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Sunday, October 30, 2011

Baby Naming Issue: Roman Bishop

Ms. Bishop writes:
I’m having a naming dilemma and have approximately 6 weeks left before our baby boy arrives!!! I hope you and your readers can help.

Coming up with a name that both my husband and I liked was difficult enough. We finally came up with a list of about 5 names we both liked, ordered them favorite to least favorite independently, and were both happy to see we had the same name listed as our “most favorite”. The name is Roman. We LOVE the name Roman. So – what’s the dilemma you ask? It’s our last name. Which is Bishop.

Roman Bishop

Our family is fairly traditional, so I wasn’t surprised or bothered when the grandparents (on both sides) scrunched their noses up to the name Roman. They did the same thing with our naming choice of our daughter (sounds like Caden, but with a different spelling), but they’ve learned to love her name just as much as they love her. But – they have pointed out the very thing that is bothering me too – the combo issue. Are we giving our son a name he’ll have to “overcome”??? I don’t want people seeing/hearing his name when he’s older and think that we named him that to be “cute” or “silly”. I’m having such a hard time with this!! He already feels like a Roman to me, so I hate to give the name up. Even our second name choice doesn’t seem to fit as well anymore (our #2 name is Vince).

Ugh – why does this have to be so hard?!

I’m going against the advice of my husband in asking for opinions. He thinks I should stop worrying about what other people think. And, he keeps reminding me that our son will always have the option of going by his middle name (Michael) if he decides he doesn’t want to go by his first. That’s another thing – I personally don’t like the name Michael – but I’m okay with having that as his middle name as a compromise to my husband. So – it would kinda break my heart if our son decided to have that be his primary name. I wish he could talk and tell us his thoughts already on his name! J

Am I overthinking this way too much??

Thanks so much for the help!!

As with all such issues, opinions are going to be all over the spectrum. But my opinion is that Roman Bishop is not a workable name. As soon as I saw it, my eyes widened and then sparkled, and there was an audible laugh. Let's have a poll over to the right to collect the rest of the spectrum. [Poll closed; see results below.]

"Not worrying about what other people think" is a concept more appropriate for moral situations, where we know we're doing the right thing and so we shouldn't worry if other people make fun of us for it; it doesn't apply as well to a name we're asking someone else to carry. I recommend The Baby Name Wizard's test: Would we want to have this name as our own? We all have names we're unable to use because of our surnames, and I'm afraid this is one of yours. (Others include Deacon, Noble, Skip, Fisher, Phillip.)

I suggest Rowen/Rohen or Ronan. They're similar to the name you love, and they may still cause a few people to crack jokes, but it's no longer as blatant. Other possibilities:

Coleman (may be too close to Caden)
Damon (may be too rhymey with Caden)
Eamon (may be too rhymey with Caden)

Name update! Ms. Bishop writes:
Again, thanks so much for posting my dilemma.

I’m writing you back to let you know that my husband and I decided to stick with Roman. It was just his name already. That, and my husband was DONE with the naming discussion....

And again – thank you. Although we’re going against the grain here, I still really appreciate you posting this and the feedback received.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Baby Girl Hanson, Sister to Blakely Michelle

Kari writes:
We are trying to come up with a name for our 2nd daughter who is due on Thanksgiving! Our 1st daughter is Blakely Michelle and our last name rhymes with Hanson. Blakely was a family name from my husband's side of the family that we both loved. I realize it is a unisex name and surname but now I am drawn to names such as Emma, Chloe, Daphne, Calista, Amelia, Aubrey, Evelyn, Lila and Clara. Which I don't know if they flow nicely with Blakely or sound too different. Calista is at the top of our list right now but worry about the Flockhart association and if it goes with Blakely. We do tend to prefer names that are not too popular (like top 10- even though 2 of our favorites are there). Also, I don't want another name that has the -ley or -son sound at the end. Also, Blakely is Old English I have been drawn to more English sounding names too. For the middle name we like Jane (after my mom's middle name) or Kate (we just like it) or Renee (after my sister's middle name). Another factor is that this baby has been really active and feisty so some of the softer, refined names don't seem to "fit" her.

Names that we like but can't use are: Avery, Lillian, Regan, Sadie, Elliot, Olivia, Ivy, Alexis, Addison, Madison.

Names that we talked about but have been ruled out either due to myself or my husband are: Piper, Tatum, Penelope, Phoebe, Kendall, Riley, Bailey, or Taylor.

We originally were told we were having a boy and had so many names options such as Parker, Garrett, Graham, Ethan, Brennan, Andrew, Noah that we LOVED.

I hope you can help us! I am desperate to have a name and get baby things monogrammed and ready for her!

Writing again...I think we have narrowed down our name search to two names, Amelia (nn Mia or Millie) and Chloe with Amelia being our #1. However, I am still concerned about it "going" with Blakely and don't want the sibling names to sound mis-matched? Thoughts?!?!?

Please help!

One thing that makes things easier in this situation is that although Blakely has a unisex sound, it's not particularly unisex in usage: it's used for approximately ten times as many girls as boys, and similarly girl-heavy names such as Blakelyn and Berkeley make it seem even more on the girl side. If sibling-name coordination is important to you, this leaves you more free to choose from girlish names.

I think if I were you I would aim to match not so much the style (since your style has changed) as the uncommonness. Blakely and Chloe, for example, gives one girl a very unusual name (not even in the Top 1000) and the other girl a very common name (Top 10). Amelia is #41 and making a jump upward each year; I suspect it will soon also be Top 10, or very near it. Calista would be my top choice from your list: Blakely and Calista is a great popularity match: in 2010, 278 new baby girls were named Blakely/Blakely/Blakelee/Blakeleigh, and 412 were named Calista/Callista/Kalista/Kallista. The names are both uncommon but familiar, and I think the Calista Flockheart association, while still present, is significantly weakened. Plus, the name Calista sounds feisty to me.

However, if you do choose Chloe or Amelia, I think it's common for a firstborn's name to be a name of significance that doesn't necessarily coordinate in style with the names of subsequent children. I think the main issue is to make sure that the names don't seem to communicate different expectations, as if the parents have decided in advance the personality type they'd like each daughter to have ("One tomboy and one little lady, please!" or "One judge and one cheerleader!"). Of the two, I think Blakely and Chloe share more of the same spirit.

If Amelia is your frontrunner but you hesitate because it doesn't meet some of the preferences you were hoping to meet, one possibility is to use Amelia as a starting point for looking for names that are similar but also feistier and less common. Cordelia. Aurelia. Delia. Amaya. Melina. Emery.

Let's have a poll over to the right for Chloe and Amelia and "back to the drawing board." [Poll closed; see results below.]

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Baby Boy or Girl Hainsworth, Sibling to Mackenzie, Dylan, and Keira

Taylor writes:
My husband and I are due to have our fourth child on November 10th and with only 25 days to go, we are entering panic mode. This baby, gender unknown, will have 3 siblings; Mackenzie Harper (7), Dylan Elliot (4) and Keira Rose (2). Baby naming has always caused me and my husband to clash, but this time it seems to be even worse with our differing name styles, most likely due to the fact that this will be our last child and the gender is unknown.

Names on my List:
Nolan- my top name at the moment, but this changes daily
Connor- not that big on the hard -C sound following Keira

Delaney- my top (and only) girls name, husband cannot seem to get used to it

Husband's List:
Jacob- too popular, but he really wants a little "Jake" around the house

Riley- would it be okay to pair this with Dylan, also a unisex name?

Middle name will most definitely either be Grace or Elisabeth

Please Help us!

ps. (my name is Taylor "Tay" Hainsworth and my husband is Brendan)

I think Delaney may be too close to Dylan: so many shared letters and sounds, and in fact I think of them as a Kylie/Kyle pairing. Laney or Lainey might work, and maybe your husband would prefer it because it's more like Riley and Molly. It still shares letters with Dylan (the Laney spelling in particular makes my eyes want to unscramble one name to form the other), but it takes away the shared "dill" sound and that's a big help. And it's great with the sister names: Mackenzie, Keira, and Lainey.

If Jacob is too popular but your husband wants to use Jake, Jacoby (juh-KOH-bee) might be perfect. It gives you the nickname Coby, too, as another option.

The repeating endings of Dylan and Nolan might make it clearer that both are boys---or it might seem too matched, I can't tell. Gavin seems almost perfect: the endings are similar but not exact.

Braden would work, too. Braden Hainsworth; Mackenzie, Dylan, Keira, and Braden.

Or a name like Eamon (AY-mon) would emphasize the Celtic roots of the sibling names. Eamon Hainsworth; Mackenzie, Dylan, Keira, and Eamon.

Ian, too, would be very handsome, and reminds me of Ethan and Levi. Ian Hainsworth.

Opinions will vary wildly, but mine is that in this sibling group I would assume a Riley was a boy. I wouldn't assume it completely, so it isn't as if it would be a huge shock to find a female Riley, but it's so perfect as a brother name for Dylan. In fact, would you consider moving it to your boy name list? Girls Mackenzie and Keira, boys Dylan and Riley.

Riley and Molly make me think of Miley. Miley is all girl, and fits well in style with the sibling names.

Or Piper. It's drifting more from the sound of Riley, but it shares the style. Piper Hainsworth is adorable.

Or I wonder if you'd like Ellery? I think that's wonderful with your surname: Ellery Hainsworth.

And that plus Addison from your husband's list makes me think of Emerson. Emerson Hainsworth; Mackenzie, Dylan, Keira, and Emerson.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Has the Baby Name Dexter Been Ruined By the Show?

Jenny writes:
Could you maybe sometime do a poll about the name Dexter? Is it completely ruined by that show? It would be pretty awful for your kid's name to make people think of a serial killer. I'm curious as to how main stream is that show. Has everyone heard of it? Do you think even in 10 years, it will still matter?

It's SUCH a great name. Love the X and the classic feel and the nickname Dex.

Oh, good question! The name Dexter has come up a few times on name lists here, and it seems like most times it's accompanied by "but---the show" reasons why it can't be used. Let's see how prevalent that opinion actually is, with a poll over to the right. [Poll closed; see results below.] I think we can get an idea of how much it's seeped into the culture by finding out how many people who HAVEN'T seen the show have nevertheless heard of the character Dexter.

Whether it'll still have that association in a decade is a trickier thing to determine with the poll, but it'll be fun for the comments section. If someone mentions the names Lorelei/Lorelai or Rory, a lot of us think of Gilmore Girls; but if someone mentions the names Luke or Emily or Logan, it doesn't necessarily come to mind. It's the difference between unusual names and ones that are so common their associations have been thoroughly diluted. It's also the difference between names that come to our attention because of a show, versus names that were already familiar and in regular use. Dexter may fail in this category: it wasn't common before the show, so few of us have ever known any Dexter except the one on the show, which makes the association strong.

Poll results (529 votes total):

Have watched show; name ruined by it - 69 votes (13%)
Have watched show; name NOT ruined by it - 131 votes (25%)
Have NOT watched show; name ruined by it - 120 votes (23%)
Have NOT watched show; name NOT ruined by it - 209 votes (40%)

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Baby Girl Cahnoodson, Sister to Liam Asher

Laura writes:
I have been a regular reader of your blog since I became pregnant with my second child, a girl. I am now 38 weeks along, and a wrench of indeterminate size has been thrown into our baby-naming process.

Background: At least five years ago, my husband and I fell in love with the name Sophie, were we ever to have a daughter. It is the only girl's name we have ever agreed on. It would have been our 3 yo son Liam's name if he'd been a girl, without question or hesitation. We like the meaning of the name, and far prefer it to the more popular Sophia, and we think it works nicely as a sib-set with Liam, whose middle name is Asher (our last name sounds like cah-NOOD-son). With this pregnancy I have been considering alternatives, because for some reason I've become bored with Sophie. It feels faded to me, like a shade of paint that I don't love, but now it's too late and too much work to repaint the room (or something like that.) I considered and liked Alma, Ada, Adelaide, Stella, and Eliza - a derivative of my own middle name, Elizabeth, and also the name of many of my ancestors. My husband only likes Alma from this list (for awhile we had decided on the first/middle Sophie Alma - but that eventually seemed just too old-lady for me and, I thought, not a good match for the more modern-sounding Liam Asher). My husband likes Sierra and Gabriella, neither of which I really like. Just last week it seems, we finally settled once again on Sophie for a first name and my own last name for her middle name (rhymes with Pam). "Settled" being a good word for it....

Wrench: last weekend, my mom - in her mid-60s - announced that she is getting remarried (she and my dad divorced about 1 year ago after a long, long separation). The man she is marrying, whom we have all known for a long time, has a grown-up niece he is extremely close to - named Sophie. He thinks of her like his daughter. While it is unlikely we will interact with his Sophie very much, since she lives across the country, I feel like somehow naming my daughter Sophie is a tribute to him, which is NOT the message I want to send to her or to my dad or to anyone in our family. And even though we have been secretive about our baby name choice, out of the blue my mom suggested Sophie to me a few months ago - which makes me even further not want to use it. Since absolutely nobody saw a marriage proposal coming, including, I think, my mom - I didn't have to consider this before. Now I feel like just when I had come around to choosing Sophie again, there is a strong reason not to use it. Even my husband said today, "Do you still like the name Eliza for a first name? I guess I could get used to that...". We have less than 3 weeks before our baby is born. Help! What suggestions do you have for naming our little girl?

Thank you SO much

It's hard to give up a name you've been committed to for so long and start the selection process all over again---but if you were feeling bored with the name, this engagement might be exactly the merciful kick needed to let you start fresh. I definitely don't think you NEED to start over: I think we could find ways for you to make it clear that this was not a tribute ("Yes, what a funny coincidence! We've had this name picked out for years---since way before Liam!")---but if the problems with the name Sophie have piled up too high now, we are ready to roll up our sleeves and find something new.

I think Eliza is so wonderful, I almost want to leave my sleeves where they are. It's perfect with Liam. It's perfect with the middle name. I love the family-name connection. It's one of my own favorite names: I love how flexible it is, working well for sassy girls or shy girls or smartypants girls or sunshiney girls or goth girls.

Another place to look is other names with the same meaning as Sophie (I'm using the "Intelligence & Wisdom" section of Baby Names Made Easy: The Complete Reverse-Dictionary of Baby Names). Minerva is one of my favorites, and I see Alma on the list. I'm not sure if Liam and Alma share too many letters/sounds---or if that's the very thing that makes them work together.

Or we can see if we can find something between your list and your husband's list. You like Stella and he likes Gabriella, so Ella might be a possibility. Liam and Ella.

Or I wonder if you'd like Annabel: it has the -el sound and some of the frilliness of Gabriella, but with Anna to fit it more with Ada and Eliza. Liam and Annabel. I love that almost as much as Eliza.

Or Fiona. Liam and Fiona. Both have a Celtic style and that same I-sound, and the "fee" sound in Fiona is reminiscent of the "fee" sound in Sophie.

Or Isla, or Iris. These remind me a little of Alma, but more current.

I know a sibling set named Liam and Nora and I think it sounds really good together. Very similar styles without seeming over-matched.

Starting with Sierra, but trying to bring it closer to your style: Sabrina. Liam and Sabrina.

Or Clara. Liam and Clara.

Or Cecily. Liam and Cecily.

Starting with Gabriella, but trying to bring it closer to your style: Genevieve. Liam and Genevieve. Evie for short: Liam and Evie.

Or I love Eva anyway, but especially with Liam: Liam and Eva.

Name update! Laura writes:
Hi Swistle - thank you so much for your help and your readers' advice. Triangulating among many wonderful suggestions (Eliza, Cecily, Sierra, Stella, Ella, Gabriella, Annabel, and Eva, to name a few), our daughter Ellery Sophia "Pam" "Cahnoodson" was born November 18. The name Ellery came to me in a dream when I was first pregnant. I mentioned it to my husband at the time and he was like, what kind of name is that?! I discounted it totally, but mentioned it again when I was 40 wks pregnant and he suddenly liked it for being unique and having a cool meaning, "grove of alder trees". We kept going back and forth between Ellery and Sophie, Ellery and Sophie, asking a bunch of close friends what they thought, and trying to discern a middle name. Intellectually I had finally settled upon Sophie, but within moments of meeting her, I knew that wasn't her name! It just didn't fit! I was in disbelief that meeting the baby would really help us choose, but now I would seriously urge anyone who can't decide on a name to hold on to the choices, and see what the baby looks like before picking one. It was suddenly so clear...I proposed Ellery Sophia to my husband within 5 minutes of delivery. (I don't know why, but previously it hadn't occurred to me we could keep both names if we went with Sophia; Ellery Sophie being too rhymy). Although we didn't really want to give her four names, we just could not let go of any of them. 24 hours later we shared her name with the world. She is a beautiful and happy girl, and big brother Liam just wants to give her kisses all the time. Her unofficial nickname in the house is "little Elle" and Liam is "big L". Thanks again!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Baby Girl or Boy Zimmerman

Sara writes:
My husband doesn’t hate my chosen girl name (Norah Anne Zimmermann) but he doesn’t love it. Since I was sixteen or maybe younger (and I’m almost 30 now) this has been what I have wanted to name my little girl, and so this him not liking it is really making me sad. (I chose Norah Anne because Norah is my daddy’s first name abbreviated spelt backwards (his name is Ron) Anne is my mother’s middle name but also his mother’s middle name. Our boy name (we aren’t finding out what we are having) is Jackson James Zimmermann which we both love.) I feel like Norah is already a person to me, MY little girl, and like I’m abandoning her. I mean my heart is really breaking over this. I know that if I got upset/cried over it/pushed a bit I could make him go for it, but then I’d always wonder, our whole lives, if he let me name her Norah because I was being a big baby about it and he secretly hates her name.
His comments about it are wide…one day he’ll say it doesn’t sound like a strong name. The next he’ll say he thinks it sounds too much like, too close too, Noah who is our nephew, which I think it’s a stretch to say they sound the same, I know it’s just one extra letter but I don’t find that similarity to mean we can’t use it. He comes home from work with suggestions so my feeling is he’s really hoping he’ll find a name he likes that I can also like, and that Norah just isn’t doing it for him.
His suggestions:
His number one and what he keeps bringing up is : Brigen (my problem is it’s a place, a holler in our home town to boot(no longer live there), not a name, and I can’t get over how it sounds slangish for Bringing, you know so any middle name you give her sounds like she’s bringing it, you know, Brigen Grace, Brigen Hope …so forth)
Molly (it sounds like a little girls name, but not like a woman’s name)
Sadie (I don’t like the sad in it, and again sounds like a little girls name)
Jessica (Eh,)
Ruby (no)
Ruth (which his big selling point is we could call her Baby Ruth which, I’m sure she’d appreciate that.)
I’ve been trying hard the last week to ditch the name Norah and find something else I like, but everything seems to please me way less than Norah but here’s what I have:
Elery (I like how soft this sounds, but he'd probably buy Norah over this)
Sophia (I like this, but not Sophie, which she’d end up being called I’m sure)
Hannah (I like this but I had a dog named this once, which not sure my child would appreciate that story)
Emma (but it seems, overdone)
Isabella (maybe the same as emma overdone?)
Cora (I like this best but fear I like it best because its so similar to Norah, and if he was to soften to Norah should we have another girl, we couldn’t have a Norah and a Cora)

I feel like we’re in a situation where someone is going to have to fold. I mean, Norah has been such a part of my dreams for years, like I said earlier it’s almost like I’ve dreamed her into existence, and so I feel like I’m grieving this loss. I’ve told him somewhat how much I love the name and that I’ve always thought of it as my daughter’s name, but I haven’t pushed it and I don’t want too. But If he doesn’t start liking it soon, then I’m going to have to give it up, and I don’t want to be looking at my newborn baby and wishing she had a different name. Maybe this baby will be a boy and I’m doing all this worrying for nothing…but.
How would you deal with this issue? Do you have any suggestions of names that I might like as well as Norah? Our baby is due early January.

I think the first step is to consciously separate the name from the child. When you say abandoning the name feels like abandoning the child, you're explaining to us how intensely you feel about the name and the style of intensity it is---but I think it could help to see if you can reason with your feelings. Picture the baby growing inside you, and picture a little slideshow of names going over his or her head, one second each: Liz. Roger. Hailey. Caden. Margaret. Elmer. Bitsy. Ian. Jennifer. Brady. Madison. Liam. April. Elliot. Bianca. Nick. Notice how the curled comfy growing baby stays the same and only the name changes.

We know this is how it is: the baby is who he or she is, and won't be swapped out for a different baby if you don't use the name you'd planned to use at age 16. We know that if you are carrying a girl and you abandon the name Norah, the name blows away like a dry leaf but your daughter stays right where she is: you lose the name, but not the child. Some names may feel more like "my baby" than other names, and that's a good sorting method for finding one's own naming style---but the baby is your baby either way. And in this case, it sounds like Norah is the name of your little girl where "your" was singular: the dream-baby of a young girl who wasn't picturing another parent being involved. Now that the other parent has arrived and the baby is more than a dream, it seems appropriate to find a name for your-plural little girl.

It will be difficult to do this if you compare each new possible name candidate to the name Norah. If the name Norah is out of the running for this baby (and it sounds like it is, if your husband doesn't love it and you don't want to use it unless he does), your goal is not to find a name you like better than the name Norah, but instead to find the name you like best of the names that remain. (And I think you're smart to keep in mind that Norah might be a possible sister name later on: Paul was opposed to a name with our first baby, but then he's the one who chose it for our second baby.)

You came up with Norah by spelling your dad's name backwards, so you could look for other names that include "nor," such as Eleanor or Honor or Honora.

Or you could look for names that spell his name forward, such as Bronwyn, Veronica, Rona, Caron, Claron, Heron, Aeron, Cameron. (I prefer this idea, since classically the concept of spelling something backwards has been used to indicate creepy opposition.)

Or, as you say, perhaps this baby will be a boy.

From the candidate list, Brigen reminds me of Bronwyn from the "contains Ron" list, so perhaps Bronwyn would be a good compromise name.

Brigen also reminds me of Megan and Reagan and Bridget and Rowan and Brinley and Brooklyn and Keegan and Teagan and Morgan.

I think Molly does work on grown-ups, but it can also be a nickname for Mary. Or you could use Holly.

If you like Elery and Emma, I wonder if you'd like Emery or Emily or Ella or Hillary.

I also think Lila(h) would be a very good candidate.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Name to Consider: Briar

Meg writes:
So, I'm very early in my pregnancy, however we're already discussing names. The name that my child's father is totally stuck on is Briar. I hated it at first (I'm a Jane, Anne, Henry, Nicholas, etc kinda person), but the more I toss it around I'm kinda coming to like it some. I'd love to get your, and your reader's, opinions. Is this a cute new name that's kind of "out there" or would we get the same reaction everyone had when Gwyneth Paltrow named her daughter Apple?

The two issues I've found so far are the connection to a briar bush, and when said over the phone people can hear "dryer" instead.

Thanks so much!

I can think of two more issues (plus I'd add that it can also sound like "prior" or "Pryor"). One is than when written, it can look like "Brian." And the second is that if your style tends to be more Jane/Henry, choosing a name outside your usual preferred style for a first child might make you feel locked into finding names outside your preferred style for subsequent children as well. Many people like a name or two in a style category they don't generally like, but then would be really stuck if they wanted to choose more names from that same category.

I don't think of it as an Apple-type name, however. I think of it as Unusual Botanical, along with Juniper and Magnolia---not Highly Unusual Botanical with Apple and Spruce. Let's have a poll over to the right to see what everyone thinks of it. [Poll closed; see results below.]

Poll results (483 votes total) for "What do you think of the name Briar?":

I love it! I'd use it! - 48 votes (10%)
I like it! I'd consider it! - 107 votes (22%)
I like it for someone else's baby - 174 votes (36%)
No particular opinion - 33 votes (7%)
Slight dislike - 83 votes (17%)
Strong dislike - 38 votes (8%)

Monday, October 17, 2011

Baby Girl Heintz, Sister to Parker Griffin

Erica writes:
We are pregnant with our 2nd baby on February 13, 2012 - a GIRL, and we are so excited! We live in Portland, Oregon, and we have a 22 month old boy, Parker Griffin Heintz, and this will complete our little family. Now, when I tell you that coming up with Parker's name was difficult, that will be an understatement. It took MONTHS. I had lots and lots of names that I loved. Logan, Henry, Oliver, Harrison, Jackson, Quentin, the list goes on.

The problem is that my husband (Jordan Gabriel) is a 5th grade teacher. And as a teacher, he has had hundreds of students pass through his classroom, and now associates certain names with certain traits (both positive and negative) that take that name off of the list. He is also extremely sensitive to tease-able names and nicknames. I was given two family names (Erica Joycelyn) after my dad (Eric John), and we're determined to stay away from family names due to having two sets of divorced/remarried parents and just too many toes to step on there.

We also both agree that we like names that have a positive meaning, and even more so if they are related to nature and/or an actual concrete "thing" that we can put on stationary, stuff like that. So, you see, when I hit on Parker (protector of parks) Griffin (awesome mythical creature), it was perfect. Match that with the fact that miraculously, he had not yet had a Parker in his class... and we have the coolest boy name ever. Whew.

Now we are trying to name our little girl. And so far, things are a little bumpy. We have two names that are close, but something about both of them just isn't quite right for me (husband really likes both of them, but is open to new suggestions). I have exhausted "Beyond Jennifer, Jason, Madison and Montana", the Baby Name Finder on babycenter, and just about every other source. We want something a little unusual (also, this helps when trying to avoid the "classroom conundrum" as I call it). The two names we're looking at:

Claire Finley Heintz
Hadley Grace Heintz

Things I LIKE about them: Finley means sunbeam, and I really love that. I also really like the sound of the "ley" at the end of a name. Hadley starts with an "H" which is something I love love love with our last name (one of my favorite potential names for a boy was Henry Heintz. How CUTE is that??). Grace is just beautiful and I think it is a nice traditional balance with the less common Hadley. I also like that it starts with a "G" like Gabriel (husband's middle name) and Griffin (Parker's middle name). Claire is such a pretty name, and I've always really liked it.

Things that are holding me back on choosing either of them: Claire seems so serious to me. I don't know why, it just does. Maybe its the single syllable. I think I'm wanting something a little more sing-songy and I don't know how else to put it, but friendly. Hadley I really like, but its almost not feminine enough. But its close. So close. And maybe in the end that is what we'll go with, but there is just something niggling at me that its just not HER name.

So, maybe it will help to know what the other names on our list have been:
Caroline (husband thinks its too formal)
Ellie (husband thinks its too silly)
Lily (name of the daughter of one of his coworkers)
Daphne (no specific objections, he just doesn't love it)
Piper (this one is his, and I just can't get on board with it. I think of bagpipers)
Hillary (we both really like this, but feel like its a little too political)
Hailey (this one is close to being a contender)
Elena (husband thinks it sounds too Eastern European, and since we're not, he thinks it sounds phony)
Maya (see issue with Elena. Same kind of thing)

I just want to find that name that just "clicks" the way that Parker Griffin did. I just have this feeling that we're so close, but there is something we're not thinking of. I know you get tons and tons of emails, and I will just cross my fingers that maybe you have some great ideas for us!

Thank you so much!

Name update! Erica writes:
I know this is WAY late, but I wanted to send in my baby name update!  Our sweet girl was born February 18, and we chose to name her Piper Grace.  She is almost 5 months old now, and she is so much fun. We settled on Piper late in the game, after determining that her in-utero energy just wasn't fitting with Claire or Hadley.  She is such a Piper - the name fits her just perfectly - she is full of smiles and energy and she never ever stops moving.

Thank you so much for your help!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Baby Naming Issue: Okay to Use Part of a Child's Babyhood Nickname as a Subsequent Child's Name?

B. writes:
My husband and I are going round and round discussing whether or not it is appropriate to use the name we like for our future son. Our first son had multiple nicknames and was called "Buster Malone" for about the first two years of his life. Malone is not even CLOSE to his real name in style or rhythm and only shares one letter with his real name. Over time that nickname has drifted away and hasn't been used at all in several years. My husband and I often reminisce about the old nicknames our kids picked up (we've had three more kids since then) and we both really want to use Malone for our son to be. But we don't know if it is appropriate to use one child's nickname as another child's name.

Our first son is much older now and does not even remember the nickname. I am not too worried about him being upset if we use it but I worry that if we do name our son Malone he will resent having his name be a hand-me-down from his oldest brother. The likelihood of keeping the origins a secret are next to impossible. All of our kids know where their names came from and the stories behind them are often shared and remembered. What do you think? Is it inappropriate? Am I setting my son up for disappointment because I gave him a "used" name? Or does it not matter at all and I am worrying about it for nothing?

My opinion is that Malone is available for use as a name, and that in fact it improves the nickname stories. I'm imagining telling the stories to my own kids, and their faces when I say that Firstborn's nickname was Malone. To me it doesn't seem so much a handmedown as an inspiration: that is, that the nickname made you think of the name as an actual name candidate.

Namesake names are not exactly the same situation but have some parallels: it doesn't diminish the name that someone else had it first, and in fact that is the very thing that improves the name and makes it a candidate to consider. And I don't know if the dynamics will be the same in your family, but in our household the youngest boy greatly looks up to the oldest boy and would likely be as thrilled to have a name connection as he is when we say "You know who used to wear this shirt? ROB!!"

Let's have a poll over to the right to see what we think as a group. [Poll closed; see results below.]

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Baby Girl or Boy Con___ly, Sibling to Madison Mae, Logan Clara, and Conor Martin

Lisa writes:
We are due to have our 4th child in two weeks and have yet to come up with a girl name that we can agree on/fall in love with. My husband is of Irish heritage and he really loves Irish type names for girls: Erin, Shannon, Caitlin, Bridget, etc… As the youngest of seven children, his older siblings have already used these Irish type names for their kids. The one name he loves is Maggie, short for Margaret. I’m not in love with it-I hear a ringing of “Maggie Moo” in my head whenever I try to talk myself into liking it. Also, I don’t think an old fashioned name such as Margaret jives with our other children’s names. We have two daughters and a son: Madison Mae(Maddie), Logan Clara, and Conor Martin. All the middle names are family names. I love surnames as first names and unisex names for girls.

I’ve considered:

Finley Holly (Holly is my mom’s name)

Adelaide Elsie (using Adel or Layla for short-hubby is not in love with Adel)

Tobin Holly (Tobin is his grandmother’s maiden name & traveled here from Ireland)

If we have a son, our list includes:

Declan Sean or Patrick

Beckett Sean

Brodie Patrick

Our last name is Irish starting with a Con and ending in an –ly (sounding like lee). I’m desperate for your input and suggestions. I don’t share our list with anyone because I hate the negative associations people love to share, “in fourth grade a girl by that name used to tease me and I’ve hated it ever since”….blah-blah-blah! Thanks so much for your time!!

The name that makes this such an intriguing puzzle is Logan. Madison is an all-girl name in the top ten. Conor is an all-boy name, #30 for boys when spellings are combined. But the name Logan is mostly boy: about 96% of Logans born in 2010 were boys, making it #17 for boys---a rank comparable with Madison's and Conor's when used for a boy.

It isn't that someone would be shocked to find out that a Logan could be a girl (it's #484 for girls), but they would be statistically more likely to assume boy, and this assumption would be supported by a sibling group where the other children have gender-unambiguous names. As a boy's name, Logan fits perfectly with Madison and Conor in both style and popularity; as a girl's name, Logan breaks the style and popularity pattern---and breaks it in a dramatic way. For a comparison in a different style, it would be like a family having an Amanda, a Leslie, and a Jeremy---where Leslie is a boy.

So this presents us with an interesting dilemma: Do we work with the name style you've set, which will further isolate Logan's name by piling up more false evidence that the name is a boy's name? Or do we add a second startling choice, which will have the counter-intuitive effect of making the sibling group MORE cohesive? A sibling group of Josephine, Kadence, Edward, and Vivian causes Kadence to stand out like a sore thumb; but a sibling group of Josephine, Kadence, Edward, and Riley merely tells us that the family likes a variety of naming styles.

This is more complicated in your case, however, because of the name Logan SEEMING to fit beautifully, until we find out it's the opposite sex we have been led to expect by the beautiful fit. It's like trying to find a fourth for Amanda, Leslie, and Jeremy. The first three names SEEM to coordinate beautifully, so adding a Kadence at the end wouldn't create that mixed-group feeling: it would instead result in two surprises instead of one. I think this is what Margaret is like in your group: it creates a second stand-out choice, instead of helping to unify the group. (Also, Maggie is very close in sound to Maddie.)

From your girl name list, I think Finley works best. One downside of Tobin is that it is currently never given to girls in the United States; it might work better as a candidate for your tradition of family middle names. Adelaide has several downsides: it's all-girl like Madison, which further isolates Logan; it's antique-revival rather than modern/surnamey like Madison and Logan; and Addie is a common nickname for it, and you have a Maddie (even if you choose a different nickname, she or her friends may choose Addie later on). Finley seems perfect: it's given to boys and girls, and so it bridges the gap between Madison and Logan. I hesitate because of the doubled -ly ending with the surname, but because the name Conor doubles the first syllable, I assume it isn't an issue that bothers you.

Brodie and Beckett both seem like good choices from your boy name list: they're mostly boy, but given occasionally to girls. In fact, I'd recommend considering both for your girl name list. Madison, Logan, Conor, and Beckett sufficiently neutralizes my assumptions about who's a boy and who's a girl.

Another possible option is Braden/Brayden. It's mostly boy, like Logan and Conor, and it fits with the style of the other names. It would work in this sibling group for either a boy or a girl. (As a girl name, it has the effect of isolating Madison, but I'm less concerned with "the only girl name never mistaken for a boy's" than I am with "the only girl name continually mistaken for a boy's".) Or Hayden would work well. Or Payton/Peyton. Or Greyson/Gracen. Or Morgan, Brennan, Kieran, Rowan, Keegan, Keaton, Quinn, Riley. Any modern and/or surnamey name that works for boys and girls seems like a good option for either a boy or a girl.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Name Updates!

Update (and photo!) on Baby Naming Issue: How Will the Royal Engagement Affect the Name Kate?
Update (and photo!) on Baby Girl Dougherty, Sister to Ella Catherine!
Update (and photo!) on Baby Boy Smith, Brother to Declan River!

Middle Name Challenge: Grace ____ Camden

Holly writes:
My husband and I are expecting our second baby, a girl. She is due on the 31st of October, but as her older sister was two weeks early, I have a feeling she will be early too. Our first daughters name is Sophia Catherine. Catherine is my mums middle name, and I love that Sophia shares that with her. We sometimes call her Sophie-Kate, which I absolutely love!

We have decided that baby girl #2 will definitely be Grace, with Gracie as an occasional nickname. However we cannot decide on a middle name. We have searched high and low for a family name to use, but really don't like any. The only family name we would consider using is McKinley, but I'm not too sure about it. I worry that Grace will be jealous that Sophia got a feminine middle name that we love, and she got a more masculine middle name that we are only okay with.

We have ten middle names we like, but we like them all and can't decide which is our favourite!
In no particular order, they are:
Grace McKinley
Grace Adelaide
Grace Juliana
Grace Alaina
Grace Matilda
Grace Lillian
Grace Imogen
Grace Alexandra
Grace Amelia
Grace Louisa (I thought she could be Gracie-Lou, but is it tacky or cute to have Sophie-Kate and Gracie-Lou?)

I should also mention that our last name is Camden, and we are not too fussed on how well the middle name flows with it. For example Catherine Camden sounds a bit funny, but we love Catherine so it doesn't bother us. Also I have worried that if we don't use McKinley as Grace's middle name, she will be upset that we didn't use a family name. However I have decided that if she does complain I will just let her know that we didn't use a family name as we wanted to use a name we loved.

I was hoping that you, Swistle, would be able to create a poll with these names. I am also curious to see which middle name stands out to you.

Thanks :-)

You have a long list there, so what I'd suggest first is seeing if you can eliminate some least-favorites. Paul and I once narrowed down a too-long list by having each of us go through and rank each name. Any that were tied could have the same rank, like this:

Henry 1
Milo 1
Elliot 2
Leo 2
Charlie 3
Alan 4
Daniel 4

Held up next to each other, two lists like that can show you that, for example, both of you have the same several names in the #1 slot so you can start focusing on those, or that there are several names in the lowest slot that can probably be eliminated as not having any chance of trumping the higher-ranked names. (It can also show you if you're nearly opposite and need to consider a mid-ranked name as a compromise.)

In the meantime, I will go into the thicket with my machete on the Highly Opinionated setting, to see if I can quickly take it down to my own favorite.

Grace McKinley immediately stands out to me: I think it's gorgeous and striking. BUT: the important thing here is that YOU'RE not finding it gorgeous and striking. It sounds to me like you're hoping for a family name but that your main priority is finding something feminine that you love---and I vote for going with that. It's common for a firstborn to get a family name and for the siblings not to. (Or would you want to use your own name? Grace Holly Camden is so pretty.) And for all we know, the fight could end up being that Sophia is jealous because she got a grandma middle name and Grace got the cool middle name, or whatever.

Grace Louisa also stands out to me, and I'm in favor of the Sophie-Kate and Gracie-Lou idea.

If it were me, I would probably take out Grace Adelaide because of the way they run together in a "saddle" sound. The other vowel-beginning middle names give me that run-together problem, too. Normally I'd mention too that first and middle names are not often said together---but since you DO say your first daughter's first and middle together often, I think you might do so with your second as well.

And I'd take out Grace Juliana and Grace Lillian for some reason I can't put a finger on.

I said I was taking McKinley out, but I'm putting it back in. I really love family names, and Grace-McKin or Gracie-Lee might be super cute as nicknames. But again, this is just my OWN list, and yours might look quite different when you use your own machete.

So my narrowed-down list would look like this:

Grace McKinley Camden
Grace Matilda Camden
Grace Louisa Camden

I like all of those approximately equally in their full forms, but I'd vote for Grace Louisa for the sake of the Gracie-Lou nickname (and because even though it's my own list, I'm remembering your tepid feelings about McKinley). Sophia Catherine and Grace Louisa; Sophie-Kate and Gracie-Lou.

Let's have a poll over to the right to see everyone else's favorites (it'll only let you vote for one, but feel free to make expanded lists in the comments section). [Poll closed; see results below.]

Name update! Holly writes:
Our beautiful healthy girl arrived on the 25th of October. We decided to name her Grace McKinley. Big sister Sophia is in love with her, and calls her "Gacie-Kins" (Gracie-Kins) all of the time!

Thank you to Swistle and all of the readers who helped convince us to use McKinley.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Baby Naming Issues: Margaret Atwood and Maisie

E. writes:
I am currently pregnant with a girl, due this winter. My husband and I have always loved the name Maisie, and I was pleased to learn it’s a nickname for Margaret, the name of a beloved family member. My problem? Our last name is Atwood, so she would share a name with the well-known author, Margaret Atwood. We do plan on calling her Maisie, so the obvious solution would be to just name her Maisie and be done with it. But I do like the idea of naming her after a family member, and I also worry that Maisie is too whimsical as a “real name”, and she wouldn’t have something more formal to fall back on when she becomes a Supreme Court justice (ahem). I have always gone by a nickname for my formal name, and liked having something more serious to use professionally, in publications, etc. So I guess I have two questions for you and your readers: First, how weird would it be to have a child named after someone famous (though, admittedly, it’s not like we’re naming her Angelina Jolie)? Secondly, do you think Maisie is too whimsical to be anything but a nickname? I keep going back and forth on this, and would really appreciate an outside opinion. Thank you!

This is a pair of questions I can see getting opinions from ALL OVER the spectrum. My own set of opinions is that I think the Margaret Atwood connection is too strong to use the name (not because of either a positive or a negative association, but based only on the STRENGTH of the association), and that I think Maisie works better as a nickname for a given name.

I had to think a bit to come up with those opinions, though, because it's so hard to tell when a name is worth using despite issues with it: I often come down on the side of "Yes, I see the issue---but if you really want the name, it won't be all THAT much hassle, and you should go for it." What I finally did was imagine it as my OWN name. Would I want to keep discussing the Margaret Atwood thing? No. And if my name were Maisie, would I also want a more professional option? Yes.

You could do some fancy footwork and make Margaret the middle name (the connection is still very strong for me there, though) and give her a different first name but nickname her Maisie. Or you could name her Mae or May and call her Maisie. (I like the sound of Mae Margaret, too, if you want to use the honor name.)

Let's find out where the rest of us are on the spectrum. Let's have TWO polls over to the right: one on the Margaret Atwood association, and one about Maisie as a given name. [Polls closed; see results below.]

Name update! E. writes:
Update! And a surprise!

Thank you so much for posting my question. As you predicted, the responses were all over the place, and it was fascinating to see such a wide variety of opinions. I really appreciated the many suggestions of alternate formal names we could use to get Maisie. I became particularly fond of Mae, and really wanted to make it work, but...well, there's something I didn't tell you. This baby is a twin. I didn't mention it when I originally wrote to you, because I didn't think it was relevant. It only became an issue once Mae came into consideration, because we decided to name her twin sister...June. MAE & JUNE. Could you imagine? I'm just not that cruel.

So Mae was out, and I didn't love any of the other alternatives. So we were back to Margaret or Maisie. My gut was telling me that Maisie was better as a nickname, and your poll reinforced my feelings. In the other poll, I noticed that 29% of the respondents didn't notice the connection at all. This really surprised me. My impression is that your readers are a very literate crowd, and I reasoned that if nearly one-third of them didn't recognize Margaret Atwood, it was going to be far less noticeable among the general public.

I also really appreciated the commenters (Heidi J, bunnyslippers, etc) who pointed out that she would be known primarily as Maisie as a child and by the time she's an adult her peers may not recognize the connection. I took special note of the comment about the child named "Ayn Rand"--the kids didn't notice it, and adults asked about it but understood once they heard it was a family name. That seemed similar to our situation, and helped me see that it wouldn't bother me that much if people inquired about her name.

Interestingly, I have a similar issue with my name. My maiden name is Elizabeth Burton, and from time to time I hear, "Hey, that was Elizabeth Taylor's name when she was married to Richard Burton!". Do I roll me eyes when I hear this? Absolutely. Do I find it annoying? Not really. People are funny, and they're just trying to make conversation. It's not a big deal to me, and hopefully won't be one for my daughter.

So without further ado, I present to you Margaret Jane (aka Maisie), and her sister June Adeline. As suggested, I gave Maisie a strong middle name/initial to separate her first and last names. She is named after my mother (and her mother), who is absolutely tickled to share a name with her granddaughter. The babies are now 19 weeks old, and the only person to comment on the Margaret Atwood connection is their pediatrician. :)

Monday, October 10, 2011

Baby Boy Tanner, Brother to Zachary Stephen and Cameron Anthony

M. writes:
My Husband and I are expecting our second baby boy in 3 months and are having a hard time with a name. He has a son, my stepson, named Zachary Stephen and we have one named Cameron Anthony. Both boys have part of my husbands name as their middle names, Anthony Stephen. The main problem is we both come from large families and avoiding names that our siblings and cousins have used is getting to be hard. Our last name is Tanner and we have been avoiding names that end with an "er" because they usually dont flow well. We finally decided we like the name Greyson, but when I asked my mom about it she doesn't want me to use it because my cousin's 13 year old daughter's name is Gracen. I personally only see this cousin a few times a year and don't see the big deal. She is a obviously a girl and is much older, plus the names aren't exactly the same. We have also said we may call him Grey. ( Zack, Cam and Grey) She says it will be confusing for her and her sisters because they are very close and will always have to clarify who's "Greyson" they are referring to. What do you think, should I not use this name? Middle names are a whole other issue. No family names left that we like that aren't already used by our siblings also as middle names. For instance, we like Thomas. It was my husband's father's name and also has meaning because we were married in St. Thomas, but our nephew's middle name is Thomas. Noone calls him Thomas, does this matter? Please help us with your opinion on these names and maybe any suggestions of similar names.

I think that when it is difficult enough already to find a non-duplicating name that both parents love and agree on, a slight inconvenience to another family member doesn't need to be taken into account. Even picturing my very own dear mother (because it is so easy to imagine making Confident Declarations to other people's imagined mothers, but not so easy when it is a real mother), I can picture saying kindly, "Yes, it might be a little confusing once in awhile, but it'll be okay." Chances are that context alone will clarify things for them: "Gracen is driving me crazy: the door-slamming, the pickiness about clothes, the hours in the bathroom..." is not likely to cause confusion about which child is being described, nor is "Greyson is teething and up all hours of the night." In fact, which sister is talking will go a long way to clarify which child is being referred to. And, you've found an excellent and easy solution for her in any case: she can refer to him as Grey when talking with her siblings. But even if it were a constant confusion (two boys named Greyson born a month apart, for example), or even if she doesn't want to call him Grey, it STILL seems to minor an issue to be a deal-breaker: surely they would quickly develop a habit of clarifying it: "M's Greyson" and "L's Gracen," for example.

The only downside of the name to me is that both the first name and the surname evoke colors. Do you like the name Mason instead? Cason? Dawson? Harrison? Hudson? Jackson? Bryson? Anderson? Carson? Dayton? Lawson? Grady? Logan? Griffin? Gavin? Liam?

If you like the name Thomas for a middle name and you have two good reasons to use it, I don't see a single reason why it matters that your nephew has the same middle name. It won't even cause the minor confusion your mother worries about with the first name. Even if your nephew's FIRST name were Thomas, I'd still say there was no reason not to use it as a middle name. In large families, the occasional duplication is normal and expected, and certainly not worth choosing names you don't even like just to avoid it---particularly in the middle name slot.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Name Update!

Update on Baby Boy Oliver, Hazen, Luca?!
Update on Baby Naming Issue: Can a Fourth Initial Save the Other Three?!

Baby Boy Julienelle, Brother to Gwen Grace

Christy writes:
Swistle I’ve been following you for a while, and knew if I were having a boy I would need your here I am 8 1/2 months pregnant with a BOY and still no name!!!! To make matters worse...My husbands #1 name is a popular girls names: Peyton...HELP!!!!

Our last name sounds like Julien-elle. We have a daughter Gwen Grace (yes just Gwen, its not short for anything). We are absolutely obsessed with her name and love that we don’t know any other Gwen’s.

So we have never really had a boys name (thank goodness we had a girl first!) and I am having a hard time thinking of a name that fits well with Gwen. Like mentioned above, our daughter is just Gwen......I am a “Christine” who has never gone by that one day of my life (always been a Christy) I tend to be drawn toward shorter names that aren’t shortened to a nickname. We do have middle name options (woohoo!): James, Paul, or Gideon.

Names I like:

Vance - my secret favorite, my husband liked it at first but is slowly getting over it, thinking it is too “out there”. I really think Vance goes well with Gwen. (but is VJ bad initials to have?!?!?)

Rhett - Husband thinks it sounds like Rex ( and we know a baby Rex)

Paxton - my attempt to sway him from Peyton, I like the nickname Pax (yes I realize this goes against my rule above!) but feel like its a bit made up to me and getting popular.

Gavin - I’m pretty sure Gwen Stefani ruined this one out for us......although I think its a super cute sibling set!!! Plus we are fans, so that might be a little too weird!

Landon - but I don’t think it goes with Gwen

Miles - ehh

Layne - Hubby not into it

Names husband likes:

Peyton - enough said!........Although in my husbands defense, I too liked that name for a boy about 10 year ago....but in this age of mommy groups, gym classes and the internet I’ve come across LOTS of baby girl Peytons.

Barron - bad association

Caleb - this is slowly moving its way up his list......I must admit I do like it, but have a real issue with its spot on the SSA list #33 (although I do not know any kids named Caleb, and honestly have never met one in my life!!! thats saying a lot....see below)

One last thing that complicates things all my friends have boys, so we have lots of boy names off limits: Nathan, Eli, Jack, Will, Kaiden, Liam, Cooper, Luke, Brody, Brayden, Christian, Charlie, Cade, Colin, James, Rex just to name a few.......

Please help me find Gwen’s brothers name! THANK YOU!!!!

I suggest Grant. It's short, it's similar to Rhett and Vance and Landon. If you wanted to continue the G theme (especially if this is your last child), you could use Gideon as the middle name. Grant Gideon Julienelle; Gwen Grace and Grant Gideon.

Or Garrett: it's the Rhett sound you like, but with an additional sound to avoid the Rex problem. Garrett Julienelle; Gwen and Garrett.

Or Clark: Clark Julienelle; Gwen and Clark.

More suggestions for the Julienelles?

Name update! Christy writes:
Introducing Vance Paul Julienelle born November 22, 2011.

I had known in my heart that his name was always Vance, and while my husband liked it was not his #1. After much research of the name Vance in history and lots of praying, we had been given so many Vance "signs" that the name was undeniably meant to be! Even my husband agreed! The name is perfect for him and we get lots of complaints. Thank you for all your comments and support!!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Name Update!

Update on Baby Girl Pereversoff, Sister to Katie Jane Violet!

Danish Baby Name Dilemma

Kathy writes:
I'm due in late November with a boy, who will be our second son (no more children planned after this). I am American and my husband is Danish -- born and raised for the first 30 years of his life in and around Copenhagen, moved here and ended up staying. So our main naming issue is ensuring that names work in both languages. Our son is Christian Kai (Christian after his paternal great-grandfather and Kai is another Danish name -- Kaj would have been the Danish spelling but we didn't want him to spend his life explaining the pronunciation in non-Scandinavian countries).

We are having a hard time this time around for some reason. We had a major scare at 16 weeks when we were told the baby had a greater than 1 in 3 of having a serious chromosomal abnormality, and when amnio thankfully revealed he is perfectly healthy, I decided that his middle name should be the Scandinavian variant of Matthew -- Mathias. Husband agrees and likes that name. (It is pronounced "Ma-TEE-as" in Danish.)

As for the first name, DH likes Anders, which is the Scandinavian variant of Andrew. I like it but don't LOVE it. My main concern is that it is just slightly unusual enough in the U.S. that he'll always have to spell/explain it, unlike his brother Christian. I feel like Mathias wouldn't be the greatest first name either, for the same reason -- it's just far enough out there to cause confusion.

Other names that I prefer but that DH doesn't like (primarily because they are "too common" or "too boring" according to him, keeping in mind that his frame of reference is Denmark):
Carsten (fair enough -- probably too close to Christian)

Names he likes but I have axed:

I also really like the name Owen and did try to convince him to stray from the Danish list a bit but he won't budge. When we look at lists of Danish names, many of them are just so....Viking-like. And that's not what we're looking for.

So -- just looking for reactions to the name Anders Mathias, as that seems to be our front-runner and I am trying to convince myself that it will work, despite not being my own first choice. Do American readers think it's a little affected or weird? And what if we went with Mathias as the first name -- would that work at all or just doom the boy to a lifetime of confused looks and misspellings?

Thanks! (And Tak, from my husband)

I think Anders Mathias is perfect. Anders has a slightly exotic international sound, without being so exotic that people will have a hard time with it: it's pronounced as it's spelled, and it feels familiar because of the names Andrew and Anderson. Christian and Anders are a great sibling set, and I think Mathias is a perfect middle name. Hans Christian Anderson came to mind after a few minutes, but it's a positive association, and not a very strong one when it's Anders not Anderson.

I think Mathias would also work well as a first name. I've encountered it before on an actual child; to me it seems like a freshened version of Matthew to go along with Elias and Phineas. The spellings Mathias and Matthias combined had a popularity in the U.S. of #463 in 2010; Anders is at #936, but Anderson at #312 makes it feel a little more popular. I don't think either name would have enough spelling/pronunciation/confusion issues to need to cross it off the list. There would likely be the mild hassle of "one T or two" or the like---but most names have something like this. (My name isn't so much Kristen as it is "Kristen: K, r, i, s, t, E, n.")

Name update! Kathy writes:
Anders Mathias arrived on November 20th -- the name fits him well and we've received a lot of positive feedback from people upon hearing it. Thanks again to you and your readers for helping with this big decision!

Name Update!

Update on Baby Boy or Girl Klein!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Baby Naming Issue: Can Ella Work as a Middle Name?

Linnea writes:
Is there any name that sounds good with "Ella" as a middle name?

This is our first baby, due early April, and we're breaking all the rules, because we know what we want as middle names, but can't decide on firsts if it's a girl. Our last name is Welch, and having an unusual name myself, I want something that's not completely common for our baby. I'm not against Top 100 names, but generally shy away from Top 10. Celtic & old-fashioned names seem to go over well with both my husband & I. My middle name (Ellen) is the same as my mother's, but I don't necessarily want to give that name to a baby girl. Ella is another family name, of great-grandmother & aunts on both sides, but every baby name we like seems to sound strange with Ella as a middle. It seems like all the names I like end in "a" or "n" and then the names either sound too matchy or run together. Top first name contenders: Fiona (don't like the repeated "a" sound, also makes the initials FEW), Quinn (Quinn Ella sounds like something you might catch from raw fish, same for Corinne, another favorite), Jocelyn (JEW? I don't know that I can do that), Rhiannon (it just seems to run on & on like a stutter) and Avalon (I don't know... is the Toyota connection too much? Will I have to name her brother Camry?). My husband isn't keen on Ella as a first name, but I like Ella Corinne. Is Eleanor too long for a middle name? It seems to solve the "double a" problem and the "sounds like a disease" problem. It's not a family name, but it's close to both Ellen & Ella.

For me, Eleanor isn't too long as a middle name. But I do tend to like long names: I love names like Penelope Elizabeth or Elizabeth Genevieve, and those are seven to eight syllables before even getting to the surname.

One thing I think is working against you is your surname: Ella and Welch share enough sounds that they can run together a bit, or even turn into something that sounds like text-speak: "LOLch!" There seem to be three camps on this issue. Camp 1 says: "Who cares? No one ever says the whole name anyway. And even if they did, who cares what it sounds like?" Camp 2 says: "The whole name should flow well in each combination: first and middle, first and middle and last, first and last. If it doesn't flow, it goes." Camp 3 is the rest of us: we like the name to flow well, but we'll give up some flow for the sake of names we love, or for names that are significant to us and important to us to use. This is where you are now: figuring out how much you want to bend the middle name to make it fit and yet still be an honor name, and how much you want to bend the first name to make a place for the middle name.

And I think you're right: Ella is proving to be a difficult name to put in the middle name slot. I sat here, jaw loosened in concentration, trying to think of a first name it would work with---and finally opened up the baby name book and just started going through trying names one after another. Bianca Ella? No. Blanche Ella? No. Bonnie Ella? Better, but still no. Brooke Ella? Mayyyybe. Chloe Ella? No. Because of the name's popularity as an ending for other names (Isabella, Annabella, etc.) and for medical stuff (varicella, rubella, salmonella, etc.), I think it just attaches itself to the first name and makes either an odd mash-up or, as you've found, a disease.

I like the idea of using Ellen. I like that it ties you and your mother and your daughter together, and also I just think it's a really pretty name. Problem: as you've noticed, it's not too awesome with n-ending first names. Eleanor works better, but is a step away from family significance.

Well, how about this. How about choose the first name first, and then see which goes best with it: Ella, Ellen, or Eleanor? It sounds like you're only KIND OF decided on the middle name and that there's still some flexibility there.

Or, is there another family name you could mash with Ella? For example, if your mother-in-law's middle name were Jane, you could do Fiona Ellajane Welch. It's not my favorite way to do things, but it can be a good way out of a pinch.

In the meantime, can anyone think of any first names that work with Ella as the middle name?

Name update! Eleanor Quinn!

Name Update!

Update (and photo!) on Middle Name Challenge: Evangeline ____!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

May I Direct Your Attention

I have a post up today on Nameberry. The book Beyond Jennifer & Jason (since updated as Beyond Jennifer & Jason, Madison & Montana and then Beyond Ava & Aiden) took the head right off my shoulders in the 1990s when I was still naming cats but was looking forward to naming babies. All I'd ever seen before then were baby name dictionaries: lists of names, sometimes with meanings and/or origins and/or pronunciations. But this new book had CATEGORIES. It discussed the way names come across to other people, and which other names came across that same way if that's what you were looking for. It was the first time I realized that names get popular in packs, that it's possible to see those packs coming.

I still have my old copy with pencil circlings: Elizabeth, Julia, Louise, Simon, Kyle, Molly, Eliza, Rosemary, Milo, Gus, Leo, Eve, Henry. Names I might not have noticed in the old 1970 baby name dictionary (my mom's, with HER pencil circlings!) I'd used to name my dolls.

Now the authors run the huge baby name site Nameberry, and I'd love it if you clicked through and read my post there: The Case for the Common Name.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Name to Consider: Drewan

It started as joking around on Twitter. We were discussing how Arwen had used an anagram of a name in a blog post so that people could still figure out the real name but it wouldn't be Googleable (though she stumped us all with Cessia: she had to tell us to switch the E and the A). Then everyone started doing it with their kids' names, to be funny. Then Maureen referred to her husband Andrew as Drewan, and I said: "You do realize that Drewan is a GENIUS CREATION of a name. Like, a VIABLE creation. I think this is a Name to Consider post."

There. I think that brings you up to date on how this came about.

The good things about Drewan:

1. It fits right into the popular -en sound category (Devan, Logan, Mason, Braden, Cameron, Evan, Greyson, Ethan, Nathan).

2. It sounds similar to Owen and Rowan (and of course similar to Drew and Andrew), which I think is very helpful when launching a new name: sounding like established names helps a name to Sound Like A Real Name.

3. It's a solution for people who want the name Drew for a nickname, but want a non-Andrew longer version for the given name.

The possible downsides:

1. Is it a girl name or a boy name? When I consider it each way, it seems a little too girlish for a boy name and a little too boyish for a girl name (spelling it Drewyn would make it look more girlish). But I call this a possible downside because that's the sort of thing a lot of people are looking for: a sensitive/gentle boy name, a not-obviously-a-girl girl name.

2. It makes me think of Druids, and it rhymes with the word "ruin." Again, I put this as a possible downside because many names sound like other words or rhyme with other words, but we stop noticing this when they stop being sounds and start being established names. Isabel sounds like "is a bell"; Violet sounds like violent; John rhymes with con; Lee rhymes with pee; etc.: they're definitely things to consider, but they aren't necessarily name-breakers.


What do you think of Drewan? Does it have name potential? Remember that when we consider these names, it's not just a matter of whether we like the name ourselves (though of course we want to discuss that TOO, because it's FUN), or about whether we approve of invented or highly unusual names: it's about whether, considering we know people have all different tastes in names, we think a name has NAME POTENTIAL. Does it...sound like a name? And what do we think are the upsides and downsides of it as a name?

Monday, October 3, 2011

Baby Naming Issue: Politely Using the Same Baby Name Someone Else Used

Erin writes:
I am now 16 weeks pregnant, due in mId March. My husband and I tried for about 2 years undergoing fertility testing and 3 IUI's. We ultimately had our happy ending when we got pregnant naturally between our 3rd IUI and beginning our first round of IVF.

During the time that we were trying we watched our friends and family conceive naturally and easily and have their babies. Our very close friends got pregnant with twins the year before we finally conceived. They were boys named Ayden and Noah. They have an older child named Chloe that my husband and I watched while they were in the hospital having the twins. We are now the Godparents of Ayden.

Here's the tricky part - my husband and I picked out the names Adin Kennedy (Conant) and Madelin Hope (Conant) YEARS ago...and by that I mean close to 2 years before we started trying. The significance of the boy name is that the village we live in was founded by a man named Adin and my husband loves the Kennedy's. We are not shy about the names we have picked, but don't open up conversations with it. It was heartbreaking for us that one of the twins was named Ayden. However, we are going to plug forward and still use the name.

My question ultimately is: How do we politely deal with using the same name (even though it's different spelling) as our Godson and is it really that big of a deal? They will be a year apart. I find out in a few weeks if it is a boy or a girl, but feel very strongly that it is a boy.

This is a very interesting question: we often discuss here whether a name can be reused in a particular situation, but it's a different matter to discuss how exactly to pull it off in a polite way that eases the situation for everyone---especially when we know there are people who feel that names are one-time-use items, and that any second use of a name constitutes stealing.

In your particular case, it helps considerably that the name is a common one. If both children were to be named, say, Deegan, I suspect there'd be more room for hard feelings. Aiden/Aidan/Ayden/Aaden/Aden/Ayden is, when spellings are combined, significantly more common than the #1 most common name in the United States, and it would be hard to imagine someone feeling as if it were their own unreusable idea.

It further helps that you're choosing a different spelling, and that both the name and the spelling have special significance for you. And it further helps that you've had this name picked out for a long time.

Do you see how I am gathering up reassurances, and yet still nervously skirting the actual practical application of them? It's one thing for me to be certain that it is fine for you to use the name Adin; it is another thing to think of how to encourage your friends to share that certainty.

Because you are close friends, I suspect that the topic of your pregnancy will be a common one. They'll ask how you're feeling, whether you've felt the baby kick, etc. At some point, the discussion will almost certainly turn to baby names. This is when, if I were in your shoes, I would be prepared to let them know. The exact wording will depend on your own speaking style and on the way you usually talk to your friends, but the essence, I think, would be:

Them: "So, have you guys thought about names?"
You guys: "Oh, we chose names back before we even started trying: Madelin Hope for a girl, and Adin Kennedy for a boy."

This is where you look carefully for reactions. Their faces will do one expression when you say Madelin, and there may be a sudden change or flicker when you say Adin. They may be feeling the same heartbreak you felt when they used the name, so what is needed here is SPIN. I suggest filling this moment with propaganda: what a happy surprise it was for you when your dear godson had the name you loved so much; how your love for your godson has only improved your love for the chosen name; how fun you think it will be to have "the Aidans" growing up together. This would also be a good time to discuss how you chose the name Adin, and how you'll be spelling it. The tone throughout should be happy and excited: finally you get to tell them the secret name and the wonderful coincidence, and isn't this FUN!

After that, how things go will depend on their reaction. Some people keep their feelings to themselves and soldier through it with pretend delight. Some people feel the actual delight. Some people speak frankly of a negative reaction. Some people have to process the information before they can react, and may bring it up again later. All this is why I started with the reassurances: I believe you are doing the right thing by using the name you chose. There could nevertheless be consequences to the decision that may be difficult to deal with. We will hope for the best ones: that your friends will be pleased, and/or that they will realize that it is just fine for you to be using the same name. Or that you will have a girl!

Name update! Erin writes:
Here is a picture of Adin Kennedy. Our little man arrived just over 6 weeks early and, added to our journey of infertility, we got to experience NICU. We were on the very lucky end and had a relatively short stay. He is going to be 6 weeks tomorrow and his due date is Wednesday! He is growing like a weed and performing at or above all of the developmental milestones.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Baby Boy Right-with-a-W

Megan writes:
We're expecting our first child, a baby boy on March 6. That leaves me plenty of time, I know- but I am so torn on names. Our last name sounds like Right with a W. My husband's name is Alexander (Alex) and my name is Megan. My all time favorite name for a boy was hands down Elliot. I wanted to use Jackson for a middle name since this is the grandfather's name. However, our very close friends are naming their son Elliot and we see them on a weekly basis. So my question is, can you help with finding a name that is like Elliot? I also love Everett, Ezra, Elias (I know, all E names) and Oliver. With our last name, I'm finding the R sound a little strong. Oliver Wright doesn't bother me too much- I just love that name. I do hope to someday have a daughter down the road, which I'd love to name Evelyn (Grandmother name). I also like the name Claire for a girl. Not sure if this helps to give a feel for my naming style- but if you could HELP, that would be great!! I read your blog daily looking for new possibilities. Thanks!

I know I've already emailed you already- but as I've thought more and more about the names, my husband and I have come to a new favorite: Ellis. We love this name, and it was actually used in my family a lot in the 1800's. I loved that the name had a little history to it. My main concern is, does Ellis sound too similar to Alex? Will it be too confusing to have an Ellis and Alex in the same household? I have started calling him Ellis in my head- but I don't want to commit to the name unless I know for sure. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks :)

Elliot on my own list of names that got away. I recently encountered the name in Henry's class, where it passed the good-impressions test with flying colors. Sigh. Perhaps we will one day have grandsons with the name! Or is there any hope your good friends would find it sweet and funny to both have sons named Elliot? It helps if this has been your first choice all along and you can say "Oh!!! What a coincidence!! That's the same name WE'VE picked out for a boy!!"

Ellis is a good alternative, especially since you have it in your family tree. I said both Ellis and Alex out loud several times, and while I see what you mean about the similar sounds, I still think they're not too confusing to use together.

Ellis is rising in popularity for girls as well as for boys, but boys are still significantly ahead: in 2010, there were 149 new baby girls and 311 new baby boys named Ellis. I am a little worried that it will gain momentum for girls and then be used less for boys, but it is so hard to predict such things. Here's how it's been going so far:

2002: 39F, 177M
2003: 54F, 210M
2004: 47F, 212M
2005: 85F, 246M
2006: 100F, 267M
2007: 111F, 262M
2008: 110F, 274M
2009: 124F, 327M
2010: 149F, 311M

Inconclusive at this stage of the game, I'd say, but it's risen from 1 female Ellis per 4.5 males to 1 female Ellis per 2 males. In some cases, names do remain used for both boys and girls; in other cases, once the girls move in, the boys move out. The popularity of the girl's name Ella may sway this one toward the girls---or, as with Kyle and Kylie, Ellis and Ella might coexist: one used mostly but not exclusively for boys, and the other used only for girls.

A similar sounding name (though unfortunately without the family connection) is Louis.

A name that has the rhythm of Elliot and the style of Ezra is Gideon.

A name I think of as being in a group with Elliot and Everett is Emmett.

Names I think of as hanging around with Elliot and Oliver: Simon, Julian, Sebastian, Frederick.

Or I wonder if you'd like Malcolm Right.

Another possible E name is Edmund. Edmund Right.

Name update! Megan writes:
We went with Elliot Jackson! Thanks again for posting my question & giving great feedback! Attaching a photo as well!