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!