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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Baby Boy Oldman: Should They Use an Outlier Name for a Firstborn?

A. writes:
I debated whether to write to you because I REALLY wanted my husband and I to figure this out ourselves, and we mostly have, but it has gotten to the point where I need an unbiased second (or fiftieth?) opinion. After having the PERFECT girl's name picked out (Rose) and lovely visions of ruffles and sparkles and unicorns, we found out we are having a BOY. Surprise! He is due early November, right around my birthday, and we are ecstatic- and really want a full name to start calling him!

My question to you today is about whether we should take into consideration any future sibsets in naming this baby, when the rest of the names we would be inclined to choose are so drastically different than the one we have currently chosen.

My first name is super-common (#3 in the year I was born- '84) while my husband's name is the unpopular Justin-with-a-D. We both have family middle names that we like much better than our firsts, and my husband actually calls me by my middle name instead. That's not really helpful information to this question, but I felt I should mention it anyway. :)

We narrowed down our list about five million times and finally got it down to our top two: Gavin and Magnus. My husband's last name (which will be the baby's surname as well) is Swedish and sounds like Oldman, but without the D in the middle. We have found that we both typically prefer Scandinavian and Germanic names for boys, which is why Gavin as our frontrunner surprised us! We've mostly decided to go with Gavin as his first name, and give him two middle names, one of which will be Scott, in honour of my father. Here is where we need help, though.

We were thinking about using Magnus as a middle for him, because it really is one of our favourites. Gavin Magnus Scott Ol(d)man. HOWEVER...we do hope to have more children, and would like for siblings' names to not clash. If we go with Gavin now, will that be narrowing our choices too much for future boys? Our other favourites are Magnus, Hafþor, Asbjörn, Axel, Ulrik, and Gunnar. (My husband also likes Atlas, on which I'm not sold.) Should we go with Magnus Gavin Scott instead? Magnus fits with the rest of the bunch. But a Gavin and a Hafþor are just way too different! We just don't care as much for other styles of names, the closest in coordination with Gavin that we like is Lincoln, and maybe Westley, but those were more middle name choices than firsts. We kind of feel like Gavin and Magnus and Gunnar are the more usable and the closest coordinating of our bunch, and while I'd love to save Magnus for a future son, there's no telling if we'll have another boy and I'd rather use our current favourites on this baby instead of regretting not using them in the future.

Also, as I stated earlier, our girl's choice is Rose, with a middle or first of either Caroline or Delilah (we would call her Rose whether it were her first or middle). That fits with Gavin, and while it doesn't go with Magnus or the others, it doesn't seem as important for the girl and boy names to match for some reason. But if we have a Gavin now, and a Rose next, would a future Asbjörn just feel left out?? Augh, so much to think about! Am I over-thinking it all? I probably am.

SO, to try to wrap this up (feel free to edit this email around to make sense): Should we stick with Gavin and just hope for the best for a future son's name coordinating enough to not stick out? Or should we maybe use Magnus in the first name spot so that a future son will have a name similar to his brother? Does that make sense? I hope so. :) Thank you for your help!

It WARMS MY HEART to see someone considering the Sibling Name Problem ahead of time! It's one of my more fervent suggestions in Advice for First-Time Parents, because if coordinated sibling names is something you'd prefer to have, it can help so much to think things out ahead of time.

It does sound as if Gavin is one of your outlier names, as Emerson was mine: a name that you love, but that doesn't belong to your preferred naming style. In which case, since Gavin and Magnus are both in your top two but Magnus does belong to your preferred style, I like your solution of naming him Magnus but using Gavin as the middle name so you still get to use it.

On the other hand, naming style can change a bit once an actual baby is on the scene. And I do think Gavin and Magnus and Gunnar are compatible enough to be brother names, as long as you don't want to use Hafþor and Asbjörn. And I'm looking at your girl name, Rose, which also goes acceptably with Magnus and Gunnar (I agree with you that the boy/girl sibling name divide can be quite wide) but not so well with Hafþor and Asbjörn. I am starting to think that Hafþor and Asbjörn may also be outliers, but in another direction.

So this is where I suggest a gamble: if you prefer to use Gavin as the first name, I suggest NOT using Magnus as the middle name. I know this will be upsetting if you don't have another son, and it definitely IS a matter of choosing which way you think you'd regret LESS, and you specifically say you think you'd regret it more if you didn't get to use the name, so all this is to say I understand if you don't go this way---but what I suggest is taking one of the names you consider less usable as a first name, and using it as a middle name instead. Gavin Asbjörn Scott Oldman, for example. A second son could be Magnus Ulrick ___ Oldman. A third son could be Gunnar Hafþor ____ Oldman. (I saved Hafþor for last, because I did the "Would I want this name?" test and decided that for myself I would rather not have the hassle of a letter that isn't in my language's alphabet. If you ARE living where it's in your language's alphabet, it would be my first or second choice for middle name.)

But I can also see the wisdom of not saving a name for a future sibling, especially since parents often find that their first batch of name candidates goes out the window when the second child needs a name. I suggest the idea here mainly because we're dealing with the tricky business of using an outlier name, which calls for extra-careful tactics. If I'd used Emerson for my first child, I would have been up a bit of a creek for future children---so if I'd also loved, say, Paisley, I suspect I'd be glad later to have it still in the wings, rather than having used it as Emerson's middle name.

So in that case I go back to thinking Magnus Gavin is the perfect solution: you get to use both of your top two names without gambling on the loss of either, but also without using in the first-name position an outlier that might paint you into a corner for future siblings (Gunnar Lincoln! Axel Westley!).

Let's have a poll over to the right to see what everyone else thinks. ...Well, wait. That's a tough poll, because to me the three options are: (1) use Magnus Gavin, (2) use Gavin Magnus, or (3) use Gavin but not with the middle name Magnus. But that will split the Gavin vote, making it look less than it is. No, we're smart people, we can figure that out. Poll to the right! [Poll closed; see results below.]


Firefly said...

I have an irrational love of Magnus, so that's my first choice, but I think that if you're planning on having more children, you should use Gavin and save Magnus.

I LOVE Rose, though.

Helena said...

Can someone who knows tell us how to say "Hafþor"? I'm reading it as "haf-boor"...

Anonymous said...

1. I recommend using only letters that are present in the English language in the kids' names. How are they going to type them? Plus, people aren't going to know how to say them.

2. You should choose Gavin, then if you end up going with Magnus for the middle name, and have another boy whose name is Ulrik, then their names will be a little different, but they are two different people. When they grow up, nobody will ever think of what their brother's name was. I say give them the best individual names you have to give them.

Anonymous said...

Okay seriously all those names are magnificent you can not go wrong. Just sayin

Anonymous said...

I think Gavin, Magnus, Axel, Ulrik, and Gunnar are all similar enough to be brothers without being particularly bizarre. Gavin & Gunnar is downright matchy. Hafþor and Asbjörn are the ones that really stick out as exotic..and I feel like even Gavin & Björn works just fine, if you'd be willing to use that instead of Asbjörn as a concession to using names that most Americans have heard of.

Anonymous said...

I would use Magnus Gavin! If I disregard middle names temporarily (since he won't go by all of his names at school or in social situations) I tend to prefer the sound of Magnus Ol(d)man to Gavin Ol(d)man. Magnus Gavin is the perfect in-between for your other choices in my opinion!

Anonymous said...

I think your main issue is the name Hafþor. The others are all well-known, if not commonly used, names. Everyone knows the name Björn, not least thanks to ABBA, so Asbjörn isn't much of a stretch.

Relegate Hafþor to a middle name and pick the name you like best from the rest. Gavin might not be Germanic/Scandinavian but it sounds similar to the other names you've chosen so it's a fine choice.

Anonymous said...

The thorn letter is pronounced kinda like a "th" so it would sound like "haf-thor."

AirLand said...

Hafþor and Asbjörn don't go at all with your name, your husband's name, or Rose or Gavin. I'm all for picking names you love, but when only one member of the family has such a Swedish name, it's super jarring. If you really want to use one of those, you should consider picking sibling names that are also just as Swedish.

I don't think Magnus is uber-Swedish, so I agree with Swistle that it might be the perfect solution- it would match either non-Swedish names or super Swedish names.

Patricia said...

For me, Gavin and Rose go well together, so that Magnus might be seen as the outlier and even more so Hafþor, Asbjörn, Axel, Ulrik, and Gunnar. I wonder if these strongly Scandinavian names are intriguing to you and your husband, but you feel more comfortable with first names that are used more in this country. If you put the Scandi names in the middle, you can have both. Gavin Magnus and maybe something like Rose Astrid for a daughter later on. Or save Magnus for a possible second son and use your favorite from your other names with Gavin, eg.Gavin Asbjörn. Saving Magnus for a possible second son makes the name available as either a first or middle name if you find that you like another name better at that time.

Rita said...

Gavin "Olman" makes me think of Gary Oldman, the actor. Not a bad association at all, but it's there.

Since the Scandinavian theme is clearly something important for you, I think Magnus Gavin is the perfect compromise. The first name matches potential brothers and you could always call him Gavin if you change your mind.

Also, unless you live in Iceland, spelling it Hafthor (legally, at least) is the wisest solution,

Anonymous said...

I'd say just go for Gavin Magnus Scott. This was exactly my problem a while back and we decided to give our daughter our two favorite names (the only two we agreed on). However, now, we have new favorites! (And my personal style is much different than the name we chose) But the name that we have decided on for our future daughter I love equally. When coming across names after your son is born, you will reassess them and see them in a different light.

One of my own favorite boy names is Torben. A mix of English/Scandinavian. Perhaps a less-out-there possibility for you? Stian is also a beautiful alternative!

Anonymous said...

MGO make better initials than GMO (genetically modified organism), if you are into the whole obsessing about initials like I am. But perhaps you like the genetically modified organism association. By the way, when I see MGO I think of Magnesium oxide.

Anonymous said...

I forgot you were throwing Scott into the middle name zone, giving your child two middle names, so disregard my comment about GMO and MGO.

I prefer Magnus Gavin Scott. Gavin Magnus Scott does not sound like a cohesive name to me.

Anonymous said...

Magnus ends with S; Scott begins with S. I wouldn't put them together even as dual middle names. MagnuS Scott. Gavin Scott O1man sounds perfect for you. The full name flows well. This can be your son with the Celtic name. If you have a second son, his name could reflect your husband's Swedish ancestry -- maybe Magnus Bjorn O1man.

Anonymous said...

Gavin Magnus Scott sounds like a random assortment of names and does not flow well in my opinion. I agree with the other commenter who stated Magnus and Scott do not go well together. Magnus Gavin Scott does sound better, but it sounds like you want to use Gavin as the first name. How about just Gavin Scott Oldman, and use Magnus for your next son?