This blog has moved! Please join us over at!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Middle Name Challenge and Spelling Option: Aldous/Aldus ____ Wren

T. writes:
We are 6 weeks away from my first baby. He's a boy. Our last name is Wren, and both of our first names start with T (so we are avoiding names that start with T or an R sound).

We've pretty much got a favourite first name (Aldous), though the Very Short List also includes Mortimer, Malcolm and Kieran. What we really like about Aldous is that it doesn't show up on any 'popular name' lists (I'm keeping an eye on the American list and also the British Columbia, Canada list). While he's not in my top ten writers of all time, I like Aldous Huxley the writer (I'm an English teacher) and we both very much like the printer Aldus Manutius (for whom the totally decent font, Aldus, is named), who basically invented the idea of cheap books and the modern use of the semi-colon (I live for stylish semi-colon use). This brings us to question 1: Which spelling? Does it matter? I feel like they'll be pronounced a little differently.

Question 2: We have no ideas for a middle name. We have spent months and months and months on the first name, and now we only have 6 weeks to figure out a whole other name! Our Short List for first names also included: Douglas, Lloyd, Milo, Merlin, Casius, Xavier, Quincey. We are tempted to just use one of them for the middle name (well, except Aldous Douglas - that seems like a bit much). But we're open to any suggestions on this, as we aren't really attached to any of the non-Aldous names, we just think they sound nice. We're also thinking we'd like to avoid a one-syllable middle name as 2-1-1 seems choppy to us. We don't have any family or city names we'd like to use for the middle name. We've searched for sibling names for Aldous to give us ideas, but it's so not popular that it's hard to find suggestions! (Though, with regard to potential actual siblings, we personally think it goes with lots of names, and names we like, so we're not fretting that one.)

Thank you for your blog! Just reading through your comments and suggestions, even for names we wouldn't want to consider, is really helpful in pointing out possible pitfalls or things to think about.

I started by looking up how to pronounce Aldous, just to make sure. Even after looking it up (Howjsay Aldous) (Howjsay Aldous Huxley), I can see how pronunciation would vary by region and by individual: some would go more for a call-me-Al pronunciation, and some would go for more of an all-out-in-free pronunciation; some would go for more of a dust-without-the-D, and some would blend that with more of an "ooo" sound. The Oxford Dictionary of First Names says it's like awl-dus. I think I'd say Aldous with a slightly longer second syllable than Aldus---though with repetition and familiarity, I suspect I'd say both the same.

For spelling, if I had no personal preference between the two (I might prefer Aldous, because the Aldus spelling brings Albus Dumbledore to my mind), I'd be inclined to choose based the association I preferred. It sounds to me like you prefer Aldus Manutius to Aldous Huxley, but that both spellings have nice tie-ins to your lives and would work well.

(I was discussing the question with my mother this morning, and she wondered if you might be interested in the name Huxley. Huxley Wren. Huck Wren has a bit of a Huck Finn sound!)

For the middle name, I think you're on the right track to look at your finalist/short lists. I suggest seeing if there are any names on the list that you wouldn't want to use for future children if Aldus were selected for the first child. Kieran, for example, is a different style and is also a little awkward with the surname (almost keer-ren-ren); if choosing Aldus would kick it out of the future runnings, it would make a very nice middle name: Aldus Kieran Wren. (I would also see if there were any names MORE likely to be used for future siblings if Aldus were chosen, and put them protectively aside.)

I like the 2-1-1 rhythm; I always admire it on Robin Wright Penn, for example. (I even like 1-1-1, like Frank Lloyd Wright.) So Aldous Lloyd Wren looks good to me. But such things are highly subjective: I also like 2-2-2 rhythms, and I've heard others say they avoid them at all costs. So if we're avoiding 2-1-1, I particularly like Aldous Malcolm Wren, Aldous Xavier Wren, and Aldous Quincy Wren.

Or are there any names you considered during the naming process but had to reject for reasons that wouldn't matter in the middle name slot? For example, were there T-names or R-names you loved but had to cross off the list because you were avoiding them? Those might be good middle-name candidates. (Though perhaps not Theodore because of Albus Dumbledore again.)

Let's have a poll over to the right to choose a spelling (this can be helpful no matter which way it comes out, since hopes/disappointments can show you which one was your own preference), and then in the comments section let's have more talk of middle names (as well as reasons for choosing a particular spelling). [Poll closed; see results below.]

Name update! T. writes:

Thank you so much for your help, and to all of the commenters for theirs!

We decided to go with Aldus, because of our greater excitement over Aldus Manutius. We'll risk the Albus confusion - he's a nice reference, too.

And for the middle name, we talked a lot about a 'T' name. When I first mentioned it, my partners eyes lit up, and he exclaimed "Tiberious!" Now, obviously this presented a rhyming issue, it didn't work with our new criteria that the middle name be plain and common (in case he hates his unusual first name), but the real reason I vetoed was that it's a Star Trek reference. And that's just a step too far (for me, anyway). We ended up abandoning the 'T' and revisited our finalists for the first name. My favourite was Douglas, but I also felt it was a bit rhymey with Aldus. So I suggested Doug (thank you all for your 2-1-1 support!). My partner objected at first, saying it sounded like a friendly guy sitting in the middle of his name... as in Aldus Doug 'hi there!' Wren. Aldus Doug 'that's me!' Wren. I'm not sure how that was supposed to discourage me. Suffice to say, we went with Doug.

I love his name so much! Thank you for all the suggestions and guidance.


Alice said...

What beautiful names!!

Aldus looks more "right" to me, but I'm willing to bet it's because of Albus Dumbledore ;-)

Rayne of Terror said...

Love Aldous! It's so charming and fresh.

Aldous Lawrence
Aldous Nigel
Aldous Julian
Aldous Richard
Aldous Spaulding
Aldous Gordon
Aldous ROger
Aldous Bradbury

Susan said...

I think a 3- or 4-syllable middle name sounds good.

Aldus Alexander Wren

Leslie said...

I like both spellings, but might have a slight preference for Aldus. It sounded like you were more positive about Manutius than Huxley, and even more importantly (for me), it made the pronunciation more intuitive for me. I had not heard the name Aldous/Aldus before, and before clicking on Swistle's links, I stumbled more on the pronunciation of Aldous (al-doos? all-duss? etc) than Aldus (here the similarity to Albus was actually helpful). All that said, however, both spellings look very handsome, and while you occasionally may have to correct someone's pronunciation, I don't think it's a big deal either way.

As for middles, I like the flow of both Lloyd and Quincey from your list. Malcolm might also work well.

You have lots of great options. Best of luck, and let us know what you end up choosing!

Anonymous said...

Aldus also looks more right to me, and I know it is because of Albus Dumbledore. I think if you are wanting people to say it in more of the "call me Al" way, this spelling would be best because people are familiar enough with the HP character that you've got an example if you need it. If you prefer saying it another way, Aldous might be better to maybe prevent people from the Albus connection.
On middles (again assuming "call me Al" is what you want) I really, really like Aldus Milo.
I think you've got a great name-it's just little eccentric but still familiar. For siblings, I think you could go with anything. Aldus would be a great name to start one of those really wonderful, eclectic siblings groups. One where the thing all the names have in common is that they hold special meaning to the parents.

Anonymous said...

Love Aldous. For the record, as I read, I pronounced it in my head like this: ALL-DUS. Or perhaps a little like this: AWL-DUS. As for spelling, I think the name looks more elegant with the u. The longer spelling is more appealing to me; it feels more traditional and less trendy. We just named our son Lloyd, so I'm partial to that from your list, and like Swistle, I don't mind 2-1-1 at all.

plantingoaks said...

I prefer the Aldus spelling, it seems more masculine. Not that either name would ever be mistaken for a girl, but I think Aldus has a stronger feel to it. Of course, that may be exactly why you prefer the other ;)

Also, I think the publisher connotation is stronger than an author that you are somewhat lukewarm about.

Emily said...

I prefer Aldus. This is an unorthodox reason, but I read really fast and at first I skipped over Aldous completely as a foreign word. Although Aldus is also a new word/name I totally grasped it and it didn't slow me down at all.

That was more confusing then I meant it to be, but I just find Aldous a complicated name visually.

Either way, I think it's adorable and I love how unique it is! I think Aldus Loyd is adorable. I am so curious as to how you were planning on pronouncing the name!

Meg said...

I vote for Aldus Quincey. Good luck!!

Veronica Marcetti Dimick said...

I think Swistle has a good point about Albus, and I was thinking Aldous looks better anyway. If you chose any of the names off your short list for a middle name, Milo would be my pick. Aldous Milo Wren.

StephLove said...

I could go either way on the spelling, though I voted for Aldus. I like Malcolm or Quincey for the middle.

Annie said...

In my head I pronounce Aldous ALL- dus, and Aldus AL-dus. I LOVE Aldus/Aldous Lloyd Wren, and personally really enjoy the 2-1-1 rhythm (especially for this particular combination of names....there's something about it that just gets me!). I also like Quincy and Milo as middle names.

Good luck!

Heidi said...

Love the name Aldous (and that's the spelling I prefer, for what it's worth). I've been in on many discussions of his writing, and the pronunciation usually used is "AL-dus." Someone above mentioned the name "Huxley," which would eliminate the whole Manutius connection, but I like that too; there's a boy in my neighborhood with this name, and I admire the selection. As far as middle names go, I think Aldous Lloyd and Aldous Quincey work brilliantly with your last name!

Hillary said...

Aldous / Aldus ____ Wren is my future nephew and I can confidently say that T has considered and rejected the name Huxley (even though it is ADORABLE and would give him the same initials as his sure-to-be FAVOURITE AUNT. WhatEVER.)

My vote is for a 3-syllable middle name because I love the 2-3-1 flow (my suggestions: Theodore, Caspian and Leopold.)

phancymama said...

I voted for Aldous, but I think either would work honestly. And I would pronounce them the same, awl-dus. I love Aldus/Aldous Wren combo.

Because I am fairly fanatical about naming having MEANING, I kind of want to force you to find a middle name with meeeeeaning. I know you said no family or city names for middle names, but what about something else meaningful? A T name, to tie in with yours and dad's? Your maiden name? Your favorite animal translated into a name? A favorite character, where you met, favorite word, number, etc? A word that conveys a strength you want him to have? (Even translated, ex: Brave in latin is Vectis.) The street name you live on?

Otherwise, I like Swistle's advice to use the name you think you won't use again, or any you had on your list that you crossed off awhile back. I think Ald(o)us Malcolm sounds very distinguished. Or Aldous Lloyd would give him the initials A.L. Wren.

Good luck!

Patricia said...

I looked up both famous bearers of the name Aldous/Aldus. I would use the same spelling as Aldous Huxley as I think he's the one most people would think of when they hear the name (IF they have any connection with the name at all). That was whom I though of immediately when I saw the title of this post. I would pronounce the name "AWL-dus' -- the way I've always heard Aldous Huxley's name pronounced.

"Aldous Leonard Huxley (26 July 1894 – 22 November 1963) was an English writer and one of the most prominent members of the famous Huxley family."

I found that 8 American boys were named Aldous in 2010; less than 5 -- if any -- were named Aldus.

As for a middle name for your son, you could give him the same one as Huxley: Aldous Leonard Wren. The name of Aldous Huxley's older brother Sir Julian Sorell Huxley, the well-known English evolutionary biologist, humanist and internationalist, would be a good middle name too: Aldous Julian Wren.

Since Aldous is a very old English name -- in use since the Middle Ages (mainly in East Anglia), I would pair it with a name of some stature and tradition too. And since Aldous is an unusual name, I might use a better known name in the middle. Some suggestions:
Aldous James Wren
Aldous Thomas Wren
Aldous Christopher Wren

From the names you mentioned, I like Aldous Malcolm Wren best.

Jamie L said...

I love Aldus! To me, when I see the spelling of Aldus, I definitely know how I would pronounce it, but when I looks at Aldous I hesitate because I'm not sure if it's the same or different? I think the Albus reference helps you in this case because it makes the name Aldus a little more familiar. How about...

Aldus Caspian
Aldus Griffin
Aldus Henry
Aldus Huxley
Aldus Felix
Aldus Lucien
Aldus Lorenzo

Magic27 said...

As someone who (dare I admit this?) has little interest in, or knowledge of, Harry Potter and co., I much, much prefer Aldous (also: I loved Aldous Huxley's books when I was younger). Aldus doesn't look like a "real" name to me (though that's just my opinion).
I like the idea of a classic name, and, like Swistle and many others, find the "choppiness" of 1-syllable names quite nice. If that's not your thing, I would suggest Aldous Sebastian, Aldous Bartholomew and Aldous Timothy. I'd avoid Christopher (even as a middle) unless you have a particular love of Christopher Wren...

Caitie said...

I always prefer the "real" name to alternative spellings and I usually check for that. Aldus is not on there but Aldous is so I would go with that. Also according to wikipedia Aldus is the latinized form of the italian Aldo, while Aldous is also a form of Aldo but is more English. So I feel like Aldous is better for the English speaking world. Either name would be a truly inspired choice but my vote is for Aldous!

Patricia said...

I meant to add a :-) after my suggestion of Aldous Christopher Wren. Of course that brings to mind the highly acclaimed Sir Christopher Wren (1632-1723), one of Britain's most distinguished architects. But as a middle name, Christopher acknowledges the most famous Wren ever while not making that as obvious as using Christopher as his first name. I rather like Aldous Christopher Wren (it reminds me a little of Christopher Robin too) -- a bit of whimsy with the very serious-sounding Aldous.

Daycare Girl said...

In my head I pronounce Aldous "awl-dus" and Aldus "al-dus". If it were me I'd go with the spelling that followed the pronunciation I was wanting. Of course not everyone might pronounce it like me. :)

I like mn Julian as some other commenters suggested. Also Bartholomew.

Life of a Doctor's Wife said...

I prefer Aldous, simply because I'm familiar with the author. I pronounce is "AWL-duss." I think I would have a hard time knowing whether to pronounce "Aldus" the same way... or like "AL-duss." (The "Call Me Al" type of "Al.")

It's a gorgeous name, either way, and I think pronunciation issues are bound to happen no matter what.

Leah said...

I like Aldous better because of the similairity to Albus (Dumbledore.)

Aldous Grifiin
*Aldous Nathaneil
Aldous Leonard
Aldous Lawrence
Aldous Quincey
Aldous Maxwell
*Aldous Xavier

Megz said...

I prefer the Aldous spelling because it seems more traditional. Also I come from a country that spells "colour" and "harbour". If you are used to "color" and "harbor" you might prefer Aldus.

Also FWIW I would say them both as Al-diss, with maybe a slightly more -doss accent on the Aldous spelling.

For a middle name I think you should use a T name. Maybe your husbands name? I like the idea of the three of you sharing a secret link of having a T initial.

Plus I think Aldous T Wren sounds fantastically distinguished.

Good luck.

Tarator said...

Oh my! So much to think about. Thank you everyone for your input and suggestions... we are going away on our 'last hurrah' vacation to a little cottage on the stormy N.W. coast, and I think we'll spend the weekend walking on the beach and debating middle names. Hope you all have a great weekend, too!

Anonymous said...

I prefer Aldous... it looks more "correct" in my opinion, and I pronounce it the Awl-Dus way. The Aldus way I'd be more inclined to pronoune Al- Dus.