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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Baby Name to Consider: Willoughby

Rachael writes:
We are expecting our second baby in June! Our first is sweet Sylvia and I emailed you about why we chose to keep her name a secret until she was born in 2010. Loooong before Sylvia was born, my husband and I had settled on a girl name and a boy name that we both adored and loved and swore to always stand behind. No one has ever complained about Sylvia's name, especially since we kept it a secret. But with our boy name, I am much less confident, and alas - I'm stuck in this ancient and sacred promise I made to my husband.

He loves the name Willoughby.

We discussed this name after a few short months of dating and from the moment he mentioned it, I fell madly in love with it, too! It sounds British and sophisticated when I picture a grown up man, yet soft and cute for a cuddly baby boy. We agreed that he could have Willoughby for the first boy if I could have Sylvia for the first girl and that was all fine and good until I got pregnant I'm afraid! I know my family will think it's weird. I'm not against anyone calling him Will if they really have to, but I think Willoughby goes so well with Sylvia and I hate how "Sylvia and Will" sound together. I'll be referring to my kids as "Sylvia and Willoughby - cutest siblings ever." I also know my family will think it's too long (our last name is four syllables, very Italian, ends in "iotto"). I know they'll say it's a terrible name and I'm afraid everyone will hate it!

Should that matter? I still love it - I can't find any other name I like more than this one. My husband would be devastated if I even mentioned another name to him, but this case of cold feet has me worried to pieces! Talk me down, Swistle. Tell me this name is perfectly okay!

Willoughby is definitely in a different league, surprise-wise. It's not even in the Social Security database for boys in 2010 (which means it could have been given to 0, 1, 2, 3, or 4 boys, but not as many as 5) (it was given to 6 girls), whereas Sylvia was #555.

I'm picturing it on grown men I know (my husband, my brother, my dad, my friends) and it is a little startle every time---in a way that another modern not-their-name such as Wilson is not. If I picture it on a cute little toddler or an elementary school child, it seems adorable.

The girl name Willow is an issue here: it gives a misleading clue. Ditto for girl names such as Shelby and Abby and Ruby and Libby and Gabby. On the other side of the scale is the common boy nickname Will and the -by ending boy names Colby and Bobby and Toby.

Length doesn't seem like it should be a concern, if they didn't object to Sylvia: both names have three syllables.

Whether everyone else's opinion should matter or not---well, it depends. On one hand, no, right? Parents get to name their own children. And it's classic for the grandparent generation to grouse about the names currently being used for babies: "Too weird! Why can't people use NORMAL names like the names WE used for OUR babies (which OUR parents thought were too weird)?" And of course there will always be some people who dislike the names we choose, no matter WHAT names those are. And it's also classic for people to come around to the names once they get used to it on the beloved baby.

On the other hand, this is why naming is such a huge responsibility: our children have to live in this society with the names we give them, and it's a hard row to hoe to live with a name everybody hates. And within our families and friend circles, of course we WANT people to respond favorably to the name, rather than cringing every time they say it.

So it's a matter of balance: weighing what we think society/family/friends will think of the name with what WE think of the name. This is one reason I like The Baby Name Wizard's test so much: she suggests considering whether you would like to be a child born now and given that name. I also like the test of looking around at grown-ups and imagining them with the name. And of course there's the careers test: imagine the name on a manager, a waiter, a coach, a lawyer, a teacher, a carpenter.

If a name fails too many tests, I think the middle name slot is an excellent place for it: there is still the happiness of using it, but without the downsides.

Promises to use a particular name shouldn't be made, or honored. Too much changes between the time the promise is made and the appearance of the actual baby. If you decide you're not comfortable using Willoughby (and I could be wrong about your feelings: I'm basing it on "alas" and "stuck," but the more important words could be "madly in love" and "afraid" and "cold feet"), it will be disappointing to your husband, but it's not something you have to feel contractually obligated to follow through on. My main advice for back-to-the-drawing-board situations is that the task is not to find a name the two of you like better than the name Willoughby, but rather to find your favorite from the names that remain. And also that both parents are responsible for finding the new options: this is not a matter of one parent needing to convince the other to dethrone a favorite.

Let's have a poll over to the right to see what everyone else thinks of the name Willoughby. [Poll closed; see results below.]

Poll results for the question "What do you think of the name Willoughby?" (519 votes total):

I love it! I'd want to use it! - 39 votes (8%)
I like it! I'd consider it! - 58 votes (11%)
I like it for someone else's baby - 161 votes (31%)
No particular opinion either way - 21 votes (4%)
Slight dislike - 136 votes (26%)
Strong dislike - 104 votes (20%)

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Name Updates!

Update (and photo!) on Baby Boy Julienelle, Brother to Gwen Grace!
Update on Baby Boy Faith, Brother to Cade and Colin
Update (and photo!) on Baby Girl DeMontel, Sister to Emery Jane!

Baby Boy Harris, Brother to Abig@il Elizabeth

L. writes:
My husband and I had the perfect name picked out for our son who is due in early March, but our plan has fallen apart. We were going to name him after his two grandfathers Leon@rd (mine) James (his) and we were going to call him Leo. Even though we had told no one our name, this week my father made sure to let me know in no uncertain terms that he would never forgive me if I named this baby after him. Needless to say, I am heartbroken.

So, back to the drawing board we go. If this baby had been a girl, she would have been Eleanor (nickname Nora). I prefer older, traditional names (preferrably with a cute nickname). I also want to stay away from the top 10 names. (I would never have named Abby that if I'd realized at the time how popular her name was.) I do realize that Eleanor/Nora is also becoming more popular, but we love it for it's family significance. Of the names in the top 50 from the Social Security list for 2010, the only one that even pops out as a possibility is Isaac.

Things that are important to me for the name is that it have at least 2 syllables and not end in an S. (I like Charles, but Charles James Harris is a little much.)

One name that I like, but am unsure I could pull the trigger on if if my husband would agree, is Oswald. Help!

I feel like we need more information from your father. Why would he say such a thing? When he said it, did you ask what his reason was? I'm kind of looking forward to after the baby is born, when you can tell him that you WERE going to name the baby after him but then he screwed everything up. That was a GREAT NAME you'd chosen.

Leo and Charles were two of our top contenders for Henry, so I wonder if you'd like Oliver, also on our list. Oliver James Harris; Abigail and Oliver.

Another from that list was Elliot. Elliot James Harris; Abigail and Elliot.

Another from that list was Milo. Milo James Harris; Abigail and Milo.

I'd recommend Henry, too, if you like alliteration.

A name that shot to the top of my list after Henry was born is Simon. Simon James Harris; Abigail and Simon.

Another is Everett. I think it's so handsome with your surname. Everett James Harris; Abigail and Everett.

I do love the name Isaac, if you want to consider it more. Nicknames could be Ike or Zack. Isaac James Harris; Abigail and Isaac; Abby and Zack.

I know a sibling set of Abigail and Owen, and I've thought of it as a very good combination. Owen James Harris; Abigail and Owen.

Are there any other men from your side of the family who would make good namesakes? Maybe one of your grandfathers or uncles? It's so disappointing to have a good namesake name all set to go and then have it ruined!

Name update! L. writes:
I just wanted to let you and your readers know that our son was born on March 1, 2012. I took a step back from the naming dilemma for a while and let the situation (and my hormones) settle down a bit, but I did eventually have a conversation about the name with my Dad. He was a little embarrassed that he had reacted so strongly, but it turns out that he never liked his name because of some unwelcome nicknaming that went along with it. He was both surprised and flattered that we planned to name our son after him. Here is a picture of our newest edition, Leonard James. Thanks so much for your help. I appreciate you and your readers being the voice of reason for me.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Baby Girl F-urn

Courtney writes:
My husband and I need help naming our first child, a baby girl, who is due to arrive at the very beginning of April. I'm Courtney and his name is Joel with the last name of F-urn (but it's spelled like the plant). We cannot agree on any sort of name. We plan on having 3-4 kids, so the thought of naming a sibling is in my head. I love older names (Charlotte) and he loves extremely popular names right now (Sophia and Olivia). One of the problems comes in because I teach high school and I have MANY students who I would never want to name my child after (which is why I am adamantly against Olivia). I love the idea of using family names but between the two of us, the only decent family name is Elizabeth, which is my middle name. Right now I am leaning towards Elizabeth as a middle name because everything seems to go with it and because of the family connection. I am Southern so I am definitely open to the double name; my husband also likes the double names except it seems that everything is paired with Beth. I want to stray away from all the Kaleeys, Baileys, etc. I want a name that is decidedly feminine (no gender neutral names or anything with a gender neutral nickname). One of our other requirements is that it is 2 syllables, since we have a 1 syllable last name. Our favorite name is Lily, but there is no way we could ever name our daughter Lily Fern (as a teacher I would laugh out loud seeing that on a roster).

His choices:
Sophia (and call her Sophie)

My choices: (I really like the letter C in case you can't tell)
Caroline (this is lower on my list)
Claire (although it only has 1 syllable and he veotes it because it's the name of a Kardashian)
Emma (but it is SO popular right now with little girls)

My hesitation comes in giving my daughter the same initials I have and I don't want to name my child after myself (which is what my husband's sister did). I prefer to not be in the top 10 names, but it seems like the styles we like are all on the top 10 list. I feel like I've searched through every website and and every book (including the Baby Name Wizard, which I know you recommend). I'm hoping you and your readers can offer some help!

Thanks so much!!

I am a little embarrassed to have Kardashian trivia easily at hand, but there it is: you have a subscription to People magazine, you pick up on certain things. I don't think there are any Kardashians named Claire (or as they'd certainly spell it, Klaire). There is, however, a Chloe, which they spell Khloé. (The others are Kourtney, Kim, Kendell, Kylie, and Casey who must feel quite left out, but Kris didn't name her so what can you do.)

So that would put Claire back on your list, except I agree it's choppy with the one-syllable surname. Instead I suggest Clara. Clara Elizabeth F-urn. I think sharing your initials and middle name is sweet, without being very noticeable or seeming like an obvious namesake.

You're right, Emma is very popular. Gemma, however, is not. Gemma Elizabeth F-urn.

Because you have Cecilia, I'll suggest Cecily. Cecily Elizabeth F-urn.

Cecilia also makes me think of Felicity. It depends on how you feel about alliteration, but I think Felicity F-urn is pleasingly whimsical without overdoing it.

The suggestion of Sophia always makes me think of Fiona, because of the similar sounds. Then Fiona and Sophia make me think of Bianca, because that's another one with a similar rhythm. Fiona again depends on how you feel about alliteration.

A less common version of Olivia is Liviana. It gives you the nickname Livvie---similar to your favorite Lily but without the botanical association.

Another name with a similar sound is Lydia. The nickname Liddy is again reminiscent of Lily.

Another name with a good strong V sound is Genevieve.

Mulling over Sophia and Olivia brought Sabrina to mind. Sabrina F-urn.

If your favorite name is Lily, I wonder if you would like Milly. It can be short for Amelia, Camilla, or Emeline, all of which seem compatible with the other names on your list.

Or Lila. I'd caution that I think Lila along with its alternate spellings is heading for the Top Ten---but many names look as if they're heading that way before hovering nicely in the non-top-ten Top Fifty.

Or Jillian, with the nicknames Jill and Jilly.

Or Willa is so pretty. Willa F-urn.

Another goes-with-almost-everything middle name I like is Louise, especially since then it gives you Lou for nicknames. Gemma Louise becomes Gemma-Lou; Clara Louise becomes Clara-Lou; Lydia Louise becomes Liddy-Lou.

Name update! Courtney writes:
I wanted to email you and let you know that we finally decided on a name for this baby. We are going with Lila Elizabeth. I think you are right about it becoming a popular name because we know of a couple other Lila's being born this year also, which is fine with me. I cannot thank you and the readers enough for helping us decide on a name for this baby.

Thank you for your help!!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Baby Naming Issue: Names With Negative Word Meanings

Emily writes:
I absolutely adore your blog and can't get enough of baby name talk. An issue has been bothering me for a while and I'd love to hear what you/your readers think. One of my favorite names is Rue. This would be a nickname (everyday use) for Ruby which was the name of the beloved matriarch of our family. I love everything about it: the meaning of the full name, how cute it is as a call name and the rarity of it. However, by definition Rue means regret. It's not often used anymore except in literature, but is that negative meaning enough to ruin the name? Does the full name "Ruby" cancel out that meaning?

Just wondering if you have thoughts on the issue, or perhaps other examples with a similar problem.

Thanks for your time!

Ah! Yes! I am interested in this topic too. I am trying to remember when it recently came up. Oh, I remember: I love the names Malcolm and Mallory---but Mal means bad, and I took Latin.

I don't put much stock in baby name meanings---for example, that Emma means "healer of the universe" or that Isaac means "she laughed." I give it about as much thought as I'd give to flower meanings if Paul brought me a bouquet. ("Bachelor buttons?? Why didn't he just TELL me he wanted a divorce?? And why did I marry someone whose name means SMALL?") Different baby name books will give completely different meanings for the same name; and some names are retroactively given meanings from religious or mythological sources, but what did the name mean before then?

But when it's a WORD meaning, I get more involved. Rue. Mal. Bella. Patience. Hunter. I might still use one, but I'd consider the issue carefully.

One question is how familiar the word is as a name. We know a lily is a flower, and that gives the name Lily a pleasant floral imagery---but we're very familiar with it as a name. It's different if we meet a little girl named Sunflower, or Sapphire.

Another question is how familiar the name is as a word. The name Patience immediately brings the word patience to mind, but we don't use the word "felicitations" anymore so might not think of it with the name Felicity. Most of us might know that "bella" is the word for beautiful in Italy---but it's not the word for beautiful in the U.S. We might know the name Cooper is a tradesman name, but most of us would be hard-pressed to come up with barrel-making; Archer and Sailor are more evocative.

In the case of Ruby/Rue, I think you're in the clear. As you point out, we don't use the word rue much anymore (Paul and I still say it because of a Penny Arcade comic strip, but we don't say it MUCH). And we're somewhat familiar with it as a name, and I suspect we'll be even more familiar with it as this generation of Ruth/Ruby babies grow up. And as you also point out, it would be a nickname rather than the given name: naming a boy Malcolm is different than going straight to Mal; naming a girl Isabella is different than going straight to Bella. And it's an honor/namesake name, which gives it a new meaning related to your beloved family matriarch, which I'd say trumps other meanings.

You could also consider spelling it Ru.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Baby Naming Issue: Andromeda or Andi?

Jolene writes:
I've been following your blog for a while, and have really enjoyed the baby name advice you've provided to others... so I figured I'd give it a go and ask you our question. We are expecting our first child any day now (Due date Dec 20) and are having some trouble deciding on a Girl's Name. (We still don't know the sex, boys names aren't quite so contentious... we both agreed on Malcolm Marshall without too much arguing)

Our last name is kind of long... sounds like "Donaldson". Before getting married I had a fairly short name (2 syllables first name, 2 syllables last name) so I'm a bit intimidated by the length of our last name in pairing it with other names.

My husband is in LOVE with the name "Andromeda" for a girl, and maybe using the nickname "Andi" for everyday. I do like the name, but I wonder if it's too much of a handle for a teeny little girl - it's really long, and uncommon where we live. When she grows up, she could use a shortened form - like Andi, Romi, Meda, etc - but I wonder if we might not be better off to use the nickname right from the beginning. I really love the name Andi, and it fits well with my own middle name.

My proposal is Andi Lynn "Donaldson"... but the husband is insisting that it must be Andromeda Lynn "Donaldson" and still call her Andi everyday.

Are we asking for trouble with such a long name? If we plan on using the nickname every day, is it better to just have that be her legal name?

Thank you for your time :)

In some cases, I like a more formal/serious given name to fall back on. In other cases, it seems silly to force a formal name that will never be used. In general, I lean toward OPTIONS, and so I lean toward formal names with nicknames, rather than nicknames-as-given-names. But it has to be case-by-case, because there are so many issues to consider.

In this case, I am charmed by the father's love of the name, and I am persuaded by the easy nicknames. The name Andromeda is no longer than the name Elizabeth; and although Andromeda Donaldson would be a mouthful with all those D sounds, I see from your email address that the actual surname is a much nicer fit. It doesn't seem too long to me at all, especially with a short middle name.

If you're willing to go with Andromeda, and if you don't think it will cause you problems later when choosing sibling names, I vote for making it the given name, and then using Andi as an easy nickname for any community. Let's have a poll over to the right, to see what everyone else thinks. [Poll closed; see results below.]

Name update! Jolene writes:
Our little girl arrived on December 30, 2011 of course... And we decided to go with the name: Andromeda Lynn Richardson... But with a twist - were calling her Romy for short.

She's a sweet little girl, and though we're completely exhausted, things are finally starting to even out a bit as far as a routine goes.

Thanks to you and your readers for your opinions on the name. I'd be interested to know what the final tally was on the poll as well. We only had one person have a really negative reaction to the name (unfortunately my father in law) and he's saying that he wants to call her his "little Annie" instead of Romy. If they want to have that little thing between them maybe that's ok in the end? We'll deal with it as it comes I guess :)

Thanks again!

Baby Boy _____er, Brother to Sisters Tatum and Campbell

Jen writes:
Hi Swistle!
Here we are, baby #3 and you would think we've never done this naming business before. But, we are stumped. I think that we could name a gaggle of girls, but now that we are faced with naming a boy, we are stuck. We have 2 girls, Tatum and Campbell. There was a short list when naming both girls, but the one name that kept creeping up during both of their births was Barrett. Any other names have long since been forgotten.
As we consider names, we definitely want something that isn't too popular. My husband and I are Jennifer and Jason, complete with my brother, another Jason and his sister, another Jennifer. I would love for my children to only be identified by their first names and not by their first names and the first initial of their last name like we all had to deal with throughout our lives. Since our girls names are more masculine, we want a boy's name that is different, but doesn't take on too much of a feminine quality. My husband is also beginning to fight for names that are more "normal" but I still want to stay away from popular. I guess we are trying to find a middle ground that might include a mainstream name, but not too mainstream.
Our last name is a verb that ends in -er, so most names with an -er ending are out. I am also not a fan of many of the -den names like Caden, Braden, Jaden and Brendan. Our family is oversaturated with biblical names including Samson, Samuel, Seth, Silas, Gabriel, Simon and Shadrach, so I'd like to avoid duplication of those. The only other semi-restriction we have on names is that we would like to avoid a name that lends itself easily to a nickname. While we still love Barrett for a boy, we are worried about him being called Barry. A name that could be shortened isn't out, but we'd have to consider it carefully.
We aren't set on a middle name yet, although we are considering both Jason and Brett. These aren't set in stone though because we are more concerned with figuring out the first name. The current list of names only includes names that I like and my husband is mostly indifferent about. Unfortunately, he hasn't brought any names to the table, so I'm stuck. My list includes: Cullen, Graham, Elliot, Griffin and Reed. If I could get past the popularity issue, I also like Landon, but in my mind, it's out because it's so common these days. Names that have been rejected include Jace, Stellan, Gage, Deacon, Atticus, and Slade.
Any suggestions you could provide would be greatly appreciated. Our boy is expected to arrive at the end of January and I'm starting to get a little nervous since we seem to be at a standstill.

Barrett sounds like a very good choice to me. It's unusual but not unheard-of, and I suspect you could avoid Barry (though he might one day choose it for himself). (I became more fond of the name Barry, too, after having a smart/cute/funny one as a co-worker.)

There's also Merritt, but with the sibling names I think it sounds too feminine. (I think it would be a great option if later on you have another girl. Beckett, too, would be a great name for a third girl.) (Now I'm getting really off-topic, but Jenson would be charming for a girl, if you liked the idea of combining your names---or you could say she was named for her aunt and her uncle! ...Okay, now I will get back to work.)

If you want to move slightly more mainstream but without losing the no-surname-initial-required thing you've got going so far, I suggest using surname names that have mainstream nicknames. Bennett, for example: it continues your surname theme, but with the mainstreame nickname Ben. Tatum, Campbell, and Bennett. (I realize this completely ignores your preference for non-nicknameable names, but I still think it might work as a compromise idea.)

On the topic of Ben, in school I had a classmate named Benton. Tatum, Campbell, and Benton.

Similar to Bennett/Ben is Nicholson/Nick. Again, it's a mainstream nickname with an unexpected full version. Tatum, Campbell, and Nicholson.

Another: Davis. He can use Dave if he wants to (though it was only in thinking of it with Bennett and Nicholson that I realized that was an option), but the name Davis is handsome and unusual and masculine. Tatum, Campbell, and Davis.

Another: Anderson. I don't think I'd use the nickname Andy, but it would be nice to have it available. Tatum, Campbell, and Anderson.

Or Edison, handsome AND smart, and with the potential nickname Ed if he wants it. Tatum, Campbell, and Edison.

Or Robinson, which gives you Rob. Tatum, Campbell, and Robinson.

Or Jacoby, the unusual surname version of the fully mainstream name Jacob. Tatum, Campbell, and Jacoby.

I wonder if you'd like Aidric? It has a familiar/traditional sound (Aiden/Eric), but it's uncommon. Tatum, Campbell, and Aidric.

Keaton is familiar but not overly common. Tatum, Campbell, and Keaton.

This would be such a good sibling group for an honor surname. Maybe an old family surname, for something both uncommon and familiar? Or the surname of a favorite author or scientist or actor?

We just recently discussed the name Lennox, so it's on my mind. Tatum, Campbell, and Lennox.

One of my favorite boy surname names is Lawson. Tatum, Campbell, and Lawson.

Another of my favorites is Lincoln. I love the nickname Linc, and its familiarity as a surname makes it feel more traditional/mainstream. Tatum, Campbell, and Lincoln.

Another is Sullivan, with the nickname Sully. Tatum, Campbell, and Sullivan.

I like Malcolm for you. It's unusual, it's all boy, and it ties the sibling names together with a subtle M theme. Tatum, Campbell, and Malcolm. Actually, now that I write it out, I think it might have too many sounds in common with Campbell.

I like Everett even better. It's similar to Elliot (I think in this sibling group, Elliot might be too feminine), it's boyish and surnamey, it's uncommon but familiar. Tatum, Campbell, and Everett.

Name update! Jen writes:
I'm excited to tell you that he arrived on January 24th. At a healthy 9 lbs, 12 oz. and 21 1/2 inches long, he is loving the attention from big sisters Tatum and Campbell. And his name? Lincoln Brett!
Thanks for all your help, we couldn't be happier with our name choice!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Baby Girl or Boy Butcher

Corrie writes:
Hi there, I’m PRAYING you can help. I’m due in six weeks but we don’t know the sex. My husband and I are sort of agreeing (ish) on names but I don’t feel like we’ve nailed it yet. Our surname is Butcher (bad times) – so girl names need to be really pretty and soft to counterbalance it (I quite like the old-fashioned names but with Butcher, it often sounds like a 99 year old woman so we have to be careful!) I also like the idea of giving a daughter my middle name, which is my mum’s maiden name (she gave it to me to continue the name as she’s an only child) – it’s Lane. The trouble is that the only names we actually agree on are so common and I’d love something a little bit less obvious.

We both like:

Lily Lane
Ella Lane

But they’re both so common…

My husband has vetoed:
Romilly (I LOVE this but he won’t budge)

Names we can’t consider because of family: Evie, Amelie, Oliver, Sam, Louis, Maisie, Charlotte, Arabella, Max

We both like good, solid names. I would LOVE to go with something more whimsical/trendy (Marlo, Auden etc) but there’s no way my husband will go for it. He wants something traditional. It’s just trying to get a balance between traditional but not too obvious. Er, I haven’t even got as far as the middle name for a boy…

We both like (ish):

Atticus (Atty for short) – I kind of love this – husband less so - but don’t think we’re brave enough to do it
Arthur (Arty) – this is my husband’s favourite but I’m just not feeling it enough; I don’t really like the nickname
Oscar – bit obvious
Teddy (full name Edward) – I love this but my husband isn’t keen – I think it’s adorable!
Fred/Freddie – both like this but it’s so obvious

My husband has vetoed:
Albert (Bertie for short)

I would really appreciate any guidance – I’ve been through a zillion books and just can’t seem to crack it!

Thank you

Another issue with both Lily and Ella is how much L they have with Lane. But this is less of an issue with a middle name it would be with a surname.

I'd like to recommend Ivy instead of Lily, but with Butcher it suddenly makes me think of I.V. needles.

Iris, maybe, instead? Iris Lane; Iris Butcher. Sweet and feminine, and reduces the L problem. In the U.S., it's significantly less popular than Lily and Ella---but I see in the U.K. stats it's barely an improvement.

I see Lydia has fallen there. It's so close to Lily, but now it's out of the Top 100. Lydia Lane is fun to say. But does it sound as good there as it does here, where it's rising?

This is one reason I am hesitant to give advice for any other country: names have so many associations, and it's hard to figure out the associations they'd have for another country. Those of us in the U.S. might make a suggestion that leaves you thinking "WHAT on EARTH are they TALKING about??"---or we might give positive/negative feedback that would only apply to a name used HERE and would be otherwise useless. Do we have any UK readers to lend a hand with this one?

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Baby Naming Issue: All the Names We Like are Too Popular

Liz writes:
My husband and I are expecting our first child in April. We didn't have any girl names picked out, but knew if it was a boy, his name would be Dominic. Of course we found out we're having a girl! We couldn't have it the easy way.

Our problem is that it seems all the names we like are too popular right now. We're talking Isabella (used to be my favorite), Sofia, Ava, Mia... all beautiful names, but they're everywhere! We're trying to find a name that's outside the top 50 girl names. By no means does it have to be totally obscure... just not super-trendy. We know that these lists change, so a name we pick now may be very popular in a couple years - but that's the risk we take.

We have a 3-syllable Italian last name that ends in "isi" and we like the more Latin or Italian sounding names, although that's not a must-have. As you can tell from our list above, we also like names that are definitely feminine. No disrespect to the female Dylans and Jordans of the world - it's just not our style for our baby.

Our possible middle names are all family-related. We'd like to use one of the following:

Marie or Mary
Elizabeth or Beth

Can you help us? We would be forever grateful! Maybe we can name her "Swistle." ;)

I think the name Swistle goes best with Elizabeth: Swistle Elizabeth _____isi. I love it. Or maybe it's too much L?

There are a few ways to approach the issue of having popular tastes:

One is to say "Hang it!" and go ahead and use your favorite names. The number one name last year was Isabella, but so far there have only been two Isabellas total in all of my kids' classes combined (I'm including all five kids but thinking especially of the younger three, who were all born after Isabella was in the top 10). I think a bigger problem are the names that get popular in groups: in William's class last year there was a Kyle, a Kyler, and a Kylie. Or a class might have an Amelia, an Emilia, an Emma, and a Mia, which is more noticeable than a single Sophia.

A second approach, which could tie in to the first approach, is to choose a popular name, but choose one with a steadier popularity curve: something that never gets too UNpopular, instead of something that went from almost unheard-of to Top 10 in less than a decade: Elizabeth instead of Isabella, Anna instead of Ava. (And all of the names on your list are less risky than a total newcomer such as a Cadence or a Madison.)

A third approach is to think, "Having a less common name is worth selecting a name I like less." In that case I'd go to the charts, pull up the list of the Top 1000 for 2010, start at #50, and work my way down while jotting down possibilities. As you've already noticed, some of those names might be on their way up (you can search each name separately to make sure it's not going up like, for example, #364 in 2008, #204 in 2009, #52 in 2010), but it's different odds choosing a maybe-it-won't instead of an it-already-has.

A fourth approach, which could tie in to the third approach, is to find names that are similar to the popular ones: for example, Cleo instead of Chloe. This is risky: it's what leads to a Kyle and a Kyler and a Kylie, or to an Eleanor and an Ella and an Elizabeth all going by Ellie. But it can also pay off beautifully: maybe everyone is tired of Isabella, but Isadora and Annabel would strike them as fresh and different--having some of the elements that make everyone like Isabella, but not in a way that would make them the next big thing.

Because it sounds like your preference is to avoid the popular names, I'll lean toward the fourth way: finding names that are similar to the names you like, but less popular. Here's how I'd do your list (with an extra-thorough perusal of The Baby Name Wizard's section of Italian names), but "names that seem similar" is a very subjective category so this is just to give you the idea:

Instead of Isabella: Isadora, Annabel, Willa, Gabriella, Mirella, Marilena, Raffaella, Arabella, Cordelia, Elisabetta.

Instead of Sofia: Fiona, Phoebe, Bianca, Josefina, Josephine, Claudia, Lucia, Annika, Philomena.

Instead of Ava: Eva, Eve, Ada, Ivy, Elsa, Geneva.

Instead of Mia: Lia, Celia, Mila, Mira, Gia, Ria, Nina.

You probably want to save Dominic in case of a future boy, but Veronica or Danica or Annika might have a similar and appealing sound for a girl.

Name update! Liz writes:
Our beautiful daughter Stella Elizabeth was born on April 25, 2012.  My husband actually suggested the name Stella, and I loved it from the start!  It has the "ella" ending that I love, without being as popular as Isabella and the like. You and your readers did offer some great suggestions - particularly Sonia and Cecilia - so if we have another daughter, we may use one of those! Stella just seemed like the perfect, spunky name for our little girl.  As you can see from the picture I attached - she has quite the attitude!

Thanks for your help! 

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Baby Naming Issue: Are Adelaide and Emeline Too Similar?

C. writes:
My husband and I are expecting a baby girl in February. We have the name Emeline picked out, in fact it's the only name in the running really. But what I've been wondering is if it's too matchy with my 1 year old daughters name, Adelaide. Maybe I'm just over-analyzing it, but when I was comparing the names syllable by syllable (of which they each have three, another way in which they 'match') they seem to have a lot of similarities.

Ad uh layd
Em uh liyn

So - Is it too much? Thanks in advance for your help!

Oh, we also plan on having other children, would the matchyness limit our choices quite a bit for names later on?

To me it sounds like a very nice coordinated fit. The main similarity, I think, is the three syllables with the emphasis on the first syllable. Sound-wise, they share an "uh-l" in the middle, but otherwise have nice differences: different starting/ending vowel sounds and different starting/ending consonants. It tempts me to think of other very nice coordinated fits (Genevieve, Meredith, Josephine, Vivian, Juliet, Lorelei, Cecily, Natalie, Lydia, Rosemary...) for future sisters. And yet I think they'd be fine without such coordination: Adelaide, Emeline, and Sophia. Adelaide, Emeline, and Clara. Adelaide, Emeline, and Violet. Adelaide, Emeline, and Charlotte. Adelaide, Emeline, and Louisa. Adelaide, Emeline, and Cordelia. Adelaide, Emeline, and Felicity. Adelaide, Emeline, and Camilla.

I think they're great together. Nice work!

What does everyone else think?

Name Updates!

Update (and photo!) on Baby Girl T (Rhymes with Kayla), Sister to Sebastien and Georgia!
Update on Baby Girl Sharp, Sister to Owen!
Update (and photo!) on Baby Girl _____ Sights Flemming-with-a-D, Sister to Gavin!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Baby Girl M_____, Sister to Samuel John

Debbie writes:
I’ve only recently found your site and I’m so impressed with the thoughtfulness and creativity of the names you suggest. Please help!

Our baby girl is due in three weeks and my husband and I are stuck in a naming rut. It’s not that we disagree, but we are not completely in love with our list and nothing new seems to be jumping out at us. We like classic names that are preferably not extremely common or very unusual.

Our 2 year old son is named Samuel John, which I suppose is not uncommon. However, naming Samuel was easy as my husband had always had this name in the back of his mind (after his grandfather – another boy would be called Henry), but we are struggling to think of girl names that are both pretty and say ‘take me seriously’.

Our surname is relatively uncommon where we live, starts with M and has two syllables, like Halston and with possibly similar pronunciation issues (actually pronounced like ‘Hol’, but usually guessed incorrectly as ‘Hal’). We’d rather not use a name or nickname that rhymes with either pronunciation (eg: Holly or Callie). Our first names are Deborah and Michael.

Names that have been on the list:

Emilia (familiar sound yet we don’t know anyone with this name)

Eleanor (nn Ellie, which has a family connection)

Natalie/Natasha (for its Christmas DD connection, but don’t like nn Nat)

Evelyn (again Christmas with Eve or Evie as nn)

Jemima (not sure this works with our M surname)

Ashley (husband likes, nn Ash, I’m not completely sold on it)

Adeline (love this, nn Ada, but vetoed by husband)

Caitlin (nn Cate, too common?)

Names we like but have been used by close family/friends:









Mackenzie (this one is left of field given the rest of our list, but husband likes it. Has been used by a couple of friends).

Names considered and rejected:

F names like Freya, Frances, Felicity

Anything that sounds like Sam, such as Samara, Camilla, etc

As mentioned, names that sound like they rhyme with our surname.

At this stage I think we’d use Emilia as either a middle name or a first name (although I’m not sure about nicknames Emmy, Em or Milly with our surname). If we use it as first, for middle we’d probably try to find a short name in keeping with Samuel’s, perhaps something like Claire, Kate, Leah or Beth.

Samuel was early and this naming problem is starting to keep me awake at night, just when I need my sleep!

Thanks so much

Looking at your lists, what stands out to me is that you mostly like common names---but you're trying to avoid them, and this could be what's making you feel stuck. I'll try to gear my suggestions toward less-common options, but also it's fine to choose a very common name if you LIKE very common names. Common isn't what it used to be: even the top ten is not necessarily the kiss of death.

Emilia is not very common, but it feels significantly more common than it is because of all the Amelias and Emmas and Mias. And I agree with you that the nicknames are not ideal with your surname: so much M and L. I also agree with you about Jemima: that's a lot of M with your surname.

The name Emeline might just switch us from one frying pan to another, but I'm mentioning it anyway because of Madeleine on your can't-use list.

Caitlin and Ashley are finally on the way down after years of high popularity: their decades of commonness and huge number of spelling variations make them feel even more common than they were, and I think I would avoid them at this point--especially since they don't meet your classic/traditional preferences.

Instead of Ashley, I wonder if you'd like Audrey or Aubrey?

One of my favorite "pretty but serious" girl names is Genevieve. It has the Eve you like from Evelyn, and it's a nice old name. It might be a little rhymey with your surname, though.

Another of my favorites is Eloise, and it reminds me of Eliza and Helena and Evelyn and Eleanor from your list. As with Genevieve, the "ee" sound might be too rhymey with your surname.

I think Evelyn from your list is a very good option: it was leaping up the ranks for awhile there, but now it's had two years in a row at #39 so it might not get to the top ten.

Eleanor too seems like a very good choice. It has the popular Ellie nickname, and also has Nora if that suits her better.

I'd thought almost for sure that Natalie was going to make it to the top ten, but the last few years it's been hovering just outside it at 17, 13, 16, 14. I love Christmas names (more possibilities here), and think this is a great name option for you. The main (and possibly deal-breaking) downside is that I think Samuel's nickname may make the nickname Nat even more tempting to use. "Sam and Nat" is so catchy and natural.

Sasha would give you some of the sound of Natasha without the Nat issue.

Would you like the name Noelle instead? I'm not sure if that's too much L with the surname (and with Samuel), or if it's just the right amount to tie it nicely together. Sam and Noelle, so sweet.

Caroline is a sweet classic choice, and has "carol" to remind us of Christmas. Samuel and Caroline; Sam and...and there's the problem. I've heard of Carolines called Caro and Carrie, but it's not as easy a nickname as Sam.

Stella is sometimes used as a Christmas baby name because it means star. I think it's a perfect "pretty but serious" name. Again I'm not sure if the L is good with the surname or not. Sam and Stella is wonderful, as long as it wouldn't make you feel locked into using an S name for any future children. I love Stella Joy: Samuel John and Stella Joy.

Holly is out for the way it rhymes with your surname, but Ivy is great. Ivy Emilia M____; Sam and Ivy.

I see Chloe on your can't-use list, and I wonder if you'd like Cleo? It just reverses the vowel sounds, and yet it's far, far less common. I love the sound of Sam and Cleo.

Another of my favorite pretty-but-serious names is Josephine. Maybe Josephine Claire, or Josephine Cate, or Josephine Noelle, or Josephine Eve. Sam and Jo.

Another is Rose: it's become common as a middle name, but is rare and fresh as a first name. Rose Emilia; Sam and Rose.

Another is Clara. Sam and Clara.

Name update! Debbie writes:
I was so excited to read your thoughts on our list. It really helped narrow our focus. We still had a few options in mind, but when she arrived on Christmas day we knew she was Evelyn Clare. And it turns out that one of her great great grandmothers was named Eva, so there's a family connection there too! Thanks so much for your help!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Baby Girl Chaplin, Sister to Lennox Elizabeth

Tessa writes:
Hi Swistle!
I read your blog religiously & never thought I would be writing you about my naming indecisiveness. I have kept baby name "lists" since I was 9 years old, but it is so much harder when it's permanent! I am 28 weeks pregnant with our second baby girl. My name is Tessa & my husband's name is Tyson. Our last name sounds like Chaplin. Our first daughter is Lennox Elizabeth, named after my husband's great grandmother's maiden name. We are having a very hard time deciding on which name to choose for our final child. Help!

Since Lennox is an honor name, we would love to continue that trend (but as the middle name instead). My great grandmother's maiden name is McKenzie, which works well as a baby girl's middle name. That much we have agreed upon. If we were to have a boy, our short list included: Miloh, Silas, Cohen & Atticus. Looking back, we probably would have the same naming conundrum if we were having a boy! As for our small list of first names for a girl, we have 4 names that we are completely deadlocked on. I seriously have no idea how to "give up" one on the list & it would be so much easier if someone (you!) would just give us that extra push for a solid front-runner.

With Lennox (nickname: Leni) having a masculine name for a girl, I feel like the the name list we had when we were pregnant the first time are too simple & "girly". So, our new list includes:

1. Palmer
2. Tatum
3. Piper
4. Clara

Palmer is my husband's favorite. Palmer McKenzie Chaplin. It is commonly a boy's name & I believe it compliments her sister: Lennox & Palmer. All of the opinions that I have sought out (on google, baby forums, ect) point all advice on staying far away from Palmer as a baby girl's name. Everything from teasing in school to it is the "ugliest name ever" have come up. Is sticking to a generally masculine name going to set my daughter up for cruelty later in life? (My name, Tessa, was very uncommon in the 80s & I still rarely meet anyone my age with it- but I embraced the individuality of it, rather than being envious of more popular names).

I am leaning toward Tatum. Tatum McKenzie Chaplin. I know that it has been in the Top 500 names for a decade, but I like that it is considered a unisex name. I love the nickname Tate- Leni & Tate. My husband associates this name to Tatum O'Neal & all of the negative stigma that comes along with her. The only question I pose with Tatum is: is it weird to have a Tessa, Tyson, Tatum.... and Lennox? We purposefully stayed away from "T" names the first time! What about having the exact same initials (TMC) as my husband?

Piper is an appealing name to both of us, but we fear that it is becoming too popular. Some days we think that it is a happy medium between Palmer & Tatum, but also don't want to feel like we have to "settle" just because it's common & "cute". Piper McKenzie Chaplin.

Clara is my grandmother's name & the only name that we have carried from our first pregnancy name list. We both love the name but it has never been #1. It is an honor name & it has significant meaning, but is it too simple because of Lennox's naming style? I am not sure if Lennox & Clara fits well as siblings.

We are definitely open to other suggestions. The name Wren was #5 & recently taken off our list. Our decision would be a lot easier if my husband or I could easily cross off any of these names, but we can't. I would really like to have a name picked out before the birth, for fear of having a nameless child for days after delivery! We kept Leni's name a surprise, even though we were 99.9% sure beforehand. With this being my last child (& juggling two childen under 2yrs old), I just want to have everything done by the time the baby gets here :) Please point us in the right direction!

I would take Clara off the list, which pains me because it's on my own list of top favorites. It's traditional and old-fashioned and entirely used for girls, and it's on its way up in popularity (#167 in 2010). It isn't that sibling names must coordinate, but the clash with Lennox (modern surname name used almost entirely for boys and not in the top 1000 for girls) is startling.

I think Palmer, Tatum, and Piper all work fine, but with downsides to each.

Palmer is the most similar to Lennox for female/male name usage; Tatum and Piper are both used mostly for girls. Palmer is also the most similar in popularity: not in the top 1000 for girls, while Tatum is #335 and Piper is #144. Palmer is also the best match in name style: it's another clear surname name, while Tatum and Piper now sound like first names. Because of its excellent coordination, I'd vote for Palmer---except that it doesn't have a good feminine nickname like Lennox does in Leni. For me, that would be a huge issue, and it balances the advantages of androgyny/surname coordination. In fact, after thinking it over awhile, for me it takes it off the list. (I don't have the same feminine-nickname requirement for Tatum and Piper, because both names are already predominately used for girls.)

I think it's fine to have three T names and one L name in the family, because the L child came first. But it does put a small strike against Tatum for me.

A mark against Piper is that it's even more common than Clara: #144 in 2010, and rising.

The name Campbell came to my mind. Like Lennox, it's a modern surname name; and like Lennox, it has a cute feminine nickname. Lennox and Campbell; Leni and Cammi.

Or Hollis. Lennox and Hollis; Leni and Holly.

Or Ellison. Lennox and Ellison; Leni and Ellie.

Or Winslow. Lennox and Winslow; Leni and Winnie. That's one of my favorites.

Or Merritt. Lennox and Merrit; Leni and Merrie.

Or Maguire. Lennox and Maguire; Leni and Maggie.

Or Hatcher. Lennox and Hatcher; Leni and Hattie.

Or Padgett, which for me falls into the category of "I know it's a girl's name so it doesn't need a girlish nickname." Lennox and Padgett.

McKenzie would also be a good first-name fit, despite its relative popularity. Not only are Lennox and McKenzie both modern surname names (McKenzie is comfortably a first name now, but your spelling reminds people of its surname origins), and both great-grandmother surnames, but they sound wonderful together, all crackly and crisp. Lennox and McKenzie! I love it. You could use McKenzie Clara, and each girl would have a great-grandmother-surname first name and a traditional feminine middle name. But it sounds like you have already considered this and prefer it in the middle name slot, so I mention this only for the fun of discussing it.

I also recommend the post Choosing Between Two Finalists, which can work for more than two. Part of that post recommends seeing how you feel about the results of a poll, so let's also have a poll over to the right for the original four candidates. [Poll closed; see results below.]

Name update! Tessa writes:
I was blown away by the awesome responses & baby name advice from your readers. You rock! I can honestly say that writing to you helped make our decision easier & we were 99% sure we had a name picked out only a few weeks after your input.

Tatum McKenzie was born one week early on February 24, 2012. She is now 2 weeks old & such a good baby!! And big sister, Lennox Elizabeth, loves her to pieces. We are so happy that we have our Leni & Tate, and our family is complete.

As soon as we started reading the positive responses about Tatum, we knew it was the winner. Also, the poll got SO many votes & we were pleased that Tatum was a favorite. We have gotten a few comments on the odd number of "T" names (Tessa, Tyson, Tatum.... and Lennox) but we are still very happy with it!

One of your readers suggested Harlow & I fell in love with that name immediately. Lennox & Harlow, Leni & Harley. I tried & tried to get my husband to switch, but I think he was already set on Tatum at that point. I loved the masculine suggestions that everyone came up with: Finley, Emerson, Harper, Rowan, and Bennett were some of my favorite "girly" boy names that we unfortunately couldn't use due to knowing other children by those names. I also loved Hollis & Winslow (nn: Winnie) but my husband vetoed them. I cannot thank you enough for all of your advice!

Name Updates!

Update (and photo!) on Baby Girl Ronhovdee!
Update on Baby Girl Northcutt, Sister to Reid and Jace!
Update on Baby Girl Foreman!
Update on Baby Girl Marsh, Sister to Owen and Eli!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Baby Girl 1-ord, Sister to Nathaniel and Zachary

R. writes:
Hi-- Our last name is very "holy" and begins with an "L"!
I am 27 weeks pregnant and scheduled for my 3rd (and last) C-section on February 29th. We are super excited to be having a GIRL after 2 boys. The boys were relatively easy to name--my oldest is 7 and is Nathaniel ("Nate") Thomas 1-ord--with Thomas being my husband's middle name. The younger is 20 months--Zachary ("Zach" or more often "Zach-y") Harrison 1-ord--with Harrison being an honor name for my dad, Harry, who passed away while I was pregnant with Zach.

Compounding our naming dilemma is a series of issues that have come about with the early pregnancy scans (downs syndrome scare, heart defect scare, hair lip scare, etc.) which have all turned out OK so far but caused lots of stress for the first 24 weeks or so and kind of made me worry about naming this baby too soon. (I had 4 pregnancy losses between Nate and Zach as well). Also, my mother has been recently diagnosed with cancer and is undergoing chemo right now--causing another set of family stress issues and conflicted feelings about the joy I have in this pregnancy.

Our naming style: We both like longer first names with a nickname that we use every day--but we also use the 3 names (Zachary Harrison 1-ord or Nathaniel Thomas 1-ord) when either child is in trouble (so I have to imagine saying the name in a stern tone while the child is misbehaving!). I am German/Scottish and my husband is Italian/Swedish and so far we haven't been able to come up with any names that "go" with any of these thus our rather traditional "American" named boys. The only issue we had naming the boys was that I LOVE biblical boy names like Noah, Jonah, Josiah, Lucas etc. which, with the last name of "1-ord" really is just too much (Although both boys names do come up in the bible)! We have also chosen "family" or "honor" names for the 2 boys' middle names so I feel pressured to do the same for this one. The problem is that my mom is Kathleen--which I don't love as a middle--but that would be the most obvious choice. I do like Kathryn which is similar to how we changed my dad's name to Harrison as an honor name....I don't know how I feel about it at this point, but it is a possible middle name choice.

For this pregnancy I have made lists of girl names and then my husband shoots them down...he wants to use a name we had "picked" for the first baby that turned out to be Nate--but I don't like the name anymore and it feels dated and already "used up" so I am unwilling to even consider it at this point.

Names I have considered:
Emilia Kathryn--right now is my top contender. I would go with Mia or Mia Kate as a nn. My problem with it is that it is pretty popular--especially when you add in all of the Amelias and Mias...have not pitched to husband b/c I don't want to "lose" it as a name!
Bridget nn Britta or Gretchen nn Gretta--love both but husband does not like. Not sure about middle names with either
Tabitha--love, husband hates "Tabby" or "Tibby"
Daphne, Fiona, Felicity--can't come up with usable nn's for any of these with "1-ord"--husband doesn't like
Abrielle or Briella--like both, but not sure about "Ella" with 1-ord--no idea about middle names for either
Alice nn Ali--like the simplicity, but not convinced it is "the one"
Brynne, Bronwyn, Brynlyn, etc. I like the idea but not the execution of these
I like Quinn as a middle name but it kind of feels like it comes out of nowhere in terms of our naming style...

I don't want a super popular name and would like to stay out of the top 100 but it is not a deal breaker. We have never run into another Nate (mostly Nathan which I dislike as a nn) and we rarely hear of another Zach that is under the age of 12-15. Names we hear ALL THE TIME in our part of the US--and would like to avoid as names or nn's-- are: Abigail, Chloe, Lucy, Lily, Lila, Olivia, Kaylee, Kylee, Leah, Hailey, Hannah, Delaney, Isabella...I like these names and think they are cute, but they are in every daycare, preschool and primary classroom!

At this point I am at a loss--and, I keep thinking I have plenty of time to decide but we are getting a lot of pressure from family and friends regarding the name of this baby as Christmas approaches and I have a baby shower scheduled for January 14th that I would like to have personalized (if possible)! As a side note, I am an only child and my husband's sister has no children so we have the only grandkids in the family....first and last grand-daughter comes with some pressure!


Does your mother go by Kate? That would make such a good middle name, though perhaps not with 1-ord. Or just changing the dated-sounding -een to a current -in sound might help: Kathlin is pretty. Also, Kathleen is how the U.S. initially translated the Irish name spelled Caitlin (which is pronounced more like Kathleen)---but since then we've also adopted the pronunciation KATE-lin for Caitlin. You could use Caitlin as a middle name, if you think your mother would feel honored by it.

But that's always my sticking point with changing honor names: DO people feel honored, when it isn't their name? It seems like it's a double issue: first, it implies their name wasn't liked enough to use; and second, they might not feel honored by a name that doesn't feel like theirs. But people vary hugely on this, and some people are honored if even their initial is used, so this will depend on how things are in your own family and with your own mother. It helps that you've been through this already with your dad's name, and have had a chance to notice your family's (and especially your mother's) reaction to an altered namesake name.

I am in favor of leaving it Kathleen: I think over time it will grow on you, especially if -een names make their expected comeback in the next generation or two. (Little aside: my mother considered giving me the middle name Grace after her grandmother, but couldn't stand to give me such an ugly name. A generation later, here it is sounding lovely again and I would love to have it.) And I love middle names that add to the nickname possibilities: just as with Kathryn, Kathleen gives you Kate to pair with the first name.

Or, you could drop the idea of an honor name. It's fairly common for families to run out of honor names they want to use, and also for families to prefer a different naming style for the girls than for the boys.

If you like Emilia but it's too common, I suggest Emeline. (I'm thinking of the emma-LINE pronunciation rather than emma-LEEN.) Emeline Kathleen 1-ord, or Emmie Kate, or Emma Kate.

Or Anneliese? It's German, and pretty, and I like it with the brother names: Nathaniel, Zachary, and Anneliese; Nate, Zach, and Annie.

Would your husband prefer Margaret over Gretchen? You could still use Greta, but it also opens up the possibilities of Meg, Maggie, Daisy, etc. Margaret Kathleen 1-ord. DAISY KATE. Maggie Kate. I love this name. I want it for myself.

Instead of Tabitha, would you like Agatha or Meredith or Meribeth or Bethany? I love Meredith 1-ord. Meredith Kathleen 1-ord, Merrie Kate.

Emilia and Briella make me think of Camilla. Camilla Kathleen 1-ord; Millie Kate or Cammie Kate. Same possible issue with the surname as Briella, though: a little bit of a ill-la-la with the surname.

Name update! R. writes:
Felicity Kathleen was born on February 29th and is a happy little Leap Day baby! My mom was initially not on board with us announcing that we were using Kathleen...but now she seems pleased with the honor name (I think her "mood" about it also coincided with ending the chemotherapy--once she started to feel better, she was much more pleased with our decision). We still have not figured out a nickname that we agree on--but Zach (our 2 year old) calls her "Dee Dee" for Felicity and Baby, and so far that is her only nickname! Thank you for the input and help (and note that the headband below was a gift--but too funny not to share with the interwebs!)

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Baby Naming Issue: Using the Namesake Name of Someone Who Hated Her Name

Beth writes:
My friend Jenny suggested we email you guys because we are having serious naming problems.

The parameters:

*Our last name starts with M and is too short to support an M name.

*We don't know the gender

*We are small people and while we are great runners and in good shape I'm pretty sure this kid is going to be a bit of a nerd, and small and if it's like me at all, lack all hand-eye coordination. So if it is a boy we'd like to avoid names that rhyme with jerk or can be made into horrible rhymes.

*We either want the middle name Rae or Ray for my paternal grandmother or something after my mom but here's the thing - my mom, who died a few years ago, was named Bernice. But she hated her name. She once tried to change it at camp and wandered off when everyone was screaming JUNE! because she forgot she had changed her name.

*For boy names we like names that end in -en or -an and we love old fashioned names that have awesome nicknames (Sebastian, with Baz as the nickname, is a contender)

*We like old fashioned girl names too, and we have a few. Boy names are way harder for some reason

*But here's the biggest problem. Because of what I do, I can't actually come "out" to a lot of people - I'm not like in the military or anything. So it is really just me, my husband and my pregnant insomnia working overtime.

Thanks! And in the interim thank you for having the site which is perfect for reading over 3 am peanut butter.

The mother-namesake dilemma has seized my attention, so let's start with that. I know from previous posts on this subject that we as a group have mixed feelings about using a honor name when the person-to-be-honored hated the name. My own opinion is that there's a difference between hating one's own name and not wanting it used for a namesake---but that this is why we have to apply such things on a case-by-case basis. There are people who would be indignant and upset if you used their hated name on a baby, and there are people who would be even more deeply honored that you loved them enough to use the name they think would be a challenge to use. (It's one thing to name a baby after your Grandma Grace when the name Grace is fully in style, and another thing entirely to name a baby after your Grandma Earline when the name Earline is not.) There are people who would say grouchily "I don't know why you'd want to give a name like mine to a baby!" and continue saying it every time they saw you, and there are people who would find they loved their own name more after seeing it on a sweet little baby.

In the case of your mom's name, you'll have to guess. Or since she is not here to care one way or another if her name is used, you could consider what the other people in your family will think about it: will they think, shocked, "But Bernice always HATED her name!!" or will they think "Oh, how nice!" Or you can consider how you personally will think of it: will you wince thinking of how she hated her name, or will it bring to mind only your mother herself?

If you decide not to use her name, there are many interesting options to consider.

1. Would her middle name or her maiden name work?

2. Use June: she WISHED it were her name. Or any other name she repeatedly mentioned as a name she'd rather have had.

3. Are there any names she repeatedly said she wished she'd used on a child, or did she ever mention she'd love to have a grandchild named ____?

4. Did she have a nickname she went by, something that could be used as a name?

5. I see in The Oxford Dictionary of First Names that a nickname for Bernice is Binnie. That's adorable.

6. I think it's reaching to use names that "have the same meaning" as the name in question, but it's a fairly common practice. Bernice means "she who brings victory"; other names with similar meanings (according to Baby Names Made Easy) are Colette, Jaia, Jocelyn, Nicole, Veronica, Victoria. But would any of those bring your mother to your mind?

7. I also think it's reaching to do "same first initial" namesakes---but again, it's fairly common practice. Any B name would fit this. But again: would any of those bring your mother to your mind?

8. Now I will REALLY reach, because we're here anyway: could you use your mom's birthstone, or birth month, or birth month flower? Would anything special to her (a collection, a favorite saint, a favorite location, a favorite flower) work as a name?

9. Do you have another honor name you'd like to use that could be combined with Bernice? For example, if your husband's mother was named Jeannine, you might be able to pull off a Jennice sort of thing.

I think if it were me and if it were my mom, I would use her name in the middle name slot as-is. Everyone else would know what I meant by it, even if my mom had always hated her name (it's not like anyone would think I was intending anything but an affectionate honor), and also I know my own mom would be pleased by the honor even if she didn't like the name---just as she'd likely be pleased if I kept a framed photo of her, even if she'd never liked the way she looked. And besides, she wouldn't be here to mind anymore, so I'd be using the name for my own sentimental reasons and to be reminded of her and to let my daughter have something belonging to the grandmother she didn't get a chance to know. Using Veronica or Bridget wouldn't give me any of those same things, just as framing a photo of someone else's mother wouldn't be a workaround.

I just had one more idea. I'm not sure I can think of any good examples that work, and we might need to make up some names, but I kind of love the concept: we'd HIDE your mom's name within your daughter's name. Like this: Ember Nicelle. September Nicelle. Berni Cecile. Aubern Icene. Main problem: pretty much NOTHING ends with -bern or starts with Nice-, and certainly nothing old-fashioned, and I totally had to make up and/or misspell names to get even a few unlikely examples. We could start playing with spelling, but then it's like all those kids named Naveah and Neveah: it doesn't make sense if it doesn't have a hidden word in it anymore. Sigh. Well, I suppose the idea is a bust, but it might work for other people trying to use a name in similar circumstances.

I will tear myself away from this topic and turn my attention to the other issue. An old-fashioned boy name, not starting with M, ideally ending with -n, ideally appropriate for a small-framed nerdy type, with good nicknames. Hm. I came up pretty dry on that, but we will hope the commenters have more success.

Alexander (Alex, Zan, Xander)
Augustus (Gus)
Benjamin (Ben)
Calvin (Cal)
Ezekiel (Zeke)
Judah (Jude)
Leopold (Leo)
Nathaniel (Nate)
Solomon (Sol)
Theodore (Theo)
Wilson (Will)

I think your choice of Sebastian/Baz is best, though I am also partial to Wilson/Will and Augustus/Gus and Calvin/Cal.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Hurry, Hurry, Babies Already Born! Baby Twin Boys Darling, Brothers to Charlie

K. writes:
I really enjoy reading your blog and hope you can help make some good suggestions for us. This February we are expecting twin boys. Total shock for us but super excited about it. My husband and I have a fair amount of names that we like, but can't seem to agree on a solid pair of names that we just love. I would describe our taste in names as traditional with a strong pull towards names that are Irish/English sounding. We dislike strongly names that sound made up (like your Caydens and Neveahs), nature sounding names (no Willows or Ivys please) and anything super trendy. Our last name rhymes with Darling and we have an older son named Charles (we call him Charlie). Had Charlie been a girl, he would have been Nora, Claire or Mary Kate. Here is a list of what we're working with so far:

Brendan -like
Thomas -love nn Tommy
Eamon- my personal fav, husband not sold on yet.
Peter-husband hates, I like
Liam-husband likes, I don't
Andrew-husband likes, too popular for me, but I think Andy is cute nn.
Quinn-like but worried might be more of a girls name/ gender neutral name
Graham-almost used instead of Charlie, but now my MIL wishes to be called Gram so for me it's out.

Names we can not use because friends and family have used them recently: Henry, Jack, Connor, Colin, William, Michael, Kevin.

We are not so worried about middle names for now.

We want the pair to sound nice together and flow well with Charlie. I am not sure if I love or hate the idea of twin names that are matchy-matchy. For example Timmy and Tommy are cute together for a minute, but I fear after awhile it would sound a little too sugary sweet. I feel like we are on the right track but just kind of stuck on ideas. Interested in your suggestions, Swistle. Thanks for your help!

My boys were born yesterday, very early, and are twin a and twin b for now.

Congratulations on your two new sons.

I am in favor of slight extra-coordination for twin names. With my own twins, I was hoping for a small connection such as same first initial, or reverse first-middle initials (for example, one J.E. and the other E.J.), or same number of letters, or repeating sounds (Emily and Liane was one of my favorite girl-twin combinations, for the same number of letters and the repeating "lee" sound), or similar endings, or initials A and B for twins A and B, or anything like that. It happened that the two names we liked best had nothing in common at all, and I am still a little sorry about that.

Working with your list, here are my favorite combinations:

Peter and Thomas; Pete and Tom
Eamon and Liam
Thomas and Andrew; Tommy and Andy (same number letters/syllables for 1st names)
Liam and John (same number of letters)
Andrew and Brendan (share the -an-, and also are A and B initials)

Along with John, James is one of my favorite classic/traditional names. James would go nicely with some of the other names on your list. Thomas and James would give you Tommy and Jimmy, which is significantly less matchy than Tommy and Timmy, while still giving a pleasing additional level of coordination.

It seems to me that Daniel would fit in well with the rest of your list. I think the nickname Dan sounds like such a nice guy.

Daniel and Thomas; Dan and Tom
Daniel and Andrew; Dan and Andy (repeating sounds/letters)
Daniel and Brendan (both have "dan")
Daniel and Benjamin; Dan and Ben

If Andrew is too common, would you like Anderson? You'd still have the nickname Andy.

To go completely off-list, I like the idea of combining two of the boy names in the longer-names-with-short-nicknames category (and I love it extra when the nicknames also have the same number of letters!) (I know, but I just DO love that kind of thing. I also love Christmassy names at Christmastime):

Benjamin and Jonathan; Ben and Jon
Nathanial and Nicholas; Nate and Nick
Nicholas and Christopher; Nick and Chris (subtle Christmas theme)
Anderson and Harrison; Andy and Harry
Alexander and Nicholas; Alex and Nick
Theodore and Alexander; Theo and Alex
Alexander and Benjamin; Alex and Ben (twins A and B)
Anderson and Benjamin; Andy and Ben (twins A and B)

Malcolm and Callum are names that are similar to Liam, and may have too MANY sounds in common---but maybe not. Mal and Cal are probably too cute---but maybe not.

Callum and Liam also share many sounds, without having possibly-overly-coordinated nicknames.

Davis and Harris would make a nice set: matching endings, and yet the names are so different.

Elliot and Miles go together nicely without matching.

Miles and James share the same number of letters and the same ending. Is that too many -es boys for your family, or is it an additional plus?

If your husband is not quite sold on Eamon, I wonder if he would prefer Ian or Owen or Evan or Ethan?

I love Owen with Liam.

Ian is one of my favorites, but I'm not sure what to pair it with. Ian and James? Ian and Eli? Ooo, that's kind of fun, to be three letters together! Charles, Eli, and Ian?

Ian and Leo might be better because they have the 3-letter thing but they don't share as many sounds. Charles, Ian, and Leo. I love that.

Ian and Isaac would give you matching initials but with non-matchy sounds.

John and Isaac are nice together without being matchy.

Simon and Isaac share the same number of letters, and also that nice strong I-sound.

Simon and Oliver are nice together without being matchy.

Elliot and Oliver share the same number of letters and syllables, as well as the L-sound, and I love how they also tie in to the L-sound of Charles.

Oliver and Jasper share the same number of letters and also the -er ending.

Asher and Felix don't quite seem like they'd fit in with your style, but both of them mean lucky.

Isaac mans "she laughed," and I think the implication of surprised delight (the meaning comes from the Bible, where a woman barren and now also post-menopausal finds out she's pregnant at last) makes it a particularly good name for an unexpected child: it would make a good name for the second twin, since he was the surprise.

Felix and Isaac share the same number of letters and mean, respectively, luck and surprised delight. It's a nice combination for twins.

Asher and Bennett have good meanings (lucky and blessed), and also work nicely for twins A and B. (Plus, as with all the other A&B combinations, your children's initials would be A, B, and C. But I don't recommend this if it would make you feel pressured to continue it with the next child.)

Two of my favorite Celtic names are Declan and Cormac. Dec and Mac are adorable nicknames.

Some of these pairings might also make a nice first-middle combinations: Isaac Simon. Asher Bennett. Oliver Simon. Miles Elliot. Oliver Elliot. Ian James. Etc.

Since you don't have particular middle names in mind, I love the idea of using one twin's first initial as the other twin's middle initial. So for example, if you went with Andrew and Brendan, it would be fun to name them Andrew Bennett and Brendan Asher (if those initials don't spell anything awkward with the surname). Or Nicholas and Christopher could be Nicholas Cormac and Christopher Nathan. Or Ian and Leo could be Ian Lachlan and Leo Isaac.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Baby Girl You-dell

Erin writes:
I have been following and commenting on your blog for many years now (before I was married even), and here I am finally writing to you and your readers for help with an actual baby! (a book, sorry about that, feel free to edit)! I am Erin, my husband is Brian, and our last name sounds like you-dell (accent on the dell). We chose our last name together as a mixture of our surnames but didn’t realize how it would limit us from almost all french baby names ending in L, many of which I love (ie Noelle). This is our first baby, due in March, but we don’t know what we are having yet. We anticipate having two children, possibly three, but for naming purposes I am thinking of the sibling set in terms of two, as I’m fairly confident we can come up with a third we love if need be. Here are our lists:

Boy names we both agree on:
Griffin (he loves)
Everett (I love)
Owen (friends just named their son this, its extremely popular where we live but we both love)
Josiah (too old testament? The other three are pulling away from this candidate)

Girl names we both agree on:
Audrey (we both love and is current front runner, but I always wanted to stay away from girls names ending in y or ie for various freakonomics reasons - namely that those names give the impression of “least smart” according to the studies. Also, sometimes I have trouble with the Odd and the “DR” sound rolling off my tongue. Wondering if there will be confusion with all the Aubreys out there. Stylistically though, this is exactly what we are looking for).

Lilah (he loves more than me, we also have a dog named Lola - is it a little frilly to yell at her soccer game?)

Clara (he loves more than me, I find a bit frumpy in feel but love the acoustic value of it)

Eliza (I love more than him)

Genevieve (he loves, I have trouble with all the nn possibilities - and would hate if her name was shortened to Gen. I took Madeline off the list because of the Maddie nn, but I am hoping for an Eve or Evie/Eva nn out of Genevieve)

Claire (I love, this is my mothers middle name who I would like to honor and together with our last name Claire reminds me of my favorite classical piece, Clair De Lune - but he finds a bit plain so I am definitely willing to move to middle name spot)

Elizabeth (mostly because we both love Liz/Lizzie. My middle name is Elizabeth though, so it feels a bit narcissistic to use this as a first).

Sienna and Annika are also high on the list, but don’t match the others in style (they do seem to fit alright with eachother, though, I think).

To give you an idea of names we don’t agree on, here are a few of his:



and mine:

Colette (LOVE, but he does not care for)

Names that are OUT (but we like):
any elle names (adele, noelle, etc. because of our last name)
any names beginning with F (because the initials would be horrid)
any names ending in a ya sound, including names like Amelia and Cecilia (because when said fast, you get a ya-ya effect with our last name).

For middles we would like to honor family. for girls the middle will be Claire if the first is not Clara or Claire after my mom, and for boys we are working with Curtis, Gerard, Emory, and a host of other kind of blech names. Curtis or Gerard would be for my father however, and since we are closest to him, would be the best ones to use. My dad is a pretty laid back guy though, and wouldn’t care too much if he werent honored and my mom was.

Ready for a weird restriction? I can’t stand long A sounds, so names like Amy, Katie, Jane, Rachel etc. don’t really work. Same with boys (no Ames or Aiden or any of that). I truly get a bad taste in my mouth when I say long As, so I don’t want to have that every time I say my child’s name. I don’t even love short A sounds like Abigail or Alexandria but Ah sounds (like Annika and Audrey) are just fine. Have you ever heard of that before?

I would prefer shorter, one or no nickname names, but husband likes nn’s more. In a perfect world, the name would be of Irish, French or German origin, but we haven’t found a lot of those that we love that aren’t already on the list. I am tempted to name all my potential children (two boys, boy and girl, two girls) now and have it set going forward, but my mind has already changed so much since I’ve gotten pregnant, who knows where I will be in a few years. I do know that from our lists, we have a lot in the same categories that would work as sibling sets, so I am not as worried about that (if I have Sienna, I will probably opt for an Annika next, and if I have a Lilah, I will opt for a Clara or Audrey next - Elizabeth and Genevieve (Liz and Eve). Eliza works with almost all of them). Griffin and Owen or Everett and Audrey, there are combos that work. I am having a hard time imagining cradling my baby and calling him or her things, but I have been trying. My problem is I love all the names I will have to discard, and I can find something wrong with all of the names I have chosen after I say them over and over again. Will I ever be satisfied or know which one is THE ONE? Please help us narrow down our choices! New suggestions I am open to too, but I am sure I have already considered all the options, as I am a true name nerd! Sometimes,
though, it takes having someone else re-suggest it for you to really feel it, so I’d definitely reconsider other names!

In terms of popularity, I’d like to stay out of the top 10 or so, but if a name is classic and pretty popular (like Elizabeth) I am ok with that. I am a little afraid Lilah or Clara will be the next Emma, though, given the trajectories of the names. For whatever reason, I don’t have the same panic about picking boys names as I do girls names, and I can’t explain why. The girl name has to be perfect, whereas the boy name I just have to like well enough. I will be finding out what I am having in November and will update you then! Sorry for the book, I just really care about this! Thank you so much!

We are having a girl! Now that we know we can get down to business, although as excited as I am to get to name a daughter, I also feared it! She is our first baby, we may have 2-3 kids, but we can find things in similar styles that we like for a sibset. We thought we were settled on a name (Audrey Claire) but found out a cousin of my husband's who neither of us like just named her daughter that, which has soured us a bit. I think we were both looking for a reason out of the name too, if that makes sense - I didn't love that people would confuse it with Aubrey, and that it didn't have any nicknames, and the weight of the "OddR" sound, though I loved the style of the name.

Our current choice is Eliza Claire. A couple of questions about it - my middle name is Elizabeth, and my mother's middle name is Claire, so is Eliza Claire family name overkill? I don't want to seem narcissistic and name the baby after me, and while we considered Elizabeth for awhile, I think we've come down on the side that Elizabeth is too much mine and feels overused. On the other hand we like the spunk and freshness of Eliza, still feel connected to it, and feel as though it takes on a different style and personality than Elizabeth.

What I'd like to know is if you or your readers agree? One thing I still hear from people is that Eliza is not its own stand alone name, but a nickname for Elizabeth. Thoughts? Also, DH loves the nn Lizzie for when she is little and Liz or Liza Claire for later, do you think it will be difficult to get people to call her Lizzie when the vowel sounds are different from Eliza? Obviously, many Katherines go by Kate, but in this instance I wonder if its a bit weird. Last question, if I use all my favorite family girl names on this girl and have a future daughter, then what? Should I save one of the names just in case?

Our short list for girls is below, we will very likely choose something from this list if it is not Eliza or Audrey as we have been through every other name in the book a million times over, but feel free to suggest something else too. I have some odd restrictions in that I don't like long A sounds as in Ava or Kaylee, names that start
with a short A as in Abigail, names that end in "elle" sounds as in Adele and names that end with a "ya" sound, as in Cecilia for purposes of going with our last name. You have my names we cannot use list from the previous email too.

Top tier

Eliza Claire
Sienna Claire
Annika _____ (I'm reading that there are pronunciation issues with this one, I would pronounce it Ahn-i-ka, accent on the first syllable. Is that how you would?)
Lilah Claire
Genevieve Claire (Eve or Evie, possibly Genna)
Claire Alexandria

Still being considered:
Audrey Claire
Eva Claire
Clara ____

If this baby had been a boy, we were considering Grant, Everett, Griffin (top choice) and Owen.

This may be a request for reassurance more than a question, but hopefully you and/or your readers can help me feel confident in a name!

Thanks for your help!

I am first going to do a sweep through this whole thing, giving my answers to questions and commenting on major issues; this will help sort them for other opinions in the comments section as well.

1. I don't think Lilah seems too frilly to yell at a soccer game. I think one reason the name is getting so popular is that it seems right for many types of girls.

2. Yes, I've heard of people disliking certain sounds right across the board: short-A endings, K sounds, J sounds, B sounds, -den endings that are more like d'n, that sort of thing.

3. I think it's a little annoying of our culture to consider it perfectly natural to name a child after the father but not after the mother. But when it's the mother's middle name, and especially a variation on the mother's middle name, I think it's nearly a non-issue: most people won't even know.

4. Eliza is definitely a name in its own right.

5. I don't think Eliza Claire is family-name overkill. I think it's great.

6. A general warning about the middle name Claire is that it can change to "éclair" with some first names.

7. I don't think of Liz as a nickname for Eliza: the changed vowel sound is also what makes me feel like Eliza is not a natural nickname for Elizabeth, so that shows you how much weight you should give the opinion (especially since I am fine with Kate for Katherine and Meg for Margaret, Because It's Traditional). I'm sure you can use Liz or Lizzie if you want to; most people are not as conservative about nicknames as I am.

8. I definitely think of Eliza as a different style from Elizabeth, same as you do.

9. Saving names is a difficult issue. Because it's a gamble, it has to be treated that way: weighing on one side how disappointed you'd be if you didn't get a chance to use a favorite name, and on the other side how stressed you'd be to have used up the names and need to come up with a different plan. In this case, I'd be in favor of using both names, because you don't want to miss the chance to honor your mother. I'd feel differently if you were cramming in a ton of honor names, but this sounds more like you happen to want to use a name similar to your own middle name, and then you want to honor your mother. Since you're even a little uneasy about seeming as if you're honoring yourself, it seems more like one honor name and one sweet connection name.

10. Yes, I pronounce Annika ON-nicka. I have heard from other people that that they've encountered Annikas who pronounced it ANN-nicka, so both pronunciations are in use.

I think Eliza Claire is the best option. It gives you what you want, and it sounds as if you like it best. It also gives you the most flexibility with future sibling names, since you've mentioned you like it with almost all the other options. Eliza You-dell is a great name, and it's one I'd want for myself.

I also think you have a lot of other nice possibilities, if Eliza doesn't sit right. You've been reading me long enough to have heard me preaching against the concept of The One Perfect Name, but I do like to feel a sort of CLICK as a name settles into place. You may find that several names click nicely, and this can make it harder to decide---but it also means you have a nice group of names that would ALL work well. And if you regret letting a certain name go, perhaps you will have a chance to use it on a future child.

It IS hard to choose a name: the "forsaking all others" aspect is daunting, and I think it's inevitable that a baby name hobbyist will have some names she'll always regret not having been able to use. I find it helps to realize that EVERY name means letting go of all the others: there will be some sadness with EVERY name, and the task is to find the one you'd be saddest not to use. You might also find it useful to revisit Choosing Between Two Finalists (which also works for more than two finalists).