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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Baby Naming Issue: How Soon is Too Soon to Use an Honor Name?

K. writes:
Our first daughter, Julia, was a name I had always loved when I was younger and I liked that my husband's grandfather's name was Julius, as well. She was the first great-grandchild on his side so it's kind of special.  
My original dilemma was that we wanted to use her middle name as a name for our second child, but I know you recommend against this.  We had been tossing around other names, but none of them felt quite right for us.

Then, last week, my Aunt Charlotte passed away suddenly.  She was my mom's only sister and Charlotte was also their mother's name.  I had briefly considered this name beforehand, but wasn't sure if it was too formal for us or if it had become too trendy recently. Now I feel very strongly about incorporating Charlotte into the name if we have a girl. It's almost as if it were meant to be.  Also, this might sound strange, but my Aunt Charlotte's birthday was the day after my grandmother's.  It just so happens that my c-section is scheduled for the day after my birthday as well. (Coincidence or a sign?) That being said, the date is quickly approaching and we still haven't finalized anything.  I know that my mom would be honored if we used Charlotte as a middle name, but is it too soon to use it as a first name?  When I indirectly asked my mom about it, she said that it was a very strong name and that her mother and sister were the only two Charlottes she'd ever known... She assumed I might use it as a middle name and suggested Reese Charlotte.  

My question is, what are some other first names that would go well with Charlotte and would also sound nice with big sister Julia? 

Or should we just take a chance and try to use Charlotte as the first name?  I'm guessing it would sound best with something short, but need some ideas. 

Just for reference, our boy name would be Cole Matthew-  My father and grandfather are Nicholas and my husband is Matthew.  Also, our last name is Winkler.

Some of the other names we discussed in the past, but don't necessarily go with Charlotte are:
Madeline (My husband only liked as a middle name, but he doesn't like that Maddy sounds too close to his name.)
Grace (Although this is a beautiful name, it has a negative association with someone in his family so I'd rather not use it if we could find something better.)

Thanks so much for your help, Swistle.

I don't think it is ever too soon to use an honor name. ...Well, as soon as I write something like that, I start thinking of examples where it might be. But in general, I think it is very touching to use the name of someone who died during your pregnancy, and I don't get any "too soon" feelings at all. The opposite, in fact---like it's MORE wonderful to use the name sooner.

It sounds from your letter as if your mom might be reacting not to the soonness/appropriateness but to her perception of the name as unusual. It's common for the grandparent generation to feel that that current parent generation is choosing names that are kind of weird or old-fashioned: my own mom confessed to having mixed feelings about the name Henry, since it seems old-mannish to her (though she said she was sure she'd love it on an actual grandchild). For them, it's probably close to the way we feel about names like Carol and Judy.

But if your mom's impression of the name comes from only knowing two Charlottes (both older ladies), that's likely to change soon: the name was the 27th most popular name for baby girls in 2011, according to the Social Security Administration, and I wouldn't be surprised to see it in the Top 10. The current perception is of vintage sweetness as well as strength.

And it sounds as if the timing is wonderful for this baby: not only does it give you a new name for your list, it's a name with the same sort of family meaning as your first child's name. And it's lovely and perfect with the name Julia: Julia and Charlotte! Wonderful.

You're right: I do generally advise against using one child's middle name as another child's first name. (More discussion on this topic in this post.) I also think the name Reese is a bit of a style mismatch with a sister named Julia. Julia is classic, ancient; Reese is unisex, modern, surnamey. But if you wouldn't mind continuing the theme for any future girls, Charlotte could have the same middle name as Julia: Charlotte Reese is very nice.

If you'd rather use Charlotte as the middle name, we could look for a first name that SOUNDS a little like Reese. Elise, for example. Elise Charlotte; Julia and Elise.

Or Rose. It has some of the feeling of the name Grace, but less common and without the negative family association. Rose Charlotte is so pretty, and Julia and Rose are so nice together.

Aubrey and Audrey are both nice with Charlotte and with Julia: Aubrey Charlotte, Audrey Charlotte. Aubrey has the additional upside of having the nickname Bree, which may remind you of the way you feel about the name Reese---while still giving her a longer form that goes well in style with the name Julia.

Delaney and Reese make me think of Sadie. Sadie Charlotte; Julia and Sadie.

Stella Charlotte is nice, or Ella Charlotte lightens it a bit.

Oh, or Anna Charlotte! So pretty! Julia and Anna.

Or Lydia Charlotte, Julia and Lydia.

Or Noelle Charlotte, Julia and Noelle.

Charlotte is visually long, but is only two syllables. I think you could go long on a first name: a name like Delaney Charlotte has only one more syllable than the name Julia Reese. Or Annalise Charlotte has the "ees" sound of Reese.

If you would like to go more with the style of Reese, I suggest the name Lane. Lane Charlotte; Julia and Lane.


Anonymous said...

Please name your daughter Charlotte. It is the perfect name and the situation sounds like a fitting time. NN Charlie = adorable.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Swistle, it's never too soon for an honor name. Julia and Charlotte are great together. I agree Reese and Julia seem a little off together. If I heard the names without knowing the children, I would assume Rhys (boy) and Julia (girl). I do like some of Swistle's suggestions for names that have a similar sound to Reese. Elise & Annalise are both very good, they fit well with Charlotte as either first or middle and are a good style match to Julia. But, I really, really want to encourage you to just use Charlotte as the first name. Julia and Charlotte are great sister names on their own, and the family connections just add to their existing awesomeness. :)

Michelle said...

I think Julia and Charlotte are perfect together- not too matchy, just lovley. My Grandmother passed soon after we learned we were expecting. I almost named her Mary after Grandma. In fact, it was so close between Mary and Lily (also a family name) that we didn't really make it official until she was born. In the end, she was a Lily.

If Charlotte is in your heart, I say go for it. It'll be nice that each girl has a family name.

Anonymous said...

I'd suggest talking to your mom more. If it is an emotional thing for her, rather than a style thing, and she's not ready for her sister to be "replaced" or is nervous about having a grandchild be such a strong reminder of something that's still painful for her, maybe your Charlotte could be Charlie, or Lottie, or any number of nicknames at first to ease the transition, and then become Charlotte, if she wants to be, later on.

Jessica said...

I think Charlotte is perfect. I wouldn't use Reese, even if you decide on Charlotte as a middle name, because if I saw two siblings were Julia and Reese I would be positive Reese was a boy.

If Reese is more your style, I can see how having kids named Julia and Charlotte seems pretty far from it, so maybe another one of Swistle's recommendations will work better for you.

Jill said...

I lovelovelove Charlotte and Julia together for every possible reason. I don't even want to suggest any compromises. It's a checks-every-box name set in my opinion: both beautiful matching and by the sounds of it significant honour names. Julia and Charlotte sound made to be sisters. I even like the suggestion of having them share Reese as a middle name. I know families who have done this with their girls and I always thought it was sort of a fun tradition. Like being part of a club.

Lucy said...

I LOVE Charlotte! Please use it! It is a gorgeous name with fun nickname possibilities: Lotte, Char, Charlie, Carly. So beautiful and feminine and perfect with Julia! I am all about family names-- we have only used family names-- and I have found that people only feel honored and loved when you use their name or their family member's name. Please, please use it!

Anonymous said...

I have to disagree - for some, it can be too early to use an honor name. My sibling recently passed away & I have a reaction every time I hear or read his name. It would definitely be hard to have to call a new baby in the family by his name so soon. I assume this would fade with time, but it is a point to consider.

Anonymous said...

If you don't want to save Cole for a future boy, you might like Nicole Charlotte or Nicola Charlotte, nickname Coley. Julia & Nicola is pretty cute!

Alice said...

I think name her Charlotte but maybe use a nickname when she is little to get people slowly used to another family member with that name. I love Lottie and it sounds great with Julia.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Alice...a nickname might be a great way to soften the emotional impact of reusing a name while the loss is still fresh.

Rita said...

Charlotte is so perfect with Julia I almost refuse to consider anything else! And it's such a versatile name - she can be Charlie, Lottie, Lola, Charty.

Reese doesn't fit with Julia at all.

Charlotte Madeline would be so gorgeous; or Charlotte Mathilda / Charlotte Matthea to honour your husband.

Another name that crossed my mind was Colette, since you like Cole for a boy.

Finally, is there any chance you could share Julia's middle name? This way we can help you find similar names you might love.

Shannon said...

I have a friend that is having a girl and naming her Kole. Spelled with either a K or a C, Cole has definitely become more popular as a girl's name. If you don't know whether or not you are going to want to have more children (even so, you may never have a boy), you could always go with Charlotte Cole! I don't think it is too soon.

Daycare Girl said...

I love Charlotte and don't think it's too soon to use it. However, I wouldn't go with Reese as a middle name because of charlotte russe, the dessert. :)

Kristen said...

Use Charlotte! I feel uniquely qualified to give input on this one, our last name (a season) is very close to yours. My son is Joel (close to your Julia)and my daughter is Charlotte Marie. Some of the other middle names I loved for her were Jo (I loved Charlie Jo)and Rose. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

LOVE Charlotte with Julia, Lottie and Lia :) Charlotte Eliza, Charlotte Delilah, Charlotte Eleanor, Charlotte Lillian, Charlotte Anastasia are all lovely and I think, evidence that a longer name can pair beautifully with Charlotte since it is only two syllables as Swistle pointed out

nieke said...

Julia and Charlotte are wonderful together. I'm not much of a fan of Reese, but I kind of like Charlotte Reese. Cole is really nice and also fits with this sibset.

Other girl names that would compliment Julia and Charlotte or Julia and Cole:

Millie (Amelie)

~ AKJ ~ said...

My mother named me after a friend who died during her pregnancy and has never regretted it. I was to be Lauren until her 8th month, and was then switched to Ashley, which was much rarer in those days. Never too early to honor someone you love! Charlotte is so lovely. I say use it.