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Friday, June 24, 2011

Baby Boy Lyman

Chris writes:
I hope you'll choose to answer my questions but I'm not holding my breath since they're so specific and perhaps kind of...insane? The baby is a boy and I'm due in September. My husband is a typical name-vetoer and pretty early on he got it stuck in his head that if the baby was a girl it'd be Harper and if the baby was a boy it'd be Charlie. I wasn't 100% sold on either name, though I liked them both, so I kept trying to come up with names to add to the list, but he said he would never like anything as much as those two. I really like Charlie, but I worry that Charles/Charlie is going the way of George instead of Henry. Just Old Man sounding and not Young and Fresh. The official name would be Charles so he could have it fall back on professionally if he ever wanted, but we'd call him Charlie pretty exclusively. Charles has been steadily declining over the years...would we be saddling our kid with an Old Man name? I also worry just a little bit about the popularity of Charlie rising as a nickname for girls named Charlotte. I'd hate for our kid to be one boy Charlie surrounded by a school full of girl Charlies.

I have a second question as well - our last name is Lyman (pronounced how you would think: lye-men) which has been super difficult to pair names with - so many strong sounds! It's ruled out the possibility for any names ending in N for me. I fell in love with Benjamin but would never use it because Benjamin Lyman just sounds so choppy. We'd like the baby to have a middle name that has some sort of family significance instead of just being random, and the name I like best OF COURSE ends in an N: Evan. My grandmother's maiden name was Evans and I have lots of close family members with it. While I LOVE Charlie Evan, Charles/Charlie Evan Lyman makes me cringe. Like you, I like there to be a cadence and flow to a full name. I keep trying to tell myself that after the birth announcement and any baby blankets that are made, I'll rarely see the whole name strung together. Am I lying to myself and signing up for a lifetime of baby name regret? Our backups are possibly my husband's middle of Christopher, Michael as a family name from my side, and William as a family name from both sides.

Thank you so much!

The first question brings up one of my hot-button naming issues, which is this: Naming a baby is not a game of King of the Mountain, where a name stays at the top unless it is knocked down by force. That is, your husband may SAY that he'll never like any names better than Charlie and Harper, but this doesn't mean that those names must be used unless you persuade him otherwise. It isn't your job to find a name he likes better while he sits back comfortably and waits; this is a mutual decision, and he too is responsible for questing for names the two of you can agree on. MANY A PARENT has had to give up MANY A NAME because the other parent didn't want to use it. It makes me a little cranky when one parent seems to be saying, "Hey, it's up to you: find me a name I like better."

Okay, now on to the questions you actually asked. No, wait: I have another digression. It's that Charlie Harper is the Charlie Sheen character on the TV show Two and a Half Men, and is also similar to the name of the artist Charley Harper. I don't think that rules out using them as sibling names (I'm not sure many people would make either connection except to think, as I did, that those two names sounded remarkably natural together), but it's the sort of thing I like to think of beforehand, rather than having someone point it out to me after the children are already named.

NOW on to the questions you actually asked. The name Charlie is hard to evaluate: the Social Security statistics don't tell us how many Charleses and Charlottes are going by Charlie, and it's hard to say how these names will feel to us later on. And "how a name feels" is so subjective: to me, Charlie is adorable and fresh and goes beautifully with all the Sams, Maxes, and Olivers---but to someone else, it could sound...well, like George (although I think George could be the next Sam/Max).

I notice that although the name Charles is very gradually declining in use, the name Charlie as a given name is increasing in use. And although Charles is declining, it's still in the Top 100---so at least a Charles/Charlie would have company, whatever the associations of the name.

It sounds to me like you have several legitimate arguments for not wanting to use it:

1. You're worried it might end up going the Old Man route.
2. You're worried about the effect of all those Charlotte-based Charlies.
3. You're not sure if "Charlie Lyman" works.
4. You're just not 100% sold.

I'd be worried about that second one, too. But without statistics, I don't know whether I should reassure us or validate our fears. I DO think a lot of those little Charlottes are going to go by Charlie---but I think a lot of them will go by Charlotte, and a lot will go by Lottie. Maybe it will stay a clearly "fine for boys and girls name" like Sam: the presence of a whole lot of Samanthas going by Sam hasn't hurt the boy name Sam. (Er, I don't THINK it has. Again, I am lost without statistics to examine.)

Now, as to your second question, again I am unsure! I've found I can argue either side of this: I can dismiss arguments that "it's just a middle name, no one will ever say it" OR I can make those arguments myself. I DO like a name to have a good flow---but I think in the end I put that consideration second place to names I like and names that honor someone. So although my kids all have names that I think flow pretty well, there were some possibilities we considered that would have had a BETTER flow, but we instead went with the honor-name or with the name we liked best. And in the case of my daughter's name, I think a different number of syllables would have been way better for her middle name---but after Paul agreed my first-name choice for her was his top choice as well, he wanted to use his previous favorite girl name as the middle name, and that seemed more important.

Charles Evan Lyman falls into this category, I think. It doesn't SING, but it's not bad. And when I say it repeatedly to myself, I find I come to like it: I know some people avoid having the same number of syllables for each part of the name, but I find I'm very positively drawn to the 2-2-2 pattern.

I feel similarly about Evan Lyman and even Benjamin Lyman: they are perhaps not ideal, but they're good enough that if you love the names I don't think the rhythm/sound is a big deal---and when I say them over and over, I come to like them. I've noticed when I look over a class list for one of my kids' classrooms, I'll see a lot of first/last name combinations that seem Not Ideal---and yet, it doesn't really matter. And yet another "and yet," if you said you didn't want to use them because you didn't like the sound, you'd find me solidly in your camp: I've rejected many a name combination because of issues I DID think were minor---but nevertheless preferred not to choose.

I think for me it must come down to how much I love a name. If I think to myself, "I MUST USE THIS NAME, IT IS THE ONLY NAME I TRULY LOVE"---well then, I'm much more likely to dismiss issues with initials or sounds or rhythms. But if I'm deciding among a list of names I like quite a bit but am having trouble choosing from, well then I'm much more likely to say "Not the one with the initials I.P., and not the one that repeats the ending-sound of our surname." So if you say to me, "I LOVE the name Charlie Evan, and this means my husband gets the name he wants and I get the name I want!," then I say to you "GO FORTH AND USE IT!" But if you say to me, "I'm not sure---I like a lot of these names, but none of them seem to work well," then I say to you "Let's keep looking! And tell your husband Swistle says he needs to help!" (Maybe Everett or Elliot, if you like Evan? Maybe Jonathan or Christopher if you like Benjamin?)

So, okay, I kind of WENT ON there for awhile. What does everyone else think on these issues? What sort of path do you see the name Charlie heading down, and do you think all the Charlottes will affect that? If you like a name to flow well, what sorts of things make you willing to compromise on that?


Name update! Chris writes:
Just wanted to send in my update to you and your wonderful readers! Thank you for reassuring me about the name Charlie - our Charlie was born on September 29! His full name is Charles Oliver Lyman; I decided to keep looking for a middle name instead of using a family name I wasn't totally sure about, and as soon as Oliver crossed my mind, I was in love.


23 comments:

natalee215 said...

I wouldn't worry about the issue of female Charlies. I also don't think of Charlie as an old man name at all. There is an adorable little boy in my daughter's music class by the name of Charlie and I think it's super cute on him as a 3 year old.

The name we have selected for our baby-to-be if a girl doesn't have the ideal flow to it, but we're fans of the name, so we're going with it.

One association that I had immediately when I heard the name Benjamin Lyman was the character Benjamin Linus from LOST. I realize the show is over and I don't know how many people even watched it, but as a watcher, it is what I thought of immediately.

Phancy said...

These are my very favorite type of posts: the ones where you talk about ideas and issues and naming patterns and so on. Because at the end of the day, I feel like naming babies is so much more than the actual name, it is about the process and the story and all the issues.
On to the question. I think Charles/Charlie is well established as a male name, and even if there are more Charlie girls, it will be the girls mistaken for boys, if anything. And I do think it is cute and solid name, not old man.
Furthermore, I like Evan and Benjamin with your last name, the similar sounds don't bother me. And I really like Swistle's advice about king of the mOuntain.

beyond said...

I wouldn't worry about female Charlies on the playground. And, more importantly, I don't think that Charles is an old man name. It's a great name for a baby, and a great name for an young man. (But I also think that Arthur and Walter and Agnes make wonderful baby names, and many people, including my husband, would strongly disagree.)
I really like how Charles Benjamin Lyman flows. I think Charlie Lyman works, too; I actually like the LEE - LIE sounds.
Good luck!

CC said...

How about using Evans as the middle name instead of Evan? That way you get to honor your family with your preferred name, but it also breaks up the double "an" endings.

Sandy said...

If you love Benjamin I would use it! I don't think it sounds too choppy at all and it's a great name. Good luck!

Sarah said...

I love the suggestion of using Evans as the middle name!

StephLove said...

I don't think Charlie sounds like an old man name or has gone girl.

Charles Evans Lyman and Charles Benjamin Lyman work for me. The s does break up the double an sound and the longer middle in CBL also alters the pattern of two two syllable names with similar endings next to each other.

I also like Christopher and William either in the first or middle name slots. Charles William, William Charles, Charles Christopher, Christopher Evans...There are a lot of good ways to mix and match these names.

Jackie said...

I adore the name Charlie for a little boy. I do not know any little girls name Charlotte (Charlie), so it's hard for me to think that would be an issue.

The Mrs. said...

Okay, I KNOW some people have very strong feelings about what I'm going to suggest, and if you are one of them, feel free to disregard...

What if you named him Evan Charles Lyman and called him 'Charlie'? At school, around his friends, in the family, he'd be 'Charlie Lyman'. Professionally, he could even be E. Charles Lyman (sounds like a judge name to me).

He'd never be 'Evan Lyman'; even the doctor's office would call him 'Charlie'.

(Although, to be fair, I think 'Evan Lyman' sounds incredibly balanced and strong).

You've got great taste, and I'm excited to see what you and your husband pick. All the best to your growing family!

Karen L said...

Not answering your question at all but: What about William as a first name? I really like the nickname Will, too. William Evans Lyman sings to me. love. Or keep it in mind for a possible second boy, if William and Evan/s remain unused this time. Charles and William, Charlie and Will is a lovely sibset.

I definitely think that Charlie is more Henry/Sam/Max than George. I also think that it is going to stay fine for boys indefinitely.

Does Evan Charles Lyman sound better to your ear than Charles Evan Lyman? I switched the order of my daughter's names to get a nicer flow, so, she goes by her middle name. I will probably be doing the same for my third who's due soon. Some people HATE that. I can live with it to get the flow I want.

So in my case, it isn't: What would make me compromise ON flow? It's: What would I compromise FOR flow? Though I completely understand people who do not even consider flow so long as each name is one they want.

I agree that Evans, instead of Evan, breaks up the Ns a bit but the repeated Ss in CharleS EvanS would be a bigger problem for me.

And boo for obstinance. I think you'd be well with in your rights to demand now more cooperation next time (if you have more children) even if this time you do accept that Charles/Charlie is the best group decision this time.

Karen L said...

Ah, The Mrs, you comment hadn't appeared before I started composing mine!

sarah said...

I was going to suggest using Evans as the middle name as well. Charles Evans Lyman, Charlie Evans Lyman, sounds great!

Melissa Haworth said...

Having just named a boy Charlie 4 weeks ago I hope Charlie isn't headed for the girls. Around here all the Charlottes I know go by Charlotte and I know a 1 year old boy named Charlie so I feel reasonably safe he'll have some male counterparts at least in our region. Poor kid doesn't even have Charles to fall back on but he does have a middle name if he hates us later. All that to say I don't have a problem with Charlie :) and I think you should use Evan as a middle name regardless of flow. Honoring family is more important (in my mind) than middle name flow. Good luck with your decision!

Ashley said...

I don't think it's going the Old Man Route and I don't think there are a TON of Charlottes-going-by-Charlie. Charlie is cute, and Charlie Lyman sounds like a character in a children's book.

That said, if it's not a name you really love, then don't use it. Like Swistle said- you shouldn't be forced to do all the work to come up with a name HE likes better...it should be both of you together. If you really don't want to use Charlie, then tell him that Charlie is out, 100%, off the table. Then start anew.

Anonymous said...

Charlie is an absolutely twinkly name, be it on a little boy or an old man. It's a great one (if you love it).

Carolyn said...

I wonder if the Charlottes going by Charlie are really pronouncing them that way. I mean, I think it would be more natural to call a Charlotte "Sharly" (but maybe spelled Charly/Charlie).

Barb @ getupandplay said...

Just another data point here. My first son is named Charles and we call him Charlie. We seem to get lots of compliments on his name. My personal opinion is that Charlie falls into the charmingly old fashioned category- yes, it's old-mannish but it's also great on children nowadays. (FWIW, I happen to think George is that way, too. A strictly old man name to me is something like Harold).

I also know 3 baby girls named Charlotte and only one of them is called Charlie and it's only occasionally.

And amen to what Swistle said about the "king of the mountain"! You shouldn't have to do all the baby naming work!

Chris said...

It's the letter-writer here.

Thank you Swistle and commenters for your awesome opinions! I am now just as in love with Charlie as my hubs and all of you. I should say here also that I promise he's not a piggish man-brute, but a very nice guy who just fell in love with a name.

How funny that Charlie Sheen's character on Two and a Half Men is named Charlie Harper - I had no idea! Although I had worried a little bit about the association to him as a person, but I'm hoping His Royal Insane-ness will just be a flash in the pan.

We are definitely going to reevaluate the middle name - TOGETHER - thanks for all of your wonderful suggestions! I promise after d-day I will send an update. With a photo. Because those are the best.

vanessa steck said...

This made me laugh because Lyman (as a first name) is a family tradition for me. grandfather, uncle, cousin. I tried to think of middle names but theirs are...not actually names.

Charlie is really nice. So is Charles as a "formal" name. I really like Charles Evans Lyman.

I cannot totally tell if you KNOW this baby is a boy.I like Harper Lyman all right, but I don't love it. Your surname is tricky, though. Anyway, I won't go looking for good Harper alternatives if you think you are going to have a boy.

Crafty Beth said...

Just had to drop in to say that Benjamin Lyman also makes me immediately think of Benjamin Linus from Lost, but I may have been a little obsessive about that show...

Anonymous said...

I agree you should just use Evans as the middle name. Charles isn't bad, nor is it an Old Man name at all...I do know someone with a Henry & Charlie & they work great together. (BTW, I have a 3 year old George & love the little old man name on him)
& I wouldn't worry about girl Charlies. Charles/Charlie is classic enough that I think it will hold it's own.

Leslie said...

I love the sound and flow of Charles Oliver - very handsome! Congratulations!

Jessica said...

My fiance's name is actually Benjamin Jacob Lyman, and I think it sounds beautiful. It is an extremely difficult surname in terms of finding a suitable first name. I love the name Emeline for a girl but it just doesn't quite flow, so we've been considering Charlotte Grace, Claire, or Bridget. It's much tougher for boys, I liked Conlan and Chase but the first sounds too harsh(too many n sounds as someone had mentioned before) and the latter was vetoed by Ben. I'd love some more boys names or anybody's feedback if possible!
:-)