I absolutely adore your blog and can't get enough of baby name talk. An issue has been bothering me for a while and I'd love to hear what you/your readers think. One of my favorite names is Rue. This would be a nickname (everyday use) for Ruby which was the name of the beloved matriarch of our family. I love everything about it: the meaning of the full name, how cute it is as a call name and the rarity of it. However, by definition Rue means regret. It's not often used anymore except in literature, but is that negative meaning enough to ruin the name? Does the full name "Ruby" cancel out that meaning?
Just wondering if you have thoughts on the issue, or perhaps other examples with a similar problem.
Thanks for your time!
Ah! Yes! I am interested in this topic too. I am trying to remember when it recently came up. Oh, I remember: I love the names Malcolm and Mallory---but Mal means bad, and I took Latin.
I don't put much stock in baby name meanings---for example, that Emma means "healer of the universe" or that Isaac means "she laughed." I give it about as much thought as I'd give to flower meanings if Paul brought me a bouquet. ("Bachelor buttons?? Why didn't he just TELL me he wanted a divorce?? And why did I marry someone whose name means SMALL?") Different baby name books will give completely different meanings for the same name; and some names are retroactively given meanings from religious or mythological sources, but what did the name mean before then?
But when it's a WORD meaning, I get more involved. Rue. Mal. Bella. Patience. Hunter. I might still use one, but I'd consider the issue carefully.
One question is how familiar the word is as a name. We know a lily is a flower, and that gives the name Lily a pleasant floral imagery---but we're very familiar with it as a name. It's different if we meet a little girl named Sunflower, or Sapphire.
Another question is how familiar the name is as a word. The name Patience immediately brings the word patience to mind, but we don't use the word "felicitations" anymore so might not think of it with the name Felicity. Most of us might know that "bella" is the word for beautiful in Italy---but it's not the word for beautiful in the U.S. We might know the name Cooper is a tradesman name, but most of us would be hard-pressed to come up with barrel-making; Archer and Sailor are more evocative.
In the case of Ruby/Rue, I think you're in the clear. As you point out, we don't use the word rue much anymore (Paul and I still say it because of a Penny Arcade comic strip, but we don't say it MUCH). And we're somewhat familiar with it as a name, and I suspect we'll be even more familiar with it as this generation of Ruth/Ruby babies grow up. And as you also point out, it would be a nickname rather than the given name: naming a boy Malcolm is different than going straight to Mal; naming a girl Isabella is different than going straight to Bella. And it's an honor/namesake name, which gives it a new meaning related to your beloved family matriarch, which I'd say trumps other meanings.
You could also consider spelling it Ru.