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Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Baby Naming Issue: Is Harriet Harri$ Usable?

Lucy writes:
My husband (Brian) and I (Lucy) are expecting our second child in March. We will wait to find out the gender until the day he/she is born. Even though it's quite a ways before the baby is due we are already discussing names and trying to figure out the perfect one. We love family/honor names and plan to use a family name for both the first and middle name. Our first child, Eln@ F@e, is named directly after both of her maternal grandmas.

If this next child is a boy, naming him will be easy. We will use George Austin. George is an important and personal name from both sides of the family. Austin is my Grandma's maiden name and mom's middle name.

If this child is a girl we are deciding between Virginia Greer (middle name not definite yet) and Harriet. If we use Virginia we will mostly use the nicknames Ginger or Gigi. If we use Harriet we would call her both Harriet and Hattie.  I like the sound of Hattie Harri$, but obviously Harriet Harri$ has some definite problems.  (The family member we would be naming her after was also named Harriet Harri$).  We know that a middle name could possibly soften the problem here, but don't want to have to always say her first and middle together since Harriet is already three syllables.  We realize that if we use Harriet we are just embracing the fact that she will have the "John Johnson" or "Jack Jackson" issue her whole life or until she gets married, but I'm wondering how bad that is?  The middle names we are currently considering, but aren't sure we like yet, are Christine, Joanne, & Luella.  Do these help, or can nothing help the situation?  

Any advice would be super appreciated!  Thank you!


One of my favorite books to read to younger kids is Harriet, You'll Drive Me Wild!, by Mem Fox.

(photo from Amazon.com)

This book made me love, love, love the name Harriet Harri$. It is so fun to say. When dealing with my own 5-year-old Henry, who is currently in a "difficult stage" (where "difficult stage" is said with clenched teeth and audible air quotes), I find this section of the book goes frequently through my mind: "Harriet, my darling child. Harriet, you'll drive me wild. Harriet, sweetheart, what are we to do? Harriet Harri$, I'm talking to you!"

So because of that, the name sounds right and good to me, and in fact particularly appealing. It doesn't seem like the equivalent of John Johnson or Jack Jackson; it seems more like Maribeth Marek or Abigail Abner.

Here is the main issue I would be concerned about: SO MANY opportunities for the nickname Hairy. But perhaps with the surname Harris, there is no avoiding it anyway?

I think you're wise not to rely on the middle name to fix the situation: middle names are so rarely used, or even known. But in my opinion, there's no situation to fix anyway: it's a striking and distinctive and appealing honor name. If anyone DOES act funny about it, saying "Harriet Harris is a family name" seems like it would nip that in the bud.

What does everyone else think?

39 comments:

K said...

I'm wondering if the original Harriet Harris was born that, or if she married and became a Harris? That changes, for me, the way the name is perceived by the family. It's easy to say, "But it was the name of her great-grandma/aunt/close cousin, and they never had a problem!" But you have to understand that if Harriet Harris is her married name, she didn't have to wear the name as a child, when your peers are arguably more cruel and more prone to taunt then when you're an adult. I agree with Swistle that it makes the nickname Hairy so easy to use in a cruel way, but I don't think this would be an issue if it were only her last name that was Harris--mainly because, unless your last name is something really, really ridiculous, kids aren't going to pick on you for it. Even with only the first name Harriet, "Hairy Harriet" just doesn't have the fun-to-say, easy-to-tease factor of "Hairy Harriet Harris." The triple alliteration might be more than some kids can resist. I also think it's a name that could introduce some embarrassment for the child as she gets older--it's either something that as a teenager and adult, she'll love, or else something she'll be embarrassed by, in the "I don't know what my parents were thinking" vein.
Would you consider just using the name Hattie as a first name? Or would that diminish the family connection too much? Also, would the nickname name thing bother you? With a name like Hattie, I think you could get away with it more than a name like, say, Katie (where everybody knows the name well enough to expect a longer form).

Anonymous said...

FWIW, I do know someone born John Johnson and he hated it so much that he changed his name to his wife's after they married. His name was also a namesake name, and that didn't seem to make him any happier about it.
I want to say it would be OK as I love the name Harriet, but it does seem like too much with Harris. I think it is one thing for a fictional book character to have a name like that, but something totally different when we're talking about a real child.
Using Hattie 100% of the time (especially at school) would help, or just using Hattie as the given name. Harriet would also be fine for a middle name.
Henrietta is similar, has the nickname Hettie and I think it could work as a namesake for a Harriet thanks to the Henry/Harry connection. In fact, because of the Henry/Harry connection, I don't see any reason why Hattie couldn't also be a nickname for Henrietta. Would that work, or does it dilute the namesake too much for you to consider it.
I do want to add that I love George Austin. My youngest is George and I'm always happy to hear of someone else considering the name.

Anonymous said...

Just to throw this out there, a friend has a daughter named Virginia and her nickname is "Ginsie."

Lauren said...

I agree with the above commenter that I think there is far more potential for the "hairy" taunt with Harriet Harri$ than with some-other-first-name Harri$. I don't know if it would be a deal breaker for me, though—but maybe I'm too optimistic about perceived cruelty vs. actual cruelty of schoolmates. I do adore the alliteration of the name itself, and I love the line that Swistle quoted, but perhaps the fact that the full name is used in a book would also dissuade you from it (I think it might do for me).

My vote is to use Harriet if that's the name you really love, but in case your doubts are still there, I have some ideas. I like the above commenter's suggestion of just going for Hattie (and I like Hattie Christine, Hattie Joanne, and Hattie Luella)—but since you mentioned Virginia and also potential nicknames, it seems like you like the longer formal name with the short, cute nickname. I also wonder if Henrietta instead of Harriet would work? Henrietta Harri$ lessens the "hairy" potential (at least to me), still gives you most of the sounds of Harriet and also gives you the nickname Hattie, and also seems like it could work with your style.

Many congrats to you—and George Austin is also lovely!

Anonymous said...

It reminds me of Charlotte Charles from Pushing Daisies. I think it is a nice name but may be a bit hard to carry in real life. Although, it is memorable. That can be a good thing but it can also make life harder for a kid who wants to blend in.

Jill said...

What about Harrietta? It gives you another nickname option, Etta, and solves the problem of "Hair-iet Hair-iss" in my opinion. I know super long names aren't for everyone but I love them, and I think they give kids so many options (coming from a Jill, I think just naming her Hattie would be limiting). Unless you're set on Louella as a middle I think Harrietta is the perfect compromise.

Lucy said...

Thanks everyone so far for your comments. This is just what I needed. To answer a few questions: the original Harriet was actually named Harriet Harri$-- she died young and never married. Because that Harriet was never called Hattie I'm not sure I could name our daughter only Hattie (or Henrietta, and call her Hattie, though I love Henrietta as well). I like the idea of using the actual honor name. I'd rather use the name Harriet and only call her Hattie.

I'd never heard of the book by Mem Fox-- I own many other books by Mem Fox and will have to add this one to my collection. I don't think the character in the book would necessarily dissuade me-- it might even encourage me because I think it would be fun to read a book with my actual name in it.

I will have to ponder on the Hairy Harriet Harris problem. Bummer.

Michelle said...

My mother's maiden name is Harris. Her first name was Patricia, but most of her elementary-school-bullying stories were about how the boys called her Hairy Harris. I don't think it can be avoided.

Minnie said...

Harriet Luella is so cute - and "Hattie Lu" is just darling!

Lucy said...

I'd never considered the Hattie Lu nickname. Love it! Thanks Minnie!

Sarah said...

I like Harriet Harris, calling her only Hattie. I think with any name kids can come up with a way to make a teasing nickname.

Lisa said...

I like Harriet Harri$ - I like that it's a family name, and I think the "t" sound at the end of Harriet breaks up the name flow to make it less Jack Jackson-y. It's not Harry Harris, after all. (We considered and ruled out Willow Williams in our own family.)

I think any "hairy" teasing would come more from Harriet than Harri$ or the combo. If she's being called Hattie anyway, no big deal. I wouldn't worry unless you are exceptionally hairy people to begin with. :)

Laura said...

I've spent way too much time thinking about alliteration as my favorite girls name is Tess (nn for Theresa) and our last name is Tys0n. I've asked many people about the name and most people seem to like alliteration. That would make me think a Harriet Harris would be well received. Most people of course will think you picked the name Harriet because you liked the alliteration.

Kristin said...

I say BOTH your name choices are lovely! I think Harriet Harris, who goes by Hattie Harris, is wonderful... I find the alliteration very pleasing, and fun to say. And having it be a family name makes it very special, especially coming after a big sister with such a strong family honor name. And Virginia Greer is delightful too.

Anonymous said...

I am not a fan of Harriet and Harris together. I understand that it was a real Person, as well as a fictional character, but I don't think it is fair to label a new person with that Title just because someone else already 'wore' it.
Can you keep Harriet for middle, so that her full name still honours the original Harriet- ie Virginia Harriet Harris or Luella Harriet Harris? Etc
Not that I am a fan of Virginia either - I had a friend Virginia who for her whole childhood, and still even as an adult in University was still getting "Virgin" jokes made about her name.....
Of your choices, I think Christine Harriet Harris and Luella Harriet Harris are lovely. It may be tempting to use fir 'cuteness' but please don't use Harriet.
George Austin is terrific!

Laura said...

It's just too much of that hard "har" sound with Harriet Harris for me. It's not a delicate, pleasing sound, therefore I don't like the alliteration. I love the name Harriet, but not with your last name.

Anonymous said...

Never heard of the book, but I think the combo is good. It's a little edgier than something I would pick myself, but I would absolutely admire and love it on someone else's kid.

As to nicknames, I'm firmly of the belief that kids will tease who they want to tease. If the name doesn't lend itself to taunts they'll use something else.

Use it! It's awesome!

Patricia said...

As I was reading this post, I was sure there would be a poll in which I could vote "no", somewhat reluctantly, for Harriet Harris. (Swistle, why no poll?) Because actually I do like the name and am not surprised it has turned up in a children's book. But that's my concern: so cute and catchy for a child, but probably wouldn't work as well for an adult. I don't think it matters what the middle name is unless you plan to call her by it all the time: "Harriet Jo" (as if her given name were written Harriet-Jo) or something like that. Otherwise, I think Virginia would work better for your second daughter.

Susan said...

I absolutely love the name "Harriet Harri$" and I don't think it's anything at all like Peter Peterson or John Johnson or Donald Donaldson. ALSO, my own maiden name was Harris, and although I do remember -- like maybe ONCE -- someone calling me "Hairy Harris," considering how hairy my arms were, I think I'm living proof that the connection is pretty dim and unsatisfying for Name Bullies.

I vote for Harriet!

Sarah said...

I'd say that if the kids are inclined to use a taunt on a kid, they'll find a way to do it. Harriet Harris might *slightly* lend itself to a "Hairy Harriet" style taunt, but I don't think it's so obvious. I mean, my last name was Tobin and the mean kids called me "Toad-Butt". You have to admit, it's kind of a stretch. Eventually you learn to roll your eyes and say sarcastically, "How original!"

Also, I think that there is a definite shelf-life on this kind of teasing. By a certain point, kids just grow out of it. By the time she's in her teens, this will be a non-issue.

I only state all this because I love the name and I think it's a winner and I wish I should use it myself (we are done with the babies). It's full of charm.

Anonymous said...

I think you could make an argument that kids can find a way to tease most names, especislly the interesting ones. I love your name choice and think Hattie Lu is adorable. It's a great name and you and your husband should go for it!
George Austin is also a charming name. Good luck.

Jan said...

I personally don't really like the "har" sound and think Virginia Greer is lovely - like the classic and edgy together.

Anonymous said...

I had a student named Josie Jones and I LOVED her alliterative name. I think the teasing issue is null. Kids will literally tease about anything.

sarah said...

I think Harriet Harris sounds great, and I love Hattie Lu as a nickname. For some reason, alliteration at the beginning of names doesn't bother me as much as at the end..For example my nephew has a -son first name and a -son last name (think Jackson Donaldson) and to me that sounds a lot worse than Harriet Harris.
Good luck!

StephLove said...

I really can't decide if I think it's usable or not. I am right on the fence. It's more the repeated sound than any teasing potential, though.

As much as people worry about name-related teasing, I only remember one serious case from my childhood, an unfortunate girl whose last name was Hooker. And I've never heard my kids mention anyone being teased for their name.

Lucy said...

Wow-- thanks for all the responses. I seriously appreciate your input. I read the responses to my husband just now and we are taking everything into consideration. He also really loved the idea of Hattie Lu as a nickname. There are a few more people who voted yes than no, but still quite a few no's, which we will take into consideration. As we did with our first child, I am sure we will take some time with the baby after they are born to really decide which name seems right for him/her. Thanks again for your input and encouragement. And at least George Austin sounds like a winner! :)

Lyly said...

My married name my first name starts with ly and my last name starts with ly. I get a lot of very nice compliments on it. Somehow my maiden name pales in comparison. I love Harriet Harris. I love names that start the same maybe because after a childhood of not really liking my first name it finally fits and is fun. As far as the hairy nickname unless you expect a little girl with some crazy hair or you have been teased about your hair.

Lindsay said...

Just noticed the nickname "Hattie Lu" mentioned above and OMG! Swoon!

Anonymous said...

The only thing that sprang to mind about George Austin Harri$ is that the initials are GAH, a common expression of exasperation, especially on the internet. I would probably have a giggle over that, but perhaps it's not a dealbreaker.

Jessica said...

I like Harriet Harris a lot and I agree it's not like Jack Jackson and John Johnson.

Anonymous said...

I think before anybody declares a name "unusable" because of teasing potential, it's useful to give a thought to the many, many people out there with surnames that end in -butz or -shitz or whatever else.

Angie said...

I'm very dense sometimes. I'm re-reading your line about the obvious problems with Harriet Harris, and asking myself what the obvious problems are. But it's 5:30 AM here and I hadn't had my coffee. For what it's worth, I didn't find the problems, other than the alliteration, obvious. I agree Harriet Harris doesn't fall into the John Johnson camp.

It sounds like Harriet is your top pick, but the similarity to your last name is giving you pause. Your other option, Virginia is lovely.

Or, if you don't think you will have more than two kids, you could use Georgia for a girl. But we all know about the best laid plans...

Anonymous said...

I'm actually married to John Johns#n, who doesn't seem to mind it too much. His mother tells me that orginally they planned to call him by his first and middle names, so he would have been called John Andrew, but it just didn't happen. Suprisingly, he didn't really get nicknamed "JJ" or "Johnny". In college he got called by his first and last a lot because it just rolled off the tongue so easily. Although he did agree (when were dating, no less) that if we had a son, he would not want to name him "John Johns#n, Jr.", much to my great relief.
I am not usually a fan of such names, but I love Harriet Harris and adore the nickname "Hattie Lu".

Nedra said...

Personally, the children's book association would turn me off of the name. As a kid, I always imitated characters in books. If there wasn't a character that was expressly evil, it was typically portrayed as generally good and I believed that it was okay and cool to act like that character. (For a similar reason, my husband couldn't stand the "Curious George" books because the monkey got away with all kinds of misbehavior and never suffered any consequences, which confused and upset him as a child.)

SO, if this Harriet Harri$ of the book is as mischievous as she seems, I wouldn't want an additional incentive to confuse my child about what is appropriate behavior and what is expected of her. I know that whenever I found a character with my own name (which was rare), I felt like it gave me free reign to do whatever that character did. Plus, if that book is read at school and elsewhere, then it will prejudice other children and adults against your kid and perhaps make her feel pressured to "live up to" her namesake (even though you aren't intending to name her "after" the character).

On it's own, I like the name Harriet Harris and think it would be fine except for the literary reference. I don't think that people would often call her Hairy. Do children even tease about names nowadays? It seems like with the sheer variety of names these days, it's rare to hear people teased like that. I am in my late twenties and I can count on my hand the number of times that I heard a kid get teased for their name when I was growing up. I don't think it's as big of a deal as the older generations think it is.Being a fairly hairy person myself, I would be crushed if I had a name that caused people to tease me about it, but I also think that by the time that a kid is old enough to have body hair, it's even less likely that they will be getting teased for their name (they might be teased for other reasons, but if a bully is going to call you hairy, it won't matter what your name is). I work at a middle school and have never hear a kid tease another kid for their name. Ever.

I personally prefer Virginia Greer and think it sounds a lot better with Harri$. Virgina Greer Harri$ is kind of perfect.

Eva.G said...

I am not a big fan of Harriet Harris, which is a shame because I rather like the name Harriet! I don't mind the alliteration, it's the double Har Har that seems too much for me, and they are harsh sounds. If it were me, I couldn't do it. I rule out names for my children based on if the first and last sound too similar. Which is sad when you really love a name.

On the other hand, I really like Hattie! If you named her Harriet Harris but only called her Hattie Harris, I think that is terribly cute!! Good luck.

liz said...

I love the name Harriet Harri$. LOVE. IT.

I was just at WorldCon (the big science fiction convention) and a family that performed in the masquerade had a dad named something like Tom Thomas and the son was Tommy Thomas (may not be actual last name, but it was close).

I say go for it.

Anonymous said...

As a point of interest, there is an actress called Harriet Sansom Harris (you might remember her as Kelsey Grammer's agent on Frasier). It seems to work okay for her, but I think having the middle name to break it up keeps it from feeling too jokey.

Anonymous said...

My town has a business called Hattie Anne's. It's not the owner's name, so there must be a story behind it but I haven't had the chance to ask. Going incognito on this one for geographic reasons.

Anonymous said...

My husband is a John Johnson and its never bothered him one bit. He was name after an uncle that passed away so it's special to him.