Monday, June 09, 2008

A Miriam by any other name

Our daughter's full name is Miriam Damascus Palmer. When we named her, I never had any idea that she would ever have a nickname. It's not that I'm against nicknames, at all, but "Miriam" just didn't seem to lend itself to any particularly handy abbreviation. (I have since been proved wrong, very adorably, by Lark's Mimi.)

But I underestimated the linguistic prowess of a 17-month-old. When Miriam was almost a year and a half old, she was still having trouble saying her name. One day, we prompted her to say "Miriam," and what came out was...



Well, here's the thing. It's been almost another year and a half since that day, and I still don't know how to spell Miriam's preferred nickname.

It's pronounced something like "May-may," but not so deliberately. Like "Mei-mei," but non-Chinese/Japanese-influenced. Or maybe "Mae-mae," but not old-lady-ish?

I've been using "MeMe" pretty consistently on the rare occasions where I need to write it down, making sure to put a second capital M in there to discourage people from thinking my daughter's nickname is pronounced "Meem." But even with "MeMe," there's the risk of people thinking it's the same as Mimi, which it's not, because it's spelled differently, duh.

Then my mom had the brilliant idea of using the e-acute (é) to clarify the pronunciation (think "café"). And so I think I can finally say, with confidence, that my daughter's self-chosen nickname is spelled:

MéMé.

What do you think? If you saw that written down, would you know how to pronounce it? If you hadn't read this blog post, and Miriam told you her nickname, how would you have spelled it in your mind?

I just want to make sure I'm doing the right thing by little Miriam Damascus.

For a nickname chosen by a 17-month-old, you have to admit that MéMé is a pretty cute one. I think Jeremy and I were both surprised at how well it stuck. She has continued to refer to herself as MéMé even though she's been able to pronounce Miriam for a long time now. If you ask her what her name is, she'll answer "MéMé." Before she was proficient with personal pronouns, all of her possessions (and some things that weren't hers at all) were "MéMé's." So now, whenever I introduce her to a new person or group of kids, I find myself clarifying that "her name is Miriam, but she'll probably call herself MéMé." It's become its own persona, and it's one that Miriam strongly identifies with.

I think the real test of the nickname's strength will be when she starts school in a few years. It will be interesting to see what identity she will choose: Miriam or MéMé?

6 comments:

Nancy Heiss said...

That is WAY cute and solves the pronunciation problem.

I like Mimi, too. I had a friend who went by Mimi, only her name was Amelia.

Shannan said...

I've been gone traveling the past two weeks and when I came home and read your last four entries, I was so pleased. Love to read your take on life!!

Britney said...

Not only is MéMé a cool spelling, the name is actually quite pretty. In fact, it's far prettier than the one my son concocted for my daughter, Emily Helen: "Emil-uh". Ugh. I can't imagine that one gaining any ground as a popular Emily-alternative any time soon.

Nattie said...

Sam decided to call herself "Samantha." I guess we got it backwards because we use her nickname and she decided her real name was different and new.

I'm glad you added the accents, without them, I definitely would have thought it was Mimi.

Lilianne and Jason Wright said...

Definitely love MeMe with the accents~ so french! :-)

While Mimi is cute, MeMe is definitely a winner - especially since she picked it! So cute. Come home to Tucson, we miss you already! Keep us posted on all the new happenings in Vermont!!

Lark said...

Cute! Its fun that she gave herself a nickname and I love it - its perfect with the accents.
Its been really tough for me with my Miriam - I love the name Miriam, but also love the name Mimi. Do I call her Mimi or Miriam? I figure she will pick what she prefers when she's old enough?

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