This blog has moved! Please join us over at!

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Baby Boy Smith

Therese writes:
For years, when anyone would mention baby names I would always reply that I was very fond of classic family names. I really love that most people in my family can say who they're named after and why. For instance, I love being named after my mother and paternal grandmother. I love that my niece is named after me and my paternal grandmother. Now you say, what's the problem here? Well, all of the lovely family names that I would like to use are very traditional and sort of plain. Again you say, what is the problem? Well, I met, fell in love with, married, and am now carrying the baby for a man with the last name SMITH! Honestly, the day we met my first thought was "What in the hell will I name my children with the last name Smith, John and Mary sure won't work?"

As I mentioned, I am now pregnant with our first child, a boy due in May. We are so very excited but neither one of us can come up with a name. I always wanted to name a son John. This is the name of my grandfather and he quite frankly is one of the greatest people I've ever known. This feels even more emotional to me now as he passed away just this fall and my husband and I both agree it would be a great honor to use his name. However, we also both agree that we can't have a son named John Smith. We feel like it would be setting our child up for a lifetime of mocking, definitely not what we're going for in a name. We can definitely use John as a middle name but aren't finding a lot of first name option that "flow" well with it. We have also considered using John as a first name but calling him Jack or by his middle name. However, we both generally prefer to actually call the child by his first name and we still have the dilemma that the child's legal name would be John Smith so we're not really fond of that option either. Feel free to persuade us differently if you think we should be.

One additional issue is that the other family name that we absolutely love is Andrew. This is my husband's, his father's and grandfather's middle name. Pefect you say, name the child Andrew John Smith. Yes, sounds great. Only one problem. My husband has a nine-year old brother from his dad's 3rd marriage. That child's name is Andrew (middle name not John, but starts with J) Smith. My husband is 25 years older than this particular brother and they now live in a different state but we do try to maintain a relationship with him. As I mentioned, I love family names but using Andrew in this situation just seems really weird and not at all an appropriate use of the family name tradition. Probably another middle name option, but not a first name.

So, as you can see all of our brilliant name choices seem not doable in this situation. Neither my husband nor I can even seem to must up any excitment or energy for finding a name at this point because well if feels hopeless. If anyone has an idea, hopefully it's you. Do you have any good suggestions?

I think you might be able to use the name Andrew, saying lovingly to your husband's brother that you wanted to name the baby after his uncle. But it would definitely depend on the particular boy and on various other family dynamics. [Clarification, because it's causing confusion in the comments section: the relationship between the two Andrews would be uncle/nephew, not brother/brother. It's confusing because the first Andrew is so young, but he's the baby's uncle. I wouldn't come down on the side of naming two brothers or half-brothers the same name, but I think it's great when someone names a baby after the namer's sibling---that is, after the baby's aunt or uncle.]

Do you like the name Anderson? Anderson John Smith is smashing.

I am particularly sorry about the name John, because it's one of my own favorites and you have such a good family reason for wanting to use it. Oh, woe! I don't suppose Johnathan would work? Johnathan Andrew Smith, perhaps?

Okay, okay, let's not panic. Let's brainstorm.

1. Does your grandfather have a middle name that's less common? You could reverse them. Like, if his name were John Harrington Surname, you could name your baby Harrington John Smith.

2. What about your grandfather's surname? Any first-name potential there?

3. How do you feel about hyphenated first names? It's not all that common in the U.S., but you do find the occasional John-Paul or whatever. If your grandfather's middle name were, say, Robert, you could do John-Robert Smith. Or you could do John-Andrew Smith, to name your son after both of your grandfathers. I used to know a little boy who had a hyphenated first name, and it only seemed awkward at first---then it just seemed absolutely natural.

4. You could give your son your grandfather's name as his middle names. Er, perhaps I could clarify that sentence a little. If your grandfather's name was John Robert Surname, you could name your son Firstname John Robert Smith, or Firstname John Surname Smith. From my own experience, I can say it's not too much of a hassle to have two middle names.

5. I realize this is getting REACHY, but that's what brainstorming is for: you could switch to a family hyphenated surname incorporating your maiden name. All of you could have the last name Maiden-Smith or Smith-Maiden. John Maiden-Smith or John Smith-Maiden isn't nearly as much of a problem as John Smith, and may not be a problem at all.

6. I will try to tear myself away from the name John long enough to suggest that you look in your family tree for surnames that would make good first names. My own surname is too clunky with surname names, but a name like Smith might be great. Anderson Smith, for example, or Harrison Smith.

7. Those -son names come from literal usage (Johnson is John's son), so if your husband's name works for this you could make a -son name out of it.

Maybe none of these ideas make sense with the available names---we should really be talking about this over coffee and doughnuts, with a couple of legal pads and a stack of baby name books.

Name update 05-01-2009! Therese writes:
His name will be Jackson Fitzgerald Smith and he'll go by Jack. Like many of the commenters suggested, we really liked Jack because it's a traditional nickname for John plus it's just a great boy name. We chose Jackson as his official name b/c we were concerned that Jack by itself might be too informal as an adult. Fitzgerald was a lucky find for us. My father's name is Gerald, he doesn't like it and would not really want it to be "carried on" so to speak. I just happened to be researching Irish and Scottish names (as that's my family's heritage) and discovered that Fitzgerald loosely translates to "son of Gerald." It was a perfect find.

This is even more poignant now as my sweet father passed away just 3 weeks ago from a short battle with cancer. From his final diagnosis, he was adamant that he would make it until after the baby was born. Unfortunately, his body didn't cooperate. I know he will always be with us in heart and spirit but I'm so excited to have a very tangible way for him to be a lasting part of our son's life!


Barb @ getupandplay said...

1) I don't think it's that awful to name a child John Smith. It's been popular throughout time because it's great! I hope you'll reconsider using it.

2) Continuing off of Swistle's suggestion of hyphenated names but without the hyphen... I really like John Henry as one name (but I prefer it without the hyphen).

Names that I like with a John middle name:

Spencer John Smith
Henry John Smith
Adam John Smith
William John Smith
Peter John Smith

Hannah said...

I like Anderson John Smith the best of Swistle's suggestion list. However, I can understand that it doesn't fit the classic/traditional vibe you seem to like, so here are some others you might like:

James Smith
William Smith
Christopher Smith
Michael Smith
Peter Smith
Edward Smith
Benjamin Smith
Alexander Smith
Robert Smith
Samuel Smith
Charles Smith

Do any of these appeal to you?

Catherine said...

I am also curious what you think of some of the "traditional" names listed by the previous posters. I also like the idea of using an important family last name as a first, but I obviously don't know what those would be. I wish you luck no matter what you choose!

Meg said...

What about John Smith nick name Jack?

Jan said...

From my reading of the post, the father-to-be's half-brother (not his brother's child) is the Andrew Smith so I would rule out Andrew completely.

Are there any other styles of names you like? How about something like Jeremiah John Smith? Bartholomew John Smith?

Swistle said...

That's how I read it, too: that the new baby, if named Andrew, would be sharing a name with his (the new baby's) uncle.

The Schwant Family said...

What about calling him John Andrew as a double name? We do that all the time here in the sweet south! I love the idea of a family last name first if you have some good ones because you have a great last name for that! I also must say that I'm super partial to Jack as a nickname for John since that is our first child's name.
One more thought, John is such a great first name that you could put some great middle names with it. I go by my middle name and I can always tell when a sales person is calling or we are getting junk mail because they call me by my first name so having a nickname or going by a middle name can have its perks! Good luck!

Kimberly said...

My grandparents are John and Jane White. I think I'm the only person who has ever laughed about it.

I love John nn. Jack ('cause, well, that's my son).

So, I think John Smith is fine.

I also think Andrew would be fine depending on the family dynamic. Your BIL may be flattered.

I like last names and 1st names, and it could be nice if you have a good last night floating around. I also like the reverse name idea.

I have 2 middle names (as does my son) and it's not an issue at all. We rather like it!

And...that's it:)

g~ said...

What about Andrew and call him Drew or Andy?
(okay, admitting I am partial to Drew as that is my son's name.)

Melio said...

Tyler was the first name that popped into my mind. It's classic, less common than John. Tyler John Smith. I'd also suggest searching your family trees for acceptable surnames that might work.

I agree that Andrew would be weird. Again, I'm not on the family dynamics, but I once knew a family where the husband had a Matthew with his first wife (named after him) AND a Matthew with his second wife ... the poor sister had two brothers named Matthew. SERIOUSLY.

Frazzled Mom said...

With Smith you can get away with more lengthy, unusual names. I like the suggestions of Jeremiah John Smith and Bartholomew John Smith. I'm also interested in knowing what you other family names are. Surely there must be more boy names besides John and Andrew. I think a more mainstream longer name like Christopher or Alexander would work well with John in the middle and Smith.

The Cochran Fam said...

I know a little boy named John Andrew and they call him John Andrew. I love it!

Anonymous said...

What about keeping John as the first name and choosing a middle name with a complementary initial, so the child can be called by his initials.


John James (call him JJ)
John Peter (call him JP)

or use Andrew as the first name and do the same

Andrew John (call him AJ)

Oh I love that one, AJ is a great name.

Just a thought!

Anonymous said...

Gah! My comment was deleted.
Anyway... if you love the name John, go for it! John is such a strong, classic male name. I am tired of the Tyler-Aiden-Cadens. John Andrew Smith sounds great. I like Jay as a nickname for John, instead of Jack. Jay Smith!

Christina Fonseca said...

John-Paul, John-Michael, John-Andrew, John-Henry, John-Thomas, John-David, John-Albert, John-Isaac, John-Lawrence, John-Oliver, John-Philip, John-Richard, John-Victor, John-Vincent would all make good first names for Baby. John Smith is too generic a name and would lead to a lifetime of identity problems.

A hyphenated first name sets him apart from all the other men named John Smith. His middle initial will serve as further identification.

If you plan on only having two children you might consider using Andrew as the middle name, in case a future child is a girl.

John-David Andrew Smith
John-Michael Andrew Smith
John-Oliver Andrew Smith
John-Philip Andrew Smith
John-Thomas Andrew Smith

That hyphenated name makes it more distinctive.

Carolyn said...

This is kind of a stretch, but...
Edward is almost an anagram of Andrew, and it's a strong, classic name. Possible nn's, besides the obvious Eddie, Ed, could be Teddy or Ted.

Edward John
John Edward

I like John Smith, for the record!

Good luck!

Giselle said...

I think John Smith would be just fine...just give him a unique middle name to legally differentiate him from other John Smiths. I think that so many people are naming their kids weird things that your son won't find himself running into many other John Smith' least in his generation.

I happen to think that Andrew John is just a smashingly good name...but that's because it is my son's name ;) But I would not use it if it was a brother's name...even a half brother.

So my suggestion is John -maiden name- Smith...or if your maiden name is also very common, maybe find another unusual name in your family tree to use as the middle.

Best wishes!

Hannah said...

Anthony is another great name. It's a classic, but still sounds similar to Andrew. Maybe Anthony John Smith? I think it sounds great!

Swistle said...

Clarification, because I couldn't find a way to state it clearly enough: the other Andrew would be the baby's UNCLE, not his brother or half-brother. I considered naming a son after my brother.

Kate said...

I know that "John Smith" is supposedly, like, THE most common name in the world, but I actually know of NO John Smiths. In fact, I know only one family of Smiths period - no Johns. So maybe this generation is steering SO FAR clear of giving their babies such a "common" name as John has actually resulted in the opposite - that there are very FEW John Smiths now. Just a thought...

StephLove said...

Maybe someone said this already-- didn't read all the comments-- but how about a name that means John (Ian, Evan, Zane, etc.)? I'm sure there are a bunch more.

I also like Swistle's suggestion of Jonathan. Anders is a possibility, too. And Jack is a cool nickname.

tracynicole22 said...

Wow, I'm all over the place with opinions on this one!
1) Use John Smith with a nice unique middle name. He can use his mn in the future if he wants to.
2) Use John Smith any mn, call him Jack, which is very cute. Like someone said above, I have never known a John Smith in my life!
3)I also think it is ok to name him Andrew John. I think there is enough distance there for it to be ok and the 9 yr old Andrew will prob think it's cool! You can call him Drew or AJ or Andrew, I don't think it matters.
4) Use John as a double first name. I know a John Jay and a Mark John. I definitly think it makes John more unique. Don't hyphenate, just use two names. I think there was a John Michael on one of my soaps years ago!
5) I'm not normally a fan of using letters for short names ie: JJ, but I love JP! Name him John Patrick, John Paul and call him JP.
6)And lastly, I like the name Anders as suggested above. It's similar to Andrew. Anders John Smith it's unique yet a familiar nice name.
Wow, I was probably no help, but I think there is a lot of options that don't jump out at first but are there! Good Luck!

Patricia said...

My son John and his wife named their second son, after much searching for a name that would connect with John, Jonathan. Although John and Jonathan are separate names, the two names are both classic and the connection between the two is obvious. When I was researching Jonathan for them, I found other examples of fathers named John with a son named Jonathan. I think John Smith is fine, but Jonathan Smith would be less common and still link to your beloved grandfather. (I would spell Jonathan the classic way and not add an 'h' to make it look like John.)

Jonathan Andrew Smith:
Jonathan for his maternal grandfather John;
Andrew for his father and following the family tradition of having Andrew as the middle name

Patricia said...

I read tracynicole22's post after posting mine above and want to add that I also think it would be fine to name your son Andrew John. It sounds like your son and his slightly older uncle wouldn't be together that often, but when they are you could call your little boy Andrew John. (I have both a son and grandson named James; when they're together -- not too often because they live in different states too -- I often call them James Duncan and James David. No problem at all.) I agree that 9-year-old Andrew would probably think it's cool to be an uncle to baby named Andrew!

It seems to me that you have two fine classic family names to give your son -- John and Andrew. I'd not worry too much about Smith or the other Andrew and just use those two names (or possibly Jonathan) in whatever order you prefer. I think it *is* exiting to have two family names that are both meaningful to you and names you really like to give to your son.

Our family has the tradition of using family names too, especially for middle names, and I've always found it "exciting" to have a new family member carrying on a name of significance for our family.

Best wishes!

Lara Jane said...


I highly recommend that you watch This American Life's final episode of season 2. The show is called John Smith and it chronicles the lives of seven (IIRC) guys named John Smith, from infancy through old age. It's brilliantly done, and one of Ira Glass's personal favorites, I learned when I saw his live show a couple of weeks ago!

Go with John. Like someone else said, how many John Smiths do you know personally? I've never known any!

Britt said...

Why not name him Jack? You mentioned that you liked the idea of calling him Jack, but didn't know whether you liked that his legal name would still be John. Jack is a great name and it has a connection to John, so you could still say he was named in honor of your grandfather.

Therese said...

Oh my gosh, I am shocked and honored that my question made it to Swistle's site, how exciting. I'm also a little embarrased because my husband and I actually finalized a name a month or so ago and I kept meaning to e-mail Swistle since the whole "John Smith" problem was solved and well, life got in the way.

Anyway, I love Swistle's and all of the commenters' suggestions and many of them are things that we had previously considered. Quickly, I'll tell you what we finally chose and why.

His name will be Jackson Fitzgerald Smith and he'll go by Jack. Like many of the commenters suggested, we really liked Jack because it's a traditional nickname for John plus it's just a great boy name. We chose Jackson as his official name b/c we were concerned that Jack by itself might be too informal as an adult. Fitzgerald was a lucky find for us. My father's name is Gerald, he doesn't like it and would not really want it to be "carried on" so to speak. I just happened to be researching Irish and Scottish names (as that's my family's heritage) and discovered that Fitzgerald loosely translates to "son of Gerald." It was a perfect find.

This is even more poignant now as my sweet father passed away just 3 weeks ago from a short battle with cancer. From his final diagnosis, he was adamant that he would make it until after the baby was born. Unfortunately, his body didn't cooperate. I know he will always be with us in heart and spirit but I'm so excited to have a very tangible way for him to be a lasting part of our son's life!

Again, thanks to Swistle and all of the commenters for your thoughtful suggestions. I will definitely file them all away for any future babies!

Bethtastic said...

I like John. And I love John Andrew. I also love Andrew John.

I don't think you can go wrong with eithe rname, adn I honestly tink you should use one of those. They are classic. They are strong. They have family ties. Perfect.

I have an uncle Jim Smith. He never knew another man with his name (and spent his whole life in a big city where it was certainly possible). "Common" names aren't really "common" anymore because people are naming their kids trendy names.

Use John. Or Andrew. They are both excellent. :)

Patricia said...

Therese, thank you for sharing the name you've chosen and your poignant story about the name. No doubt your son Jackson Fitzgerald Smith will be proud of his name and of his parents' efforts to find the best name for him. You've found an excellent solution for your 'plain John Smith' dilemma. It sounds like now you are very excited about your baby's name. -- just the way it should be!

StephLove said...

Thanks for the update. You know, I almost suggested Jackson for the reasons you outlined. I'm glad you found your perfect name.

Steph said...

What about Nathan?It is a short form of JohNATHAN but distinctive:
Nathan Andrew Smith

stellafide said...

Oh wow Therese, love your final choice and what special meaning behind it!