Monday, January 19, 2009

What's In A Name?

A few of you have been asking, so in honor of Maddie turning three weeks old, I’ll share how we came up with the name Madelyn James.

Madelyn is a name I have always thought was beautiful, but one I had forgotten about for a long time. Then, one day, about seven months into this pregnancy, it came back to me in the shower. Yes, like most of my profound thoughts, it came to me while I was standing there buck naked in the shower enjoying the warm cascade of water coming down.

After the shower, I mentioned the name to the Gutsy Dad, and, aside from wondering where it came from (my head, honey), he agreed it sounded nice with our last name. So the name made it onto our short list. There was a brief period during which the name was completely off the table because we thought, erroneously, that Madelyn was also the name of the Gutsy Dad’s father’s ex-wife…not a woman he adored…but then he remembered her name was actually Marilyn, so Madelyn was back in contention. Phew!

Once the name rose to the top of the list, we had to confront the matter of spelling. We liked three spellings, but how to pick? The Gutsy Dad graciously stepped aside and allowed the crazed English major in me puzzle it out. I initially preferred the traditional Madeleine, and a quick googling revealed, of course, three famous Madeleines: Albright and Peyroux (fine associations) and McCann (not so lovely). This spelling was ultimately ruled out, however, for two reasons: (1) it begs to be mispronounced and misspelled, and (2) it simply looks too frou-frou with our last name. The next spelling I ruled out was Madeline. I adore the children's books about this young lass, but again, this spelling begs to be mispronounced (or, pronounced differently than our way). For the record, regardless of spelling, we like to pronounce the last syllable to rhyme with “pin” not “dine.” So that brought us to Madelyn. It looks nice with our last name. It seems likely that people will pronounce it “lin” (hooray) and not “line” (wrong). It has the same number of letters as Jillson. And, it probably doesn’t hurt that good friends of ours who have twins Jillsie’s age have a Madelyn spelled Madelyn. (Googling also revealed that President-Elect Obama’s grandmother was a Madelyn. Neato!)

Now, with a name as lyrical as Madelyn (especially when combined with our last name) we needed a strong, no-nonsense middle name. I also longed to use a name from my father’s side of the family. And so, what better name from my father’s side than my father’s name? We think Madelyn James sounds strong, intelligent, and unique. Just like my dad! It also makes me happy that Maddie is the 4th generation (that I know) to carry the name James. James is the first name of my grandfather, my father, and one of my brothers. I am so pleased to give this name to my daughter, too, to keep it going. (For the record, Jillson is also the 4th generation to carry her name. Jillson is my grandmother’s married name, my mother’s maiden name, and my middle name.)

Finally, to us, Madelyn James just seems to “go” with Jillson Patricia. Either could be the president or a judge or the poet laureate. Both can be called out the back door or at a playground or at soccer game without the parent feeling like a doofus. Jillsie and Maddie sound cute together, too.

So that’s it. That’s how we came up with Madelyn James. The Germans think we’re nuts. But we love it.


Mom on the Move! said...

There was a side conversation I had with mutual a German friend (unknown to you) where we wondered if the German government would let you use James as a middle name because of all the rules on naming and getting a birth certificate.

Fizi said...

Re: "The Germans think we are nuts." Anything new in that?

The Gutsy Mom said...

Yes, perhaps I should've written "this just confirms, for the Germans, that we're nuts!" And, for the record, the hospital did give the Gutsy Dad a hard time when he was telling them the name for the birth certificate. "Aber, sie ist ein Maedchen, oder?!" I had no idea there were official rules on naming in Germany, although I am not surprised. Incidentally, on paper, they also assume Jillson is a boy. Understandably.