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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Baby Boy Russell

Carolyn writes:
I'm currently pregnant with a little boy (my first baby!) and am due March 14. Until we started talking about specific names, I was totally unaware that my husband and I had such wildly different views on names, and the process of trying to find one we both like is FREAKING ME OUT! ;) (Which of course means that all ANYBODY asks us lately is what we are going to name the baby! As if traveling for the holidays, being pregnant, and having to find a new place to live all at the same time wasn't stressful enough!)

I have been leanings towards fairly traditional names that lend themselves to a shortened version and won't condemn my baby to a life of having to correct people on the pronunciation or spelling (Andrew, Edward, Jeffrey, James, Daniel, etc.). I don't want to choose a super popular name, but I'm not AS concerned about him having to go by Jacob R (our last name is Russell) because there are so many Jacobs in his class someday, as I am with the idea of him having to tell people, "No, it's spelled J-A-K-O-B" for his whole life (and I know this seems crazy, but spelling a name differently to make it unique entirely changes my feelings about the name. A baby named Jacob evokes cuddly maternal feelings from me. A baby named Jakob does NOT. It actually makes me feel kind of stabby, and I really don't want to feel stabby towards my baby!)

My husband's primary concern with baby names is that it not be common (and he's an engineer, so he's going onto websites and finding data to support what percent of the population already has a certain name. All of the above mentioned names were ruled out for being too common). It also can't be a Biblical name, and it can't be the name of anyone he knows (that last part doesn't help you out very much, but I thought you should know what I'm working with, here!) He hasn't brought very many options to the table yet, so it's important to me that I don't quash all of his ideas without being constructive. However, I'm just not fans of Kelvin (the temperature scale! And everyone will think his name is Calvin, he'll spend his whole life correcting people! And the only nickname is Kel, which is like Keenen & Kel, and I don't want to reference ancient Nickelodean shows with my baby!) or Ajax (ah, it's a cleanser, like Comet! Which makes you vomit! I don't want my baby associated with gritty sink cleansers!) I was hopeful about the name Jackson, until my husband decided that he only likes it if it is spelled Jaxon (see previous comments on stabby feelings towards unique spellings and having to constantly tell people how to spell something that sounds simple). I've tried finding out if there is something about those particular names that he is drawn to, in an effort to find similar names that I don't feel as strongly opposed to (I don't mind the idea of naming our baby after some famous scientist or a strong Greek warrior, if they were names that also seemed easy to spell and pronounce and not terribly likely to evoke beatings from kids on the playground) but I think what he likes most about them is that they are unusual.

I'm hoping that you can help me with the seemingly impossible: do you have suggestions for traditional/non-Biblical/uncommon names? :) I've tried looking at baby name books and websites, but (shockingly!) they don't usually have a column for that ;) And for the sake of my mental health, I need ideas! :)

Thanks so much!

You are among friends: many of us here won't think it's remotely crazy to feel that a name is changed by spelling it differently---whether it's a legitimate alternate spelling or one done in an attempt to make a name less common. I certainly feel differently about Jakob versus Jacob, or Madison versus Maddisyn, or Katherine versus Catherine, or Sophia versus Sofia, or Jeffrey versus Geoffrey.

The Baby Name Wizard (try to find a copy with the hot-pink "fully revised and updated" circle on the cover---Amazon claims to have that version only for the Kindle, which I suspect is losing them some cash) has a section that might be what you need: it's called Exotic Traditionals. Listen to this introduction: "You want a name that stands out from the pack ... Yet you roll your eyes at new inventions with wild spellings---you want a name with roots and resonance."

My total favorite from this section is Milo. For me, this is the one I could see as My Baby, and it was our runner-up to the name Henry for our youngest. I still love it. It's unusual, but easy to say and easy to spell. I think Milo Russell sounds wonderful: dignified and friendly at the same time. He sounds like a Great Guy with a Happy Life.

Another name I like from this section is Aidric. I've never met or heard of a single person with that name, but it nevertheless seems familiar and easy---I think because it's like a combination of Aidan and Eric. I think it has a cool look and sound, and it's great with your surname: Aidric Russell. (In fact, I am starting to envy you your surname.) Maybe Aidric Kelvin Russell.

Another name we considered ourselves from this section is Felix. Yes, yes, there's a Felix the cat, which I think I've seen only in clip shows about the history of cartoons, and which I'll bet none of our children will see; ditto for The Odd Couple, which I watched in afternoon reruns when I was a child home sick from school but haven't seen since. The name means happy and lucky, which is pleasant, and again it's great with your surname: Felix Russell. Your husband might appreciate the X, and yet the name is easy to spell and pronounce.

If your husband wasn't opposed to biblical names, I'd suggest Gideon. Why is this name so underused? And Gideon Russell is wonderful.

A name not in this section is Darwin. Easy to spell, easy to pronounce, but quite unusual and with excellent Lab Cred. Darwin Russell. I hesitate only because it seems like people might sometimes think the name was Russell Darwin.

Perhaps your husband would be willing to make a little DEAL: you get to sway the first name toward the realm of The Usual, and he gets to sway the middle name toward the realm of The Gritty Sink Cleanser Unusual. Not only might this help resolve the naming situation, I would think it would be kind of fun to have a Cool Middle Name. It could be whipped out to impress, or kept hidden---depending on the personality type and current circumstances of its owner. Milo Jaxon Russell is an indisputably cool name (BE QUIET, I SAID INDISPUTABLE), and it seems like moving your husband's preferences the uncommon name to the middle slot might make it less stabby for you. Milo Kelvin Russell works wonderfully, too, and then there's no problem with the nickname Kel. I would choose Kelvin over Jaxon, because I find it easier to roll my eyes affectionately at science geekery than at respellings, and it would earn a certain Lab Cred among my husband's co-workers.

A middle name suggestion that might please your husband: Tycho (pronounced TEE-ko). A science guy who was so tough he lost his nose in a duel! Gross!

More middle name possibilities: Faraday, Hawking, Feynman, Edison.

I love Milo Feynman Russell, or Felix Hawking Russell, or Aidric Faraday Russell.

If you like Edward, maybe Edmund? WAY less common, yet familiar. Edmund Hawking Russell.

Name update! Carolyn writes:
Our little man arrived early via C-section on February 18, and it took the full time I was in the hospital for us to finish choosing a name :) (The sleep deprivation actually made us be a bit more direct in our thinking and quit dilly-dallying around!) I loved everyone's suggestions and will hold onto them for the future, but we ended up agreeing on Nathan Isaac for our first little boy (and no, I don't know what about it ended up appealing to my husband. But I know for sure that the next time I get pregnant, we'll start discussing names ASAP so we don't end up in a bind, again!)

Thank you!!!


lifeofadoctorswife said...

I LOVE Swistle's suggestion of Aidric. It sounds so close to your husband's suggestion of Ajax - it's cool, it sounds great with your last name. Awesome.

If your husband likes the X sound, what about Maximilian? Other forms of Max (Maxwell, Max) are in the top hundred-ish on the SS baby names site... But Maximilian is less popular but still a familiar, strong, masculine name. Maximilian Russell. Love it!

Rayne of Terror said...

I don't think Jaxon will be a name your child has to spell for people. About half the Jacksons I have met since having sons are Jaxon. I think before long you'll just say Jaxon with an X and people will know how to spell it. Like Cathy with a C or Kathy with a K.

I met a 10 year old Kelvin a couple years ago and went wild over his science name. Very cool.

Maybe you guys would like Xander or Xavier.

The good thing about geek names is that scientists usually have normal first names. My nephew is named after Alan Matheson Touring. Alan is quite normal and quite unusual simultaneously.

Another name is the same vein is Glenn. It immediately brings to mind John Glenn, is easy to spell, and is unusual.

My little Quinino is throwing a fit, so I have to go.

-R- said...

Not that you need other suggestions, but names I think of as traditional but not common are Warren, Walter, Harrison, Stuart/Stewart, and George.

beyond said...

Milo is an excellent suggestion.
For uncommon yet familiar names I suggest Arlo, Casper, Florian, Leander, Linus.
Caper Jaxon Russell, Linus Kelvin Russell...
Good luck!

StephLove said...

Swistle suggesting Edmund made me wonder if we could do something similar with your other rejected-as-too-common names. I couldn't think of anything for Daniel, but for Andrew, Edward, Jeffrey and James, how about:

Edison (also scientific! bonus!)
Geoffrey (an alternate spelling but one with a long history so it might not grate on you)

Magic27 said...

If you're looking for a Greek warrior type thing, there's (the admittedly Trojan, but who's counting?) Hector, which is a name I love... And it's easy to spell, too!
Another non-Biblical name I like is Tristan; again, easy to spell, fairly unusual, fairly classic (possibly more common here in France, but still not common - never had one in either of my daughters' classes).
Also, Arno, which is an easier-to-use spelling of a French name, Arnaud, but it's become pretty accepted even here.
I think Tristan Russell sounds great, and Hector Russell, and Arno Russell for that matter...
Good luck with the name finding!

AirLand said...

Here are some pretty easy to spell names people have probably heard before but are not super popular:


squandra said...

I'm not a regular here at Swistle: Baby Names, but I saw the tweet and just HAD to comment on this one. And then I read the entry and my planned comment seemed even more appropriate!

So. My nephew is named Jackson but he goes by Jax. And, AND! His middle name is Russell. Jackson Russell is so lovely. And Jax is a nickname only and he can abandon it if he wants when he's older, but it seems like the kind of name your husband would like.

Good luck!

Becky said...

I love all the suggestions so far, and I agree with you that changing the spelling of names makes me feel stabby. One name that I saw recently (some friends of ours used it for their son) that I like and think fits your categories is Odin. He's like the Zeus of Scandinavian mythology, in case you aren't familiar. Also, another unusual but classic name that we used as a middle name: Victor (my son's name is James). I love that it's been around a while and people are familiar with it, but it's still pretty unusual these days.
Good luck!

squandra said...

Oh, and I super-love Milo, too. :)

Anonymous said...

If he's born on 3/14, what about Pi for a middle name?

Jenn said...

Ooh I love the Aidric suggestion! Other ideas:


Clarabella said...

Other suggestions made me think of Vincent, which is lovely.

Mrs Hill said...

Felix or Milo! With the mn Hawking, Edison or Jaxon.

kanah said...

I too was going to suggest Nolan. How about GARRETT, ACE, HAMPTON,

OR you could do a double name with something classic like John paired with a fun middle name. Best of luck!! Let us know what you pick!

Barb @ getupandplay said...

I love Felix and the suggestion of Atticus. I knew a young boy several years ago whose name was Atti- it worked on him. I also really like Edison, as either a first name or middle name.

Lots of great suggestions in the comments- wow, I love some of these names! (Sorry if I repeat).

Here's my list (for easy reference I've included some of the ones I like from others' lists):

Orion (mythological)
Phoenix (mythological)
Rex (latin for King)
Johan (variation of John)
Bjorn (variation of John)
Rocky (my husband is DYING to name a child Rachmaninoff and nn him Rocky)

Good luck!

Marla said...

I love the suggestion of Milo. Milo Jaxson Russell is a GREAT name.

Other ideas- Finnley, Quinn, or Theodore. (These are my top three favorite boys names.)

Anonymous said...

I love the suggestions of Milo and Walter.

-- Bode. (scientist) (
-- Clark. (who needs a god when they have Superman?)

Anonymous said...

How about Leo? It's masculine, easy to spell, not overly Biblical, and sounds nice with Russell.
ma in pa

Anonymous said...

How about Sebastian, Peter, Timothy, Joseph. All of which are familar but actually not that common!

Anonymous said...

Oh and I second Stuart/Stewart as a familar but not common name. Its my brother's name!

Sam said...

OMG. Ajax?? I can totally see your husband suggesting that just to be contrary, in a time where contrary equals stabby wife. I can get rid of a name for you: Jackson (spelled however). My first son's name is Jackson. If he doesn't want a name someone he knows has, then it is out! (No matter how much of a stretch that is). I'm going to send the URL to this post to @xyrth. Ajax??!!

Anonymous said...

Just another suggestion would be Dominic or Lucas/Luke. Easy to spell and familiar, classic names.

kimma said...

A colleague of mine had similar tastes to your husband so I thought I'd send you their "compromise" list, with kind of out there formal names and common nicknames.

Benedict (nn Ben)
Redmond (nn Red)
Finnigan (nn Finn)

They ended up going with Redmond/Red.

brooke said...


Anonymous said...

Love, love, LOVE these lists so far! Some of my favorites: Milo, Felix, Xavier, Quinn, Sebastian. And may I add Luca.

The Mrs. said...

Sorry for any repeats from above...

what about:

Thaxter Edison Russell (Thax for a nickname)

Orion Kelvin Russell (nickname of Ry)

Edison Newton Russell (Ed for a nickname)

Franklin Keys Russell (Benjamin Franklin was a brilliant scientist in his time... Frank as a nickname)

Leonardo Kelvin Russell ('DaVinci' doesn't have the same pop as 'Leo'... but also a great inventor)

Best of wishes as you welcome your little guy!

Megz said...

Lots of good suggestions. Here are a few more than I don't think have been suggested yet.


BTW, Milo is a hot chocolate drink where I live. It sounds so funny to me every time you suggest it.

Anonymous said...

What about

Rigel (star)

Kate said...

I had no idea Jaxon was a common name. That turns my stomach a bit. I also don't get the alternate spelling thing-- isn't the point of choosing a name that is not common more in the frequent references rather than the spelling? I do like the nickname Jax (However, I thought it was mostly used for girls named Jaqueline though, as boys would just go by Jack).

How about...

Xander (repeat, but it works)
Simon(I know that's Biblical, but maybe not too much so?)

All over the place in style, but I feel your pain. I think I have both your and your husband's rules for naming. Have you thought about naming him after a geographical location? Those are often unique yet familiar and easy to spell.

Anonymous said...

Science makes me think of Linus Pauling - chemist.

Linus, not too common, yet people have heard of it and won't have trouble spelling it.

Anonymous said...

How about Hadrian. Like the more common Adrian but comes from an ancient Roman Emperor.

Patricia said...

It's fun to look at unusual names, but when it comes down to choosing THE name for one's child, more traditional names are often much stronger choices. Nathan Isaac is a fine name for your little boy -- excellent choice! Congratulations!

Lady said...


I love your son's name Nathan Isaac. I've loved the name Nathan for going on 2 years now and it's the one boy name my husband and I agree on. So I'm super thrilled to meet a new little Nathan and he's a d o r a b l e. I love Isaac as well unfortunately it's not an option due to family reasons but it flows perfectly.

Much Happiness to you and your family!

Anonymous said...


for future, here are some names i like,sorry for repeats from above:

max or maxx
landis (middle name)
clinton (clint)
clayton (clay)
corbin (love this one!)