We poured over baby name books with both of our children. Naming a kid feels like such a big, important thing. Fair or not, often your name conveys something about you before someone even meets you (even if it really says more about your parents – you didn’t name yourself!).
I didn’t like my uncommon name as a kid but I loved it as I got older. I’m usually the only Nadine someone knows but it also is a name most people have vaguely heard before. It’s not made up. I wanted something similar for our daughter, and was okay with something a little more common for our son (I’d read that uncommon names generally help women but hurt men in the workplace).
Now I’ll say something kind of controversial…
I think often when people name a baby they forget that they are naming an adult. Most people are adults for far longer than they were ever a child. It’s hard to look at a teeny baby (particularly a girl) and give her a super grown up sounding name. They’re so little and squishy! Of course you want something cute! But that squish is going to be an adult someday. I wanted our daughter to be taken seriously in a corporate board room or on the Supreme Court (lol no pressure Colette).
So we kept searching for strong but feminine names that felt respectful of that but also had some cute nickname potential.
The best naming advice I heard was this: try the name on. Would you want it to be your name? If you can’t say yes without hesitation, then don’t name your kid that. This was obviously easier to do this time around, looking for a girls name.
If you’re wondering how we named Bennett, here’s the story. Even though we knew we loved the name Bennett, I still wanted to try to find something that might be better. I wanted to feel like I’d looked through every possible name and knew that nothing was right except for Bennett. We wound up doing the same thing with Colette.
Colette was the girl name we had picked out for Bennett. We really loved the idea that it was a feminine name with a boy nickname – Cole. He was a boy (obviously) so we tabled it for the next kid. When we found out she was a girl, it was back on the table.
But…we fell out of love with the nickname Cole and really with the name Colette sometime in the first trimester. I love Cole as a boys name but between Bennett and our 2nd pregnancy, my cousin had a baby boy and named him Cole. It felt a little weird to use it. So we dug through the baby books (I borrowed at least five from the library and pulled out all the ones we’d bought with Ben). We poured over so. Many. Names.
Names we also liked/considered:
Juliette – Still love but now could not use because that’s too serious of a double T theme for our family. There was a point that I would have said we were 90% going to name her this. I adore the nickname Jules. Also, this is the name of my parents dog. I liked it so much that I didn’t care (plus she’s a damn good dog).
Marlowe – Nav pushed hard for this and I liked it but then didn’t like it. Had really no nicknames except Marley which will always be a dead dog to me.
Cecilia – Nav thought this was too many syllables but I thought it was nice. Was never a super serious contender.
Thea – We wondered if we could use this with the nickname Teddy. Theodora was too much for us. We loved Teddy for a girl but that alone seemed too nicknamey. It felt a little trendy for us.
Maeve – This was a major contender for about two weeks. My grandma said it sounded more like a sound than a name. I still really like it but it’s challenging to put other names with. I also feel like it didn’t pass the “would I want it to be my name?” test.
Ellis – I love this name for a boy or a girl. The girl nickname is Ellie though and there are only 50 of those every time we’re at the playground so that was out.
Iris – I adore this name but Nav was a hard no. He says it’s an eyeball. I say it’s a flower. I couldn’t sway him.
At a point we just got tired of talking about it or thinking about it. We probably didn’t even discuss it for the entire second trimester. At the beginning of the third trimester, Nav insisted that we finalize our pick by Thanksgiving. He wanted her to come into the world with a name. He felt strongly about this.
Then one day I was driving and I decided I liked Colette again. Just like that. Like it had settled in my heart a bit and I knew she couldn’t be anything else. We had just come back to it too many times. I brought it up to Nav and he was still iffy because he didn’t want to call her Cole.
I googled “nicknames for Colette” and found in the comment section that some Colettes go by “Coco”. When I told Nav this, he loved it. I think he liked the idea of having a cute nickname to call his daughter for the rest of her life. I’m sure he’ll still call her Coco when she’s 50. So it started to stick and eventually it did.
As far as the spelling, Colette can be spelled with one L or two. We wanted to give her the easier or more common spelling in hopes that most people (i.e. the starbucks barista) would get it right. It seemed like Colette with one L was more common. Still, we’ve already gotten several cards with the wrong spelling so perhaps we cursed her with that.
Now for the middle name. We were going to go one of two routes with the middle name –
- Named after someone we love or a family name
- A Persian name
Ben’s middle name is Reza, which is both of these. We didn’t have any female family names we really loved. I asked my grandma to send me our family tree and when she did, it turned out that most of everyone in my family history was either Mary or William (lol). I dug through the other side and found very little there too.
Persian names are challenging because they sound very different to an English speaker than they do in Farsi. Not all of the female names sound particularly feminine to an English speaker and many don’t work well when put after an English/French/whatever name. We also have a tendency as non-Farsi speakers to pronounce them incorrectly (sometimes in ways that change the meaning).
Nav didn’t feel strongly about giving her a Persian middle name, but the more that time went on, the more I did. If Colette decides to change her last name to her husbands someday (her choice! Just considering all possibilities), she’d lose her Persian last name and have no Persian names at all, despite being half Persian.
It felt a little weird to me to give her two non-Persian names – like I was whitewashing my children? Or denying their culture. My in-laws came here from Iran and are some of the people I respect most in the world. It felt like we should honor that by giving her a name that honored both of her cultural backgrounds.
I have always loved the name Nasreen. I just think it sounds beautiful. It means “wild rose”. Apparently it’s fairly common in Iran. I also loved that she’d share the N and the double E with Naveed and his brother (who also has an “N” name with a double E).
The other name we really loved was Azar which means “fire”. I loved the idea of giving a daughter the middle name “fire” but when we talked to my mother-in-law about it, apparently the way we pronounce this name in English changes the meaning to mean “to hurt”. So that was out.
Colette Nasreen sounded like a mouthful at first but the more we said it the more it worked. I think that’s the way it usually is with names. You’ve said it so many times that eventually they just fit together. Nasreen is easy to spell and easy to pronounce in English.
Overall we had a really hard time naming her. It’s not that we didn’t agree on names. We just couldn’t find anything we really loved! Now I’m so glad that she’s our Colette.
Since we named her we’ve gotten only positive feedback which has been nice (although do people really share negative feedback about names once the name is finalized?). I hope she’s the only Colette in her class in school and I hope she doesn’t hate us a little every time someone spells her name with two L’s. Now we’ve just got to teach Ben her name. She might just be “baby sister” to him forever.