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Friday, May 4, 2012

Baby Naming Issue: Is Maxwell Still Usable?

M. writes:
Hi Swistle... I'm due with our first child, a boy, on June 1 (although it's looking like he may make an early appearance).  We've been through a long list of names deciding "that's the one" until one of us changes their minds:

Henry (the dad finally admitted he didn't like the name)
Roarke (Worried about teasing - Roarke the Dork)
Finn from Phineas/Finlay (I hate Finn with the last name which has a long N in it)
August nn Gus (the dad has bad images of a child named Gus)
Ezra (I love, dad hates)

There are others. But now the dad is stuck on Max/Maxwell.  My issue with Max is how many people respond with "I had a dog named that".  We're stuck.  This kid needs a name and nothing seems right.  I'd love thoughts on Maxwell and will gladly take any suggestions you have.  I love classic and biblical names that aren't too trendy. The dad likes names that are more "out there" and would name the poor child Briar (his all time favorite name for a boy) if I'd give him 30 seconds with the birth certificate. 

If it helps, a girl would have been Millicent Claire (that was set about 10 days after we found out I was expecting)

Hi Swistle! My issue with Maxwell is growing!  I've now had 3 people tell me "so did you hear that Jessica Simpson is supposed to name her DAUGHTER Maxwell!"... Dad says it's not a problem but I'm not really thrilled with a celebu-tante naming her daughter what I want to name my son within a few weeks, so is it a problem or am I overthinking it? 


These things aren't easy to predict, but my gut feeling is that Jessica Simpson's daughter's name isn't going to change much: the number of people put off by her choice (i.e., they were planning a similar name for a girl, but now feel like they'd look like they were copying her) will probably balance the number of people inspired by it.

There were 5 baby girls named Maxwell in 2010, according to the Social Security Administration, and I saw in a magazine that some other celebrity named a baby girl Maxwell within the last few months as well. Another 8 girls were named Max in 2010, and another 5 were named Maxx. For comparison, 15 girls were named Matthew, 37 girls were named Michael, 14 girls were named Andrew, and 9 girls were named John. There will always be a few people looking for something along these lines, but I don't think that means any of these names will "go girl," as the saying goes. If you wanted to distance yourself a bit because of the poor timing, you could use another long-form of Max: Maximilian, Maximus, Maxon/Maxton/Maxson. Or go straight to Max.

The dog issue, I'd disregard completely. Many people give pets "people names," but it doesn't make those names "dog names"---any more than Jessica Simpson's baby Maxwell makes Maxwell a "girl name." I notice too that names start being used for pets right before they start coming back into style for people: I think it's because a name sounds a little too quirky right before it starts sounding awesomely different---which means first it's perfect for a dog/cat, and then you have a baby and can't use the name you love because you already used it for a pet (this happened to Paul and me with the name Oliver). So it makes sense that there are a lot of dogs named Max, but Max/Maxwell are nevertheless well established as names for human boys, and if people also used that name for their dogs I think you can just say "Oh really?"

If Maxwell still isn't quite right and the dad likes Briar, would Meyer work?

Or Felix? It's a name with long roots, but it sounds now the way I remember Max sounding a decade or two ago.

George is another name I'd think of as belonging to "the next Max" category.

Or Milo.

Whenever I see names like Max and Gus and Finn, I think of Sam and Jack and Joe. Some similar stuff from the biblical section: Abe (from Abel/Able or Abram), Ash (from Asher), Ben, Ike/Zac (from Isaac), Zeke (from Ezekiel), Gabe, Jake, Levi, Saul/Sol, Jude.

Name update! M. writes:
Hi Swistle!  I wanted to thank everyone and update you all on the June 7th arrival of my little boy.  About a week before he was born I went back to all the lists of names I'd made to that point and found that one name appeared on every list, and it had never once been marked off by dad.  A quick conversation later and we were both thrilled with our choice.  The middle name was decided in the delivery room about an hour before his birth (and is a family name).  I'm very pleased and proud to introduce you to Nicholas Edgar.


Anonymous said...

If Maxwell is the name you love, I say use it. I wouldn't worry too much about Jessica Simpson-people will be over it in a few months. And I agree about the dog name thing-I've known tons of dogs (and cats) with people names and it's not a big deal. Also, I suspect you find that once you've used the name on a baby, people will stop pointing out every dog Max they've ever known.
Felix is a great suggestion. From your list, Roarke makes me thing of Rory, Riordan or maybe Ronan. For August you could also use the nickname Auggie. I'll also throw out Doyle, Declan, and Gideon.

M.Amanda said...

Use Maxwell if you love it. DO NOT let a celebrity using the name deter you, unless you are considering using Pilot Inspektor or Audio Science as a name.

For what it's worth, my mom's dog is Sammy, as is my husband's sister's husband and son, my cousin's daughter, and my boss's daughter. The only time it feels weird is when I'm marveling at how many Sammys I know and add, "... and my mom's shepherd mix rescue dog...."

hillary said...

I like Swistle's suggestions for Max alternatives, particularly Milo and Felix. In fact, inspired by a friend of mine whose Jonathan Max goes by Jax, would the baby's father spring for a similar combination that could contract down to Max as a nickname?

Milo Axel
Mason Felix
Marshall Xavier


I actually really like the name Max, although in my area it is quite popular so I already have two friends with little boys named Max. I do not know any dogs, however. :)

StephLove said...

I know three boys called Max, ages seven to college-age (one's a Maxwell-- I don't know the full names of the other two) and no dogs by that name. Maxwell is my favorite full name for Max, btw and I feel like it does need a longer name. Felix is a cool idea as well.

Auntie G said...

I would not hesitate to use Maxwell. I will also, however, suggest Theodore, nn Theo, -- that is my older boy's name, and my little guy is named August nn Gus, and my second choice both times around was Ezra -- so it seems that we have very similar tastes. :)

Anonymous said...

I grew up with people constantly telling me they knew/had a dog named my name. Never bothered me one little bit.
I think it's proof of swistle's theory that names are used for pets just before they become popular for people - I'm a Chloe born in the early 80's.

Anyway, Max is definitely not a dog name, and so far Jessica Simpson's choice seems to have been met fairly universally with "but that's a boy name".

Do you like Leo? Max, Leo and Oliver seem to be siblings around these parts.

Anonymous said...

Maxwell is a great boys name. You will find a very slight increase in girls with that name since J Simpsons baby , but it wouldn't be huge- like there will be a few more Blue named babies since Beyonce, but it won't become what you would call a 'popular' girls name. We know a Maximillian, Maxwell and Maxon. I like the suggestion if a blended nickname from a 'M' first name like Mason Felix or even Mason Axel becoming Max. Our friend Celia Asha is 'Sasha'. But the sound of Max makes me think you might like Baxter. It isn't exactly common, Sounds 'surnamey', and is an old English occupational name for a baker, which puts it with the Coopers, Sawyers, Hunters, etc.
Don't worry about the dog thing. People often give their pets names they would like to have given children. Ie, favourite names. When I was younger, my car's registration plate combination letters/numbers was EVY158. So I nicknamed my car Evy. Ten years later I had a baby girl. I gave my daughter the name Evy because I loved it, but no one has ever said oh, you named your daughter after your car....just like I don't think someone would say oh, you named your son after a dog. Don't give it another moments worry. But I do think Baxter could work for you if you decide against Max and the other alternatives.

Amy F said...

My friends named their baby boy Maxwell the day before Jessica Simpson's daughter was born. No one on Facebook has even mentioned it, if that helps at all.

As for pet names, my SIL had an old cat named Sophia and a daughter named Sophie for awhile. The cat died by the time the daughter was old enough to make the connection and all was well

Meggie said...

I like Maxwell. I say use it.

Anonymous said...

Briar, to me, skews seriously female (Briar Rose). I also think you might want to consider sibling names more closely--Millicent is pretty out there compared with Maxwell, Henry, and Gus (as is Briar).

Hillary said...

If Maxwell is the name, use Maxwell! I think that if you were expecting a girl and planning to name her Maxwell I'd feel differently.

That being said, it doesn't sound like Maxwell IS the name (for you, at least.) Do you feel better about using Max instead of Maxwell?

I love Swistle's advice of thinking about future siblings. If you are planning to have more kids, and you do end up with a girl, would you still consider using Millicent? Would 2 M names bother you? If you want to reserve Millicent for a future hypothetical girl baby, and 2 M names is too matchy matchy for you (or for the dad - maybe it's something he hasn't considered?)then it doesn't even need to be argued about - Max / Maxwell is off the table.

The dog thing is a little silly in my opinion. (Full disclosure: I wanted to name my son Max, my husband vetoed because it sounds like a "dog name." So I am sympathetic to your situation, I just think it's ridiculous.)

My suggestion is Gideon.

vanessa said...

although I wouldn't worry about using Maxwell--I think it is definitely very useable--another longer version of Max, and one I prefer, is Maximo.

phancymama said...

I also would not worry about Maxwell being only girl. Also, we named our daughter Lucy, a common dogs name also. My husband's childhood dog was Lucy too, and there has never been any confusion.
Our cousin also named her daughter Annabelle, which is our cats name. Oh, and they have a dog named Lucy. So I think it all evens out.

Patricia said...

Maxton could be the perfect name for your little boy. If you look at Swistle's link for "Maxon/Maxton/Maxson", you'll see the research I did on Maxton. Like many other surnames now being used as boys' first names, Maxton as a surname has been around for a long time (and not a recently made-up name like Maxon/Jaxon etc.). The name Maxton is still somewhat unknown, but it's usage is increasing, and it would give you a strong sounding given name with the nn Max. Maxton would be a fine name for your son. Best wishes!

gail said...

Maxwell is a great name, no worries. The only Briar I know is a young girl, maybe 12 years old, and yes, Rose is her middle name.

Anonymous said...

I rarely comment here but feel this is worth it. My boyfriend is named Sam and his brother named Max. It's a great sibling pair, Sam and Max. However, you're totally right. There's a family friend who often teases the mom about naming her kids 'dog names'. BUT the boys mostly just think it's funny and don't really care. Also, it's much better than a 'roarke the dork' scenario. Finally, most little kids/bullies won't pick up on the 'dog name' issue probably. I say you go for it :)

Snoopyfan said...

My daughter's name (Mollie/Molly) is also a common dog name and it has only come up once in almost 9 years.

Name him Maxwell if you love it!

Clarabella said...

I agree with all the other commenters that say go ahead and use Maxwell if that's the name you want.
When we were picking names, Max was on our short list, and we also discussed Rex, Dexter (Dex), and Dashell (Dash), which are all names I still love and seem similar to Maxwell/Max to me.
Good luck!

Sarah said...

I feel your pain with the pet name issue; however, I think in the end it only matters if there's a specific pet that YOU personally are likely to be reminded of. For instance, I also loved the name Max for a boy, but our best friend's dog is named Max, so it was a close enough association, and we see them/are at their home often enough that it may have been a slight issue. And a girl name I love is Lucy, but my favorite pet growing up was a terrier named Lucy, so for ME, that name is kind of tied to the dog who slept on the end of my bed, you know. But if it's just a general, "Well you know, lots of people use that name for their dogs!" feeling, I wouldn't worry about it. It was a person name first!

Anonymous said...

We also have an almost-Max (though ours would have been Maximilian). I say go for it! We know several baby Maxes and a couple of doggie Maxes, and it doesn't seem to phase anyone. By far the most popular name in our neighborhood dog park is Bella, and, well, you know how that goes. :) (I actually have a theory that *many* of the popular baby names start out as popular dog names because a large percentage of our friends-with-babies, including us, first got and named dogs, and our pet-name and baby-name style is the same...hence our dog's circle of canine friends includes August, Bella, Annabelle, Violet, Abby, Maia, and Max, to name a few. We know babies with all of those names except for Annabelle (but we know an Arabella and two Isabels, so I'm counting it). I wouldn't worry about it, especially as (sadly) many of these pups will be long gone by the time your little one is old enough to think about it one way or another, and a new generation of puppy-parents will be naming dogs, probably with another style all together.

Christine said...

My sister has dogs named Logan and Blair. Blair was named that by her previous owner and responded to it, and they named Logan because they needed another human name and he didn't recognize his shelter name, "Nitro." I wouldn't let people's comments regarding Max and pet names stop you.

Best wishes!