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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Worst Thing Someone Ever Said to You About Your Child's Name Post

Linda writes:
Swistle, how 'bout a "Worst Thing Someone Ever Said to You About Your Child's Name" post? Like the time my grandpa-in-law asked if we thought our daughter's name was "appropriate for a little girl?" Um, YES, since she's already BORN AND NAMED. Or my friend whose family REFUSED to call her son by his name because they didn't like it. They just called him something else. I would love to read and fume about this topic.

Oh, ME TOO! Let's do it!

My worst have been things like, "Huh, THAT'S a name you don't hear very often!," which is annoying because you can hear in their tone that they're patting themselves on the back for coming up with something non-negative to say about such a BIZARRO choice.

So tell us your examples! We are waiting to hear! What's the worst thing someone ever said to you about your child's name?

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Baby Girl Allessi

Tallyaya writes:
My husband and I are expecting our third child (a girl) any day now and we still cannot agree on a name!

Naming our first baby (a boy, now 6) was easy. Leonardo (called Leo) Holden. Our 2nd baby (a girl, now 3) was a little harder but eventually we found a name that we both just love, Katriahna (pronounced Cat-Ree-Ah-Na) Adara. We call her Kat. But for the life of us we cannot figure out a name for our new little one that will sound right with both of her sibling's names as well as with our last name (Allessi) and it's driving us crazy!

We're hoping for something that can be shortened into a 3 letter nickname (Like Kat and Leo) but barring that we both like names that aren't too mainstream, yet also aren't too "out there", as I know what it's like to have a name that makes most people go "huh?" when you introduce yourself.

I've always liked the name Lisar but then that doesn't really sound quite right when paired with Allessi. My husband's family is very old world Italian, so anything from Italian origins could work too.

Please help!

It gets harder with every child, doesn't it! Each new name has to sound right with the others---and previous names can eliminate whole batches of possibilities, such as how using the name Ian might rule out Owen, Evan, Kian, Liam, etc.

This, though, is one of the most challenging situations I have ever tackled. I started by looking in The Baby Name Wizard, which has a whole section of Italian names. I scanned for any that would have three-letter nicknames:

Arianna - Ari
Chiara - Chi
Donatella - Don
Emilia- Lia
Gemma - Gem
Gianna - Gia
Giovanna - Gio
Liliana - Lil
Maddalena - Mad
Michela - Mic
Mirella - Mir
Raffaella - Raf
Silvia - Sil
Valeria - Val
Vincenza - Vin
Viviana - Viv

Some of those nicknames are kind of a stretch: Leo and Kat are established, familiar nicknames, but Sil? Vin? Maybe not. And Gio and Lia are so similar to Leo---okay, or not okay? The nicknames that look like the best possibilities to me are Ari and Gia. Arianna Allessi and Gianna Allessi both sound great---but unfortunately I think the "-anna" ending is too similar to Katriahna: Katriahna and Arianna, Katriahna and Gianna.

Then I tried some -ellas. Raffaella is pretty, and it's good with the siblings: Leonardo, Katriahna, and Raffaella. But then the double-L starts messing with your last name: Raffaella Allessi is a lot of A and L. Same for Aribella Allessi, Mirella Allessi, and so on. So no -annas, and no -ellas.

This is quite a corner we're painted into here. The surname, the 3-letter-nickname, the Italian. Even when we remove the Italian, we still run into trouble---and since Leonardo and Katriahna both have the Italian sound, and the name Allessi sounds Italian too, I like the idea of keeping the Italian.

Desperate times call for desperate measures: I changed strategies and started with the nickname instead. Leo and Kat are both familiar, contemporary-sounding names, and I don't think we can combine them with, for example, Sil or Don. Leo and Kat have SASS. If we want a 3-letter nickname to go with those, I think we want to look at:


Keep in mind that you may not be alone in the quest: sass is in style. The hottest competition will be for longer versions of short names that are perceived as getting too popular, such as Ava: now that it's in the top ten, people will be looking for a name that lets them have Ava without actually using Ava.

So let's start instead with something there's less competition for: Ali. There were a lot of Allisons going by Ally, Ali, and Alli when I was younger, but the Alisons have been going steadily down since the 1970s and there won't be as many of them now. Longer versions of Ali to consider: Alissandra, Alixandra, Aliyah, Alina, Aliza. I like Alissandra. I would have thought the A and the SS would be too much with Allessi, but instead I think it's pretty: Alissandra Allessi. I think it's because the "-andra" comes in the middle to break it up. Leonardo, Katriahna, and Alissandra. Leo, Kat, and Ali.

Ada has a similar sound to Ava, but hasn't come into style---yet. It did just show up again on the top 1000, so I imagine I'm not the only one who's noticed how much it sounds like Ava, and some people will be looking for ways to get the nickname Addy now that Addison is getting so popular. Long versions to consider: Adaline, Adamaris. I'm not sure, but I think both of those are short-A, not long.

Well, let's look at longer versions of Ava anyway, even though I think that's where you'll find the most competition of all: Avamaria. That might be the only one. I like it, though: Avamaria Allessi. Leo, Kat, and Ava. Leonardo, Katriahna, and Avamaria. Familiar but not common, pretty but sassy. I don't know if it's Italian per se, but maybe it is---it sure has that Italian SOUND. I really like that one.

Longer versions of Bea: Oh, this is where we find Beatrix, one of my current favorites! Oh, I wish someone would use Beatrix. Beatrix Allessi! But even through eyes filmed with love I can see it's not great with Leonardo and Katriahna. Totally different style.

Longer versions of Eva or Eve: Evalynne (do you suppose there's any way to spell it that would make people pronounce that with the long E instead of with the short E? maybe do Eve Lyn?), Evaline (again: long E, any chance?), Evangeline. I like Evangeline. Evangeline Allessi. Leo, Kat, and Eve. Leonardo, Katriahna, and Evangeline.

Longer versions of Mae: Maegen, Maebeth. Wrong style, and my eye reads Maebeth as Macbeth.

Well, this isn't really helping, is it? I don't usually go down this path, but I am beginning to think that name invention is a good idea here. Let's pair a nickname with another ending. Avalyn Allessi. Adamaria Allessi. Mayenna Allessi. Maella Allessi. Gialouisa Allessi. Giamaria Allessi.

Nope, I'm stumped. I've only got three names to consider, all of which I like but I'm not sure it's enough to choose from: Alissandra, Avamaria, and Evangeline. Readers, you have got to help us out here. Vote in the poll at right [poll closed; see below], but turn the bulk of your naming powers to coming up with fresh ideas in the comment section. It should sound good with Allessi; it should sound good with Leonardo and Katriahna; it should ideally have a 3-letter nickname that sounds good with Leo and Kat; it would be neat if it were Italian. I have faith in you! Go!

[Poll results:
Alissandra: 50 votes, roughly 43%
Avamaria: 9 votes, roughly 8%
Evangeline: 57 votes, roughly 49%]

Friday, May 23, 2008

Baby Boy Gibson

Melissa writes:
I have a baby boy due in mid-July. For the entirety of my pregnancy we have referred to him as Baby 2.0.

I have a three-year-old son named Cooper. What my husband and I love about Cooper's name is that it's (a) has a family connection, (b) is a last-name as a first-name, and (c) doesn't have a default nickname (like Matt for Matthew or Tom for Thomas).

There are many last-name as first-names that my husband and I like, such as Jackson or Benson. Our last name is Gibson, though ... so most anything ending in -son sounds a bit cartoonish. We also find names ending in -on, such as Ashton, or even -n, such as Gavin, a bit harsh when combined with our last name. This obviously eliminates so many great names.

We've researched both sides of our family for another acceptable family name and have come up with nothing. We feel Cooper's names have pretty well covered any "family obligation," so we don't have to consider that in naming Baby 2.0.

We're currently considering Sawyer. It goes well with Cooper, is the last-name as a first-name, has literary connections, and shares its first letter with my mother-in-law's name (while Cooper shares its first letter with my mother's name). However, we just don't seem to be feeling it.

We also like Maxwell. It's one of my husband's best friend's middle names. Joaquin Phoenix, one of my favorite actors, also played a character named Maxwell California (from 8 mm, a very dark film, but the character wasn't dark). I don't mind the default nickname, Max. My only real hesitation with Max is that Jennifer Lopez and Christina Aguilera recently named their sons Max. And I think Max Gibson sounds a bit odd ... can't put my finger on it, though.

The middle name will likely be Pate - it's my husband's middle name and his mother's middle name. Again, it's not something we have to use. Other possibilities for middle names: Benson (a friend's last name) or Yaboa (a friend's middle name, it's of African decent and pronounced just as it looks YA-BO-A). The more "common" the first name, the more creative we'll be with the middle name. California is also a contender (my husband is from SoCal), and I love the combination of Maxwell California.

I'm looking for more name suggestions and perhaps some reassurance on the name Maxwell. I'm really hoping he arrives and looks "just like a _____." But I want to be prepared if that doesn't happen!

So, there it is. I really love your opinions and the comments from your readers. As a mom with a nameless baby, reading your blog has been a wonderful, educational distraction during my pregnancy.

Okay! *brisk clap* So it sounds like we want to concentrate on surname names here. I think Sawyer is a great choice: the first time I heard it on a baby, I immediately thought "OMG GREAT NAME." It is terrible with my own surname, but it's great with yours. (Should we use the word "great" again? GREAT!)

I agree with you that there is something I can't put a finger on about the name Max Gibson. Is it maybe just too much like Mel Gibson? It doesn't sound the same, but it's three letters starting with M and maybe that's what does it. Or maybe it blends too well and turns into something like Mack Skibson. Still, it belongs in the poll.

I'm curious as always to know what The Baby Name Wizard suggests as sibling names. For Cooper, the book suggests Carter, Brody, Addison, Walker, Davis. Well. Addison is still in the Top 1000 for boys, but it's #11 for girls so I wouldn't touch it with an 11-foot pole for boys anymore. Carter is a great name, but it repeats not only the C but also the -er, and I think you're completely right about avoiding that. Walker, too, repeats the -er. Brody works, and so does Davis. Brody Gibson. Davis Gibson. Nice!

Let's find some more options.

You can't get much more surnamey than the name Smith, and I think it's adorable. Picture a little toddler with sticky-up hair. Smith! It's like Seth, but with more impact. And I like the repeating short-i sound: Smith Gibson.

Would Everett be to your tastes? It's one of my favorite surname names. It doesn't have any tempting nicknames, and I like it with Cooper. Everett Gibson.

Wesley is another good one: a long-standing surname name without the trendy feeling of some of the more recent surname names. I love the nickname Wes. Wesley Gibson.

So here's our list of possibilities:

Sawyer Gibson; Cooper and Sawyer
Maxwell Gibson; Cooper and Maxwell
Brody Gibson; Cooper and Brody
Davis Gibson; Cooper and Davis
Smith Gibson; Cooper and Smith
Everett Gibson; Cooper and Everett
Wesley Gibson; Cooper and Wesley

Vote in the poll over to the right [poll closed; see below], and/or put other suggestions in the comment section.

[Poll results:
Sawyer: 47 votes, roughly 26%
Maxwell: 4 votes, roughly 2%
Brody: 19 votes, roughly 10%
Davis: 23 votes, roughly 13%
Smith: 35 votes, roughly 19%
Everett: 25 votes, roughly 14%
Wesley: 28 votes, roughly 15%]

[Name Update! Melissa writes:
My little guy was due on July 18 - we were consider Sawyer or Maxwell at the time. Well, he was born on July 4! Happy and healthy at 7 lbs. 14 oz. and head full of light brown hair.

After reading the comments and seeing the poll, we still just weren't feeling it. So, I told my husband: Listen, I picked Cooper's first name and that worked out, so I'm just going to pick something and you're going to agree. At that moment, a Toyota Camry commercial came on and I said, "Camden." We both liked it instantly.

Camden and Cooper are quite a bit matchier than we wanted, but we're not sure we'll have a third. We figured we'd use it and should a third come along, well, we'll deal with that then. We also figured, we both loved Cooper, why wouldn't we love a similar name? Camden is on the softer side, is a last name, isn't popular (in the 200s on the SSA site), and is similar enough to Caden and Cameron that it's not too weird. Also, Camden means "winding river" which I thought was so peaceful.

For his middle name, we went with Jack. I know there's been quite a bit of discussion on the blog about Jack as a middle name, but I couldn't resist. Camden Jack ... reminds me of a nature show host or a pirate. I love Animal Planet and my three year old loves pirates, so we're all happy!

Thank you!


Thursday, May 22, 2008

Baby Naming Issue: Acquaintances Using the Same Name

Stacey writes:
Hi Swistle! My name is Stacey and we just recently found out we are having a baby boy! Since the start of this pregnancy we have only talked about 3 boy names: Lucas, William and Michael.

Recently our neighbors found out they are also having a boy and naming him William because in their family it's tradition and he will be a third. Understandable.

And even more recently some friends of ours had a baby boy and named him William.

This gets my husband thinking we are not allowed to use the name "William". (FYI, we would call him Will)

We are not super close with either of these couples. I personally feel if it was an uncommon name then yes, it would seem odd but William is such a classic name that I don't see it as we are copying, per se. Also, yes we do have couples that we are VERY close too, and in that case I would probably avoid it because our children would be around each other often, but I don't see that happening with these other couples I mentioned.

What is your opinion on this?

We both like the name Michael, which would be after my brother but we have also thought we would save that name if we have a second boy someday UNLESS this baby pops out and resembles him, then we might change our minds.

I am not feeling the name Lucas. I don't hate it but it's just not IT for me.

Any thoughts?

I'm totally with you on the William issue: if the name were Oswald, and your neighbors used it and then some friends of yours used it, I'd say maybe you should reconsider---not because they have exclusive rights to the name, but just because it would be getting pretty silly to have a third Oswald right in a row.

But in the case of a name such as William, I don't think some mild duplication among acquaintances is going to be a problem. It's a terrific name: classic, long roots, and I like the nickname Will. I seriously think it's one of the best boy names. (You might be thinking, "Um, duh, it's your son's name"---but it's only his pseudonym.)

Michael is another truly terrific candidate. It's been in the top ten forever, and yet there are no Michaels in any of my kids' classes. And again: classic, long roots, and great nickname. I really don't think you can go wrong with either William or Michael.

With Lucas, the only thing wrong with it is that you're not feeling it. I had that same experience with some of the names Paul and I considered for our kids: the name was great in every way---except that it didn't feel like "My Baby." It felt like a great name for somebody ELSE'S baby.

Tell your husband not to be silly: use William. And next time, use Michael. What great sibling names!

[Update! Stacey writes: "He arrived August 1st, 7lbs 10 oz and we went with the name Lucas Robert. Initially I wasn't feeling it but the closer it got the more I liked the name and now I can't imagine him any thing other than a Luke. Thanks for your help!"]

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Flynn, Piper, and Baby Boy ____

Jarrod writes:
Looking for some help here with a boys name. I have a son Flynn Andrew, 5, and a daughter Piper Jane, 3. We have a boy coming in less than a month, and are struggling with a name.....or maybe I am.

The boys middle name will be "William," after my father-in-law. My wife loves the name "Cash," and I like it, but am struggling with Cash meaning money. We really like names that are unusual, and names that are traditionally last names. Also, we like one syllable names.

Can you give us your opinion on Cash, and how it goes with the other kids names?

Thanks for your help.

I, too, always think of money whenever I hear the name Cash. It's too bad, because that name has a lot going for it: it's strong but it's softened by its ending; it's unusual but familiar; it's easy to spell and pronounce. But I always think of cash money and cold hard cash. This is one of the downfalls of Noun Names.

Let's see if we can find some other names to choose from. I like to start by seeing what The Baby Name Wizard suggests as brother names for the children you have already:

Flynn: Keane, Hayes, Fife, Archer, Wynn
Piper: Reece, Carter, Finn, Walker, Riley

Well, it's always hit-and-miss. I mean, seriously: Wynn as a brother for Flynn? Flynn and Wynn? And Fife looks took much like Fifi to me. And of course Finn isn't going to work.

But Keane seems like a very good option: one-syllable, unusual, and a surname name. It has the same hard-C sound as Cash. It's great with your other children's names: Flynn, Piper, and Keane. And it's good with the middle name: Keane William. I love it. Hayes and Reece seem good, too, although I'd use alternate spelling Rhys to avoid reminding people of Reese Witherspoon.

Some more one-syllable options:


From that list, my favorites with Flynn and Piper are Beck, Graham, Reid, Tate, and Teague: they all have the same happy sound. Teague seems like a particularly good candidate: Teague William; Flynn, Piper, and Teague. Tied with that is Keane, which I think is just about perfect on all counts. Those are the two I'd put my money on, speaking of cash.

All you really asked, though, was whether I thought Cash went with your other kids' names. I think it's not a clash, but not a perfect fit, either. Flynn and Piper have a lighthearted, almost whimsical sound; Cash has more of a preppy sound (if it makes you picture expensive suits and slick hair) or a country sound (if it makes you think of Johnny Cash). I would put Cash with siblings such as Brooks and Sloane, or with Ty and Wyatt. But again, I think it works fine with Flynn and Piper, too.

The rest of us, let's vote! I put Cash along with my favorites in the poll at right [poll closed; see below], but of course you can do write-ins in the comment section.

[Poll results:
Cash: 17 votes, roughly 10%
Keane: 49 votes, roughly 29%
Beck: 18 votes, roughly 11%
Graham: 11 votes, roughly 7%
Reid: 33 votes, roughly 20%
Tate: 19 votes, roughly 11%
Teague: 22 votes, roughly 13%]

Thursday, May 15, 2008


Kate writes:
Help! My fiance's cousin has named her baby Daemon. With an e. Pronounced like Damon, Dame-On. To me, daemon means demon. Not Damon.

Has Daemon become an acceptable alternative to Damon? Is it just those of us with a knowledge of Greek who instantly think demon? Or am I right, and this kid's going to be called Devil...?

If it's the former, how would you go about raising it? Would you raise it at all?

I, too, immediately think "demon." According to Wikipedia, the spelling "daemon" means something a little different. WHAT it means is still unclear to me: that particular Wikipedia entry I couldn't quite understand even after reading it three times. Well, and it doesn't really matter, does it, if a daemon can be good or bad while a demon is always bad? The name is still making at least you and me (and probably others) think immediately of demons.

Now, as to how I'd raise the issue with the new parents. I wouldn't raise it. If someone were pregnant and considering the name Daemon and asked my opinion, I might say something, although I'd be verrrrrry careful saying it: I don't know if everyone is like this, but I'm touchy and defensive about names I like, so I'd assume the same about the person I was talking to, just in case.

But if the baby is born and the name is given, I don't think I'd utter a single peep. It will be difficult not to say anything, but the chances of them changing the baby's name at this point are slim to none, and the chances of them shooting the messenger are high. Either they know and they did it on purpose (are they mythology buffs? gamers? computer geeks?), or they're oblivious and not likely to be seeking enlightenment. At this point, it's Game Over.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Even the Top 10 is Not Necessarily the Kiss of Death

Last time, we talked about how just because a name is in the Top 100 doesn't mean it's too common to use. Today, we take it further.

I would declare this: that EVEN A TOP 10 NAME is not too common to use. I know, right? Pretty bold, yes?

Check out the name Emily. It has been the #1 most popular girl name in the U.S. for the last twelve years. It was no slacker before then, either: it's been in the Top 50 since 1975. That is a long time to be popular---and yet I don't know ONE SINGLE CHILD with the name Emily. Between them, my first two children have been in nine classrooms and three summer camps, and not one single Emily. You'd think you'd be stepping on a heap of Emilys every time you turned around, and yet at least some of us are not.

Aside from the occasional fluke (in one of William's classes---but only one---there were two Isabellas, two Abigails, two Emmas, two Jacobs, and three Williams), this is true of all the Top 10 names: even though they're the most popular names, they're still not born so often that there are "five in every classroom." The expression "five in every classroom" is an exaggeration I would love to see die out, because it is scaring the people who think it means they have to name their daughter Xzathianna unless they basically want her to be Jennifer.

Waiting for a parent-teacher conference with a teacher who was way behind schedule, I walked up one side of the school hallway and down the other. Outside of each door was a decoration made from the students' first names. Just about every single classroom had a Jacob: Jacob has been the most popular name for boys in the U.S. for the last nine years, and it's been in the Top 50 since 1978. But none of the classrooms had TWO Jacobs. I saw quite a few Emmas and Madisons and Laurens---but not TWO per classroom. Just one.

Even my assertion that there was a Jacob in every classroom is highly suspect: just over 1.5% of boys were given that name in 2001. That's roughly 3 Jacobs per 200 boys. If classrooms are about half boys, and there are about 20 kids in a class, that's 3 Jacobs per TWENTY classes. And that is the most popular boy name. Let's just pause a moment so this can sink in. Number ONE most popular boy name. Three of them per twenty classrooms. Not per class.

In 2001 when my son was born, 32,493 U.S. boys were named Jacob; 25,043 U.S. girls were named Emily. Jacob was the most popular name for boys, and Emily the most popular name for girls. In 1973, when I was born, the most popular name for boys was Michael, and there were 67,799 new ones born that year. The most popular name for girls was Jennifer, and there were 62,434 new ones born that year.

See that? Significantly more than DOUBLE the number of children had the top name in 1973 than in 2001. Since class size has also been decreasing in some areas (classes were often 25 to 30 in my childhood schools, but my kids' classes have been around 20), you can see how that would dramatically impact the "five in every class" problem. If there were 2-1/2 times more Jennifers than Emilys, in a class 1-1/2 times as large, then a classroom with 1 Emily born in 2001 would have had 3 to 4 Jennifers born in 1973.

Well, goodness! That does explain the near paranoia the current parents have about using an overly-popular name! Although, my numbers are unrealistic: there ISN'T one Emily per classroom, but more like...[IMPENDING MATH ALERT! Feel free to duck out for a few lines]...let's see...1.27 Emilys per 100 female births is 1 Emily per 79 female births. Those 79 girls would divide into about 8 classrooms of 20 children (approximately half of them girls). So that's 1 Emily per 8 classes, on average across the United States. At their highest peak in 1973-1974, there were 4.03 Jennifers per 100 female births: about 4 Jennifers for every 10 classes of 20 kids, or about 4 Jennifers for 6.66 classrooms of the 30-kid classes I remember in the '70s. Still fewer than 1 Jennifer on average per class, even for a name so legendary in its overuse it is STILL mentioned as the prime example of name people don't want to give their kids. "I don't want her to be, like, a JENNIFER," they say.

Well, don't worry about it, because there aren't any names as overused as Jennifer right now. In 2007, the #1 girl name was not even 1% of all female births; compare that once again to Jennifer, which in its prime was more than 4% of all female births.

If you like a Top 10 name, and it is your favorite, and you love it---then go ahead and use it. Take the rising and falling of names into account, take the ranking of names into account---but if the name you want is a Top 10 name, you really don't have to worry that there will be five in every classroom.

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Top 100 is Not Necessarily the Kiss of Death

Don't worry, Tessie: there is more talking to do about the 2007 Social Security Baby Name List! My teeny post from the other day was a heads-up, not the full thing.

If there is ONE THING I would like to shout from the mountaintops in re the Social Security's baby name information, it is that THE TOP 100 IS NOT (necessarily) THE KISS OF DEATH.

Some people, when they say "not in the Top 100" DO know what they mean by that, and they really do want to stay out of that level of use. But MOST people DON'T know what they mean by it: they think anything in the Top 100 is "5 of them in a classroom" common. When in fact, these are all names on the 2000 Top 100 list:



I chose names I've never heard on a real child, but of course your experience with the list will vary based on the particular children you've come in contact with in schools and daycares and playgroups and in your family/friends group. My point is not that any one name on the list is SO UNUSUAL, but rather that the Top 100 is not like "the name Jennifer in 1975": even the most common names are not all that common. (Even the name Jennifer---which was practically an epidemic---didn't often result in the "five in her class" problem so often cited as a reason to avoid Top 100 names.)

Some of the names may SOUND common: for example, you might be saying, "Wait---she doesn't know anyone named Jennifer???" No, no, I mean I don't know any CHILDREN named Jennifer. Jennifer is a Mommy Name right now, not a child's name. And so it goes on the list: I've never run into a child named Jennifer since I've been not-a-child---even though the name hasn't left the Top 100.

Notice, by the way, that I used the 2000 list for those names, not the 2007: the 2007 babies are so new, I probably haven't run into many of them. The 2000 babies, though, are in grade school now, so they're in the public consciousness.

Okay, it is TOO IMPOSSIBLE to keep typing about this: Elizabeth has moved from "coloring nearby" to "on my lap talking about things and messing with the keyboard." So that's enough for now, but WE WILL RETURN.

Subject for discussion right now: "The Top 100 is not (necessarily) the kiss of death."

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Twins! Lincoln and Lillian/Suzanna

Queen writes:
Here's a naming fiend question: What do you think of matching twin names? Evil? OK, if not carried too far? (We will NOT be going for the anagram names Roland and Arnold, for instance. Or rhyming. Gag.)

Baby B is going to be Lincoln (Lincoln Theodore if he is in fact the only boy) and that's that. For Baby A, assuming her to be a her and not a sneaky boy, we are wavering between Lillian Ruth and Suzanna Ruth. Both of them mean approximately the same thing and would be chosen in honor of the same family members.

I like Lillian/Lilly a little better (my grandmother's first name is Lillie) even though it is so very popular right now. (The same thing happened to Abigail. I can't help it if other people have good taste!) Also, Link and Lilly sounds rather cute together.

On the other hand, I think my husband prefers Suzanna slightly. There is no doubt that it would be handy to have a separate first initial to differentiate things. We would use the nickname Zuzu until she got old enough to object, and after that I rather fancy Zanna and hope she does, too. I abhor Suzy or anything that sounds like it, which makes me a tad nervous about using this name.

If Baby A is a boy after all, he will probably be Emmett (Another last name! Gasp! But a traditional usage as a first name. Also it means "truth" in Hebrew.)


Ooooo, TWIN names! I found it both highly fun and highly stressful to name my twins. Matching twin names (Timmy and Tommy, Sharon and Karen, Paul and Paula) have been out of style since Timmy and Sharon and Paula were on the list of hot baby names. You do still hear of people doing it, of course, but the current prevailing attitude is Twin Names Should Not Match.

Still, I was hoping for some slight matchiness: same first initial, maybe, or at least same syllables or same number of letters! SOMEthing! The pseudonyms I use for them (Elizabeth and Edward) are misleading, because we ended up with zero matchiness of any kind: the girl name we liked best and the boy name we liked best didn't have anything in common, and we weren't willing to give up either name, so we gave up on the matchiness instead. Or perhaps "coordination" would be a more appropriate word: we weren't trying to MATCH so much as coordinate.

Even though I still think wistfully of alliteration, I do think it's a good twin-naming exercise to think of the twins arriving as singletons instead of together: which name would you choose for the first baby, born on his or her own, and then what name for the second baby, born a couple of years after that? If you had a son named Lincoln already, what would you name his sister?

As you point out, it is very handy indeed to have different initials: for the baby born after the twins, I leaned heavily toward any name candidate with a yet-unused initial.

If you do go with Lincoln and Lillian, I notice that "Linc and Lilly" sounds like "Lincoln Lilly." I'd switch the order to "Lilly and Linc"---but that sounds like "Lillian Linc"!

Let's ask Mairzy!

Although I've always actively hoped against having twins, I have to say, I envy you (and Swistle) the fun of twin-naming! This is my chance to have a bit of the fun without actually having two babies at once. (Note: the Queen and I are friends, but I don't live close enough to babysit... which means I can offer with great abandon because she can't take me up on it.)

My opinion of twin names -- a completely unauthorized opinion but when did that ever matter? -- is that they should go together but not match. Tenleigh and George, for instance, do not go together. Suzanna and Lincoln go together very well, but aren't a package deal. Lincoln and Lillian edge over the package-deal line.

Lincoln is a cool name, and Link a cool nickname. Also, Link and Lilly (I like the double-L spelling) is very cute. But, coolness and cuteness aside, I think you'll drive yourself crazy with those names. There is every possibility that you'll refer to your children as "Lill and Linky." And then there's the Repeating Initial trap. In my family, none of us has matching or rhyming names. But some of us (my son and I, my husband and daughter) have the same first initial. Labeling things has become a certified headache. If there are going to be more than four people in the household, Avoid Repeating First Letters! Then again, I love my children's names so much that I don't know which one I'd change. Hm. Maybe I'd change mine and my husband's.

Suzanna is a lovely name. I do prefer the Susannah spelling -- it's softer -- but Suzanna is legitimate. Plus, you can hope to use Zanna with that spelling. (What sixteen-year-old girl wouldn't want a cool name beginning with Z?) Nowadays, people don't automatically jump to nicknames like previous generations did; I don't think you have to worry about "Suzy."

If Suzanna turns out to be a sneaky boy... I love last-names-as-first-names. My own son's name is a surname, although it's been used as a first name long enough that you don't immediately realize it. But that's the type of name I always find myself picking out: one of the top contenders on our boy list is Reid. And it's an age-old tradition, not necessarily trendy and preppy. As for Emmett... we not only considered Emmett for a boy, but we went a step beyond and were going to use the actual Hebrew word for truth, Emeth. (I'm glad now that Baby turned out to be a girl, because I think we'd have regretted stepping out quite that far.). Emmett is a great name, one of the few gentlemanly boy names left not co-opted by girls (see: Avery, Reese, Vaughn). A word of caution: Emmett is up-and-coming popular. But that shouldn't discredit such a good name (she says without any trace of bias, having just admitted that she was going to use a form of the name for one of her own children).

To sum up, I like Lincoln and Suzanna best; and if the situation warrants it, Emmett and Lincoln would make a good pair.

And call me any time you need a babysitter!

Thanks, Mairzy!

Let's make a poll [poll closed; see below] that assumes Lincoln is the only boy, and let's have a vote on the name for the girl twin: Lillian (Lillian and Lincoln, Lilly and Linc, matching initials), or Suzanna (Suzanna and Lincoln, Zuzu and Linc, non-matching initials).

But even more interesting, I think, would be your thoughts on twin names. What would you do, if you had twins to name? Would you match a lot? a little? not at all? If you used my method of pretending you were naming the babies individually, would you hope for matchiness, or hope for none?

[Poll results:
Lincoln and Suzanna: 64 votes, roughly 63%
Lincoln and Lillian: 37 votes, roughly 37%]

Mairzy writes:
Queen asked me to send an update for her, seeing as she's now home with four children ages 4 and under. As she put it, "...Brain fog is getting pretty serious around here. Actually they're both very good babies and either one would be a piece of cake solo. But not being able to part with either, I shall just have to figure out both at once."

So here are the new arrivals, born July 9:

Suzanna Ruth
7lbs, 12oz; 20.5 in

Lincoln Theodore
6lbs, 15oz; 20 in]

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Social Security Name List 2007!

The 2007 baby name information is up at the Social Security site: This is the real list based on actual birth certificates, not that stupid sham list Baby Center puts out based on a survey of their non-representative readership. Shammers!

By the way, as Jess Loolu points out, the name Nevaeh (Heaven spelled backward) is now number THIRTY-ONE. And I still can't remember how to pronounce it.

Also, I would like to point out that reversing or inverting things is, traditionally, the way to make them the opposite, or evil. Upside-down crosses, upside-down flags, upside-down stars, backwards lyrics: all very bad. Perhaps it would be better to go with a name like Christina or Angel or Heaven, if that's the effect you want. JUST SAYING.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Baby Girl ___ McManaway Erdos

Anne writes:
I am having a terrible time coming up with a name for girl #2, due to arrive in June. My first baby's name is Esme, and I love, love, love this name to pieces. It seems impossible to come up with another girl's name that seems as special to me and resonates as much.

My criteria are: It has to be uncommon, but not "made up." It must go with a last name, two syllables, Erdos, pronounced "AIR-dose" (with emphasis on the first syllable--so first names with the emphasis on the last syllable are out, as they make the two names together sound awkward). I don't want cutesy, but I do want feminine.

Anyway--my top choice right now is Astrid. What do you think? Middle name will be McManaway (family name on my side, and non-negotiable). I'm not too concerned about the flow of the first name with the middle name, since it won't be spoken aloud very often. The problem is, I like Astrid, but I don't LOVE it the way I love Esme. Other thoughts I have had were Greer (but doesn't go with the last name), Henrietta (which I think is adorable, but I fear would not be enjoyed by the baby, who might think it's ugly and grandma), Luella (which my husband hates), Arden (but waaaay too trendy sounding), Odile (but emphasis on the wrong syllable), Delphine (same), Elodie (love, but hard to say in way that doesn't sound either too French and snotty or too American and like "melody"), Clementine (but I think people would think this was a joke).

Anyway, any guidance would be much appreciated--I am spending far too much of my time obsessing over this, and really need to get back to work!

I, too, am a fan of the name Henrietta. I'm not quite ready to use it on a baby of my own, but I'd be thrilled if someone else did. I think its time is coming---perhaps when everyone is done with Emma and Violet. The nicknames are darling: Henrie, Hennie, Hen, Ettie. People generally love long girly names with short boyish nicknames (Samantha/Sam, Alexandra/Alex), so why not Henrietta/Henry? Well, you and me and the little bird agree. Maybe we'll have granddaughters with that name.

Hey, since we agree on Henrietta, I wonder if you'd like another of my favorites that gets dissed as too old-ladyish: Millicent. I think it's beautiful. I think it's great with Esme, too: Esme and Millicent. Also, don't you think people have SOME CHEEK calling names "too old-ladyish" while they continue to say they like "old-fashioned" names like Emma and Violet? ME TOO!

I turned to the name Esme in The Baby Name Wizard to find sister names, and look! Sister names: Elodie, Clio, Ivy, Noa, Fleur. Elodie is the first one! I love the name Elodie and I don't think it sounds snotty---but then, I pronounce it like Melody without the M. Cute monogram, too: EME.

(I notice, saying these possibilities aloud, that your surname is wily: it combines with first names. Elo-dee-air-dos sounds like one long word---perhaps a vacation destination. So does Astri-dare-dos.)

I'm going to keep looking at sister names in The Baby Name Wizard:

Astrid: Sigrid, Dagmar, Signe, Greta, Margit
Henrietta: Winifred, Cordelia, Beatrice, Matilda, Wilhelmina
Elodie: Esme, Amelie, Sabine, Cecily, Ariane
Clementine: Millicent, Violette, Henrietta, Marguerite, Eloise

Any of those strike your fancy? Look, there's Millicent! It's like a SIGN!

Or what about:

Arwen (AME)
Linden (LME)
Ariadne (AME)
Larkin (LME)
Carsten (CME)
Linnea (LME)
Amabel (AME)
Lorelei (LME)
Hazel (HME)

What does everyone else think about a sister for Esme? Vote in the poll at right [poll closed; see below], and/or leave more suggestions in the comments.

[Poll results:
Henrietta: 16 votes; roughly 11%
Millicent: 16 votes, roughly 11%
Elodie: 49 votes, roughly 33%
Astrid: 9 votes, roughly 6%
Arwen: 6 votes, roughly 4%
Linden: 4 votes, roughly 3%
Ariadne: 5 votes, roughly 3%
Larkin: 4 votes, roughly 3%
Linnea: 14 votes, roughly 9%
Lorelei: 17 votes, roughly 11%
Hazel: 9 votes, roughly 6%]

[Updated! Anne writes:
As promised, here's the verdict: We named our baby, born June 4, Astrid. I was thisclose to choosing Elodie, having consulted with a French friend and everything, who assured me it was pronounced more "Eh-lo-dee" as opposed to "Ay-lo-dee", which almost got me there, but in the end it was just too similar to Melody, a name I very much do not like. Anyway, now that she is an Astrid it seems to suit her very well and I can't imagine anything else, though I keep reading sites like these because I find the whole process of naming one's children to be endlessly fascinating!


Saturday, May 3, 2008

Baby Girl Thalia/Lena D.

Lindsay writes:
I just found this blog, and it is just what I need at the moment! Immediate moment. I'm due in less than a week with our second baby girl, and we need naming advice. My husband is Greek, and in fact we live in Greece at the moment. I'm American. Our first daughter is named Audrey Victoriana. Her middle name covers all honoring of relatives that we were obliged to do, so we are free to name the second as we wish - as long as the first name is Greek (this is my husband's wish since Audrey is not Greek at all). Our last name starts with a D, ends with a S and is 2 syllables, 6 letters.

While there are a ton of beautiful Greek girl names, we don't want anything too common here or anywhere. So we have settled on either Lena (my pick) or Thalia (his pick). The first bit of advice needed is what do you think of Thalia? Originally I didn't like it all all - mostly because of the beginning "Th" sound. It has definitely grown on me, but I'm still not totally in love with it. My husband loves it because even living in Athens most of his life, he has never met a Thalia.

My second issue is the middle name. My favorite girl name is Scarlett. If we had a third girl sometime in the future, I could finally use this name....but chances are, we're done with babies, and I want to use the name. But Lena Scarlett D _____ has the initials LSD...should I care about this? I don't want to scar her for life, but is it really that important? While Lena Scarlett is nice, I think that there are other names that sound better with Lena - Lena Rose, Lena Mae, Lena Josephine, etc. Thalia Scarlett poses no problem intial-wise, and I'm quite happy with the flow.

So there are my issues. Advice, opinions, thoughts are all welcome!

The first question is, What do we think of the name Thalia? I looked up the Greek pronunciation of it, and it looks like the first half is pronounced somewhere between "TAL" and "t'HAL" (rhymes with Hal and shall), and the second half is pronounced somewhere between "yuh" and "ee-uh." The emphasis is on the first half. I think it's beautiful name.

Lena is also a beautiful name. I do think Lena is a better international choice, not that I know Thing One about international names---but Lena has fewer tricky sounds. Still, I think both names are great. Let's make the first poll a simple choice between the two names. [Poll closed; see below.]

Now. Initials, and whether it's okay for them to spell something. When I choose my babies' names, my answer to that is no. I don't even like the initials to spell something good. But that's purely a matter of personal taste, not of universally-agreed-upon okayness or not-okayness. So let's make the second poll a question of what people think of the initials LSD. [Poll closed; see below.]

If you're not entirely pleased with the rhythm of the names that spell LSD, it may be a moot issue. Perhaps you could make the first name the deciding factor on that: if you use your choice for first name, you could save the name Scarlett just in case; if your husband gets his choice for first name, you could use the name you love as the middle name.

Weigh in, everyone!

[Poll results:

Thalia: 54 votes
Lena: 48 votes

LSD is fine: 40 votes
LSD is not fine: 58 votes]