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Friday, April 29, 2011

Baby Boy Weens

M. writes:
I am probably the most excited of your readers to be writing! You see, I have been reading your site for YEARS now... before I ever even considered I would be in this position!
This lil guy (a boy, due beginning of Aug) is a blessing but a little bit of a surprise:) I have been collecting names for years, and have a HUGE list... but no name seems to be fitting him! I like quite unique names, but not made up sounding (I have a common name and was always one of 3 or 4 in my class). The baby's dad and I are not together, but he is part of the naming process. I thought I found the perfect name, and he completely vetoed it (Huxley)! GAH!
As of right now, my list is something like this:

Huxley (number one, but dad hates it),






River (not sure about this one)

Kesler (except from friend/family polls they all assume I am
naming him after the hockey player!)

I LOVE the name Finlay nn Finn but it is just becoming far too popular and unisex (both situations I strongly wish to avoid)!!! Same goes for Sawyer, Everett

Dad has suggested: Jetson (reminds me of the show which I hate)

Ari (entourage... Ari Gold - no good)

For middle names, I was thinking of using a family name, Robert. I also considered using Crosby, a family name on the dad's side or Fyffe. Baby will have my last name (Weens) so trying to avoid names like Meyer, Oscar, Halo (haha if you add those with my last name you will see why!)

It appears that I like X, V, etc names (also Qs)...

I can't sleep because of this naming problem and would LOVE to have a few fantastic top choice names before delivery:)

Thanks for all of your help

Thanks again

Unlike many people who write saying they're looking for unique names, some of the names on your list may actually BE unique: they don't appear on the 2009 U.S. naming records at all. But if you are trying to avoid names that seem made-up, I would remove Axyn, Axtyn, Salix, Sylix, and Kaivor.

But---ARE you trying to avoid made-up names? It looks like that's what you LIKE. Just as I'd tell a parent who was trying to avoid Top Ten names even though her favorite names were Isabella, Olivia, and Chloe, I think you should go with what your tastes ARE, and not what you feel your tastes SHOULD BE. Though I'd caution that it's a good idea to keep in mind that we give names to someone else, and that the Someone Else is the one who has to live with the name, not us: just as you had a less than favorable experience with your parents' taste for a common name, your son might prefer to come back a little bit from the opposite end of the spectrum. Middle ground can be a pleasant place for finding names: maybe the occasional fluke of a repeat in a classroom, but not spending his whole life explaining his name, either.

I would also caution that it's common for parents considering a unisex name for a girl to further feminize the name by changing a vowel to a Y. So often is this done, names with multiple potential spellings where the Y spelling is chosen can look automatically feminine. If you choose Axtyn, for example, I suggest spelling it Axton. Not only does this reduce the made-up look, it masculinizes a name many people will be unfamiliar with.

Perhaps you should reconsider Finlay, if you love it and the only problem with it is that it's too popular. It wasn't even in the Top 1000 for boys in 2009 (source: Social Security Administration), and the spelling Finley is only #722. The two spellings combined would be about #657, which would be about .0177%, or 1 baby boy named Finlay/Finley per 5,650 baby boys. That's very, very uncommon. I wonder if it seems more common because of all the similar names: Finn alone, Finnegan, Griffin, Finian, Phineas, etc.? But I do think it's worth re-thinking it: IS it way too popular for you to use? If so, I'm not sure any of the names I suggest will be suitable. [Note: I wrote this paragraph while working with an earlier draft of the question, which didn't yet include the part about unisex being a problem. That additional problem with the name would normally cause me to delete the paragraph as no longer relevant, but...I did so much MATH! So I'm leaving it in because I think actual/perceived popularity is always an interesting topic, and also because I want to leave in the part about my own suggestions likely being too popular to use---but I'd no longer suggest M. reconsider it: it looks like it may very well go unisex.]

My first suggestion is Felix. It's not a bit made-up sounding, nor is it common. It has the X you're hoping for. I like it especially well with Robert: Felix Robert Weens.

If Everett is too common for you at #320, would you like Everest, which is not in the Top 1000?

Would you consider Crosby as a first name? It's not in the Top 1000, either.

A couple in our birthing class named their son Xzathian (ex-ZAYTH-ee-an). Xathian (which I'd think could be ex-ZAY-thee-an or ZAY-thee-an, as with Xavier) would work, too.

More possibilities:


Name update! M. writes:
Hello!!! Thank you all so very very much for your input and suggestions! I was SO excited and happy when I saw my post and loved all of the thought and advice. I just had the most amazing 9 hour labour that resulted in the (totally unbiased) most beautiful baby:) So so in love! I had him Aug 7th, 3 days before his due date (and he is my first!!!). Anyways! I had hummed and hawed over my list of names for so long... putting up polls on facebook, asking everyone and their dog about my names, and nothing seemed to fit. Then out of no where, about 2 weeks before I had him, I found the PERFECT name. It seemed to suit him and his little personality. I was afraid because some 'internet tabloids' labeled it as 2011 "hottest" baby boy name... and if you recall, i REALLY like unique names. I got past that though, since really, what does HOTTEST mean?! And I named him Asher August Weens. It is soft, yet boyish and proper at the same time. It means Happiness/Blessed in Hebrew and is just perfect:) Thank you all:D:D (all of my good pictures are on my phone, not my camera... but this shall suffice)

Baby Boy Finchlee, Brother to Wilhelmina, Calista, Zachariah, Theodore, and Philippa

Kate writes:
ACK! Swistle, I'm so hoping you can help! I'm due to have a C section in TWO DAYS (like, Friday!) and my husband I still have NO idea what to name the baby! We've had a hard time with our previous kids but NOTHING like this...
Our names are Katharine Fay and Jakob Russell. We go by Kate and Jake.Fay and Russell are both family names. (my mom and grandmas mns are both Fay, same for J and his dad and grandpa, that sort of thing). Surname is Finchlee, a combo of the last names we came into the marriage with (we were lucky they were so combine-able--Kate Finch/Jake Lee became Kate&Jake Finchlee).
Our other kids are:
Wilhelmina Fay --9
Calista Rose --9 ------< ID twins--we both loved their first names and Rose is his mother's name.
And they are called Willa and Calla. We think it's matchy but not too matchy and Calla can always go by Callie if she wants.
Zachariah Russell--6 <-----same thing w/ first name. He's Zak.
Theodore Scott--4 <-----Scott is my dad's name. We call him Ted because Theo is a Cosby.
Philippa Darcy--2 <-----Darcy is my baby sister's name and we are really close. Of course she's Pippa.

so Kate, Jake, Willa, Calla, Zak, Ted, Pippa. Oh and our dogs are Icarus and Olympus.

Anyway that gives you an idea of our style.

And first names--well, we are both pretty obsessive and we really like the pattern we have going. This is DEFINITELY our last child and we don't want to name him Aidan or something that just doesn't go with his brothers, who both have long formal names and short, kicky three letter NNs.
The trouble is we are having trouble finding a name...and then Jake's best friend was killed in a car accident last week and now Jake wants to use his name. His name was Lachlan. J suggested Maclachlan which gives us Mac. I like Mac a lot--to me it feels a little similar to Zak and Ted--except of course it rhymes with Zak when said outloud. We've considered Isaac for the first name, Isaac Lachlan, which gives us Ike--but again, so close to Zak, and even closer to Jake. We are sort of thinking of Nathaniel Lachlan/Nat but...well, we live in New England. Gnats can be a problem!

So that takes care of that. We don't want to repeat an initial, BTW.
Ugh. As you can see, we are really and truly stuck. Also, what do you think about naming the kid after Jake's friend? I THINK it's OK, but the other kids all have family MNs and I'm a bit worried. OTOH, we've covered everyone we wanted to cover, both parents, my sister--except Jake's brother, Jesse Nolan.

Oh and of course Max would be great, despite the common-ness of it we both like it a lot-- but my sister Darcy had a baby girl right before I found out I was pregnant and named her Maxine Katharine (after me, yay!) and we see Darcy and her family all the time as we live 15 mins from them. Having a Maxine and a Max is just too close, especially for cousins that are only about a year apart.

So--help! We kept thinking we'd come up with SOMETHING but so far...nothing. Nada. Not a thing.

(Oh--the other kids have suggestions, naturally, but they are currently along the lines of: Harry, Neville, Albus, Severus--guess which books the twins have been reading--or Wilbur and Orville, a current obsession--in desperation I asked Pippa yesterday and she said Egg. While it's certainly three letters it doesn't QUITE match our style!)

Name update! Darcy writes:
This is Darcy, Kate's baby sister. I am really pleased to announce that Kate had her baby yesterday. It's a beautiful baby boy named...wait for it...
K&J wanted me to send out a special thank you to Swistle and her baby naming commenters (commentators?) who gave her the Ferguson idea, they really liked it and it turns out to have been J's best friend's (who was recently killed) middle name but it hadn;t occurred to them. They are calling the baby Gus and he is absurdly cute. Mom, dad, baby, and big sibs are all doing great, even though the twins pushed for Albus Severus til the very last second!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Baby Boy M_____, Brother to McKenna and Mia

A. writes:
My husband and I are expecting our 3rd baby, we have two beautiful baby girls named McKenna and Mia and then surprise we found out we are having a baby boy! His due date is August 4th, but the doctor says probably end of July. We are having such a hard time choosing a name for a boy. Do we stick with an M name like our girls names or do we branch out and give him a non M name? There really aren't too many great M names for boys. If we would have had another girl, it we would have gone with Molly or Macey. My husband likes Milo for a boy, for some reason that name just doesn't settle with me. I am also so worried that if we go with another M name and we have another baby we'll be really trapped with M names! We have decided on James for a middle name. James is a family name and seems to work well with most first names. To go even further our last name starts with the letter M! So my girls initials are MGM and MFM! I like the name Owen, but that names doesn't settle with my husband. He also doesn't like Micah or Mason. I kind of liked Madden but that was a NO too! I like the name Zane but Zane James doesn't work. Both of us like the names Weston and Keaton but nothing really seems to be sticking! My husbands name is Aaron and so is his dads and my brothers, so we were trying to steer clear of Aaron but I kind of like Aaron James, even AJ for a nickname. Any suggestions for this M or not to M name dilema?


It seems to me that it's the third child that makes parents feel permanently locked into an initial. If you have McKenna, Mia, Weston, and Keaton, no one will think, "Why didn't they keep going with M names?" But if you have McKenna, Mia, Milo, and Keaton, it's different. Something about the third child is what makes the pattern solid. Not that it can't be broken, of course; I'm only talking about how it seems to FEEL to people.

So this is your moment to decide: Do you want to stick to M names, or don't you? Does it appeal to you? I can see upsides to both ways. On one hand, I wouldn't want to narrow the field that severely: so many great names you wouldn't be able to use! On the other hand, most people have certain letters they tend to be drawn to, and so if M is one of yours, you're likely to find quite a few names you like there; and I've noticed from writing this column that it can be fun and interesting to work with a tight restriction---as well has HELPING to narrow things down, considering how overwhelmingly large the field really is.

One possibility is to see if there's another initial you tend to be drawn to for boy names, as you're drawn to M names for girls, and then use that initial for this and all future boys.

Another possibility is to first find the name you like best, without thinking about the initial, and then just see how it works out: if you do find an M name you like best, use it; but if you don't, play it from there, either going with that new initial for all future boys, or else discontinuing all initial-matching.

If you do decide on M names, one problem is that a lot of the ones I think would work well with your style start with Mc or Mac, and you've already got one of those. I don't know if that would work or not. McKenna, Mia, and Macaulay? McKenna, Mia, and Macgregor? I guess it...well, I'm just not sure.

Maguire might work. It has a sound similar to McKenna but without actually repeating the Mc/Mac. McKenna, Mia, and Maguire.

Or Malcolm: McKenna, Mia, and Malcolm.

Or for something more unusual, how about Malone? McKenna, Mia, and Malone.

These may seem so ordinary your mind will flit right over them, but give some thought to Mark and Michael and Matthew. They're common because they're good solid names with staying power. Marcus/Markus makes Mark a little more exotic; Matteo and Matthias do the same for Matthew; Micah kind of does the same for Michael.

In fact, I want to give Matteo its own paragraph. It has the fashionable -o ending but the casual nickname Matt, and it's good with the sibling group: McKenna, Mia, and Matteo.

Marshall would work: McKenna, Mia, and Marshall. It adds in a completely different sound, which is a bonus when repeating the initial.

Or Mitchell? I think I like that even better: McKenna, Mia, and Mitchell.

I'll mention Maverick, but that name seems like a lot to live up to---like telling the child we want him to have a particular personality, which could be a bit hard on him if he's the careful cautious type. Still, we do similar things with names such as Faith and Charity and Patience, and to a lesser extent with high-association names such as Scarlett; it's probably more that the name Maverick is relatively new, and so still seems more tied to its meaning.

Speaking of which, maybe Merit or Merritt? McKenna, Mia, and Merrit.

Do you like any of the Max names? Regular plain Max is my favorite of them: the others sound to me like "longer versions because we want the nickname Max." And in your family I think that's the best fit anyway: McKenna, Mia, and Max. It doesn't go well with James; do you have other male family members you'd like to honor? Or you could use Maxwell, which DOES go well with James.

One of my favorite M boy names is Miller: McKenna, Mia, and Miller.

Another of that type is Mercer: McKenna, Mia, and Mercer.

You wouldn't want to consider Morris, would you? I think of it as a warm and solid name ready to join other comebacks such as Warren and Walter and Conrad and Cedric. McKenna, Mia, and Morris.

Morrisey spruces it up a bit: McKenna, Mia, and Morrissey.

Or Morrison: McKenna, Mia, and Morrison.

Murphy has charm: McKenna, Mia, and Murphy. Murray too: McKenna, Mia, and Murray.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Baby Girl Drucker, Sister to Lilly Savannah

Andrea writes:
We are expecting our second child, a girl, May 6. We have gone back and forth on naming her. Our first is also a girl we named Lilly Savannah and although we love it I regret not spelling it Lily. What we love about Lilly is it seems suitable at any age to us but still whimsical and cute. The only other name we considered for Lilly was Naomi but my husband hated it and still does.

My name is Andrea and my husband is Dan. This pregnancy we first decided on Ella Violet but I decided I didn't like Violet and Ella was too popular, his two favorites have been Lucy and Olivia. Neither seemed right to me but I do like them. After I vetoed Ella we settled on Molly Rose, which I still like but there is a little voice nagging me that its too cutesy. Other names on our list

Chloe too popular
Magnolia (Maggie) too cutesy
Juniper, I don't like Junie and I want a nickname for this one
Ruby, again not quite right
Penelope (Penny) too popular
Tallulah, husband hates

I think the kind of name we like is fresh and cute but can still mature pretty easily.
Thank you!

To me, many of the candidates sound SO CLOSE to Lilly: Lilly and Ella, Lilly and Lucy, Lilly and Molly all have so much in common. But then, I have trouble reading a book in which two characters' names start with the same initial, so I am not sure I am a reliable indicator of Name Similarity.

I think your choice of Molly is great. It repeats the -lly of Lilly, but the different initial and different vowel sound keeps it separate. I don't think it's too cutesy: I have no trouble imagining a college-aged Molly, a mother named Molly, a grandmother named Molly, etc.

If you wanted to tone down the cute, you could use a different middle name: Molly Margaret or Molly Samantha or Molly Caroline has more weight.

Another option for cuteness-toning-down would be Holly.

You've got Penelope (#252 in 2009) listed as being too popular, but Molly is #92 and Lilly is #117 (and the spelling Lily is #18). On the other hand, Molly has been hovering right in that area for DECADES, whereas Penelope is shooting up at an alarming rate (from #946 in 2001 to #252 in 2009, and I expect another big increase when the 2010 data is released next month). This makes a huge difference in PERCEIVED popularity, which I think is even more important than actual popularity: it may feel as if the name Penelope is suddenly everywhere, whereas Molly feels steady and not very common (as it should: at #92, the name Molly is given to only 1 in 576 baby girls).

More possibilities:

Bridget (a little difficult to say with the surname)

I also liked Piper, but thought it might not work with the repeating -er in your surname, and also might be too much of a change from Lilly: Lilly seems more soft and feminine, and Piper seems more sparky and energetic. Similar problems with the name Paige, though to a lesser extent (and no -er, but I still don't think I like the sound of Paige Drucker). And I considered names such as Ivy and Rosalie and Calla, but wasn't sure you'd want to start a botanical theme (Holly is also botanical, now that I think of it).

Name Updates!

Update on Baby Girl or Boy Lah-nah!
Update on Baby Twin Girls Bow-Lee-Ew!
Update on Baby Girl or Boy Knuffman, Sibling to Sophie and Harper!
Update on Baby Girl or Boy Shepherd, Sibling to Olyvia Ruth!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Baby Boy D____ (Rhymes with Hirsch)

Megan writes:
I am hoping for some help. We are expecting our second son on May 30. My two year old's name is William Troy and we call him Liam. Liam's name came to us quickly and it fits him perfectly. What I like about his name is that it is a classic name with a spunky nickname.

Some info:
1) Our last name starts with a D and rhymes with Hirsch, and can be difficult to spell and pronounce.
2) I like Gaelic names because of our names (Brian, Megan, Liam), but this isn't a requirement.
3) We really like Dean, Franklin, John and Patrick as possible middle names, which are all family names.
4) I think a two syllable name/nickname sounds best with our one syllable last name, and that's where I've been stumped.

Here are the names we are considering:

*James Franklin (Jamie)--Currently our favorite, but is Jamie too feminine?
*Charles Dean (Charlie)
*Emerson Dean--No nickname. This seems like it's becoming popular for girls.
*Elias Patrick (Eli)
*Sullivan Dean--Not sure about the nickname Sully.
*Franklin--What do you think of this for a first name? Not sure about the nickname Frankie.
*Patrick--What do you think of this for a first name? Not sure about the nickname Pat.

Other names we are considering: Miles (Milo), Henry, Keegan, Ian (not sure how this sounds with Liam), Noah and Jonah.

Names we thought about but won't use: Aidan, Cameron, Declan, Finnian, Oliver, Samuel, Oliver, Owen, Ethan, Seamus, Sean and Henry.

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

I think the main trouble is that the name William and the nickname Liam are such different styles: William fits with names such as Henry and Robert and James and John; Liam fits with names such as Corbin and Declan and Riley and Brendan. It's hard to find another name that matches both the traditional/classic of William AND the Celtic of Liam.

Emerson is indeed becoming popular for girls, probably motivated by the popularity of Emma and the nickname Emmy. According to The Social Security Administration, in 2009 there were 1006 new baby girls named Emerson, and 632 boys.

My favorite from your list is Charles/Charlie. I think it's perfect: it meets all your requirements and is a great name. William/Charles and Liam/Charlie is an excellent sibling set.

I also like Keegan so much with Liam---though less with William.

I wonder if you'd like Nicholas? Nicholas Patrick Hirsch; William and Nicholas; Liam and Nico.

Or Joseph: Joseph Patrick Hirsch; William and Joseph; Liam and Joey.

It doesn't have a full-name version, but I like Casey with Liam: Casey Patrick Hirsch; Liam and Casey. As with Keegan, I like it less with William.

Let's have a poll, over to the right! [Poll closed; see results below.]

Name update! Megan writes:
James Franklin "Jamie" D____ (rhymes with Hirsch) joined brother William Troy "Liam" on June 2! We've been told they sound like Scottish Highwaymen, which is fitting since I imagine there will be a lot of hijinxs with these two! Thank you for all of the help! :)

Name Updates!

Update on Baby Boy or Girl Clancy!
Update (and photo!) on Baby Naming Issue: Someone Else has the Same Name!
Update on Baby Boy Tempulltin, Brother to Arden!
Update on Baby Boy Poe, Brother to Shepherd!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Baby Boy or Girl Cysouw

Lisa writes:
My DH and I are expecting our first baby on May 21st and we are absolutely at a crossroads for names. Our last name is Cysouw (pronounced size-OH) and our names are Lee & Lisa - so all first names beginning with "L" are out. Our general tastes in names differ - he is a huge fan of strong, Biblical names and I am more mainstream, although some "older", Biblical names are nice.

We are fairly confident that we are having a boy - due to a slip up by the Ultrasound doc - although we never had the gender confirmed, because we didn't want to find out. However, since that slip up, the focus has been predominantly on boys' names.

If we have a boy, then Lee will be the middle name - it is family tradition to have the father's first name be the middle name of the first born son. DH has made a short list of names for boys, consisting of:

1. Isaac
2. Aaron
3. Enoch
4. Carson

My short list for a boy is:

1. Parker
2. Hudson
3. Dawson

I don't fancy Aaron or Enoch at all and Carson is borderline for me. Isaac only became something I didn't mind after I told a couple close friends, and they all love it. I'm still on the fence. My in-laws immediately jumped to nn's such as Ike or Zeke, which I don't like. If Isaac were to have a nn, the only one I've thought of is Zach. DH doesn't like the name Zachary - when I suggested it as a compromise for a first name.

Anyway, I am looking for more options to bring to DH's attention so that we can go into the hospital with a more aligned short list of names. We're looking for suggestions for first names that don't start with L, go with Lee as the middle name, are not too popular and have a nice meaning. That's one of the reasons we like Isaac - it means laughter and that does suit us. Or maybe I just need affirmation that Isaac is a nice name... I don't say no to it, I just don't know if I love it.

If baby is a girl, then I am set on naming her Brinley (the meaning I found is virtuous princess - which I thought was cute. It also ties in the Li and Le from our first names). DH is convinced baby is a boy - so he isn't even really focusing on a girls' name and he doesn't have an objection to Brinley. Although, I just thought of the fact that if the middle name for the boy is Lee - would that be too much having a girls name with a -lee ending ?

No middle name picked out at all. What would sound nice together with our last name is what we're looking for as there are no naming family traditions for the girls. My mom's middle name is Anne and his mom's is Joy - but would that be offensive if we chose one and not the other ? I don't like the combination of Joy Anne or Anne Joy but the sound of either one with Brinley is something I like. Any other suggestions ?

Thank you so much for your help !!

Let's see. For boys, he likes biblical names plus the surname name Carson, and you like surname names---so it's too bad you're not more fond of Carson. For girls, you like Brinley (another surname name), which I think goes better with surname brother names than with biblical brother names---but I also think it works fine to have different styles for sons than for daughters.

If you use Brinley (which, according to The Oxford Dictionary of First Names means "burnt clearing," but name meanings are tricky), I think it's no problem that a potential brother's middle name would be Lee.

A larger problem is the politics of family names: it SHOULD be okay to use one grandmother's middle name and not the other grandmother's (especially if you have just one girl), but only you two know your mothers and how they would react to this. It's too bad BOTH names are so good with Brinley, so you wouldn't even be able to say you chose based on sound! (I would myself avoid the initials B.J., especially for a girl, and would use that as my reason for choosing Anne, but I'm more opposed than the norm to meaningful initials, and it's not as big a deal when it's first/middle instead of first/last.)

Do you know what I might do, if I were you? I might flip a coin, and then explain to the two grandmothers that you love both of them and both of their middle names, and could only decide with a coin toss. (I'd do this only if I planned to use the other one's name for the next baby girl, if there was another.) (Also, I'd have no compunction about flipping the coin again and again until it gave me the answer I wanted.) Or perhaps you could use your first name or middle name or maiden name as her middle name, as your husband's name would be your son's middle?

And now I think we can turn to boy names: without your husband's input, there isn't much advice we can give about girl names---and if the baby IS a girl, you will have a funny story of the scramble to think of a girl name.

I'll start by saying I love the name Isaac, and I think it's a great name. I used to think of it as a name like Moses and Noah---unthinkable for baby-naming unless the intention was to broadcast hardcore religious affiliation. Then it went mainstream, as did Noah. It's Top 50 now, and I think of it as "the next Zachary." Ike and Zac are both nicknames for it, but it's not a name I think people leap to nickname---though, as you've noted, your in-laws seem determined to nickname, in which case best to choose a name with nicknames you really like. Isaiah might reduce the nickname potential.

So next I'd open to the Biblical Names section of The Baby Name Wizard, and look for ones that sound more like the surname style you like, or at least getting closer to it than Aaron. (This list may include names that in their biblical context have a very negative association; if you were using a name for its biblical significance, it would be a good idea to look it up first to see what its biblical significance WAS.) Asher comes to mind: Asher Lee Cysouw. Reuben would be good: that's one I wish I could use in my own family, but it's awful with my surname. Simon, though I don't think I like the repeating "sigh" sound with your surname. Gideon. Barnaby is so cute. Jude or Judah. Tobias, but then there's the initials TLC, and the S ending blends with your surname. Jordan. Zion. Justus, but the S ending might blend with your surname: "just a Cysouw." Ezra: I like the repeating Z sound with your surname (Isaac has this going for it, too).

And now turnabout should be fair play, and we should be looking in the Last Names First section to find names that might be more your husband's style. But he has mystified me: Enoch and...Carson? Those are so far apart, I can't figure out where it is they intersect---and the Bible is sparse with surnames. Should I recommend Carter? Archer? Shepard? Redford? I could find biblical tie-ins (fill your quiver with arrows! and what could be more classic Bible imagery than a shepherd?), but I'm not sure that's what's needed.

If you have a copy of The Baby Name Wizard (my link is to, but I'd suggest looking for it in a physical store so you can get the newer 2009 edition, which has a pink dot on the cover mentioning that it's the revised version), you could have him go through it and see if there are sections other than Biblical that he likes---or sections other than Last Names First that you like. Maybe you'd both like Ladies and Gentlemen (Merritt, August, Julius, Hugo, Forest)? Or Antique Charm (Jasper, Abraham, Edgar, Everett)? Or Exotic Traditionals (Malcolm, Felix, Milo, Dashiell, Aidric)? It seems like the first step is finding a category where your tastes intersect.

Name Updates!

Update (and photos!) on Little Girl Dinkenesh Sanderson, Sibling to Faith and Eli!
Update on Middle Name Challenge: Sawyer ____ W.!

Baby Boy Wiedlocher, Brother to Cedric James

Laura writes:
Our second son is due to arrive on May 11, 2011 and we have everything ready, except for a name. We are in need of serious help. Our first son is named Cedric James. We love Cedric because its unique but not hard to spell or pronounce. It has a strong, masculine name meaning which we also like. James is a family name (my father). For our next son we would like to follow a similar pattern; a first name that has a strong/masculine name meaning, is unique, but easy to say and spell followed by a family name. We have decided on Jack for the middle name, after my husband's maternal grandfather. It has been really hard for us to find a first name that meets the criteria and goes with Jack. I have argued for using John or Jackson as middle names but Husband feels very strongly that the middle name be Jack. Just Jack. Here is where it gets even more tricky, our last name is Wiedlocher (pronounced weed - locker) and we want to be sensitive to the fact that this is a mouthful of a last name and will be constantly mispronounced and misspelled for both boys their whole lives. My name is Laura and my husband's is Zachary.

We have a short list of names that we both like: Ethan, Logan, and Landon. But do you notice how they don't really fit our criteria?! Ethan is the only one that has a strong name meaning and all three seem like popular baby names right now.

We have also considered: Caden (but does this sound too similar to Cedric? I feel like I would constantly be calling for Cedric but saying Caden. Or the other way around.)

Husband likes Ethan the most right now because of the name meaning and how it sounds with Jack, despite it being popular. I don't love it though. I am hoping for a first name that has a softer first syllable because I like how that sounds with our last name, which starts with a hard w sound.

If we were having a girl or if our next child is a girl, names that we love are Emelia (Emma), Elizabeth (Lizzy), and Charlotte (Charlie).

I have been diligently reading your blog for months hoping that the right name for our son would serendipitously be suggested by you or one of your readers. I have high hopes that you (and your readers) will be able to suggest name combinations that we had not considered or at least weigh in our top three choices.

Thank you so much for your help!

Here is something I've noticed in previous posts where the desired middle name was Jack: something about that particular name makes a "Panama Jack"/"Indiana Jones"/"Crocodile Dundee" sound with the first name. The first name ends up sounding like an adjective for Jack, which then sounds like the first name. I know your husband feels strongly about this, but I'd say it's one of the main things blocking you from finding The Right Name, and I'd add my opinion to yours that he reconsider this. Could the middle name be after his father instead, to better parallel your first son's name? Was his grandfather's name John, and Jack a nickname? (Though of course if his grandfather always went by Jack, the name John may not seem like him at all.) Are there other family names that could be used instead?

Well. It sounds like the middle name is fixed as Jack, so I'll proceed with that assumption. When/if you feel like you're backed into a corner trying to meet certain criteria, remember that the name only needs to fit your criteria if YOU TWO want it to fit the criteria: if a name you love fails to fit in one area or another, you can choose to decide not to hold the name to that requirement. Criteria can help to narrow things down---but when your criteria are outranking your opinions, it's time to rethink. And now I will say criteria some more, because five is not enough for one paragraph: criteria criteria criteria.

Caden and Cedric do have a lot of things in common (start with C, two syllables, D-sound in the middle), but to me their style clash is intense: Caden/Cayden/Caiden/Caeden/Kaden/Kayden/Kaiden/Kaeden is modern and part of the trendy Jaden/Hayden/Aiden/Brayden set, while Cedric is old fashioned and rare.

And you're right: Landon (#36 in 2009), Logan (#17 in 2009), and Ethan (#2 in 2009) are all significantly more popular than Cedric (#702 in 2009). (All stats from The Social Security Administration.) So let's go questing for some new possibilities.

Alan Jack Wiedlocher; Cedric and Alan
August Jack Wiedlocher; Cedric and August
Conrad Jack Wiedlocher; Cedric and Conrad
Darian Jack Wiedlocher; Cedric and Darian
Franklin Jack Wiedlocher; Cedric and Franklin
Gideon Jack Wiedlocher; Cedric and Gideon
Isaiah Jack Wiedlocher; Cedric and Isaiah
Karl Jack Wiedlocher; Cedric and Quincy
Louis Jack Wiedlocher; Cedric and Louis
Malcolm Jack Wiedlocher; Cedric and Malcolm
Quincy Jack Wiedlocher; Cedric and Quincy
Roland Jack Wiedlocher; Cedric and Roland
Rufus Jack Wiedlocher; Cedric and Rufus
Ryland Jack Wiedlocher; Cedric and Ryland
Stanley Jack Wiedlocher; Cedric and Stanley
Terrence Jack Wiedlocher; Cedric and Terrence
Tobias Jack Wiedlocher; Cedric and Tobias

I'm not very knowledgeable about name meanings. In part this is because so many meanings are more like..."meanings." They vary from baby name book to baby name book: one of my name books says Cedric means "model of generosity" and another says it means "battle chieftain" and another says it was made up by an author for a novel in 1819 and doesn't mean anything. Very few meanings are official in any sense: some come from what someone in the Bible said the name meant (but what did the name mean before that?); some come from the meaning the name would have as a word in another language, if it were a word instead of a name; some come from a baby name book author's imagination. Many come from such a long stream of related names and their derivations ("sounds like X, which is a shortened version of Y, which is a version of the name Z from another language, which comes from the root word for..."), there's almost no connection at all. (I've written more on this subject here: Baby Naming Issue: Name Meanings and Baby Naming Issue: A Problem With a Name's Meaning.)

However, name meanings are important to YOU, and so it doesn't matter if they're important to me or not, and so I'm using The Oxford Dictionary of First Names and The Baby Name Bible to look up the meanings of the names on my list above.

Alan: possibly from the word "rock"; handsome, cheerful
August: great, magnificent; majestic, venerable
Conrad: bold counsel; bold advisor
Darian: rich, kingly
Franklin: freeman; free landholder
Gideon: he who cuts down; feller of trees
Isaiah: God is salvation
Karl: free man
Louis: renowned warrior
Malcolm: devotee of Saint Columba
Quincy: estate of the fifth son
Roland: famous throughout the land
Rufus: red-haired
Ryland: island meadow
Stanley: near the stony meadow
Terrence: [no known meaning]
Tobias: God is good

Name update! Laura writes:
Thanks so much for your help. You and your readers helped Zach and I get around our baby name road block. We moved past Logan/Ethan as name choices and thought we would go for either Roland or Nolan. But then last Wednesday (May 11) when our son was born we both looked at him and felt like neither of those names fit him! Zach came back to the hospital the next morning with the name Elias, nickname Eli and I loved it. Cedric James is now the proud big brother to Elias Jack.

Thanks again!

Name Updates!

Update on Baby Boy Hagin, Brother to Natalie Keenan!
Update on Baby Girl Acosta
Update on Middle Name Challenge: Reese ____ Ogle!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Baby Girl or Boy S. (Rhymes With Brand)

Jayme writes:
I’ve been reading your blog daily since I found out I was pregnant and I’ve found it to be great inspiration for names. I really did not think that my husband and I would be in the situation of having the hardest time with names but here we are less than a month away from my due date (May 10th). So, now I’m turning to you for help!

My name is Jayme, my husband’s name is Shane and our last name starts with an S and rhymes with Brand (like a _trand of hair). This is our first child and we have not found out the gender. We feel pretty good about the girls names we have narrowed down which would be either Makena Leighton or Ashton Makena.

Our issues are with picking Boy’s names. We just can’t seem to find something that we both LOVE. We like names that aren’t too popular or too plain. Below is a list of names that have been on the list at some point or another.

Holden (top contender at this point but still not sure about it)

Parker (just not sure about it as a first name)


Leyton (like the name but not the spelling and the Leighton spelling seems feminine to me)

Mason (too popular)

Cooper (hubby does not like and I really don’t like the nickname Cooooooop which I think he would be called all the time!)

Hudson (hubby does not like)

If we chose Holden as the first name we like Parker with it as the middle name. As for all the other names we just have no idea.

I’m sure I’m way over thinking this now and making it way more complicated than needed.....please help us!

Looking at your name list, I suggest making your future naming decisions easier by deciding now (if you can---it may be hard to think this far ahead and this theoretically) how you'd like the sibling set to go. If this baby is a girl named Ashton, it might seem like future girl names need to be equally boyish, and/or that future boy names needed to be unequivocally boyish to avoid making Ashton seem like a brother, or that you can't use Leyton because now it's even harder to tell who's a boy and who's a girl. I talked about this issue at more length in this post: Baby Naming Issue: What to Name the Siblings of a Child With a Gender-Neutral Name or With a Name Traditionally Given to the Opposite Sex (that title just SINGS, doesn't it?).

So, if I were you, and this is only if _I_ were you, because this sort of thing is sooooo regional (in some areas, for example, Parker is perfectly androgynous; in others, it's almost exclusively boy), I'd eliminate Parker and Leyton except as middle names---and if you use Ashton, either use it for a boy (220 girls were named Ashton in 2009, but 3519 boys were named Ashton the same year, so it's still 1:16 in boy-name territory), or else spell it Ashtyn to lean it toward girl territory.

Are you pronouncing Makena mah-KAY-nah or mah-KEN-nah? If the latter, I suggest putting the second N back in to aid pronunciation and spelling. (If the former: never mind.)

And you're not asking for girl name suggestions, but I'll mention Padgett anyway. I heard that recently and thought it was just about the cutest name ever.

But you asked about boy names. So, as I said, I'd take Parker and Leyton off the list of first-name candidates to start with. And your husband doesn't like Cooper or Hudson, so that leaves Holden and Ryker. Of those two, Holden is my favorite.

More possibilities (I'm avoiding B names, to avoid initials B.S.; I wasn't sure about M.S. and P.S. and S.S., but left them in):


Friday, April 22, 2011

Baby Girl H____ (Rhymes With Ball), Sister to Mara and Audra

Kylene writes:
We're having a girl, due mid August. Our last name sounds like Ball and starts with an H. Our first daughter is Mara Kathryn (4) and our second daughter is Audra Neel (2). Both middle names are family names. Mara's name was found on a biblical name list by my husband and it took me a day or so to warm up to it but then I quickly fell for it. Audra's name was a challenge. My husband wanted Lucy, I was stuck on a friends name, Audra, not necessarily after her I just liked the name. After trying out Lucy for a few weeks and even telling friends that would be her name we decided it didn't feel right and went with Audra. We've had a boy name picked out since Mara, Henry James, both family names that we would still likely use when/if we have a boy. We don't have a final number of children decided upon.

We would like to use the middle name Marguerite after a dear family friend.

My husband suggested the family name Irene as a first name, which prompted me to find Irena. I think it sounds fresher than Irene, beautiful, feminine, flows well with our daughters' names and the middle name. I am head over heels over this name but I don't think I am going to be able to sell him on this unless he decides to let me use it as a gift. He thinks it sounds made up, isn't wild about another 'a' ending name especially ones he thinks of as a name that you tag an 'a' onto.

I also love that our daughters names are pretty unusual. I love that people ask where/how we came up with them and am struggling with our current list not really fitting that.

Names I threw out but wasn't sold on that he has nixed: Carys, Thea, Selah, Sadie, Louisa. Names he threw out that I nixed: Veronica, Louise. And I'm sure there were more in each direction those were just the most significant.

Still considering:
Elizabeth (nickname Eliza or Liza), how popular is Eliza getting?
Jane (seems plain especially with our common last name)
Irene (him)
Irena (me)
Brigid (front runner right now)

And open to more suggestions, we tend to like older, uncommon names. Biblical, saint, or family names a plus. I don't like anything I associate as being common in my generation.

One more issue with our current front runner Brigid, how terrible are the initials BMH. We think it's okay since you never really use your first and middle initials alone, but would like to sanity check that.

It's interesting how you and your husband are so close on some names (Irene/Irena, Louise/Louisa) but still disagree. Paul and I found that same thing, when we were naming our babies. An example: I liked Elliot and he liked Eliot, and we couldn't use the name because neither of us was willing to consider any other spelling.

With sisters Mara (#758 in 2009) and Audra (#984 in 2009), I think I'd go straight to the stand-alone name Eliza (#278 in 2009), rather than trying to get it from the significantly more common name Elizabeth (#11 in 2009). Here's what the popularity of the name Eliza has been doing:

(screenshot from The Social Security Administration)
(click it to see it larger)

Rising, as you can see, but not fast---especially not in the last seven years or so, when it doesn't even seem sure it IS rising.

I do like to avoid the initials such as B.M. or I.P. at all costs, but I am further along the spectrum for that than most (I even like to avoid non-negative ones such as I.Q.). I agree that when it's a first and middle it's not as big a deal as first and last (though I would still avoid it: I'm picturing it on a form as "B.M. H___"). How would you be pronouncing Brigid? To rhyme with rigid, or like the Irish pronunciation (more like "breed"), or a mixture such as brih-ZHEED? (Boy, that last one is hard to type out what I mean. By "zh" I mean the sound like in the middle of the word "measure.") I wonder if you'd like Bridget instead: still uncommon (#424 in 2009), but significantly easier for others to spell and pronounce.

From your list, my favorite is Simone. I like how well it goes with Mara and Audra, but changes the end sound. Mara, Audra, and Simone. Simone was #620 in 2009, and its popularity is falling.

If Lucy was very close but not quite, I wonder if you would like the saint name Lucia. It can be pronounced several ways, but the one I'm picturing here is loo-SEE-ah. Mara, Audra, and Lucia: still the -a ending, but with a new sound and a new number of syllables. I am slightly worried about Lucia H___ being too similar to Lucille Ball, but since you considered Lucy I'm assuming you've thought of that and dismissed it---and I think I would dismiss it, too. I'm not sure it would even have come to my mind if "Ball" wasn't the stand-in name we were using.

I just heard a name recently I wonder if you might like: Vayla. Vayla Marguerite H__; Mara, Audra, and Vayla.

But your husband would rather not add another -a ending. Your idea of Carys makes me think of Iris. Iris Marguerite H___; Mara, Audra, and Iris.

If you like Jane but it feels too plain (or you want to avoid the associations with either the actress or the journalist), perhaps June? June Marguerite H____; Mara, Audra, and June.

Oh, or Imogen? Imogen Marguerite H___; Mara, Audra, and Imogen.

Esmé Marguerite H___; Mara, Audra, and Esmé.

Some unusual biblical options: Zorah, Zilla, Shiloh, Bethel, Dinah, Tabitha, Cana. My top biblical choice for you is Junia: it does add another -a ending (so many girl names end in A!), but it's two degrees of plainness away from Jane. Junia Marguerite H____; Mara, Audra, and Junia.

A saint name similar to Simone is Colette: Colette Marguerite H___; Mara, Audra, and Colette.

Another saint name that seems like a good fit (except for the -a ending) is Gemma: Gemma Marguerite H____; Mara, Audra, and Gemma.

Or Elodie, which I hadn't realized was a saint name until this very moment: Elodie Marguerite H____; Mara, Audra, and Elodie.

Name update! Kylie writes:
Thanks so much for addressing our baby name issues. Your analysis and similar story really helped me move on from MY perfect name. In the end we couldn't resist the classic, timeless Elizabeth that has always been my husband's favorite. So Elizabeth Marguerite arrived August 15th. We call her Eliza.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Baby Boy M_____, Rhymes With Acquire

Kailee writes:
My husband and I are expecting our first child, a boy, June 19th. We're very excited, but I've been reluctant to nail down THE name. I keep thinking that we'd like to actually see his face before settling on a name. Plus, the real reason, I'm still not sure! In fact, I'm a little jealous of some of my friends who have their baby's name already chosen. We've decided not to tell anyone our names, but now that we're drawing closer to the due date, I sure would like an outsider's opinion!

Our last name starts with an M and rhymes with "acquire." We will use Patrick as a middle name to honor both my husband and his late father. We'd like to steer clear of any recent top ten names. Our short list is:

· Leo - Leo is also a family name, but I loved it before I knew that it was also the name of my husband's late maternal grandfather. Is it overkill to give a baby two namesakes?

· Thomas - This is probably my husband's favorite. We both love the nickname Tom too. A long distance cousin has Thomas as one of his middle names, though. So, is using Thomas as our baby's first name a no-no?

· Eli - An early frontrunner for sure. But is it too much of a tongue twister with our last name?

· Harrison - A late addition to the short list, but we both love the nickname Harry.

A few other favorite names that have been vetoed by either myself or my husband are: George, Max, Greyson, Joshua, Charles, William, Finn

So, what are your thoughts? Any other suggestions? Thank you so much for your help!

I think Leo Patrick M____ is a great name. I don't think it's overkill at all to use two family names. Since this is your first baby, it's a good moment to think about future babies and what you might name them. Will using two family names for this baby make you feel like you have to do the same for future babies? If you use two family names now, do you have plenty of other good ones or will you wish you hadn't used two up on one child? And it's even more confusing than that, because you might not have another boy, and then would you regret not using both names?

If the sound of Eli seems not-quite, I wonder if you'd like Elias better? Elias Patrick M______.

I also love Thomas and Harrison! (A long-distance cousin having the name Thomas as one of his middle names is irrelevant, I'd say.)

I wonder if the reason it's hard to choose one is that you have so many good solid choices. It would be easier if you could eliminate one or two options before going to the hospital---but if not, I think going to the hospital with the list you have will result in a good name no matter what.

One way to help narrow things down is to think (for the second time in a single post) about future babies. With each name possibility, consider if it would eliminate a name you'd want to use for another child: if you used Eli, for example, maybe it would eliminate Ian and Ellie, or maybe you wouldn't want to use any more biblical names; if you used Leo, it would eliminate Cleo and Leah---and maybe Eli and Leo are names you'd want to use one but not both, so you'd need to choose which name you liked better, that sort of thing. Think also about girl names you like: do any of your boy names clash or go particularly well with them?

Name update! Kailee writes:
Firstly, I wanted to thank you and your readers on our baby name dilemma! We were able to narrow our choices down to Leo (and adding a second middle name that also honored my family and avoided the Leo Patrick/Cleopatra sound) and Thomas after reading the post and comments. Our little boy came two and a half weeks early and we were very glad to have just two names to choose between after the labor! In the end, I was definitely leaning toward Thomas because I wasn't sure I wanted to use THREE family names for one little boy! But, I insisted we wait to see our baby's sweet face before finalizing.

When we finally saw him my husband's eyes filled with tears when I said I think he's a Thomas because we both just KNEW it was the right name. We are absolutely in love with our little guy and his name. Thanks again!

Please feel free to share the attached photo with your readers.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Baby Boy or Girl Collins, Sibling to Ashton and Clara

Cayce writes:
I am expecting my second child in July and we have been having a bit of a challenge choosing a girl's name. My daughter's name is Clara and my stepson, who lives with us, is named Ashton. We do not know the sex of this baby, but we have decided to honor both of our fathers by naming the baby Daniel if it is a boy. While his first name will be Daniel, we will be calling him by his middle name "Murphy" to avoid confusion with several other Daniels in our family. I adore the name Murphy, and it goes so well with our last name, Collins. There has never been any question that this is the best boy name for us.

When it comes to girl's names we have been much more indecisive. The one name we love is Holland, but I am concerned that it sounds too rhymey with our last name. Holland Collins. I love it - I mean I really, really love it -but I'm worried that it sounds silly. And I'd rather choose another name that will grow on me than give my child a goofy name.

Others that we have entertained include: Mae, Murphy (for a girl?), Harriet (nn Hattie), Gretchen.

So, what do you think of Holland? Do any of the other choices seem significantly better? Do you have any other suggestions?

We tend to like more traditional names, nothing trendy. No odd spellings. Nothing with a strong Pop Culture reference (ie: Alice, Dora, Ginger, Clarice).

I look so forward to hearing your advice! I have discussed this with a few Mom friends of mine and got some very strong, but mixed reviews. Thanks in advance for your time.

Ha ha! I'll bet you'll get "very strong, but mixed" reviews here, too! I'll start! To me, Holland Collins is all but unworkable: that is, if you had a very important reason for using the name Holland with the surname Collins, I would eventually say that in the end, it doesn't REALLY matter how a name sounds all together and you should use it, and some girls change their surnames when they get married,'ll be fine. But, lacking the very important reason, I would consider it completely out of the running, and would add it to the names many of us have had to eliminate because of surname incompatibility (I myself mourn for Ruben and Rufus). And I am sure there will be absolutely opposite opinions in the comments section, because this whole baby-naming thing is a matter of taste, and the further along the taste spectrum you get, the more divided and adamant the tastes will be---as you've found in your social circle already.

My first reaction to the name Holland Collins was purely sound-based. But my second reaction is stylistic: you say you like traditional names, and your daughter Clara has a traditional name, but Holland is an androgynous place name. (I'm not sure what to do with the name Ashton: Holland WOULD go well with that. I'm working more with Clara in this post, though, because a style clash between two sister names or two brother names is more noticeable than between one brother and one sister name.)

According to the Social Security Administration, the name Clara was #199 in 2009 and climbing; Holland isn't in the Top 1000 for either girls or boys. Although Holland is used more often for girls than for boys (the nickname Holly contributes to this, I imagine), if I saw it with Clara I would guess boy: as a boy's name, the name Holland has an old-fashioned gentleman sound that DOES go pretty well with Clara; whereas as a girl's name, the name Holland is modern and boyish and would be an unexpected choice with Clara.

I suggest Holly instead: it works better style-wise, and lessens the impact of the repeating sounds. Holly Collins still has strong repeating sounds, and if you'd asked me about Holly before mentioning Holland I might have said it was too much---but comparing it to Holland Collins makes me feel differently about it, and in fact I kind of LIKE the repeating sound. Holly Collins; Clara and Holly.

Molly would work too, and would be even better with Clara, I think: Molly Collins; Clara and Molly.

Ooh, or Lily would work: Lily Collins, Clara and Lily.

I would like to steer you away from your idea of using Murphy for a girl. As with Holland, it is an enormous style leap paired with Clara, and doesn't fit your preference for traditional names. Also, you say you'd like to avoid strong pop culture references: on a girl, Murphy immediately calls to mind Murphy Brown. This isn't a reference her peers will be likely to catch, but you have Clarice on your list so I'm assuming you don't mean only childhood pop culture.

From your list, the one that stands out to me as the best with Clara is Mae. Harriet and Gretchen also both work. Other possibilities:


Name update! Cayce writes:
Based on the favorable response from your readers we had decided to name our baby Harriet Wynne if we had a girl. Well, we had our baby and, while I was absolutely certain we would have a girl, we were blessed with a little boy! Baby Murphy Collins was born on July 19 at 7 lb 4oz. He is so sweet and we love love love his name. Thanks so much for your help!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Baby Naming Issue: Tucker Rhymes With, Um....

Allyson writes:
I was wondering if you could do a poll on the boy's name Tucker. While I know it obviously rhymes with, um, that word, I know my mind didn't go there. Or if it did, it was more like a quick visit than a long stay. Meanwhile, other people I've mentioned the name to immediately say "it's cute, but it rhymes with *ucker." What are your thoughts? Is a boy named Tucker doomed to endless taunting of "Tucker the *ucker"?


Good question! I've wondered this myself. Not only about The Word, but also about the less-severe word "sucker." Let's have a poll, over to the right. [Poll closed; see results below.]

Baby Girl Chilelli, Sister to Giovanni Paolo

Abriana writes:
I'm looking for help in naming my second little one due on June 12, 2011. My name is Abriana and my husband is Ryan. Our last name is Chilelli (pronounced chill - elle - ee). Our son is named Giovanni Paolo. I know- Italian overload- but his name has significant meaning to us. He was named after Pope John Paul II who wrote extensively on marriages and families and really inspired my husband and I in our Catholic faith, which is really important to us. I am not tied to sticking with Italian names; we were just attracted to name his Giovanni Paolo instead of John Paul, since John Paul just seemed too ordinary to us. We absolutely love his name, and call him G for short.

For a girl, though, we are stuck. It's odd because I am obsessed with baby names-- I have been doodling baby names and thinking about my future children for as long as I can remember.

My husband loves the name Eilin, which we have heard is pronounced e-uh-lynn or a-uh-lynn by Swedish speakers.

I love that he loves it. He's not the most opinionated guy, and when he gets excited about something, I love it! I just think it would be so cute to be able to tell our little girl that her daddy named her.

Here’s where I’ll be honest, we heard it after hearing about Tiger Woods' wife-- which bothers the crap out of me!!! However, my family is Swedish and this is a really common Swedish name, and I think it'd be a great tribute to our family's heritage.

We would spell it Eilin to help people pronounce it phonetically. The issue is that if we choose to pronounce it a-uh-lynn, people seem to get confused when we tell them how we are spelling it. We like a-uh-lynn as the pronunciation—feel like it’s more feminine, but sometimes when I say it out loud, I hear “alien”. If we pronounce it e-uh-lynn, it seems a bit sharp to the ear.

Her middle name would be Maeva, which is a variation on Maeve. This has been a name that I’ve loved since college when reading an Irish myth about Queen Maeve.

So my questions are:

1) how should we pronounce Eilin? E-uh-lynn or a-uh-lynn?

2) Are there any other names that have a similar feel that might be more appealing? I feel like Eilin is warm, elegant, yet original.

Thanks so much for your help!!

Name update! Abriana writes:
Hi Swistle!

I have a name update for you from my post almost a year ago! Sorry. Having two kids keeps me busy!! :)

We were so thankful for everyone's suggestions! Most of all, they gave me the confidence to just choose the name I liked. No matter what, we knew we'd have pronunciation issues, so we just decided to go with what we wanted, and let everyone else figure it out. We ended up naming our beautiful baby girl Eilin Maeva. We pronounce it ee-lynn (ee like in "tree"). We actually had a day or two in the hospital after she was born wondering if we should name her something else, but now, 9 months later, Eilin truly is her name.

Thanks for all your help!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Baby Naming Issue: How Do You Pronounce Louisa?

T. writes:
Because I have an Annalise, I don't know if I could use the name Louisa on my current to-be-born baby (too much "ise" - ?), but I wanted to know how people pronounce the name Louisa before I seriously consider it. My grandmother says loo-EEZ-ah, but I've always pronounced it and thought of it as loo-EESE-ah, and I think they sound like two different names. I wouldn't want to name my baby loo-EEZ-ah. Can we have a poll to determine what the common pronunciation is?

Thank you!

Good idea! This reminds me of a high school acquaintance who had to work hard to get people to say LESS-lee instead of LEZ-lee: I'd never realized there were two ways to pronounce it, and now I note which one it is when a Lesley introduces herself.

I say Louisa loo-EEZ-ah (and Louise "loo-EEZ"), and because I find it so fun to say I probably overdo a W sound: more like loo-WEEZ-ah. I use the Z sound for Louise and Eloise, too. I think if I wanted a soft S I would use the name Luisa: because I pronounce Luis "loo-EES," it would come naturally to me to use the soft S with Luisa. (Which is a silly and arbitrary thing, since I also say Louis with a soft S. But the Luis(a) spelling draws my attention to it in a way Louisa doesn't---maybe I think of Louisa as coming from Louise instead of from Louis.) Or I might use Lucia (pronouncing it loo-SEE-ah) to get similar sounds.

Let's put a poll over to the right: How do YOU pronounce Louisa? [Poll closed; see results below.]

Friday, April 15, 2011

Baby Girl Hall

Amy writes:
I really hope you can help us, I feel like I have looked at every name out there and am still not finding "our" name. Our first child, a little girl, is due July 15 and we are having trouble deciding or even narrowing down our list. We have lots of contenders, but none have really struck me as "the one." Since our last name (Hall) is so common, and short, we thought we could get away with a more unusual first name. We like names that are clearly gender specific and maybe a little old-fashioned. If we were having a boy, we would have named him either Oliver or Phineas.

Here are the names we have on our short list:

Agatha Rowan (Previously our first choice but do not like nn Aggie, and am getting a lot of negative feedback)

Gretchen Faye (pretty, but don't love)

Lucia Faye (pronounced LOO-sha, we think this is pretty safe, aside from the pronunciation issue that we foresee)

Briar Wynn (love how whimsical this is, but is it too out there?)

Imogen (cannot think of any nn)

Bryn (too short?)

Evie (pronounced EH-vee) I love this but would rather have it as a nn, however we don't like any of the names the nn would be derived from (Evangeline - I like, DH hates, Evelyn, Genevieve, etc.)

Juliette (just kind of meh)

Astrid (no nn, maybe a little too wacky for us)

Names we considered but rejected, mostly because of rising popularity, or because someone else is using them:








We aren't fans of names like Madison, Ellery, Harper, Greyson, etc. or any name that is too popular.

Thank you!

I recently read a novel with a character named Imogen, and they called her Immy. You could also call her Genny or Midge. Imogen Faye Hall.

I wouldn't give up on Agatha yet. The trouble with collecting feedback while pregnant is that people don't have a visual to go with the name. If you were to present an infant and say, "This is Agatha!," some people would still dislike the name (this is true of every name that ever was and ever will be), but others who would have THOUGHT they disliked the name would find that actually they find it fresh and interesting and adorable on the little woogie-moogums oooooo look at her sweet little KEEKS. Especially since newborns can look so critical and disapproving, and it's amusing to think of a critical and disapproving infant named Agatha.

If you've already been put off the name, however, I suggest Beatrix. It's similar in style, but has the cute nickname Bee (or Bea, but I don't think I could resist the Bee spelling, and then the way I'd feel inclined toward bee-themed things her whole life). Beatrix Rowan Hall.

Or Martha, which has the -tha ending with Marty instead of Aggie. Martha Faye Hall.

Or Augusta, nickname Gussie. Augusta Rowan Hall.

Or I like the repeating double-L of Camilla Hall, and that gives you Cam and Cami and Millie. Camilla Faye Hall.

Or Philippa? Philippa Hall has dignity, but the nickname Pippa has ADORABLE. It occurs to me that you could use some of your too-common list for middle names. Philippa Scarlett Hall has a fun double-letter theme.

Or Louisa? Louisa Hall, with nicknames Lou or Lulu. Louisa Faye Hall.

Or Winifred? Winifred Hall, with nicknames Winnie or Fred. Winifred Norah Hall, Winifred Agatha Hall.

I'd also like to suggest Harriet and Henrietta. I think these are names very similar to Agatha in that the initial reaction might be not entirely positive---but that with time and cute baby cheeks, people may wonder why they didn't realize all along that these were the best names ever. Both have cute nickname possibilities such as Hattie and Etta and Ree. Harriet Astrid Hall. Henrietta Faye Hall.

For something lighter, maybe Felicity. I don't know why this name isn't more common: it seems to me to have the same rhythm and front-of-the-mouth sounds as Olivia and Elizabeth---and yet Olivia is #3 and Elizabeth is #11 and Felicity is #782. It has the appealing pioneer-days sound of Abigail, and yet Abigail is #8 and Felicity is #782. Felicity Faye Hall. Felicity Charlotte Hall.

If you like Gretchen but it's "not quite," would you like Greta? Greta Hall. No nicknames, unfortunately. Or you could go straight to Margaret Hall and have TONS of nicknames, from Greta to Maggie to Meg to Daisy to Maisie. I love the sound of Margaret Hall. Margaret Rowan Hall, Margaret Faye Hall, Margaret Olivia Hall.

Or Geneva, which could give you Evie (though I would pronounce it EE-vee, to match the vowel sound in the name). Geneva Faye Hall.

I don't think of Briar as being too out-there (like you, I consider it whimsical and botanical, like Ivy and Violet and Juniper), but it's a name that's a little trickier than usual to find a sister name for. For me, using one botanical name would eliminate all the others, so I'd need to think ahead of time whether this was my favorite of all of them.

Name update! Amy writes:
I spent the last few weeks of my pregnancy baking several recipes from your other blog, so I am all set for postpartum snacking. :)
Just wanted to let you know our little girl arrived quickly and healthily at 12:57 am on July 19. We thought we would instinctively know what name to choose when we saw her - we had narrowed it down to Agatha Rowan or Briar Wynn, which were also the clear favorites from your commenters. However, when she came out, we still weren't sure so we slept on it for a night. In the morning I told my husband he could make the final decision since I loved both names. He chose Agatha Rowan, and I very happy with the decision. She's such a joy to us already! I've attached a picture of our little doll.

Thanks for your help!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Name Update!

Update to Baby Boy J (Rhymes With Bronson)!

Baby Boy McBride, Brother to Benjamin Patrick

Ashley writes:
I check your blog daily for insight on naming baby #2. It's a boy and I'm due June 2nd. I'm Ashley, my husband is Patrick. And we have a very hard time agreeing on names. :)

Our first child is Benjamin {middle name Patrick} and it took forever to name him. But we love his name and it's so perfect for him. Any chance that can happen twice?! Although, I think we've used up our one agreeable boy name with Benjamin!

Our last name is McBride. Benjamin's name is very strong and I want that for this sweet boy, too. I've been researching names and making lists and letting myself get pretty stressed out about naming a child! We have a girl name set, but these boy names are just too much for us! :) We would like several children, so here's hoping at least one is a girl to cut down this stress of baby naming during pregnancy :)

Here is the {very short} list of names we agree on {as in we both like the names okay}:
Andrew {My husband is already calling this baby Andrew. I don't mind it, I just don't know if I love it. And I don't like the nickname Andy at all. But I do like Drew. This name is so wishy-washy for me}
Evan (Does this sound odd with Benjamin? Benjamin and Evan.)

Names I like, but my husband does not like at all:

Names my husband likes:
Calvin (which I don't mind, really. But we've had so many people say negative things about this name. It's tainted the name for me)

Middle names:
Shotwell (family name)
John (family name)
Reid (last name of close friends of ours)

We tend to like more traditional names and also like having a family name in there - first or middle. Benjamin and Patrick are family names, which worked out nicely. But it didn't happen on purpose. In fact, we just found out that Benjamin is a family name and he's two.

Could you just name this baby for me?! :) Your help would be so appreciated!

Okay, I will! Wesley Reid McBride. Ben and Wes.

I would have used Wesley John (I love family names) except it seems like that takes the pleasing John Wesley association from a suggestion to a declaration. Shotwell would work too, but is Wesley Shotwell the perfect amount of cowboy or is it too MUCH cowboy? I wasn't sure. Calvin would work as a middle name (this would decrease negative feedback while still letting you have the name), but then it seems like John Wesley AND John Calvin.

I wanted to suggest Callum as an alternative to Calvin, but I'm afraid the blend with your surname might sound like Calla McBride.

Would you be willing to consider John as a first name? It's a name that I think seems "too plain/common" at first consideration, but then sounds surprisingly fresh and interesting on an actual child. There are so few children named John actually going by John. And John McBride sounds so wonderful to me, I can hardly stand it. Maybe John Shotwell McBride, so each boy has two family names?--or maybe it would be better to save some family names for future children. John Michael McBride has a nice crackling sound, or John....heh, I almost suggested Wesley. Maybe use your maiden name or another family surname (I think those tend to work particularly well with John as a first name), or use a name that you really like but wouldn't want to consider as a first name.

If John seems too short, maybe Jonathan. Benjamin and Jonathan make a nice brother pair. Jonathan Reid McBride, maybe, or Jonathan Calvin McBride (I THINK that works without too much of a John Calvin reference).

If Andrew is "not quite," do you like Anderson? Anderson McBride, Benjamin and Anderson. I'm not sure what to do about a middle name for it. Maybe Reid: Anderson Reid McBride. Oh, but then his initials spell ARM. Anderson John McBride?

Or do you like Anthony? Anthony R...oh, ARM again. Anthony Shotwell McBride. Anthony Knox McBride.

Or Joshua: to me, the name Joshua has the same "strong but kind" sound as the name Benjamin. Joshua Calvin McBride, Ben and Josh.

Nathaniel is in that group for me as well: Nathaniel Reid McBride, Ben and Nate. Strong but NICE.

Or Nicholas? I like the sound of Benjamin and Nicholas. Nicholas Reid McBride, or Nicholas Calvin McBride.

I once knew a Benjamin whose brother was Christopher. Christopher McBride. Christopher John McBride, or Christopher Reid McBride.

Name update! Ashley writes:
I am so grateful to you and everyone who commented about name suggestions! More so, though, I was so encouraged to hear all the positive things said about "Andrew". Our sweet boy came early, on May 17th, and is so precious! We chose the name Andrew Reid McBride. Sure, his initials are ARM, but the name is so great for him and we love that we can tell him how special the name is to us! Big brother Benjamin loves his little brother and it's pretty stinkin cute to hear him say, "Where's An-dew?" :)

Thank you again for your help and suggestions!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Baby Naming Issue: Can You Use a Suffix if a Generation Was Skipped?

Amie writes:
I have been a loyal reader of your blogs for several years now & am finally expecting our first on August 4th! The thing is - we already have his name picked out - Edward Joseph Surname.

My question to you is this:

My husband wants to name him Edward Joseph Surname, III because both his dad & grandfather share the name. I've been told people's opinions on the matter but am unable to verify if this is generally acceptable? Is it ok to name a child The Third if a generation has been skipped?

I have done some online research and am having trouble finding anything on the issue. I'm hoping you & your readers can help clear this up for me!

Thank you so much!

Name suffixes drive me a little bit crazy, because there ARE some rules, but since they are NEVER FOLLOWED I think it's safe to say they're irrelevant. One example: the suffixes are supposed to change as the older holders of the name die off---IV becomes III, III becomes Jr. and so on. Furthermore, Sr. doesn't use the Sr. suffix: he's just Robert Jones, and all the others have suffixes. Is anyone going to follow these rules? OF COURSE NOT. No need for anyone to leave me unpleasant remarks in the comments section (as they have continued to do on the post where I last mentioned these rules), because I already fully understand how inconvenient it would be to follow the rules, and likely I would not follow them myself if there were such a naming situation in my family. Nevertheless, the rules exist.

Where was I? Oh yes. For skipping a generation, I went to my Miss Manners books. I looked in six of the thickest of them, but didn't find a mention of how to do the numbers if you skip. As I understand it, the reason there are no rules for those situations is that in those situations the suffix system does not apply, because the suffix system is set up for descendants in an unbroken line. (It's a whole different system for popes and kings; they don't use Sr. and Jr., either.)

HOWEVER, I have heard of, for example, naming a child after his grandfather or uncle and calling the child "Robert Jones II" rather than Robert Jones Jr., to indicate that it's not an unbroken/traditional succession. And presumably a Robert Jones II would be able to name his son Robert Jones III? So what would be the difference if the break came between II and III instead of between Sr. and II?

On the other hand, it feels like cheating, doesn't it? The big deal of suffixes, and the reason they become such huge important deals in families, is the idea that it MUST be done by each generation in a very particular fashion, without messing with it in any way (for example, no changing the middle name), or else it would have to start all the way over---which is why the pressure increases with each generation. There's no "on a break" of suffix-naming: it's the firstborn son of each name-holder, and there is no skipping. And we know that we don't get to go back into our family trees and pick up the suffixes from where they left off several generations ago: we'd need to start a new line.

I think the upshot here is that no, what your husband would like to do is not traditionally/generally allowed/acceptable, but that no one's going to stop you. There is possible precedent for choosing to use the III (using "II" to name a child for his grandfather, for example), but there is significantly larger quantities of precedent for it not being legitimate (i.e., the whole rest of the tradition and how it's traditionally applied). If you choose to use III for your son non-traditionally, you'll have to be resigned to people assuming his father's name is the same as his, and people potentially acting disgruntled that a generation was skipped. If you're willing to accept these consequences, there is no Suffix Police who will keep you from using it.

Edited to add: Let's add a poll to this one, over to the right. [Poll closed; see results below.]

Name update! Amie writes:
I just wanted to send you an update to this Baby Naming Issue post as our little Edward Joseph was born Sunday the 7th! We really appreciate all of your readers comments & decided not to use the "III" suffix on his birth certificate. When it comes down to it, it's just plain easier - for us to not have to explain the skipping of the generation, and for him later in life on legal forms, etc.

We really appreciate your help & continue to enjoy your blog!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Baby Girl Petersen, Sister to Selah and Titus

Allison writes:
I am hoping you can help me with a name for our daughter. Her due date is July 21st. Our process for our first two children was this: an unusual, or little used, Biblical first name and a middle name that honors a family member. Our last name is Petersen.

We have a 3 1/2 year old, Selah Mae. Mae is my maternal grandmother's middle name.

We have a 21 month old, Titus Glen. Glen is my father-in-law's name and my husband's middle name.

I love the name Ava or Eva, but I feel that it is way to common right now so I am looking for something different. Adah is at the top of my list, but my husband doesn't like it. I have also considered Kyra, Michal, Calah, Eve, Mara, Micah and Eden.

Possible middle names include Violet (paternal grandmother) and Louise (husband's grandmother). I was concerned that it doesn't follow our 3 syllable names with the previous two.

I think it's fine not to match the number of syllables in the sibling names. And trying to match it eliminates so many possibilities, for no benefit.

From your list my favorite is Eve. Uncommon (#582 in 2009, though the popularity of Ava/Eva makes it feel more common) and biblical, and very close to the Ava/Eva you love. Eve Louise would be pretty, and then you'd still have three syllables total, even if they weren't divided the same way.

Some of the names on your list are names I would use---but not if the Bible were my motivation for using them. The name Mara, for example, is a beautiful name, if I'm not thinking of it as a biblical name. But as soon as I think of the Bible, I think of Naomi, after her husband and both her grown sons had died (leaving her, in those times, completely impoverished and unprotected and unable to support herself), saying, "Don't call me Naomi anymore---instead, call me Mara, because God has dealt very bitterly with me." (Mara meant "bitter," from another unpleasant biblical connection where the water of a river was too awful to drink, so they named the place Marah.) Do you see the sort of thing I mean? Mara alone is a very nice name; but using it FOR its biblical connection and BECAUSE OF its biblical connection brings to mind the sadness and bitterness and death it was used to represent in that book.

It's the same with the name Cain (not on your list---I'm just on a roll now). If someone uses it with no intention to link it to the Bible, it's just a name, not much different than Dane or Cade. But if they use it as a biblical name, then they're using the name of the guy known for murdering his brother, and that's an odd thing to do: the deliberate biblical connection brings in the negative biblical significance.

Okay, sermon over. I'm going to ignore what I just said, and suggest names that appear in the Bible whether the associations are positive or negative, because what _I_ would want for a biblical baby name is not relevant, just fun to discuss while we're on the topic.

Naomi seems like a great possibility but at #107 on the Social Security charts for 2009, I suspect it's too common.

I suggest Miriam: it's biblical, and uncommon (#310 in 2009) yet familiar. Miriam Louise Petersen; Selah, Titus, and Miriam.

Or Esther (#267): Esther Louise Petersen; Selah, Titus, and Esther. If you decided you DID want to match the syllables of all the children's names, you could reuse the middle name Mae, or you could use Lou as a short form of Louise.

Or Bethany (#342): Bethany Louise Petersen; Selah, Titus, and Bethany.

For something similar to but more unusual than Bethany: Bethel. Bethel Louise Petersen; Selah, Titus, and Bethel.

Zorah would be pretty: Zorah Louise Petersen; Selah, Titus, and Zorah. This is my top choice for you: it seems most compatible with the style of the sibling names. I like both Zorah Louise and Zorah Violet, or Zorah Mae if you want to keep the same syllable pattern.

Or Cana: Cana Louise Petersen; Selah, Titus, and Cana. Cana and Esther are my second favorites for you.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Baby Naming Issue: Will Stella Get Too Popular?

Kinsey writes:
we are having our second child soon and want your opinion on the name we are 95% set on. we have a 19 month old named Joseph Hank, he goes by Hank. this baby is a girl and we have decided we love the name Stella Rose, to mainly go by just Stella. Rose is my mom's maiden name, and her mother is my only living grandparent left, so we really like this for the middle name. The part I would like your advice on is -- Stella. when i was pregnant with Hank, we didn't have ANY girl names that we both loved. actually not any that we even liked. so, when we found out this baby is a girl, we started to wonder if we'd ever find a girl name we both loved. after LOTS of ideas, i suggested Stella (i've always loved it) and my husband was pretty much hooked from the beginning. my questions to you--is it too popular? is it going to be too popular in a few years, like when she starts kindergarten? do you have another suggestion that you like better with Hank? we LOVE hank and stella together, but i want to make sure we aren't missing something better. i have a unique name, especially the spelling--Kinsey--and i love that Hank is not weird or out there, but still not that common. we want the same for her! help!

ps. we have a LARGE group of friends and family with kids the same age as ours, and i'm a teacher, and i've never personally met another stella. and if it wasn't for facebook i wouldn't know two of my sorority sisters named their baby that either ;-) but that also makes me nervous that it's too popular. what do you think?!

thank you!

Let's start with the chart from the Social Security Administration:

(click it to see it bigger)

When there's a little blue "a" in the slot, that means the name wasn't in the Top 1000 that year. So for the name Stella, we have a name that was very, very uncommon, and then went from #907 to #126 in a dozen years---a rapid rise.

We won't have the 2010 data until next month, and we won't have the 2011 data until a year after that, but if you'd had a baby named Stella in 2009, she'd be sharing the name with .1267% of the baby girls her same age---or roughly 13 Stellas per 10,000 baby girls. An uncommon name.

Whether it will become more popular is anybody's guess. Ella and names ending in -ella are in favor right now; some parents who love the name Ella but want something less common may head for Stella. It may even be that by the time your Stella is in kindergarten, the name will be given to more like 1 in 100 baby girls, as the name Isabella (the #1 most popular girl name in the U.S.) is now. Or it may be that the St- (reminiscent of Stephanie and Stacy and less-used currently) will keep it from rising too high, and it'll find its level at around #50, or #100, or #75, or even dropping back down to #150, and never get any higher than that.

If it DOES get significantly more popular, your girl will still be ahead of that group: her class will have the same percentage of Stellas in it as the year you gave her the name. But if you're looking for something that will stay as uncommon as the name Kinsey, I don't think Stella is a safe bet: it hits the current name preferences too solidly, and it's already so far ahead.

But you both love it, you agree on it even though you can't find others you agree on---you may want to go with the name that's a little more common than you'd like, rather than choosing one you like less. It depends on how important the uncommonness is for you, and what you're willing to trade to get it.

You could also consider naming her Stella Rose but calling her Rose, as you call your son Hank: Joseph is #16 and Hank is #970; Stella is #126 and Rose is #352. Hank and Rose is an adorable sibling pair.

Name update! Kinsey writes:
i wrote in to you way back in april about whether or not the name we loved for our little girl was too popular or not...well, after MUCH consideration and NO luck finding anything we loved as much, we stuck with our first choice and sweet Stella Rose was born on July 15th! even though we might run into another Stella eventually, I LOVE her name too much to care! And my mom is thrilled that she is carrying on her maiden name, Rose, as well. Thanks for your help!