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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Baby Girl Hook-With-a-C, Sister to Emmaline, Finnegan, and Clementine

Catherine writes:
Greetings from the UK. My case is a bit out of the ordinary and has a few more factors than the normal, so I hope you can help! DH and I have three children, Emmaline (called Emmie), Finnegan, and Clementine, and are expecting our fourth. And when I say "expecting," I don't have a set due date. We are in the process of adopting a nine-month-old beautiful baby girl from Bosnia. Hopefully, if all of our paperwork goes through, she'll be in our arms by September.

Anyway, here is where the dilemma strikes. Our little girl's birth name is Dushanka. We want to keep the name in her name somehow, it will most likely be her middle. But we feel that no only is her name impossible to say in the region where we live, but also, our first three are all quite a bit older than the little one (6-10 years so), added to the fact that they are not adopted…. we want her to have a name similar to their's so she will feel included.

Names we like off the top of our heads

I feel that while they are all quite English sounding and all that, they are all too plain and common, especially recently, to match with Emmaline, Finnegan, and Clementine. Their names all have three syllables and have a sort of "n" ending that ties them together. I'd love to find a fourth name of that stature that isn't too rhyme-y with Emmaline and Clementine (as they are already quite rhyme-y). Not a big fan of nicknames (Emmie crowned herself— we'd always called her Emmaline) but if the shoe fits….

Sorry this is QUITE a tall order, but we'd appreciate the help so very much!
(And if there was a name that went well with Dushanka as a middle, all the better)

Thanks so much

P.S. Oh! Almost forgot, our surname is like "Hook," but beginning with a C.

My first suggestion is Imogen. It has three syllables and a prominent N-sound---but without duplicating the -ine ending of the other two girls, and it partially rhymes with Finnegan the same way Emmaline and Clemetine partially rhyme. Imogen Dushanka Hook (IDC); Emmaline, Finnegan, Clementine, and Imogen.

My next suggestion is Adelaide. It lacks an N, but it has three syllables and an L sound like the other two girls. Adelaide Dushanka Hook (ADC); Emmaline, Finnegan, Clementine, and Adelaide.

Next is Josephine. It ends in the same -ine as the other two girls, but with a different vowel sound. Josephine Dushanka Hook (JDC); Emmaline, Finnegan, Clementine, and Josephine.

Next is Marigold. It doesn't have an N, but it has three syllables and an L like the other two girls. Marigold Dushanka Hook (MDC); Emmaline, Finnegan, Clementine, and Marigold.

Lorelei. Similar in style, and three syllables plus an L, even though no N. Lorelei Dushanka Hook (LDC); Emmaline, Finnegan, Clementine, and Lorelei.

Annabel. Similar to Isabelle from your list, but more N; similar to Hannah from your list, but more syllables. Annabel Dushanka Hook (ADC); Emmaline, Finnegan, Clementine, and Annabel.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Baby Girl SSS: _____ _parks _eevens

S. writes:
I'm hoping you can help us out. After thinking we were all set, serious doubt has set in with only 2 weeks to go and we are in need of advice. My husband and I decided not to discuss baby names with friends and family as we want to choose a name we like and everyone has an opinion and we do not feel the need (and I don't have the energy) to explain/defend names to everyone. But now here's where we stand:

My husband and I are having our first child, a girl, in mid-June. After going through long lists of names we feel like we have it narrowed down to two.

My last name is begins with an S and rhymes with Parks and my husband’s last name also begins with S and rhymes with Leevens. We would like for baby to take my last name as her middle name and her dad’s last name as her surname. We won’t do this for every child necessarily, but who knows if we’ll have more than 1 (although we’d like 2 or 3) and so we wanted to get my name in there on the first one.

It actually took us about a week of thinking of baby names to figure out that all the cute A names we like are definitely out! The ones we liked the most were Alexandra (Alex) and Ava.

The two first names that we are considering happen to be S names. That will make baby’s initials SSS and that there will be a lot of S sounds in her name, but I think that’s ok for us.

The two first names we like are Scarlett and Sofia. Here’s the case (as we see it) for each:

Sofia is not only my well-loved, legendary great-grandmother’s name but also a derivative of the name of one of my dearest childhood friends, so it has lots of good feelings associated with it for me. My husband very much likes the name too. Although I know Sofia is enormously popular in the US, we live overseas and are unlikely to return to the US anytime soon. Also my name is quite popular (it was in the top 15 on the social security names list for 20 years - five years before to fifteen years after my birth) among my age group and it hasn’t bothered me all that much.

It is quite possible we’d end up living in Europe at some point in the next decade and it would be nice to have a name that works well in most European languages – which Sofia does. Also Sofia would be easy to say in the SE Asian language of the country where we are currently living – although we do not plan on living here permanently so I do not want this to be the defining factor. This name feels ‘safe’ to me as we have a solid family connection to it and it’s easy to form cute nicknames and it seems to work in other languages.

Scarlett is more daring for us. We both very much like the name and have strong positive feelings towards the name Scarlett – mine for the heroine in Gone with the Wind, my husband because a family that he is very close with has a Scarlett. The name feels bold and a bit different but still familiar. Also my favorite tree is currently in bloom and will be when baby’s born and the flowers are a deep red color.

Negatives for Scarlett include not finding a nn that we like: Lettie, Letta, Carly, Scout, Scar, Scarly, Scarletta, Scassy, Sassy, Star don't appeal to us. Also it would be really hard to say in the local language, again this wouldn’t be the defining factor in choosing or not choosing the name, but it does mean that a nn would need to be used and it would not be able to have the ‘sc’ letter combination which is unpronounceable here.

If we were in an English speaking country or somewhere that the full name could be pronounced (most of Europe) then I would just use her full name and it would be fine not to have a nickname. Unless the nn from here somehow stuck!

Other short-listed names that we considered were Madeleine, Eve, Catherine, and Lucy. We just kept coming back to Sofia and Scarlett.

If you think the triple S combo (with Ss on the end of the last two names to boot) is just too much, please feel free to suggest other names.


For first-time parents, unless they have specified that they're planning only one child, I have the same advice every time: make your job HARDER now, in order to make it EASIER later.

That is, even though right now it feels so hard to choose even ONE name, this is the time to think ahead to future names as well. If you choose Sofia now, what does that mean for your future children's names? What if you choose Scarlett? The two names are of very different styles, and it would be helpful to try to figure out which style is more yours.

Also, using a triple initial such as SSS is such a distinctive and noticeable move, will it make you feel locked into doing the same for each subsequent child?

A note on popularity: the spellings Sofia and Sophia combined are given to almost exactly the same percentage of baby girls as were given your first name the year you were born---even though together they rank much higher than your name did. But the name Scarlett is racing to catch up:

(screen shot from the Social Security Administration)
(click it to see it larger)

Look at that! Not even in the Top 1000 until 1992, and since then it's gone almost to the Top 100! Look particularly at what it's done since 2003: from 1992 through 2003 it dawdled around in the Very Uncommon ranks and was still a pretty startling choice---but in 2004 it started leaping. I'd expect it to be in the Top 100 when the 2011 rankings come out---though I don't expect it to go quite as high as Sofia/Sophia.

BUT, all this is just chatting, because in reading your email several times, I think the name you prefer is Sofia. You love the name Scarlett, too, and I think you find it a more exciting choice than the name Sofia---but if I look over your pros and cons for each name, Sofia clearly wins: more pros, fewer cons. Your connections to the name Sofia are strong and meaningful and timeless (a dearly loved grandmother; a dearly loved friend); connections to the name Scarlett are weaker and less meaningful (another family's child; a character in a book; the color of a plant). Sofia works as an all-over-the-world name; Scarlett doesn't. You don't like any of the nicknames for Scarlett, yet would need to have one. The other names on your shortlist (Lucy, Madeline, Eve, Catherine) are mostly of the style of Sofia, not the style of Scarlett.

Thinking ahead to future children, perhaps this daughter could be Sofia _parks _eevens, and the next, if there is a next, something like Lucy Scarlett _eevens: you could still use the name Scarlett, but in the middle name slot where it beautifully parallels a sassy name like _parks, but also where its daringness won't make it difficult to find sibling names that don't clash with it.

If it weren't getting over-the-top, I would suggest using your surname as a second middle name for all the children (which I can say from experience is less hassle than I'd thought), so that you can use BOTH names for this baby: Sofia Scarlett _parks _eevens. This lets you give each child your surname too, but without giving up the fun of choosing a middle name. But the SSSS! Well, I do still think it's a viable option: having four S's in a row is indeed a lot of S's---but when we're starting at three S's already, it's not as big a leap.

But: now that you have read my opinion, how do you feel? Do you think "Whew, yes, Sofia it is!"---or are you thinking, "Oh! Noooooooo! I WANT TO USE SCARLETT!!" This can be a very important decision-making tool: seeing how you feel when the decision seems to be going one way or the other. Using EITHER name will mean giving up the other, so there will be a feeling of loss and regret either way---but in one direction there may be a stronger, more desperate feeling. (For more on this, see also Baby Naming Issue: How to Decide Between Two Finalists.)

I wonder if it would be helpful or unhelpful to have a Sofia/Scarlett poll, over to the right, for doing some of the exercises in that post on deciding between two finalists? Yes, let's do that. [Poll closed; see results below.]

Name update! S. writes:
Thanks so very much for your suggestions and everyone's comments. They really helped us a lot. We had so much fun announcing baby SSS's name to our family - Sofia! She was born healthy and happy in June.

Thanks again!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Discussion: When Was the Baby Named?

Today's discussion question is: When was the baby named? Before you had children? Second trimester? Two days after the birth? Three months after seeing the photo of the available child? Etc.

This is a trickier question than it first seems. Let's say that in fourth grade I was reading the Anastasia Krupnik books and thought "I LOVE THAT NAME. I want to name a future daughter that name!" And then I grew up, had a baby, and named her Anastasia.

So did I name her in fourth grade? No: what I did in fourth grade was put the name on my finalist list. Without the consent of the other parent, and without knowing what my child's surname would be, and taking into account that in sixth grade I said "Megan! I love that name!" and that ten years later I said "Emerson! I love that name!," I couldn't say that the baby had been named at that point, no matter how committed I felt at that moment. In retrospect it may FEEL as if I named the baby At That Moment, but if I'd grown up and had a baby with a guy who said "Ug, I hate that name" it would have been a no-go: the baby would have turned out NOT to have been named back then.

HOWEVER, if I still loved the name Anastasia in college, and my serious boyfriend and I were discussing baby names and I mentioned that name and he said "I love it. Let's definitely use it for our first daughter" and from then on we referred to our future hypothetical children Anastasia and Sam, and then we got married and had our first baby and it was a girl and we named her Anastasia, was that baby named back when we were dating?

Harder to say, isn't it? Because probably when I was pregnant we would have had the discussion again, more seriously now that it was real, and considered other candidates---and if so, the baby wasn't really named until we said, "Nope, we still like Anastasia best." But you could also make a case in this situation for the idea that even after a name is REALLY REALLY CHOSEN, there can be little flashes of doubt: a person might be watching Four Weddings and a Funeral in the third trimester and think "FIONA! Wait! Maybe FIONA is my favorite name!!" Or, lying in bed at night too uncomfortable to sleep: "Is Anastasia REALLY the name we want to use? Maybe it's Too Much. Maybe it's too uncommon. Maybe I DON'T EVEN LIKE IT AT ALL." Flashes like that aren't really a re-considering of the name but more like little panicky flairs (or sensible making-sures) that don't even come close to dethroning the champion, and it would be possible to put "Wait, now that it's real instead of a little Dating Fantasy, are we ACTUALLY going to use Anastasia?" into that category, if that is the way it felt.

So! You can see how this is a very very subjective sort of question to answer. It's tempting to exaggerate, I think, because it makes a better story: "I chose this name in fourth grade" is more appealing than "We dithered all through the pregnancy and first had one favorite and then another, and then by the time she was born we'd basically decided we liked Anastasia best." Each of us will need to carefully examine our naming stories for truth: Is it only in retrospect, with the child named and it unthinkable to imagine her named any of the now OBVIOUSLY wrong alternative candidates, that it seems as if this was always the definite choice? Are we mistaking "the day I added the name to my list" for "the day we said THIS IS THE NAME"?

And of course, sometimes we won't remember without looking it up. I don't quite remember when we chose Rob's name. His was one of the "not very interesting" baby naming stories that would be tempting to embellish. We thought he was a girl until we found out at 20 weeks that he wasn't. We considered a bunch of different boy names, but the only real candidate was the name we chose. And at some point we must have said, "Okay, that's it, that's the name"---but it failed to leave an impression and I'd have to check my journal to see for sure.

William was named in the first trimester, before we even knew he was a boy. We didn't have a girl name, but I wrote the boy name choice (complete with middle name) in bold capitals in my journal at around 12 weeks. Again, I'd have to look it up to be more exact, but I remember thinking it was disappointing to have the boy name chosen already when it wasn't even the end of the first trimester yet.

Elizabeth was named in the third trimester, but I was still uncertain even in the hospital: I loved the name, but I worried it was too unusual or that it wouldn't fit her. I'd say that the baby WAS named in the third trimester and that my flashes of doubt were just stronger---but it's hard to tell if this is true six years later.

Edward was also named in the third trimester, but we were down to two candidates already at the beginning of the second trimester: they were the two names we would have used if the twins had both been boys, and it was hard to give one of them up. Paul had a slight preference for one name, and I had a slight preference for the other, so we were waiting to see what the girl name choice would be---but then the girl name choice went well with both. One day in the third trimester I told Paul that the boy name I preferred felt more like My Baby and that my slight preference was now a strong preference, and he said that was fine with him.

Henry was named in the third trimester, after spending the first two trimesters going back and forth between two OTHER names. I suddenly thought of a third name and made a strong case for it, and we used it. I remember it was a relief to be able to stop going back and forth between the other two!

Now it's your turn, and feel free to take up as much space as you want in the comments section! When was the baby named?

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Baby Girl Provolone, Sister to Juliette Elizabeth

[I posted both the longer version and the shorter version of this question because (1) I think the longer version includes some important considerations and (2) I love the long version so much. But if you want to scroll down until you see "and" at the left side of the column, you'll still have enough info to vote.]

Sara writes:
Ok, I totally left this until too late and then I see your post about being overwhelmed with letters and I’m terrified you won’t answer mine. I’ve actually written this letter four times, once before we knew the sex, once after, and again after I got a copy of The Baby Name Wizard. And now I’m scrapping all of those and starting over because they keep getting ridiculously long. Our last name is long and Italian and kind of sounds like Provolone (the cheese) but starts with an M.

Older daughter is Juliette Elizabeth. Juliette came out of nowhere with about 15 weeks to go last time. We love that it is familiar and yet uncommon (so far). Elizabeth is after my husband’s mother, who passed away when he was a teenager, but it is also my middle name after an aunt and my grandmother. She gets also gets called Julie, Jules, Jemma (her initials) and Etta by various family members. None of that bothers us. Also, I love her name, but you know how some people write in updates and say that the name they picked it “totally my baby”? I don’t feel that way. I don’t have any name regret, but I could easily picture Jules being a Piper or Paisley or Lucy or whatever. (I also never found THE wedding dress, but liked my dress just fine, so perhaps I am not the sort of person finds THE name/dress/perfect piece of art for the wall?)

Husband is not a classic veto-er (yay!) and will suggest names. He is kind of stuck on Cecelia right now though and the thought of having a Simon & Garfunkel song stuck in my head for the next 40 or 50 years is making me want to shoot something. Also, he doesn’t think the kids names need to “match” or sound good together at all. He says they are all individual people and it doesn’t matter in the long run. I am more of the view that these children are our lives’ work and I want their names to coordinate.

A few notes before I get into a list. I really want to honor my mom with this little girl’s middle name. Mom’s name is Rosalie and she has no middle name, which doesn’t leave a lot of wiggle room. People have suggested using just Rose, but mom doesn’t go by Rose so it doesn’t seem very honorific. Her mom’s name was Giustina and I *think* that if we used that instead my mom would get that we were honoring her that way, but also she has six older sisters and one of their names is Giustina (although she goes by Judy). I happen to be close to that aunt and I am close to my Aunt Elizabeth that Juliette (inadvertently) has the name of, so I don’t want to unintentionally offend or leave out my mom. Plus we are very close and I can’t imagine honoring someone “over” her. My other aunts (both sides) are Josephine, Anna, Micheline, Antonette, Nancy, Claire, Mona and Janet. Husband’s grandmothers are Mahala and Victoria. My husband isn’t crazy about Rosalie or Giustina, but he is fine with using either. Second note, this is kind of random. I’m pretty sure we aren’t done yet, and if we have a third girl her name would probably be Molly Victoria or Molly Vita. Molly was our pick for the “what-would-we-name-kids” game before we were married. If the third is a girl I think it would be sweet if she had my husband’s initials because we will probably be done. This second one would be Molly, but Molly Rosalie doesn’t sound good (too much LEE sound) and we always imagined Molly as our youngest. Our boy name for both pregnancies has been Noah James. Could change, but so far we still love it.

Off-limit names because of nieces/friends/dibs/my darn sMIL keeps using human names on her pets are: Hannah, Bailey, Nora, Riley, Caroline, Madison, Savannah, Fiona, Madeleine, Zoe, Genevieve, Lily, Bella, Olivia, Gretchen.

So I guess my question is what in the heck do you pair with Juliette? This is something we didn’t consider when we named her (and darn it, I found you like a month later, or I would have known better!). Or better yet, how do I bridge Juliette with Molly or Noah? All the usual caveats, not too popular (Juliette was 450 when we picked it), although we know Molly and Noah are significantly more popular, no random spellings, husband wants nickname(s). When we think of Juliette, we seem to drift towards the Why Not?, then Timeless list of the BNW instead of the Shakespeare list. Plus Rosalie is already close to Rosaline, Romeo’s first love, so since we are not actually Shakespeare freaks I don’t want to get too far into that territory. I should also tell you that I have the 2005 version of BNW because I am too cheap to buy a new one and my library’s copy is apparently outdated. We have eliminated almost every name on our “list,” for various reasons, but I’ll put some here, just in case:

Names that have caught our eye(s?):

Gabrielle (Gabriella depending on middle name?). For a long time I thought this was the name just because of the way it feels with Juliette’s name. I like the name, but don’t love it and my husband doesn’t like the Guh sound at the beginning. I don’t like chopping the “Ga” off and going with Brielle – reminds me of Rielle Hunter and because of that feels trashy to me. It seems to be in the 30s which is significantly more popular than Juliette. We are ok with Brie or Elle/a as nicknames, but aren’t crazy about Gabby. My problem here is I like the name, but it doesn’t pass your “it feels like MY baby” test. It’s like I want my favorite niece to be named Gabrielle.

Penelope – another front runner for a while, also doesn’t pass the MY baby test (I want my best friend to name her baby Penelope :). Cannot stand Penny as a nickname. Husband puts this on the list then takes it off again…would be a little out there for our families. But I can’t get Penelope Jane out of my head for some reason (Jane?!? Where the heck did that come from?).

Beatrice/Beatrix and Camilla – I kind of think these go with daughter’s name, but husband hasn’t come around to this one yet, and doesn’t like Bea or Trix/ie or Milly/Milla. Also, don’t like BM initials. Plus my British grandmother would kill me if I named the baby after Prince Charles’s paramour.

Annabel/Mirabel – I thought one of these was it for awhile, but hubby thinks they sound like cows.

Mira/Mia – This was our “decoy” name with Juliet and we got a lot of negative feedback on it. I, however, am a fan of the double initial. Which leads me to Madeleine – super popular and dibbed on by one of our friends, but again I think if we had a “but this is the ONE” conversation she would be ok with it (no kids on the horizon for her). But then we might have two babies with M initials. I think I’m ok with that, but haven’t really thought it out.

Aurelia – husband’s childhood friend’s name who committed suicide, this one is a no-no.

I’m not a fan of Luciana/Lucia or Madalena/Magdalena that often get suggested. I have Carina, Francesca, Mariela, Valentina on my list pulled from some of your previous posts and comments on Italian-ish names, but none of them really jump at me.

Husband put Daphne, Willow and Marion on the list last week. Don’t like any of those. Also, he loves just plain Mary. I know you’ve said it’s fresh on the little girls you’ve heard it on, but I’m not there yet. He wouldn’t consider any name like Mariela with a nn of Mary to be the same thing. My little secret plain name is Annie. He doesn’t like it either.

My mom likes Adrianna and my dad is pushing for Jacqueline (he thinks Julie and Jackie would be cute), but neither of them get a say :).

Great jeebus that was still long. Sorry, I guess I felt I had to tell you every thought in my crazy pregnant brain. I know, I am imposing too many rules, so please help me distill all this. Any thoughts from you and your readers on these names or please, tell me you’ve thought of the perfect name I haven’t found yet! Our due date is coming up way fast and we are going around in circles! Thank you!


I wrote you a ridiculously too long email a few weeks ago right when you started posting the "too many emails" messages (Baby Girl "Provolone". I am delivering on Monday, but we've narrowed down our choices to three, so I thought I would send this just in case you could throw it up over the weekend for your readers to work on or do a quick poll.

Big sister is Juliette Elizabeth. Juliette because we like it (and now really, really love it), Elizabeth after my husband's late mother. Goes by Juliette, Jules or Julie.
Four syllable Italian last name that starts with M. Possibly one or two more kids on the table.
Our choices as of now:

* Gabrielle Rosalia - Gabrielle because we think it sounds good with Juliette, Rosalia after my mom. We are just ok with Gabby nickname, like Brie or Ella. Do not like GRM initials, but could deal with it.

* Penelope Jane - Love Penelope, all of our friends our age love Penelope, everyone in our parents generation hates it. Jane because it sounds so darn cute with Penelope, but really having hard time with non-family middle name. HATE HATE HATE nickname Penny. If nicknamed would probably call her Poppy or Nella or PJ.

* Molly Victoria - Both have loved the name Molly since our dating years. If third is girl will definitely go with this. MVM would give her dad's initials, which I like in case she is our last, Victoria is his maternal grandmother's name. I know some people hate the double initial, but we love it. Why haven't we used it yet? Molly always "felt" like our youngest, plus wanted to honor our mom's with middle names - Molly Elizabeth seemed boring, Molly Rosalie is too rhyme-y.

Any help at all would be appreciated, I am a ball of anxiety and nerves getting through the holiday weekend until we are scheduled. Thanks!

Let's have a poll, over to the right! I'm voting for Penelope because (1) it sounds like you love it best (and that it's not time yet to use Molly), and (2) because I think in about five minutes all your previous generation relatives will not be able to believe they didn't like it, and in fact will be correcting your memory that they didn't. The previous generation CLASSICALLY doesn't like the current generation's baby name choices (see also: Henry, Oliver), but they always come around---or else they use it to bond with their like-minded friends.

It is too bad we can't get Rose from your mom's name, because wouldn't Penelope Rose be THE SWEETEST?? I do like Penelope Giustina. And Penelope Rosalie has a little rhyminess, but it sounds like it's more important to you to honor your mother and to be sure you have a chance to do it; I think if I were you I would go with that. The more I say it, the more I think I LIKE the rhyminess. It's fun to say: Penelope Rosalie. And it LOOKS pretty, with the matching Os and Es and Ls. And I know this is a minor point, but I like the way the length of Penelope Rosalie goes with the length of Juliette Elizabeth.

Okay, I'm going to make the poll first names only so we can still discuss the middle name. [Poll closed; see results below.] I vote for Penelope Rosalie, because I have totally talked myself into it while writing the previous paragraph and now I love it and want to PUSH you to use it. Penelope Jane is ADORBS but I think of Jane as the natural middle name for Penelope (it has a coordinating English sass/charm)---i.e., I suspect quite a few girls named Penelope will have that as their middle name. (See? Now I am inventing facts to talk you into it. I will stop this now.) (PENELOPE ROSALIE.)

Friday, May 27, 2011

Baby _oyle, Sister to Ripley Anne

Nina writes:
We are having a difficult time coming up with a baby girl's name. I am due at the end of this month. We do not know if we are having a boy or a girl. We have a 2 year-old daughter named Ripley Anne. We plan to use the boy's name we had chosen from two years ago when we didn't know what we were having the first time around. Since we didn't anticipate having more children, we did not think about additional girl names (or boys names for that matter). We would like a name that is unisex and unique that it is not on any major lists or within the top 1000 names, much like Ripley is not popular. We cannot decide if we should stick with a name that also begins with the letter R or not. We cannot seem to find another R-sounding name that is English that we both agree on.

So far, our possibilities include Ryder (too popular right now). I like Reverie but my husband thinks it's too hard to say.

It's been difficult and stressful to come up with a girl's name that I'm seriously hoping we're having a boy for the sake of not having to pick a girl's name.

I'd love to hear your suggestions as you have helped a friend of mine in the past.

My top suggestion is Kiefer. It's almost unused for boys, and unused for girls (which surprises me: the Kee- of Keelin/Keely/Kira, the -fer of Jennifer)---but I think the sound is very cute on either a boy or a girl, and excellent with your surname and with the sibling name. Ripley and Kiefer. Its popularity is similar to Ripley's: in 2010, according to the Social Security Administration, 70 babies total were named Kiefer/Keifer; 47 babies were named Ripley.

Or Waverly: 61 babies named Waverly in 2010, some girls and some boys, though I'd use it for a girl.

The name Arizona isn't unisex (47 girls in 2010, no boys), but I think it has an androgynous SOUND: I wouldn't think, meeting a boy named Arizona, "But that's a girl name!"---and in fact when I first thought of it, I was going to suggest it to you as a boy name candidate. The -a ending (and even the entire -ona of the ending, like Catriona and Fiona and Mona---and the Ari- beginning like Arianna and Ariel) is probably what tips it to girls. Ripley and Arizona.

Hollis is slightly more common (133 babies in 2010), but this is balanced, I think, by being the best so far in terms of being unisex: 47 girls and 86 boys. You could use it for either a boy or a girl: Ripley and Hollis.

If you can get past the Forrest Gump connection (and really, he was a VERY NICE boy and a good person), I think the name Forest works for either a boy or a girl. I think it works a little better for a boy (and the parents of the U.S. agree with me, giving it in 2010 to 81 boys and no girls, plus 160 boys with the Forrest spelling)---but when I picture it on an actual little girl I think it works just as well as Ripley, and calls up very pretty images of sunlight through the leaves. Ripley and Forest. I think it might not work with your surname, however.

The name Castle was given to 14 boys and no girls last year, but I think the sound of it works just as well for girls: it reminds me of Cassie and lass and Crystal, and the word castle can give a mental picture of princesses, knights, beautiful stone walls.

The name Jensen is more popular for boys (313 boys and 52 girls in 2010; the spelling Jensyn adds another 6 boys and 13 girls), but not common for either and would work for either. Ripley and Jensen.

I will mention one of my friend Mairzy's favorite names: Sterling. It was given to 51 baby girls and 296 baby boys in 2010. I prefer it for girls; I am extremely fortunate that this has not caused Mairzy to ditch our friendship. (Mairzy: "Yet.") But of course it also works beautifully for boys, so I suggest it either way: Ripley and Sterling.

My mother wants me to suggest the name Tylyn: she knew a Tylyn and said the name was surprisingly pleasing to use. In 2010, 25 babies (20 girls, 5 boys) were named Tylyn/Tylynn. For a boy, I would spell it Tylen (68 boys in 2010; no girls) (there were also 39 boys named Tylon, but I suspect that's pronounced differently). Ripley and Tylyn; Ripley and Tylen.

The name Reeve was used for 21 boys and 7 girls in 2010. For me it has pleasing Christopher Reeve associations, and it sounds like Eve for a girl, and it's an R name that goes well with Ripley for either a boy or a girl: Ripley and Reeve.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Baby Boy Lestrade, Brother to Jack and Rachel

Maggie writes:
We are Maggie and Alonzo Lestrade and are expecting our third and final child, a boy, on June 1. We have two children, a boy, John “Jack” Colton, and a girl, Rachel Aurelia. The first name will be a family name and the middle name will just be one we both like. The family name is the first name because although I share my middle name with my grandmother, I have never felt any particular connection to the name, or to her so if we name our children after relatives, I definitely want them to feel a strong connection to that relative and feel that putting the family name as their first name will ensure that. Because I lobbied so hard for that, I gave up naming rights for our first two children. We have the name Harlow Wyatt or Harlow Ethan picked out. Harlow is my maiden name and as I will be the only one of my siblings to have children, I definitely want to pass it on. We have had this name picked out for a child since we got married and we like it very much. However, recently a friend confessed to me that seeing Harlow reminds her of the word harlot. No one has ever said that to me before and I did carry the name around for I was horrified. I'm in a complete panic about whether or not to keep the name. Alonzo insists it's fine and I admit, I did have to Google “harlot” to find out what it means. Are we crazy to still be considering naming our child Harlow if it reminds people of harlot? No one else I've asked has seen that connection. I'd like to know if most people are reminded of harlot when they see/hear Harlow. My husband and I have looked into using a similar name but have rejected Harley, Harper, Marlow, and Arlo. We don't like any of those names and I don't feel an emotional connection to any of them. If we don't pick Harlow, I don't know what else to do. There aren't any male relatives in my family whom I'm interested in naming a child after.

Several elements of this question are making it difficult to answer:

(1) If this is a name you have both liked, and have had picked out for a child since you got married, and you in particular had a strong motivation to definitely use it, how did it get to the third and final child before being used?

(2) In what way did your adamant stance on the first name being a family name lead to you losing all say in your first two children's names? And were your first two children given family names as their first names?

(3) How does the concept of "feeling a strong connection to a relative" apply when the name being used isn't the name of one single relative but of an entire branch of a family tree?

Harlow does not make me think of the word harlot. I don't even think of it now that it's been pointed out. Let's have a poll over to the right, to get an approximate feeling for what percentage of the population your friend represents. [Poll closed; see results below.]

The main issue with the name Harlow, for me, is that it is used primarily as a girl name: in 2010, according to the Social Security Administration, 349 new baby girls were named Harlow (and another 26 named Harlowe), but only 21 baby boys. It's too soon to call it (it's rising for both girls and boys), but my own prediction is that the name is going to the girls.

Another issue to consider is that I don't think it DOES guarantee a strong family connection to use the name as a first name: some people feel strongly connected to their namesakes and some don't. If you felt no particular connection to your grandmother, do you think that relationship would have been dramatically changed if her name had been your first name instead of your middle?

I suggest using your maiden name as his middle name: it will not matter so much if the name ends up being a "girl name," and I don't think having it in the first name slot will automatically create strong relationships with everyone on that side of the family. I suggest naming him Ethan Harlow or Wyatt Harlow: both names go well with Jack, though I think Ethan is better with Rachel.

But if you DO use it as his first name, I suspect it will NOT make most people think of harlots, and also he can say "It's my mother's maiden name," which I've found is the sort of explanation that makes people back WAY UP on any objections they might otherwise have about a name.

Poll results for "Does the name Harlow make you think of the word Harlot?" (417 votes total):

Yes: 16%
No: 71%
It DIDN'T, but from now on it will: 13%

Name update! Maggie writes:
Our son Ethan Harlow Lestrade was born on May 30. Eventually we decided that no matter how masculine the name sounds to us, we don't want him being mistaken for a girl his entire life. Thanks so much to Swistle and everyone else who commented!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Baby Naming Issue: Month/Zodiac/Season Names

Kim writes:
Is it more, or less, acceptable to name a child June if she’s born in the month of June?

We are having a baby boy in August and two of the names we like for him are …

August nn Gus (his birth month)

Leonardo nn Leo (his star sign)

Neither were chosen FOR this reason – Gus and Leo are just names we both like and we prefer to have a formal name with nickname option. We have shelved both for now while we consider this coincidence, but I still really like them.

In the objective opinions of your readers and yourself… what do you think of names that match the month/season/star sign of a child’s birth? Is it corny or fine?

Oh, neat! I gave this some thought and...I'm not sure! I worked with a girl named April who used to say in a weary voice that no, she was not born in April---so maybe it would have been better if she could have said yes? or maybe she would have been answering wearily either way, just because of being sick of the question?

With holiday names, I'm in favor: I love Natalie and Holly and Noelle MORE at Christmastime. But I know other people who rule them out.

My mom and I read a book with sisters named May and June, and their mother considered their entire name-month special, giving that child fewer chores and more treats for the whole month. That seems like it would only work in a family where every child had an equivalent name.

For me, zodiac signs are a non-issue: Leo is the only one that makes a good name, and I don't think it's associated with the zodiac the way June is with the calendar. In your son's case, it seems like it would just be something fun---the way I think it's fun that my twins are Geminis. Same with birthstones: I think it's cute if a girl named Ruby also has rubies as her birthstone, but I wouldn't notice it unless she mentioned it.

What do you all think? Are month/holiday/zodiac/birthstone/etc. names BETTER when they match up with the birthdate? or do you think they SHOULDN'T match? Let's have a poll, over to the right. [Poll closed; see results below.]

Poll results for "Your choice with month/season/zodiac names" (276 votes total):

BETTER when they match the birthdate: 32%
RULED OUT if they match the birthdate: 7%
I am as uncertain as Swistle!: 61%

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Baby Boy or Girl Lin

A. writes:
My husband and I have been talking about baby names the entire pregnancy and have only been able to narrow down to a few for each gender. I'm just so unsure! People say we will just know when the baby is born what the name should be, but I think all babies look alike--smooshed and wrinkly. :)

I like fairly uncommon names. Our last name is Lin; therefore, I think the first name needs to be more than one syllable to avoid sounding like the first and last name run together to make one name. (If it can't be shortened to a one-syallable nickname--even better!) I also don't like the first name to end in -on, -en, -in, or -yn. The -in -in sound with our last name bothers me. What do you think?

We've narrowed it to:


Dexter (I worry about the television show; we don't watch it, but I think it's popular? Also, the Dex commercials. "Dex knows best!" I don't want people to think of a phone book when they think of our child.)

Paxton (My husband's pick. I don't like the -on sound though. Also, I think Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt's child is Pax. Especially because our child will be half-Asian, I don't want to seem as if we're trying to be like celebrities.)

Beckett (I like it, but am worried about its increasing popularity.)


Eisley (I like this name a lot, but worry people will mispronounce it a lot. Eyes-ly.)

Gemma (Will people confuse with Jenna? I kind of dislike the name Jenna!)

Ruby (I love this, but my husband thinks its an old lady name.)

Favorites from these? The middle boy name will either be Harrison or Jeffry (depending on the first name). And, the girl middle name will be Lorraine after my mother and grandmother.

Any other suggestions for names? I don't think we feel so confident about any of these names that we still wouldn't choose a different name at this point!

Thank you so much!

Name update! A. writes:
Gemma Lorraine Lin arrived on 5/29 after 31 hours of labor. My husband and I were convinced she was a he right up until she was born. Right before I was ready to push we were trying to decide what to name our boy. After seeing me labor naturally for 21 of the hours, my husband wanted me to name him. Well, we didn;t need to choose! She surprised both of us! We were pretty set on Gemma and everyone's comments here solidified our choice for us. Thank you!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Name Updates!

Update on Baby Naming Issue: Hyphenated Surnames One Generation Later!
Update on Baby Girl Watson, Sister to Allegra!
Update on Baby Boy McBride, Brother to Benjamin Patrick!
Update (and photo!) on Baby Girl DeHart, Sister to Ty Noble!

Baby Boy/Girl Twins Tablecloths, Siblings to Benjamin and Rosalie

B. writes:
Hello! My husband and I are expecting boy/girl twins in August, but they will most likely arrive in July. We currently have a son named Benjamin and a daughter named Rosalie. Ben and Rosie. We love both of their names and it was a no-brainer to use them. We have a list of names we like for these babies, but none are really jumping out at us. My husband is Hispanic and our last name sounds like Tablecloths, with emphasis on the T, B and S at the end. We don't want any cutesy, rhyming twin names. But we want them to compliment each other and our other kid‘s names. Here’s our list:

Cecelia (nn - Celi, pronounced see-lee)

Rafael (nn - Rafe)

Names that have been vetoed:

Thoughts and any other suggestions would be much appreciated!

My favorite boy name from your list is Isaac: it's most similar in both style and popularity to Benjamin. From your girl name list, I think I'd remove Violet because of the flower theme with Rosalie; then, of the three remaining, I think I like Lucy best with Isaac and with the two first children's nicknames---but Cecilia best with Rosalie. Ben, Rosie, Lucy, Isaac---or Benjamin, Rosalie, Cecilia, Isaac.

Would you like all four children to have nicknames? If you used Lucille or Luciana or Lucienne, it would go well with Rosalie AND have the cute nickname Lucy; and Isaac could be nicknamed Zac or Ike.

More boy name possibilities:

Charles (Charlie)
Daniel (Dan)
Jonathan (Jon)
Joshua (Josh)
Nathaniel (Nate)
Nicholas (Nick)

More girl name possibilities:

Amalia (Molly)
Annabel (Annie)
Annika (Annie)
Beatrix (Bee)
Bianca (Bee)
Elizabeth (Bess)
Francesca (Frannie)
Isadora (Izzy)
Minerva (Minnie)
Penelope (Nell)

I especially like Charles and Amalia with the nicknames Charlie and Molly: Benjamin, Rosalie, Charlies, and Amalia; Ben, Rosie, Charlie, and Molly. But perhaps the ending of Charles is awkward with the surname, in which case I like the sound of Jonathan/Jon: I like the subtle repeated O sound in Jon and Molly.

Or Joshua and Annabel, nicknames Josh and Annie: Benjamin, Rosalie, Joshua, and Annabel; Ben, Rosie, Josh, and Annie. But I wonder if the "bel" sound in Annabel is too repetitive with the surname. If so, I'd go with Annika instead.

Or Nicholas and Penelope, nicknames Nick and Nell: Benjamin, Rosalie, Nicholas, and Penelope; Ben, Rosie, Nick, and Nell. But again: maybe the ending of Nicholas isn't great with the surname AND maybe the -ell sound in Nell is too repetitive with it!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Baby Girl Cothron, Sister to Tessa Faye

Kristin writes:
We are expecting our second girl in July. My husband and I have narrowed down our list to three main names and I would love your opinion--or if you have a similar option? We have a 2 year old name Tessa Faye. Our top 3 list is:

We like Kate as a middle name, but not sure if this would be TOO similar to our older's daughter name.

Tessa, to me, is a sweet, old-fashioned, exclusively feminine name. For me, this would knock the modern surname name Presley right off the list. On the other hand, the sounds (separate from the associations, which of course vary from person to person) are compatible. If you were considering, for example, Leslie/Lesley, which is very close to Presley in sound, I would think it worked despite Lesley being at one time a man's name (as were Anne and Evelyn, so I tend to think In The Now on this issue): Tessa and Lesley. And in fact I think that might be a nice one for your family: Lesley Cothron; Tessa Faye and Lesley Kate.

Livia also seems like a good fit, although it seems like the similarity to the Top Ten name Olivia might be a hassle to continually deal with.

Lyla or Lila is my first choice: to me it has the same sweet and old-fashioned feel as the name Tessa. Lila Cothron; Tessa Faye and Lila Kate. Myla would also be pretty.

I think it's fine if middle names are similar in sound, and in fact I find it appealing; it makes me want to say "Tessa Faye and Lila Kate," even though I would usually have just said "Tessa and Lila."

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

Baby Naming Issue: Is It Weird to Use a Still-in-Use Family Surname as a First Name?

Sarah writes:
I know there is a lot of discussion of using maiden names or other surnames as first names. Is it weird for people who are still living who have that as a last name? For example, I'd like to use my mother-in-law's maiden name as a boy's first name. However, her brothers, their wives and children (my husband's aunts, uncles, and cousins) still have that last name. How weird would it be for a child to go to a family reunion and have his first name be the same as other family members' last names? Is it best to use maiden names as first names only if the name is going to 'die out' and not be carried on my another generation?

I have a firstnamey surname in my own family tree, something like Jameson, and we considered using it as a child's first name. It's a little hard for me to tell if it would feel weird to my uncles and aunts and cousins who still the name (since I didn't have the name myself), but my GUESS is that if they thought it was weird, they'd think it was cool-weird rather than awkward-weird or unpleasant-weird.

An acquaintance of mine used her mother-in-law's maiden name as her child's name, and when she speaks of it, it's always about how happy and pleased everyone was; she hasn't mentioned anything about the other family members feeling weird---but of course she might not mention it, and/or they might not have mentioned it to her.

I SUSPECT, though, that it's not very weird, and that it's quite positive and flattering. I'm imagining going to a family reunion and seeing a little Jameson, and I think I'd feel happy about that. It seems like it would trigger feelings of family pride and also of family inclusion: like, even when one of our own marries out, our name perseveres---and even though this little guy doesn't have the same surname as we do, he has it anyway. Plus, it communicates strongly that not only do the parents feel favorably about that whole part of the family tree, they even like the sound of the family name!

But I think we need people who have actually experienced this to weigh in. Has someone in your family used your own surname as their baby's name? And was it weird? And if it was weird, was it bad-weird or good-weird?

And if you haven't experienced it, you can still make a guess as to how you and your relatives might feel about it if it were your family.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Baby Boy or Girl Phillips: Namesake Issues

Molly writes:
My grandfather (and my best friend) just passed away. I would really like to honor him in the naming of our child, but there are some complications. His name was Nils Paul Johnson Sr. Unfortunately Nils is reserved for my brother's future son (the 9th with this name in our family). My husband and I don't like Paul or any variations that we can think of (ie: Paulina, Pauline, etc.). There are three Johns in my husband's family and it just doesn't feel like using John would be directly after Grandpa. A little more about Grandpa: he was a Court of Appeals Judge, a devout Christian, gardener, and family man. We have talked about using the name "Judge" which I adore. Grandpa's friends always called him Judge as if that was his first name. Hubby likes our previous choice better.

Prior to this we had settled on a boy name: Remington "Remmy" Walker. Hubby is dead set on it. Grandpa didn't like it. While he would definitely want me to use a name that I loved, it's just bothering me.

We cannot agree on a girls' name but enjoy the following: Violet, Scarlett, Penelope, Matilda, Piper, Harper, Leighton and Emerson.

To summarize we like names that are traditional in spelling and easy to read. We will not find out what we are having. I'm due October 19. Our last name is Phillips.

Any of your thoughts would really help.

If you have a boy, I suggest naming him Nils. Names are not one-time-use items or even one-time-per-generation items, and the minor confusion caused by a duplicate, even in a close family that gets together often, is not worth abandoning an entire name to avoid---especially when you have strong reasons for wanting to use it. And am I understanding that the person the name Nils is reserved for is only hypothetical at this point---that is, your brother is not currently expecting a son? He might not even have a boy, in which case it would be even sadder to have not used the name. You could talk to him first about it, explaining your reasons for wanting to use the name and making sure it won't cause a huge feud.

On the other hand, are we not talking about just one duplicate? I'm thinking of the part where your grandpa was Sr. but your brother's son would be the ninth Nils. It seems like this argues even more strongly for the idea that the name is not reserved for your brother's exclusive use---but perhaps it means there are already several children named Nils at family gatherings, in which case we're not talking about the minor inconvenience of a single duplicate. (And yet, in that case---what's one more?)

Perhaps you could use Nils as the middle name: this shouldn't step on any naming-tradition toes, and it matters less whether you and your husband love the name. You can make the namesake more obvious and honor-y by using two middle names, such as Remington Nils Paul Phillips, or Remington Nils Johnson Phillips.

I see what you mean about Remington, but I hope you will not in the end be unduly influenced by whether your grandfather would have liked a name. Previous generations are CLASSIC in their dislike of the current generation's naming practices---just as the current generation looks back on many of the names used by the previous generation or two and says "Ick." If your grandfather were alive, it would be pleasing to find a name he might like---but my assumptions about the afterlife include the idea that not liking a baby's name is one of the lesser concerns, and might even be the sort of thing where a person would think "Why did I even express opinions on such things? What does it matter?" (Swistle Baby Names NEW AND IMPROVED: now with speculations about post-death baby-naming issues!)

For a girl, Nilsa would be very pretty, and might not have the "reserved for brother's use" issues. One small downside is that with the surname Phillips it makes me think of the singing group Wilson Phillips---but they're probably not going to be on our kids' generation's radar, and it's only a similar SOUND anyway, not like actually naming the child Wilson.

Judge is adorable on a little boy, but, like the name Doctor, seems like it would be a headache for an adult. I'm imagining a doctor named Dr. Judge Phillips, or a lawyer named Judge Phillips, or a judge named Judge Judge Phillips. I think that name only works when it's given as a nickname to someone who is already a judge.

If you don't want to use Nils or Nilsa or any version of Paul or Johnson, it may be time to resign yourself to the idea that it doesn't always work to honor someone special with a namesake. It's a heartbreak, but sometimes there's just no way to do it---and reaching further and further for possible connections can leave you with a name you don't really like AND that doesn't really honor the namesake. There is a boy's name Gardner, and of course there's the name Christian, or the name Court/Cort, or you could start reaching back to your grandfather's mother's maiden name or his siblings' names, or the name Nils is related to the name Nicholas, or Judd is similar to Judge---but do any of those seem like they'd be named for your grandfather?

Even though a namesake is a wonderful way to honor someone we love, it's only one of many ways. A printed photo book of all the photos of your grandfather. Framed pictures of him in the baby's nursery or around the house. Writing down all the memories you have of your grandfather, and telling your babies the stories. A small landscaped area in the yard with a few of your grandfather's favorite plants and a sign "Grandpa's Garden." Some areas do fundraisers by charging a certain amount of money to carve anything you want (such as a name and dates) into a brick, that is then used as part of a pathway.

Name update! Molly writes:
Just writing you to tell you that my husband and I welcomed a baby boy in October. You (and your readers) helped us to go with our guts and stick to our original baby name choice- despite the fact that I was desperately missing my grandfather who had recently passed away. I would like to present to you, Remington Walker Phillips. We have embraced the nickname Remy at present, though will support him if he ever wants to grow out of it. Thank you so much for your help. We definitely do not regret our decision.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Discussion: Favorite Baby Names from Children's Literature

Earlier today we discussed Jenny Grace's question about the name Eloise. At the beginning of that question she writes "I have been VERY MUCH enjoying the discussion of various names that originate in children's literature, such as Heidi, Wendy, Alice, Dorothy, the names from The Children's Hour, the names of the Little Women, stuff like that. boys' names too I suppose (not really, I'm not good at naming boys)," and at the end of that question she writes: "I also want to know what you're favorite literature-based names are, if you have any." I thought we should have that as its own separate discussion.

Let's own favorite names from children's literature seem to be mostly girl names. Josephine for sure, from Little Women, and Margaret/Meg from there too. Genevieve from the Madeline books: even though Genevieve is the dog, it was when I was reading those books (as an adult, reading them to a child) that I thought, "...Hey, the name Genevieve is pretty awesome." Anastasia from the Lois Lowry series. Margaret/Meg and Charles from A Wrinkle in Time---with conflicting feelings about preferring the nickname Charlie, which would be incompatible with naming a baby in honor of the book. Fern from Charlotte's Web. Frances from the Russell and Lillian Hoban books. Phronsie (short for Sophronia) from The Five Little Peppers. Phoebe from The Children Who Stayed Alone. And it was Kevin Henkes who, during one of my pregnancies, caused me to give serious consideration to the name Chrysanthemum.

But it is a little hard to say which of those names I love because of the books, and which names I love because they were/are in style and REMINDED me of the books. I didn't like the name Genevieve when I was reading the books as a child, after all, but only later on. And I like Charles/Charlie, but not the middle name Wallace unless I'm actively reading the book at that moment. And I probably liked Margaret mostly/only for the nickname Meg, and Megan was near the top ten when I was the age to read those books.

I think it's often that the name starts coming into style---and then, when people are considering the name, the childhood book connection seals the deal. The name Charlotte came into style and, as it did, people remembered the pleasing connection to the book Charlotte's Web---but without also turning to names like Fern and Wilbur, because those two names were NOT coming into style. Same with Genevieve: I was reminded of the name by seeing it in a Madeline book, but the name was already on its way up at that point.

Other names, though, I loved for the first time BECAUSE OF the book: the name Anastasia was not at all in style (or even on my radar) when I was a child, but it rocketed up my favorites list as I was reading the books, dethroning previous queens Megan and Stephanie.

Discuss: What are YOUR favorite names from children's literature? And are any of them BOY names, because Jenny Grace and I seem to be heavily covering the girl names.

Baby Name to Consider: Eloise

Jenny Grace writes:
I have been VERY MUCH enjoying the discussion of various names that originate in children's literature, such as Heidi, Wendy, Alice, Dorothy, the names from The Children's Hour, the names of the Little Women, stuff like that. boys' names too I suppose (not really, I'm not good at naming boys).
Anyhow it's been a very satisfying Imaginary Baby discussion for me, except that no one wants to discus a particular name with me, either because they haven't heard of the book, or they are alarmed by my baby name discussion and want to know if I'm pregnant (I'm not).
The name I would like to discuss!
What do we think of Eloise?
Is the association with the children's book positive or negative?
Is it a pretty name?
Would Elsie be an appropriate nickname?
Does it make us think of Heloise, and Abelard, and monk castration? (
Anyhow, I've been pondering the name Eloise, for an imaginary baby, if you'd care to ponder it with me.
I also want to know what you're favorite literature-based names are, if you have any.

I would INDEED enjoy a good ponder! I like the name Eloise very very much, and for me the children's book character is what takes it from being "the name of that older lady at church" to a name reasonable and appealing for a child. It gives it SASS and SPIRIT. True, the book Eloise is a bit of a terror, but she is an APPEALING terror, and a CHEERFUL terror, and a CONFIDENT terror with high self-esteem.

I don't know if I would describe the name as "pretty" or not---in the same way I'm not sure if I'd use that word for the name Beatrix, or even for a fancier name like Anastasia. They're some of my favorites, but are they pretty? Good question. Clarissa is a pretty name, I think; Linnea seems pretty to me, as does Cecily, as does Arabella. For me, names like Eloise and Ruby and Genevieve have some quality other than prettiness, but I find I can't put a finger on what, or why.

Elsie, to me, is a different name and not a nickname for Eloise--but then, I'm a HUGE stick-in-the-mud about nicknames (I don't think Ella is a nickname for Elizabeth, either, even though I am fine with Meg as a nickname for Margaret). In old books I've seen Weezie as a nickname for Louise and Eloise, but it's not a nickname I like much. Louise has Lou and Lulu, and I'd think Eloise could have Lo or Lolo---which looks odd when I write it, but it seems like J. Lo and Lo Bosworth have brought it into the realm of possibility. Or the nickname Ello might happen naturally. I think I'd just call her Eloise, though. It's so fun to say.

I had somehow managed to fail to notice that Heloise was Eloise with an H: I've got Heloise over on one side of my mind with household hints, and Eloise way on the other side with appealingly spoiled children. So clearly my answer is that it doesn't make me think of monks and castration misunderstandings---but I would be grateful for the chance to take that into account, if I were considering using the name, since I can easily see how to someone else the names could be interchangeable.

The question about other favorite names from children's literature needs its own separate post, I think; I'll do that one a little later today. In the meantime, let's discuss: ELOISE. And let's have a poll over to the right! [Poll closed; see results below.]

Poll results for “What do you think of the name Eloise?” (289 votes total):

I love it! I’d use it! - 19%
I like it! I’d consider it! - 28%
Wouldn’t use, but would like on someone else’s baby - 40%
No particular opinion either way - 3%
Slightly dislike - 6%
Strongly dislike - 2%

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Baby Girl Putzer, Sister to Samuel, Sean, and Gabriel

Beth writes:
I've been scouring the internet for a name for our 4th baby, due on July 10th. She will join 3 brothers: Samuel Elijah (Sam), Sean Matthew, and Gabriel Joseph (Gabe). For some reason, I'm very apathetic about all things girl! And no names sound "right". Our last name is Putzer, frequently mis-pronounced, but not any better than my maiden name was, so I'm used to it ;) My MIL used to tell her students this little sentence to help them pronounce it: Joan "puts her" shoes on.
Here is my list, that I've had buried list in my inbox since #2, even though we knew he and his younger brother were boys:

Caryn (neat spelling)
Nia (Irish)
Stella (maternal great grandma's name) - everyone I've mentioned this to has yelled out "STEEELLLLLAAAAAA", even my husband, so I'm leaning towards no
Olivia - this was to be #1's name if he was a girl, I think it is too popular now
Leah - meh
Carina (beloved, in Latin) , I also like the sound of Cora
Harlow - husband thought this was absurd when I told him
Molly Philomena - seems to be more popular to me now, but Philomene was my grandmother's name

Newer names I've come up with are:
Eden Philomena - I loved this before we knew this baby is a girl... I came up with a boy's name and girl's name I liked to avoid being disappointed when we found out. The problem now with Eden is that the FEW people I've mentioned it to haven't been very enthusiastic. My husband seems fine with it and has come up with Edy (ee-dee) for a nickname), but did mention that he looked it up online and the meaning HE found was "place of pleasure", which to me is somewhat off-putting, but I know there are other meanings. Another person said they had only associated Eden with boys. To me, Eden sounds girl-ish.
Jillian (I love the nn Jilly) - husband like this better than Jaqueline, but is still non-committal
Jaqueline (but neither of us like Madeline)

Ruby - I LOVE this, but is there a problem with the "u" sounds in this and our last name? I think it might encourage mis-pronunciation of our last name.

Generally, I am disliking popular names and names ending in -a and -ee sounds. I would like it to fit with the boys' names as in tending towards biblical/saint names. We'd appreciate any help you could give us!

Eden is a place name, usually referring to the garden of Eden in the Bible. "Place of pleasure" is off-putting to me, too, but I think definitions for place and other noun names are unnecessary. A name like Paris, for example, really means "Paris"---rather than "place of croissants and perfume." (There are some exceptions for names that sound pretty but refer to non-appealing places: for example, people usually prefer to combine the meanings of the names Brook and Lynn for the name Brooklyn.) You are right that Eden is widely considered a girl name, though not exclusively: in 2010, the Social Security Administration reports 1701 baby girls named Eden, and 222 boys.

If you like Caryn and Carina, I wonder if you would like Carys? Or Karenna? Or Corinne/Corinna?

And since you like Cora, I'll mention Clara.

Eden makes me think of Eve---not for the place-name/place-resident reason, but for the sound of it. Sam, Sean, Gabe, and Eve. I think that's my favorite.

Another biblical place name you might like is Bethany.

Would you like Genevieve? It appeals to me that then the kids' initials would be S, S, G, G. The nickname Evie is similar to the Edie nickname your husband liked for Eden.

Another of my favorite saint names is Josephine.

My favorite from your original list is Rachel. I like it with her brothers' names and with your surname.

I also like Philomena as a first name. She could go by Mena for short.

From your newer list, my favorite is Imogene (I like Imogen even better), and I also like Jillian.

Name update! Beth writes:
I think I'm pretty settled in at home now to let you know that our baby girl arrived on June 16, 4 weeks early! This pregnancy was so different than my previous three, I should not have been surprised to be in labor! Due to the gestational diabetes that I developed with this one, 36 weeks was too early for her little lungs and she was taken to the special care nursery right after delivery. She spent the night with oxygen and I got to hold her in the morning for a little bit. We still didn't have her name picked out, but I really felt urgency to come up with something while watching her from outside the incubator. I was really liking Ruby Cecelia or Ruby Philomena up to that point, but I finally got out of my husband that his grandpa's dog was named Ruby and therefor not an OK name for his daughter. The week before we had exchanged an email with Evelyn in it. I wasn't sold, but Evelyn sounded nice with Cecelia (close to his grandmother's name, everyone called her Ceil, but no one can tell me what her full name was) and he liked that it had a couple of different nicknames (Evy, Ev, Eve, etc). So she became Evelyn Cecelia. Just in time, I think, because she developed a pneumothorax (tear in her lung that let air into her chest) and had to be transferred to the NICU at another hospital. It was scary and she had to have a tube into lungs and an IV and many other things, but she got better quickly and was ready to go home after one week. We are so happy to be home and she is sleeping away as I type!
Thank you and your readers for your help! I really appreciated the different perspectives!
Now... to try and finish our little girl's bedroom!

Name Updates!

Update (and photo!) on Baby Girl Campbell, Sister to Emerson, Rose, Liam, and Noah!
Update (and photo!) on Baby Boy Wiedlocher, Brother to Cedric James!
Update on Middle Name Challenge: Baby Girl Jane ____ Miller!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Baby Naming Issue: Hyphenated Surnames One Generation Later

Caroline writes:
I have a Naming Issue question I hope you and your readers might be able to discuss.

My fiancé’s last name is hyphenated. His parents chose to keep their respective surnames (they are still married) but hyphenated their names together to form their children’s surname, MaternalSurname-PaternalSurname. I see why they made this choice, but now it is complicating my future naming plans and I am getting a little frustrated.

I like my full name and its flow and always just assumed I would tack on my partner’s name to the end of my name, First Middle Maiden Married. Adding in the extra name because of the hyphen makes keeping my original surname seem impractical. If you are still following me on this one, my name would then become First Middle Maiden Married-Married. My own surname is short but has two syllables and sounds like a common female first name but is spelled in a non-traditional way. I would consider dropping my middle name and putting my surname in the middle name slot, but then I would feel like my maiden name would become an embarrassing middle name rather than my surname. This would also imply that my husband and I hyphenated our surnames together and I don’t really want to add that implication (not that I don’t approve of that idea).

I feel like the simple solution is to keep my name and he will keep his, but I would really like to share a surname with any future children. I would like for the whole family to share a surname as our “family name.” He would prefer the same but is by no means insistent that I take his name at all. I’m also worried about any future children’s names having to match with this hyphenated name created by his parents. I know that his mother wanted her name to be represented for her children as well, but now I feel like I will have to give up my own name in order for hers to be carried on.

We have discussed my fiancé dropping his middle name to become First MaternalSurname PaternalSurname and then my name becoming First Middle Maiden HisPaternalSurname, but his mother seems to be annoyed by this idea. I don’t want to exclude my future mother-in-law or make it seem like I am starting our marriage by taking her further away from her son. I think that him changing his name makes it seem as though I do not like her and do not want her to be a part of my newly created family when that is certainly not the case. I’m currently at a loss of what do to, but the wedding is May 28 (!) and I would very much like to decide on a surname for myself and future children BEFORE that date!

I think in every conversation I've ever heard on the topic of hyphenating names, someone has always said, "Yes, but what about when their children get married?" Which seems so far off, and always seems like more of a jokey remark ("They'll be Harrington-Smith-Mortons-Jones, har har har!"), and the feeling is usually "Sufficient unto the day are the troubles thereof": when it comes to that point, the children will tackle their own naming problems. But here we are, in that future, and here we have one of the possible outcomes to tackle.

Especially riveting to me is your mother-in-law's reaction and this statement of yours: "I know that his mother wanted her name to be represented for her children as well, but now I feel like I will have to give up my own name in order for hers to be carried on." Yes. This is the problem. I wonder if your husband could present the problem to his mother in that way: explain it exactly the way you did, and ask if she has any ideas for resolving this very tricky name situation. My guess is that she will be stymied---but that she may come away with a better understanding of the situation and more sympathy for whatever you decide.

I agree with each point you brought up: if you take his name, it implies that the one of the two hyphenated names is your original surname; if he drops his mother's surname, that sounds like it's going to create political problems in his family.

I suggest another option: he could drop his father's surname. That seems so much more shocking than dropping his mother's, and yet it's exactly the same: he drops one of his two parental names. He would be First Middle Maternal, and you would be First Middle Maiden Maternal, and your family surname would be Maternal.

This, of course, puts you right back into the patriarchal naming system, but it spares your mother-in-law's feelings. It does lend a certain futility to the whole endeavor: why go through all these complicated naming situations if the entire effect is to change the paternal surname to a different parental surname? Well, indeed.

Another possibility is for your husband to take your surname, dropping both his parents' names. This has the appeal of simplicity.

Another possibility is to hyphenate your surname with his mother's, and both of you take that name. First Middle Maiden-Maternal.

Another option is to create a new surname, either by combining parts of all three surnames (or four, if you want to add your mother's maiden name for balance), or by choosing another name from the family tree (wouldn't it be nice if you both had the same surname somewhere in your trees?), or by choosing something entirely new.

But you said that what you wanted was First Middle Maiden Married, so ALL of these options thwart what YOU wanted for your name, which is indeed frustrating: we make a big deal about each woman getting to choose things her own way, but then we get one of these situations where it's not going to work out that way. I go around in circles: just now I thought, "Wait! She CAN be First Middle Maiden Married-Married! It's just that it will be a VERY BULKY name, and that's okay!"---and then I remembered the problem of it looking, then, as if your hyphenated name includes your original surname, which to me would be significant: if I'm going to go through the hassles of hyphenation for me and for my children, I want it to be because my own surname is in there, not because our family now has TWO patriarchal surnames to carry.

Well. I think we need a lot of input on this. Commenters, help us with this difficult situation!

Name update! Caroline writes:
I have obviously thought long and hard about what to do with our naming situation. I’ve been weighing all of the options listed in the comments and by Swistle over and over. I don’t think my husband quite realized how serious this whole thing was to me until I presented him with the Excel spreadsheet I had made of all the various name combination options we had to work with. Like many people mention when naming babies, I wanted to find a solution that both my husband and I felt strongly about, not one that I really liked and he was only kind of okay with. We sat down with the spreadsheet and we agreed on the options that we liked best. This weekend we had a family dinner with his parents and mine and my sweet fiancé spoke with his mother about my dilemma. She warmed to the situation (she has Asperger’s syndrome and can be quite socially awkward) and understood our dilemma. I don’t think that she minds that I don’t plan to take both names; apparently her misgivings were about him dropping the hyphen and theoretically dropping her name with it.

Our official decision is for him to drop his hyphen and become First Middle Maternal Paternal and for me to take his paternal surname, becoming First Middle Maiden Paternal. He doesn’t feel that making her surname one of two middle names will really change anything about the way his friends and family feel about him, his identity, or his name. They will still call him by this name, he will still use it, he will still feel attached to it. We both really like the idea of giving our future hypothetical children either his mother’s or my surname as a second middle name but we will be keeping any baby names a secret until the child is born and named (awesome suggestion, readers/commenters!).

My husband has suggested we give any future children hyphenated double first names (i.e. Anna-Claire or John-Michael) as an homage to his mother and father… I’m glad the man has a sense of humor! Can’t wait to marry him this weekend and to see what name people chose to write on cards/monogrammed items!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Baby Girl D_____ (Rhymes With Yellow), Sister to Landon and Brady

Charlene writes:
I have been pouring myself into researching names since I found out I was pregnant but my husband and I have not agreed on a name still! I have two months left to go (EDD due mid-July) and it truly seems hopeless. I have two sons from a previous marriage that I named myself: Landon James and Brady Kenneth. I was drawn to the English Gentlemen sound of it, as well as having last names as a first to make their names sound strong. This time, we are finally having a girl, so this is a very big deal for me! I want to give her a name that is old, forgotten and beautiful. I cannot stand picking a name from the top lists. My husband on the other hand wants a simple, traditional name that is not unusual. Our tastes in names clash heavily.

The names I love are:

Briar (my favorite)

My husband loves: Ava, Hannah and Rachel. He also would like to have an Italian name since he is Italian but has turned down all my Italian name suggestions.

Originally, we considered going with Briar Rachel (which I absolutely love) but then he admitted he couldn't love it. Several months later, we decided to pick Ava Gianna but I couldn't fall in love with the name. It was too popular although I love the meaning "like a bird" since I collect bird decor. I also struggled with Gianna even though I thought it was pretty. I suggested Ava Charlotte, Ava Christine, Ava Genevieve, Ava Isabella, Ava Marlene (after my mother) and he rejected them all. So we have dropped the name and decided to start over although we're getting nowhere now.

If she was a boy, then her name would've been John Michael (my husband's name inverted) although I would've picked Jack.

Our last name starts with D and rhymes with yellow.

This is our third child (my third, and his first to be precise) and possibly our last unless we have one more (undecided).

I will update you with the results if you help! Thanks so much!!!

The trouble with names that are old, forgotten, and beautiful is that as soon as someone DOES remember one, they take off like wildfire---which is how the name Ava is #5 and Emma is #3 and Isabella is #1. It's as if someone says, "Hey, why aren't we using this awesome name??" and society replies, "Hey, yeah, why AREN'T we?" And then suddenly, we ARE.

The good news is that this means your tastes aren't as far apart as feared: you both like old beautiful names, but your husband likes the ones that have already been rediscovered, while you mostly like the ones that haven't yet.

Will it upset you if you choose a forgotten name and then soon afterward it is remembered? Society tends to move all together toward certain sounds---and the sounds on your list are mostly in that group. Livia is very close to Olivia, which is the #4 most popular girl name. Isabelle is #105, but combined with the spelling Isabel it's #40---and of course very close to Isabella at #1. Viviana is uncommon, but Vivian and Vivienne are both rising rapidly. Emilia is uncommon, but Amelia is #41 and climbing, and Emily is #6. Rosalia is uncommon, but Rosalie is expected to get much more popular because of the Twilight character with that name. And so on.

One possibility for compromise: start with a name from your list, but then find a similar name that has already been discovered. Instead of Coralie: Cora or Clara with the middle name Leigh/Lee. Instead of Emilia: Amelia or Emily or Leah. Instead of Livia: Olivia or Lilliana or Lia. Instead of Viviana: Vivian or Vivienne or Anna.

Or the other way: start with a name on his list, but find a similar name that's less common. (This is more of a challenge, I think.) Instead of Ava: Avery or Aviana. Instead of Hannah: Anneliese or Johanna or Susanna or Savannah (Savannah also has the V sound you like).

I also suggest:


I wanted to suggest Arabella and Annabel and Romilly, but I think they're too much -ell with your surname. Iliana and Liliana and Cecily might be, too, but I was less certain.

And I encourage your husband to reconsider Genevieve. It's similar to Gianna, and it's one of the more familiar names from your list.

It seems as if Italian names would be the perfect meeting ground: he'd like to use one, and many of them are ultra feminine like the names on your list. And there are so many good ones:


But I can see from your list that you've already been down this route, and your husband is rejecting all of them. Perhaps he should go through a list of Italian names and say which ones he likes.

If you have a copy of The Baby Name Wizard, it might work to have each of you find which categories of names you tend to like, and then have the other person go through those categories and see if there's any common ground. He could go through the Lacy & Lissome section; you could go through Biblical or Timeless or New Classics or wherever he finds most of his favorites.

Edited to add: I just realized that some combinations of initials are dicey: particularly VD, OD, and GD. And an L-name probably shouldn't have an S for the middle initial. Many others aren't negative but do mean something: AD, CD, ED, ID, MD, RD, etc. And goodness, it's easy to spell words like BAD and SAD and MAD.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Baby Girl Zarembsk1

Katie writes:
My husband and I are expecting our first child, a girl, on July 4th. Our last name is Zarembsk1, with the 1 being an i (my husband has a coaching job where he's googled frequently). We're both teachers and have started running into the problem where when a name comes up, at least one of us can think of an annoying kid with that name. We've both agreed that if one vetoes a name, it's out of the running. I really liked the name Ella, but my mom cautioned me to check what the baby's initials would be since my dad regrets his initials that spell ASS. That's what threw Ella out of the running and caused my husband to veto it.

The other thing I am 100% insistent upon is that she be given a first name that when the average person looks at it, they know how to pronounce it. With the last name of Zarembsk1, she's going to have to already battle mispronunciation problems for at least a good portion of her life.

Here's the list of names we're considering and we're definitely open to more:


We have 0 middle name ideas right now, so any help on that would be appreciated. If it had been a boy, my husband and I had easily agreed the boy's middle name would have been James, after both of our beloved grandfathers. However, our grandmothers' names are Barbara, Verna, and Kathleen (Kathleen is too close to my name). We're not thrilled with any of those combinations.

Any help you can throw our way would be greatly appreciated!


In many ways, the first child's name is the most difficult: if you plan to have more children, and if you like sibling names to coordinate, the first name sets the course. If you choose Quinn this time, you might feel locked-in to androgynous names; if you choose Mia, you might feel locked-in to common names or short names---and so on. Each name you choose can eliminate other names, depending on your taste in sibling names: if you use Mia, for example, you're likely ruling out Leah and Amelia and Mila and Mina and Micah and maybe Milo; or if you used Brooklyn, for example, you might not want to use names ending in the same sound, or you might think of another name you love that starts with B but you don't want to repeat an initial, or you might think of another place name you love but not want two place names, or you might love the name Brandon but it's too similar, or WHATEVER.

This is why my main advice to first-time baby namers is to make your job HARDER than it already is, by thinking in terms of sibling groups. In the long run this will make your task easier, and help protect you from "We chose ____ without realizing that it doesn't go with any other names we like!" It was sheer chance that Paul and I didn't back ourselves into that very corner: if our first child had been a girl, we wanted to use the name Emerson---but Emerson is not a name in our usual style, and so we would have had a very difficult time choosing sibling names.

And this is one reason I like The Baby Name Wizard so much: by sorting names into categories, she's made it so much clearer when a name falls into our usual style and when it's an outlier. If I'd had this book back when I was naming my firstborn, I would have seen that 95% of the names we liked fell into the same two or three categories, and that Emerson was an atypical choice for us. (Instead I was saved at 20 weeks by finding out the baby was a boy.)

So that is the BULK of my advice. I don't have many suggestions because I think you already have a good list, and also because I'm not sure which style you'll end up going with.

But I do have a FEW suggestions! If you liked Ella, I wonder if you would like Clara or Lily or Calla or Stella or Annabel? If you like Mia, maybe Amelia or Lia or Mira. If you like Natalie, maybe Meredith or Bethany or Cecily or Celeste. If you like Brooklyn, maybe Maren or Rowen or Delaney or Keelyn or Tylyn. If you like Quinn, maybe Bryn or Lane.

For a middle name, I like to wait until after I have the first name chosen, and then see what seems good with it. Sometimes a family name works even if it's not a name you love: we used one where I don't like the family name at all, but DID like the family member, and it turned out to be a very satisfying choice even though I still don't like the name. Or family SURNAMES make good middle names, or the mother's maiden name if the children will have the father's surname (I'm so tempted to call it "the father's maiden name"). Or sometimes a name gets rejected for a reason that doesn't mean the name itself was rejected (as with Ella, which had to be rejected for its initial, or as with a name you might love even though it fails the pronunciation requirement), and those make good middle names too. Or if one of you gets more sway with the first name, the other may get more sway with the middle name. Or if you have several names that don't quite make it as your first-name choice but you still love them, those make excellent middle names. Or the name of the city where you met? or the city where you got engaged? or the city where you got married? or of an author you both love?

Name update! Katie writes:
Thanks for all of your (and your readers' help) with naming our daughter. We took your advice and tried to think of possible other sibling names that we liked and realized we were not gender neutral baby namers. We also went digging a bit further back into our family tree for inspiration for a middle name and found out my great grandmother's name was Grace. Our daughter, Natalie Grace, was born on July 7th at 6:18 AM. She was 8 pounds, 4 ounces and was 21 inches long. She also lots of dark hair, long enough for a baby ponytail!

Thanks again for all of your help!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Baby Girl Simon

Jessica writes:
Like many of your readers, I never thought I would find myself writing to you - I mean, come on! I have been buying baby name books since the sixth grade! I have a baby name spreadsheet that I have been updating since I got my first computer! It seems, however, that in all the years I spent blissfully compiling the perfect list of names for my twenty sons and twenty daughters, I neglected to consider one thing: my husband.

We are due to have our first child, a girl, on the 4th of August, and do plan to have at least one more. I knew we were in trouble when I said "Oh, no, a girl! But I had so many good boy's names!" at the same time my darling husband said "Thank God, a girl! Now we don't have to discuss all those awful boy's names!"

So, after tabling the Great Sebastian Debate of 2011 for the time being, I completely fell in love with Eve. I happen to be of the opinion that Eve is this baby's name and, furthermore, that she thinks it's her name as well, despite the fact that it doesn't have the wealth of cute nickname options that most of my other faves do. I love a cute nickname. Husband is just so-so about Eve (although he has conceded that it's "not as horrible" as all the other names I have suggested) so while it hasn't been completely removed from our list, we've agreed to keep looking in the hopes that we can find something that gives us both warm fuzzy feelings. Right now we call her Bean, which makes us feel both warm and fuzzy, but also not terribly optimistic about her gratitude were we to saddle her with the title on a more permanent basis.

A little background: I am a 1980s Jessica from the States. My husband is twenty years my senior and is originally from England. Not surprisingly, we have wildly different associations with each and every name we encounter. We are currently living in Australia, land of nicknames - literally EVERY noun (proper or otherwise) is shortened somehow, whether it lends itself to it or not. A good example of this is my husband's name, Murray - the Aussie nickname for which is, obviously, Muzz or Muzzah. Australians think this obsessive need to nickname is not at all insane but I remain unconvinced.

Some names I have suggested that he has vetoed:
Imogen (poncey)
Wilhelmina/Willamina, nicknamed Billie or Willa (old)
Isadora, nn Sadie after my great-grandmother (poncey AND old)
Penelope nn Poppy
Seraphina nn Sophie
Sophia (which has sadly gotten too popular anyway)

His suggestions that I have vetoed:
Selby (after the street we drive down to go to work every day - ???)
Cori (Cori. With an 'i'. CORI WITH AN 'I'.)

I'd like a first name that isn't two syllables (our last name is Simon and the rhythm of her name is important to me) and not a name that was popular in America in the 1980s. I also want to avoid the current top ten in the US - I know, I know, there is no one name given to as many girls now as Jessica was in the early 80s, but I am scarred for life! The only thing I like about my name is that it's Shakespearean. My husband had the opposite problem in that his name was quite uncommon where he grew up and he was teased for it - thus any name he hasn't heard on a baby before he immediately labels as 'weird' and assumes that we are subjecting our daughter to a lifetime of teasing as well. I am fond of names that start with a vowel and he would prefer her name not start with an 'S'. Names that end with an 'S' tend to sound rubbish with our surname as well.

Still on the table:
Amelia (I like but associate with an Amelia I knew in high school - would I get over this? I especially love the nn Mia)
Eloise (both like but don't love, also doesn't sound great with our surname, but again love the nn of Lola)

I'm not even going to go into middle names as it seems I have written quite enough already (I need to learn the difference between an email and a novel) other than to say that I would like to use mother's name, Cynthia, although it doesn't quite go with any of the first names we are considering (and then what if we have a second daughter?). I also really like Claire and Isla (in fact speaking of our second daughter, I had already named her Isla Claire in my head but for some reason don't like it for our first, and besides hubby is not keen on Isla - all he can think of is the Isle of Man). All of our daughters will have a second middle name, Austin, which is my middle name, a family name, and which we both love. Okay, I definitely went into middle names there, sorry....

I have to apply for her passport pretty much as soon as she is born and at this point I'm thinking I might as well just get it in the name of Baby Girl Simon and be done with it!

I think her name is Eve, too. Eve! Eve Simon! It's perfect. Would he like it better if she were named Genevieve, called Eve? That gives you other nickname options, and also makes it easier to find a middle name of the right rhythm.

One of my mom's favorite names is Evelyn, but pronounced EVE-lin (instead of EHV-ah-lin)---and so she and I have pretty much given up on the name because of the near-impossibility of getting people to pronounce it that way. HOWEVER: if the first name were Eve and the middle name were Lynn, you could call her Eve Lynn. Though that's a lot of -in with Austin and Simon.

I love Anastasia, too. That name gave me a little post-childbearing crisis because Paul was reading Anastasia At Your Service to the older kids, and I turned to him and opened my mouth to say, "You know, Anastasia would be a GREAT name if we had another girl!"---and then closed my mouth, because we're never going to name another baby. ...Except YOURS. Anastasia Simon. Is there any hope he'll reconsider?

Or do you like Annabel? Annabel Simon.

Your husband's feeling about certain names being "old" is a problem. Can he be persuaded to understand that these names are no longer "old" but rather "vintage" and "antique"---i.e. "awesome"?

The name Amber from his list is not yet old, but it was Very Big in the 1980s. An updated/fresher version is Ember---but that doesn't seem right with your style.

If he likes Cori, I wonder if he would like Corinna? Or Karenna? Or Cordelia?

If you like Claire and he doesn't like Isla, I wonder if you'd like Clara? Clara Simon is so nice---though it might run together a bit. It's two syllables, but I do like that rhythm, especially with Austin as a second middle name: something like Clara Jane Austin Simon sounds good to me.

Or wait! How about Clarissa? Clarissa Simon! I like it almost as much as Eve!

If you like Eloise but it's not-quite, I wonder if you would like Eliza? Eliza Simon. Or Louisa: Louisa Simon.

Your mention of Shakespeare made me think of one of my favorite underused names: Bianca.

When double-checking to make sure Bianca was indeed from Shakespeare, I saw the name Beatrice, which reminded me of another of my favorites: Beatrix. Beatrix Simon. Oh, hey: Cordelia, above, is also from Shakespeare. And here's Phoebe, which reminds me a little of Penelope from your list.

I do think you'd get over the high school Amelia association, once it was your own baby's name. Would spelling it Emilia help? It's another Shakespearean spelling, too.

I hope the commenters will have some insight on this one: I feel like I'm only choosing names in YOUR style (or, er, MY style), but not getting closer to something your husband would like.

Name update! Jessica writes:
Hi Swistle! Great news: we have a daughter, and she has a name! After thirty hours of labour culminating in an emergency c-section, husband tearfully announced (as I knew he would) that I could name our darling little girl anything I liked. We were in hospital for three days and it wasn't until we got home that I decided she was Amelia Eve. What ultimately swayed me was your advice to others on considering future siblings and the realisation that nickname options were important to me. Most importantly, though, we both LOVE her name. I took everyone's advice that I would lose any associations I had with the name Amelia and I am so glad I did, because you saved me from needlessly discarding the ONLY name that my husband & I both loved. I must admit that we do still call her Bean or Mia Bean much of the time - it looks like she is stuck with it!

We really appreciated everyone's input - you and your readers came up with so many great suggestions & we have filed them away for any future daughters as so many of them will go perfectly with the name that we chose! I've attached a photo, her first, taken when she was less than ten minutes old. My best friend Abbigail is a photographer in the states and flew over to be with me at the birth and capture our first moments as a family of three. Incidentally, she & Amelia now share the initials AES. :)