Here's what I wrote then:
"We have long thought that if we had a girl child, we would give her a middle name to honor my husband's aunt Jean, to whom he was very close and who died when he was a teenager. I love this idea- I like honoring the dear relative, and I expect it will mean a lot to my mother in law and to my husband's grandmother to have their family honored in this way. The issue is this: I recently learned that aunt Jean's full name was Regina. I've known my husband for 10 years and have always known her as Jean- it's what she always went by - but now I'm wondering if it dilutes the honor of a namesake somehow to use the nickname instead of the full name. Regina isn't our style, and to me feels strongly associated with a religion to which we happen to not adhere, so it would seem a little strange to select it. Plus, we like one-syllable middle names. So, thoughts? Is it okay to just use "Jean" as the middle name, or if we want to say that we named the child after her great aunt do we have to go with Regina?"
Since I wrote that, we've committed to using Jean as the middle name- and I really like it- but I want to make sure that we're not inadvertently committing some sort of gaffe here. It would be sad indeed if, instead of feeling honored, the family felt annoyed by our use of the diminutive.
Are we safe?
Oh, what a very interesting question! I generally find myself trying to talk people out of modified namesakes, reasoning that Grandma Ethel is not going to feel honored by a baby named Addison "after her," nor should she be put in the position of having to act as if she is as deeply touched as if the child were ACTUALLY named after her. I think sometimes such stretches happen inadvertently through a long line of "this from this, from this, from this..." where, for example, the parents say "We love Grandma Ethel, but um, we don't want to use her name. Is there something CLOSE to that we could use?" So first they look at her middle name, which is Hester, and then at her maiden name, which was Douglas, and oh DEAR we're not getting any closer to finding something. And so then one day while talking desperately over the issue again, they find out that the name Ethel means "noble," and the name Addie also means noble, and so how about ADDISON! Perfect! Because they got there by such small increments and over the course of so many discussions and with such good intentions, they might FEEL as if they've basically named the baby Ethel. And yet I am always cautioning that Grandma Ethel might not feel the same, and advising parents to consider if THEY would feel honored if THEIR names were so changed for a namesake.
BUT: this is not at all your situation. You're not taking a Regina and trying to name your baby Riley (same initial) or Juno (same meaning) or Juniper (after Aunt Regina AND Grandma Pearl! Two for the price of one!) or Jean (a name you prefer but she was never called Jean): you're taking the name the namesake was ACTUALLY KNOWN BY and using THAT---because it evokes that person, while her birth certificate name would not. You didn't even know her name was Regina when you first discussed using the name Jean. I would definitely say you could use the name Jean and say your daughter was named after her great-aunt.
As to whether the family will give this the same stamp of approval, it's hard to say. I SUSPECT they would, and for the same reasons I give: they know her as Jean, so the name Jean is the name tied to their happy memories of her. And if anyone shows signs of bristling, you could give that explanation in affectionate tones (ideally with brimming eyes of love): that you know her name was Regina, but that since you knew her through your husband as Jean, THAT'S the name that reminds you of her.