Flora June’s Name Change

You may remember me mentioning that when we moved to France, June decided to go by her first name, Flora (her full name is Flora June Blair, but we’ve called her June since birth).

We thought that sounded like a good idea and were fully supportive. So when we registered her for school here, and introduced her to people, we only introduced her as Flora, never June. We also started calling her Flora at home.

We’ve been here 8 months and I thought you might be interested in hearing how the name change has gone.

At school, she is still only Flora. No one knows her as anything but Flora and it would not occur to her friends or her teacher or anyone lese to call her June. In general they would have no idea that’s her middle name or that she was once called June at school.

But at home, she actually prefers June. It took us a minute to figure out why, and it turns out it’s an English-French thing. The words Flora and June sound different when said in French versus English. When Flora hears her name pronounced with a French accent, she turns her head. But if an American with an American accent says Flora, it’s like she doesn’t even hear it at all.

Basically, she discovered that she prefers the name Flora in French, and the name June in English. So at home, she mostly goes by June — though sometimes, she’s Flora if we’re speaking French. I should note here, my French accent is so poor, that Flora still doesn’t sound right to her when I say it, even with my best French accent. French Rs are so tough! : )

Now that’s she’s figured out her preference, one thing I’ve tried to do (in addition to practicing saying Flora with a French accent), is call her Flora June when I write her name on social media. That way, if her French Friends, or American Friends, happen to be following along, they’ll both understand who is being referred to.

I’m very curious to see if any of this will change the longer we’re here. Of course, we’ll always be happy to call her whatever she prefers.

Your turn. Have your kids ever changed their name preference? How did it go? Was it hard for you to say a different name? Was it a temporary preference or a permanent one? And what about your own first name? Do you like it? Did you ever want to change it? Have you ever lived somewhere and discovered you don’t like how your name is pronounced there?

P.S. — What if you give your kid the wrong name?

41 thoughts on “Flora June’s Name Change”

  1. My middle daughter is Issybella. We called her Issy as a baby, but when she was around 3 she let us know that she was Bella, not Issy. Fast forward to kindergarten and I’m talking to an aid in her class about Bella, and after a few minutes she stops me and asks who Bella is. Turns out she’s been going by Issy at school and never told us. She said some kids called her that and she was okay with it so let it go. I still call her Bella more often than Issy (and she’s 21 now lol.) But I do try to remember she’s Issy to her friends.

  2. At the age of 14 our son, Alec, told us he wanted to go by his middle name, Jack. We all sort of laughed – Sure thing, JACK! Haha! – but he was adamant and if we accidentally called him Alec he would say, “Who?”and we’d correct ourselves (plus we wanted to respect his decision to go by whatever name felt right to him). He’s now 29 and still goes by Jack and I can’t imagine calling him Alec (though I do have a tiny fear that if – God forbid – I ever become senile I might ask for Alec and wonder who this Jack fellow is!). I also wrote a farewell letter to Alec (when after a couple of months I realized Jack was here to stay) expressing my deep love for him but that this Jack character was growing on me and it was all okay! :-)

  3. Bravo for letting your child pick the name she wants to be known by and adapting to her situational needs.

    For me names are deeply entwined in social awareness/interaction. I am partially deaf and was only diagnosed just before my 5th birthday. A learned behaviour that I acquired really young was to pick out my name out of the noise of life. So not only is my name important – how you say my name is very important.

    My name is spelled/pronounced the same way 95% of the time, however there are some very well known variations to both. For some reason, despite the fact that 95% of the people who spell my name the way I do pronounce it a certain way, growing up I would say that 75% people when they first see it pronounce it wrong – ironically the difference between French and English pronunciation. I have a hard and fast rule that only native French speakers are allowed to use the French pronunciation of my name. This did cause some stress growing up, especially swimming lessons for a pretty shy person. It was the one environment where I was meeting new people where I couldn’t wear my hearing aids and invariably the swimming instructor saying my name would pronounce it wrong. So in a noisy environment I would have to listen really careful for my name, often not said “correctly”, and then correct the instructor and hope they remembered it correctly when they needed to get my attention in the pool. A long way to say, I understand how Flora June doesn’t hear her name when it is pronounced wrong.

  4. I have never liked my first name much, for a variety of reasons (sound, vibe, family associations), and when I was in middle school I seriously considered switching over to using my middle name, Rachel, which I have always preferred. But I didn’t have parental or peer support to do this, and by the time I had a good window of opportunity to make the change–moving across the country, in my early 20s, to a city where no one knew me–it seemed childless to insist on a different name just because I liked it better. I still have some regrets. Flora June is at the perfect age for exploring her name preferences, and I am so glad she is getting to do so now!

  5. The photos of Flora June in that dress puts stars in my eyes! She looks so lovely.

    I have one of those long names that is easily chopped into nicknames and I’ve used them all. I was Debbie as a child. Some of my elementary & high school friends still call me that, but friends from college and beyond (including my husband and son) don’t think it suits me at all and find it hard to imagine I ever used it. Sometimes when I meet new people they will naturally slip into it and I always (gently) correct them because it just doesn’t feel like me. My mom was always supportive of whatever version I wanted to use.

    One of my aunts legally changed her name when she was an adult and my grandmother refused to ever use the new name, instead referring to her daughter as “her” or “she” for the rest of her life! It was especially perplexing since my grandmother acknowledged that the name came from family member she intensely disliked and she always thought it was ugly. I think she was hurt over the change and couldn’t admit it. (But honestly she was a real stinker about it.)

  6. We have a daughter named Katherine, but always called Katie. When she started high school, she wanted to be called “Katherine,” and we gamely went along. BUT – no dice among her many friends, who ALL called her Katie and would not be swayed. She is now Katie to all, once again. My guess is that the most successful route to a name change is the absence of many who called you by an earlier name!

  7. I have a longish, slightly old-fashioned name (at the time, although those are coming back into fashion–think Charlotte, for example) and it was used until about 3rd or 4th grade when I decided I wanted to use a nickname. I picked the nickname, and successfully started using it at school, but continued to use the full name at home. It just sounded weird when my family used the full name. And it still does. There are many more people who use my nickname, including my husband and his family, and when I joined Facebook I had to pick so I went with the nickname, but it is still just so weird to hear my parents or aunts/uncles/cousins use it. I’m in my 40s and have used the nickname for way longer and with way more people than I used just the full name, but I can’t get past how weird it is for my family to use it.

  8. My daughter is Isabel, and we’ve always called her that. When she was about 13, she switched to Izzy at school (and it stuck), but she is in college now and still hates it if our family uses it. We named her with the full awareness that Izzy was a likely nickname so we have no problem with it. She just thinks it sounds way too weird coming out of my mouth.

    I have always disliked my name as it sounds so 1960’s. I wish I had lengthened it to Susannah at some point so brava to Flora June for making her name dreams a reality!

  9. My son, Alexander, has gone by the nickname, “Sasha” since birth. In 6th grade he announced he was now “Alex” at school. At home and with family he is “Sasha,” at school or with friends he is Alex. And of course, as his mother, when I want his attention, it is his full name including two middle names!

  10. My sister’s name is legally Kate. But when she was young she said she hated Kate and would only go by Katie. In her mid-20’s she changed her mind back and went by Kate, but people who knew her her whole life still called her Katie. Her husband felt wounded since he felt like only special people called her Katie so he started referring to her as Katie, too. Our term of endearment for each other, even from a young age, is Buttface. We still affectionately call each other this, and now I don’t have to remember one over the other. Although when introducing her to others I think I still use Katie

  11. I changed my first name when my (now ex) husband and I were filling out our divorce documents and I noticed that there was a line that, rather than asking whether I wanted to return to my maiden name, instead asked what I would now like to be called. We laughed, realizing that I could call myself anything I want at no extra charge! On a whim, I chose a name that sounded like the kind of person I would like to be (or just be seen as). I gave it almost no thought at all!

    Initially, it was very difficult remembering to answer to the new name at doctor appointments or phone calls, but a few months later, I no longer turned my head when I’d hear someone call out my old name. Family members did have a difficult time and only now– 20 years later–address me as my new name on letters and emails. I still use my old name when writing to them so that they don’t feel any pressure. I never expected them to remember a new name. My husband and kids only know me by my new name and can’t possibly imagine me being called by my old name, though there was nothing unusual about it. My current name is just “me” to them.
    The most difficult aspect of the name change was trying to explain it. I was just finishing college at the time and as I applied for jobs, I could tell that there were a few interviewers who thought that I may be running from the law! Plus, changing my name on all of the many legal and school was the biggest pain!

  12. My name is Eleanor and when I was growing up my parents called me Nori (my grandma’s name is also Eleanor and she told my parents to never call me Ellie). I started going by Eleanor in school but my whole extended family calls me Nori, except my mom, who switched back to Eleanor. All my friends know me as Eleanor and I only let really close ones in on the nickname, though it’s very rare for any of them to call me that. Sometimes I’ll accept E or El from a friend or a boyfriend. Never ever Ellie, though its the one strangers/teachers/coworkers would always assume. I totally get how names depend on context.

    1. My daughter is also Eleanor/ Nori (age 19) and mostly goes by Nori. She frequently gets called Lori or other similar sounding names because Nori is unusual.

  13. I have a double name and answer to many variations. On a similar situation, my youngest daughter learned Spanish from our babysitter. She is very verbal and was proficient in both English and Spanish, but she would only speak Spanish with my babysitter. One day I introduced her to family whose first language was Spanish and she refused to speak.

  14. This is such a great article and fabulous title. Love following along your family’s journey to France! I had a friend in college whose birth name was Gabriel, but he always went by Ben. Later, he moved to London and started introducing himself as Gabriel (sometimes ‘Gabe’). So weird for those of us who knew him before!

  15. Yeah, some names simply don’t work in some languages. E.g., I remember a priest student I knew from French Africa in grad school. His full name was Pere (or Father) Jean-Robert, but he decided that it would be friendlier and easier for Americans to pronounce if he went by “Pere Bob” in America. The only problem is, it’s basically impossible for a francophone to say “Bob,” (it comes out somewhere between “Bib” and “Bub”) so when he tried to introduce himself, he just got blank stares.

    How would you pronounce “June” in French? Do they say “Juin”?

  16. My middle name is also June and recently I have been thinking about changing and going by that instead of DeAnna. June seems to fit me better at this time in my life and everyone always pronounces my name incorrectly. Deana, Dina, Diana, Dana. I haven’t done it because my Mother will have a fit (and I am 50)! She had a fit when I started capitalizing the A to help people with pronunciation!

    I absolutely adore how you parent your kids. They are all treated with so much respect for their individuality! Some days it is Flora and some days it is June, sounds perfectly lovely!

  17. My youngest daughter has a beautiful first name and I never wanted to nickname her. But my older daughter couldn’t say the full name and a nickname happened. She was only called the nickname by everyone from a baby on, the whole way through school. When she went away to college, she decided to be called her full first name and it was a perfect time for a change. So, all of her college friends and professors called her the given name and never even knew about the nickname. She’s now in grad school to be a doctor and I asked her what she is being called. She said that everyone knows her full name and she goes by that professionally, but she told her new close friends to call her the nickname. Best of both worlds I guess and love her whatever the name she chooses!

  18. My own name is bizarre. It does not sound at all the way it is spelled! My mother created it with her cousin when she (my mom) was pregnant. She keeps saying it is French, but it is not. But what can I say? She’s my mom. I’m an adult now with my own kids, so I can’t change it now. Plus, I wouldn’t want to hurt her feelings. I just endure the wonky ways people try to pronounce my name for the first time. It’s Tuwenia. Looks like “too-ween-y-a” doesn’t it. But it’s not. (At least my name doesn’t sound like “weenie.” ) One good thing, whenever a marketer calls the house and ask for “Too-ween-y-a” I know that it is someone calling soliciting something. :)

  19. I switched from Mary Katherine to Katherine in 3rd grade. I told my teachers that’s what I preferred and it stuck. My parents don’t know why I changed my mind and I have no memory either. Old friends- who knew me from babyhood- still call me Mary Katherine and I like it. It makes me feel known:)
    When my third child went into first grade he asked to be Clayborn, not Clay (his nickname). It made perfect sense to him- Clayborn is his “real” name, so why wouldn’t we call him that? So we do. For the most part.

  20. Legally changed my name from Charlene to Cai as part of my sex change (female-to-male), because my mom was against me masculinizing my name to Charles. She now regrets it, so I’m waiting for the pandemic shutdown to end so the courts can legally process my second name change. I was thinking of going with the German «Carl», Irish «Searlas», or Scottish «Tearlach», given I’m only a hair English but mostly Celtic and some German…but given I still live in the States I’m going an English name. It’ll also help when in a few years I get certified as a welder and machinist, to have a “normal” or “traditional” name to better sell myself and my services.

    1. I’m so glad your mom has come around and you can have the name you want/that feels like you. I think Carl is a common enough name in the US that you won’t get many comments about it, if that’s the variation of your name you really prefer. It’s my uncle’s name (but he spells it Karl).

  21. I’ve switched back and forth several times. My name is Margaret, but my parents called me Peggy or Peg (so 50s!). I never liked it (or them) so when I started elementary school I went by Margaret. That lasted until high school, when most people called me Peg–don’t remember why. I was also Peg in college, but my best friend always called me Margaret or Maggie, and when I followed her to an intentional community in Northern Ireland she introduced me as Margaret, and that’s who I’ve been for the last 40 years.
    After I broke with my family of origin I refused to answer to Peg. When people try I give them a stony look, and say, “Peg’s dead. I’m Margaret.” For some reason, no one ever argues or asks why;)

  22. Maybe a little help for pronouncing the “r” right: in french, the “r” is just a little air in the back of your throat; most of the time, foreigners overpronounce it (is it because of old french movies or edith piaf? we’ll never know). Try “Flora” without making a sound between the o and the a first, and then add a little bit of air. Not too much ;-)
    Hope it helps. (and yes, I’m a teacher)

    1. I grew up fluently bilingual (English-French —-or was it French-English?) and I must say that this advice for the French r is brilliant. :) I also love to guide anglo friends with the French u sound. I make them do an exaggerated O with their mouth and say eeee. Works like a charm. (I’m not a teacher, though.)

  23. My daughter’s middle name is Annabelle with the first “a” pronounced like the “a” in the word “band.” She announced that it is now to be pronounced “ah” so that she can have two princess names (from Frozen and Beauty and the Beast) for a middle name. She’s five. :)

  24. My mom named me Rochelle, and my father (the ultimate nicknamer) started calling me Rocky as a newborn. Through my entire childhood I went by Rocky with family and friends outside of school. However I was embarrassed by it at school, so in order to avoid being made fun of I went by the name on the attendance sheet, Rochelle. In high school my school life and personal life converged and there was a mix of people who used both names. So in college I dropped the Rochelle and started going by Rocky whenever I met people. Here I am almost 20 years later still going by my Nickname. I was a tomboy who loved rough and tumble sports..now I’m an engineer who loves to DIY and wood work…I feel like I’ve pretty much been a “Rocky” my whole life.

  25. I was born in the fifties when Susan was a very popular name. There were four Susans in my third grade class. I never liked my name because it seemed like most girls were a form of Susan so when I went away to college, I decided to use my middle name Renee. My family couldn’t make the switch plus it just never fit me. I transferred to a different college for my sophomore year and went back to being Susan. I’m happy with my name now.

  26. We called my younger son “baby” (because he was the baby!) until he was a little over two when he announced “I not baby, I Paxton!” (his actual name). Then when he was four he told me he didn’t like the name Paxton and wanted to be called Pineapple. Thankfully he grew out of it and lets us call him Paxton now!

  27. our son is the first born male grandchild in a line of men named Nicolaas, my husband’s family don’t alternate and so they call the boys nicknames that are just a word for little boy. I started calling our son after my own grandfather when he was still in utero, so both his names are inherited but he does not like either of the names. His first name is Nicolaas, his second name is William, we call him Billy. boys at school tease him.. i hope he finds a name that he likes.

  28. My youngest almost-7 daughter is named Annette, a name I chose and adore. It fits her beautifully – she’s quick-witted and sassy, funny and smart. Sometimes my husband’s family calls her “Annie”, which I find interesting since at this early phase of life (she’s six years old), I feel you take the name queue from the parents. She is not Annie.

    I’ve also regretted not giving her middle name the name of her paternal grandma. When she was about two, I looked into changing it legally. Then time slipped by, and a few years later my mother-in-law became ill. We talked again about changing her name. Of course by then (when Annette was five), I had to talk with her about it I also told my mom about it, in an effort to be proactive with possible hurt feelings – my mom’s middle name is Ann, so there’s no way we could have used that name, Annette Ann, ha!

    Anyways, my MIL’s illness progressed quickly, leading to her passing. And unfortunately, with my sassy-pants Annette, by talking about changing her middle name, her response was “Oh, and then when I get older I can change my first name!”….of course I shuddered. No way, I chose your name, you can’t change that! I think we just missed our boat on this one, unfortunately. But I would have loved to honor her paternal grandma like that.

    My advice now to all (soon-to-be) parents choosing names, if you aren’t drawn/pulled to a specific name, and you’re kind of wandering, then pick a name with good family ties. B/c that name will always mean something.

  29. My given name is Carolyn but I shortened it to Cara in my late 20s. I had never liked Carolyn (vibe, mispronounced, misspelled) and I have a few family members who have also changed their names (Tom to Thom, Pat to Tricia, Elizabeth to Liz). I am in my late 30s now and almost everyone calls me Cara… but I don’t think my parents ever will. They’ve had trouble with other family members’ name changes/nicknames as well- they don’t believe you should change your name from what your parents chose.

    I also don’t care for my middle name (an unusual family last name which sounds like a curse word when it’s mispronounced). I was excited to get rid of my middle name when I got married by making my unmarried name my new middle name, but when I got to the city clerk’s office I discovered that New York is only one of a handful of states that does not allow this as part of a marital name change. I would have had to pursue a second legal name change, with a $200+ fee. I do regret not making that second legal name change now, but as a grad student money was tight and it’s just a middle name.

  30. Though an anglo, I gave my daughter a beautiful name that I fell in love with when I lived in France. We live in a bilingual city in Canada, so I felt quite confident that while the name was uncommon, it would be easily pronouncable by francophones, as well as bilingual anglos. Was I ever shocked to discover that her “French” name baffles most francophones where we live, and that they butcher the pronounciation as much as unilingual anglos. Happily, she has a nickname that she uses with people who she knows won’t master her real name. And I’m glad she loves her name and doesn’t resent me for it.

  31. My grandpa’s name is Ralph, my dad’s name is Ralph Thomas, but he goes by “Tom” and my brother is Thomas David but goes by “Dave.” Though at college, Dave’s dorm room door had the label “Thomas” on it, so he just went by that instead of explaining “David” to people. So confusing when his friends would call our home and ask for “Tom” and I’d hand the phone to my dad.

  32. My parents hoped for a boy whom they would name Martin but instead got a girl. They switched to Martina. Nobody liked that name, therefore they called me Ina from the first day on. I like Ina but on every official document I am Martina, which feels wrong.

  33. My first daughter’s name is Elizabeth but we have called her LIzzy since birth. Most people call her LIzzy but she always writes her name as Elizabeth. If people ask how we spell Lizzie or LIzzy I say E-L-I-Z-A-B-E-T-H. I always get a funny look but that’s how we prefer to do it.

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