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Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Baby Girl or Boy Rhymes-With-Bones, Sibling to Silas

Taylor writes:
Hi! I'm a longtime reader of your blogs and am expecting my second baby, gender to surprise us, in early April. Our last name is very common and rhymes with Bones. We have a three year-old boy named Silas D@vid, a name which I was unsure about at first but which I LOVE LOVE LOVE now. Both of Silas's names are family names, although Silas itself is from so many generations back (i.e., the Revolutionary War) that it didn't hold any sentimental meaning. My husband and I are both in our thirties. My name is Taylor and my husband's name is Matt. Given that Matthew was the most common boy's first name the year we were born and our very common last name, my husband was/is adamant that our children have somewhat unusual names. I am similarly adamant that these names be actual people names and not random words or places. (He lobbied hard for Silas to be named after various Civil War battlefields--Appomattox "Bones" was his favorite. Clearly I vetoed.) I also have a preference for family names.

I have two questions for you:

1) We are pretty settled on a girl name. If the baby is a girl, we want to name her after my mother. Unfortunately, my mom's name is somewhat problematic: Mary Gay--and she goes by Gay. Mary seems too vanilla, especially with our super common last name, and Gay is out because of obvious schoolyard taunting reasons. BUT, we both love the name May. Is it weird to name a child after someone without using that person's actual name? What does everyone think about this phenomenon?

2) We are completely stumped when it comes to boy names, which is problematic given that at our most recent ultrasound, we saw what appear to be boy parts. The tech, by our request, did not say one way or the other, so maybe it was a poorly placed umbilical cord?

I like the name Jasper (my great-grandfather's name), but my husband hates it. He likes the name Moses (an old family name), but I don't know.... It might grow on me though. I like the name Asa (also an old family name)--he's on the fence. Other potential family names: Henry (too common?), Lucius (problematic because of Harry Potter villain?), Sullivan, Boon, Homer (obvious Simpsons issue). Non-family names my husband likes include: Micah, Josiah, Ezekiel, Elijah, Ezra, Isaiah. Of those, I like Ezra best. We both like Abraham, nickname Bram, but friends of ours just used it.

Any help you can provide would be greatly appreciated!


Normally I am on the conservative end of the spectrum with namesakes: I think the very first change to a name causes a huge drop in honor. However, in this case I think you have a strong point against using Gay, and another strong point against using Mary.

Mary is a name like John: it's considered an almost generic name for a girl, and yet encountering one in an actual classroom is a pleasantly startling surprise. And so I'd currently be trying to pressure you into reconsidering it---except that your mom doesn't go by that name. My objection to changing a name is that it causes a drop in honor---but in this case using Mary might be the same drop.

Do you know how your mom feels about it? Does she identify with the name Mary but prefer Gay, or does she dislike the name Mary, or does she forget it's her first name and not recognize it if someone calls her by it accidentally? And is there a story about why she goes by her middle name? If it's because she dislikes the name Mary, I think that safely rules it out; but if it's because it was the name of her dearly-loved grandmother, who then moved in with the family so they started calling your mom Gay to avoid confusion, then that's another story. And does she realize the difficulties with passing down the name Gay, or does she think that's silly? All these things weigh in.

Going just on the information we have (you'd like to name a girl after your mother, but neither her first nor her middle name are good candidates), it looks to me as if your solution of using the name May might be the best possible option. (One slight hesitation I have is that May Rhymes-With-Bones brings to mind May June, but I can't tell how universal that reaction would be.) Would your mother's maiden name (or some other name of significance to her, such as her mother's name or her mother's maiden name) work as a middle name? That would help increase the honor back up towards using-the-actual-name levels.

Another possibility is to name her Mary May Bones and call her May. This uses your mother's real first name, and also parallels the first-middle combo AND the way your mom goes by her middle name.

Or May is a nickname for Mary, so you could name her Mary with a different middle name and call her May directly. Molly is another cute nickname for Mary, so you could see which nickname she grew into.

From the boy names neither of you is ruling out, I like Ezra and Isaiah best. The Harry Pottery reference of Lucius doesn't bother me, but I don't like the way Silas and Lucius sound together: so much L and S. (I have a similar but lesser issue with Moses.) Lucien would take out one of the S sounds and remove the Harry Potter issue---but it also removes the family-nameness. I think I would reserve Boon for the middle name slot: it's hard to find good one-syllable middle name candidates that aren't overused. Or I also like some of the other family names for the middle name: Ezra Sullivan Bones, Ezra Lucius Bones, Isaiah Sullivan Bones, Isaiah Lucius Bones, Isaiah Henry Bones.

My brother and sister-in-law had Silas on their list and also liked the name Calvin. Calvin Boon, Calvin Henry; Silas and Calvin.

Cal makes me think of Mal which makes me think of Malcolm. Malcolm Bones; Silas and Malcolm.

Would Abram be too close to your friends' choice of Abraham/Bram?

I also like the early-American-settler sound of Abel "Bones."

I think Gideon is underused, and goes wonderfully with your surname and with Silas.

Another name I consider underused is Rufus, but I'm worried it might be too rhymey with Silas.

I think I've seen Conrad on the same finalist lists with Silas before.

Oh, I wonder if Haskell would work? Silas and Haskell.

Or Hugo might be very handsome, and I like the repeating long-O sound. Silas and Hugo.

Or Milo or Leo, for the same reason. Silas and Milo; Silas and Leo.

Which makes me think of Lyle: Silas and Lyle. Too much long-I and L, maybe?

Or would you like Everett? Everett Bones; Silas and Everett.

Name update! Taylor writes:
Thanks so much for your awesome suggestions. My husband and I had decided on Abel for a boy, thanks to your input, but after a 30 hour labor that ended in a c-section, my husband suddenly decided he no longer had issues with my favorite name. Asa James "Bones" was born at 6:52pm on 4/4/12. Thanks again!


Fiona said...

How about using another name that means Mary? My mom is named after my grandmother (her name is Mary) but her name Maura. My aunt named my cousin after my grandmother as well but her name is Mairead. Another variation of Mary would still honor your mother, but give them a more uncommon name. Just a thought.

Jessica said...

I'm also usually thinking changing an honor name dramatically reduces the honor, but in this case I think May works really well.

I also like the name Ezra best of the other-boy-names list. I think it would work well with both Silas and (B)ones.

Erin said...

I love Silas! It was on our list! Most of your names have a southern feel to me, which reminds me of another favorite from my list: Rhett.

plantingoaks said...

Inspired by Fiona's idea, how about 'Mary Joy'? Same intent as the original name, but without the new negative associations.

I do like 'May' as well, and don't mean to dissuade you from it, just thinking of other ideas. Also, I don't get the 'May-June' association from your last name at all, even when swistle pointed it out.

Anonymous said...

I really like May. It's a combination of Mary and Gay, just as Gary would be for a boy.

I agree with Swistle that Mary is a lovely classic name. Your child will likely meet very few Marys of her generation.

And although this is moving two steps away from your Mom's name, you may want to consider the name Merry.

StephLove said...

I think May is a good solution and I like the idea of naming her Mary and using May or Molly for nicknames. Also someone else mentioned names that come from Mary-- Mariah, Maris, etc. Those could work, too. Middle name Joy was an interesting idea, too.

It sounds like you are closest to consensus on Ezra and I think it works both with the surname and Silas. But I really like -ah names for boys and you have a lot of those on your list. My son is Noah and with my second pregnancy (the girl) we considered Elijah, Micah and Isaiah. I think they all sound good with the last name and with Silas. I liked Swistle's suggestion of Isaiah Henry and that made me realize Henry is good with almost all the names on your list. One more suggestion: Everett. Everett Henry Bones. Silas & Everett.

liz said...

I like May, Merry, and Joy as options.

For boys, don't forget to look for familial last names that can be used as first names.

Our last name is Miller, my husband's first name is his great-grandmother's maiden name. We gave our son a different last-name-as-first-name.

Frazzled Mom said...

May is a lovely name and goes well with Silas. I'm on the fence about how much using May would dilute the honor. Naming her Mary May and calling her May seems to be the best solution to me, without knowing your Mom's feelings about her name, Mary.

All of boy's names suggestions are great. I just want to offer one more boy suggestion if you think this will be your last child:

Marius - a masculine variation of Mary.

Marius goes well with Silas, and while Mary until has recently has been the go-to girl's name, Marius on a boy has never really been popular.

Good luck.

Anonymous said...

Another option for honoring your mother may be to use a name with GAY in it, for example Gayle. Mary Gay makes me think of Marigold as well. I like Mary in the middle name spot the best though, if you think your mother would consider this an honor.

For boys, my favorite from your list is Josiah. It is such a great combo with your last name. From Swistle's list, I like Gideon the best. I wanted to suggest Phillip. It is a biblical name that has not soared in popularity recently.

Good luck!

gail said...

For a girl, Mabel immediately sprang to mind. I think it's perfectly OK to be a bit creative when honoring, given your last name. My really out there suggestion for a girl would be Mabelline--the name would be unique and you could still call her May or Mabel.

For a boy, I like nearly all of Swistle's suggestions. I know a brother sibset of Abraham and Silas. They go by Abe and Si, but your idea of Bram is also great. I also very much like the combo of Silas and Malcolm. I'm not so crazy about the alliteration of names ending in "o" with your last name, but that may just be not my style.

Amber said...

Silas is a beautif name, and what a great list!

I was just about to suggest Jonah. Silas and Jonah, perfect. Jonah #ones? Not so...

I adore Mabel for you but it's difficult to say how far you can move away from the actual name... Maybelle? Hmmm

For boys I think Everett is fab for you.

Congrats and can't wait to hear your update :)

Anonymous said...

I think May is a perfectly acceptable way to honor a person named Mary Gay, especially since your reasons for not wanting to specifically use Mary or Gay are totally founded. I do, however, think that May "Bones" paired together seems a bit "vanilla" (to steal your terminology). I love the idea of using May as a middle name, though.

I, too, like the name Ezra for you. I also want to suggest the name Luca!

Mary said...

I love the suggestion of Abel. Silas and Abel sound wonderful together. Henry Sullivan is also fantastic.

Some other ideas--


As for girls - I think Mary is very beautiful and will make a come back in a couple of years or so. It definitely isn't too vanilla. Variations you could go for include:


I love the sound of Annamarie May and Silas D@vid.

Matt and Taylor said...

Oh, yay! You posted my question! My mom goes by Gay because that is what she's always been called. In the south, it's very common to go by your middle name apparently. I am also a middle namer--my first name is Rebecca, but my parents called me Taylor from birth. I like the sound of "Mary May" but am somewhat worried about the "Merry Maids" association. Does that bother anyone else? My mom's maiden name is out--it's H@igwood--which is actually my brother's name. He goes by H@ig. Thanks, again. I can't wait to talk about your suggestions with my husband!

NameLover said...

I second the Gale idea. What about Abigail, or Gaila?

For boys, I love the Everett suggestion!

Michelle Trigger said...

I would echo the idea of using something that is similar to your mother's name, without actually being your mother's name. I doubt it will dilute the honor if you do so, but maybe ask your mom first about it to be sure. If you go this route, and want the actualy "Gay" name within the name, I would suggest Gaylynn. If you are alright with something similar sounding, perhaps Fay or Kay. You might also consider something that means the same as Gay- "Joy."

With that being said, perhaps you could make Mary the middle name, and that way you can have the honor name, but not have to deal with the association. "Mary" may be common, but commonality doesn't seem to be such a big deal with middle names. Either way, good luck! :)

Anonymous said...

I think the name May is lovely & if it honours Mary Gay to you, your husband, & your mom, then it's perfect!

I know I little girl named Mary & though it is a very commonly known name, she is the only one I know. It's so sweet & fresh & lovely & classic all at once, so I'd also consider naming her Mary, with the option to shorten her name to May. To put with your last name, you could add a more uncommon middle name -- Mary Cleo, Mary Maeve, Mary Ronli are all variants of Mary Gay (all mean happiness or joy.

As others have suggested, there are some gorgeous variants of Mary as well. I love Maari (or, however it's spelled) & Miriam. And there are names that sound like Gay, like the Russian name Galina (sorry, not sure what it means!)

So many options! And with so many options you can still use the nickname May if you choose to go with another formal name.

Of your boy names, my favourite, hands-down is Ezra. Sila & Ezra (sounds like Bones) are a kick-ass sib set!

The Mrs. said...

I'm imagining a darling conversation with your daughter that goes something like this:
"Mommy, where's MY name from?"
"Oh, honey, you get your name from Grandma. Her name is Mary Gay, and since we couldn't have another Mary Gay, we hugged the names together to get your name, May. And, oh, how Daddy and I love it! It sounds like a spring day, and you're just as sunny!"

As for a boy, Timothy, Ephesus (love the sound of Ephesus (B)ones), Philip, Justus, and Cornelius all go well with Silas in a New Testament sort of way. From your list, Sullivan (nickname possibilities of Sully or Van)and Ezekiel (Zeke) are tops!

Another thought: Jeremiah Boon (B)ones is pretty fantastic.

Best wishes to you and your growing family! So excited to hear what you and your husband decide!

Sarah.Jane said...

Congrats on a great named baby! I love Asa!
I was going to recommend Gayle for the next time you are looking for a name for a girl.
It incorporates Gay but is a bit more wearable like Abigail.