Sunday, October 2, 2011

Her Name

She was, by far, the most difficult one to name. We settled on it only a week or two before she was born, but I have loved the name Bronwen for a long time.

One of my favorite high school teachers had a daughter named Bronwen. She was strong and spunky and adorable.

In college, one of my theater friends was named Bronwen. She was smart and gorgeous and genuinely likable.

For me, Bronwen has always been in the running.*

The Gutsy Dad took a shine to it when we were thinking up names for Madelyn. He has a soft spot for all things Irish/Scottish/Welsh/Celtic.

Indeed, the name is Welsh. It has been around for centuries. It is neither new-age nor new-fangled. It is, I suppose, unusual.  

If you googled it, then you already know that it means, literally, "white breast." There could be some rough years ahead for Bronnie if mean-spirited friends figure that one out. But the interpretation of the name is that it stands for a "virtuous and fair woman." And I like that.

All the Gutsies like the nicknaming possibilities: Bronnie, Winnie, the Bronster. (Already Madelyn says "Bronnie-Wonnie" with great frequency.)

I can tell right away if people have heard the name before or not. If they have heard it before, they tell me about the Bronwens they have known. If they have not heard it before, they balk at saying it, choosing instead to say "the baby" or "your sweet little peanut" or some such. To their credit, some good friends have tried, coming up with "Broh-win" or "Brownie" or--surprisingly--"Brandy." My sister-in-law is so afraid of the name she just calls her Little Miss B. It's okay. I know she'll come around.

The spelling? Well, we inadvertently chose the less popular spelling of the name. But I already had a child whose name ends in "-yn," and if I really am going to have three kids whose names end in the same "un" sound, I'd like three different spellings. Hence, JillsON, MadelYN, and BronwEN. Plus, historically, Bronwen apparently denotes a girl whilst Bronwyn is, traditionally, a boy. So there.

And Eliza. Oh, sweet, little, darling Eliza. I have loved the name Eliza since I first encountered "My Fair Lady" when I was (maybe) 4 years old. I wanted to be Eliza Doolittle.* Now I just think the name is charming and feminine, and it helps to balance out the strong sounds of Bronwen. And, to be frank, it sounds fantastic here in the South.

You should have heard our priest when he came to the hospital to put a blessing on Bronwen Eliza. That second syllable lasted for hours. "Bronwen El-ahhhhhhhhh-za." Blissful.

So there you have it. It was not a family name. But it is now.

The GM

*The name Amity was also always in the running for me. For a while I really was hoping I was carrying twin girls so that I wouldn't have to decide between Bronwen and Amity. In the end, the Gutsy Dad's preference helped tip the scales in favor of Bronwen. (Strangely, I know of only one Amity in real life. An adorable woman who, when I was maybe 9 or 10, married a friend of my brothers' whose last name was Doolittle. Years after her marriage I heard she had had a daughter and--undaunted by her new last name--named her what she'd always wanted to name her daughter: Eliza. Eliza Doolittle.)


Jennifer-Adventuresome Kitchen said...

Gotta love those Welsh names! Arianwen's is welsh too- and she encounters the same things- people shying away, mispronouncing by saying Airianwen- drives me nuts...but she looked like an elf when she was born and what are you going to do when you give birth to a magic person? give them a magic name. We too opted for the 'wen' over the 'wyn' for the same reason..Bronwen is simply beautiful- elegant, and strong- but willowy.. I always imagened Bronwens as tall(taller than me at least) slender ladies with oodles of dark, thick, wavy hair.. :)

Lacyboot said...

We named our daughter Bronwyn four years ago. I went back and forth on the -en vs. the -yn. I noticed that the -yn is really common in Australia - which steered me toward that spelling for some unknown reason. lol I'm still so pleased that we chose this name. You are right though. People seem to love it passionately or hate it and tsk tsk with pity. Our daughter has also been called Brownie, Browen, and Brawny. Grr. But she has turned out to also be a gutsy, feisty little thing that won't tolerate being ignored. It's an awesome name. I have no doubt your precious daughter will wear it well. We had a little boy two years ago as well. His name was harder to come up with as I felt that it wasn't fair to saddle Bronwyn with such an uncommon name and not him as well. We ended up naming him Callum - which fits with the ancient British isles theme. Congrats on your baby girl.