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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Baby Naming Issue: Using a Name After Its Peak

Allyson writes:
What is your opinion on using names that may be on their way out? I tend to like fairly "normal" names in the top 100, if not the top 50. There has been a name I have liked since the mid-80s, when a friend of a friend had it. The name is Mackenzie. Back then it was really uncommon, barely in the top 500. It slowly saw a rise in popularity and peaked in 2001, and is now slowly becoming less popular (but still safely in the top 100). I still love this name and it is one of my top baby names for a girl.

I don't care all that much about how trendy a name is, I just care if I like it. But for some reason it bothers me that I would be using this name 10+ years after it was "in." Like naming a baby girl "Jennifer" even though she was born in 1995. I also think part of the problem is that Mackenzie seems more popular than it is or ever was...maybe because of the upswing of Kinley/Kenzie/McNames?

What do you think? It's one of the only girl names my fiance and I agree on...and even though I love LOVE it, I have a slight bit of hesitation due to it seeming like it's past its prime.


As a name hobbyist, I definitely notice myself reacting in the way you describe: I'll hear of a baby born in 2011 named, say, Madison and I DO catch myself BRIEFLY having a reaction that could be transcribed as "Really??" Which is an obnoxious reaction for me to have, for two reasons:

1. Because the name Madison is still in the Top Ten, so I should not be/act surprised that I would still be encountering them regularly---especially considering my DEEPLY-FELT baby-naming philosophy that The Top 10 is Not the Kiss of Death. I PUSH people not to rule out names just because of popularity; I feel STRONGLY that it's an issue that should be considered but shouldn't be some sort of arbitrary deal-breaker ("It's our favorite name in the whole world AND it's my beloved grandmother's name AND my grandmother passed away on the day the baby was born---but we can't use it because we're not using any name in the Top 100 and it's #96!").

2. Because that reaction is totally obnoxious in EVERY situation where a person who is a hobbyist acts all disdainful of other people's choices. I HATE when someone who likes fashion is all, "NOBODY is wearing that style anymore" or "MOM JEANS." I HATE when a celebrity magazine mocks a celebrity for re-wearing an outfit. I HATE when someone makes a scoffy sound because someone has the point-three version of an electronic device instead of the point-four version. I hate when ANYONE acts as if only the NEWEST COOLEST FRESHEST has any merit at all---and it only counts as "newest/coolest/freshest" if no one else has discovered it yet. I remember seeing some program on how colors are chosen for each new season of clothes/make-up, and one of the nasty design people said something like, "By the time you know it's in style, it's NOT anymore" and I thought, "Oh yes? Well then, screw that game." And normally I am much more of a lady with my language.

I think the newest/coolest/freshest is particularly damaging in the world of baby names, where, unlike a pair of shoes you can donate and replace, a child's name is permanent. We get so many emails here saying things like "Our first child's name was UNHEARD OF when WE used it, but now it's EVERYWHERE"---with the implication that other people ruined the name by using it, and so now the parents are unhappy with it, even though they used to love it.

No. No no no. Names should not be chosen with the "By the time you know it's in style, it's NOT anymore" method. Names can be chosen in many ways and for many reasons, but that one is sheer folly---not only because a child's name is not this season's fashion accessory nor a way to make the users seem cooler than other people, but also because it WILL NOT WORK. If a name is going to elicit a positive/admiring reaction from hearers, it will also be USED BY OTHERS. Soon it will be last-season's purse, and there is nothing that can be done to prevent that. I seem to have drifted far from your question, but I'm coming back to it now: even if you switch to something more cutting-edge than Mackenzie so that the Name Freshness Police will not react to it negatively, THAT NAME TOO will drift from usage and will elicit the "Huh. Another _____" response. There is no winning the freshness game, which is why it's such a high-profit industry.

If, however, the freshness-date thing continues to bother you, there are a few things worth trying. This is one of the reasons I like The Baby Name Wizard so much: by sorting names into categories, she gives us an easy way to find names that are similar to the names we like---but with changes such as "but more common" or "but starting with a vowel" or whatever it is we're shooting for. Looking up Mackenzie, I see she has it in the Last Names First, Androgynous, and Celtic categories, so that gives a starting place for looking for names you might find you like just as well. Kerensa? Madigan? Fiona? Catriona? Tierney? Finola? Delaney? Ellery? Emerson? Mckinley? Padgett? Kimberlin? Waverly? Berkeley? Kennedy? Hillary? Evanie? Paisley? Brinley?

But I think it's more likely that you would look at names in the same style categories and think, "Well, I DO like some of those---but not as MUCH." In which case, it boils down to deciding how important the issue is for you. Some names fall (for all sorts of different reasons) on the "I'm heartbroken I can't use it!" side of the line, and those names can make good middle names: you still get to use it, but you don't have to worry about other people's reactions to it. Other names fall on the "I'm disappointed about this aspect of the name, but my love of the name trumps it" side of the line. Most names have SOME downside (duplicating an initial, too common/uncommon, it's the other parent's second choice instead of first choice, it's similar to a pet's name, it's the name of a disliked former classmate, it's biblical/non-biblical and we wanted non-biblical/biblical, a friend just used a similar name for her daughter, it's a bit of a style mismatch with another child's name, the rhythm isn't great with our surname, it makes initials that spell something innocuous but we'd rather the initials not spell anything---the list goes on forever) and yet we use the name anyway because even with its flaw it's better than all the other names.

To me, the name Mackenzie seems like a good candidate for ignoring a flaw. It started climbing up the ranks back in the 1980s, continued to climb in the 1990s---but then instead of taking either the "all the way to the Top Ten" fork or the "dropping back down rapidly" fork, it seems to be hovering pleasantly in the 40s-70s: nicely common, but not EVERYWHERE. And names such as Kenzie and Kinsley and Ainsley and Max keep the sounds sounding current. It reminds me of names such as Mikayla and Brianna and Bailey and Morgan: they've lost that smack of NEW! FRESH! DIFFERENT!---but they've taken off their coats and hats and seem to have settled in for a nice long visit. And if your tastes are like mine, you may be hoping to AVOID that new/fresh/different sound ANYWAY---knowing as we do how unlikely it is to be an enduring feature of the name.

On the other hand, one of my children has a name that had a path similar to Mackenzie's: when we used it, it had been quite popular for two decades and was finally drifting down in the ranks. But then instead of continuing to hover there, it has taken several LARGE steps down---and we've gotten the occasional reaction to the name that tells us we used it past its freshness date. It DOES bother me a little. Not a lot, but a little. It's not that I want to change his name (as with most names, it now seems to us it's The Only Name He Could Possibly Be), but I do wish it didn't have that one flaw. On the other hand, I feel like we were prepared for that when we used it, which makes a huge difference: I think it's only the people who go into such a thing unaware who are severely disappointed. You DO know about it, so if you choose to go ahead with it anyway, I'd predict that you'd have similar feelings to mine: still occasionally feeling a little disappointed that the name was past its peak when we used it, but loving the name anyway and not feeling like the issue is a HUGE issue.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

More Name Update!

Further update (what the mom's mom thought of the name!) (and also photo!) on Baby Boy Peppers!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Name Update!

Update on Baby Boy Peppers!

Baby Naming Issue: Can a Fourth Initial Save the Other Three?

Cara writes:
I have a somewhat general question (with ulterior motives) for you and the lovely commenters. It's clear to me that certain combinations of initials are best avoided, but when we discuss this issue we most often talk about names that result in three initials. What about names that have four initials (or, presumably, more)? If three of the initials spell something that we would avoid if there were only three initials, can the fourth initial fix the problem? Does it depend on the choice of the fourth initial or do we always see the three letters that we're trying to avoid?

A mild example:

SAG seems best avoided. But what about JSAG or RSAG?

If you think the fourth initial solves the problem, would it also apply to a set of letters that spelled something more extreme?

I'm asking, of course, because my husband and I have been leaning toward a middle name that would give our child (due in a little over two weeks) the last three initials of FKR and I'm wondering if there's any way to salvage the choice or if it's a lost cause. The placement of letters is fixed, that is, it can't be KFR instead. Clearly the first name couldn't start with an M. But is there a letter that would work?

Thank you for your help!

I see it as a spectrum thing. At one end of the spectrum are the initials that don't spell anything particularly bad (ER, MD, DOC, INK), where we might prefer to avoid them but if we really love a name it's not worth giving it up just to avoid the initials. At the other end of the spectrum are the initials that are bad enough that we have to sacrifice names we love because it's just too awful. (Different people will have different ideas of what's intolerable, but some of my own would be the initials from names such as Abigail Sarah Smith, Gideon Andrew Young, Sarah Isabelle North, Kiley Katherine Kingston, Finn Alexander Greenfield, Felicity Anne Taylor.)

In between the two ends of the spectrum, it's a matter of trading and balancing: of thinking "Would _I_ mind having these initials?" and "Is it worth it, or is this just one of many situations where a name we love is out of the running for reasons that are unlucky and unfair but it's nothing A Feeling Of Injustice can change?"

Sometimes there's an easy fix, like using a C spelling instead of a K spelling, or using one of the two names for one child and the other name for a future child, or your example of switching the names. The 4-initial idea is another such possibility, and I'd say it sometimes works and sometimes doesn't: it depends on the severity of the Bad Initials, and also on which name is the fourth name. My children and I have four names, and I've found that the first of the two middle names is the default initial for one-initial situations unless I specify otherwise. So if the name were, for example, Abigail Sarah Harrison Smith, I would still hesitate to use it---though if I were determined to use Abigail Sarah no matter what, it's a big improvement.

In your specific example (FKR), I'm not sure. I would want to avoid those letters, but I'm not POSITIVE I would have noticed them as I'm positive I would with, say, FUK or FCK. I do think this is a situation where a fourth initial would improve things, but I'm not sure if it improves things ENOUGH. I was going to have us examine a few possibilities, but of course it's in our minds now so I'm seeing problems EVERYWHERE! Like, if you'd told me her initials were going to be AFKR, I don't think I would have been able to see what the problem was---but I'm not SURE, because now that I'm thinking of it I'm seeing it as "a fkr".

I DO THINK that if I wasn't in the mindset, I wouldn't be seeing a problem. EFKR. KFKR. RFKR. I think these work. I THINK.

But it is a matter of the trading and balancing mentioned earlier: it IS a little risky, and what if I'm wrong that adding that fourth initial makes the problem significantly less? So it comes down to how important it is to you to use the names. (And could the K name be spelled with a C? I think FCR is a little better than FKR.)

I think we need a poll here, but I suspect many of you will run into the problem I ran into: once the idea is planted, the letters stand out too much for a detached evaluation. I did a quick poll on Twitter, but unfortunately I used BFKR as the random example---and of course I was asking if there was a problem, which tips things. To me, the BF at the beginning had my mind going in the BFF direction. The overwhelming response on Twitter was, um, a different direction. Someone had a good point that a lot of us are getting used to textspeak, which leads us to be quicker to see words in partial-word letter combinations.

In any case, about 1 out of every 4 responses were that they didn't see any problem with the initials, and about 3 out of 4 were VEHEMENT amused/horrified responses that they DID INDEED see a problem, with further jokes suggested. But several people mentioned that if they hadn't been LOOKING, they wouldn't have seen anything, or that they knew people with similarly problematic initials who reported never having the predicted problem (TheGoriWife knows a FRT who was aware of the potential problem but said it had never come up).

I asked if anyone could think of a first initial that would remove the problem, and most of the responses were again negative: people said no, it was the FKR they noticed immediately, and anything else either changed nothing or made it much worse. But Dashoff suggested: "A 'J' or 'R' in front would draw me to noticing JFK or RFK instead of the FKR standing out at the end."

After that quick and informal poll, I find my opinion is going toward "It would have to be REALLY IMPORTANT to use those particular names." I think I feel the way Lynnette does: she said "I think that one would be a stretch to come to a real conclusion, though I will not use my favorite boy name because : FKD."

Let's put a poll over to the right. [Poll closed; see results below.] The question is: GIVEN THAT the parents would prefer not to spell something bad with the initials (that is, we are not voting on whether initials-spelling-things matters, because it DOES matter to the parents), do you think the initials FKR are salvageable with a 4th initial? And if so, please put in the comments section which ones you think would work.

Name update! Cara writes:
Thanks so much for the feedback! Reading your response and all the comments really helped me clarify my thoughts. I realized that I probably wouldn't be able to forget that when I see the initials _FKR, I see a word, even if other people don't. We decided that when the baby was born we'd decide on the first name and then deal with the middle name (expecting that we would probably have to scrap the F name and pick something else). But ultimately the whole thing was a nonissue---I was absolutely convinced that we were having a girl (I thought the same with my first and was right), but we had a boy! The F middle name we were in love with (Freya) was off the table. But you can be sure that I wrote out my son's four initials before we did the paperwork just to make sure I wasn't missing anything! Thanks again!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Baby Boy Tohtska

Karen writes:
I'm due in October 2011 and we're expecting a boy. Our struggle with naming him has to do with that we're a mixed nationality family. My husband is Japanese and I am half American and half German. Everyone in our families except for my mother live overseas, most of our family members don't speak English. So...we need some ideas for crossover names. For simplicity we've decided to focus on a name that crosses over well for Japanese and English (with the hope that if it sounds good in English, it will work in German). By crossover names I mean names that are pronounced the same in multiple languages and can be pronounced easily by all parties. Our other two children are named Kai (boy) and Miya (girl...pronounced MEE-yah). Not sure yet if this is our last child, but we're leaning toward having more. Our last name is like TOH-tska). We tend to shy away from names that have the sounds L, R, B, V or TH because those sounds either don't exist (TH) in Japanese or the Japanese cannot hear the difference in the sounds (L/R and B/V). We'd like to have a name that's not purely Japanese-sounding since we live in the States, so we've thrown out names such as Eiji, Akio, Yuji as well as names that have "ken" in them because my husband's name has that syllable in it already. Currently we're considering Noah and Eisa (pronounced like the name Asa) but aren't in love with either of them. If this baby ends up surprising us and is a girl, we'll likely name her Sofi. Girls names always were easier for us to come up with...! Any ideas would be GREATLY appreciated!!!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Baby Jack or Savannah

Rana writes:
We just found out we're pregnant with our first child and need some help with names!!!

My husband and I both LOVE Savannah for a girl and Jack for a boy. But I want to consider other names that are maybe a bit less popular, while he is absolutely convinced we should use Savannah and Jack!

Here is our name list.

Savannah Grace - both ADORE
Estella Grace - I absolutely LOVE this name, husband does not, but can be convinced
Ellary Grace nn Ella - again I love, husband not so much
Lilliana Grace nn Lilly- we both like this a lot too but is it too popular? Also, our puppy's name is Tilly!
Noella Grace - I like this more every time I say it, my husband doesn't like the No part of the name!

Jack Benjamin - both ADORE this, but I'm afraid its so popular
Benjamin ? - we can't seem to find a middle name for this ?
Augustin - I love this my husband thinks its strange!
Charleston nn Charlie - We both like this a lot, is it too strange though? Wdyt of it?

How much should we take popularity into account and what do you think of the above names, individually and compared to each other???
Any more suggestions based on our styles?

Thank you so much for your help!

This is an enviable situation: both parents are agreeing on two names they both love.

I would not worry about popularity, if I were you. No, no: stop worrying about it. These are the names you like best. Even if you liked Isabella best (that's the most popular girl name in the U.S. according to the Social Security Administration), I would still push you to use it and not to worry about the popularity: at #1, it's still only used for 1.17% of baby girls---or about 1 girl named Isabella per 5 or 6 classrooms (assuming 15 girls per class). That's not too bad. It'll vary a bit: the statistics are national, and some areas might have almost no Isabellas, which makes other areas more Isabella-rich. Maybe an area would have six times the national average of Isabellas---or one whole Isabella per class.

See also: Even the Top 10 is Not Necessarily the Kiss of Death.

But the name you like is not Isabella, it's Savannah! That was #46 (and falling) in 2010, given to .2736% of baby girls born that year. That's approximately one Savannah per 25 classrooms. Barely popular at all!

Jack is a little harder to track: many boys are given other names and then CALLED Jack. We can estimate a little:
  • .42% of baby boys named Jack in 2010,
  • plus .56% of baby boys named John, of which some percentage is called Jack,
  • plus .58% of baby boys named Jackson, of which some percentage is called Jack.
Let's go for worst-case scenario, in which ALL the baby boys named John and Jackson are in fact called Jack. We know this isn't the case, but it'll show us that the actual percentage resides at some point BETTER (i.e., lower) than that, and it will also help compensate for all the little boys who are called Jack but don't fall into one of our categories above (for example, I know a little boy whose name is Richard John, but he's a IV and he's called Jack). In our worst-case scenario where all the Johns and Jacksons are called Jack, approximately 1.55% of boys in the U.S. would be called Jack---or one Jack per four or five classrooms (again, assuming 15 boys per class). And that's IF there are way more Jacks than there actually are, so the actual situation is BETTER (i.e., fewer Jacks) than that.

Use the names you love! They are not too popular! But of course it's a little disappointing to have the names chosen so early when it's so much fun to keep looking! Susannah/Susanna is similar to Savannah but virtually unused---and with cute nicknames. I love Sukie as this generation's Susie, but don't underestimate the vintage charm of calling a little girl Susie Q. And if you like Jack and Benjamin, I wonder if you'd like Jonathan, nickname Jon?

Now, as to what I think of the other names on your list and your style overall, I have the advice for you that I give to all first-time baby-namers: try to figure out now which names on your list are your actual style and which names are outliers you happen to like even though they don't fit your usual style; and see if any names you're considering would rule out any of the other names you're considering (different styles, duplicate sounds/initials, wildly different levels of popularity).

If you have a boy and name him Jack, will that rule out the name Charleston for you later on because of it being such a different style and so much less common? Or will it be fine because you'll mostly call him Charlie, which is pretty much a perfect-beyond-perfection brother name for Jack? If you have a baby girl this time and name her Savannah, will that make you feel like you couldn't use Lilliana later, since they both end in the same sound? If you used Estella this time, would you not want to use Ellary next time because of the repeated initial and ella sound in both? And so on.

It isn't that you MUST give your children compatible names---not at all. It's only that if you would LIKE to give them compatible names, this is the moment you are setting your course. We all have names we like that fall outside our usual style (I think of them as "I hope someone I love will use it for THEIR baby!" names), and the trick is to identify those names before inadvertently locking yourself into finding sibling names for them.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Baby Boy Lyman

Chris writes:
I hope you'll choose to answer my questions but I'm not holding my breath since they're so specific and perhaps kind of...insane? The baby is a boy and I'm due in September. My husband is a typical name-vetoer and pretty early on he got it stuck in his head that if the baby was a girl it'd be Harper and if the baby was a boy it'd be Charlie. I wasn't 100% sold on either name, though I liked them both, so I kept trying to come up with names to add to the list, but he said he would never like anything as much as those two. I really like Charlie, but I worry that Charles/Charlie is going the way of George instead of Henry. Just Old Man sounding and not Young and Fresh. The official name would be Charles so he could have it fall back on professionally if he ever wanted, but we'd call him Charlie pretty exclusively. Charles has been steadily declining over the years...would we be saddling our kid with an Old Man name? I also worry just a little bit about the popularity of Charlie rising as a nickname for girls named Charlotte. I'd hate for our kid to be one boy Charlie surrounded by a school full of girl Charlies.

I have a second question as well - our last name is Lyman (pronounced how you would think: lye-men) which has been super difficult to pair names with - so many strong sounds! It's ruled out the possibility for any names ending in N for me. I fell in love with Benjamin but would never use it because Benjamin Lyman just sounds so choppy. We'd like the baby to have a middle name that has some sort of family significance instead of just being random, and the name I like best OF COURSE ends in an N: Evan. My grandmother's maiden name was Evans and I have lots of close family members with it. While I LOVE Charlie Evan, Charles/Charlie Evan Lyman makes me cringe. Like you, I like there to be a cadence and flow to a full name. I keep trying to tell myself that after the birth announcement and any baby blankets that are made, I'll rarely see the whole name strung together. Am I lying to myself and signing up for a lifetime of baby name regret? Our backups are possibly my husband's middle of Christopher, Michael as a family name from my side, and William as a family name from both sides.

Thank you so much!

The first question brings up one of my hot-button naming issues, which is this: Naming a baby is not a game of King of the Mountain, where a name stays at the top unless it is knocked down by force. That is, your husband may SAY that he'll never like any names better than Charlie and Harper, but this doesn't mean that those names must be used unless you persuade him otherwise. It isn't your job to find a name he likes better while he sits back comfortably and waits; this is a mutual decision, and he too is responsible for questing for names the two of you can agree on. MANY A PARENT has had to give up MANY A NAME because the other parent didn't want to use it. It makes me a little cranky when one parent seems to be saying, "Hey, it's up to you: find me a name I like better."

Okay, now on to the questions you actually asked. No, wait: I have another digression. It's that Charlie Harper is the Charlie Sheen character on the TV show Two and a Half Men, and is also similar to the name of the artist Charley Harper. I don't think that rules out using them as sibling names (I'm not sure many people would make either connection except to think, as I did, that those two names sounded remarkably natural together), but it's the sort of thing I like to think of beforehand, rather than having someone point it out to me after the children are already named.

NOW on to the questions you actually asked. The name Charlie is hard to evaluate: the Social Security statistics don't tell us how many Charleses and Charlottes are going by Charlie, and it's hard to say how these names will feel to us later on. And "how a name feels" is so subjective: to me, Charlie is adorable and fresh and goes beautifully with all the Sams, Maxes, and Olivers---but to someone else, it could sound...well, like George (although I think George could be the next Sam/Max).

I notice that although the name Charles is very gradually declining in use, the name Charlie as a given name is increasing in use. And although Charles is declining, it's still in the Top 100---so at least a Charles/Charlie would have company, whatever the associations of the name.

It sounds to me like you have several legitimate arguments for not wanting to use it:

1. You're worried it might end up going the Old Man route.
2. You're worried about the effect of all those Charlotte-based Charlies.
3. You're not sure if "Charlie Lyman" works.
4. You're just not 100% sold.

I'd be worried about that second one, too. But without statistics, I don't know whether I should reassure us or validate our fears. I DO think a lot of those little Charlottes are going to go by Charlie---but I think a lot of them will go by Charlotte, and a lot will go by Lottie. Maybe it will stay a clearly "fine for boys and girls name" like Sam: the presence of a whole lot of Samanthas going by Sam hasn't hurt the boy name Sam. (Er, I don't THINK it has. Again, I am lost without statistics to examine.)

Now, as to your second question, again I am unsure! I've found I can argue either side of this: I can dismiss arguments that "it's just a middle name, no one will ever say it" OR I can make those arguments myself. I DO like a name to have a good flow---but I think in the end I put that consideration second place to names I like and names that honor someone. So although my kids all have names that I think flow pretty well, there were some possibilities we considered that would have had a BETTER flow, but we instead went with the honor-name or with the name we liked best. And in the case of my daughter's name, I think a different number of syllables would have been way better for her middle name---but after Paul agreed my first-name choice for her was his top choice as well, he wanted to use his previous favorite girl name as the middle name, and that seemed more important.

Charles Evan Lyman falls into this category, I think. It doesn't SING, but it's not bad. And when I say it repeatedly to myself, I find I come to like it: I know some people avoid having the same number of syllables for each part of the name, but I find I'm very positively drawn to the 2-2-2 pattern.

I feel similarly about Evan Lyman and even Benjamin Lyman: they are perhaps not ideal, but they're good enough that if you love the names I don't think the rhythm/sound is a big deal---and when I say them over and over, I come to like them. I've noticed when I look over a class list for one of my kids' classrooms, I'll see a lot of first/last name combinations that seem Not Ideal---and yet, it doesn't really matter. And yet another "and yet," if you said you didn't want to use them because you didn't like the sound, you'd find me solidly in your camp: I've rejected many a name combination because of issues I DID think were minor---but nevertheless preferred not to choose.

I think for me it must come down to how much I love a name. If I think to myself, "I MUST USE THIS NAME, IT IS THE ONLY NAME I TRULY LOVE"---well then, I'm much more likely to dismiss issues with initials or sounds or rhythms. But if I'm deciding among a list of names I like quite a bit but am having trouble choosing from, well then I'm much more likely to say "Not the one with the initials I.P., and not the one that repeats the ending-sound of our surname." So if you say to me, "I LOVE the name Charlie Evan, and this means my husband gets the name he wants and I get the name I want!," then I say to you "GO FORTH AND USE IT!" But if you say to me, "I'm not sure---I like a lot of these names, but none of them seem to work well," then I say to you "Let's keep looking! And tell your husband Swistle says he needs to help!" (Maybe Everett or Elliot, if you like Evan? Maybe Jonathan or Christopher if you like Benjamin?)

So, okay, I kind of WENT ON there for awhile. What does everyone else think on these issues? What sort of path do you see the name Charlie heading down, and do you think all the Charlottes will affect that? If you like a name to flow well, what sorts of things make you willing to compromise on that?

Name update! Chris writes:
Just wanted to send in my update to you and your wonderful readers! Thank you for reassuring me about the name Charlie - our Charlie was born on September 29! His full name is Charles Oliver Lyman; I decided to keep looking for a middle name instead of using a family name I wasn't totally sure about, and as soon as Oliver crossed my mind, I was in love.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Name to Consider: Vada

Emily writes:
Name to consider: Vada (like from My Girl). Why doesn't anyone use this great name?

Aw, My Girl! I'd forgotten that movie. SO SAD.

According to the Social Security Administration only 93 new baby girls were named Vada in the U.S. in 2010. There were 155 named Veda---I wonder if that's the same pronunciation? And 22 named Vaida, and 72 named Vayda, and 17 named Veyda.

I wonder if part of the problem is the Darth Vader association? It seems a bit obscure, but in the northeast U.S., Vada and Vader would be pronounced almost the same. Or it sounds a little like the word invader.

What do you think of the name Vada/Vaida/Vayda? How would you spell it? What issues do you think affect its popularity? And let's put a poll over to the right to see what we as a group think of it. [Poll closed; see results below.]

Poll results (255 votes total):

I love it! I'd use it! - 15 votes (roughly 6%)
I like it! I'd consider it! - 29 votes (roughly 11%)
Wouldn't use, but would like on someone else's baby - 103 votes (roughly 40%)
No particular opinion either way - 16 votes (roughly 6%)
Slightly dislike - 69 votes (roughly 27%)
Strongly dislike - 23 votes (roughly 9%)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Name Update!

Update on Baby Boy D____ (Rhymes with Hirsch)!

Baby Boy Peppers

Ashley writes:
I find myself in a situation that is likely not terribly unique, but difficult nonetheless. I was due three days ago with our first child, a little boy. He has yet to grace us with his presence, but know the moment is right around the corner. We are truly excited and ready to meet our little man, with the exception of one minor detail: his name. My husband and I have a last name that I find slightly difficult to work with. Peppers. We had decided on the name Everett back in February when we learned I was carrying a son, but met instant disapproval from my mother. In hindsight, we wish we would have kept our decision a secret, but at the time couldn't really imagine the announcement being greeted by anything other than excitement. We have been sorely mistaken. She has repeatedly campaigned against it from the first moment of sharing. I thought that putting my foot down and telling her the decision was final would stop the remarks, but it didn't work. It's as if there was one most terrible, wretched name possible and we have chosen it. I sought wisdom and spoke at length with my husband and we decided that we had the power to change the situation by changing our choice in name. We worked on a short list which included: Owen, Harrison, William, Augustine, Christian, Zachary, Hudson, and Hunter. None of these names just completely grabs us. And we're now very conflicted about Everett. I really thought I liked it but there are a lot of hurt feelings mixed up with it at this point, and to make matters worse, my family seems to like to pronounce it like "Ev-ritt" with a hill-billy accent. There are clearly some family dynamics that far exceed the scope of our son's name, but he is due at any moment and we are at a huge loss as far as what direction to go next. I wish I could be really tough and let all of it roll off my back, but I know myself and it will drive me crazy for a LONG time if this is an ongoing source of strife. I'd like the issue to be finished. Other things to consider: My maiden name is Taylor and we would like to use it in either the first or middle name. If we were having a girl, we really liked the names Emma, Grace, Abigail, and Caroline. My husband tends to like biblical names: Joshua, Zachary, Gabriel, Benjamin. I'm really interested in a name that has a nice flow from First to middle to last, and when it's just first and last and if the first can be shortened to a nickname then nickname and last. We would love suggestions on a strong masculine name First Middle Peppers that might work well for us and our son. Thank you for your help! (and the help of any readers who offer suggestions- wisdom is greatly needed!!)

This is a very hard situation. You know and I know that your mother should not be behaving this way. An initial negative reaction would have been bad enough, but to continue to campaign against the name even after you told her it was final is beyond unacceptable.

Nevertheless, she is doing it. While I would like to leap up onto a crate and exhort you that it's your choice! she named her babies and now you get to name yours! it's a great name and she will come around to it! stand your ground!---it's not something I'm planning to do. It's easy for someone ELSE to say that you should get to use the name you want to use---but such a stance denies the reality of the situation. If I picture my own mother carrying on about a name the way yours is, I think I too would be choosing not to die on this hill. We DON'T really know that she'll come around to it, and "You should choose the name you love no matter what other people think!" is the kind of advice people give easily only when they're not the ones living with the consequences. Not to mention that I WANT my mother to love my baby's name---not at the expense of all my own opinions, but it's something I'm willing to work at a bit.

One possibility at this point is to involve your mother EVEN MORE: if she's going to kick up an unending stink if you don't choose a name she likes, have her tell you which names she likes from your list of finalists. (I don't recommend asking her for suggestions: you might find that, just as when my mother-in-law delivered a list of her own unasked-for suggestions, they were all from the days when she was naming her own babies.) This could, of course, BACKFIRE LIKE NOBODY'S BUSINESS---but if you want to avoid a name that causes your mother to behave this way, it could also help keep you from jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire.

Another possibility is to choose another name, not reveal it until after the baby is born, and do preliminary work: tell her you've changed the name ONLY because she didn't like it, but that now you're not telling the name because you don't want her to spoil it for you, and that whether she likes the name or not it IS THE BABY'S NAME and if she doesn't like it, you ARE sorry, but she's had her turn to name babies, and now you and your husband are having your turn and she should be very happy she's had a veto.

Everett IS a great name. There is a little group of names I think of as being "similar to Everett"---such things are totally subjective, of course, but I wondered if you might like any of them, as I do: Elliot, Emmett, Evan. I like Elliot Taylor Peppers and Evan Taylor Peppers best; Emmett Peppers is a little harder for me to say, and I think the repeating eh sounds might be too much.

Evan makes me think of Ethan. Ethan Taylor Peppers.

For biblical names, I like your husband's choices (especially Zachary and Joshua) and also:

Adam Taylor Peppers
Jeremy Taylor Peppers
Joel Taylor Peppers
Jonathan Taylor Peppers
Nathan Taylor Peppers
Samuel Taylor Peppers

I also like Henry Taylor Peppers. I think Henry Peppers is adorable. But I have a feeling that a woman who dislikes Everett won't feel any happier about Henry. I think my own favorite would be Jonathan Peppers, with the nickname Jon.

Name update! Ashley writes:
Thank you so much for responding to my email. Your response couldn't have come at a better time. My husband and I were resting in my hospital room after just meeting our little boy, still scratching our heads about his name. We thought we'd check to see if there was a response posted on your blog. There was!! Not only that, but there were many helpful responses from kind and thoughtful readers. I am so grateful for how well thought out your words were. I think my husband and I were beginning to notice after reading that we were falling into two different camps as far as the name Everett. He was willing to die on that hill, I was not. This understanding was empowering as we considered our motives and options. For the next few days- while in the hospital holding him, looking at his sweet little face we tried on a few names. We really like your suggestion of Jonathan. He called him that for a day. It just never took. We tried Everett and Owen and neither truly felt right. A dark horse entered the race and moments before being discharged from the hospital we decided to try the name Truman. It worked. It fits our son perfectly. His full name is Truman Taylor Peppers. We use that or Tru or even sometimes Mr. T when addressing him. I think we both felt satisfied finding a name that had little emotional association and that we didn't already have a slew of opinions about. Truman fits the bill! Thanks, again! We are truly blessed by this precious gift and love our son's name!!

Thank you, again!

What a great name! Thank you so much for letting us know! And, what did your MOM think of it??

Thank you! We are very happy with it. I think it's a good sign that we have no lingering regret or hurt feelings about the previous situation. It had been my fear that we would compromise and hold some sort of resentment. I don't think either of us feel we did. And for my mother... as far as I know she loves it. She may be so glad we didn't choose the other name that anything else would seem brilliant, but she did seem truly delighted. What a great way to for an unwelcome issue to come together. Oh, and I noticed someone mentioned pictures, so I thought I'd include one of our handsome little boy. Thank you, again!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Baby Girl G1bs0n, Sister to C00per and C@mden

Melissa writes:
I am due with my first girl on September 15. My sons are C00per and C@mden. Obviously, their names are matchy (both Cs, both six letters, both surnames). It wasn't our intention, but that's how it worked out. To top it off, their intials are also exactly the same. Baby 3.0 does not have to be a C, but if a C works out, we're good with that. This will, in all likelihood, be our final child.

All that said, our first name list looks like this:

Cara (which we have liked since my second pregnancy)
Calista, nn Cali/Callie
Emerine (a surname from my husband's side of the family)

We've liked the name Cara for YEARS, but after too boys Cara doesn't seem "grand" enough ... like we need something that makes more of a statement. Silly, I know. I am also concerned for her always correcting "It's a C, not a K." I like the name Callie but would like a more professional-sounding option for her too. Calliope and Calpurnia are both out, so Calista seems reasonable (and my husband quite likes Calista). We thought we were really on to something with Emerine - it's a surname! it's a family name! it seems sort of familiar because of the popularity of Emma and Emily! BUT I don't like the way it looks. It sounds feminine, but it doesn't look feminine. The only middle name I found that I really like with it is Grace ... but Emerine Grace G1bs0n leaves her with the initials EGG. Nope, not going to work.

For girls, my husband likes "fussy princess" names. Longish, Latin/Greek-rooted name, usually ending in -a or -ah. I generally like German/Hebrew-rooted names (like Chelsea) or fun ones (like Piper). Husband has vetoed both Chelsea and Piper. We like less-popular first names as our last name is quite common and plain.

Other names we've discussed and won't use:

Olivia (too common, Husband obsessed with Olivia the Pig factor)
Malia (I kind of like, Husband does not)
Mariska (both liked but people's reaction was consistently "Marissa?" which I quite dislike)
Carissa (my husband's suggestion that I detest)
Paige (too popular, too short)
Carys (Husband thinks it's weird)

Middle names up for consideration are June, Marie, possibly June-Marie or Junemarie (to hyphenate or not?), maybe Lillian (all family-honoring names).

Personally, I am leanings towards Cara June or Cara June-Marie. My husband is leaning towards Calista but will (in all likelihood) come around to whatever I really want.

Very open to additional name suggestions.

Thank you!

I was immediately leaping on alternate spellings of Emerine that might look more feminine to you when I realized it was a family surname name, which means it loses a lot of impact if we change the spelling. If you do decide to use it, I like Rose as a middle name: Emerine Rose G1bs0n. I think Emerine Paige G1bs0n works well, too.

I know you said you're open to non-C names, but I find I'm drawn to them for you if this is most likely your last child. (If you think it's more than remotely possible you'll have another, I'd be more disinclined to lock you into a C pattern.)

Cara and Calista make me think of Calla: it's almost a perfect in-between of fanciness and length, and you could still use Callie as a nickname.

I think Cadence would fit well with C00per and C@mden.

I like Cecily a lot, and it has six letters just like C00per and C@mden. Cecily Paige G1bs0n, Cecily June G1bs0n, Cecily Marie G1bs0n.

I also like Claire---and again, six letters. Claire June-Marie/Junemarie G1bs0n.

Or Clara. Clara Paige G1bs0n, Clara Junemarie/June-Marie G1bs0n.

Or Claudia. Claudia June/Marie/Paige G1bs0n.

Cleo might appeal to your husband's classical tastes while being fun and non-frilly for yours. Cleo June-Marie/Junemarie G1bs0n.

A name I recently noticed in The Baby Name Wizard is Carling. I like the way it rhymes with Darling. I like that it's similar to names like Carli, for familiarity. It's similar to Cara, but fancier. It's a surname name. And I think it goes well with C00per and C@mden.

Another is Calloway. It has a pretty sound, like Willow, and it gives you the nickname Callie.

Name update! Melissa writes:
We went in a totally different direction than planned.

Everly Juno joined our family on September 8.

We settled on it just days before her arrival and it took a while for it to "feel" like her name, but we're very happy with the name and with her - she's sweet as can be!

While it's not a "C" name, it is an English surname and six letters (just like the boys' names). All three kids have a "J" name as their middle name. There's enough in common to make the sibling set cohesive but she gets to be a little different with her own initial and three syllables :)

Thank you

Monday, June 20, 2011

Name Update!

Update (and follow-up question) on Baby Naming Issue: Changing One's Name as an Adult!

Baby Girl, Sister to Jase, Loralei, and Piper

Kyisha writes:
Months ago a friend shared your blog with me when I was at a loss for my third daughter's name. Now it is mid June and I am still not in love with anything. The topic of baby names has become a very sensitive and frustrating source of tension in my marriage. He says no to every name... but the truth nothing has felt right for me yet either.

I have read baby name books, naming sites... etc. None seem to help... so I turn to you as my due date (July 29) approaches.

Some insight:
My children's names are Jase (11), Loralei (4) and Piper (3). Their names work PERFECTLY with their personalities!
I haven't duplicated an initial yet... so I don't think I want to.

I want a name that is easy to pronounce and spell but is not popular.

Names I have thought about, but don't work:

Penolope- out because of the p
Stella- husband said no... I still kind of like it
Harper- I LOVE THIS, but it is too popular lately and the per is too much like Piper.
Everly- I like! My Meme's names is Beverly and my nana is Evelyn making Everly a pretty combo. My hubby thinks it sounds too made up. I don't really like either Beverly or Evelyn as they are... enough.
Quinn- I would pick this but hubby knows a man named it and says no. (it doesn't help that he doesn't like the man, lol)
Baylee- Cute.. I like the nm Bay. All my kids' have nicknames: Jase, Lo and Pi or Pipidy.
Sage- I haven't mentioned it to my hubby yet.
Vayla- saw this on one of your posts... haven't digested it yet but initially I like it.

Please help! I really want to love get name too!

Thank you,
Kyisha (key-sha) My name has always caused me trouble. People assume I'm a different ethnicity, not that that should matter... but to some it has. It is always pronounced wrong. However, I have always values being unique... never another me in my class. I really want this girl to have the spunk and originality in her name... but still have it grounded enough to be recognizable.

Hello Swistle. I know I wrote you before distressed about my darling 3rd daughter being born without a name.

Well, I have now fallen in love with Vivien/Vivienne! So what is my issue? The hubby isn't 100% on board. He likes the full name but isn't a fan of the nickname Viv. Our three other children all have nick names, so a nick name is important.

My second concern is the pop in popularity. I read your thorough post about the Vivian trend... and I feel a bit more settled about this issue. Truth is I love the name so much I don't care about trends!

So, do I trying to get the hubby to commit to a name he isn't in love with the nick name for?

Vivienne is so spunky, bold and yet still feminine. It marries the two styles of my other daughter's names. Loralei and Piper.

Help... please.

For Vivienne I've heard people using Vivi instead of Viv. I realize it's only one letter different, but it seems to make a huge difference in the style of the name. It's similar to the difference you've noticed between the names Beverly and Everly: one letter makes a huge difference in style and in the assumed age of the bearer. You could also use Vi (older), or Vee (younger).

Everly is still an uncommon name, but it's catching on quickly enough that I suspect in a decade it won't sound made-up at all. Already it sounds like Emily and Beverly, which makes it feel familiar despite its uncommonness.

Maybe Ellery? Or Emerson? A similar possibility is Briarly, but I don't know if any of these would sound any less made-up to your husband, and Briarly and Ellery especially share so many sounds with the name Loralei.


Or Romilly. As I understand it, the name is pronounced with either a short or long O, but the short O is the original pronunciation. Milly makes a cute nickname.

If you want the long O, I think I'd go with Romy instead. Fewer mix-ups, and you'd get the nickname Ro or Mimi.

I also like Fiona for you.

Or Zoe.

Or Sloane---I think I like the idea of adding a long-O sound! But no nickname.

Or Juniper, though it repeats the -per of Piper. I think it helps, though, that it's three syllable instead of two.

Or Beatrix, which has both Bee and Trixie.

Another possibility is Imogen (IM-ah-jen). I think it goes well with the other children's names, and it's uncommon but not made-up. I recently read a novel in which the character named Imogen went by Immy, but Gen would work too, and on a previous post someone suggested the nickname Mo.

Elodie would be pretty, and it has some of the sound of Penelope and Stella.

Scarlett would work, too, I think.

Or Madigan: unusual, yet familiar in sound because of Madison and Madelyn.

Name update! Kyisha writes:
Swistle and followers. Thank you so much for your help. Our daughter, Willow Elizabeth was born July 29th. After all that stress, the name just fell out in conversation a couple of days before she was born. It fits her perfect. Our family is complete with Jayson, Loralei, Piper and Willow.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Baby Boy Graves, Brother to Lucas Joshua

[I'm out of town this weekend, but really didn't want to her to miss out on the magic of the comments section.]

Kara writes:
I have been reading your blog for awhile now, anxiously awaiting the day we would find out if we were expecting a girl or boy so that I could find a precious name for my child.

Well, the day came and we are expecting our second BOY! I am so excited to have another boy, but finding a name is a challenge- I think girl's names are easier! (we like Lyla, Josie, Cadence, Willow, Eliott, Emmaline, etc)

Our last name is Graves, my first son is Lucas Joshua who is 2, this boy will come in October. There are only three names on our list: (and my husband and I both don't agree on all three).

Finn, Cohen, and Rowan.

I don't like the names on the top 10 lists, they seem to be too popular for me.. I like it to be soft, southern, sweet, but still boy. Older names are fascinating to me as well, but we don't have many interesting names in our family to use.

I would love to think that we would be having at least one more child, but that hasn't been decided yet.

Ok, so your turn! Work your magic!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Baby Boy Pingree, Brother to Corinne

Jayme writes:
My husband and I are expecting our second, a boy, this summer. Although we had a difficult time naming our daughter (Corinne), we seem to be more on the same page when it comes to boys' names. Here is our delimma. Several years ago I mentioned that I wanted to use my maiden name (Dalton) for a son. My father doesn't have any boys, and I thought it would be a nice way to honor our family. The probem is I'm a teacher, and I've seen too many Daltons in the last few years to want to continue to use it as a first name (I prefer slightly uncommon, classic names-). My husband, on the other hand,still really likes it. I prefer the name Weston for a boy, and my husband doesn't mind this name. So, could we use Dalton as a middle name (Weston Dalton) or is that too much of the same sound? With our daughter, we picked a first name we liked and gave her a family middle name (in her case, the middle name of both of her grandmothers). We would like to do the same with our son, and don't plan to have any other children (so this is our last chance to use my maiden name). Other names we've considered are: Everett, Zane, Owen, Kennett, & Nolan, though none of these names really strike me like Weston does. Of the other names, I like the name Owen the best, but know too many other friends (and just people in general!) with children with this name to use it myself.

Thanks in advance if you are able to offer any advice!

On the issue of sound, I would go right ahead and use Weston Dalton. Even if that were his first name and surname, I wouldn't think it was a disastrous combination if you loved the name; for a first and middle and probably-the-last-chance-to-use it, I say go ahead. For the most part he'll be known as Weston Pingree---and the middle name comes with the untouchable "It's my mother's maiden name" explanation.

Or...use Dalton as the first name after all. Weston is currently a more common name than Dalton (#224 versus #260 in 2010, according to the Social Security Administration), so if you've seen more Daltons than Westons in the classroom, that might be a regional thing, or it might be that Dalton was more common than Weston in the years your recent students were born, or it might be luck of the draw and soon you'll see it the other way around. Both names are modern surname names, and so unless you've had a particularly negative experience with a Dalton in the classroom, I'd encourage you to go with your first love.

I think it's pretty special when a maiden name makes a good first name, and it's a shame to waste the opportunity. If your only worry is the commonness, and if your husband still prefers Dalton, then rest assured on the popularity issue and go for Dalton.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Baby Girl Evans, Sister to Avery, Kaely, and Maggie

Wendy writes:
I think we need help for naming our fourth daughter, due in July. Our first three are Avery (with my middle name), Kaely (husbands mom's maiden for a middle), and Maggie (after my great grandmother). I look over these and cannot figure out a style except to say we kept thinking it was the last girl. The y sound at the end was accidental. Our last name is Evans.

Names that I like are Lila, Olive (nn Livvy). My husband has only suggested the names Harper, Rachel, and Selah. We don't like each others so it's back to the drawing board. I just want the name to be pretty, I tend to like shorter names, and a classic that's not too classic but will fit a kid or woman. My husband is a philosophy professor and pastor so he would like more meaning. I'm not worried about ending in the "y" sound. If it does/doesn't, no big deal.

If you have the time I'd appreciate any suggestions.

Lila and Livvy make me think of Lily and Libby. Avery, Kaely, Maggie, and Lily. Avery, Kaely, Maggie, and Libby.

Rachel and Selah and Lila make me think of Leah/Lia. Avery, Kaely, Maggie, and Lia.

Selah and Lila make me think of Leila and Layla. Avery, Kaely, Maggie, and Leila. Avery, Kaely, Maggie, and Layla.

I also think Laney would be a good fit: Avery, Kaely, Maggie, and Laney. Delaney would work, too.

Or Ellery: Avery, Kaely, Maggie, and Ellery.

Or Sadie: Avery, Kaely, Maggie, and Sadie.

Or Josie: Avery, Kaely, Maggie, and Josie.

Or Polly: Avery, Kaely, Maggie, and Polly.

Or Darcy: Avery, Kaely, Maggie, and Darcy.

Or Shelby: Avery, Kaely, Maggie, and Shelby.

Or Lucy: Avery, Kaely, Maggie, and Lucy.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Presidential Baby Names

Laura G. mentioned on Twitter that she knew a family with three girls: a Reagan, a Kennedy, and a McKinley. "That's hardcore presidential dedication," she commented.

I tried to make a jokey reply about what that family ought to name a boy---but goodness, there are a lot of genuinely good presidential names available:


Monday, June 13, 2011

Discussion: Duplicating a Name Within a Generation; Using a Namesake Name for a Non-Firstborn Child

Stephanie writes:
What do you and your readers think of re-using or repeating a name within a generation? We, and DH's siblings and parents strongly prefer what I'll call classic names (others would call boring). When we discuss baby names, DH will suggest names of our nephews. Now, the cousins would be pretty far apart in age (specifically, 17 years apart) and live in different (but neighboring states). We see them several times a year, and in fact, the father of the nephew (our child's uncle in this case) is the godfather of our other children. Last name would be the same too. I say, no way. DH sees no problem. ??? (This is actually getting close to being one of those ridiculous recurring fights in our marriage like your recent post on your other blog. It doesn't get me to 11 yet, but man, it will soon!)

Related, but different issue, DH keeps throwing his father's name out there as an option. We already have a son, whom we did not name after his father (or any family member for his first name, although it is the name of one of DH's uncles, but come on, large catholic family, it was bound to be somebody's name!). DS, DH, and DH's father all have the same middle name, a family name, it was maiden name of DH's great great or great great great grandmother or something. I think it seems weird to use his dad's name for a second son, and I wouldn't want to use the middle name again, so then he's not a Jr or the second (whatever it would be anyway), he's just another _____.

In answer to the first question, I don't mind repeating names within a generation, as long as everyone's okay with it (that is, as long as it's not going to lead to silly feuds about someone "stealing" someone else's name). I think even in groups that see each other frequently, the confusion is minimal/negligible and can even lead to fun in-jokes and nicknames, and to additional bonding between the people sharing a name.

But this seems to me like the kind of issue where it doesn't matter one bit what _I_ think: if it bothers you to name your children the same names as your nephews, those names should be out of the running.

In answer to your second question, I think there are ways in which it's BETTER to give an important namesake name to a non-firstborn child. For example, a friend of mine had twin boys in a family where passing on the father's first name was a tradition---so she gave the father's name to the secondborn twin. That way they each had something: one was the firstborn, one had the family name.

And although we feel it to be the case, the firstborn child isn't any more special or important than the other children. I think the reason it feels that way with names is that it shows that you used the name at the very first opportunity---but that doesn't mean using it later on is meaningless or silly, and I like the way it decreases the "firstborn takes all" feeling.

But again, this is a situation where it doesn't matter what I think about it: if it bothers you, the name should be out. One parent can certainly try to talk the other parent around, and can even try it a few times---but if the other parent continues to be opposed, the issue should be over.

Nevertheless, it is fun to discuss. So what does everyone else think about the two questions? How do you feel about duplicating a name within a generation? And how do you feel about using a namesake name for a non-firstborn child? And polls are fun, too, so let's put two polls over to the right. [Polls closed; see results below.]

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Baby Naming Issue: Initials That Spell EEW

Amy writes:
I'm due with our second child, a baby girl in 6 weeks. We like unique first names with personally significant middle names and we have an 18 month old whose name we still absolutely love, Atticus, with his middle name being the name of the small town where we met & got married. We've had this baby's full name picked out since before we even knew she was a girl but suddenly I'm having second thoughts. Her first name starts with E and is unique but a recognizable and easily pronounceable one-syllable word. Her middle name will be Elizabeth, a 4th generation name from my mother's side, and our last name is two syllables and starts with W. My husband and I both love the name and have already revealed it to a few close friends and family members to positive reviews. But have you figured out my problem? Her initials will be EEW. I know it's not the way most people spell eww when they're talking about something gross and I can probably count on one hand the number of times I've had to use my full initials for something but I can see the potential teasing of "Your parents named you ewwww?!" written all over it. Is that what it makes you think of?

I've thought about changing the spelling to Alizabeth to avoid the issue altogether but it feels like it would be taking something away from the family significance of the name. I've also considered adding another middle name before the Elizabeth but it feels wrong to just tag some other random name along that we don't really care about just to change her initials. I've also thought of shortening the middle name to Beth, which I don't like as well, but it sounds terrible when said aloud with her first name. What should we do? Am I making a bigger deal of this than I should be? Should we stick with it and hope it's not something that comes up often? Are there any other spellings we could use or maybe foreign options of Elizabeth or...? I don't want to give up the name we love but I also don't want it to become an issue she's unhappy with later and have her name tainted for me anyway with "Why did we do that to her?" guilt.

I keep telling my husband he wasn't even in the room when I filled out the birth certificate for Atticus so I could change the spelling to Alizzabegth if I really felt like it but I don't think that's going to go over well!

Help! Time is running out!

I would not change the family name. There are many alternate spellings and other-language variations on the name Elizabeth, but if it's for fourth-generation family significance I wouldn't mess around with it.

You don't mention the option of changing the first name/spelling, so I assume that's not changeable.

Well, it's a difficult situation. In general, I don't like initials to spell things---even good things. And initials such as EEW or EWW are not great. But...I'm disinclined to try at this point to talk you out of a name you've solidly chosen just to avoid some initials. If the name were, for example, Anna Sue Stevens, I would tell you that sad as it may be, an alternative would need to be chosen; but EEW seems on the line to me. I'd certainly avoid it if I thought of it beforehand, but this is very close to being afterhand.

My favorite "solves the whole thing" solution is for you to add another middle name. I agree with you that it seems silly to just toss a random name in there merely for the purpose of solving the problem---but I think if we avoid the random and the tossing and instead find a name you DO love, or a name with significance, that it no longer seems silly at all. It takes the name you love and improves it in two ways: by getting rid of the problem initials, and by letting you use an additional name you love.

If the name Elizabeth is from your side of the family, are there women on your husband's side you might like to honor? Or perhaps a surname with a pretty sound? Or your own maiden name? E__ Elizabeth Name Surname is the order I'm thinking of. I think this could end up being a very pleasing revision, and fun to choose.

Name update! Amy writes:
Hi Swistle. A few weeks ago you helped my husband and I with the initials problem for our daughter- EEW. Your advice and all the comments helped us to feel confident to go ahead and use the name we loved the way it was and that the initials really weren't that big of a deal. Elm Elizabeth W. was born on Monday and she's perfect, just like her name. Sending along a picture. Thank you and your readers so much!

Baby Boy Lou, Brother to Adam and Naomi

Karen writes:
I'm due in about 7 weeks and we're still undecided about number three's name. He will be Adam and Naomi's little brother. I'm Karen and my husband is Dion. Our last name sounds like "Lou." This is in all likelihood our last child. *sniff*. We have two front-running names but they both break one of my "rules:" that the kids' names not sound like ours, so as to prevent confusion, especially since my husband's hearing is not great. But maybe some rules were made to be broken?

John - this has been the leading contender for most of my pregnancy and we both really like it. It's a good name and a strongly family name for me. However, Dion is more concerned about the similarity to his name because confusion is likely to be with him, the one with poor hearing after all. I don't like Jack; John would be John. But are John and Dion too similar for one family?

Aaron - I've always liked this name but never considered it because it broke the similarity rule. I mentioned it off-hand recently and Dion said that he likes it, too. He's not very concerned about confusing Aaron and Karen, mainly because it wouldn't often cause confusion for him, just for us. I'm also thinking about John Aaron, possibly going by Aaron. Going by a middle name is very common in my family. In fact, Naomi is actually Margaret Naomi. But are Aaron and Karen too similar for one family?

I guess my main question is: John, Aaron, or back to the drawing board?

Our taste is typically "biblical - but not just biblical". Here are some other names we've considered in the past, though I wouldn't necessarily rule them out this time either.
Simon - was a backup name for Adam.
Gabriel - was also a backup name for Adam.
Jonah - was going to be Naomi's name until the day she was born, when we found out she was a girl.
Benjamin - was a backup name for Jonah.
James - was a also backup name for Jonah.

many thanks,

P.S. I cut out this next part because I felt the query was getting too long [note from Swistle: I thought the postscripts were really good so asked Karen if I could leave them in] but here's how strongly John is a family name for me:
My brother is John Ian, father is John David, and grandfather was John Norman, though they go/went by Ian, David, and Jack respectively, exactly so as to prevent confusion. It goes back at least seven generations. My brother will likely never have kids and even if he does, we both agree that it would be just fine if there were more than one John in the next generation. I also have a cousin John on my father's side and twin aunts Jean and Joan on my mother's side.

P.P.S. Again because it was getting too long... I know John and Dion don't seem very similar but when I say John, the J can sound like Dzh or Dsh, which can sound like d-YUH, which makes JOHN sound like dee-YON. I'm not a linguist, so I dunno, maybe this is just a regional thing. We're Canadian.

Boy, I really want to push you to use John. I love that name, and I love the sibling group of Adam, Naomi, and John. But your husband is the best judge of whether it will present an auditory problem for him. Would he be willing to accept the occasional confusion (if it WOULD only be occasional), in order to get the name you both love? It seems like it might be at the same level of hassle as other things (a second middle name, a Jr., etc.) we sometimes decide to accept because it's worth it for other reasons.

Oh, dear, I have just had a thought. "John" is slang for bathroom. So is "Loo." I wonder if this is well-known enough to cause problems.

Naming him after your brother might work. Ian Lou; Adam, Naomi, and Ian.

Or after your dad: David Lou; Adam, Naomi, and David.

Would it help to use Jonathan instead of John? Jonathan Lou; Adam, Naomi, and Jonathan.

The first confusion I noticed with the name Aaron was Adam: I realize everyone is going to be different about this, but I would have trouble remembering which boy was which. For scale, I have the same problem if a family has a Matthew and a Michael, or if I'm reading a book with a David and a Daniel. It's not that the names are SO SIMILAR (because they're not, and I wouldn't expect someone else to find them too similar), but something about them creates a problem in my mind. Same number of syllables and/or same approximate length, same first letter, similar associations. With the additional problem of rhyming with Karen, this name would be off my own list---but as usual with this sort of thing, that doesn't mean I'd say it should be off yours. Many, many other people would say "What? Adam and Aaron aren't ANYTHING alike!"

From your list of other possibilities, my favorite is James. I like the subtle repeating M sound in all three names: Adam, Naomi, and James. I like Benjamin for this same reason, but between the two I prefer James for visual length. I also like Simon for both M-sound and length.

A possibility you've likely already considered is Joshua. Joshua Lou; Adam, Naomi, and Joshua. Joshua is similar in some ways to Jonah, but more mainstreamed (and with more diluted associations) like Adam.

Name update! Karen writes:
Thanks again for posting my naming question! Your and your readers' comments definitely helped me make up my mind. From then on, I started leaning more and more towards John. We briefly discussed names on the ride to the hospital, since we hadn't exactly pinned one down, but we still didn't come to an agreement quite yet. I knew immediately after he was born that his name was going to be John, though I knew Dion wasn't completely sold. In my mind, he was born and his name was John. End of story (almost.) I told (yes, told) Dion that he could choose a middle name if he wanted a J.P. or J.J. or something or if he thought that "just" John was too ho-hum or too grown-up for a baby. But I pointed out that Jay is a good nickname for a baby John and that I was perfectly happy to continue the pattern that the boys - he, Adam, and John - have no middle name but that Naomi and I do. And that was all the persuading I needed to do. And, really, how much persuading does any woman need to do in the labour and delivery room? Dion decided that he'd used all his baby-naming mojo with Naomi, so, John it is. Dion still isn't sure how we'll say John in that boy-are-you-in-trouble tone but adding the last name always helps, no? Thanks again!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Baby Girl Winters, Sister to Clementine

Poppy writes:
I just discovered your blog recently and I'm hoping you can help me. My name is Penelope Ingrid Winters, and I am called Poppy. I've always liked my name, despite the grade-school "Poopy Poppy" comments. I have one daughter, Clementine Alice. I went to the hospital after a long process (I wish I'd had your blog then!)sure I'd name her Georgia Alice, and then she came out with this fantastic bright red hair, and a name I'd rejected early on in my pregnancy as not name-y enough popped into my head. So she's Clementine. She'll be three a week before her sister is due (yikes) and her name suits her perfectly. I mostly call her Clem or Clemmy for simplicity's sake but her full name is so much fun to say that I often end up yelling CLEMENTINE! purely because of the sound. And yes, we sing the song A LOT!
And now I am pregnant! I am a single-by-choice mom and I travel a lot for work, which means Clem has already lived in 2 places. So its helpful for me to have names that work in different cultures, although of course I failed miserably with my first daughter. Anyway, this new baby is a girl and will be my last child. Here are some names I'm considering:

Harper (I really like this but worry about how modern/trendy it is; I did check your favorite baby name book and she says Clementine is more in line with, say, Henrietta, but I'm not sure I think that's true. If it is not and Clem's name is more modern than Harper works, but if not...)
Violet (but I think it's too much with her sisters name)
Dagny (came across the other day and I like it, but feel it's too unfamiliar with C's and my names)
Helena (like but doesn't sound right somehow)
Coraline (too matchy but like a lot; also don't want repeating initials)
Jessamine (not sure. possibly too unfamiliar and also might be a problem with endings, though I say Jessa-MEAN and Clemen-TINE...)
Margot (same as Helena)
Mercy (love the sound, don't want a virtue name. Honor is in the same boat)

So these are kind of all over the place, huh? I feel like Clem's name is really fun, light despite being long and has some fun nicknames...well, one or two. And I don't feel guilty giving her a really fun first name because her middle is a very traditional, relatively tease-free name that has a girly nickname. I'd like the same for her sister (and my sister used George for her adorable baby last year, so Georgia is out).
Middle name will be a family name (as Alice is) and I'd like it to start with a vowel, since mine and Clem's do. Here are a few in my family:

Eunice (but doesn't work the way Alice does)
Emma (probably my front runner right now but depends on first name)
Allegra (allergy thing, and close to Alice)
Emeline (second favorite but not as common as I'd like)

So now that I've written way too much, any help would be welcome! Thank you! I am off the scour those dreadful baby name forums...

I suggest Magnolia!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Baby Girl Hamilton, Sister to Richard (River)

Sarah writes:
We are expecting a baby girl around 4th of July. Our son is called River, but he is a fourth, and his full name is Richard S___ H___ IV. We used the R from Richard and IV from fourth to get River. We wanted him to have a more unusual nickname, but like that he has a traditional name as well. My husband goes by Rush, from the initials RSH. My name is Sarah, which I have never really liked because I was always one of 6 or 7 Sarahs in school and among my friends. But, it is a family name that goes pretty far back in my family tree, and my middle name is my mom's maiden name. I like the family/tradition aspects of my name. Our last name sounds very similar to Hamilton. We would like our daughter ideally to have a family name as well, since the rest of us do. This will probably be our last child.

My favorite is Rose, with the nickname Rosie. I love it and it meets all of my name-nerd criteria. I like that it is traditional/timeless, but not super popular. I think it is popular as a middle name, but is in the 300s on the social security list of first names. I also like that it is a word and has a nature theme like River, without sounding too matchy. (A lot of people have suggested names like Brooke, Sky, etc, to go with River, but those all seem overly matchy/naturey, where Rosie does not to me.) One of my grandmothers is Rosemary and Rose is a name that appears several times in my family tree. The middle name would be my maiden name. People have a very positive reaction to this name when I mention it, except for my husband.

My husband does not like Rose/Rosie. He likes more androgynous/tomboyish names for girls. He thinks Rose is too flowery and frilly. His favorite name is Holland. It was his great-grandfather's first name. I don't mind the nickname Holly, but I really don't like the sound of Holland Hamilton, it is a mouthful of a name. If we did go with Holland, I would want to use a more feminine middle name, maybe Rose, instead of my maiden name. I also have a bad association with name Holland from a family I knew growing up whose last name was Holland. I am having a hard time getting over that association. We have looked at other family last names, but none of them really work as a girl's first name. If this baby had been a boy, he probably would have been Burke, which was my grandmother's last name. We both love it, but it seems too masculine for a girl.

A compromise family name that we both like but neither of us totally love, is Dora/Dory. My husband's grandmother was Doreen and my mom is Donna, so Dora seems like a good combination of the two, and Dory is a cute nickname. Not sure what the middle name would be. My maiden name stars with D and doesn't sound great with Dora. Rose also doesn't flow very well. The big issue, however -- Dora the Explorer and Dory the fish from Finding Nemo are causing most people to have a bad reaction to the name and no one we mention it to likes it. Dora is not in the SSA top 1000, probably because of the cartoon, even though rhyming names like Cora and Nora have been rising. I would be interested to hear what your readers think about Dora! Will anyone even remember the cartoon when our daughter is grown up? I realize she would likely get teased as a child, but who doesn't, and I'm not sure a cartoon should prevent us from using the name.

A final family name option is Elizabeth with the nickname Libby. This is my other grandmother's name, and it has been used a lot by other family members, though none of them are Libby. I have a cousin who goes by Elizabeth, a few other cousins with the middle name Elizabeth, and my niece is Elspeth (scottish version of Elizabeth) but we call her Ellie mostly. It is a nice name, but maybe too popular overall and definitely overused by my family. I also don't think Libby really goes with River very well. (We talked for a while about calling her Liberty nn Libby if she is born on 4th of July, but then I found out that River Phoenix had a sister named Liberty and so, no.)

Since our son is named after my husband, a lot of people have been suggesting that I should have final say on the name of our daughter. And I think if I really pushed for Rosie, my husband would eventually give in, but it would be nice to use a name that we both like! We have a list of non-family names that we both like, but as we get closer to the due date, it is seeming more important to me that she have a family name. The non-family names we agree on are Fiona, Ainsley and Penelope/Pippa. All sound good with my maiden name as the middle name, so she would still have some family connection.

Sorry this is long, feel free to edit! Thanks!

Oh dear, I'm afraid it's true for me, too: the instant I hear the name Dora, the "D-d-d-d-d-Dora!" theme song starts playing in my head. And the show is still on the air, and I remember reading they'd branched out into a pre-teen-type Dora, too. It seems like in our children's peer group, that's going to be a well-known character. At least she is a strong and positive character, which can make the difference between deciding to go with it anyway and having to throw it out.

As to whether anyone will still remember the name when she's grown up, I'm not sure. I thought back to the TV shows I watched as a child: I was an early-'70s baby, so I remember Sesame Street. The names Oscar and Ernie and Bert and Gordon still have strong associations for me. Maria and Olivia have only faint associations: they've been diluted by frequent use. A name like Dora lacks that dilution, but may achieve it later on---or might, even a generation later, still be a name like Ernie.

One possible solution is naming her Isadora and calling her Dora---but if you or she finds the teasing is too annoying, she can switch to Izzy or to Isadora. The downside: now we have drifted quite far from the namesakes. If I were named Donna or Doreen, I don't think it would feel like an Isadora was named after me.

Berkley comes to mind, because of Burke. But again, with family names, finding variations doesn't really help---since then they're not family names anymore. Still, you'd have the positive association, and with your maiden name as the middle name, she'll have still have a family name.

A name I love with Richard is Margaret. And an old nickname for Margaret is Daisy. Richard and Margaret; River and Daisy. But if your husband didn't like Rosie, he might not feel any happier about Daisy.

Since your son is named after your husband, it is appealing to think of naming your daughter after you. It's a family name on your side, and the name Sarah has two nicknames I think are adorable: Sadie and Sally. I think Sadie is best with River: Richard and Sarah, called River and Sadie.

Name update! Sarah writes:
Thanks to you and all the readers for your input. Many of the suggestions we had already considered and decided against. We had talked about naming her Sarah with the nickname Sadie, but my husband didn't like that it looks like the word Sad. For similar reasons, he doesn't like Violet --it reminds him of violent. Hollis was the name of a computer program I used to use every day at work, so that was out. And thanks for alerting us to expansion of the Dora cartoon to Teen Dora, that helped us decide against using it.
I am happy to say that my husband came around to my favorite name, and Rosie was born on July 6th. We are home now and doing great! Thanks again.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Baby Boy McGregor, Brother to Sadie and Cleo

Genevieve writes:
Hello! I'm a huge fan of both your blogs and really should have sent in this much earlier, because my due date's in TEN. DAYS. (eep) and we still are having a monstrous problem with naming our son.

I'm Genevieve, he's Will. We have two daughters, Isadora Ruby (5) and Clementine Luna (2 1/2), and call them Sadie and Cleo EXCLUSIVELY. Last name is McGregor.

We chose our daughters' names for the nicknames they gave us (we felt that Sadie and Cleo were much too insubstantial for full names), not because we loved Isadora and Clementine. In fact, we really don't love or even like Isadora; we just adored Sadie too much and Isadora was the most realistic way to get to it. Clementine we do like, though. Middle names were just names we liked that sounded nice with the full names, and the middle name for this bub will be the same.

I actually still feel really guilty about giving our oldest daughter a full name neither of us like and isn't really that appealing at all--Sadie doesn't much like it either. My name's Genevieve and growing up I would get so many lovely comments about it, which gave me a much-needed confidence and self-esteem boost in adolescence and beyond. I'm worried (sometimes I fret about it to the point of being sick) that no one will ever tell Sadie she has a gorgeous name, and I feel kind of awful about hoisting upon her Isadora, though I'm still ridiculously in love with her nickname.

So we'd like not to have a lingering sense of naming remorse with this bub.

Anyway. Enough back story.

With Bub, we've had an awful time with the naming process. Unlike Sadie and Cleo, we haven't even found a nickname that we totally adore yet, much less a full name.

The name we're thinking we love is Rex, but there are numerous problems with it.

--We have no idea how to get to Rex through a more substantial name, and if we can't find one, Rex is off the list. Any ideas?
--Rex is seen as a dog name. Sadie is seen as a dog name. Cleo is seen as a cat name. There's a accidental theme going on here, and my husband doesn't like it. I'm pretty okay with it, though.
--When we've told a few select people that we're thinking of naming the baby Rex, we've gotten cringing and obvious distaste, even though they tried to hide it. Now, I'm not going to let other people dictate what we name our baby, BUT I don't want people (like our parents and close friends) really hating his name, because there's a good chance he won't like it either.

What do YOU think, Swistle? Is Rex just too odd? As an objective third party who just so happens to be a fabulous namer, your opinion is definitely needed on this one.

Other names on our list that we're strongly considering:
Ned--Edmund, Edward--Not a huge fan at all of either full name, with those nasally suffixes
Max--Maxwell, Maximilian--I kind of really love the alliteration, but hubby isn't sure. Also the pet name theme thing again. Also popularity issues that are really, REALLY throwing me off here; I really didn't like how popular Sadie was when we named her, though thankfully we've never even come across another Sadie yet, and Max is set to skyrocket up the charts.

Ned is Will's favorite, Max is mine. But neither of them feel like The One.

I guess we're looking for a spunky, fresh, fun nickname that goes with a respectable full name. Also, if there's a name out there that's spunky, fresh, and fun AND suitable for an adult professional, we'd love to hear it; the nickname thing isn't mandatory at all. We'd rather not repeat first initials or have similar beginning or ending sounds.

If Bub had been a girl, we would have named her Penelope Isis and called her Piper; somewhat ironically, we've had this name in our back pockets since before we even started trying for a third baby. Sigh. Though we're over the moon that Bub is a boy, a girl would have been so much easier to name. We're tentatively set on having at least one more baby, so maybe we'll be back in a few years if we have another boy ;)

Thanks, Swistle!

I am going to have to make this quick, because what the readers don't know is that this "due date is in 10 days" email arrived (*checks watch*) 11 days ago. So I'm going to post INSTANTLY so everyone can start working on it if it's not too late already.

Actually, FIRST I will say that I LOVE the name Isadora. LOVE IT. I don't know why people keep using the extremely popular Isabella when they could instead use the similar-yet-almost-totally-neglected Isadora. So if I ever meet your daughter and she mentions her full name, _I_ will say, "What a GORGEOUS NAME!"

And then I will say that if you like Rex but feel like you're not getting good feedback from your circle, I suggest Reid/Reed. I realize it's not very similar (different vowel and different ending), but it came to mind. Sadie, Cleo, and Reid. Reid McGregor.

I'm having trouble thinking of any longer names that could give the nickname Rex. Everything I think of feels like a big reach. But that made me think of Redford, with the nickname Red. Redford McGregor; Sadie, Cleo, and Red.

With your surname, you have an excellent nickname opportunity WHATEVER name you choose: he could go by Mac. It's similar to Max, but less common---and if you have any male relatives you'd like to honor in the first name slot but don't love their names enough to use them daily, this is your opportunity.

One of my favorite nicknames for boys is Gus. Augusten, August, Angus, Augustus.

Another of my favorites is Dutch, but I'm not sure what to use as a full name.

Another favorite is Wesley/Wes. Wesley McGregor; Sadie, Cleo, and Wes.

It would repeat an initial, but only in the non-nickname name: Isaac/Ike. Isaac McGregor; Sadie, Cleo, and Ike.

Do you like either Franklin/Frank or Frederick/Fred?

Finn seems like it would work well: Sadie, Cleo, and Finn. It's a stand-alone name, but if you wanted something longer there's Finian or Finnegan.

I love Declan/Dec. Declan McGregor; Sadie, Cleo, and Dec.

Or Deacon/Deke. Deacon McGregor; Sadie, Cleo, and Deke.

Ever since watching Sabrina the Teenage Witch, the name Harvey has had "cute cool nice boy" associations for me. I think it makes a good cute/spunky/fresh child's name and yet grows up to a perfectly appropriate adult name. Harvey McGregor.

Totally different style, but I think it hits the same mark: Keegan is both a fresh and spirited child's name and a perfectly appropriate adult name.

Ooo, I just remembered another favorite boy nickname: Kip. It could be short for Kipling, or for Christopher. I think with Isadora and Clementine I prefer Kipling. Kipling McGregor; Sadie, Cleo, and Kip. That's my favorite right there, I think.

Name update! Genevieve writes:
It was a tough decision, but we went with...

Finnegan Jude McGregor.

A reader suggested using both Finnegan and Jude and it dawned on us that that was an absolutely perfect idea.

While this means that we can't use Jude as a future son's name, we decided that we'd rather satisfy everyone right now with this actual baby's name and not a save Jude for a baby we may never have.

The girls are even happier than I expected when we told them their baby brother's name is Flynn. It was absolutely adorable. And my husband can still sing Hey Jude to baby Flynn, so he's happy, too.

Our families are a bit puzzled as to how we got Flynn from Finnegan Jude (and that's worrying me a teeny tiny bit) but they love both names, so we're good there.

Thanks so much, everyone. You saved the day here.

If our next baby is a boy, you'll probably hear from us again ;)

Monday, June 6, 2011

Baby Naming Issue: The Pronunciation of Gaius

Kathryn writes:
I am expecting my second child, a boy, in three weeks. Our last name sounds like Night. We have a daughter named Luella Grace (we call her Lulu).

During my first pregnancy, before we knew Lulu was a girl, we had short lists picked out for both sexes. This time, when we found out we were expecting a boy, we went back to our original short list. One name stood out as the clear winner, and for months we thought we were all set. We were sure that this little guy would be Gaius Christopher (Christopher is my husband's father's name), and we loved it. However, a few weeks ago, as I did more searches for the name Gaius, doubt began to creep into my mind. I have never heard it pronounced any other way than GUY-us. But it seemed that there were people out there who were not sure how to pronounce it, or worse, pronounced it GAY-us. Even Nameberry mentioned "the teasing potential of the first syllable." Really??

The other names on our original short list just don't seem right anymore, so we're considering Caius as an alternative. The G and C are interchangeable in Latin, so it was not a question of authenticity. I think Caius is also a great name. It just doesn't sound quite as fluid to me as Gaius does with Christopher and Night. In addition, people seem to associate it with the Twilight series, and we have some good friends who just named their son Kai, which, I'm sure Caius will readily be called, even if we don't use it as a nickname at home.

So, my question is, do we stick to our original Gaius (still the name both my husband and I prefer), or go with Caius in hopes that it will save my son from a lifetime of "Gaylord Focker" type teasing?

The name Gaius is so unfamiliar (it was given to only 12 U.S. baby boys in 2010), most people have never encountered it and will have to use their experience with the language to figure out how to pronounce it. In U.S. English, "ai" has no one single pronunciation, but it's commonly pronounced AY (as in say and day): raid, braid, aid, Kaiden, Jaiden, Adelaide, laid, maid, paid, afraid, pain, rain. And words like gain, gaiety, gaily, gait, as well as names like Gail and Abigail, reinforce the idea that the specific combination "gai" is pronounced as in "gay," not as in "guy."

Furthermore, in looking in my dictionary to see if I could find any gai- words pronounced with the "guy" sound, I found Gaius listed---and my dictionary (Webster's Encyclopedic Unabridged) gives the pronunciation as GAY-us. says it's GUY-us or GAY-us. So does Merriam-Webster. In Latin, the name is pronounced like guy-oose---but this brings us to the difficulty of bringing a name from one language to another: do we call a child named Julius yoo-lee-oose (because that's the Latin pronunciation) or JOOL-lee-us (because that's the U.S. English)?

This issue comes up time and time again with name imports: should Catriona be like cat-tree-OWN-ah, or should it be like ca-TREEN-nah? Should Caitlin be like KATE-lin or like cat-LEEN? In general my opinion is that it's appropriate to translate names from one language to another (either by changing the spelling to get the right pronunciation, or by changing the pronunciation to fit the spelling)---and that if the parents choose not to translate the name into their culture's language, they should be prepared for / resigned to a certain Headache Quotient that comes with, for example, a lifetime of "No, it's not KATE-lyn, it's more like kath-LEEN. No, but it's spelled like Caitlin, yes, we realize. No, no, not spelled Kathleen. No, this is actually the authentic pronunciation."

Latin has its own additional complication: it's a dead language, and the speakers of it died off before they could tell us how to pronounce it. Which means you lack the resources you'd have if you used, say, Caitlin, where you could tell people who gave you a hard time to go ask ALL OF IRELAND if they have a problem with your pronunciation. It's especially tricky if you're pronouncing the first half of the name with the Latin pronunciation (sounding like the word "guy"), but the second half of the name with the United States English pronunciation (-us as in bus, as opposed to in Latin where it would sound like the -oose in loose or moose).

Yes, I would switch to Caius. People will still say it KAY-us until you feel like tearing your hair out (Caiden, Cain, caiman, Michael Caine, Caitlin, Novocaine, Medicaid), but at least the mispronunciation doesn't lead to a teasing issue. And perhaps we can think of an easy "No, it's KI as in ____" example for you to use; if anyone can think of familiar words where "cai" is pronounced KI in English, please leave them in the comments section. (Spelling it Kaius would also help somewhat, because of the boy's name Kai---although names like Kaiden would still lead people to mispronunciations, and your reference to authenticity makes me suspect you won't want to change to a K.)

Another possibility is going back to the drawing board. I realize it's late in the game for that, but your exasperation with mispronunciation is a bad sign: whichever spelling you use, you'll have to accept a lot of it. Sometimes it's worth a last-minute upheaval to avoid a name that will cause you continual frustration.

Or it might be enough just to be braced that the exasperation is a part of this name choice: Paul and I chose a non-typical spelling for one of our children's names, and I think it helped tremendously that we thought to ourselves beforehand "If we use this name, we're accepting a lifetime of spelling it Every.Single.Time.---and people will STILL get it wrong." We thought it over, and we decided we wanted to use the name more than we minded the potential frustration. So now when it happens, we shrug: the name was worth it to us, and we understood ahead of time that it was a natural mistake for people to make.

Let's have two polls. [Polls closed; see results below.] First: How would you think Gaius was pronounced, if you'd just seen it somewhere and hadn't first read this post? Second: Which name should the Nights use? Gaius, their long-time favorite which goes better with the middle name and last name? or Caius, to avoid the gay-a** teasing issue? NOTE: This is not a question about which of the two names you prefer: it's a question about whether the tease-factor of Gaius is enough to be worth giving up the favorite name for an alternative.

Name update! Kathryn writes:
Thank you for responding to my email! And thank you to all your readers for all the input. The opinions and polls were eye-opening.

Our son was born two weeks ago. We named him Dashiell Christopher "Night," and call him Dash.

I have to confess that despite popular opinion, my husband and I were ready to stick to our guns on Gaius. But at the eleventh hour, a dark horse emerged--Dashiell. It was a name that never made it onto our short list because, ironically, we thought it was too obscure (yes, we thought everybody had heard of Gaius Julius Caesar, but that few had heard of Dashiell Hammett) and maybe too literary. You see, we are a family of writers, my mother-in-law and I write children's fiction, my sister-in-law is a journalist, and my husband, while not a professional writer, was an English major and has also been published. Naming a kid Dashiell seemed like we'd be putting too much pressure on him. But the more we considered it, the more we liked it. In the end, I had a shockingly fast labor and delivery. And when they handed me my son, Dash just seemed to fit him perfectly. So I guess you can say we went with your "go back to the drawing board" advice. Thanks again!