I'm finding myself in a bit of a tight spot when it comes to naming one of my characters: a little girl. Being an avid name nerd, I take naming my characters very seriously. I won't go into a lengthy plot description, but part of my problem is that the parents of this character (who happen to be my main characters) are from two different time periods. The other part of the problem is that I'm terrible at naming girls.What an interesting puzzle!
Let me start by telling you about this little girl's family. Her mother's family is from the present day. Her mother's name is Marissa Evelyn Hardy, called Riss. Evelyn is her grandmother's name. Riss's twin brothers are named John Howard, called Jack, and Benjamin Floyd, called Benjy, also after grandparents.
Dad's family is from the Victorian era. His name is Edward Otis Williams, called Odie, with Edward being his grandfather's name. Odie and Riss have one son, named Ezra Grover Williams. Grover was the name of Odie's late brother who passed away right before Ezra was born.
Since family names are important to them, I've selected either Christina or Molly as the little girl's middle name. Christina is Riss's mother and Molly is Odie's mother. Which one I choose really depends on the first name. I'm looking for a first name that would work well in any era since my story does involve time travel. Another thing to keep in mind is that Odie is very religious, so a Biblical name would be a plus.
Let me know if there's something I need to clarify to help you with picking out names. I really appreciate your help, because I'm stumped!
I started my brainstorming by comparing the Social Security Top 1,000 lists from 1880 and 2010, just to see what sort of names would sound good in both eras. Some that caught my eye as making a good sibling for Jack, Benjy, and Ezra were:
- Emma (#3 in 1880 and #3 in 2010): This would work fine, but it's no fun. Fits the criteria, but it's too expected.
- Clara (#12 in 1880 and #167 and rising in 2010): Clara still feels very Victorian to me — it is gaining popularity now, but still has that antique charm. Think Clara Barton (whose full name was Clarissa Harlowe after the heroine in the novel Clarissa).
- Cora (#15 in 1880 and #276 and rising in 2010): Another sweet, antique name. I think Cora has a bit more spunk than Clara.
- Nora (#56 in 1880 and #159 in 2010): Great on its own or as a nickname for Eleanor, another name that would work well in either era.
- Lily/Lillie/Lillian (Lillie was #34 in 1880 and Lily was #17 in 2010): Like Emma, Lily isn't setting me on fire, but would work just fine. For a Victorian flavor, spell it Lillie, or go with Lily for a more modern spin.
- Addie (#83 in 1880 and is often used as a nn for #11 Addison in 2010): The popularity of Addison, along with the sound-alike Maddie names (Madison/Madelyn/Madeline, etc.) might skew this name too modern.
- Charlotte (#91 in 1880 and #45 in 2010): Charlotte is equally at home in a parlor and on a playground. It sounds a little proper next to Jack and Benjy, and the nicknames would be different for different eras (probably Lottie in 1880 and Charlie in 2010). It's not really a great match with Ezra either.
- Adele (#240 in 1880 and #908 in 2010): Adele may not be very popular in modern times, but its old-fashioned charm (and the singer Adele) are bringing it back. It might make a good full name for Addie.
Next, I looked over my list of Biblical names to see if anything fit the bill. I rejected some, like Sarah, Rachel, and Rebecca as too classic — they would work in any era, but don't really belong to any (though Sarah nn Sadie is a possibility). Others, like Hannah, Abigail, Jerusha, Jemima, and Tabitha read more colonial than Victorian. That left me with these:
- Persis (not in top 1,000 in 1880 or 2010): Persis was an early Christian who is mentioned in Paul's letter to the Romans. Her name has never been very popular, but I think it is elegant. L.M. Montgomery gave this name to the daughter of one of her heroines, which makes me think that it would be acceptable to romantic Victorians/Edwardians.
- Judith (#889 in 1880 and #872 in 2010): Though its 20th-century popularity may keep Judith out of the running, I included it because it is similar to Ezra in that its popularity has varied widely in the past 130 years, but it almost exactly as popular now as it was in 1880. I think Judy is adorable and sounds among popular modern nicknames like Lucy and Lily, but can see how it might sound a bit too Baby Boomer.
- Susanna (#336 in 1880 and not ranked in 2010): This is a possibility. Though it isn't ranked now, it is not unfamiliar. I think the problem is nicknames. Susie? Nan? Zuzu? Nothing really grabs me.
- Julia (#240 in 1880 and #908 in 2010): A sweet name that would be at home in either era. The problem is that you want a name that really says "Victorian," and Julia is just too steady and reliable. Even during its least popular decades over the last century, it was still in the top 150.
- Ruth (#93 in 1880 and #348 in 2010): Ruth has some potential. Unlike most of the names on this list, Ruth is an Old Testament name, which pairs well with Ezra. It's in a long, slow decline after a few decades in the top 10 (1892-1930), but I can see Ruth being a refreshing choice for people who like Ruby and Lucy. It feels a bit more serious than Jack and Benjy, but is great with Ezra.
- Phoebe (#217 in 1880 and #309 in 2010): Now we're cooking. Phoebe was a prominent early Christian (an associate of Paul's), whose name was stylish in 1880 and is in the midst of a robust comeback. I think that Phoebe Christina could be a great name. Nickname Fi? Bee?
- Lydia (#77 in 1880 and #111 in 2010): This is my favorite. Another early Christian, Lydia would be a good choice for a religious family. It was a top-100 name in 1880 and is poised to break back into the top-100 in the next 3 years. Lydia never really went away, but it was less popular over most of the 20th century, meaning that it still retains a whiff of the Victorian. The nickname Lyddie would be perfectly familiar to Victorians and fits in well with the Addies of both eras. I can see Lydia and Ezra as siblings as easily as Lydia, Jack, and Benjy.
- Lydia Molly or Lydia Christina
- Phoebe Christina
- Ruth Molly or Ruth Christina
- Clara Molly or Clara Christina
- Lillie Christina