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Friday, March 4, 2011

Baby Boy: Oliver, Hazen, Luca?

Adrienne writes:
I've been reading your blog for quite some time but never thought I would find myself in this predicament. Yet here I am! My husband and I are expecting our first baby, a boy, on April 1st. Yes an April Fool's baby! We have some name ideas but are not feeling very confident in any of them. We like unique names (doesn't everyone?) but at the same time don't want people to wonder what the heck we were thinking... Because of our surname, the first name probably shouldn't end in an "s".

Our list includes:

- Oliver: My husband and I both really like this but I feel like it's rising in popularity very very quickly. My husband is probably favoring this name the most out of our list. It sort of reminds me of Cousin Oliver from the Brady Bunch though. Also, is it too English/pretentious sounding?

- Hazen: This name doesn't appear on any baby name list. This one has a special association for us. The day we were engaged we went to Hazen's Notch (a trail/state park) in Vermont. We thought the name was so unique and said that if we ever had a son we would name him this. Now I think we're both wondering if it's too out there/weird?

- Matteo: I like it, husband only likes the nickname Teo but not the full name.

- Matthias: I like, husband sadly hates.

- Luca: A name we considered for a very long time but ultimately we started envisioning it more on a girl.

- Lucas: I really like this name but it ends in an "s" which would run into our last name. Not to mention it's extremely popular.

- Tobias: We love the nickname Toby but the full name reminds us of the character from Arrested Development.

Other than the above list, we are lost! So with that said, what do you think? Any suggestions? We're also stumped on a middle name although I think Oliver Hazen has a nice ring to it. Swistle please help! I'm a super indecisive person struggling with naming a human being. Not a pretty combo. I'm so afraid to give this little boy the wrong name that I can't commit to anything! Thanks in advance!!!!

Still no name for our baby but I am starting to strongly consider Luca again. I'm just afraid that it would be seen as too feminine despite being a boy's name. I don't want him to deal with "but that's a girl's name!" growing up and I know this is a possibility considering my husband and I were definitely thinking of using that name if we were having a girl as well. My husband's family is from the town named Lucca in Italy so it is a nice connection for us. Thoughts?

Still totally lost and with just over 5 weeks to go, I'm trying to hold myself back from breaking into full out panic mode.


In one of those interesting baby name coincidences (as when a child is named Isadora to avoid being Isabella M., and then there happen to be two Isadoras and no Isabellas in her class), I know a little boy named Hazen. He's been in several classrooms with one of my sons, starting in preschool, so I've had some time to form an impression of the name. My impression is that it definitely works (the -en ending helps it to blend in with other such names), but that it's good to have a story for why it was chosen---which you have, as do the parents of the Hazen I know. Last year, according to the Social Security Administration, 36 boys and 5 girls were named Hazen. I'd be a little concerned that the rising popularity of the name Hazel (as well as to a lesser extent the name Haven) will affect the perceived femininity of the name Hazen.

If you like Matteo but your husband only likes Teo, I wonder if you'd like Theo? It's given as a stand-alone name, but you could also use Theodore. You might also like the name Milo, or the name Leo, or the name Nico, or the name Hugo.

I know that Luca is a boy name---and yet, it sounds and looks feminine to me. It reminds me of an issue we recently discussed: that certain traditionally male names (Noah, Micah) have sounds and endings that would make them girl names if they weren't boy names by long tradition---and some of these names are rising for baby girls, including Luca (72 new baby girls named Luca in 2009, up from 58 in 2008, up from only 19 in 2001 and 6 in 1999). I would avoid Luca because of this---especially with the popularity of the name Lucy enforcing the feminine look.

If you like Toby but want to avoid Tobias, I wonder if you'd like Tobin. Or Corbin.

Oliver is one of my own favorite boy names. I think it has a pleasingly British sound. It's true, though, that it's rising in popularity. Maybe you would like another of my favorite boy names: Simon. I think it has a similar style, but it's hanging around in the 250s without moving much. The repeating-S initials might not be ideal, however.

Perhaps Ian? It's such a great name, and it's been pretty stable: in the Top 100, but not rising.

Or maybe you would like Frederick, or Franklin, or George? I think these get overlooked, and yet they fit in nicely with the Olivers and Henrys.

And if you really want something different, I suggest John. It FEELS like it's so overused, and yet...I've run into as many children named John as named Hazen. This experience doesn't line up with the statistics, but I think it was my friend Mairzy who speculated that this is because many boys named John are namesakes who go by a different name.

Name update! Adrienne writes:
Apologies it's taken SO long for me to send an update. After much fretting and list writing of pros and cons for each name, our precious baby boy made his grand debut into the world after a harrowing induction on March 29th. I waivered on his name for a moment as he was born to David Bowie's "Young Americans" (a favorite artist of mine for years) and almost thought we should give him Bowie as a middle name. My husband brought me back to reality though and after a couple hours of studying his face, Oliver Hazen just clicked for us. My sweet Oliver has given us so much joy these last 6 months and though I do see that his name is becoming more and more just fits him so perfectly.

Thanks for all the help!


Rachael L. Vance said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
kanah said...

I agree that Luca is more feminine than not. I absolutely love Hazen, though and think you should use it! The connection it has for you and your husband is quite special and unique. Maybe you've loved it for so long, you are just having last-minute second thoughts? I also agree that John in fabulous. Eitehr way, best of luck!!

Clare said...

My son is named Lucas, and we call him Luca more often than not. Not once has anyone commented that it sounds like a girl's name (despite the Suzanne Vega song). I've gotten several "oooh, like the hot doctor in ER?!" comments, though. It's a very European name to me, since it's the Italian/Slavic version of Luke.

Patricia said...

I agree with Swistle that both Luca (which is highly popular in some European countries) and Hazen probably lean to the feminine side in US perceptions of them.

I like Oliver and though I've only come across one or two young boys with the name, it IS a name on the rise. Yet that can be an advantage as Oliver loses it's overly British image and becomes a regular all-American boy's name.

I also like Swistle's tweaking of Teo to Theo and Tobias to Tobin. For me, Theo (as a given name or nn for Theodore) has some of the qualities of Oliver, while Tobin would give you the option of Toby as nn.

Theo (Theodore?)
Tobin (nn Toby)

I like them all!

Leslie said...

I know two little boys named Luca, so the name still seems very masculine to me. I really love the name for a boy! If he ever gets frustrated by people confusing it for a girl's name, he could always go by Luke or Luc.

No one else has mentioned this, so maybe this issue is unique to me, but my first thought when I saw the name Hazen was that it sounded like "hazing" (hazin'). I like the story you have for the name, and in the abstract the name sounds good - but I worry that the similar sounding verb is just so negative. This bothers me MUCH less in the middle name spot (since middle names are often surnames or given for their significance), so something like Oliver Hazen could work very nicely. (Oliver is very handsome, too, by the way!)

My favorites from your original list are Oliver and Luca, though you have lots of good options. Best of luck!

Jenny said...

You have so many great options!

We've just met our first Luca, a darling little boy. We did have to ask our son Charlie (who met Luca in school) whether Luca was a girl or a boy, but as long as you don't mind that initial uncertainty, I think it's a sweet name. And I agree, he could always go by Luc (I've always loved that French spelling) or Luke.

I'm completely biased because our 5-year-old is named Oliver, but we love the name Oliver! We've only met one other young Oliver so far. Mostly, people tell us how much they love the name and how they were considering it, too.

We also know a little boy named Hayden, which reminds me of Hazen. And the nickname Haze is cool/unique.

We had the exact same feeling about Tobias as you do. Love the name, but for us is far too closely associated with Dr. Funke. Great character, poor namesake!

I so agree with Swistle, the name John is now so underused as to be revolutionary when it gets dusted off and applied to a brand new baby. We're expecting twins, and lately I've been thinking about the possibility of John if one of them is a boy. Simon is also at the head of our short list, as is Emmett. And my friend has a little boy named Felix, which I also find adorable, familiar, yet utterly unique.

Good luck!

Maria said...

I love Luca (Italian) and Luka (Croatian, ER doc). I do worry that it's becoming an all girl name in the US, although in many European countries it is still mainly used for boys. I would use it as a middle name

Hazen reminds me of Hazing as well, I think I prefer it as a middle name also.

Oliver is my favorite of your list - Oliver Lucca, Oliver Hazen - it all works really nicely.

Tobias is also very nice, who will remember the TV character in a couple of years time? If you love it, use it. Toby or Bas is adorable.

Would you like


Jenny Grace said...

Tobin: It's not some crazy made up name, in my great-grandmother's baby name book from 1928, it lists Tobias or Tobin as the same name.
And then you get Toby.
Also it has a similar sound to Hazen (which you can use, if what you were looking for was my permission).

StephLove said...

I was leaning to Hazen because I like names with stories behind them but then when I found out you had a good story for Luca, too, I switched allegiances because I like the name better all other things being equal.

I used to be a teacher and if I saw Hazen on a class roster I would think it could be a girl or a boy since I'm not familiar with it. Luca I would expect to be a boy. (And I think the child in the Suzanne Vega song is a boy, too.) How is the town name pronounced? If it has a pleasing sound, you could go with Lucca, though that would make it more gender-ambiguous for me, just because I'd never heard it as a name before.

Frazzled Mom said...

I am one who agrees names like John and George get so overlooked now that they are unique.

Maybe Louis, Stuart or Marlon?

christine said...

As Arrested fans, George Michael? No? Kidding, I kid.

Yeah, Tobias automatically brings to mind slightly off quotes, "Totally taken out of context!"

Okay, back to the task at hand. I don't find Luca feminine. But then, all the ones I've known (2) have been male. Also, Italian. But there you guy. I like the suggestions you've gotten. I don't know how I feel about Hazen. At first when I saw it I thought: "Marcella Hazan?" and then realized, no Hazen. So I would probably use it in a middle name slot with a more masculine first name.

Of the suggestions, I really like Simon and Theodore. Maybe you'd like Langston? Hugh? Leo, I love. Julian?

Good luck!

Rachael L. Vance said...

How about the double nameof Hazen John?

Frondly said...

Both Luca and Hazen sound a little feminine to me. Luca because of that song "My Name is Luca." The Luca in that song might actually be a boy, but because the singer is female, I have always pictured a girl.

I really like the name Luke. I know it's not as different, but it still has that nice sound to it.

I like the name Oliver, too, and the nickname Ollie.

Good luck!

beyond said...

To me, Luca is a boy's name, and a very traditional one at that.. But I am from Europe , so I don't associate names ending in 'a' with girls, necessarily. (The beautiful Vegas song 'Luka' is about an abused boy.)
I think Oliver Hazen sounds great, as does Luca Hazen. I love the sound of Hazen, but I would probably use it in the mn slot.
Good luck!

kimma said...

Aside from the gender neutrality of the name, to me Hazen is so close in sound to the much more popular Hayden he would be forever correcting people. I like Oliver or Tobin for you.

Adey said...

Wow! I never would have thought Luca/Luka/Lukka/Lucca as a girl's name at all! I know a boy Lukka and Luca so to me it's strictly masculine. And the Dr. from ER was a guy too.

I love the idea of Hazen - to me it's SO unique and yet not crazy so I hope you use that somewhere in his name!

Kate said...

I love love love the name Luca. Never in a million years would I see it and think it is a girl's name--- even though I do associate names ending in "a" with girls names. In this day and age, almost every name might cause me to ask explicitly, but I say, go for it!

Things that might help you decide:
1- Does your surname sound European/exotic?
2- What other sort of names do you envision for a future girl? ie, if you like boyish girl names(like Luca), you might want to choose a different name for your son in order to distinguish sexes within your family unit.

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

wow! we are expecting our first boy and have been mulling over the name Hazen. And like you were wondering if it was too "out there". Both my husband and I really like it, but have been getting mixed reactions from people. I love that it's unique. I think that scares some people off. A word or name you've never heard before sounds odd. Our son is due in a month and Hazen is still at the top of our list.

Anonymous said...

If you both love Toby, name him Toby!! I don't know why you would need to come up with some variation that would allow you to use the nickname Toby. We specifically tried to come up with names that would not be likely to be 'nicknamed' just so they would be called what WE wanted to call them. As for Luca - good grief, not feminine to me at ALL! - it was the name of the very efficient hit man in The Godfather - Luca Brasi! It is also the name of that very sexy doctor on ER. VERY sexy doctor!!! I personally love it. I guess if your last name is an S, then it might sound like Lucas when it is spoken anyway. As for Hazen, you have a good story to go with it, but since it is a boy, I'd avoid a name that is so odd, since boys are not fond of odd names, where girls tend to enjoy them. Also Hazen might be a problem later when you get to frat days, where they might want to take Hazen for a hazin'. It also rhymes with Raisin. Boys are a lot meaner with names than girls. Good luck -

What BURNS Me today...what doesn't said...

I just read your post...I am trying to find out where the name Hazen might have come from. I have been working on my family tree and I have a gg grandfather on my dad's side whose first name is Hazen. My g grandfather's middle name is Hazen. If I would have know about the name when my son was born 22 yrs ago I would have at least given it as a middle name (especially since his first and last name are "H"s.
Just a little info. What did you end up naming your child? Personally I hope it was Hazen. Keep the name out there. PS My gg grandfather was born in 1820 in NY state.