"In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps."

Monday, October 6, 2014

Deciding on Zoya moya’s Name

So I was all caught up on laundry but I’m behind again, and my clean yesterday house is once again dirty and I don’t want to deal with it… however I’m almost caught up on thank you cards, everyone has been fed, and everyone is happy and we had lots of love and cuddles today so things could be worse at the Wann house! And now I need to record how we picked out Zoya moya’s name.

So, how we originally picked Isla’s name can be found HERE and how we picked Gemma’s name and a little more on Isla’s backstory can be found HERE. We received so many complements on Isla and Gemma’s names that I really felt like the pressure was on with this one! My friend Janie gave me props, I believe her exact words were “unusual without being weird”… which was awesome and exactly what we were hoping for!

So one thing that I have never touched on in all of my minutia laden posts on naming my children is my naming criteria.

If we ever have a boy, he will be named after a King of England (James or Henry) and/or maybe Israel (David). Traditional. Strong. Like Nick. Nick actually likes more unusual names, even for boys, but I guess if we ever had a boy, I would want him to be just like his daddy and so I always push names that speak the qualities I would love to have in a son. Plus these names all have some sort of sentimental/family attachment.

For girls, we feel like we can be a little more creative, but I still have some standards (although note, each of our girls’ names had broken at least one of these rules). My name definitely breaks some of these rules, but I had no control over that.

  • Nothing too weird, made up or ethnic. We are WASPs. We get it. I would love to have a Santiago or Valentina, but I just don’t think we are cool enough to get away with it.
  • No alternative spellings, some are standard like Isla or Ayla, but no replacing ‘I’ with ‘Y’ just for the heck of it.
  • Have a family or sentimental connection.
  • Nothing common, preferably not in the top 100 most common names in the US. You can look up a name ranking HERE if you are curious. And yes, I totally chart my kids’ names popularity. Consider me a certified name geek.
  • A strong name for a strong woman, a name that could work for a girl or a professional woman one day.  Example – no nicknames for names, like Annie, she can be Anne or Anna and called Annie, but not have it as her legal name.

With Isla, I only knew of the actress, Isla Fisher, and I still remember the first time I considered it as a name, although I knew I didn’t love it.  However, as you know Nick loved it when he heard it immediately and that’s why we chose it. At the time it was not common. It wasn’t even a top 1000 name in the US in 2007, but it jumped to the 621st most popular name in the US in 2008 and then 345th most popular name in 2009 (see red circle). It was concerning, but I hoped that it wouldn’t increase too much in popularity… I was wrong. Since then it has continued to climb and I really hope that it doesn’t go the way of Ava (my old favorite before it was so popular) and become a top 10 name in a few years!


Right after we named Isla, I learned that Isla was the 27th or 29th most popular name in the United Kingdom! Wha-what? I had NO IDEA, and I wasn’t happy about it. By the way… it’s now like the 8th most popular name there. It annoyed me for a while, but then I just decided to embrace it and not fight it. I loved Isla so much by then, and I thought that maybe I would see what other names were popular names in the UK that weren’t as well known here in the US… which is how I found Gemma.

I technically remember hearing the name Gemma in 2008 when I watched the movie Fool’s Gold that had a character named Gemma. I liked it, and remember thinking “like Jenna, but with ‘ms’”, but it wasn’t a name I really considered until I started mining for name gold in the UK. That’s when I found out that in the 80’s, Gemma was super popular there. It was like Jennifer or Ashley in the US for that time period, but it was never popular here and in fact it’s definitely out of style there and just last year fell off the name list entirely. It is currently holding steady in the 300s in the US and so passed the not-too-popular criteria. Anyway, with that, I loved it, and so it became my top girl name for Two Baby.

I think sibling names should go together and have some sort of theme, so in that vein, I started searching for girls names in the UK for Baby Shaka. My first choice was Cora! It would have gone perfectly with Isla and Gemma. It is rising in popularity like Isla, but still not a top 100 name and thanks to Downton Abbey, it feels super British to me (even though Cora is American on the show – actually that makes it ever better!) However Nick and I do NOT call names until we see our babies – that’s just a rule, Isla and Gemma would have been named something different if we had gone with our technical first choices and we also don’t really advertise the names we are considering because we don’t want to hear the negative comments that so many other people have received.

WELL… guess what? My sister-in-law is pregnant and due in November. The week after she found out she was having a girl I received a text message announcing that they had decided to name her Cora Irene! I about died. Tiffany did not know that we were considering it and I would never take a name from someone since I know and understand first hand how hard it is to find the perfect name. It was a blow, but we took it as a sign that Cora was not the name for us. We also couldn’t find any names from the UK that we loved. Nichola was a consideration because it was apparently the Gemma of the 70’s but Nick was adamantly against it (I LOVE IT!). The rest were also too popular in the US as well… So UK names were out… bummer, because I would have loved to have continued that tradition.

We were back to the drawing board! We just felt so lost. We had a list of about 10 names going in to Shaka’s birth, the longest we have ever had. Most of them broke many of our name rules because we were so desperate and none of them had the wow factor that we felt we had with Isla and Gemma. I don’t usually advertise our second choice names but they were: Ava, Gloria, Lucia, Zoya, Aria, Dasha, Vera, and maybe a few more because it seems like we had 10. I really loved Gloria going into the birth, but when Shaka came out, Nick and I took one look at her and she was either an Aria or a Zoya. The other names seemed ridiculous to us.

Aria was one that really came to our attention about a week before Zoya was born. Aria means “melody” which is Nick’s mother’s name and we love her. Nick wanted to go with Arya, which I refused! Another thing I don’t love to advertise because of the smut, I am a HUGE A Song of Ice and Fire fan. I hate that it’s so smutty, but it’s just so well written and the storytelling is fantastic and the characters are actually three-dimensional, but I would not name my kid after one of the characters because of the smut factor.

Zoya was a Russian name, and Nick loved the idea of using a Russian name. Ok, so I promise I don’t make a habit of reading smut, but way back in high school, I read a lot of books, good books, bad books, books that just happened to be around, usually I had three or four going at a time and I read them in a day. One day I picked up a Danielle Steel novel called Zoya and I read it and that was that. At this point in my life, I avoid the romance genre, I was never a fan, but I would read them if they were around… I promise. I would not touch that trash now! I don’t get to read as much as I used to so when I do, I am much more picky. Anyway, the point is, that’s where I first heard the name. And then I follow the blog of a family that adopted their beautiful daughter with Down Syndrome from Russia and they named her Zoya and that’s when I thought… hrmm… we could use that name for our daughter if we have another. One interesting thing to note: we never met a Zoya the entire time we were in Russia.

So deciding between Aria and Zoya was so hard! We liked both names and neither of us felt strongly towards one or the other (unlike Nick with Isla and me with Gemma). We went back and forth for over 24 hours. Nick would convince me to go with Zoya and I would convince him to go with Aria, then we would switch sides! Thank goodness no one was in there with us because they would have been SO annoyed listening to us go back and forth. The main strike against Zoya was that it was too ethnic and maybe too unusual, bordering on weird. Aria was too popular and also, it felt a little weak because of all of the vowels (I felt the same way about Isla originally). In the end. Aria’s popularity was the hurdle that we couldn’t get passed – check out it’s meteoric rise on the name charts, and already a top 50 name! It is destined to be a top 10, and we wanted to avoid that if we could. We are all non conformists in our own ways. If it ever plateaus or loses it popularity and we have another girl, it will be our top choice.


Earlier in the day the name lady had come by to collect Zoya’s name and I had sent her away. She promised to come to us last, but if we didn’t have a name by then, then we would have to come back to the hospital on Tuesday after discharge, which we did not want to have to do. Once we finally decided on Zoya, she came by literally one minute later for our last call and we took that as a sign!

Isla had originally been pushing for the name Kaylinn, after her best friend. It’s a lovely name, but not one that felt right to us. When we decided on Zoya, Nick said “How much do you want to bet that when we tell Isla her name is Zoya, she will say ‘wait, what about Kaylinn?’” When Isla showed up on Saturday evening, we immediately told her Zoya’s name the first words out of her mouth, after a thoughtful pause, were “well that’s way better than Kaylinn!” So we took that as another good sign Smile.

So that is how we named our Zoya and it is growing on us more each day. Thankfully we haven’t received any bad reactions to it, and if she feels it’s too weird when she grows up, she can always use the nickname Zoey, since Zoya is the Russian form of Zoey.

PHEW! So that’s it, I mean that’s a lot, but I’m finally finished. We are always so thankful when the ordeals of naming our kids is over! It definitely ranks high in stress for us!


  1. Loved that whole post, but I think Isla's reaction pretty much sealed the deal for me!! The precious girls with three perfect names! (but I am a little sad about Cora, b/c I love that one so much. . . it's rising popularity though would have been tough).

  2. Yah, I was super bummed about Cora, but at least we will have one in the family :). I tried to convince Nick to do Zora after the author and because I was hung up on Z names, but he wouldn't go for it.


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