What’s in a Name


…she was one of the damosels of the Lady of the Lake, that high Nenive.

Background: Garrett and I named our daughter Nenive.

People ask how to pronounce or spell it, what it means and where it comes from–“Is it a family name?”

It is, now.

Some people have tried to confuse it with Nineveh… you know, the evil town that Jonah was sent to help save. Others have thought it an alternate spelling for the name Nevaeh. Since “Nevaeh” is “heaven” backward, an alternate spelling would lose the name’s significance, a pointless naming strategy. “Nenive” is, admittedly, an unusual name–but then, I’ve never met another person with my own oft-misspelled and mispronounced name, so that does not bother me.

When an ultrasound confirmed we were having a daughter, I tacked the ultrasound photos to the wall and added a blank sheet of paper next to it. I began writing girl names I liked and I asked Garrett to contribute names, too. His suggestions were along the lines of “Garretta” and “Shegarrett,” even a French accented Garrette which I told him is not only ridiculous but also too similar to garrote.

The first name I wrote was Nenive. An elegant but unusual name, Nenive immediately stuck with me when I read Le Morte d’Arthur in an undergraduate medieval literature class. Nenive, a minor character in the fifteenth century account of King Arthur and the knights of Camelot, is an enchantress who saves Arthur’s life and traps crusty old Merlin in a boulder when he won’t stop harassing her (Merlin is depicted in my flatlay photo by a Dumbledore Potter Pal my sister Delaney made me).

I thought Garrett would reject “Nenive” as too unusual a name. To my surprise and delight, he loved it and began telling people and referring to the baby as Nenive. It almost became her name by default after that–lucky I like it!

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