This blog has moved! Please join us over at!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Naming Issue: Names for Grandmothers

Rachel writes:
Hi Swistle! I was wondering if you would be kind enough to address Grandparent names on your baby name blog. My mom has just at three months to decide what she would like her first granddaughter to call her and she is having a tough time coming up with the perfect Grandmother name! She is quite picky and does not want to use any name that starts with Grand____, Nana, or Me-maw. Her first name is Robin and recently someone suggested Birdie, which is super cute, but not something my mom would use, if she doesn't even like Grandma! A few names she has considered but has not fallen in love with are Maymay, (surprisingly) Grandmommy, and Nonna. I am wondering what your readers call their grandmothers, to give her more options to think about!


Oh, fun question! I called both my grandmothers "Grandma" (with surname if necessary to differentiate) but many of my friends called their grandmothers "Memere" (pronounced MEM-may).

While looking up how to spell Memere (I still don't know where to put the accents, or how to do the one that goes from up left to down right), I found a link to The Name Nerds's post on this same topic.

What did all of you call your grandmothers?

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Baby Naming Issue: Is Keely a Bad Name?

Alyssa writes:
I need a little reassurance on my baby's name. Our little girl is due in a few weeks. We have choosen the name Keely Jane. Our last name starts with a K sound. Keely and our last name sound great together! The only problem is our reaction from people. I've heard anything from, "Why can't you name her something normal?" Or "That's the name of my dead Golden Retriever." My own family members have told me that we should name her Grace, Kelsey, or Vivian instead. My grandma at one point named her Stella and was calling her that.
When we set out on picking a name, we wanted something different. We didn't want our little girl to go to school and have five other girls in her class with the same name!
So tell me Swistle, is Keely a bad name? Is my little girl going to get teased when she goes to school? Our other runner up name was Sarah. Should we change her name to Sarah now?


Ha ha ha! I cannot BELIEVE the gall of your grandma just going ahead and naming your baby something she likes better! If it were me, that would automatically make it out of the question to use that name, which is too bad because Stella is a terrific name.

There is nothing wrong, abnormal, dog-like, or tease-worthy about the name Keely. It's modern and untraditional, which is why older people tend not to like it. (My grandparents thought the name Kristen was PRETTY CRAZY back in the seventies when I was born.) The reactions you're getting are the reason I wait until after the birth to announce the name: no rational, kind person should be telling anyone that their baby's name is a dog's name or not normal, but people DO seem to have trouble biting their tongues when they feel like the name is still open to change. Once the baby is presented to them with the name a done deal, people generally have an easier time remembering their manners.

Change it to Sarah only if you prefer the name Sarah.

Name update 02-05-2010! Alyssa writes:
I wrote you back in December asking for advice on my daughter's name. Well, my husband and I went with our hearts and Keely Jane arrived January 1st, 2010. Her name fits her perfectly and we have only heard compliments on her name! Thank you to you and your readers for the reassurance. Best wishes!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Baby Naming Issues: Initials and Television Shows

Bev writes:
My husband and I are due with our second child, and first girl, on December 29th, and we have some concerns about names that we’d like to address.

Okay, so we decided on the name Phoebe Amanda almost immediately after we found out we were expecting. We loved the name.. everything was perfect. But I switched jobs about three months ago, and have since encountered a very nasty co-worker who’s name is Amanda. So, as you can imagine, I don’t really want to use Amanda anymore.

Now about three years ago, while I was pregnant with my son, my cousin, Monica, passed away. We were very close when we were kids, so I really wanted to honor her, but as we were having a boy, we couldn’t. (We aren’t the type of people who count using Bianca as a name to honor Fiona, because they have the same meaning. We’d like to use the actual name.) But we decided on Phoebe Amanda so quickly, and it was set, and we didn’t want to change it. But now we definitely aren’t using Amanda, so we’ve decided to use Phoebe Monica.

Why am I writing, if we’ve already chosen a name, you ask? Well I have three concerns that I was hoping I could get some input on.

1. Our last name begins with an S. I’m worried that Phoebe will get teased for her initials in school.. it seems like the kind of thing junior high boys would have a fit about. I had unfortunate initials myself (my name is Beverly, and my maiden name starts with an O, so I had to go through junior high enduring jokes like “Bev has BO!” and it was not a great experience.) Yes, so I’m worried about the PMS thing. Is that a big deal?

2. Phoebe and Monica are both Friends characters. It may not seem like that big of a deal, but

3. Our three year old son is named Russell. We call him Russ. Russ is very close to Ross, another Friends character. I am a bit of a Friends fanatic, but I swear (really!) it wasn’t intentional. Is this too much?

I’m having all sorts of second thoughts! I need feedback please


Ooo, what interesting questions! I'll give my opinions, and then everyone else can give theirs too so you can get a feel for general reactions.

1. For me, initials spelling PMS would be a dealbreaker. I know a lot of people don't mind, but I strongly dislike initials that spell things, and especially negative things.

2. It wouldn't bother me that Phoebe and Monica were both on the television show Friends, even though you have a Russ. I think Russ and Ross are different enough, and also your daughter will mostly be known by her first name without her middle name so that will reduce the likelihood of anyone noticing. I have one child with a name that is known almost exclusively from a television show, and even so it's only come up twice in the child's whole life. Both times, the person said, "Oh, like on ____?" and I looked blank and said no, following it with an explanation of how we DID choose it.

One thing you could do to reduce the impact of all these concerns is add one more name: Phoebe ___ Monica S. or Phoebe Monica ___ S., though I recommend the first option since programs that only accept three initials will take the first of the two middle initials. Do you have any other girl names that you like but not enough to reserve them for a future girl name? Maybe another family name? This gives her different initials and dilutes the effect of the Phoebe/Monica combination.

You could also save the name Monica for a possible future girl.

Name update 01-10-2010! Bev writes:
Our daughter was born healthy as a horse on December 28th (8 lbs 3 oz, 21 inches). Thank you to you and to all the commenters.. the advice was extremely helpful. We decided on the suggestion of adding another middle to eliminate the initials problem. Her name is Phoebe Monica Grace. Thank you so so much.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Baby Boy, Brother to Malayna and Myleigh

Ashley writes:
The baby will be here in 2 weeks or less and all we have is a list. DH wont commit to anything. Everything on our list we both agree on but nothing is sticking out to us as "the one" Our girls are Malayna and Myleigh. We don't want to stick with the M theme as we call Malayna "Laynie" anyway. If we happen to find an M name that we love though we are open to using it. The baby's middle name will be Frank, after my Dad. I am open to any ideas!

Here is the list in no particular order


Thanks for your help!

Sometimes it helps to see what other people think---not necessarily because you'll want to go with the popular choice, but because seeing what other people think can show you what YOU think. If, say, Hudson is in the lead but you find yourself sorry to see that, that tells you one thing. Or if Jasper is flagging and you find yourself sorry to see that, that tells you another thing.

So let's have a poll. I think I wouldn't choose Finnley because of how similar it sounds to Laynie and Myleigh. My pick is Jasper: I think it fits the style of your girls' names while still sounding different. The poll is over to the right. [Poll closed; see below for results.]

(P.S. I also think Franklin would make a very nice first name. Franklin Hudson, maybe.)

Poll results (185 votes total):
Finnley: 20 votes, roughly 11%
Jasper: 44 votes, roughly 24%
Hudson: 40 votes, roughly 22%
Asher: 42 votes, roughly 23%
Archer: 39 votes, roughly 21%

Name update 01-05-2010! Ashley writes:
Our baby boy was born at home on December 27, 2009 12:46am 7lbs 15oz and 21 1/4 in. After 4 nameless days we finally decided on Jameson Frank... A name that wasn't even on our list but fit him perfectly. He is such a good baby and we already love him to pieces. Thanks for all your help!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Baby Naming Issue: Mixing Two Naming Styles

Emily writes:
A friend told me about your website, and my husband and I really need help naming our daughter! (She is due on Christmas day.)

We are both in our second marriages, and have children from our previous marriages.

My husband has three daughters, Airyn Dakotah, Brylee Brookelyn, and Madesyn Tayler. (Airyn, Bree, and Mads.)

I’m going to vent here, because no one in my family will see it – I love my stepdaughters, but I hate, hate, hate their names! They’re so awful.. the sounds, the spellings, how completely trendy they are... I am a bit of a name nerd, and it drives me nuts!

I have two daughters and a son, Frances Rosaline, Russell Stacey, and Marjory Kate (Frances, Russ, and Midge).

Now that we’re expecting, I realize how much our naming styles really do contrast.
I’m not even going to include a list of names we’re considering, because we aren’t really considering any! Any name that I like (Constance, Abigail, June), he vetoes, and any name that he likes (Jordynn, Shyann, Kaelyn), I veto.

I have no idea where to even start, and I’m due in less than two weeks!

We need a name that’s in between his trendy taste and my turn of the century one, but that we are both happy with.

And it needs to fit with (in age order) Airyn, Brylee, Frances, Madesyn, Russell, and Marjory.

Aug! Help me please!

I have no idea what to do! I have nightmares about ending up with a daughter named Baby because we can’t think of a name!

I wonder if you two could agree on a very short, simple name, something like Eva, Lucy, Ruby, Cora, Stella, Eliza, Kate, Sophie, Lila. Those are all currently popular names, but they were also popular at the turn of the century. Is there any way to stop him from spelling them kre8ively? Perhaps he could be given free reign with the middle name, on the condition that the first name was spelled traditionally? Kaelyn is a pretty sound; perhaps something like Sophie Kaelyn, or Eva Kaelyn.

Would he agree to a different sort of gimmick, something Christmassy rather than spelling-oriented? Holly, Eve, Noelle, Ivy? Stella means star and could be Christmassy too. Stella Shyann. Eve Kiley. Noelle Kaelyn. Ivy Skye. Holly Jaelyn.

I have another suggestion: Kalliopi. It is a trick name, because it APPEARS to be a modern, trendy, kre8ively spelled name, but it is actually ancient and Greek and that's the right spelling. It appeals to me because it sounds like Penelope, another old classic, but the sounds are more what's currently in style---almost like Kaelyn.

Along these lines is Aemilia, the classical spelling of Amelia. Or Laelia, an old classical name that could easily be a modern invented name. The name Regan is right out of Shakespeare but seems modern. Amabel, Annika, Averil, Bronwyn, Elodie, Lorelei---they SEEM modern, but they're not.

Well. This is one of the hardest name situations ever, I think. I hope the commenters will have some suggestions.

Name update 01-10-2010! Emily writes:
Thank you so much to you and the commenters for all of the wonderful help and suggestions. Our daughter arrived early on December 25th, and it took us three days after her birth to finally settle on a name. And now, the moment of truth... (drumroll) her name is Merris!
The name is so original Nymbler doesn't even have a listing for it, but it sounds very classic, to me anyway. I love the sound of it, and it satisfies my husbands modern, "made-up names" taste, although I did win on the no kre8iv spelling argument.
Thank you so so much . This was a difficult journey, but I'm very pleased with the end result.

Airyn, Brylee, Frances, Madesyn, Russell, Midge, and Merris. What do you think?

Many thanks,

PS And no middle name. Deciding on one name that fit both of our tastes was difficult enough :)

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Baby Girl Alan

Anne writes:
Help! My husband and I are expecting our first child, a baby girl, on December 23rd and she is going to be Baby Girl Alan at the rate we are going. My husband likes very traditional names (which is perfectly fine by me) but we can't find any name that we are in love with. He thinks with the "L" sound of our surname that we shouldn't give her a first name that also has an "L" sound in it, however we have found that a lot of first names have an "L" in it. To add to our dilemma, we would really like her middle name to be a family name, and fortunately both our grandmother's are Blanches so that was an easy decision but it means we are kind of set on having her middle name be Blanche.

We have two names that have remained on our possible list from the beginning, but would really like some other options or suggestions. They are:
Samantha Blanche Alan
Rebecca Blanche Alan

Names I like (that he has ex-nayed): Margaret, Madeline, Caitlyn
He hasn't provided any other suggestions besides Samantha, however he doesn't really like the nickname of "Sam".

Thanks for the help!

Audrey Blanche Alan
Geneva Blanche Alan
Marissa Blanche Alan
Meredith Blanche Alan
Miranda Blanche Alan
Rosemary Blanche Alan
Sabrina Blanche Alan
Veronica Blanche Alan
Victoria Blanche Alan

One of my favorites from that list is Sabrina: it's similar to Samantha, but without the nickname.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Baby Boy or Girl Dunham

Kathleen writes:
We are expecting what is most likely our last child – gender unknown – on the 23th of December. We already have four children. They are

Anne Judith, who goes by Anne, Annie, and sometimes AJ.
Jillian Theresa, who goes by Jillian or Jills.
Rodney Stuart, who is just Rodney.
Joan Maureen, who goes by Jo, Joan, and Joannie equally.

As you can see, we like very classic names.

Now, as for the name for our newest addition, if it is a boy, we have decided on either

Thomas Edward
Michael Henry
William James

We’re not sure which goes best with our other children’s names, what do you think? And feel free to mix and match the first and middles, they aren’t set in stone. But we definitely want to use two of those six names. (And he will not have a nickname)

A girl’s name is where we have more trouble.

The names we are most drawn to right now are shorter J names, like June (#1 on our list), Jean, and Jane. We already have Joan, though, so obviously none of these names are going to work. We were wondering if you could think of any similar alternatives, that wouldn’t be too close to Joan.

Other girls names we like are Frances and Tess (#s 2 and 3 on our list), Sarah, Margaret, Mary, Katherine, Abigail, Charlotte, and Emily.

We also like Caitlin a lot, which is more modern, but has a very nice sound. The only concern is that my name is Kathleen, and I’ve occasionally been called Kate. We would probably call her Caitie. Is that a big problem? (I’m not usually ever Kate.. but people do call me by that name, sort of a friendly nickname, upon occasion)

We’re also kind of intrigued at two first names... something like Mary Katherine (that’s just an example). But we can’t come up with a combination we like. So if you could think of any combinations that sound good together as one first name, with the type of classic names we like.

Oh, and our last name is Dunham (pronounced “Done(like being finished)-um”)

Wow! We have quite a few questions! Sorry :) And thanks so much!

I don't think you can go wrong with any of those boy names. My personal favorite with Rodney is Edward. My favorite middle names with it are James and Michael: Edward James Dunham, Edward Michael Dunham. But I pretty much love every combination of those six names.

I also love all those short J names you love: Jane, Jean, Joan, June. And I agree with you that those names are one per family, so let's see if we can find some other possibilities:


I find I am getting very ENTHUSIASTIC about these names, so much that I had a hard time finishing the list before starting to push them on you. Ruth, for example, sounds to me a lot like June, both in sound and in style. I think Kay Dunham is one of the best names ever---well, except for Fay Dunham. And Pearl Dunham. And Faith Dunham. And Grace Dunham. And...well, you have a GREAT surname for this kind of name, and I am envious.

Ivy Dunham appeals to me for the holiday feel of the name, and Grace and Hope and Faith have some of that feeling, too. On another post, commenter Michelle mentioned that Eve makes a very nice choice for a baby born on/near Christmas Eve or New Year's Eve, and Eve Dunham is terrific.

I'm also very keen on your second-choice name, Frances. Frances Dunham---wonderful! Well, and ALL the other names on your list. How will you ever decide among so many good choices?? Anne, Jillian, Joan, and _____. Oh, how about Evelyn? Evelyn Dunham.

I don't like the name Caitlin with your other children's names.

For double first names, I like Mary Frances, Mary Margaret, and Sarah Katherine. As a non-Irish non-Catholic, I find Mary Frances and Mary Margaret appealingly Irish/Catholic---without feeling like they "have to be" either Irish or Catholic. More like reminiscent of Irish/Catholic, the way June is appealingly reminiscent of the 1950s without actually having to be from the 1950s. Sarah Katherine doesn't have that same flavor to me, but makes up for it in freshness. Sarah Kate and Sarah K./Kay would be cute nicknames.

Name update 01-10-2010! Kathleen writes:
Thanks so much for all your thoughtful insight (and that of the commenters as well).
We decided to go with Margaret June (the final pick if she'd been a boy ended up being your suggestion of Edward James), because at last minute we fell in love with the nickname Maisie.
Maisie arrived at 2:02 pm on December 23rd and is an amazing addition to our family. Thanks again for all your help!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Boy-Girl Twins J. and Maybe J.

Amanda writes:
My name is Amanda (Leigh) and me and my husband (Jacob Vawter) are expecting boy/girl twins in January. My husband is the fourth generation of male "J" first names and Vawter middle name. So, I have already agreed we would stick with that. I have also agreed to "try" to stick with a "J" girl name if we could find something we like. If not, all bets are off, but I told him we would try. The problem is, he doesn't like ANYTHING (typical male, right?) Everything I have suggested he has turned down. He has agreed to put Josselyn and Jayden on the short list. Those are fine by me, but I am now cringing as Jayden is so popular now. We also liked Jack but for the same reason have nixed it. We are already thinking we could call him "Jay" but are looking for a more formal first name. Any other ideas???

Some boy J names:


Wait, wait. I sense that your eyes went skimming right past some of those names. Some of them are so familiar, they don't even register anymore. John, for example. I've talked before about my love for the name John/Jon: it seems almost like a non-name (Paul once called it "generic"), and yet in actual usage it is a tremendously satisfying name that demonstrates again and again why it has been such an enduringly popular choice. And while it SEEMS like it must be one of the most common names ever, it's significantly less common than Jacob and Jaden in the classroom, and in fact has become a surprising choice on a child. I will pause a moment to make sure you give it due consideration. John Vawter, Jon Vawter.

James is another name the eyes skate right past, but I think it's particularly excellent here because it works as a long form for the nickname Jay. James (Jay) Vawter. Jameson works in the same way: Jameson (Jay) Vawter.

Jasper is a favorite of mine, though I understand it's used in the Twilight series and so may be poised for a huge rush of popularity. Right now it's way down in the 400s (source: Social Security Administration).

I think Jay works as a nickname for any name beginning with J., because the initial J. is pronounced the same way.

Some girl J names:


Jade came to mind because you like Jayden for a boy. The name Jade has a similar sound but is much less common.

Now, for the fun of making some pairs!

James and Jocasta
James and Josephine (Jay and Jo too cute? Jay and Josie)
James and Julia
Jared and Jemma
Jared and Jenna
Jaron and Jade
Jaron and Jennica
Jasper and Jane
Jasper and Juliette
Jasper and June
Jefferson and Josephine
Jefferson and June
Jeremy and Jillian
Joel and Joy
John and Jillian
John and Jocelyn
John and Josephine
John and Joy
John and Julia
Jonathan and Jane
Jonathan and Jennica
Jonathan and Julia

Everyone else: J names, J twin pairs?

Monday, December 7, 2009

Baby Girl or Boy, Sibling to Catherine, Caroline, Claire, and Colleen

A. writes:
Okay...Baby #5 needs a name. We have four girls. Catherine, Caroline, Claire, and Colleen. Their names were NOT picked for their first initial, but because we really liked those classic, old names. We assume, but do not know, that we are having another girl. Can we break from the C? I say yes! Please, Please help with some old, classic names that flow well with our other girls.

Just to keep it all even more exciting...Baby #5 is due on New Year's Eve!

Good luck! I'm stumped!

I say yes, too, especially if there will be more children after this one. But I'll leave in the C names if any seem to fit the criteria. Here are some possibilities:


I have a soft spot for holiday names this time of year: Bethany (makes me think of Bethlehem), Holly, Ivy, Joy, Meredith (Merry), Natalie, Noelle, Stella (star). I think, too, that if anyone felt there was anything strange about switching from C names at this point, a holiday name would make them feel they had an explanation.

My favorites are Audrey, Cora, Evelyn, Meredith, Noelle, and Rose.

Or perhaps you will be naming your first BOY! In which case we need some boy name possibilities:


Name update 01-05-2010! A. writes:
Our 5th baby has arrived. Welcoming our new baby are big sisters Catherine Rose, Caroline Grace, Claire Elizabeth, Colleen Patricia, and finally CALEIGH NOELLE. We are blessed with 5 daughters and love our newest little one's name. Thanks for all your suggestions. Caleigh was a name that came up after she was born. We realized that to not name her with a C name was impossible. She just had to be part of her sisterhood club. We loved the suggestion of Noelle too. It will always remind us of our special Christmas baby.

Name Update!

Update on Baby Girl or Boy Stark!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Baby Boy or Girl Cervantes

Katie writes:
I was hoping that you could help me and my husband name our third baby. We are due December 27th. Our last name is Cervantes and we have two daughters, Claire Lucia and Megan Lydia. We don't know the gender of this baby, but have decided that if it's a boy we will name him Matthew Richard. We like girls' names that are timeless without being too standard like Elizabeth or Katherine. We have decided that the middle name will be Liberty, so whatever we pick will have to go with that.

We have had a hard time compiling much of a list, but some names we have considered are Hope, Caroline, Elise, and Gemma.

You are almost totally in line with The Baby Name Wizard: sister names for Claire are Elise, Caroline, Isabel, Leah, and Hope. Sister names for Megan are Lauren, Caitlin, Jenna, Morgan, and Allison.

As I start to work on this, I notice that Liberty is a difficult middle name. Hope Liberty. Caroline Liberty. Elise Liberty. Gemma Liberty. It doesn't FLOW. I think Liberty is more of a first-name name and doesn't want to take second place. But it's set, so let's see if we can beat it into middle-name submission.

From your list, I think Caroline is smoothest with Liberty: Caroline Liberty Cervantes. I think Hope is ruled out. Elise Liberty would be okay.

From The Baby Name Wizard's lists, I think Isabel Liberty and Allison Liberty would be okay.

Some others that might work:

Abigail Liberty; Claire, Megan, and Abigail
Brooke Liberty; Claire, Megan, and Brooke
Claudia Liberty; Claire, Megan, and Claudia
Eliza Liberty; Claire, Megan, and Eliza
Holly Liberty; Claire, Megan, and Holly
Jillian Liberty; Claire, Megan, and Jillian
Joanna Liberty; Claire, Megan, and Joanna
Jocelyn Liberty; Claire, Megan, and Jocelyn
Julia Liberty; Claire, Megan, and Julia
Meredith Liberty; Claire, Megan, and Meredith
Miriam Liberty; Claire, Megan, and Miriam
Rebecca Liberty; Claire, Megan, and Rebecca
Sabrina Liberty; Claire, Megan, and Sabrina

My top favorite is Eliza. Eliza Liberty Cervantes; Claire, Megan, and Eliza.

What do the rest of you think? Can you find names that would work with siblings Claire and Megan, and middle name Liberty?

Name update 12-29-2009! Katie writes:
Thanks so much for posting my letter, and for your suggestions (and those of your readers). In the end, we did not need a name to go with Liberty, because we had a beautiful baby boy!
Our son was born on Christmas Eve. After seeing him, Matthew Richard did not seem quite right, so we named him our second choice: Karl Richard (Karl is my maiden name).
Thanks again for your help!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Baby Girl May

Catherine writes:
We are still very stuck on our baby girl's name and I am having lots of contractions. She could come any day, but the latest is December 22nd. Please help! We are nowhere near a decision.

Our last name is May and my son's name is Andrew Charles May. I am Catherine and my husband is Christopher, but often goes by Chris. I do not go by any nicknames and our son does not go by "Andy" or "Drew" (so far), he is always "Andrew" and he is nearly 2 years old.

Here is the current name list:

Avalon (Avalene) (Avalyn)
Scarlet (Scarlett)
Annalise (Elise)
Annabelle (Annabella)
Arabelle (Arabella)

My husband hates most of the list and is only currently favorable towards Charlotte, Scarlett, or Aubrey. We like the middle name "Helena", after our grandmother's, but are not set in stone on it. If the first named ended in "a", we would change it to Helene. Like "Charlotte Helena May", but "Annabella Helene May". We are also considering Charlotte for the middle name.

I think if I could pick one today, it would be "Avonlea Charlotte May" Same intitials as my son and I loved the Anne of Green Gables books as a kid. I think it is beautiful. My husband thinks it is weird and hates it. Doesn't seem willing to give in. I think "Andrew and Avonlea" are cute together. Hubby hates it.

Although, he did hate Aubrey, but now is coming around to that one. My mom hates Aubrey and says it is a man's name in a Jane Austin book. She really hates it.

Finally, to make matters more complicated, I would like to somehow honor my mother, but her name is "Sandra Amelia" and I don't care for either name. For our girl's first or middle name. So that might just not work out. Any pretty variations on Sandra or Amelia?

Any new name suggestions are also welcome. I tend to love "A" names and girly names that are more current and unusual. No "Linda" or "Mary" or "Elizabeth" for me.

Thank You!!!

I think we can immediately narrow the list down by taking out the names your husband hates, leaving only the ones he's willing to consider. It's possible he'd change his mind as he did with Aubrey, but there isn't much time for that. So here's the new list:


Your mom's hate, though, I'm tossing out of consideration. A LOT of girl names were once boy names: Alice, Allison, Anne, Evelyn, Lesley, Mackenzie, Shannon, Tracy, Whitney. Ashley was a boy's name in a Margaret Mitchell novel, but that doesn't take away its current girl-name status. And besides, you're trying to honor her by using her name for your daughter, so I don't want to hear any lip from her. No lip! (Fine: it influences me that she hates the name Aubrey. I just don't WANT to be influenced, because I love the name and because I think one generation OFTEN dislikes the next generation's naming choices.)

In general, I don't like to alter namesake names. Helena to Helene is about as far as I'd go: after that it starts to feel like it's not really the person's name at all, as when someone names their baby Madison "after" Grandma Mildred. The message becomes: "I want you to act honored and teary over this, but also we hated your name and didn't want to use it." Which, er, is usually a pretty accurate message. Sorry, honorees, but your names sound really out of date.

Amelia could be Amalie (AH mah lee), if you like that better. It has a similar sound/rhythm to Avonlea, Avalyn, Avalon. You could use Lia, except that's such a different name, especially since it's your mom's middle name so there's already considerable distance from the name she'd think of as hers.

I think we might have some luck with the first name, though: Sandra is short for Alexandra. Do you like that name? It starts with A, gives you the same initial as Andrew, and Andrew and Alexandra is a nice sibling set. Alexandra Helene would be a beautiful family name, and Alexandra May is lovely. You could also use Alissandra, a variation I like even better and which has the benefit of emphasizing the Sandra connection.

That's my suggestion: Alexandra/Alissandra Helene May. Or, if you want the same initials as your son's, Alexandra/Alissandra Charlotte May.

From your list of finalists, my favorite is Aubrey but my guess is that Aubrey is out because of your mom, in which case my favorite is Charlotte Helena May.

Name update 12-16-2009! Catherine writes:
Thank you for using my letter on your website and giving me your opinion on our naming dilemma. Our baby girl arrived 3 and a half weeks early, so you picked my letter just in time. She was born on December 11, 2009 at 10:14 p.m. and weighed 9lbs 1 oz and 19 1/2 inches long! She was technically a "late-term preemie" born at 36 weeks gestation, but she was still so big!

We really liked your suggestion of "Amelie" a lot. And debated a long time. But in the end, we chose "Annalise Charlotte May" for her name. I liked the matching initials and sounds with our son, "Andrew Charles May". Both my husband and I felt the name was just right for her and we have had tons of compliments on her name.

Andrew is in love with his baby sister, Annalise, and we think she is pretty special, too!

Thanks for all your help,

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Name Update!

Update on Baby Girl, Sister to Thomas Murray!

Baby Girl Smith

J. writes:
We are expecting our second child, a little girl, Christmas day (please. PLEASE. please. come earlier) and would love some name advice. Our son’s name is Wilson (named after my grandfather). Our last name is Smith. We like classic names that are strong or make you think of strong women. We also like a family connection, but also want something that is not too common (we already have the most common last name there is).

My maiden name is Hudson and we are strongly considering it for her name. We like Hudson Kathleen (Kathleen was my grandmother’s name) but I am afraid it is too harsh for a girl and doesn’t go well with Wilson. Other names on our list are: Ayla Grace (Ayla means oak in Hebrew. Oak is a nickname I have for my husband. He is my oak tree--strong and dependable.), Grace Kathleen, and Anna Lee (our mother’s middle names). Anna is quickly leaving the list... Okay, it is pretty much off the list.
My husband loves Ayla. I like it but it sounds similar to our niece’s name Alana (pronounced: A-lane-uh). Grace has always been my favorite name. I think it is the most beautiful name in the world, but it is so common that I don’t know if we should name her that.

Some other names we like are: Charlotte (My husband likes this name more than me. If we went with it we would most likely use the nickname Charlie), Violet and Olivia.

Naming this little one seems harder than I remember. Although, we didn't actually name our son until we saw him. The original names we had for him (Grant and Scott) just didn't fit. He came out looking like a wise old soul and naming him Wilson (after my grandfather) just fit. Maybe she will be the same.

So what do you think regarding the names we have? Do you have any other suggestions? Your help is appreciated!!

Smith is such a tricky surname! It rules out the common end of the spectrum (Jane Smith, Elizabeth Smith), but it can make highly unusual names sound comical, like that Monty Python skit about political candidates where it's like Broomdiddly Rang-Rang Biscuit-Barrel Montgomery...Smith. And because it starts with an S, it blends with first names that end with the S-sound: Grace Smith sounds like Gray Smith; Iris Smith sounds like Ira Smith.

Hudson, for me, is neither classic nor strong woman. Even as a boy's name, I think it would out-boy the name Wilson. I suggest using it in the middle name slot.

The meaning of Ayla is a good one, but it seems confusing that it reminds you of the nickname you use for your husband. A name that symbolizes someone whose strength and dependability you can count on is perfect for a spousal relationship, less perfect for a parent-child relationship. And without knowing the meaning, I would have put the name Ayla in the same category as names such as Kayla, Jayla, Braelee, etc.---good names, but not classic or strong.

I'm not sure I have a handle on what kind of name you're looking for: "classic" and "strong woman" doesn't fit for me with Hudson or Ayla; "not very common" doesn't fit with Grace or Olivia. And for me, Grace and Violet are more like "gentle woman" names: a charm/virtue and a small flower.

Here are some names that make me think of strong women:


This list would vary hugely from person to person: associations are so subjective. I've got Diana on the list because it makes me think of the goddess, but someone else might think of Shy Di. I have Julia on my list because of Julia Sugarbaker, but someone else may have never watched Designing Women. And maybe I'm thinking of biblical Esther and someone else is thinking of a frail grandmother, and so on and so on.

It influences me strongly that you think Grace is the most beautiful name in the world. There are two strikes against Grace: it's commonness (because of the commonness of your surname), and the way the ending S-sound blends with the starting S-sound of your surname. But if your husband feels close to the way you do about the name, I think those issues are minor and my vote would be to use Grace. Wilson and Grace is a WONDERFUL sibling set (the sitcom Will and Grace doesn't bother me, especially now that it's over). Grace Hudson Smith would be my top pick, but other options are Grace Kathleen Smith and Grace Charlotte Smith. Kathleen Hudson Smith would be another possibility.

From my own strong-woman list, my favorites are:

Claire Hudson Smith; Wilson and Claire
Claudia Grace Smith; Wilson and Claudia
Eleanor Grace Smith; Wilson and Eleanor
Georgia Grace Smith; Wilson and Georgia
Julia Hudson Smith; Wilson and Julia
Louisa Hudson Smith; Wilson and Louisa
Margaret Grace Smith; Wilson and Margaret
Nora Grace Smith; Wilson and Nora
Rosemary Grace Smith; Wilson and Rosemary

Name update 01-15-2010! J. writes:
Dear Swistle and Readers,

Thank you so much for your feedback!! I can happily report that it was YOUR suggestions that helped us name our daughter... Eleanor Lynn Smith was born on December 20, 2009 at 7:07 pm- weighing 7 pounds 14 ounces and measuring 20.5 inches long. She is just perfect! We call her Nora, Nora Lynn, and Eleanor.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Baby Boy Fitzscribble

Monica writes:
With baby number two due on 12/25 (yes Christmas Day!) we are still searching for a perfect boy’s name. We have a great girl’s name picked out, but no boy’s name. And even though I have a serious favorite name for a boy, the vote is not unanimous (yet). And it has to be a vote of 2-0 you see.

Here are our requirements. Potential names have to sound good in both German and Spanish (Su's family is German and she and I both speak Spanish).

Our two year old son’s name is Daniel (see, it fit’s our criteria—just try saying it in German or Spanish!)

His middle name is actually a family name that rhymes with “Zorn” and the baby’s will be too.

Our last name is something Irish. Let’s say Fitzscribble (cuz that’s what it looks like anyway when I write it.)

My serious number one pick is the name August.

August (Gus) Zorn Fitzscribble -- Danny and Gus

Another name under consideration is:

Lucas Zorn Fitzscribble – Danny and Luke

Swistle and friends, can you help us?

Oh dear, I am always on shaky ground when names have to sound good in other languages. I only know the most basic of basics, such as that LL sounds like Y in Spanish, and W sounds like V in German.

I think Lucas is closer in style to Daniel than August is, but that either one works. The name Angus seems closer to Daniel while still giving the nickname Gus.

Another name that comes to mind is Benjamin. Danny and Ben---sweet! Or Nathan: Danny and Nate. Or Charles: Danny and Charlie. Those all sound like Brothers to me.

Everyone else: Which name do you like better, August or Lucas? I'll put a poll over to the right. [Poll closed; see results below.] And do you have more name possibilities to suggest?

Poll results (147 votes total):
August (Gus): 52 votes, roughly 35%
Lucas (Luke): 95 votes, roughly 65%

Name update 12-31-2009! Monica writes:
Hi Swistle. Thanks so much for all your the great name suggestions you made, as well as the suggestions that came from commenters. Just wanted to let everyone know that we had our second child, another little boy, on December 17, 2009. We loved watching the polling between the names Gus and Lucas, but in the end we decided to go with one of your suggestions Swistle. We are pleased to introduce our second son, Benjamin who is 8 lbs. 1 oz and 21 inches long. He is a living doll, and the spitting image of 2 year old brother Daniel! Thanks again and Happy New Year!