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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Baby Naming Issue: Will the Rising Popularity of Mila Make Milo Seem Too Girly?

Katie writes:
I LOVE your blog and we need some major baby-naming help! My husband and I are 2 weeks away from having our first child, a boy – due June 5th - and are completely stuck on names! I have been thinking about names for a while now and did not think I’d be in this situation. We just can’t make a decision!

My name is Katie and my husband is Daniel, but goes almost exclusively by Danny (and has since he was very young). Our last name sounds like “Lawson”. Our original criteria for names was…
1. Not super popular (Our last name is relatively common and I don’t want my child to have a common first and last name.)
2. Not girly at all (I would prefer not to have a name that could crossover and ‘go girl’. I know this is hard to predict, but would like to avoid if possible.)

Our current front-runner is Milo. We both really like it, but are worried now since all the buzz about the rising girl’s name Mila. Will the popularity of Mila make Milo seem more girly and/or more like an afterthought? Do you think Milo is too soft? We like that it is uncommon, but not ‘made-up’ or new, but can’t decide if it is just right for our baby.

Other names in consideration are…
- Henry (I love, but husband does not… thinks it sounds too ‘rich’ or ‘fancy’, also it may be too common)
- Silas (I’m not sold on this one)
- Lucas/Luke (too common?)
- Walter/Walt (I love, but husband thinks it is too much of a potential tease-magnet..)
- Everett (will it cross-over to the girls?)
- Hayes

Names that we like but can’t use due to friends/family/etc: Evan, Owen, Cole, Elias, Arlo, Jack (due to the Titanic association with our last name), Leo (slight Titanic association…), Chase

For the middle name, we are hoping to use a family name. Options are Michael, Charles, Robert, David, Walter, or Matthew (We would consider these for first names, as we’d love to have even more family connections in the name, but most of them are too common for us.)

Oh and we do hope to have more kids. For a girl, our top pick is Blythe which is pretty rare, so I am not sure how some of these names would match up with that…

So, as you can tell, we are kind of all over the place… Any advice?!? What do you think of Milo??

Thank you for reading.

Milo is one of my own favorite boy names, and was on the Final Three list for my youngest, so it is safe to say I am greatly in favor.

Some of the warning signs for a name "going girl" include: a gentle sound to the name (Noah, for example); having an easy feminine nickname (Ellie for Elliot, for example); the boys being done with it for now (Sydney, for example). Milo has the first but not the second or third.

I think sometimes having a feminine version of a name can encourage people to use the boyish version for girls---but other times it protects the boyish version. To use dated examples, having Paul and Paula seems to make people less likely to use Paul for a girl, not more. Same with Carl/Carla, and Robert/Roberta, and Eric/Erica: it makes it additionally confusing to use the masculine version for a girl, since a feminine version already exists. Instead of the masculine version seeming androgynous, it seems fully boy. [An anonymous commenter brings up a great current example: Oliver and Olivia.]

But does this apply with more modern versions? There's Kyle and Kylie/Kylee/Kyleigh---and Kylie is rising as Kyle falls. As Kylie is used more and Kyle is used less, what happens to Kyle for girls?

2000: 53 female Kyles; 11,964 male Kyles
2001: 56 female Kyles; 10,566 male Kyles
2002: 45 female Kyles; 10,059 male Kyles
2003: 61 female Kyles; 8,646 male Kyles
2004: 74 female Kyles; 7,818 male Kyles
2005: 38 female Kyles; 6,680 male Kyles
2006: 47 female Kyles; 6,147 male Kyles
2007: 41 female Kyles; 5,346 male Kyles
2008: 30 female Kyles; 4,694 male Kyles
2009: 34 female Kyles; 4,162 male Kyles
2010: 33 female Kyles; 3,560 male Kyles
2011: 57 female Kyles; 3,233 male Kyles

It's kind of hard to see a big obvious pattern, isn't it? The name Kyle is going steadily and obviously down for boys, but it's hopping all over the place for girls.

So how does all this apply for Milo/Mila? Well...that's why I'm just sort of talking around it, without seeming to make any clear points: I can't tell. Maybe the increasing popularity of Mila for girls will increase in a parallel way with Milo as the sounds come into style together. Maybe the increasing popularity of Mila will make some parents think of Milo for girls. Maybe the increasing popularity of Mila will make Milo even more solidly a boy name.

If you want my personal guess, it's that some people will always use "boy names" for girls---but that Milo is not likely to become "a girl name." There were fewer female babies named Milo in 2011 than there were female babies named Jonathan (12 vs. 20).

And we've already had a test period for this as the name Miley/Mylee/Myleigh came into style without causing Milo to become popular for girls.

But the rising popularity of a similar name for girls may make some parents wary of the name, making it less common for boys. Every time a name comes up, someone will mention that they know a baby girl (or three) with that name. There might be hardly any female babies with the name compared to the number of male babies with the name, but the impression sticks: people say "Watch out!"---and parents do. And other parents think, "It's going girl? I didn't like it for a boy, but I do like it for a girl!" [Thanks, Nedra, for pointing out a major data fail: something was amiss with my files, and the number of female names in the example I originally used here was significantly different than I wrote. I've fixed the error here by taking out the specific example, and I'm looking into finding out what went wrong.]

So far there's no indication that Everett is going to turn into a girl name, either. The Social Security database shows 14 female babies named Everett in 2011, and another 6 named Everette. That's nothing, relatively speaking: even Henry was given to 7 girls, and 22 were named Matthew. The similar name Evan was given to 99 baby girls. (Hayes was given to 286 boys and 16 girls.)

If it were me, I'd consider Milo and Everett both safe choices, and I think both go well with Blythe. If you want to play it extra safe, your traditional middle name options are great for that: if the unexpected occurs and the first name becomes popular for girls, there's a good completely masculine middle name to go by instead. (Or maybe not: 9 baby girls were named Charles in 2011! And another 9 baby girls named Robert! And 18 named David, and 36 named Michael!)

Other names that sprang to mind while writing the post: Simon, Isaac, Oliver, Warren, Emmett, Felix, Malcolm.


Anonymous said...

I'm not sure that this is an issue since Milo is pronounced MY-lo and Mila is pronounced ME-la.

Swistle said...

Anonymous- Mila has two pronunciations, MEE-la and MY-la. This is one of those times I wish SO HARD that the Social Security database could tell us how people were pronouncing their versions!

Jessica said...

I agree with anonymous - I don't consider Milo/Mila to be in the same category as Paul/Paula. I honestly haven't even thought of Milo being close to Mila before.

You could have the problem of people looking too quickly/misspelling/bad handwriting/smudged print causing someone to think the name on a form is Mila instead of Milo, but I don't think it would be an daily problem.

Jessica said...

Swistle - I had no idea Mila is sometimes pronounced My-la! I bet the popularity of Mila Kunis has been really annoying for My-las.

Lindsey said...

I also pronounce Mila as ME-la so I hadn't thought of it as an issue.

liz said...

Go with Milo. I think the options of Mila and Marlo for girls makes Milo safe for boys.

Mj said...

Sorry, I thought it was pronounced like Mill-a. So Milo is very different. I have a friend Milos (pronounced Mill-losh) who we call Milo (my-low) as a nickname. I mention it because it seems to be a combination of Milo that you love and Silas that you like. Your pronounciation could be like Miller- or indeed, you could HAVE Miller as a name. Or another occupation/surname style name like Baxter, which is both old and modern, not super popular and has a cool nickname...and goes nicely with Blythe later.

Can I just add, though, that Hayes Robert Lawson or Hayes Walter Lawson are FABULOUS names if you change your mind. And if you do go with Milo, Milo Charles sounds the best of your middle name options. And Hayes and Blythe sound gorgeous together!

Good luck!

Nicole Trager said...

I am on the same page as the other posters ... I had no idea Mila is sometimes pronounced My-la! So until I read the comments I was really confused by the post because I consider Mee-la far from My-lo... I would go with Milo, if you both agree on it and it is the one you love. I love it best out of all the top names you have.. I must say that I see Everett and Hayes being more crossovers than Milo.. in fact I know only girl Hayes' and no boys.

Alice said...

How about Miles instead? Then you can call him Milo as a nickname if you want, but Miles might seen more masculine...?

Anonymous said...

Whoa, I'm another who'd never once heard of a Mila pronounced MY-la. To me, Mila and Milo are entirely different, and Milo seems unambiguously masculine.

Go with it. You love it, and it works perfectly with your name. I really like the Milo Charles combo, but really all your proposed middle names are nice (although I'm not crazy about the repeated sounds of Milo Michael).

Auntie G said...

Milo sounds totally masculine to me, and count me in the "I've only ever heard Mila pronounced MEE-la" camp.

I do want to add that I have a tender spot in my heart for the name Walter...BUT want to warn you that there is a pretty popular children's book (possibly it is even a series) about Walter, the Farting Dog. So...I don't think I could use Walter. Sigh.

Anonymous said...

I'm not exactly sure how this fits in, but I did note that in the UK Oliver and Olivia are the top names for their respective genders... sometimes I guess a sound just seems right, regardless of the boy or girl form? Also, the large number of Olivias isn't putting off parents from naming their boys Oliver. In the 70s, there was a spate of Jamies - both genders - it didn't seem to matter that there were girls with the same name. That said, I don't think a similar name that is popular on one side means the version for the other gender will necessarily be popular. Take Olivia (#4 in the US) and Oliver (#78 - climbing, but still far from uber popular). Milo is already gaining rapidly, maybe more from the 'o' ending being popular than from Mila? But, in 2011 there were only 826 Milos born. In all of the US. The entire country! I don't think it's entirely likely you'll have oodles of Milos in your kids class. My son is Oliver and there were more than 5000 born last year. I haven't met any in the US personally as of yet. I have overheard the name out and about. Two times. In over two years. If you love Milo... go with Milo!

Holly said...

That was amusing seeing how many girls were named things like David, Robert, Charles, Matthew..... Really? Amazing.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand all these comments about all the Mila's people know are pronounced mee-la. Even ten years ago, no one was being named Mila, let alone when all of us were being born, so how many Mila's does the average person know? Probably most of us only know Mila Kunis, and that's making people feel like "all the" Mila's are mee-la. Its not shocking to have never heard of a MY-la Mila if you've only heard of one or two total.

Swistle said...

Anonymous 10:38- Oh, Oliver/Olivia! YES. Good one! I was going nuts trying to think of a modern equivalent to Paul/Paula, and could barely think of ANYTHING!

jerilyn said...

I think Milo is fine... but I have to say I LOVE walter off of your list! I'm a little biased as I have a 3 month old named Walter. Love it! I think that's the best match with Blythe for a future sibset too. Seriously, my completely unbiased opinion ;) good luck!

StephLove said...

I don't think Milo has much potential to go girl because of the strong tradition of ends-in-O names being masculine names. Of course there are a few exceptions (Rosario comes to mind) but I think it's a safe choice. Also very nice with Blythe as a sister name. I'd go for it if that's the only issue holding you back.

Anonymous said...

Can't see it crossing over at all. I think parents worry too much about these kind of issues. There are thousands of males and females named Jordan, Riley, Taylor, Avery or Skyler. I dont see kids being bullied because of it... They grew up knowing some names can go either way, and Milo just really isn't one of them at this point.

Anonymous said...

I don't think you have to worry about Milo at all. But I agree with another commenter that Miles would be a good choice for you. I think it's a little nicer with your last name, a little nicer with Blythe, less chance of confusion with Mila, and you can always use Milo as a nickname. And I love the combo Miles Walter Lawson. I love the name Milo too though, really don't think you can go wrong with any of your choices, good luck!

Anonymous said...

I agree with the comment about using Miles. That came to my mind too as a more masculine sounding version of Milo, which could still be used as a nn.

Nedra said...

I think that Swistle makes great points about some names seeming to be going to the girls, when really it's more just that people are talking about how they are going to the girls. I am really into the name Elliot, so that's part of the reason I am grateful for this discussion!

Personally, I love the name Milo and would use it for a boy in a heartbeat if my husband were malleable enough to bend to my will. I had actually wondered about whether it sounded feminine not because of Mila, but because it reminds me of Marlo -- the name of the actress/activist who wrote Free to Be You and Me. Perhaps in particular because that book/song/video series was about reversing gender stereotypes, that may be why the association comes so quickly to me. Also, Milo was the name of the boy in The Phantom Tollbooth and his character didn't strike me as super-masculine. Both the associations with Marlo Thomas and Milo from one of my all-time favorite books make me MORE likely to use it, though, so I am not bringing these up to suggest them as reasons for Milo being unusable. On the contrary, I think that it gives the name a cool, hip, I-don't-need-to-prove-myself-to-anybody edge.

Looking at the other names on your list, I would TOTALLY use Walter. A friend of ours just named her baby Walter about 7 months ago. When they first announced the name, I have to admit that I was kind of, "What? Did you say Walter?" to my husband when he told me. But now I am SO jealous that they "got" that name first. It's so perfect. Every time they talk about their baby "Walt" I can't help but swoon over the name and wish I'd thought of it first.

Adorable. And uncommon. And all the folks at their baby's daycare are in agreement that he has the absolute best name.

I love the other names on your list as well. But my votes are for Milo or Walter. And I'm leaning toward Walter, although I think Milo would go better with Blythe if you ended up with a girl down the line.

Nedra said...

Swistle, where did you get your data? I just looked Elliot up on the SSA website (the zip drive under "Beyond the Top 1000) and when I searched for Elliot amongst the file for 2011, I came up with 295 female babies with the spelling Elliot, 200 with the spelling Elliott, 26 with the spelling Elliotte and 20 with the spelling Elliette -- for a total of 541, not 38.

I also got 14 baby girls named Everett and 6 named Everette. Plus 12 baby girls named Milo.

This is the website where I downloaded the file:

Swistle said...

Nedra- Whoa, that's a huge difference. But those are the same files I downloaded. I wonder if there's a problem with the data somewhere? and if so, where?

The Mrs. said...

Hmmm... my vote would go to Miles or Walter. They both are more classic (like Blythe) than Milo.

Other ideas:




Vincent (Vin 'Lawson' sounds very cool)

Best wishes to you and your little family! Please let us know what you decide!

Anonymous said...

I think it's hard to predict, but I would go ahead and name him Milo if you love it. It sounds like a boy's name to me, but I've also recently met girls named Griffin (which sounds so "boy" to me!) and Adam (!?!) so there is a fairly substantial chance that there will be girls named Milo as well!

I like some suggestions to name him Miles and call him Milo as a nn. Miles sounds more classic to me and it would be nice for you and him to have the choice in these two fantastic names.

rosamonte said...

We didn't use the name Camilo for our son because we were afraid it would be mistaken for Camila, but this was the case for a pretty unusual boys' name being read/misunderstood as the more well-known female version. I don't think this would happen with Milo and I think it's a great name. Everett is handsome, too, but I like Milo more.

Anonymous said...

As the parent of a Milo, I honestly never once thought about its similarity to Mila, probably because the handful of people I know names Mila pronounce is Me-la. I worried a little bit about Miley but not Mila. He's two now and I've never felt that it was becoming a feminine name.

We chose Milo because we both loved the Phantom Tollbooth growing up and I've been so happy with our name choice! I must admit though, I also *love* the name Walter. Milo Walter would be lovely, though I might consider saving Walter for a future baby's first name.

Leslie said...

I don't think of Milo as being remotely feminine, and like many of the previous commenters, I don't see a problem with Mila. No matter what, Milo is a very handsome name! That said, you have a number of fantastic options on your list, and you really can't go wrong with any of them. Best of luck, and if you can, please do let us know what you end up deciding!

Anonymous said...

Agreed with most of the comments above...I've never heard Mila pronounced any way other than MEE-la (and yes, there were Milas around before Mila Kunis--I knew at least three growing up, and babysat for one, too...and I'm in my mid-30s). I'd be surprised if there were very many MY-las around so I wouldn't worry about it on that front. BUT--if you want something unusual, I'm not sure Milo is your name. It undoubtedly depends on where you live, but in our urban neighborhood, we know a bunch under age five. More named Miles, to be sure, but enough named Milo that I wouldn't call it uncommon or unusual--at least not around here. Lucas/Luke/Luca is *everywhere* here and I think that is reflected on the national list as well so I'd steer clear of that if you want something uncommon. Walter or Hayes seem like the way to go.