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Friday, December 7, 2012

Baby Ashleigh-Wertman: Charles, Arthur, or William?

A. writes:
I love your blog and check it everyday for inspiration and just to read your insight. I wrote to you last May regarding my interest in using one of my students' names as a possible middle name for a future child. A month later I got pregnant! So your advice and the advice of your readers on that topic may be put to good use very shortly if we have a girl.

I'm writing because we're having some trouble with boys' names. The troubles that we're having seem to be the same that we've been having for months and months, so I thought it might finally be time to ask for some help.  

I am due in March and we are not finding out the sex of the baby ahead of time. We'd like to go to the hospital with two full girls' names and two full boys' names ready to go and then decide after the baby is born. If this baby is a girl, her first name will be either Eleanor or Margaret. The student's name that I wrote to you about back in May (with an "e" added to the end, as several readers suggested) will be used as the middle name if the baby is a girl and looks like an Eleanor. If she looks like a Margaret, then her middle name will be Linnea.

Even though I'm still a little nervous about the potential awkwardness if we do decide to use the student's name as a middle name, I am so much more stressed about naming this baby if it's a boy. Obviously, we'd like something that would compliment Margaret and Eleanor since it's possible that we'd use them as names for future children. We seem to be narrowing down our list pretty closely, but I have "problems" with all of our choices. This bothers me because I have no such "problems" with either of our girl names. Here are our top three contenders for boys: 

I like this name a lot and when I imagine having a child named Charlie, I swoon a little. It seems like a name that is well-liked, that won't be too popular (although it's more popular in my state than in the US as a whole), and a name that carries some weight with it. I'm a science nerd, so I love the idea that he'd have a nice normal name, but that inwardly I'd know that I'd named him for Charles Darwin. The two concerns that I have are: 

1. Would the nickname Charlie sound bad with our last name? Our last name is Ashleigh-Wertman (not spelled exactly that way, but you get the idea). Does the "ee" sound a the end of Charlie sound bad with the "ee" sound at the end of Ashleigh? 

2. I have never been able to find a satisfactory answer to the question of how to posessify (is that a word?) names that end in an "s." Is it written Charles' or Charles's? And how should it be pronounced?  I know that this may seem like a minor point when choosing a child's name, but for some reason it really stresses me out to think of my poor kid being corrected by teachers right and left because different style guide writers seem to have different opinions. Am I over-thinking it? How do parents deal with this? I'm kind of a stickler for grammar rules, so I'm really frustrated that I can't seem to find a single answer that everyone can agree on when it comes to this topic. 

I love this name. I think it's interesting and unusual and that it sounds very smart and quirky. It's also a name that appears a few times in my husband's family so he's warmer to it than most of my other quirky suggestions. The troubles: 

1. My first name is like "Garden" (but without the "G"). Does Arthur sound too similar? I'm already not a fan of repeated initials within a family and on top of that the repeated "Ar" sound at the beginning of both names seems a bit much. When I say my name, my husband's name, and the name Arthur all together, it sounds a little weird to me for a family. If I throw in some other names (like, if we used Arthur for a second or third child) then it sounds a little better, but when it's just the three of us I worry that it will sound too matchy. Also, I'm a little worried about flying together. With our long hyphenated last name, the only way to differentiate between my husband's boarding pass and my boarding pass is with the one or two letters of our first names that show up. One time, an airline employee scanned my boarding pass and then my husband's and the machine made a beeping sound. She said, "Oh wait....oh, I see, Ashleigh-Wertman, A. and Ashleigh-Wertman, B. Okay, you can go through." But what if it had been me and my son flying? They would both have shown up as Ashleigh-Wertman, A and would that have been a problem? From her reaction, it sounded as though the concern may have been that someone could have just tried to copy the same boarding pass and use it for two people or something. Flying has already gotten to be such a headache . . . but surely there are fathers and sons with the exact same name, so it can't be an insurmountable issue, right? 

2. The other trouble is that it's really hard for me to stay neutral on this name. With many other names, I can picture the name on lots of different kinds of people. But with Arthur, I can really only picture it on a smart, studious, nerdy person. My husband and I are both smart, studious, nerdy people, so the association is not a bad one for us, but what if our kid is drastically different from us? Will we have saddled him with a name that just won't fit his personality? I don't know any Arthurs under the age of 60 (besides the cartoon Aardvark on PBS), so it's really difficult to figure out how this name will be received by others. 

This is a nice, classic name that has stood the test of time pretty well. I like the way that it sounds and I can imagine it on a ton of different personalities. The troubles: 

1. It's so popular! I know that even the most popular names aren't as popular as they used to be and that William certainly isn't a "trendy" name in the sense that it will sound dated in a few years, but it's really hard for me to choose the #3 name in America (and #2 in my state!) for my child. I mean, according to the SSA, I was one of only 14 baby girls in the United States  who received my first name in the year that I was born. Last year, there were over a thousand times as many Williams.  I know that, statistically speaking, that would still make it very unlikely that he'd be one of three Williams in his class or whatnot, but it's certainly more likely than if he had a name that was at least out of the top 10. Especially since this is our first child, I'm not exposed to playgroups and daycares that would give me a better sense of how common this name is in our area, so I'm very nervous about bestowing it on my child. 

2. I can't find a nickname that I like for this name and "William" on it's own sounds a little heavy for a baby. I don't like Bill or Billy. I could get on board with Will, but probably not until he was at least a little older. I may be juvenile, but "Willy" sounds a little too much like a euphemism for a penis. I like the name Liam, but my husband had a really bad experience with a Liam, so we'd never use it. I know that William on it's own isn't a terribly long name and that it's fine to use it in it's entirety, but my husband's family is REALLY into nicknames, so I'd like to at least like some of the options. 

My other trouble is that I feel like I associate Charles and Arthur together. Like, if we decide to go with Charles, I'd want the first-middle combo to be Charles Arthur and if we went with Arthur I'd want the first-middle combo to be Arthur Charles. (William seems to be its own entity in my mind...) So I feel as though if we have a boy and go with either Charles or Arthur, it will rule out the other one for a future sibling because it will be this boy's middle name. Maybe I need to start looking into other middle name possibilities, but for some reason I feel really stuck on these two as a "pair." 

So ultimately I need some help with answering some of my naming questions and I also need some help with prioritizing/getting over my naming concerns. Before narrowing down to these three, our closest runners-up were George, Leo, Ian and Isaac. I think we'd be willing to resurrect some of these if the problems with our top three seem insurmountable, but of course each of these was eliminated for it's own issues and I think my husband has grown so tired of the naming discussion that he'd rather not re-hash any of the old names. 

Of course, if you have any fresh suggestions I'd appreciate hearing them too!

I'm going to start with the question about making a name that ends in S possessive. A person is singular, and so a person's name is a singular noun, and singular nouns ending in S are made possessive by adding an apostrophe-S. So if Charles has a hat, it's Charles's hat---just as it's Jacob's hat or Isabella's hat or Tess's hat. The final letter of the name doesn't change anything: it's always [Name]'s hat. In the case of Charles, it would be pronounced with a repeating Z sound. With time and practice the Z sound of the apostrophe-S gets diminished (shorter and quieter) so it's not quite so zizzley: Charlez-z hat.

The one exception to this rule is Jesus (probably because three Z sounds in a row didn't sound dignified enough for prayers): it's Jesus' hat and it's pronounced the same as Jesus ("In Jesus name, Amen"). This exception has caused two thousand years of people not being able to remember what to do with Charles's hat.

Once you've memorized this, a new problem emerges: will you be able to stand it when no one else seems to know the rule---including, as you mention, some of his teachers? There was a baby James in the daycare classroom where I used to work, and that experience showed me that it can be painful to know something few others know. I once saw someone write "Jame's." On something that was then laminated. That baby James is in high school now, and I am still agitating about it.

But if your son mostly goes by Charlie, it's going to be Charlie's hat anyway. And swooning when you imagine having a son named Charlie is a very good sign for the name. It does seem unfortunate that the -leigh in his surname will echo the -lie of his nickname; only you will be able to decide if you want to give up your favorite name over it. I've found I can say it in a sing-song way that makes me think it's definitely not going to work (CHAR-lee-ASH-lee WERT-man), OR I can adjust the way I say it a little to make it completely fine: "Hi! My name is Charlie [pause, then mush the surname together] AshleighWERTman." Or he could introduce himself this way: "Hi, I'm Charles Ashleigh-Wertman! Call me Charlie!"

Let's move on to Arthur. I'm dismissing the airplane ticket concerns completely. As you say, surely fathers and sons with the same name have traveled together and have not been prevented from flying, and each ticket has its own code number. If you have a boy AND you use Arthur AND you are buying airplane tickets, I would suggest explaining the issue at the time of purchase and asking the airline what you should do to make that part of the boarding process easier and less confusing for airline employees.

Arthur does sound a little like your name, but as with the repeating -lie/-leigh issue, I think only you can decide if this bugs you enough to give up the name. If you prefer Charles anyway, using Arthur as the middle name or saving it for a possible future son seems like an excellent plan.

My other primary association with the name Arthur is King Arthur. You could play that up a bit to diminish the aardvark-only association.

And finally, William. I have heard of people using Wills as a nickname. For a baby, Baby Will or Baby William seems like a natural nickname. And I found with my own babies that other nicknames just emerged on their own: we spent a lot of time calling a baby Sweetymuffin and Bippy-Louise and Pluffybuns and Froggypants, and by the time those names sounded wrong, the child was old enough for more classroom-friendly nicknames. As long as you've got Will ready for later on it sounds like you're all set.

I don't think I'd use Charles and William in the same sibling group, because of the strong association I have with the royals. But the two names are great together, and I wouldn't feel at all critical of a family that DID decide to use them together (or who used, say, Charles and Elizabeth, which should have the same level of association for me but somehow don't); it's not as if the names belong exclusively to the royal family.

It sounds to me as if you like the name Charles best, and that Charles is the name that best meets your preferences and priorities. Beyond that, all of your questions are questions you have to find your own answers to: they're all issues of personal taste, so my answers aren't necessarily going to be the same as yours. Do YOU mind the repeating -lie/-leigh sound? Do YOU mind the problems with making Charles possessive? Do YOU mind the popularity of William? Do YOU want to use both Charles and Arthur as first names or do you want to work on finding new middle names? You're definitely on the right track to be considering these questions, but another person's answers might increase the uncertainty rather than decreasing it. If it helps, I'll say this: not one single issue you raised sounds like a deal-breaker to me. Every single one of them seems like an issue where you could think it over, decide what you think, and go with that. And at this point, that seems like a good idea: instead of agitating over all the issues, think to yourself "Which of the three names do I LIKE BEST?"


Anonymous said...

i agree with Swistle about Charlie. It sounds like you love it most. I also am going to be DYING! to know what you choose if this is a girl, so please send a name update as soon as this baby is born! i went back and read the original posts and thought it was so clever that people figured out the name. I consider myself quite the sleuth but hadn't even considered that i could guess it myself. very creative! and i agree with everyone about using the girl middle name with an E at the end. Great choice! i'm (not so) secretly hoping it is a girl and you choose Eleanor so you can use this fun middle name.

Auntie G said...

Chiming in to agree: sometimes we baby-namers are our own worst enemies. Thank goodness you have thought through all the various issues of the names...but none of them strikes me as a dealbreaker, either. If YOU like the name such that it cancels out all those other concerns, then you should use it. Both my boys have names that technically break my own "rules" - but in each case, my overall love of the names trumped my rules, and my reasoning behind the rules (repeating sounds, using a noun name) has never been an issue.

It sounds like Charles is YOUR favorite name, so I vote if you have a boy, he should be named Charles. MY favorite from your short list is Arthur, in part because it was my beloved grandfather's name (and his wife was Eleanor!). I offer King Arthur, Arthur Miller, Arthur Ashe, Art Garfunkel as some other noteworthy Arts. :)

sarah said...

I think it sounds like Charles Arthur is your winner! You love both names, and as Swistle suggested, using Arthur as a middle gets rid of your airplane and name similarity issues.
I don't know where you live, but here in New England, Will as the nickname for William is super super popular. I know at least 5 under 5. My nephew is William and was called Will for the first year of his life, but it was so popular, my SIL ended up calling him by his middle name to differentiate from friends kids and others at daycare. Now he is 5 and I'm not even sure he knows his name is really William, he is called exclusively by his middle name. So if popularity is something that bothers you, I would definitely rule this one out.

StephLove said...

I want to say pick Charles because I usually advise people to go with the name they love and it does seem to be the one you love best. The repetition of the lie sound does bug me, though. It might be worth it if it's a clear favorite for both of you (is it?) If so, I'd keep it. Or would you consider Chase as a nickname instead of Charlie?

If Charles is not the clear favorite for both parents, I'd go with Arthur because I don't think it's too close to your name and I sense you like it more than William. And if you like Arthur Charles, Charles is still in there.

Elisabeth said...

Name him Charles. It's your favorite. As far as flow goes with the nickname, I think it would be fine. If Ashleigh was the only surname, it might be different, but you have Ashleigh-Wertman and I think that balances it out.

Also, my son's name is Miles and my brother's name is James, and I agree with Swistle completely on the ends-with-S grammar issues. We always use Miles's room, Miles's toys, etc.

Anonymous said...

I've got to put in another vote for Charles, I am not bothered at all when a nickname matches sounds with a surname as long as that is not the name on the birth certificate. He'll always have Charles for paperwork and formal introductions. One of my friends is dating a Charlie Laurie! And he's getting by just fine ;)

vanessa said...

chiming in to say I know an Arthur in his early 20s (brother Edmund). He is kind of a geek, an image that's not helped by his name (not that he wantsit to be helped, he likes being a geek and its awesome!) but you know, he also likes video games and girls so...

if you swoon at Charlie, though...I think you should go with the name that makes you swoon.

Lashley said...

For me, the emphasized syllables using Charlie would be CHARlie ASHleigh-Wertman so the repeating -ie doesn't bother me at all.

The apostrophe-s thing probably would and I tire easily of correcting people, leaving me to stew in my own annoyance. Maybe you could have a scripted line in your back pocket. Something like, "It can look funny at first, but it's actually Charles-apostrophe-s." Unless he really will be mostly Charlie, in which case, USE THE NAME YOU LOVE!

In other news, I love the name Eleanor with my whole heart.

Fourandcounting said...

I also swoon every time I hear a little boy named Charlie. Swistle's right about the possessive usage: Charles's looks a little weird, but every James or Miles or Silas or Thomas is dealing with the same issue. No biggie.

Funny airplane story - we flew to a relative's house for Thanksgiving, and we had three people in our group with the same name: my FIL, my husband, my son. The airline ticket person was confused for about 10 seconds, but then, no big deal. So if you go with Arthur, no big deal.

Your name list for boys is very much like mine, and I agree with you on William: I LOVE that name, but it just seems so serious, and for many reasons, I can't use the nicknames Will/Wills/Liam.

I think you should go with Charles Arthur, nn Charlie. Swoon!

Sarah said...

These are three of my favorite names, also. We ended up going with Frederick (Freddy, Freddo, Fredlet) for our son but I would love to have a William nn Wills in the unlikely event I had a third child.

Amie said...

I think that Charles Arthur "Charlie" or Arthur Charles both sound great! I also like the name William but understand your concerns about popularity, but if you love it for your child then you should use it. I would just go with the name that you love most and once you meet your little one see which fits them best!

Anonymous said...

It sounds like Charles is the name you love the best & I say go for it. Charlie Ashleigh is a little sing-songy because the end sound is the same. But having Wertman there breaks this up. I am not bothered by it at all.

Not to disagree with Swistle, but neither James's hat or James' hat are technically incorrect. It's really more a matter of personal style, kind of like the Harvard Comma-
If this is something that is really going to bother you, you could investigate different writing styles/formats and see if there is a consensus (but most of the ones I am familiar with don't consider either to be wrong). An exammple: I say just pick the one you prefer the best & then use it consistently. Other people may use the other version & that is OK.

I like Arthur & the flying thing I think should be a non-issue. My name is A.Verygeneric and I have no doubts there are a million other A. Verygenerics and I've never had a problem. You'll have ID and can carry ID for the baby with you (birth certificate or passport) just in case. I think your other concerns with Arthur seem more serious to you than the concerns you have about Charles/Charlie.

William is a great name. I have a William & the name was #3 in our state the year he was born. So far, we've met 3 other Williams-none in the same class & they all used nicknames (ours does not). William being too much for a baby was never an issue for us. He was usually just William, sometimes Sweet William (after the wildflower) and sometimes something silly, similar to what Swistle described. I do agree I'd avoid a William & Charles pair, so using one would rule out the other. Which one would you feel most sad about not using? (I'm guessing Chaarles).

If you want to save Arthur for a future child I'd suggest looking at your list of runners-up names for middle name inspiration. Charles William, Charles Leo, and Charles Isaac are all lovely.

FWIW, as the mother of a William & a George, I think you have great taste in names!

Mrs S said...

Hello, I like these 3 names too. I understand about William. I had the same concerns and did not use it. I'd cross it off your list if I were you.

I have always loved the combo Charles Joseph.

Other names I thought you might like are:

Alfred (Alfie is adorable)


Nicholas (mabey we've had too many Nick students)





I hope this helps. Good luck to you!

Anonymous said...

I was thinking about 'Bill' as a nickname for William. It's really just adding a different letter to the 'ill' from Will. So Dill, Gill, Mill should theorically work.

Beckye said...

I was thinking about 'Bill' as a nickname for William. It's really just adding a different letter to the 'ill' from Will. So Dill, Gill, Mill should theorically work.

Anonymous said...

I love Charles!

Arthur is also great.. and a word about flying, three of my family members have the same first initial and last name, and there was never an issue! :)

Lauren said...

I agree with everyone regarding Charles and it sounding that that's "the" name for you and Charlie is absolutely wonderful, but I just have two notes on your other two names.

I want to add another Arthur association for you: Arthur Weasley, the patriarch of the amazing Weasley clan from the Harry Potter books. He is an extremely lovable, quirky, intellectually badass character who is very devoted to his family. For me (huge HP nerd that I am), I now associate the name Arthur with all of those things and so would be a very positive name to see on a child—and a flexible one at that!

Regarding William, I think I've mentioned before on this blog that I know a two-year-old who is always William, never Will or Willy or Bill or any derivation of the name, and he is as mischievous and opposite-of-serious as one can possibly get! Though I love the nickname Will, I will never again think of William as too heavy or formal for a baby or young child, thanks to this guy.

Heidi J said...

Yes, thank you Swistle for knowing and sharing how to make a name that ends in s possessive. I have both a brother and a son with names that end in s. It honestly hasn't been a big deal, though quite a few people write Elias' hat instead of Elias's hat. It's pronounced Eh-ly-us-es hat with s sound repeated and I haven't noticed people doing that wrong.

Liz said...

I love the name Charles. My cousin is named Charles and he goes by that or Charlie. I think Charlie is adorable for a little boy.
Ultimately none of the issues matter if you love the name. :)

so many things to love... said...

I also went back and read the original post, and although you have already decided on the name in its 'original' male nickname form, I thought I'd let you know that a woman at my church is named Verna. It's a real name, so whether you go by the 'a' option or not, don't worry. No one seems to think it's strange. Just something to think about.