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Friday, August 21, 2009

Baby Naming Issue: Nothing Seems Good

Jessica writes:
My husband and I need help!
We are expecting our first born, due 9/6.
It is a boy. My husband is from India, I am American, and our last name begins with M.

We have not agreed on any single name, and I've gotten to the point where I don't even know what I like anymore, but I seem to dislike everything!! It is a mess!!

My husband really liked Adrian and Milan, but I really dislike Adrian and am so-so on Milan. I liked Soren and Ethan, and my husband seems to lean towards Ethan too. But we aren't sold on any of them. And have no ideas for a middle name either. Help!

Anyway, any ideas would be MUCH APPRECIATED!!

I think Ethan is a wonderful name. One of my friends used it for her son, and it has worn very well on him. I like how flexible it is: an Ethan can be an intellectual, an athlete, a theater guy, a workshop guy, quiet or clownish, awkward or cool---and the name continues to work.

What I like to do when I have only one or two ideas is start surfing The Baby Name Wizard. (I'm linking to the Amazon copy here, and I have HEARD that Amazon has used up the first edition and is now sending the second---but I don't think I'd count on it, given our bad experience with Amazon, and given that they've changed the product picture back to the first edition. I found my copy at a local bookstore.)

I do it like this: Starting with the name Ethan, I'd look at the suggested brother names, which in this case are Caleb, Isaac, Dylan, Jonah, and Mason. Any of those that I liked, I'd go look at THEIR suggested brother names. So let's say I like both Caleb and Isaac. I'd add Caleb and Isaac to my list, and go look at THEIR brother names. Caleb: Gabriel, Cole, Connor, Elijah, Noah. Isaac: Caleb, Samuel, Noah, Lucas, Seth. And I like Gabriel and Lucas, so I add those to my list and go look at THEIR brother names: Noah, Elijah, Caleb, Dominic, Julian, Zachary, Noah, Simon, Nathaniel, Gabriel.

Let's say none of those catch my eye, so I've dead-ended. I might go back to the original Ethan Brothers list and think, "Well, I don't LIKE-like the name Mason, but it's more the flavor of what I like about Ethan than the Noah/Elijah stuff is." So then I'd go to Mason, and find HIS brothers: Spencer, Logan, Riley, Parker, Carson. I like Riley and Carson, so I add them to my list and look up THEIR brothers: Parker, Reid, Logan, Brady, Donovan, Riley, Carter, Owen, Holden, Jackson. So I add Reid and Owen to my list, and look up THEIR brothers, and so it goes until I have a nice big list.

You don't have to LOVE a name or even be seriously considering it to add it to the list---just add anything that you think, "Huh! Yeah, that's pretty okay! I don't hate that!" You can work on this together, or each of you can work on it separately and compare notes (that's a good way to handle a co-parent who is shooting down your suggestions seemingly for no other reason than that you suggested it), or one parent can work on it and the other one can pick favorites from that list and/or cross out the ones that aren't up for consideration.

The other great thing about The Baby Name Wizard is that it comes with a free turnip-twaddler if you call now, supplies are limited so don't wait! after awhile you may start to notice that the names you like fall into one of the book's categories. For example, Lucas is in the New Classics category and the Biblical category, and Riley is in Last Names First, Celtic, and Androgynous. Owen is in Antique Charm and Celtic; Caleb is in Antique Charm and Biblical; Isaac is in Antique Charm and Biblical. Well, so pretty soon you might go to the back of the book and look at whole CATEGORIES of names: Antique Charm, Biblical, Celtic, etc.

Another idea, particularly if you don't own a copy of TBNW, is to poke around in your family tree. In my own experience, using family names has been surprisingly satisfying: the name seems "fine" at first but then rapidly grows on me, and its family significance greatly contributes to that. Everyone wants to know the baby's name, and it feels good to say, "His name is William---it's after my grandfather."

Does anyone else have good tips for finding a baby name when nothing seems good?


Hannah said...

If you don't own a copy of the TBNW, try It's very similar - you input up to six names and it generates a whole list of names in that same style. (The first few results for Ethan are Logan, Joshua, Dylan, Cohen, Evan, Daniel, Eli, Johan, Jacob, and Ezra.)

Another idea is to get a general idea of what names you might consider for a girl. If you find yourself gravitating towards names like Emma or Ava, you might want to look at the most popular boys names. If you find yourself gravitating towards names like Catherine or Alexandra, you might want to look at classic names.

Another idea to consider would be naming your son after your husband/his father. Would you consider a Father's Name M. Jr.?

Jen said...

The other thing my husband and I did when we were naming was to go back to names we eliminated. As in, they made the list initially but then dropped off for whatever reason or another. We actually ended up using a name I had previously nixed for being "too popular and trendy" (Carter) because sometimes your original instinct on a name is the right one, particularly since as you say you now dislike everything. So maybe it will help to just take a step back and reintroduce previous contenders?

Jan said...

Give yourself permission to go with a name you like but don't necessarily *love*. It can be really hard to find something both parents are over the moon over. It might also be easier to do this if the name has some significance to you (book, hero, etc.) or is a family name or variation thereof. Don't underestimate the power of polls - it's helpful to get feedback from others in a nonthreatening way. The first part helped us decide on our daughter's first name and a poll helped us decide on her mn.

Patricia said...

I noticed that each of the four names you mentioned ends -an or -en. I think Ethan is a fine name, but if it doesn't seem quite right, you might like another 'en' name, such as:

If you look through the SSA top 1000 names, you'll find many other names ending in -n.

As for a middle name, why not use a name from your husband's culture and first language? I have multi-ethnic grandsons who were named in that way: English language first name; middle name from the other language.

Best wishes!

Lonna said...

My husband and I took our long list and just started "trying" out each name. We would say, "ok today his name is...and normally we were ready to try a new one the next day. We tried Edison out though, and found that it just stuck around for a while, and became his name. That's what worked for us.

StephLove said...

That was an interesting observation about the names all ending in n. If you think it's not a coincidence, my favorite ends in n boys' names are Benjamin, Ian, Jonathan, Owen & Zane (okay, technically that one ends in e but it's an n sound).

Using an Indian middle is a great idea, too. I know a little boy who is half Indian and is named Rayhan. I think it's a cute name:

Alexander Rayhan
Nicholas Rayhan

Kathryn said...

Definitely do Love that site!

The name the name that came immediately to mind was Rohan. It is multicultural, literary and seems to have the same feel as the other names you like.

Good luck!

Frazzled Mom said...

I agree with Jan - sometimes you have to pick a name you and your husband both reasonable like but may not love. I find myself in the same situation with my husband. We don't come from different countries, but we have very different tastes. Being obsessed with name trends to the point where I'm not sure I'm normal, my tastes run about 10 years ahead of the mainstream (I'm guessing), while my husband is still stuck on names from the 80's / 90's. It's very frustrating but has made me realize why some people appreciate classic names.

Catherine said...

We literally went through the entire BNW separately, one name at a time. We each made a mark next to names we liked (not loved, just liked at least a little) and then compiled a list from the names we both marked. Then we started discussing it from there. I think this is a lot easier because you don't have to come up with names. Instead you're presented with one name after another and have to decide if you like it or not. Not as "your baby's name" but just "yeah, Allison's a nice name" or whatever. This got us to the point where we had a solid list of names we both were okay with, and then the discussion was mostly which of the finalists we liked best - another issue altogether!

Taylor said...

I agree with the family name idea, especially for a mn! Before I became pregnant I had never thought I'd give my kids family names. Once I wasn't just thinking of names I liked and actually trying to NAME A PERSON, nothing seemed special enough. For us, family names solved that dilemma!

Leslie said...

I love the suggestions of checking Baby Name Wizard,, or in family trees for name ideas. I also tried to brainstorm a few ideas based on your original list, based solely on "sounds like" criteria (a few of these may already have been mentioned):


Best of luck!

tracynicole22 said...

I have friends who the hubby is Indian and the wife is american and they named their son Ethan. Both of their children have "american" first names and Indian middle names. I like Evan a lot as an alternative to Ethan and Nolan is a favorite too. I personally cannot imagine naming my child a name that I don't love. It doesn't have to have meaning or anything but "loving" it is a must for me. Just my opinion. You'll find a name you love just keep looking. I found my oldest daughters middle name in the credits of a movie, that's a treasure trove of names there, and not the celebrities, there are tons of people who work on the movie and get credited. My youngest first name I read in a magazine. I was reading a question & answer section and someone asked a question about a girl country band I had never heard of that was made up of all sisters and it listed their names and one of the names just jumped right out at me and I knew that was her name. Sorry for the long story, but you'll find a name you love!

Sharon said...

My husband and I don't know the sex of our baby who is due Oct 27. We immediately agreed on a girl's name, but struggled for months with boy's. We went to the social security website and looked at the top 500 baby names. Separately we each made a list of names we didn't hate. Then we traded lists and culled each other's list down to 8. From the 8 we saw where we had overlap and from there decided what name we would give the baby. It's kind of like doing brackets for a the ncaa basketball tournament. And we we ended up with a name we had talked about a couple of months ago. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

you could always sell the rights to name your baby on the woman from arkansas :) check out this funny article:

Jessica said...

Thanks, everyone, for your suggestions and ideas!
We are still working on it, but are using the BNW and Nymbler, which I am now addicted to. I'll keep you posted!