Name Help is a new series at Appellation Mountain. Every Saturday, one reader’s name questions will be discussed.
We’re relying on thoughtful comments from the community to help expectant parents narrow down their name decisions. Thank you in advance for sharing your insight!
Giacor is expecting her first at the end of December. They’ve chosen not to find out the gender in advance. She writes:
First: If it’s a boy, it’s the James Joseph the 5th. I don’t like Joey, JJ, Jay, Jamie was used by my husband, I don’t like Jim, Jimmy … all of these names are used in one of our families. Jacques? My husband’s last name is very French. Is that basically Jack? Another name I strongly dislike. 🙁 I have Googled this like crazy! I’m afraid I’ll end up with just James. Which is what I call my husband … soooo that will be weird.
Second: If it’s a girl, I don’t want anything that could be turned into Mary (my mother). Marigold, Rosemary. I LOVE those names, but nope. We want a name that honors either our heritage or our natural surroundings, (flowers/herbs from the South), preferably uncommon, no Jennifer, Ashley, Emily, etc.
I’m Italian and Irish, my husband is French and Scottish. He has a strong French last name and I’m 2nd generation Italian. We are both from the the South. We like names that stand out, but appreciate some underused classics.
Read on for my answer – and please leave your suggestions in the comments!
Hi Giacor –
This is quite a puzzle! If it is a boy, your name is set – except you can’t settle on what you’ll actually call him, which is definitely a problem, since you’re hoping to avoid defaulting to James.
For a girl, it seems like you’re still generating a shortlist.
Let’s take these one at a time.
Name Help: Naming a Son
Assuming it’s a boy, you’re set on James Joseph FrenchLastName V. And why not? Tradition galore, and it’s a solid, substantial name.
But you have exhausted all of the nicknames, and I agree – it can be frustrating to have a father and son with the same first name in the same household.
So there are two possible routes:
- Choose a nickname related to the number five. Quinn or Quint, maybe? Quincy? Or Pen/Penn, as in penta- the Greek prefix for five. I saw V – pronounced vee – suggested on another forum, which makes me think of Van, though that’s even farther away from the number. Is Cinco too crazy? Or heck, even Five. The Novogratz family named their fifth child Five. All of these might take some explanation, but “oh, he’s James Joseph the fifth” is straightforward. Bonus? Most of these work for a child or a grown-up.
- Choose a nickname unrelated to either of his given names. Sonny, Buddy, etc. The downside to this approach is that you kind of hope they won’t stick after childhood – so at some point, you’ll have a 30-something son still answering to Buddy … or maybe Jim.
Or have we exhausted all of the nicknames for James Joseph? A few unusual possibilities include:
- Joss – For Joseph, but without the long ‘o’ sound.
- Jake – James and Jacob share the same origins, so Jake isn’t a huge stretch.
- Jem – Too animated 80s rock star? Jem was originally a medieval short form of James.
You haven’t shared your last name, so I’d also ask if there’s any potential from your son’s first and last initial? James Joseph T- could be Jet, or James Joseph D- could be Jude. Or … something like that. A stretch, yes, but again, explaining that you’re the fifth generation usually satisfies the curious.
Naming a Daughter
Here’s your list as I understand it:
- No elaborations/forms of Mary.
- Preferably honors your Southern heritage, with a tie to the natural world.
- Nothing too common.
You’ve mentioned that you love Marigold and Rosemary, and ruled them out mostly because they’d be perceived as honor names for your mom. So let’s look at the florals:
- Magnolia – The one that immediately came to mind! Vintage, Southern, lovely. 253 girls were given the name last year. Compare that to over 13,000 Emilys, and this one is pretty unusual.
- Daphne – Not so Southern, but a name that strikes a good balance between vintage and modern – plus, Daphne means laurel.
- Camellia – As in the state flower of Alabama. Only drawback? The similar Camila is very popular right now – in the US Top 100.
- Azalea – Too Iggy? The state wildflower of Georgia is the azalea. As a name, this one sounds and feels current, but with just 440 girls given the name in 2013, it’s not at all common. Of course, Australian rapper Iggy Azalea could change that …
- Rose – While Rosemary and Marigold suggest a more elaborate style, would you consider just Rose? It’s very popular as a middle name, but much less common as a first.
- Jessamine – Another southern state flower, and a rare name, too. Other forms include Jessamyn – which feels invented – and Jessamy – which is sort of fabulous in the Cecily-Felicity mode.
- Marguerite – The French form of Margaret, linked to the daisy – though maybe this would feel too French when paired with your husband’s surname? Margaret is a possibility as well, but it seems like you’d prefer something more unusual.
- Sylvie – Ultimately from the Latin silva, forest. Lots of history to the name, and several possible forms – but this is the French one.
Other names that aren’t floral, but are elaborate and at least somewhat unusual: Isabetta, Francesca (an Italian name that refers to France), Helena, Juliet, Rosalind, Antonia.
I’d love to hear your reaction to the floral names in particular – are you really set on something botanical, or do none of these feel quite right? There are lots (and I mean lots) of possibilities for a girl that are elaborate and interesting – and I know you’ll see some more in the comments!
Readers, what names would you suggest to Giacor – for a son and for a daughter?
I had a boy and we call him Quinn! I just liked the two n’a. another baby coming soon so I reread this post knowing I had loved all the girl
names. Thanks again!! This is my favorite naming website.
Some names/nicknames that are related that haven’t been mentioned…
Akiva, Coby, Giacobbe, Giacomo, Hemi, Iago, Ib, Kapel, Kimo, Kobe, Kobi, Koby, Kuba, Lapo, Tiago, Xanti, Xaime, Yago, Yakov, Yaqub, Yankel, Yasha, Zak
Bepo, Beppe, Jop, Jose, Josie, Pep, Peppe, Peppi, Seb, Xose, Zef, Zeze
Wow!! So many great ideas! I took notes. Thank you every one!!
Kerry, you are so right about James and Jamie etc. My last resort is to use Jamie and let his family deal with the confusion!
Agree that Jem is so close to Jim.
I should have mentioned Joseph was out because of a cousin of mine (who I’m close with!) I would always think of him.
Darn I should have mentioned last name starts with L. My name Giacor is abbreviated for use as a username. My name is Giovanna and my last name is the same number of letters, starting with a C. I kept my last name. Which makes this whole thing more interesting!! 🙂
I LOVE so many of these names!!! I’ve got a great list to discuss with my husband now. Thank you so much!
You are considering a 5th due to family tradition. I think that is great. For the girl, why not consider an honor name for you. If Giacor presents more pronunciation issues than you’d like, would you consider Cora?
Quincy is my favorite nickname for a #5. There’s always the possibility that you do a James Joseph SecondMiddleName LastName and the little guy goes by the Second Middle Name.
C in DC says
Would calling him Giaco/Jocko be too close to your own name? That was the first thing that popped into my head. I love Joseph as a name, so I would just use that. Jem is a great suggestion (I too thing of To Kill a Mockingbird), or if you like Scout, use that as a nn. (James -> Jem -> Scout). You can also get Seph or Jeph/Jeff from Joseph.
Brainwave–What about Hamish!? It’s the Scottish version of James. Always makes me think of Four Weddings & A Funeral…. He’s the man Carrie (Andie MacDowell) marries much to Hugh Grant’s character’s dismay. I love the name Hamish!
Oops I see it was already suggested. Sorry I got excited! Ha.
Oops, I see it’s already been suggested. I second it then!
Girls (sorry for the repeats):
Juniper; Clementine; Hazel; Willow; Wren; Violet; Lily; Magnolia; Dixie; Jessamine; Maple; Dahlia; Pearl; Lila; Lilac; Lavender; Linnea; Ivy; Iris; Jasmine; Leilani; Primrose; Daphne; Fern; Briony; Clover; Delphine; Fleur; Rose; Aster; Gardenia; Heather; Jonquil; Poppy; Zinnia; Clary
Boys: This is tricky… I would
Jem (Love this from To Kill a Mockingbird! If Harper & Atticus are in, why not Jem!?)
Jock (this is the Scottish variation of Jack: http://nameberry.com/babyname/Jock)
Jes/Jesse? (Jesse James… maybe? not too much of a stretch?)
Jaim (close to Jamie but not quite…might work?)
I also like Penn!
I love Five for a fifth generation boy! I also love Jem, Joss and Penn. My dad was Buddy as a kid (Warren the Second) and he’s still going by Buddy in his 50s. It’s definitely something you should think about.
My favorite of these girls’ names is Jessamy.
Sara A. says
Love James, nn Jem!
Magnolia and Daphne bring to mind Dahlia
Sara A. says
Joss is a nickname for Joseph to add to the list…
Though I totally get the pressure to continue this tradition, I think March has a point–you don’t seem to like common boys’ J names/nicknames, and yet you’re using two of them! I happen to love the name James, but if I didn’t, I think I might fight back on this.
If I were you, and didn’t feel drawn to any of the obvious nicknames (most of which you’ve ruled out), then I support Abby’s second suggestion: picking something completely random and using that consistently from the beginning. I would go with something less nicknamey than Buddy (since it sounds like you will be wanting to use it long after he is no longer a little kid) but still clearly some sort of derivative nickname–personally, I would have a negative reaction to “His name is James Joseph, but we call him Sebastian.” If the alternate name isn’t going to start with a J, then I think you might as well not try too hard to tie it to the actual names, since the connection will require an explanation either way (e.g., no one will easily link Amos to James Joseph). Some ideas:
Jag/Jagger (works especially nicely if there’s a hard ‘G’ in his surname)
Jet (works especially nicely if there’s a hard ‘T’ in his surname)
I knew a Joseph who went by Joby (JOE-bee). I thought it was the sweetest nickname for a little boy — and when he gets older, he will probably use whatever nickname his friends give him anyway.
I don’t think 80’s glam when I hear Jem, I think Anne of Green Gables! It’s totally what I’d go for.
I’m in the South as well, and Quin or Quint is the most common nickname for the 5th among my acquaintances. I do know one Cinco. I really think any play on 3rd, 4th, 5th, etc., has a Southern vibe in itself. No advice on the girls really, except obviously a double name is the epitome of screaming “I’m from the South!”
Jem is also the name of the first son in Anne of Green Gables. I find it very appealing.
How about calling him Jameson? You could use Sonny as a nickname.
Jeb for a boy is a great idea. There’s also Chip (as in chip of the old block, I guess). My grandfather went by Chip his whole life, and it was a long time until I even realized that his actual, given name had nothing to do with “Chip”.
I like someone’s suggestion of Clementine for a girl. It sounds Southern to me (but what do I know; I am a NYer), and it also works well with a French surname.
What about calling him Giuseppe? Italian for Joseph, it honors your Italian heritage.. You could also call him Seppe as a short form. Also Jas, which is what Captain James Hook went by in a book I read, and I think it has a nice ring.
For a girl maybe Delphine (my favorite French name), Zinnia, Florence or Flora, Cosette or Colette (both seem French and Southern simultaneously), Dahlia, Pearl, Iris, Bryony, Cecily or Fiorella (means little flower/flower in Italian).
Honestly, if a boy will be James Joseph V, I wouldn’t go too ‘out there’ with variants – Jamie, Joe, Joey or Jay (as opposed to JJ) would work, but anything more obscure or tangential is likely just going to confuse people. If, say, Jay and James proves to be too confusing, it is likely a nickname for your son will arise organically. I’m not convinced overplanning it ahead of time is the way to go.
Magnolia was my first thought as well, but I think Margot could work well – it is, after all, derived from Marguerite, which is both floral and French. I thought of Dahlia as well, and I like the suggestion of Jessamine, though that might make for a lot of Js in the house if you wind up having a James Joseph V later! Some other possibilities: Louisa, Adele, Dorothy or Dorothea, Hazel, Susannah, Clementine, Camilla, Anne, Ada, Clara, Flora.
How about Jep, Ames, Joss, or Seph (from Joseph)? You could also call him Jameson. James’ son.
For a girl, I love Magnolia and Marigold. How about Georgia or Clementine?
So many great suggestions!
Also I like Jay.
I love the idea of Jago – it’s the Cornish form of James, and it seems a bit like James and Joseph put together (Jajo). I guess the nickname would easily turn into Jay though, and you don’t say that you hate Jay, but maybe you do.
Having said that, my dad is named James and has always gone by Fred, which doesn’t have any connection to either his first or second name. So there’s the unconnected name that isn’t an obvious nickname, and this is a way to have a name that you like, while following family tradition, as James Joseph will still be on the birth certificate.
Sorry, I see that you DO hate Jay.
I know a Joseph who goes by Jofie, he is 12 now and it still suits him, I’m not sure how it will work when he is older.
When I first read the letter I was all about Quinn/Quincy or similar, but all these great responses have reminded me of how many great names haven’t been “taken,” like Jake, Jase, Joseph, and all the options with the first and last initial (Jed, Jet, Jeff, Jesse, etc.)
What about Jeb? Confederate General Jeb Stuart’s birth name was James… so it has southern charms too.
Another idea, OP doesn’t care for Jack, but what about Jackson or Jameson?
Also thought about the nickname Jeppe, which doesn’t fit OP’s heritage… but it made me wonder could Jasper be used as a nickname for James?
As for baby girl’s name:
Anthea! Means “flower/blossom” & to my ear it feels incredibly southern… probably because it feels like a Southern Bell’s double barreled firstname.
The birth flower for December is Narcissus… so maybe Narcissa?
Other more obvious nature names Primrose, Blossom, Canna, Linden, Cress, Indigo & Aster.
Love Jem for the TKAM reference. Such a great namesake!
Maybe Althea for a girl? I think it’s a healing herb? Maybe not a Southern healing herb but it also seems so Southern to me. Adore Thea as a nickname, and you could do Allie too!
Maybe a stretch but Amos from the “Am” in James and the “Os” in Joseph? I also love Jem. Did you mention the first initial of your last name?
For a girl Marigold could go by Goldie? I will have to give the girls more thought before I add suggestions 🙂
Is Jamie completely out? You said it’s taken by your husband, but you call your husband James. I’d think it’d be easier to put the confusion on your in-laws and friends rather than on your own household. And maybe you call your husband James because that’s what he likes to be called? In which case maybe getting everyone else to switch too could be a plus.
I found Jase & Jaz on lists of potential nicknames for James. If Chase & Chaz are nicknames for Charles, then why not? My own taste trends more towards using Seamus or Hamish, at least casually, or Josy or Jody as short forms of Joseph. Or since you like nature names for your girl names, maybe a nickname like Bear or Buck or Hawk?
For girls, I don’t have a whole lot of ideas, except that I have the name Paralee in the Southern branch of my family tree and I think it’s gorgeous but possibly too Southern for someone who has only one Southern branch on their family tree. I have no idea how it would fit in the contemporary South, but I’d love to see it revived.
I know a Joseph who goes by Jody. He’s an adult and it still suits him well.
For girls, how about:
Literary Southern suggestions:
Margaret (after the author of Gone with the Wind)
Caddy (Faulkner reference)
Usher calls his son Cinco; the little guy is Usher Raymond V. I don’t think it’s too outlandish, but it does require the family to have a certain personality. I also like Quint or Quin.
Megan M. says
I immediately thought of Magnolia for a daughter, too! I think it’s lovely. I also thought of Daisy and Ivy.
I also like the idea of Jem for James. “To Kill A Mockingbird” is a great association to have. If that doesn’t work, then finding a nickname from the number 5 is an excellent alternative. Quinton?
Oops left my actual suggestion out. Can you look for some other international variants of James
E.g. Hamish, Seamus, Diego, Jago, Jacob.
I’m sorry but I really struggle to understand why you are naming your son (if it is a boy) a name that you do not actually like. You do not want to call him James, and you do not like any of the nicknames.
I get that it is nice to follow a tradition, BUT only if you actually like the name or at least it’s nickname.
Your in-laws got to choose their son’s name (as did their forbears) and you get to choose yours. You don’t like the name, so look for one you do like.
I think that’s easier to say when you’re talking about a junior. Maybe even a third. By the time you get to the IV or V … wow, I can’t imagine breaking that kind of tradition.
That’s not to say everyone *should* automatically use family names. There are lots of good reasons to move on: https://appellationmountain.net/8-reasons-forgo-family-names/
But there are just as many reasons to stick with family name customs, even if it results in some complications. (Says the mother of a child named after a grandparent, who answers to a name that really isn’t very closely related to that name at all …) Huh. I guess that’s another post to write! 🙂
My partner is a third and there is NO WAY there is ever going to be a fourth. Even though he has a really nice name (William Augustus K-Irish-Name III). He has hated being tossed between nicknames all his life. His father goes by Judgey (don’t ask me why) so when he was a toddler he was JJ (Judgey Jr.) His parents split up, and he’s estranged from his dad, so JJ went the way of the dodo, and he’s been Billy, Bill, and Will since then. Nobody can keep track of what nickname he uses in what circle and more than a few people call him Will-Bill-Whatever.
So between nickname chaos and his bad relationship with William Augustus 2 (even though the late Grandpa William Augustus 1 was amazing and totally worth being named after), WAK4.0 is not ever going to be on the table. If we use a family name, it will probably be after one of his brothers or one of mine.
Any reason you can’t just call a boy Joseph?
I know lots of people who go by their middle name (including myself, also with the first name James). And I think it’s especially understandable when it’s a Jr. (and beyond).
And you mention Joey, but how about Joe?
I think the nickname suggestions above are good. One caveat with Jem: I think many southerners will pronounce Jem just like Jim (“pin” = “pen”). So that could just be a spelling nuisance.
Good point re: Jem’s pronunciation, James. I think you’re exactly right about that issue.
Agreed–I’m in Texas, and Jim and Jem would be pronounced almost exactly the same. Love the idea of making a nickname out of the first and last initial too.