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 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.)