Name Help is a series at Appellation Mountain. Every week, 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!
After weeks of discussion, we’ve settled on a name for our daughter, due in May: Emmeline Frances. We’re pronouncing “line” to sound like mine and sign.
But now we have another dilemma: how do we spell her nickname?
I was writing Emme. My husband spells it Emmy. And my mother-in-law thinks Emmie, because our son is Charles “Charlie” so the kids’ names would match.
I’m not sure I have a favorite – okay, I’m not wild about Emmie – but Emme and Emmy both seem reasonable. It’s just that I want there to be one, and it want to be as obvious as possible. As a child and teenager, I sometimes answered to Aly, Allie, Ali, Ally and any-other-speling-you-can-dream-up.
My husband objects to Emme because he says it will be pronounced like the letter M. But Emmy sounds a little bit Southern, maybe? It just seems less sophisticated than Emme, even though I know that might be all in my head.
So which spelling makes sense?
Read on for my response, and please leave your thoughtful suggestions in the comments.
Dear Allison –
I’m so glad you’ve found a great name for your daughter! I know it’s frustrating to think you’re done, and then realize there’s more to decide, right?
Let’s see if we can break this down:
- You have multiple options, all of which are valid and reasonably familiar. It’s not as if you’re considering Ehmmeigh.
- My general advice when it comes to spelling applies here: consider the dominant spelling at the time of your child’s birth. If you like it just fine, then go with that spelling. Odds are it will prove simplest over time.
So no choice is bad, but perhaps the best one is whatever spelling most people favor. This is difficult, of course, because we don’t have good data on how people spell their nicknames.
But we do know that all three spellings are sometimes used as independent names, and that gives us some useful data:
- In 2017, 141 girls were named Emme. This is down quite a bit, from a peak around 2009.
- Emmie, on the other hand, was given to 422 girls, a new high. It’s more than doubled in use since 2012.
- But Emmy comes out on top, the spelling used for 493 girls. Again, Emmy has risen rapidly over the last decade.
Peak Emme is probably thanks to Jennifer Lopez, who named her daughter Emme Maribel back in 2008.
The actor Emmy Rossum – born Emmanuelle – might explain the rise in the ‘y’ spelling. She’s had many a starring role, including Phantom of the Opera and nine seasons on Showtime’s Shameless.
I also think of Emmylou Harris – maybe the reason you get a slightly Southern vibe from the ‘y’ spelling.
And, of course, the award for excellence in television is called an Emmy. It’s not named for some fabled early television star; instead, the statuette takes its name from a camera tube.
All of this leads me to say the ‘y’ spelling seems sensible. The numbers suggest it’s the spelling most people will think of, most of the time.
And yet, I’m not sure if there’s any way to completely avoid the Ali/Allie/Ally experience. Emmy is ascendant now, but Emmie – likely inspired by so many Sadie/Ellie spellings – is rising fast. And Emme had a good run, too.
Logic takes me to Emmy, but feel free to go your own way if it feels right for your family.
For now, let’s have a poll and see how readers feel about the choice:
Readers, do you have any advice on choosing the spelling of a nickname – or names in general?
Just want to say that Emmeline Frances is a beautiful name. I would hate for this confusion over nickname spelling to detract from it in anyway. It is very lovely.
As someone who has always gone by that nickname (spelled Emie in my case – my dad also wanted to spell it cute and unique), people who know me well, parents and friends, get it right. Everyone else, even aunts and uncles, still write Emmie and Emy and many other permutations on cards. That said, no one has ever spelled it “Emme” in all my 36 years. Spellings I have gotten are most commonly Emmy and Emmie, but also Emy, Emi, and Emmi. The grandmother is right about people’s assumptions, my sister is Ellie, and people do assume our names match, except when they remember that they don’t match, but not how they are different, so she gets hers written Elie and I get mine Emmie, or she will get Elly or Ely and I’ll have some different spelling. (Note creative spellers: some of these spellings are actually pronounced Ee-lie”). I agree with your husband that Emme looks like it should be pronounced “M”, just as Elle is pronounced “L”, not Ellie. As a spelling of the nickname “M”, I like it. As a way to say “Emie”, I do not. 1) it is not common and will not be easily remembered, but likely none of the others will either, so let that pipe dream go now, 2) it is a made up, pretentious way to spell it that doesn’t make sense in the English language (my way is made up to, but at least it works in English). I absolutely am against Emme, it is my new least favorite way to spell it, even worse than the ends-in-“i” ways (the formerly most pretentious ways to spell it, but at least made sense in languages like Spanish).
Sorry, normally I am mildly annoyed by people “misspelling” my name, but recognize that it is not a common name or a common spelling, and generally let it go unless it’s on a name tag at an important event or group email or something where I am making long term contacts or new friends. But ever since I learned a few months ago that Emme is being pronounced “Emie” I have had very visceral reactions against it.
I fretted whether my daughter Margaret would go by “Maisy” or “Maisie,” but it turns out everyone guesses/invents their own spelling anyway – Mayzi, Macy, & Mazie probably being the most popular guesses. Over time I’ve come to embrace these as part of her name family, plus I like the connection to Senator Mazie Hirono.
For your daughter, I would vote for Emmy. But it sounds like you like the look of Emme better. If you wanted, you could pick that spelling and leave open whether you will pronounce it “Emmy,” or “Em”-meline or “Emme” – line, all of which would be perfectly suitable nicknames. I think the ending matching Charlie’s is the least compelling argument.
I would rank:
My preference is Emme, but I think Emmy or Emmie will be most intuitive for a lot of people.
I would automatically pronounce Emme as ‘EHM-uh’ – almost like Emma, but with the ‘uh’ just barely pronounced (or like the first 2 syllables of Emmeline :))
I’m clearly in the minority there, though – I think it’s because I know a lot of people from parts of Europe where -e endings are generally pronounced that way.
Emmie or Emmy. Emme is too confusing.
I have no opinion but I had to chime in and say that I have an Emeline (no nn) and a Harriet Frances (Franceszka, but we call her Harriet Frances), so I tend to think you have excellent taste!
Because you have a Charlie, I’d say Emmie [in my family siblings tend to have matching name endings]. Otherwise I’d say Emmy, but only because of the award [thus I think a lot of people would think it’s spelled that way]. I would *never* pronounce Emme the same way as the other two.
My eldest daughter is named Emerson and is primarily called Emme (Em-me). I was pretty adamant on the spelling of her nickname when she was born, so it just kind of stuck. I’ve never heard it mispronounced as “Em”, but occasionally she’ll get family members who write Emmie on cards and such♀️. It doesn’t seem to bother her at all.
Id go Emmë or Emmi personally
Totally thought J-Lo’s daughter was pronounced like the letter M until just now (I mean, Elle is pronounced like L, so I figured Emme was pronounced like M). Mind blown.
I also meant to mention I’ve only ever lived on the west coast, so all those Emmy’s were definitely not southern.
As one of the many Emily’s out there, I went by Emmy growing up and every Emmy I knew had the same spelling. I don’t know if things have changed since then.
Sara L. Uckelman says
Here’s an option: Don’t fret over the nickname spelling.
My daughter’s name has a short form that can be augmented to an “ends in \ee\” form. I naturally spelled the ending “-nie”, and didn’t even think anyone would spell it another way. She was some months old when I got an email from my dad that spelled it “-ny”. Huh! I wouldn’t have thought of that. But if that’s how Grandpa wants to call her/think of her, why not? And then we moved to Germany, where her name is quite unusual, and where nicknames are formed in a different fashion, and they spelled it phonetically, “-i”. I decided I loved that latter spelling, and until she dropped the diminutive suffix altogether, I tended to spell it that way. So, there’s no reason why ONE spelling has to be picked for the nickname!
I always think nicknames will end in -ie unless there’s a dominant, well-established spelling in -y. Maybe Emmie feels more natural because it preserves the -e- in Emmeline, whereas Emmy looks somehow truncated! I don’t know, that probably makes no sense at all ;-). Anyway, Emme looks nice and palindromic but I would naturally pronounce it Em (sorry). So I would expect Emmie and that’s how I’d write it unless told otherwise.
I know an adult Emme – pronounced Em-may. Everyone everyone mispronounces it as Emmy these days, cause Emmy / Emme is a super hot nickname / name for kids.
I voted for Emmy because it looks more intuitive and nicknamey, but I agree you can also go with what you love and do the work with new people.
This is funny. I would have thought Emme was pronounced like Esme (aka ie ending) but Emmy as a name could be with an ending like “my” as in mine. I would never have thought of M for Emme. For all you effort, she may end up as just Em like most of my Emily friends!
I think that Abby’s note shows that all three are valid spellings for this decade and the spelling shifts rapidly. So pick the one you love because there is no right answer here.
I thought Esme ended in -ay!
Good point! Bad example!
Esme is another debated name. From what I can tell the Esmé / Esmée versions with an accent are the French -may pronunciation while Esme / Esmee are the anglocized -mee version.
So how about Emma as a better example of the two syllable? But you are right, it is weird though how Elle is one syllable but Ella is two!
Jean C. says
So I voted for Emmy, in that I think it’s an intuitive spelling, but I would go with Emme and just do the extra work to make it stick. Emme is lovely and it would be worth the extra effort to make her nickname the spelling you prefer.
Honestly I’d never guess that Emme was pronounced like Emmie and not like Em. If I heard the name Id immediately assume it was Emmie, since nickname names in -ie are more common than nickname names in -y. That said I voted for Emmy, but only because you unfortunately don’t seem too fond of Emmie.
Mandie L. says
My nickname has a definite spelling, that my Mom picked for me before I was born. Somehow (I’m still exactly sure how it happened) I ended up going almost exclusively by my nickname as an adult. And it’s a pain because people misspell it ALL THE TIME (even my in-laws) and it bugs me because there is a “right” spelling.
My Emmeline goes by Milly (almost all the time), and we spelled it with a y specifically because everyone always tries to spell my name with a y. Guess what? Apparently Millie is more common than Milly. I can’t win. 😛
Our youngest is Winifred and mostly goes by Winifred, but we also call her Windy/Wendy. When she was little I stressed a bit about how to stress my nickname, but my husband said “It’s a nick-name. It really shouldn’t matter how it’s spelled, because people aren’t really going to be spelling it that often.” So – I usually spell it with an “i” and he occassionally spells it with an “e” (and so does my Mom) and most everyone else just spells it Winifred and that works. (Although we sometimes get “Winnifred”, “Winnefrid”, and even “Wenifer” – even though we used the traditional spelling. Like I said, we can’t win.)
All that to say, choose the spelling you like, but be prepared that she may very well get all three of them from different people at different times. If that’s going to be an issue, be prepared to spell it for them, just like you would Ann vs. Anne or Sara vs. Sarah. Or you can just decide to embrace all of them.
Emme seems natural to me, as the first part of the name is spelled that way. I would never think to pronounce it as “M”. It’s such a beautiful name and nickname!
We have a 2.5 year old Emmeline who goes exclusively by Emme (pronounced like Emmy). We clarified our preferred nickname and pronunciation when she born and haven’t had any problems since. It’s a gorgeous name and I think Emme is the most obvious and sophisticated nickname, but I’m biased. 🙂 I think my husband spelled differently the first few times as he was getting used to it, but now it’s Emme to everyone, no problem. 🙂 Good luck!