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Sunday, July 10, 2011

Baby Boy Jelens

F. writes:
We are expecting our first child, a boy, the first week of August, in less than a month. He is still nameless, and this starting to worry both my husband and I.

I never thought it would take me so long to name my child. I have been interested in and besotted with baby names for as long as I can remember. It’s a great honor and a huge responsibility. Exciting on a good day, and terrifying and depressing on a bad day. Thanks, pregnancy hormones.

His surname will my husband’s: it sounds like Jelens.

A few criteria: His: no L; a good one-syllable nickname. Mine: no J; something that will work (more or less) in English, German and French; not too popular, although if I fell in love with a name, I wouldn’t care.

My list has mostly old-fashioned names, some baby books might put many of them in the “Ladies and Gentlemen” section: Henry, Arthur, Walter, Willem, Casper, Homer, Theodore (Teo!). I don’t like all of these to the same degree, but you get the idea.

He has vetoed every single one of them, mainly because they’re “old man names”. (Which they’re not!)

He likes:


Zachary (Zach). I’m the one who suggested this very early on. I’m not convinced.

Nicander (Nico, Nick). This has special significance for him. I’m warming to the idea, but I’m not sold. Is Nicander strange? Or does it sound familiar enough because of Alexander, Leander? I like Nico as a nn, but that’s getting really popular.

Kai. I’m not fully opposed. We both like its internationalism and multiple meanings.

Tyler (Ty), Skyler (Sky), Ryder (Ry)… there’s a pattern here. I’m not a fan.

We both sort of like Milo, too. I don’t object to Nicander and Kai.

The middle name might be a family name, from my side or his, depending on who got more say in the first name department. We’ll deal with that once we have a first.

For reference, my girl-list would have been: Louise, Greta, Adele, Frieda, Mathilda, Camille, Minna, Agatha. He really dislikes most of these.

His would have been: Miranda, Calliope.

I know that there will have to be a compromise. Should we scratch all these and start over? I feel like we’re all over the place. Any feedback and help from Swistle and her wonderful commentators is appreciated.

It seems to me that men more often than women have trouble updating what a "current" baby name is. I remember Paul's name ideas being pretty much all the names of his former classmates.

I suggest Isaac. I think of it as "the next Zachary" (and in fact it can use Zac as a nickname), and it's a name that occasionally gets called old-mannish even though it's well into the Top 50. Or "the next Noah": a name that seems biblical but is in fact already mainstreamed. Another nickname possibility is Ike, which is similar in sound to Ty, Sky, Ry, Kai. I love it with your surname: Isaac Jelens. And I think it goes well with many of the girl name possibilities, in case he has a sister some day: Isaac and Louise, Isaac and Miranda, Isaac and Mathilda.

Since you like Arthur and you both like Milo, I suggest Arlo. No good nickname, sadly.

If Arlo is a little too uncommon, I suggest Archer. It has the NOT-old-man sound of a name like Archie or Arthur, but with a surname/occupational sound that's very current. Again, nickname problem: Archie is great, but it's two syllables instead of one.

I think the nickname Nic/Nick saves Nicander from seeming too odd to use. Another huge plus is being able to say "Like Alexander, but with Nic instead of Alex." This is the first time I've encountered the name and I don't know if it's nih-CAN-der or NIH-can-der (I would guess nih-CAN-der because of the Alexander model), but I think I'd only need to hear it once to remember it. If I heard it without seeing it, I'd be pretty sure I knew how to spell it; I might put a K in there, but it looks more right to me without a K.

The main consideration, I think, is future sibling names: if you name your first child Nicander, will you be painting yourself into a corner? Nicander is either completely or virtually unused in the U.S. (it's hard to tell for sure: it isn't in the Social Security site's data base for the past five years or so I looked at---but that data base doesn't show any name used fewer than five times in a year, so there could be, say, 4 Nicanders born per year and it would look the same as if it were zero), and so if you'd like to use compatible sibling names, that will present a commonness/style-compatibility challenge right away. Nicander and Arlo might work, or maybe Nicander and Kai---but probably not Nicander and Joshua, or Nicander and Tyler. If you wanted to change the middle name concept from "family name" to "name of special significance," Nicander might make a wonderful middle name choice---while still letting you use family names for future siblings.

Name update! F. writes:
Nicander Ferdinand "Pattner" "Jelens" was born on Aug. 4th 2011.
We decided that Nicander was familiar sounding (not made-up), and the more my husband and I talked about names, the more I grew to love it. I tested it with potential sibling names, and it seems okay to pair it with more traditional names. Most people have not had trouble with it (if they do a simple "like Alexander, or Leander" provides instant clarity). Some people think it sounds Scandinavian, and our Greek and Italian friends think it's fabulous. (Nicander of Colophon was a Greek poet and physician, and Nicandro is an Italian patron saint.)
Ferdinand is my paternal grandfather's middle name, Nicander is his first great-grandchild and he is tickled pink. I've always thought that Ferdinand was a pleasing, quirky, unconventional name. His second middle name "Pattner" is my surname.
The name fits our little Nick perfectly. He's a happy baby, and sleeping well at night, too, which keeps his parents on the sane side.
Thanks again, Swistle and friends!


Carolyn said...

I really like Nicander. It seems to have that special something that so many people look for that combines off-beat with familiar.

I also like the suggestion of Archer, with nn Arch.

Barb @ getupandplay said...

I like the name Oscar, which I think (although I really have no experience here) would work in English, German and French. It doesn't have a great one-syllable nickname though and your husband would probably think it "old-man" sounding as well. :(

I like Nicander- I think it's different and cool!

StephLove said...

I wonder if a name that's been popular a long time (Benjamin, Samuel, Nicholas-- I'm picking ones with obvious one syllable nicknames) could satisfy your desire for something old-fashioned and his for the recently familiar. Or you could go with something more unusual like Benson or Samson, that have the same familiar nicknames. I like Maxwell for you, too. Max is quite familiar but Maxwell is out of the top 100 but not quite as out there as Maxmillian or Maxim.

Nicole J. said...

I like Nicander, too. I have an unusual name that sounds like a more typical name and I find it really helps people get acclimated to the name without finding it strange. My first name rhymes with Vanessa (Nicole is my middle).

If you're still looking I like:

Nathaniel (Nate or Neil). Nathaniel Jelens.

Elias (Eli). Elias Jelens.

Sebastian (Seb, Bas). Sebastian Jelens.

Nicander could work with all of these as the middle.

Best of luck!

The Mrs. said...

Nicander is a great name!! A few posts ago, Swistle posted about the idea of making a name plural-sounding to freshen it up. In your case, if you wanted another nickname option to Nicander (besides Nick or Nico), you could call him 'Nicks'. 'Anders' would be an interesting international nickname (even though it's more than one syllable... sorry).

I also have to agree with Barb's post above that suggests Oscar as an option. WOW, is it ever cool! A solid nickname (one syllable) idea is 'Oz'. Annnnd... Oscar will never be mistaken for a girl's name. Oscar Nicander Jelens. Oz Jelens. The initals are innocuous, and it's totally masculine and original.

All the best as you anticipate your son's arrival! Such exciting times!

kimma said...

I'm not a fan of Nicander, even though the name itself is fine because as Swistle points out it doesn't seem to match with any of the others on your list. I wish we'd thought of that before naming our first son. We both really like Leonardo (Leo) for our August baby, but it doesn't go with the style of our first son's name at all. It would have gone quite nicely with a couple of the others on our shortlist for him.

I feel the same way about Kai for your family.

From your shortlist I would go with Miles nn Milo.

Or I really like the suggestion of Isaac, with the nickname Zac.

Tracy said...

I love Isaac, but I'm a little partial to the name since that's our 3rd child's name. We call him Zeke most of the time, though. :)

F. said...

THANK YOU Swistle and commentators for the feedback and advice. All the names suggested are names that we have discussed, or were once or our list, or we can't use because of close family and friends (like Max. Sigh). I like Isaac, love the sound of it, but it's a bit too biblical for me (even I know he was Abraham's son), more so than Zachary, for example. My husband is thrilled that Nicander is getting some positive feedback, and that I'm warming to it even more...

Tracy said...

"I like Isaac, love the sound of it, but it's a bit too biblical for me"

ha! We do tease that Isaac is our "biblical" child (our other children are Olivia and Austin). Especially since his middle name is Daniel. But, I hope his nick name kind of balances that out a bit.

ellipsisknits said...

I, too, like Nicander. As someone who doesn't know a lot of young children yet, it sounds less weird to my ear than some of the new boys names that are actually trendy.

Likewise, I don't hear a problem combining it with the more traditional names...even if it isn't a family name, it sounds like it could be, so I think it fits with classic sounding 'old man names' just fine.