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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Baby Naming Issue: How Will the Royal Engagement Affect the Name Kate?

Ellen writes:
I want to ask your opinion of the name Kate, which is one of the few girl names both my husband and I agree upon. Specifically, because I happen to be one of the many people interested in William and Kate's engagement and the upcoming royal wedding, I'm wondering if you think that all of the interest in the couple is going to cause a rise in the popularity in the name Kate/Catherine. I don't mind names in the top 100, but I don't want a trendy name. I looked up Diana on Name Voyager, and it doesn't look like there was a spike in that name in the early 80's here in the U.S. So, perhaps my concern is for naught? (Also, something relevant to my particular situation is that if we have a son--either with this pregnancy or in the future--he will quite possibly be named William after a family member.) I'd appreciate your thoughts!

Oh, interesting question about whether Kate/Catherine will get more popular! And...I don't know! On one hand it brings the name to our attention, and on the other hand there are a lot of people who are probably saying right this minute, "Well, we can't use Kate now---everyone would think we used it because of Kate Middleton."

Okay, I will make a prediction, but then I want to hear everyone else's: my prediction is that there will be no net effect on the name---that some people will be MORE inclined to use it, and that those people will balance out those people who will be LESS inclined to use it. I also predict that it will be very difficult to tell the effect, since the name Kate is used as a standalone name AND as a nickname.

To answer the second part of that question, I don't think the name Kate/Catherine CAN get trendy. I think it's too established a name to even have that potential. Even if it got into the top ten, it would always be a traditional/classic name, not trendy. (Now, if Middleton were to take off, that would be a different story!)

And to answer the part about your particular pregnancy: In my opinion, from now on each family may have EITHER or a Kate OR a William---just as each family may currently have a Charles OR a Diana.

Name update! Ellen writes:
My husband and I had a little girl in June, and Kate remained a front-runner for her name up until the end of my pregnancy. However, we disagreed on if we'd name her Katherine and call her Kate or if we'd just name her Kate, and William is the name we're quite set on if we do have a boy someday. Those two things caused us to scrap Kate. We ended up naming our daughter Emeline Anne. We pronounce the last syllable like the last syllable of Caroline...I read your post about the pronunciation of Emmaline ( with great interest! I have a small amount of namer's remorse because I fret over Emeline needing to spell and pronounce her name for the rest of her life, but we really do love the name. Here's a picture of our Emmy:

Thanks for addressing my question, Swistle, and thank you to the commenters who weighed in, too!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Baby Girl Tom, Sister to Rowan and Griffin

Emily writes:
We are due Jan 1st with a baby girl and have basically exhausted ourselves looking for a name. Our names are David and Emily and our last name is (phonetically) Tom. This baby will be our 3rd child – we have an 8 year old daughter Rowan Terese and a 6 year old son Griffin David. Both of those 2 were SO easy to name, both were named within days of their 20 week ultrasounds, and I’m baffled why we are having such a hard time this go round. Nothing seems “right” for this one. A quick note – my husband is one of 14 kids, so we have a large grouping of nieces and nephews on his side. This will be grandchild #30 for his parents and we’d like to steer clear of cousin names.

Here are some of our (ok, mostly my) parameters:

No T name. I hate matching first with last initials – especially because matching T’s sound like Tater Tot to me.

At least 2 syllables – since our last name is so short.

No overly girly/flowery name – Rowan’s name (to us) is feminine but strong. We’d like to be somewhat consistent. We don’t really think of Rowan as unisex, since I’d always heard it as a girl name, but totally get that it is not “girly” by any means.

Nothing overly traditional – this just would not “go well” with the other 2. Does that matter? Maybe not when they are 30, but I’d hate to have a Rowan, Griffin and then a Gertrude, or even a Jenny. It feels like the “one of these things is doing their own thing” skit from Sesame Street. While we love some other types/categories of names, we don’t want the age gap between our older 2 and this one to be marked or highlighted by an obvious name shift.

Nothing too trendy – we like names that are easy to spell and read… but I am hoping our baby won’t need to add her last initial to her name when in school. I grew up an Emily WAY before it was popular, so I enjoyed being the only one. As a side note, my husband doesn’t really care about this at all – guessing he was one of many David’s in his classes and it never bothered him.

Names we’ve considered but ruled out (for now?):

Delia- husband likes a lot, but I’m not loving it – it isn’t quite right.

Delaney – we both liked, but then found out someone we know has a daughter named it and it was kind of wrecked for us.

Piper – both liked a lot, but same scenario as above.

Harper – we loved but don’t like how trendy it is getting. We’d like her name to be somewhat unique…though not out there.

Hadley – I love, husband hates.

Nora- Husband loves, I don’t.

Fiona – worried about the ogre connection a bit

Finley – love this, but don’t like that it “matches” the end of Griffin’s name.

Neelie – I loved this and keep trying to push my husband to it – it is my Grandma’s name backwards. He is not even slightly convinced. We also dabbled with Eiley for awhile after the same Grandma, but hubby is not a fan.

Nola- we both liked this for awhile, but after getting bombarded with negative comments from family and friends it has lost its appeal. Guess that is a good reason to keep names to ourselves J

Phoebe- one of the 29 grandchildren, so this is out. We both love, though.

Quinn – we both love, but “belongs” to a good friend, and is only 1 syllable.

Ruby – we like this one, but it seems to be trendy… and is a bit matchy matchy with Rowan.

Any help or guidance would be greatly appreciated. I’m doing my best to ensure this baby comes BEFORE we ring in the new year, more because of my quickly growing size than for any tax purposes, though that would be nice too.

Rowan and Griffin are both names that could be described as "contemporary, fashionable choices": they're not common enough to be called trendy, but they're fully in style. This is, I think, why you're getting stuck: your tastes are leading you to fashionable, cutting-edge names---but those are the very ones that could suddenly spring into trendiness/overuse.

I advise not trying to fight it too hard: future popularity of a name can't be known, so you could drive yourself crazy trying to avoid it; the current popular names are not as common as the popular names of our decade were; going by a surname initial from time to time is not so terrible; you could name her something highly unusual and still find another in her class just by the luck of the draw; and it would be a shame to give up a name you love just because another child has it, or might in the future have it.

Harper would be, I think, a perfect name: to me it's non-girly-but-still-feminine in the same way as the name Rowan. And, unfortunately, that kind of name is a hot property and, as you've noticed, the name is going up in popularity very quickly, which kicks it off the consideration list.

More possibilities:

Arden Tom; Rowan, Griffin, and Arden
Averil Tom; Rowan, Griffin, and Averil
Bianca Tom; Rowan, Griffin, and Bianca
Bronwyn Tom; Rowan, Griffin, and Bronwyn
Carys Tom; Rowan, Griffin, and Carys
Cleo Tom; Rowan, Griffin, and Cleo
Darcy Tom; Rowan, Griffin, and Darcy
Daria Tom; Rowan, Griffin, and Daria
Fallon Tom; Rowan, Griffin, and Fallon
Haven Tom; Rowan, Griffin, and Haven
Hollis Tom; Rowan, Griffin, and Hollis
Imogen Tom; Rowan, Griffin, and Imogen
Kiefer Tom; Rowan, Griffin, and Kiefer
Larkin Tom; Rowan, Griffin, and Larkin
Quinlay Tom; Rowan, Griffin, and Quinlay
Yeardley Tom; Rowan, Griffin, and Yeardley

I wasn't sure if I should avoid names that have the same ending as Rowan and Griffin: on one hand it's nice to change, but on the other hand it makes the third name more obviously separated from the first two. I went for some of each.

Name update!
Emily writes:
We hemmed and hawed –and then because she was late, we hemmed and hawed some more. She arrived January 7 – weighing a whopping 9 lbs 10oz. One look at her and both my husband and I knew she was supposed to be named Harper Adelia. Thanks to all the feedback - so many great names – and many of the comments (including yours Swistle) helped convince me that the “trendy” issue was not that important when we really loved a name. Thanks!!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Baby Boy or Girl S____l

Julie writes:
I hope you can help us decide on a name for our new baby. This is my third pregnancy and we do not know whether we are expecting a boy or a girl. Our living daughter’s name is Rebecca Ann. In addition, we have one who was born extremely premature and did not survive who we named Emma Eiliyah (/uh-LIE-uh/). Our last name is a two syllable word that starts with S and ends with the sound /ul/.

We are Jewish, and as such, traditionally name after loved ones who are no longer living. Rebecca is named for both of my grandmothers and for my husband’s brother (Rosalyn, Agness, and Richard). Because we knew that our second child would not live, we departed from the tradition and chose names based on their meaning (We found a meaning for “Ema” that means “loved one” so we changed the spelling a bit to be more conventional. Eiliyah means “beautiful one to grow in peace and love with God”). We would not have used either Emma or Eiliyah had she lived – partly because we don’t have relatives to name after who had names starting with the letter “E” and partly because of the combination of trendiness (Emma) and unusualness (Eiliyah) of the two names. We’re looking more to have the name sound appropriate with Rebecca than with Emma, since Emma doesn’t get spoken as often.

This time, we would like to name after each of our grandfathers, whose names began with “M” and “S,” preferably in that order so as to avoid the initials “SS” (not good for Jews) when the middle name is not used.

We lean towards names that are traditionally recognized, gender specific, with obvious spelling, & not extremely trendy/popular, super unique, or particularly ethnic. We would like to name the child what we call it – we're not looking to use a nickname or to primarily use the middle name. Also, we try to avoid word names (Mark, Trip, Chase, Pierce, Hunter, Parker, Mason, Wendy, etc). Can you tell I used to be a teacher? ;) Rebecca fit the bill perfectly for us because it’s commonly recognized and while not currently particularly popular, it’s also not “dowdy.”

In my experience, our last name– two syllables & the /ul/ sound at the end – combined with the first letter constraints makes a difficult task all that much more challenging. As an example, although I love them both, we nixed the names Rachel and Abigail when I was pregnant with Rebeccca because of the rhymy-rhymy sound between first and last name. We also 86ed first names that end with the /s/ sound so as not to run into the /s/ at the start of our last name.

Names on the possibility list:

Mia (but is this too much of a rising star?)

Meg (my husband doesn’t like Margaret)

Matthew (although this is my brother’s middle name which poses a bit of a problem w/the tradition of not using the name of someone who is living)


Sidney (for a boy)


Names we have eliminated for one reason or another: Max, Sarah, Sam/Samuel, Maris, (all names of living relatives), Michael, Mitchell, Miles, Mark, Maura, Megan, Saul

Thanks so very much for your help!!

M possibilities for girls:




Mary (feels common, but isn't; there was a Mary in my son's class, and I was surprised how fresh it sounded on a little girl)


Mira (similar to Mia, but without the Top Ten problem)




My favorites with Rebecca are Marissa, Meredith, Miriam, and Molly.

Marissa Simone
Meredith Shea
Miriam Sophia
Molly Samantha

M possibilities for boys are trickier: with Michael, Matthew, Mark, Max, Mason, Miles, and Mitchell eliminated (I'm eliminating Matthew since it breaks the tradition you're trying to follow---and, as I understand Jewish naming traditions, which is only partially, using the name of a living relative seems to be a worse problem than declining to use a name of a no-longer-living relative), that leaves very few names. I've got three:

Malcolm Sidney
Micah Sawyer
Milo Steven

But I wonder if you have other relatives who could be honored, since so many M names are out.

Name update! Julie writes:
Hi! I wanted to update you and your fantastic readers. Our daughter was born on Thursday, January 6th and we chose the name Margaret Suzanne. Despite his initial lukewarm reaction to the name Margaret, my husband warmed to the name over time without pressure from me. Even up to (and beyond) the moment when Margaret was born, we were unsure about what name we would choose, particularly if she'd turned out to be a boy. But Margaret (instead of Meredith, our other leading choice for a girl) was the winner. We think it goes well with Rebecca and it feels so wonderful to have named her for both of our grandfathers. Thanks so much for all the help you and your readers provided! Now...on to finding a Hebrew name. ;)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Baby Naming Issue: Shorter or Longer Version?

Emily writes:
This is just a simple question but it's driving me nuts! We've decided on the name for our baby boy- Finn. It goes well with our Irish last name (O'Meera), and we both love it. So the dilemma is, if we intend to mostly call our boy Finn, then should we just name him Finn and get it over with? I like the sound of the longer and more formal Finnegan, but my husband disagrees. Middle name will be one syllable (a family name). Any thoughts?
Thank you!

I have a similar situation in my own family. With one of my children, we decided we wanted to name him X, but there was a longer version of the name---let's call it XZ---and we felt like maybe it would be better to use it as the Official Name. After much discussion, we decided we preferred the name X, so we named him X.

BUT! I'm sure there are lots of people who go with XZ and later are very glad they did: for flexibility, for formality, for nickname potential---lots of reasons. As a counter-example, with one name we were considering, we liked X but not XZ, so we decided not to use the name at all. A difference: in that case, X is widely considered to be the nickname for XZ; in the case of our son, XZ is only sometimes (narrowly, as it were) assumed to be the nickname for X, and is also a stand-alone name. And to me, Finn seems more a case of narrowly than of widely: some names are really JUST nicknames and some are shorter versions that are nevertheless full names, and Finn is a shorter version that is nevertheless a full name.

I think in your case, I would ask you which you PREFER: do you prefer Finn, or do you prefer Finnegan? Both are stand-alone names, and I think you're safe choosing the one you PREFER. Either way, I don't think later you'll think you've made a mistake.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Baby Naming Issue: Someone Else Has the Same Name

Anna writes:
I'm writing to you because I need a sounding board and hopefully some advice from any readers who have been in similar situations. Here goes: My husband and I are expecting our first, a girl, in early February. There was lots of my suggesting names only to have him veto them, then one day he came home from work with a twinkle in his eye and said "how about Amelia?" I immediately liked, and grew to love, the name. Even as I was "deciding," he obviously had his mind made up. So our girl had been Amelia for a couple months now, and I love the fact that he named her. We have been keeping mum on the name as far as family and friends go, waiting until after she was born.

We know a couple who just had their first baby today. The husband is a friend of my husband's, but to me they are just acquaintances. Nice people, I went to her baby shower, and we have a lot of mutual friends, again mostly through my husband. But, they are people we see regularly. There's also been a lot of fanfare around this baby, while we are more low-key people. They didn't find out the sex of their baby and for the past few weeks I had been having this nightmare that they had a baby girl and named her Amelia. Well, my nightmare came true today. They sent out a mass text message announcing the birth, name, etc. I cried. A lot.

Now folks, I am well aware that in the grand scheme of things, this is a blip on the radar. We're all healthy and employed. But I feel like my heart is breaking. And now, when I hear the name Amelia, instead of thinking of my husband murmuring our baby's name as we all fell asleep together, I think of these people's strange baby and feel confused.

What would you do? I'm open to anything.

What would I do? I would name my daughter Amelia. Or, more specifically, I would not change the name of the daughter I'd already named Amelia.

According to the Social Security Administration, 4,627 baby girls were named Amelia in 2009 alone. It's too bad some acquaintances of yours were one of the many thousands to name a baby girl Amelia in 2010, but there's no reason their choice affects yours. You have already named your baby Amelia, and I don't see anything in what you've told me about the relationship between your two families that would mean each of you having an Amelia would be a problem in any way.

You should respond to their text message: "OMG!!! This is so exciting!! Amelia is what we're naming OUR daughter!! Don't tell, okay? It's a secret! And congratulations on your Amelia! We LOVE her name!! *smiley emoticon*" If you don't want to do this, you can go to plan B, which is this: when you announce your daughter's name, you will say to them with delight, "OMG, we were SO SURPRISED when you used the name too!! But we were keeping the name a secret, so we couldn't tell you until now!"

Name update! Anna writes:
You and your readers' responses were so encouraging and we kept the name we loved, and added an unusual middle name. Amelia Morning was born February 10 at home. I did some soul searching and followed my heart with the name and the birth, and couldn't be happier. Also, the "other" Amelia's parents have been extremely gracious. If anything, we have become closer to them. The daddies call each other "Amelia's dad" and have Team Amelia playdates. All's well that ends well!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Baby Twin Boys Long-With-an-A, Brothers to Berkeley, Talon, Carter, Merritt, and Peyton

Kelly writes:
Saw a previous family had the same last name as us, Long with an A and since I'm due with twin boys in a couple weeks and we aren't positive on names I figured I would email you as well.
Lets see, these are the final kiddos for us as we have Berkeley Rae 13, Talon William 11, Carter Daniel 9, Merritt Elizabeth 4, and Peyton Rose 2. All of the kids names are simply names that we fell in love with and they all truly fit them to a tee. All of the middle names are family names and we would like to keep that the same with the twins using Rowley (Row like Wow, not Row the boat) and Thomas. As of right now we have decided on Rory Thomas and Declan Rowley. However, I'm not quite sure if I love Declan the way I love all the other names, it is growing on me though and I'm not sure if Rory seems to girly. Would love to hear what you and the readers have for ideas for the newest additions to the Lang family. I'm not sure we have a "naming style" but we are pretty much open to any ideas. Also, although the doctors have told us they are both boys, my sister-in-law had a suprise girl last month so if there are any ideas for a girls name please share as we have absolutley no idea at this point.

Names we can't use:

Thank you so much!

I do think that in a sibling group that includes a Berkeley and a Peyton and a Merritt, Rory would be too feminine. In the U.S., Rory is a name used slightly more commonly for boys (298 boys named Rory in 2009 versus 283 girls, according to the Social Security Administration), but I think two things make it seem girlish: (1) the popular TV show Gilmore Girls, in which one of the lead female characters was named Rory (short for Lorelai), and (2) the girl names/nicknames that rhyme with it, such as Lori and Tori. Other possibilities:


If Declan is almost-but-not-quite, maybe:


For me the biggest challenge of this question is the name Talon. It's such an extremely macho/tough name (the large claw of a predator---it's hard to get tougher than that), it makes brother names tricky: if you have, say, a Talon and a Rory, the name Rory looks even gentler and more feminine by comparison, while Talon looks even tougher and more nouny. This inclines me toward choosing boy names that are unmistakably boyish---and maybe even on the tough end of boyish. Ivan Rowley and Aidric Thomas. Davis Rowley and Roman Thomas. Reuben Thomas and Derian Rowley. Cormac Rowley and Delcan Thomas.

Name update! Kelly writes:
The boys arrived Dec 6th and all the comments from you and the readers truly did help. Although I absolutely loved your suggestion of Cormac, we really did not want to repeat first letters, so we reconsidered D names and setteled on Deacon Rowley. As we also felt Rory seemed slightly feminine, we went into the hospital with Ronan and Ryder on the list and Ryder Thomas came out just after his brother. With seven kids its been hectic but its safe to say everyone loves the newest additions and the family is well. Happy New Year to you and the readers! Thanks for all the help!

Baby Name to Consider: Middleton

Surname names are popular, and I have a new one to consider for a girl: Middleton.

The rhythm and sound are similar to Madison, and Middie is a workable nickname, and now there's a nice princess association because of Kate Middleton---without the name being at all "princessy."

What do you think? Remember, the point of a "name to consider" isn't so much "Is this name to my own personal tastes?" as it is "Does this seem like A NAME, with potential for use by people whose naming style it WOULD be?"

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Baby Twin Girls Robinson

Heather writes:
I'm expecting twin girls at the end of December and we are having trouble deciding on names! Our two older girls are named Dagny and Harper, both names that we agreed to early on, and our last name is Robinson which works well with a lot of things. For the twins right now we like Auden a lot, but we are really having a hard time with the other name. We don't have to be too tied to the literary connection between the names, and also want something a unique (Harper became more trendy since we named our daughter in '09). Some names we have considered so far: Poppy, Tate, Penelope (Penny), Paige, Tabitha, Finna, Sawyer. Poppy is probably our first choice, but I'm concerned about it being too trendy, not serious enough as she gets older, and it's very different than the others. We like Tate too but are worried about it being too masculine, and I don't really like Tatum. Help!

Thanks for your advice!

Baby Girl Landon, Sister to Callie Christine

Nealy writes:
Help! We have six weeks to go and still do not have a name for our second daughter! She's due on December 26th, and I'm starting to panic. :) My favorites are the older classical names, yet so many of these have become so common. I also don't like the classic names of my generation (Amanda, Michelle, etc.) or anything that is too common.

Our first daughter is named Callie Christine, last name Landon. We both agreed and loved the name Callie - it's a classical name yet still fairly uncommon. We're considering the middle name Lucille because it is a family name, but are open to suggestions of this as well.

Here are some names that I like:
Ella (my husband thinks this is too common- what is your opinion?)
Evelyn (not crazy about Evie though)
Betsey (is this too 50's???)
Emma (too common)

And my husband's top:
Brielle (sounds too "made-up" to me...)

Any help would be greatly appreciated!

Name update! Nealy writes:
I would like to update you on the birth (and name choice) of our daughter from this post...Clara Lucille. Thanks so much to the help and advice of Swistle readers!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Baby Girl Ferowska: Daria or Jane?

Jen writes:
We are expecting our second child, a daughter, on November 26. Our son’s name is Theo James Ferowska (my husband’s surname).

We have two finalists for a name:

Daria Jane Ferowska


Jane unknown-middle-name Ferowska

We really like the name Daria, but are worried that it will be mispronounced (“DAH-ree-a” is the correct pronunciation but many people say “DARE-y-a” instead). An informal survey of my colleagues indicates an approximately 30% mispronunciation rate.

I would be most curious as to your thoughts, and those of your readers, on whether/how much this “matters”? Should we just go with the simpler Jane as a first name instead?

If your favorite is Daria, I think you should use Daria. I think almost every name is pronounced incorrectly now and then: I'm Kristen, which seems straightforward to me, but it gets pronounced "Kristine" surprisingly often. It's not a big deal. I knew Daria was DAH-ree-ah (I used to watch MTV!), but let's have a poll over to the right to find out the percentage of readers who knew. [Poll closed; see results below.]

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Baby Girl Y___er, Sister to Rose, Tess, and Eli

Bren writes:
Repeat customer here! You and your readers gave us some great naming advice in January 2009 (We chose the name Eli for our son) and I am asking for your help again. I am now pregnant with a baby girl who is due this Thanksgiving. I am becoming a bit (or a lot) panicked that Husband and I have not been able to agree on a name for our baby.

Our children's names are Rose, Tess, and Eli. Our last name is 2 syllables, starting with a "Y" sound and ending in -er.

In my mind, this baby's name is Jane. I love it. I think it's sweet, classic, and goes well with our other children's names. My husband is less than enthusiastic about it. He brings up things like "Jane Doe" and "Plain Jane". So either he needs to see the light, or we need to come up with a name that we both can love.

Other names that I have on my list are:
Ada, Alice, Wren, Cora, Mae

It's important to me to have a name that won't be shortened to a nickname, as well as a name that is not currently trendy or popular. I tend to like shorter names.

My husband doesn't seem to have a "style" of name that he likes. His suggestions come from all over the place, so it's been difficult to even try to find some common ground. Some that he's suggested:
Bella, Lacey, Amelia, Mattea, Ashley.

The middle name will likely be a family name that will be decided once the first name is chosen.

What do you think? Any hope for us?

Thank you!!

If you like Jane but your husband is worried about Plain/Doe, there are several girl names that are nearly the same except for the vowel sound:


My favorite is June: Rose, Tess, Eli, and June. But I really like all three.

(There's also Jade, but I think it lacks the sweetness/softness of your other girls' names, and of the name Jane.)

I also love love love Cora from your list. Rose, Tess, and Cora is SO PERFECT for the three sisters: all three names SO DIFFERENT, and yet all having four letters and all very similar in style.

Name update! Bren writes:
Our little girl, Jane, made her appearance on December 3rd - a full week past her due date. She is beautiful and sweet and not a "Plain Jane" in the slightest. Thank you for your thoughts and suggestions. I think all the positive comments from your readers helped my husband see what a great name it is. Thanks again!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Baby Girl or Boy Long-With-an-A

R. writes:
I've thought about writing for your advice several times, but my husband and I would decide on a name and we thought that was that. Until I would bring up the name and my husband would agree that he was over it as well. I think at this point we are going to go into the hospital with a list and a prayer, but I hope you and your readers can help us fine tune our choices or discover something new!

So, here's the scoop:

I'm due 12/23 and we don't know what we're having. I'm a little shy about posting our last name, but it is critical to the naming process because so many names we love just don't work with it. Our last name is Long if you substitute an 'a' for the 'o.' Funny, and long, touching story is, my husband actually took MY name, but ever since we've had this naming dilemma I've had second thoughts about it. Well, not really, but it's definitely crossed my mind:) We do not know what we're having. In trying to keep this short, I'll give you (abbreviated) lists of names we've considered.


Adelaide: I've loved this name forever and my husband agreed to it to my surprise. But it's horrible with our last name.
Adele: The nickname we would have used for Adelaide (we didn't want Addy). We still may use this, but it's still not the best with our last name. Maybe a middle name.
Marin: We were both set on this for awhile, but now agree that it just doesn't seem 'right.'
Genevieve, Felicity: I love, he doesn't.
Celia: Okay for both of us.
Corrine (nn Cora): This is our current front runner. Does it sound like 'Coral' when you say Cora with our last name? Does that matter?
Victoria: My husband's mother's name. He's not sure if he wants to use it or not, and I'm letting him decide. I think it would be a middle name if we use it. We both like the name but aren't crazy about 'Vicky' and 'Tori' as nicknames. I know we could just use the full name, my niece has never been nicknamed and her name is one that is often shortened, but I'd like the obvious nicknames to be ones we like.


Callum: I loved for awhile and my husband came around to it. But now I'm kind-of over it.
Kai: I like it, husband loves it, but I think it's too short with our last name.
Dexter: Husband is coming around to this one.
Seth: Hubby's favorite. I could live with it, but I think it's too short with our last name.
Asa, Elias: On the list at some point.
Gideon, Sebastian, Everett: I've suggested but husband doesn't like or is only luke-warm to the idea.
Kieran: This is our current front-runner. I just worry that it's odd (as with some of our other names) because it's very Irish when neither of us are Irish. The strongest cultural tie we have is Italian.

Any 'rules' we have aren't too uncommon for parents when considering names for their children: we want something that's not too popular or trendy and will fit an infant as well as an adult. We have considered some more unusual, but not 'made up,' names and still will if it's right. I think a lot of the names I like fit into The Baby Name Wizard's 'Antique Charm' and 'Why Not?' lists in the current book. I work with children (from birth on up) so I feel pretty close to the trends and want something that doesn't bore me. I just asked my husband what his requirements are and he said "something unique." As you can see, our rules are flexible since our current lists are all over the place! Do you see anything we may be missing? Help!!!!

We appreciate any input you can offer!

My favorite name on your boy list is Kieran. I think Kieran sounds great with your surname, and I don't think it's over-Irish: that is, I do think it sounds Irish, but I don't think it seems inappropriate to use it.

Callum makes me think of Calvin and Callan and Camden.

I also wonder if you might like Elliot or Emmett.

Matthew, Theo, and Timothy have the gentle sound of Seth, but with more than one syllable.

The name Kyle is like Kai with another syllable, so it's too bad that extra syllable had to be an L-sound. Kyler would work better but I like it less.

From your girl names, my favorites are Genevieve and Felicity, and in fact I was a little squee-ish because those are probably my top two favorite girl names on my OWN list. Can we bring your husband around, do you think? I particularly like Genevieve with your surname. It sounds smart and professional and sassy and confident. And Genevieve has such cute nicknames: Gen and Genny and Genna, of course, but also Evie and Vivi.

I also love Cora, but on its own rather than as a nickname. I do think it runs together a bit with your surname, but on the other hand the name Coral is so uncommon, it might not occur to anyone. And if you do use Corrine as the official first name, I don't think it matters if the nickname runs into the surname a bit.

Kieran and Marin and Corinne make me think of Karenna.

I also wonder if you might like Bethan or Bethany. (I wouldn't have thought of it from your girl name list, but thought of it when I was trying to think of "names like Seth but longer.)

Celia and Felicity make me think of Cecily and Clarissa.

Name Updates!

Update to Baby Boy, Brother to Trent Michael!
Update to Baby Girl Pollack!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Baby Boy or Girl Mellert, Sibling to Harrison

Christine writes:
I am due on November 16th with our second child. The first is 20 months and is named Harrison David Ruggiero Mellert. We do not know if this one is a boy or girl but are having a very hard time settling on a girl's name. Our names are Neal Bradford Mellert and Christine Marie Ruggiero Mellert (Mellert pronounced MELL ert). We would like to give the new baby the same 2 middle name thing we have for Harrison, meaning ______ Ruggiero, with the last name Mellert. This way we can leave the Ruggiero out, simplify it to just R. or some combination.
For a boy we plan on naming him Knox Bradford Ruggiero Mellert, using a first name we both love and Bradford from my husband's middle name. We really like family names, David, as in Harrison's middle name, was my husband's grandfather's name who past away at a young age.
We really are liking the first name Clara for a girl, classic, not crazy and not overly trendy now but may be making a comeback. Other names that we like but are out include Charlotte (I don't like it with Mellert), Irene (my grandmother's name but not crazy about it), Claire (a cousin just used it) and Lucy. We were thinking about using the middle name Basil(e) as it was my great grandfather's name, but are now thinking that it may be too out there(?). I also thinking about using my mother's maiden name as a middle name (Cummings) but the same cousin that took Claire took that as well, the nerve, ha! Anyway, help would be GREATLY appreciated.

I like Eliza: Eliza Mellert. Harrison and Eliza. Maybe Eliza Irene Ruggiero Mellert. Or Eliza Claire, if you don't mind duplicating in the middle name slot.

I also like Georgia: it has the strength and dignity to go well with Harrison. Georgia Mellert; Harrison and Georgia. Again I like Irene for the middle name: Georgia Irene Ruggiero Mellert. Georgiana makes it a little more feminine and also increases the nickname options.

Or Genevieve: Genevieve Mellert, Harrison and Genevieve.

If Clara is too close to your cousin's daughter Claire, Cora is similar. Cora Mellert, Harrison and Cora.

Evelyn would be pretty: definitely making a comeback, but that's the way it is with the names that sound good. Evelyn Mellert, Harrison and Evelyn.

Or Corinna: Corinna Mellert, Harisson and Corinna.

Eva might be getting too common for you, but I think it's such a wonderful name. Eva Mellert, Harrison and Eva.

The name Rose is very common as a middle name but underused as a first name: Rose Mellert, Harrison and Rose.

Same with Jane: it's a great middle name, but I love it as a first name. Jane Mellert, Harrison and Jane.

Simone would work, I think: Simone Mellert, Harrison and Simome.

Name update! Christine writes:
thanks so much!
as it turns out....I had the baby 2 days after I posted my question and we had a BOY!
So our little bundle is Knox Bradford R. Mellert, and he is a cutie!
I enclosed a picture because I always love seeing the pics on the updates on your blog!
Thanks again for your help, we will be keeping those names in mind when we have another (which I already can't wait to do, there is a little face still missing in our brood!)

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Name Update!

Update (and photo!) on Baby Girl L_____!

Baby Girl or Boy Hartung, Sibling to Samuel and Dixon

Bronwyn writes:
We just found out that we're expecting baby #3 - on Christmas, of all days! My husband has declared that this one better be a girl, because he's just about spent on boys' names.

Here's the scoop. Our first son is named Samuel Patrick, which is perfect, because when we found out he was a boy, we set up a hard and fast rule: no biblical kings or saints. See how well that worked out? Our second son is Dixon Louis, named for our beloved late grandmothers, Dixie (his) and Louise (mine). This was the perfect name, because it would have worked regardless of the baby's sex (Dixon was a surprise, so it helped to have a flexible name going in).

We are now stuck.
If it's a girl, we've considered names that are similar to mine, Bronwyn. My husband likes Sulwyn, but I'm not convinced the child wouldn't live the life of name-mangling torture I've endured. I like Carmela, but don't know how any of that would fit with our last name, Hartung. If it's a boy, we're just completely stumped. Maybe Gregory, for a cousin who died when he was young? Or is that bad juju? Maybe my maiden name, Ramey, could be a middle name for our next child.

My only sticking point is that I prefer names that aren't automatically turned into diminutive nicknames by people who don't care to get to know you first. Again, you can see how great I did on this one with SamPat :)

So. Plenty of time, but I wanted to be sure to get in queue. If we learn the sex, I'll update you.

Although I didn't want to find out, my husband did, and he let it slip that "you know what it is"... and I knew, in my heart of hearts, that this child is a girl.

So. Still stuck. I considered Lillian Reid (for a great aunt and my MIL's maiden name) but am still not convinced. I thought Liam Reid sounded fabulous for a boy, but could I name a girl Lyam?

Sorry to barge in again, but I also wanted to mention that I love my mother's middle name, Carmela, and keep coming back to Bryony, too.


Well, the latest candidates (and I still don't know the sex of the baby, but suspect it's a girl) are Carmela Snowden and Liam Reid. Carmela for my mom's middle name and my great grandmother's first name, and Liam because after a string of William Davids I wanted a nod to dad without YET ANOTHER William. Snowden and Reid are from my MIL's family.

Not sure how they sound with Hartung, though. It's hard to make anything sound good with that name.

By "string of William Davids" I mean my dad is WD III, his dad was Jr. (Bill) and HIS dad was ... something else. All I know is, they were both jerks and my dad is NOT a jerk, so I'd want to honor him but not them. If that makes any sense at all.


(And do you guys now love Bronwyn as much as I do?)

Okay! Work shirts on! Let's say Liam Reid if it's a boy, because that is a great name and because I think we all think the baby is a girl, right?

And not Lyam for a girl, because it looks like LYE-um instead of LEE-um. Lillian Reid is great. I love your current top choice of Carmela Snowden and don't feel like I can suggest better. It even has a nice balance of family names: your mom's MIDDLE name as the first name, but then a FAMILY name from your mother-in-law's side as the middle name.

But looking at all these fun names you have to choose from and to be inspired by, I feel like doing some playing and combining.


For a girl, do you like Willemina (or Wilhelmina) or Willa? Both would be nice ways to honor your dad. You could do something like Willemina Carmela and get both of your parents in one swoop! Or Willemina Snowden is wonderful, or Willemina Reid, or Willa Bryony, or Willa Ramey.

Wynne would be a pretty way to get a name "like Bronwyn" but without as much pronunciation trouble. Wynne Ramey Hartung, maybe, or Wynne Bryony Hartung.

Or Gwendolyn? Gwendolyn is so pretty and underused, and has nice nickname choices like Gwen, Gwennie, Lynnie. Gwendolyn Reid Hartung.

Rowan seems like a great possibility, but I don't like it with Hartung.

And would you enjoy having some seasonal names on hand, or do you dislike those? I love the idea of them, and Eve is a beautiful choice if your baby is born on Christmas Eve or New Year's Eve. I think it's great with your surname, too: Eve Hartung. Eve Snowden Hartung---ooo, I like it! Or Eve Ramey Hartung.

And of course there's Noelle and Natalie and Joy and Holly and Ivy. And when I was five I got a doll for Christmas and named her Jeanette Isabella.

Name update! Bronwyn writes:
Liam Reid was born at 11:13 pm on Saturday, December 18, 2010. He weighed 7 lb 2 oz, and was 21 in long. I believe my exact words were, as I held his slippery little body to my own, "oh my god, it's another one!" One tends to be rather candid in such situations :)

Monday, November 8, 2010

Baby Girl Right, Sister to Ronan Joss

Melissa writes:
We had no real trouble naming our first child. I guess to be more accurate, I had no trouble coming up with names for our first child, my husband would veto, we batted around a list for a while and finally came up with something we both love that really fits. Our last name is Right, but with a W. Our son is Ronan Joss. The first name is something we both just liked after a lot of debate, and the middle name is a family name to honor my husband's grandmother, who passed away before our son was born. We had a decent sized list of leftovers for another of course the baby we're expecting in December is a girl!

We are stumped for girl names. Like last time, I am in charge of coming up with ideas, my husband is in charge of naysaying. I know that we would like to use Elle for a middle name, to honor both of my grandmothers (Ellen and Eleanor). So here is my list of first name prospects, with explanations:

Saoirse--I really like this name but fear that she would be telling people how to say it and spell it for the rest of her life, and I think that's a dealbreaker. My husband dislikes this one for the same reason.

Mila (pronounced MEE-la)--might sound funny with Elle, is getting super popular. I don't wanna go too "out there" but want to avoid the super popular. My name was top 1 or 2 for my birthyear and there were a million in every class growing up. Also a little concerned about the initial problem--MEW? I am not a fan of initials that spell things.

Annika/Anya--like these ones but also showing a scary spike in popularity in the last couple years. My husband likes the similar but even more popular Amelia.

Considering something in the neighborhood of Serena, Selena, Sela, Sabina, Sabrina. I like Sabina the best of these, and I think it sounds good with Elle. The last time it was really popular was 1918. My husband thinks it's weird but I really like it. I don't mind SEW as initials so much.

Isadora--I vacillate between loving this one and thinking it's weird. Plus with Isabella being basically the most popular name ever, and the most likely nickname being "Izzy," I'm really on the fence about it. I guess the nickname could be "Zora" or something, but that is also less than ideal in my opinion. The other problem I have with this one is the "too many R sounds" problem. Say it-- Isadora Right. I like the idea of this one but it just doesn't sound right.

Scarlet--Cute but too associated with "gone with the wind?"

I kinda like Penelope, Calliope, things in that neighborhood, still kicking those around. Really like Penny & Callie as nicknames too. Penelope is getting a little too popular though.

I also kinda like Maren or Marin but those are too close to my mother's name (Marion) and thus pretty much out.

I have come up with two fairly strong recent contenders that might take some convincing for my husband--Gemma and Carys. I think Carys also has a bit of that pronunciation problem (will people think it's "Care-eez?" I would pronounce it "CARE-is.")

I obviously wanting to avoid anything cheesily holiday themed, the poor kid is never going to have a birthday party being so close to Christmas anyway, so no Holly, Noel, or anything of that ilk. Friends who are also pregnant right now with a girl are using Zoe, so that's out. I kinda like Lucinda but Lucy is so popular and I'm only lukewarm on it anyway. I like Isla but other friends just named their baby that so it's also out. I want to avoid anything that that ends with an R because I think it sounds weird with our last name. Help!

Oh, I am a little sad about no holiday names! I love those for December babies. My favorite is Eve, because it's a great name but I don't think it instantly calls the holidays to mind.

Okay, in that case my first suggestion is to use Elle as the first name. Or Ella: Ella Marion Right would be so pretty. But I realize Ella is probably too common for you to want to use it as a first name, and the initials EW are unfortunate.

I don't think you need to worry about there being a million in every class of any name. The top ten of THIS year are way way way less common than the top ten of our birth years. Ella, a name I think you should consider despite its popularity, was in 2009 given to less than half a percent of baby girls---or one Ella per thirteen classrooms. Even Isabella, the number one most popular girl name in the U.S., was only given to 1.1% of baby girls---or one Isabella per six classrooms. (Source for all this mathy stuff: Social Security Administration.) Of course, regional stuff screws up all these numbers: taking anything national and telling you it'll apply to your daughter's single elementary school would be misleading. Which on the flip side means there could be two Scarlets in her class.

And in any case I take your gist, which is that you'd rather avoid common names. And so my next suggestion is that you avoid Elle and go instead directly to Ellen. (I'd suggest going directly to Eleanor, but its popularity is rising as people realize they can get the nickname Ellie AND the nickname Nora from it.) Ellen is uncommon (#700 in 2009, and falling) and lovely: Ellen Right. Ellen Saoirse Right or Ellen Mila Right. Ronan and Ellen. I do wish that this didn't give the initials EW.

Or, go ahead and use Annika: it was getting more popular for awhile, and I would have said it was a good bet for getting even more popular---but then it stopped, and now it's getting less and less common.

(screenshot segment from the Social Security Administration
(click to biggify)

Annika Ellen Right, maybe, or Annika Eleanor Right, or Annika Sabina Right. Ronan and Annika. Initials AW, which is better than EW.

Of the S names, my favorite is Sabrina, which is #214 and falling.

When I looked up Saoirse to get the pronunciation (SEER-shuh), one of the first hits was Saoirse Ronan. Perhaps Sasha? Anastasia?

I think Carys would work fine. Some people might need help pronouncing it the first time, but I'll bet most people know it.

Scarlet is at this point associated as much with Scarlett Johannson as with Scarlett O'Hara---but a bigger problem, I think, is its popularity: the spelling Scarlet is #610 and rising, but Scarlett is #169 and rising even faster (900s to 100s in 8 years).

Other unusual Celtic possibilities:

Bronwyn (not in the top 1000)
Cliona (not in the top 1000)
Flannery (not in the top 1000)
Gwendolyn (#585 in 2009 and holding pretty steady)
Ione (#938 and falling)
Riona (not in the top 1000)
Tamsin (not in the top 1000)

Name update! Melissa writes:
Baby Girl (W)right was finally born on 12/26/10! We had chosen Carys Elena, but it still didn't sound right to me somehow. Decided as my husband was sending out the announcement to go with Carys Eleanor and I think it suits her nicely. Thanks for the help everyone!

Name Update!

Update on Baby Naming Issue: Nicknames for Jonathan!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Baby Boy, Brother to Trent Michael

Erin writes:
I am currently pregnant with my second son, due December 24th, 2010. Our first son's name is Trent Michael. Michael is a family name, and for our second we also want to use a family name, which is Nikolas. We are also open to using the name Petr as the middle name, if it goes better with the first name.
I would like to name our son Silas, whereas my husband likes Dexter. We like names that are not common, but also not out-there, made up, or hippy-dippy in any way. Trent, we feel is a solid, respectable sounding, serious name and we'd like something similar for our second.
Personally, I like to put "Judge" in front of the name to see if it sounds good...
I cannot, in good conscience, strong-arm my husband into the name I like, but I also need to love the name, since I adore the name Trent.
Any suggestions that would bridge the gap?


Name update! Erin writes:
Thanks to you and all your readers for some really great suggestions! I am all set if we end up with boy #3! As it turns out, the husband and I came to an agreement. He let me have the first name if he could have the second, so it will be Silas Andrew (his fathers name). We briefly flirted with Baxter, but we had been calling him Silas for so long, that it had just stuck.


Baby Boy M_n

Jane writes:
Our baby boy is due Nov. 23 and we’re having real difficulty settling on a name. We’re using my husband’s last name, which is M_n (rhymes with tin or bin). We are currently considering August Emerson M_n and Langston Fitzgerald M_n or Langston Emmett M_n. I’ve always loved the name Emmett and like "em" sounds, but my cousin named her son Emmett and Emerson is now more commonly used for girls. I feel comfortable using these names as middle names, but not as first names. Our son will have an additional Korean middle name that begins with “G.” I really like the name Elijah, but it’s extremely popular, and I also like Theodore. My husband likes Sawyer, Wyatt, Orion, Thurston, and Porter. I don’t dislike these names, but I’m not sure about the “n” endings in combination with M_n (is Langston a problem for this reason?). Wyatt is now very popular, and I can't tell whether Sawyer will continue to gain popularity (or if it only experienced a brief spike due to "Lost"). None of the above are family names and there are no family names or sounds that we feel we must use. We would like to find a name that’s not very popular, but that is still familiar. I like names with the possibility of a nickname (e.g., Augie or Gus for August), but it’s not an absolute. We can’t use names such as Sam, Finn, or Quinn or names beginning with “C” because of the last name. Thanks so much for your help! I’m eager to hear your recommendations.
Take care.

I think you've already found your name: I think the name August fits all your preferences very well. I also like August Elijah Q__ M_n: the middle name slot is a great place for a name parents love but wish wasn't so common.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Name Update!

Update to Baby Boy or Girl Nadeau, Sibling to Finley Frances!

Baby Girl or Boy Hollis

Amanda writes:
I am pregnant with my first baby and don't know the sex yet. I like semi unusual names - but not in spelling cause I don't want the child always having to spell their name (if we can get away with that). We have had no issues picking the name for the girl Charlie Ruth Hollis (Ruth being a family name).

But the boy name has been a HUGE issue. I don't want a common name like Jack, we had picked Jake, but then it was taken from us by a friend. We semi liked Lucas, but drifted away from it and are now thinking Kahn. The middle name will be Johnstone (my last name) and Hollis as the last name.

I love name you can give a nickname for, but so far all the names I like Landon, Hunter, Jett and Dominic have been vetoed by my partner because they sound "gay" (don't ask, I am working on his issues).

I guess I am scared Kahn is more of a last name and also might sound too un-western?? But then I think the last name Hollis is perfect for a nickname and I might just start calling him Hollis if it ends up being a boy.


I think Kahn has the very spelling issues you're trying to avoid, but to me an even bigger issue is that I immediately think of the oft-parodied scene in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan where Captain Kirk yells "KHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAN!!!!!" I'm not even a Trekkie type and it comes instantly and amusingly to mind.

If you initially chose Jake and would still like to choose it, I suggest doing so. Names are not one-time-use items, and a friend's use of the name doesn't mean you can't also use it. On the other hand, Jacob (frequently nicknamed Jake) is the most popular boy name in the United States right now, so you might be disappointed with its commonness.

I think the name Wyatt might be a good choice for you. Wyatt Johnstone Hollis.

Or perhaps Zachary, which gives you the nickname Zach/Zack: Zachary Johnstone Hollis.

Or Keegan: Keegan Johnstone Hollis.

Or Lincoln, with the cute nickname Linc/Link: Lincoln Johnstone Hollis.

Or Beckett (Beck): Beckett Johnstone Hollis.

Name Update!

Update (and photo!) on Middle Name Challenge: Nathaniel ____ Murrah!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Baby Girl L____

Laney writes:
Sorry this is late notice, but I am due on the 12th of November and I would like some name help! (I only came across your blog today).

I'm Laney and my boyfriend Ryan and I are expecting our first baby - a girl! We are so excited, but we still don't have her name chosen. We are planning on waiting until we see her, but I am a little bit worried that I won't be able to choose as I love the names we have picked out all equally.

Ryan wants her to have an 'L' name like mine, which I think is sweet and a great idea! Her middle names will either be Charlotte Rose or Amelia Rose (family tradition - my grandmother is Margaret Jane Louise, my mum is Casey Michelle Jane, I am Laney Rose Michelle, so my baby will be ____ ____ Rose).

Here are the names we have picked out:
Leah Charlotte Rose
Lila Charlotte Rose
Lucy Amelia Rose

However we can't choose our favourite! So which one do you like the most?

Another name that I LOVE that Ryan isn't as keen on is Grace Amelia Rose "Gracie", and another name that Ryan LOVES and I'm not as keen on is Keira Scarlett Rose. Today I also thought of Elizabeth Charlotte Rose "Libby", though I haven't consulted Ryan yet. Do either of these sound any better?

If you have any other suggestions for girl names starting with 'L'?


One of my favorite girl L names is Lorelei. So pretty! Other possibilities:


If your surname is uncommon, I'd lean more toward the common Lila and Lucy and Elizabeth and Grace. If your surname is common, I'd lean more toward the less-common Lorelei and Laurel and Liviana. (Isn't Liviana pretty? And a good alternative for those of us who love Olivia. I only just found it this morning in The Baby Name Wizard while working on this question.)

I don't think I'd use Scarlett and Rose together, since together they sound either like two colors or like an adjective and a noun. Charlotte Rose and Amelia Rose are both great---I'd have a hard time choosing. Or, the first of the middle name slots would be a good place for Keira, Libby, or Gracie. Some of my favorite combinations:

Laurel Amelia Rose
Liliana Charlotte Rose
Linnea Charlotte Rose
Liviana Charlotte Rose
Lorelei Amelia Rose
Louisa Charlotte Rose

And let's have a poll over to the right for your three finalists. [Poll closed; see results below.]

Name update 11-09-2010! Laney writes:
She's here! She arrived on November 6th, and is doing great. She was 6lbs 13oz, and 20 inches long!
We decided to go with Leah Madeleine Rose. I think I always knew her name was Leah - it had always been one of my favourite names. We only had to decide between Charlotte or Madeleine for the first middle name, and we decided that Madeleine was best for her. I LOVE her name, and I can't stop saying it. Thanks so much Swistle for posting the question, and thanks for everyone who answered. You really did make me realise that Leah was the perfect name for her :-)

Here is a picture of Leah:

Monday, November 1, 2010

Baby Girl or Boy Reese, Sibling to Harper Grace

Rebecca writes:
We're expecting baby numero dos on or around December 23rd, 2010, gender unknown. Somehow we've gotten ourselves into quite the naming conundrum this time around! Which is why we would love to enlist you and your readers' help. Our daughter's name is Harper Grace and our surname is pronounced 'Reese'. My naming 'rules' are 1) must be somewhat uncommon, not trendy, 2) must be able to look at the name and pronounce it correctly, 3) must flow well with our daughter's name. Two and a half years ago when we picked the name Harper, we had no idea how popular it would become (and quickly!). Sorta trying to avoid that this time around, but I just need some opinions that come from outside my own head!

We welcome any and all ideas and new names as well. For some reason, our boy names have always been very biblical-sounding and girl names, not so much. Clearly, we're open to anything. Thanks a bundle!

Matilda, nn Tilly (my husband's favorite; I'm on the fence)

Middle name options for girls include: Kathryn, Kate, Paige, and Madeline.

Silas (one of my favorites, just don't know if its too many 's' sounds with our surname)

Middle name options for boys: Benjamin (my husband's name), but if we go with Shepard, it would be Eli or Elias.

Shepard is one of my favorite unusual boy names, but I think with Harper it's too careery. Or too nativity, or something. Were harpists present at the nativity? Anyway. Too many trade names.

My favorite from your boy name list is Silas. If you decide it's too much S, I wonder if you'd like Simon or Simeon? Simeon Elias, maybe.

The girl name list is harder to narrow down. Morrow and Eisley and Atley seem too unusual with Harper (and for me, both Morrow and Eisley break the rule about being able to look at it and pronounce it correctly), and Matilda and Gretta are such a totally different style (sturdy and retro rather than trade/literary/surname name). Briar would be my choice except that then both names end in the -er sound. I think that's okay since the names are so different in other ways, but I'd still prefer to avoid it. And maybe Atley wouldn't be too unusual: it's highly uncommon, but I feel as if I'm familiar with it---in a way I don't feel about Morrow and Eisley.

More possibilities:

Averil Madeline Reese, Harper and Averil
Cleo Madeline Reese, Harper and Cleo
Ellery Kathryn Reese, Harper and Ellery
Ellison Kate Reese, Harper and Ellison
Elodie Kathryn Reese, Harper and Elodie
Flannery Kate Reese, Harper and Flannery (too literary?)
Hollis Kathryn Reese, Harper and Hollis (repeating H-)
Jensen Paige Reese, Harper and Jensen
Kiefer Kathryn Reese, Harper and Kiefer (repeating -er)
Madigan Kate Reese, Harper and Madigan
Marlowe Kathryn Reese, Harper and Marlowe
Quincy Kate Reese, Harper and Quincy
Waverly Kathryn Reese, Harper and Waverly
Yeardley Kate Reese, Harper and Yeardley

Name update! Rebecca writes:
Just wanted to let you know our babe decided to make an appearance on December 22, 2010. Its a girl! After much contemplation and back & forth, we named her Rowan Kate. It was one of your reader's suggestions and my husband and I both loved it--and that isn't easy to achieve! It suits her just perfectly and we feel so blessed. Thanks again for all your help!