It’s no secret I love names, which is why my children have squillions of them, and why I’ll pester the life out of any pregnant woman I encounter. Before we named each of our children, we spent a long time thinking of every possible permutation, shortening, misspelling.

But I did not think of Eliner.

To me, Eleanor is a regal three syllables, old-fashioned but not stuffy. Elinor, as we almost spelled it, is nearly as good, calling to mind, as it does, Elinor Dashwood. I knew there were two ways to spell it, but I didn’t know until she was named that there were two ways to pronounce it.

To my surprise, I keep coming across Southerners, from here in Virginia, from North Carolina and Tennessee, who pronounce it El-lih-ner. And I hate it!

When I was in high school, there was a boy called Greg whose mother always corrected us his name was Gregory. How did she not see that one coming? Now I sympathize. I knew my Thomas Joseph might someday go by Tommy, or worse, TJ. (Shudder.) But I thought I had worked through all the Eleanor variations and approved of each: Ella and Ellie and Nora, three dear girls.

J reminds me that we love the Southern accents of the people we love — how I longed for the cadence of the South Georgians around me in college — and if this one unlovely pronunciation is the only aberration, so be it. I try to think of that, and it helps, some, but mostly I just remember again the inherent mystery of naming another, unknown human being. Will this scrawny newborn with wide, inscrutable eyes be a fun-loving teenager in furry boots called Ella? Will this wild-haired toddler, chattering about babies and trucks, someday be a compassionate school teacher who goes by her middle name, or the stern legislator Eleanor?

We don’t know, can’t know. So we take our best shot, choose a name solemnly or lightly, and watch the rest unfold.

Queenly, right?

10 thoughts on “Eliner 

  1. Honestly that’s why we named Dax what we did. The only other D name we liked was David and we were terrified of him one day being like, “Nah guys, call me DAVE.”

    BARF. 🙂


  2. We had the same conversations over names. For my husband, near the top of his list for a boy is William, to which I say Bill, Billy, Will, Willy (So many ways to go wrong here). He claims that we can call him Liam and leave it at that, then I remind him that his mom lost that battle though she insists on calling him “Timothy” though everyone calls him Tim. All these things were considered, but since we both agreed on Mary and had a girl, the battle will likely (hopefully) return in future kids. What we didn’t even consider until we got home and it was much too late was how much Mary sounds like our dog’s name “Maggie”. So many oops.


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