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!
I really love the name Marigold, but it breaks what I had thought was my hard and fast “name a girl something that you could imagine on a future Supreme Court Justice” rule.
I’m not talking about choosing a unisex/androgynous or traditionally male name, but rather going with a first name that seems professional and resume-worthy. A fun nickname is a huge plus (Maisie or Bizzy or Sadie), but I feel like the serious name with options is a better choice than the childish/frivolous/nickname-y name that doesn’t give her a grown-up option if she wants that later.
There are some nickname options for Marigold that are no-frills and elegant (Mary or Margo or what have you), but that’s not going to be the name on her college degree, and it seems backwards to have a girly/flowery name and a pared-down nickname.
So, how do I reconcile my love for a name that breaks my rule? Or, do you and your readers think Justice Marigold (aka, the notorious M something something) is going to be totally workable by the time she’s reached the venerable age of justicedom?
Please read on for my response, and leave your thoughtful suggestions in the comments.
Dear Becky –
This is such a good question!
Plenty of parents prioritize choosing names that will age well. It makes sense, right? We’re raising future adults, and we expect them to go out and do good things in this world, not stay in a primary-colored playroom forever and ever. Those good things might require a serious name. Or at least a name more substantial than, say, Bitsi or Sparkle or Bud.
When I step away from the question, it seems like nearly any reasonably mainstream name ages well. Better than we might expect, actually.
Looking through the current list of state attorneys general – not quite the same thing as a Supreme Court Justice, but it makes for a longer list! – the names vary dramatically. Yes, we see traditional choices like Elizabeth and Ellen represented. But we also find Pam, Cynthia, Lisa, and Leslie. The patterns holds for US Attorneys. Alana, Carrie, Betsy, and Annette hold the same office as Eugenia, Rosa, and Jill.
Wait forty years, and odds are that Marigold will sound like a grown-up, just like a generation of women named Daisy and Lily. After all, the top names of the 1960s – think Susan, Nancy, and Michelle – belong to some of the most powerful women of our moment.
So yes, by the time your Marigold approaches the venerable age of justicedom, it will sound appropriate. And she may be following a Justice Madison or Justice River to the bench, too.
And yet, that’s only part of the question. Does choosing a name like Marigold – feminine, distinctive, and not at all traditional – hamper your child’s chances of success? Or, would she be more likely to achieve professional success as Margaret?
This remains a great unknown.
For parents seeking all the information possible, this feels deeply unsatisfying. I do think there are some things to consider before bestowing an unusual name on your child. And your original idea – choosing a more traditional name with a fun nickname – is one of the reasons classics wear so well.
Does that mean you should play it safe? My advice is always this: use the name you love. If you have lingering concerns that your favorite name is too out-there, anchor it with a rock solid middle name. Whether Marigold grows up to be a judge or a performance artist – or a judge of performance artists on reality television – she might appreciate the option of a more conservative middle.
I’m curious to hear what others think, of course, and so I’m including a poll.
Can Marigold be a Supreme Court Justice? Or do you think it is better to stick with more traditional names?