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Thursday, June 4, 2009

Baby Naming Issue: Sibling Names Going Together

An interesting discussion got started in the comment section of Sunday's post Baby Girl or Boy, Sibling to Jonah. One of the main questions of the post was whether Jonah and Ezra were too similar as sibling names, and a discussion started about whether sibling names need to go together at all.

Stephanie wrote:
I'm just not in the has-to-go-with-the-sibling's-name camp. There are limited years that they will be known as a duo (sad as it may seem to us now). In my adult life, most people I meet don't ask to hear my siblings' names so they can decide if they 'go' with mine!

And then Frazzled Mom added:
Stephanie just eloquently explained my feelings about siblings' names going together. I've always said, as adults your kids aren't going to be putting each others names on their business cards! But I agree complementary siblings are a bonus, and might be considered in a tie breaking situation where you love two names equally.

Really good points, you guys!

There's a spectrum of how well names go together. Madison and Mikayla are the same style. Madison and Sadie are different styles but compatible. Madison and Brooklyn on one hand go together perfectly---but on the other hand, now the place-name style is getting a little strong. Madison and Addison are matchy. Madison and Velma aren't the same style at all.

But---style categories are so subjective. When you were reading the paragraph above, maybe you thought "Madison and Mikayla are a terrible clash!" or "Madison and Sadie are the SAME style!" How many times have I suggested a sibling name and you've thought, "I really don't think that goes together at all"? A lot, probably. What sounds like "the same style" to me or to you is going to depend on where we live, what we grew up hearing, what names are common in our families, what names we like and dislike. This is one of the ways in which sibling name coordination DOESN'T matter much: even if you choose names that go together, other people may think you didn't.

A problem is most likely to arise when a family uses the same style for all their children---except one. A family with four girls, say, named Alissandra, Anastasia, Arabella, and Carson. Possibly Carson will feel she really dodged a bullet on this one, or perhaps she will feel left out. The overall effect, though, is "one of these things is not like the others," and other people may wonder why. Perhaps they will think this means the family really wanted a boy. Carson may wonder about that herself.

It works better if it's the first child whose style is different, especially if that child is a namesake. Carson, named for her mother's maiden name, followed by Alissandra, Anastasia, and Arabella---well, that's different. A boy named Wisdom, followed by brothers Matthew and Ethan and Joseph---well, sometimes people start out with one idea about names, and then change to another idea.

While sibling names needn't coordinate, a family with a daughter named Madison may want to avoid the name Addison---not because a future coworker will care what Madison's sister's name is, but because rhyming sibling names can be a hassle during the time when the family shares a household.

Or let's say a family has one son named Michael and another named Ulysses. Any reason this is something that will plague them as adults? Nah. But they'll be children for a long time first, and during that time they are going to get sick of discussing it with every nosy Swistle parker.

A good explanation (as with "Carson is her mother's maiden name," above) goes a long way to oiling a style difference. The twin daughters of former U.S. president George W. Bush are named Barbara and Jenna, and those names are very different styles. But the girls are named for their grandmothers, and so in that way they DO go together.

I also think style differences matter less if a family has one style for the girls and a different style for the boys. A family with an Alissandra and an Anastasia can easily have a Mark and a John. A family with a Jenna and an Erin can easily have a Saul and a Jonah. It's common enough for people to have different style preferences for boys and for girls, so it doesn't strike that "Why so different?" note.

Where do you stand on the issue of sibling name coordination? Where on the spectrum are you?


Kate said...

I think it's normal for sibling names not to clash. My friend's partner and his siblings have quite different names (sorry, I can't remember them) and it strikes me as quite odd.

But I think it's more "not too different" than "the same". And if baby #2 comes out and looks just like an Alyssa, you don't need to reconsider just because baby #1's name is a different "style".

heather said...

I pretty much agree with what you said Swistle... there are many different ways that sibling names can "go together", whether it's style or namesakes or whatever.

I'm more hung up on them sounding good together rather than the consistency of style or biblical or places or such. I'm all about the flow.
And I agree/acknowledge that once you're an adult that really makes no difference, but like you said... they'll be children for a long time first. And as their parent you're going to be saying those names together often, and that doesn't just end when they're adults either.
That's why I personally wouldn't put something like Jonah and Ezra, Madison and Addison, or Heather and Tyler together... I just don't like the almost rhyminess of it and I think they're kind of awkward to say together. Not that they're not both wonderful names on their own, and no they won't be be paired with that name forever as adult individuals... but as a parent, your kids' names ARE forever grouped together, and for me personally that means I want them to sound (to me at least) good together; without rhyming or clashing too harshly.

Anonymous said...

I don't know why I am like this but I have strong feelings toward same style/feeling names. It bothers me so much when there are two names in the family, one is so normal and plain and the other is unique and unheard of. I would go so far as to say that I even like same number of syllables/ lenght of names as well. i also loathe when there are two of the same starting letters in a family, and then a third and/or fourth, fifth etc different letter!
im going to have my work cut out for me when I start reproducing!! I have a good start on the baby name list at least:)

Barb @ getupandplay said...

I totally want all my children's names to be of the same style, but I guess upon further consideration, what I really want is to avoid a "clash". I prefer when sibling names coordinate, but I have bigger pet peeves when it comes to baby names (the baby naming nerd that I am!)

Tara said...

I am very much in the "whatever fits the kid" spectrum, whether the names "go" or not. My sister's name is Tana, I'm Tara. Not cool, Mom. But my younger siblings are Austin (his dad's middle name), Mason and Kendal (a girl, starts with 'Ken' because my grandfather is Kenneth). The younger "kids" really dodged the bullet on the T thing, but they also have different parent combinations (five kids, three marriages) than us older two. There are a lot of names I love for my impending child (due in December, getting lots of great ideas from this blog), but there's no real style to the names, and I would like to pick a few I like and meet my child first to see which fits best. :)

StephLove said...

I've thought about this a lot because I, too, like sibling names to be in similar styles, but to a lot of people my kids' names aren't similar at all because Noah is popular, verging on trendy, and June, well, isn't. It's not even in the top 1,000 last I checked. To me, though, they do go, because they are both short, old-fashioned but unfussy names AND they have a lot of meaning to us. The kids are named after an important place and person in our lives.

Bethtastic said...

I like matching names. I like same initials. I don't like when some of the siblings match and then one doesn't. It makes sense, I come from a sibling set of Brent, Brad and Beth. My husband comes from a sibling set of Dean, Dale and Harold (What the? Harold? Really? Yes, indeed. And, there is no namesake.).

That being said, I also think whether there is knowledge of siblings and sibling association into adulthood really depends on where you live and your profession. There have been lots of comments about people not necessarily putting siblings together as adults, and in many cases that's true. But there are places where siblings are sort of forever paired. Say, small towns for example. Or in my case a distinct profession with a narrow population base.
I'm still paired with my siblings all the time. If we had drastically different names, it would be noticable. Even beyond childhood.

In the end, however, I think parents should name their kids whatever they want. What feels right to them. If you want a Caden and an Irma. Go for it. You're the parent, you get to choose.

Rebecca and Chris said...

I think there needs to be some coordination. I do refer to my siblings often in conversation and, of course, my mom does too, even though we are grown.

My sister and I are named Rebecca and Rachel. If my brother was a boy, he was to be named Alexandra Beth which, even though I was only six, I recall thinking just didn't fit. It seemed a little too elaborate. Turns out he is a Mathew, which I think is a much better fit.

Although one could get the impression that our family is religious, we never actually went to church once, my parents just liked the names Rebecca, Rachel, and Mathew. Perhaps that's another conversation - what if sibling names give a particular impression of a family that is not true?

Jen said...

I think sibling names need to coordinate. I'll use myself as an example. I'm Jennifer, born in 1980...very common. My older sister is Natalie, which is common enough now but for YEARS it was much more unusual than Jennifer. I was always mad at my mom for naming me Jennifer. It drove me so crazy that my sister got a beautiful and (more) unique name and I ended up with something so common. My gram wanted her to name me Julia after a family member and I always wish she had somehow won over my mom. I actually started going by Jenna in middle school because I couldn't take it anymore (though now I am back to Jen or Jennifer).

To be fair, it doesn't bother me anymore, but it did when I was younger which is why I'll want names to coordinate in style, which is to say my own style, but I will make sure one name is not significantly more unusual than the other.

Anonymous said...

I like names that go together in style, syllable and even ending, but I do not like the same first initial.

I also like when names come from the same language or similar background, ie, Megan and Erin, instead of say, Caoimhe (keeva) and Carlotta. The history and ethnicity of a name is just as important as the sound, to me.

I think that having the same initial is overkill, but ending the same or having the same number of syllables, along with a similar etymology, really allow the names to flow and complement each other without being too matchy or kitchy and similar.

its nice if they can be somewhere similar on the popularity totem pole too, even though that will change over time.

Anonymous said...

I'm not a fan of matchy names, whether it be same first or last letter or even same number of syllables. I do like them to have the same feel, either contemporary or old-fashioned, ethnic or religious; but as you said, the names in those categories will shift and change over time. Kelly Ripa's kids are Michael, Lola and Joaquin. To my ear, they're all in vastly different categories, but they still work as a sibling set.

Virginia Ruth said...

I think the biggest thing to look out for is confusion: not having siblings whose names are similar enough to be confusing. Other than that, I'd mostly consider the child's perspective. Siblings compare themselves against each other ALL the time, and you can guarantee that Carson will have some feelings about her name as compared with the Arabellas... she may be envious, she may, as you say, think she dodged a bullet, she may feel different ways at different times in her life.

The things about their names that children notice, from what I've seen, are: 1) Uniqueness, 2) Gender spectrum, and 3) Meaning. I don't have any children yet, but I will definitely try to keep their names in the same ballpark on all these points. By "meaning" I'm also referring to the parents' reasons for choosing a name. Some parents analyze names in detail, some flip idly through a name book until they see something they like - either is fine (though I think I know which way we all lean), but I think a child should have the sense that his or her name was chosen with the same amount of care as the rest of the siblings'. Obviously, this isn't always feasible, say if there's one particular person you really want to name a child after, or one name you've had your heart set on for twenty years... but it's something to aim for.

I don't worry so much about "styles" being compatible in other senses: Lily and McKenna, for example, don't go together at all in my book, but they're both quite popular and clearly feminine without being frilly, so they wouldn't bother me as a sister pair.

Overly matchy twin names irritate me. Same initial is fine, but rhyming or very very obvious associations (e.g. Holly and Ivy) are just too cutesy in my book. Same goes for ordinary siblings, but the temptation seems to be much stronger with twins.

Lisa said...

My kids' names - Morgan, Gavin, Reagan, Austin, and Camryn. I clearly have matchy kid names. They all end in "n". With baby number 5, some of the kids were saying if it was a girl it had to be "an" and if it was a boy it had to be "in". I wouldn't let it go that far. I couldn't find names I liked with those perticular endings. The first 3 kids, the "n" ending wasn't on purpose, but with the last 2 we specifically looked for names ending in "n". I think Austin doesn't quite match up because it is more common a name than the others, but the kids were calling him Austin in the womb and the name just stuck. He is sooo an Austin.

I like sibling names to go well with each other. I'm sure lots of people would hear my list and think it was horrible with the similar sounds at the end, but it works for us.

Frazzled Mom said...

I'm so tickled that I was quoted! Thanks Swisle!

Avoiding sibling names that are too rhyme-y is a good point. My brothers and I all have names beginning with A, but Andrew was eliminated for my younger brother because my Mom felt Angie and Andy would get confusing. I think she was right.

And as for sibling coordination being subjective, that reminds me, I went to High School with sisters named Felicity and Amanda. IMO, I felt this was an odd match because I see Felicity as unusual and Amanda as more mainstream. But most of our classmates didn't seem to notice or comment on the clashing names. I shared this sister set on a name message board, and some of the responses were that Felicity and Amanda went quite well together. Being the name nerd I am, I used to imagine that one parent (probably the Mom) named Felicity and the other parent (probably the Dad) named Amanda.

Catherine said...

Personally I love thinking up sibling name combos for fun (for my daughter & future sibling(s) or just for fun), but as far as actual naming goes, there are two things I want to avoid:

1. names that are too similar (e.g. ayden & kayden) so that they will either get mixed up or just sound like a weird cult-ish family who all have a varient on the same name.

2. names that clash (e.g. margaret & nevaeh). Like Jen noted above, one kid may resent that the other one got the "better" name, etc.

Beyond that, there's a lot of options. My brother and I are "Catherine & Austin". Not something that sounds the same at first, but they sound good together and don't clash. I like the idea of naming kids with a similar name family, or era - Adeline & Frances & Josephine, for example, or Jennifer, Allison and Amy. But if you love a name and it doesn't totally fit, so what?

Siera said...

Names are such a personal thing!I depends on how close in age the children are what the personality of the child is. My son has a "normal" I think it may have been on the top 10 for 2007/08 but it was a family name. I liked names such as Aiden and Noah while were playing the name game and my fiance thought they were too weird... Those are great normal if not too common names now aday.I f we have a second son I am pushing for Linden and he HATES this name but he was really routing for our son's name so I see it as my turn.

Lara Jane said...

I'm definitely in the camp of "names should harmonize but not have the same beginning (John and Judy) or ending (like my nephews, Landon and Ethan) sounds, or otherwise be overly matchy."

And before you "matchy" moms get mad, I'm not picking on you. I just know of a family whose names all -- and I do mean all -- start with K or C. You're scraping the bottom of the barrel and making up names after once you get to kid/grandkid #30!

Another example: My cousin is expecting her third baby -- and second boy -- this year and is finding it difficult to choose a name. I told her that I feel like it's because she chose a sort of Spanish-sounding name for her daughter, Ana (pronounced ONna), and a more Irish/Gaelic type name for her son, Colin. The more you say these names together, and obviously, the more you are around the kids, they do harmonize, but not on paper.

So -- and this is just an opinion! -- I feel like you kind of hem yourself in (or out, in my cousin's case!) when you pick names that are either too similar or too different.

But then, this is coming from a girl who likes names like John and Mary! LOL

Laisha said...

As I posted the original question that sparked this discussion (& am about to name a sibling myself!), I'm interested in this topic. I come from a family in which my parents names are the male & female form of the same name & all four of us - me, my parents & my brother - have the same initials. People warned my parents against this when my mom was pregnant with both of us (one argument being that our mail would get mixed up - something that has not yet happened!)but it doesn't seem to have had any detrimental effects on any of us! That said, if my parents had had another child, it would've been very strange if they didn't go with an L name.

We still haven't decided on Jonah's sibling's name, should the baby be a boy, but one comment that resonated was about thinking naming a hypothetical third child. We've not yet decided if we'll have more than two kids. While I agree that we should simply go with the name we like best, since we still don't actually know which name this is, thinking of what kind of precedent we might inadvertently be setting was oddly helpful. We still haven't come to any decisions but I will keep Swistle posted once Jonah's sibling arrives!

Steph the WonderWorrier said...

Sorry if I'm repeating anything, but I don't think this was said yet.

I was just thinking of this from a totally different angle.

Maybe as adults you don't often say your sibling names, but your parents are always Parents... and they will always tell people their set of children's names.

I feel names should go together even just for the whole family's sanity of not having some far-out things happen that cause lots of explanation even for grandparents, parents, etc... let alone the children themselves.

Just another spectrum to consider; it's not just siblings names you're thinking of... it's your family unit's set of names.

And again, that'll be totally subjective to whatever your family likes.

Abby said...

I think that matching is probably in the, er, ear of the beholder - behearer?

I think another issue is whether or not to match your children's step- or half-sibling name style. (When they're born after a remarriage.) One friend of mine did; another went a completely different direction. It must be kind of strange to be Kaylie with a baby (half) sister Eleanor.

Commanda Amanda said...

I'm not a fan of matchy names, like all the same first initial or rhyming, but I prefer all in the same style. Like Heather said, I don't think it's so much for other people, but within the family those names would be mentioned together quite a bit. It's easier if they flow nicely.

Can you imagine George Foreman's household? The confusion!

Anonymous said...

Interesting post. When my sister and I were little her name (Emily) was already very popular but mine (Charlotte) wasn't even in the top 200 yet. However, when people asked us our names they frequently nodded and said, "Like the Bronte sisters". In other words, our names "matched".

My mum's family is interesting. She is the youngest of three sisters by quite a few years, and while her older sisters have "L" names -- Lois and Luella -- her name is Vera. However, in a way the names do match because they're all rather obscure. Apparently if her parents had gone with an "L" name for her they would have chosen Laura. While Laura fits the letter pattern, it's far more common than either Lois or Luella.

Denise said...

I never even considered siblng names matching or not matching until I read your blog! I'm an only child and I don't have children--so there you go I guess. But I do love to read others' opinions and thoughts on baby names. I'm always interested to find out the story behind a person's name.

Tatiana said...

One fact that I feel is very important is the pairing with the last name. We have a difficult last name to pronounce and with my first name being Tatiana I will forever be spelling both names. Therefore, we chose simple first names for our children. On the otherhand if you have a very common last name a unique first name would be appropriate. Speaking from experiance and for the sake of your child don't have both first and last names that are complicated.

Cagey said...

Funny post! We went with Arun and Anjali for our boy/girl combo we have going on. I did want names that began with the same letter simply because that is an "Indian" thing to do. We do so very little in our house that is Indian, but I did want to do that, at least.

Amanda(yes I have an 80's name) said...

I chose a name for my son that isn't popular, not just because it was cute, or started with a certain letter or ended with an N. His name is Gaelan, what I loved about this name is the history of this particular name. There was once a Roman doctor named Galen. The meaning suits him as well, "fiery spirit", and he truly is! I really wanted something went well with our last name and most everyone we come across loves his name. Something they haven't heard in a long time. It's refreshing! If he had been a girl I would have gone with Lillie Ann Maribette (Maribette is a combination of my grandmothers names...Mary and Betty. Both have passed and I thought that would be a wonderful way to honor them.) I also love Margaret(my Great-Grantmother's name), something else to use I hope one of these days :)