This blog has moved! Please join us over at!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Baby Boy or Girl MOE-zhur

Arwen writes:
My husband and I have a Boy Name Issue.

When I was pregnant with our daughter who is now two, we didn't find out her sex before she was born. We also found ourselves completely unable to agree on a single boy name we both liked. I was in labor and we were still trying to think of a name! We would have been in such big trouble if our daughter had been a boy instead!

Fortunately she is a girl, and her name is Camilla Claire. Camilla is a name I've always loved, which was pushed to the top of our list when my husband's grandmother, who was called Camilla, died two months before our girl was born. Our last name is pronounced MOE-zhur and I love the whole combination of our daughter's name. Two years later I'm still very happy with it.

But now I am 38 weeks pregnant with baby #2. We've got a list of girl names and we'll be fine if this baby is a girl, but if it's a boy, we're back to square one.

The problem is, I have two naming priorities that seem to be at odds with one another.

1) It's important to me that sibling names fit with each other. I don't care so much about them *sounding* good together, as much as being in the same general category. My mom calls this the "Bailey and Alessandra" problem - if you name one of your kids a gender-neutral modern name like Bailey, you can't give a sibling an ultra-feminine romantic name like Alessandra. It's just... wrong.

Since we've gone the strong-gendered, slightly-old-fashioned route with Camilla's name, I'd like to stick with that as a general theme. But I don't care, like I said, about the names sounding good together. For instance, if the name Lillian were a name we liked, we'd use it even though "Camilla and Lillian" sounds a little weird because of all the "ill". We're hoping to have a lot of kids, so I'm considering the sibling-names-are-like-a-poem a lost cause from the outset.

2) Unfortunately, a lot of the names that I think of as being in the same general category as Camilla are getting really popular. William, for instance (although William itself is not a favorite of mine.) And it's important to me that all our children's names be relatively unpopular. My name, Arwen, is incredibly unusual and I've always loved having an unusual name. I'm the oldest of six and four of my siblings have names as unusual as mine, but I also have a brother named Brandon. My parents didn't realize the name was popular when they used it, but poor Brandon has always complained about being different in his own family, just because he has a name that people have heard before. I really want to avoid a situation like this with any of our children. It's why we decided not to go the really-unusual route with our kids' names, even though there were a couple we liked, because there were ONLY a couple we liked and I wanted to avoid a situation like my parents inadvertently created. So it's a priority for us that our kids' names not be in the top 300 or so - in my ideal, the reaction people would have to all our kids' names is the reaction they have to Camilla - they've heard the name before, but don't usually know anyone who shares it. (Not that I care so much about what other people think about the name, I'm just giving my definition of the level of popularity we're going for.)

Now, you can see the dilemma, right? It seems like ALL of the names I think of as classic boys' names are in the top 300. Daniel, Christopher, James, William. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, for that matter. If you look at the same general popularity level as Camilla's name (#822 in 2006, the year she was born, although that's a little misleading because Camila and Camille were more popular) you get boy names like Prince and Jaron, Alden and Adonis. Perfectly fine names all, but not exactly the classics we're going for.

So what I'm hoping is that you can help me find some names that are classic-ish and not too common that we could use for a boy. They don't have to be names your grandfather would have been named, as long as they sound like names your grandfather could have been named. I know there must be something out there, and if anyone knows how to find it, you do!

We're not worried about middle names - we are not picky about middle names and will have no trouble finding a harmonious match once we've got the first name sorted out. The name should sound good with our last name, though, which leaves out names with long Os and names that end in -er. Otherwise, the sky's the limit!

I KNOW, RIGHT?? It's a terrible problem, and one of the reasons boy names are such a challenge. Well, let's see if we can find something anyway. I'm doing this the manual way: I'm going to the Social Security baby names website, calling up the Top 1000 names for 2007, starting at 300 and working toward 1000. As I looked at each name, I screened it:

1) Is it a name that's familiar to me? If yes, move to second screening test; if no, reject.

2) Does it sound like it could have been a few generations back in my family tree? If yes, move to third screening test; if no, reject.

3) Is it a name I LIKE, or a name I think I'm READY to like? If yes, add to list; if no, reject.

So you can see that if each of the readers of this blog went through the same process, we'd all wind up with very different lists: a small tweak of the family tree or a small tweak in geographical region or a small tweak in naming tastes, and suddenly we have a radically different list. But onward! Here's my list:

Saul, #309
Silas, #346
Albert, #371
Russell, #408
Franklin, #470
Warren, #514
Gideon, #528
Frederick, #531
Alfred, #742
Conrad, #815
Karl, #862 (the spelling Carl is #450; combined, they'd be about #368)

My favorite is Karl, which sounds great with MOE-zhur and with Camilla. I also like Franklin MOE-zhur and Frederick MOE-zhur; Camilla and Franklin, Camilla and Frederick.

I'll put a poll over to the right to see what everyone else thinks. [Poll closed; see below.]

Edit: Okay, so while I was laboring over this post, Arwen was laboring over a LABOR: she had the baby and named him Blaise Alexander, and holy bersneezes but I need to CATCH UP with the BACKLOG so that I am not GIVING ADVICE while people are GIVING BIRTH. Let's keep the voting going anyway, even though it won't apply to Baby Blaise: future babies may benefit from their parents knowing what the popular opinion is of these names.

Poll results (234 votes total):
Saul: 11 votes, roughly 5%
Silas: 54 votes, roughly 23%
Albert: 3 votes, roughly 1%
Russell: 15 votes, roughly 6%
Franklin: 33 votes, roughly 14%
Warren: 17 votes, roughly 7%
Gideon: 29 votes, roughly 12%
Frederick: 42 votes, roughly 18%
Alfred: 3 votes, roughly 1%
Conrad: 16 votes, roughly 7%
Karl: 11 votes, roughly 5%


Anonymous said...

I like exactly the same types of boy names so I can relate to this challenge. Some names that I like but hubby won't go for are Theodore, Hugh, and Ward.

may said...

Yeah, I'm dealing with a similar issue, too. Boy names just aren't as easy.

I think you should actually consider Alden, which was one of the names you suggested. I've loved it since "Anne of Ingleside," but I don't feel like it could be a name for my baby, somehow. And Camilla and Alden sound nice.... I guess one problem, though, would be people thinking it says Aiden...? Anyway, just a thought. Best of luck!

-R- said...

If you're looking for another option, I love the name Bennett. It's ranked 372.

sarah said...

Frederick was the first one I thought of, glad to see it in the poll! I love that name, and it has the bonus of fun nickname Fritz.
Some others that were on our boy list -- Baxter, Linus, Alistair, Angus, Marshall.

Anonymous said...

Go for Conrad! Classic, handsome, masculine, but not popular. Conrad MOE-zhur. Conrad and Camilla. I think it's a winner. :)

Karen said...

Nicely done with your list, Swistle.

I will point out that if you listed names by number of babies (a better representation of commonness), rather than ranking, you could can go much higher on the boy list than 300 to match Camilla.

Camilla alone is 1775 (rank 891) = Remington (rank 794) And as it happens, I quite like Remington and it fits with Camilla.

Camilla + Camila + Camille is 21155 = Travis (rank 155)

Going up to about 150 would open up another 150 names or so for you. E.g, Mitchell (200), Phillip or Philip (together 20 000 = rank 160), and Simon (251). Actually, Simon was a backup name for my first son. Obviously, I like it.

Here are some my suggestions (though Swistle`s are great, too)

Remington (794). Remington Mosure. Remington and Camilla.
Phillip (239). Phillip Mosure. Phillip and Camilla.
Simon (251). Simon Mosure. Simon and Camilla.
Graham (411). Graham Mosure. Graham and Camilla.

A few more: Arthur (342), Elliot (404), Pierce (511), Nigel (685), Clarence (710), Sullivan (926), Stuart (992).

I notice that besides Simon and Phillip, my suggestions don`t include a lot of biblical names (or what I consider very biblical) probably because I don`t think of Camilla as biblical. But your list of boys` classics (Daniel, Christopher, James, William. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) are mainly very biblical. I`m thinking I missed the mark.

Bethtastic said...

I just came over from Dr. Maureen's site...and she told everyone to go congratulate Arwen on the birth of her son...

Blaise Alexander

Very cool. Congratulations Arwen!

Lara Jane said...

Well, that was fast! I didn't even have a chance to vote! (For the record, I adore names like Theodore, Frederick, George, and Arthur -- I already have an almost-9-year-old Henry -- and I would've voted for Frederick or Alfred!)

Congrats, Arwen!

Steph the WonderWorrier said...

Oh! I was coming here to give my two cents, and not needed! LOL.

Blaise is a fantastic choice though, based on the qualifications! Congrats, Arwen!

MC said...

I was going to comment that I thought this baby was already born and named, but I see someone else beat me to it. But I love the result...welcome, Blaise!

Frazzled Mom said...


I love Camilla btw. I used to not like it because it always reminded me of a certain middle-aged, frumpy, chain-smoking, British aristocrat. However, I have gotten past that and as I hear the name it sounds more lovely each time. But it still manages to be uncommon yet easy to live with.

When I read your letter, I could relate because I struggle with what I consider the "unique vs. timeless" dilemma. I want a name this is both unique and timeless, but I know this is a tall order.

A name that is unusual and stays that way, can be timeless in its own way. However, you never know when an unusual name will get discovered by the masses and lose its originality and thus end up getting dated. For example, I think of Astrid as a unusual name, yet recently it was used in two TV shows, and now I can see it getting discovered and becoming trendy. This is just an illustration of the zeitgeist name phenomenon.

I guess sometimes you just have to go with your gut. You did good with Blaise.

Kate said...

Looked up Blaise on it pronounced Blaze or Blez in English?

Clare said...

We too had trouble with boy names, so we had (of course) two boys! I had the same criteria: recognizably masculine, uncommon but not off the wall, and a name that would fit a man rather than just a cute baby name. Our first son is Lucas, which we love, but didn't realize just how popular it was becoming. It's still a great name, though. Our second son's name is Ezekiel (Zeke), which gets either a lot of complements or raised eyebrows. I love Old Testament names--strong, classic, and not too common.

Anyway, congrats on your new son. Boys are awesome!

Anonymous said...

Wow! You are dedicated!! Karl is my favorite, too.

Here's a fun tool that might help you look at the full name and see other options:

(You can filter for more or less popular names)

Anonymous said...

Oh! Woops! I see my suggestion was in vain -- congratulations on the new baby!

Anonymous said...

I was going to suggest Dexter.

Anonymous said...

I love Gideon. This is one of those names I have seen in a lot of literature, but rarely have heard used in mainstream names. I think Mandy Patinkin named his son Gideon.

Anonymous said...

I was reading this post thinking, "Uh, this baby is born. His name is Blaise Alexander. Huh." Thanks for the explanation, Swistle, I was very confused for a bit there.

Erin said...

I'm so happy to see the Silas is popular. It was my great-grandfather's name, and is one of my little brother's middle names (I have ONE brother, with TWO middle names... just to make it clear my punctuation is correct).

I've always loved the name Silas, for it's rarity as well as I just love the way it looks.

Anonymous said...

My 3 yr old is named Camilla Addie, Camilla is my mid name and I always loved it. I am currently preggers and searching for a good matching name as well! Your blog has been helpful! Boys are SO hard! I have a million girl names, no boy ones......actually Jackson was my name until what happened to Micheal, then I thought it was just not the right time, ha. Anyways, I realize you've probably had your baby by now-this is an old blog!