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Friday, August 31, 2012

Baby Boy Coakley, Brother to Beck

Elizabeth writes:
We need your help. I am due (not until the end of December, but I'm a planner) with our second child, who will be a sibling to our son Beck. We struggled terribly to find a boy's name we could agree on when pregnant with Beck, and now I'm having trouble finding a name that sounds like an appropriate sibling to Beck. (We still have the girls' names we picked out during the last pregnancy, so our real dilemma is if this is another boy.) Here's the situation: we generally likely fairly traditional names and nothing too weird or "out there."  I know that might not perfectly describe the name Beck, as it is fairly unusual, but we also love names that have meaning (to us), and Beck is my mother's maiden name. Beck's middle name is my last name (Martin) and his last name is my husband's last name, Coakley. We will likely use Martin again as the middle, and Coakley will be the last name.  Contenders include Elliott (also vaguely a family connection, as I had a grandmother Eleanor and my husband had a grandmother Ellen), but I worry that it's three syllables (as opposed to Beck's one syllable name) and it doesn't really have a nickname (I abhore Eli).  I know I said we'd use Martin as the middle name, but with Elliott I kind of like the middle name August (my husband's middle name is Augustin. He is the second son of a second son of a second son, all of whom had Augustin somewhere in their names. If this is a second son, I kind of think we should go with the tradition, although I vastly prefer August to Augustin, and my husband is okay with that). So Elliott August. One strong possibility, but I'm not sure it's "the one".  Is Elliott a sibling to Beck? I've considered Noah, but my husband feels it's not right. I kind of like Nicholas (baby is due near Christmas), but I wonder if Nick and Beck are too similar? I always wanted a Jack, but I feel Jack and Beck are DEFINITELY too similar.  I love the name Luke and it would be an honor name, but when you say "Luke Coakley" quickly is sounds like you're say "Lou Coakley" and I don't like Lou. Maybe Lucas?  I like a number of names that end in the "ie" sound like Charlie and Henry, but I don't think that works with Coakley--too sing songy.  I'm sure I'm missing some great names. Help! What would you name Beck's brother? 
And update for you. We found out that we ARE having another boy, so the pressure is really on to find a name. The names in my original email are still contenders, but I also wonder about Bennett. It would be an honor name (my husband’s best friend who passed away was Benjamin—we prefer Bennett), but I wonder if Beck and Ben are too similar? Also, do they sound like brothers? I’m not sure they fit. Another thought is to move August to the first name space and have August Martin Coakley, nickname Gus. I think Beck and Gus are a cute sibling pair, but I’m not sure about Gus as an adult man’s name. Is it too geeky? Are there other names we should be considering? Why is this so hard?? Thanks for your help.

I think if I knew brothers named Beck and Bennett, I might keep accidentally calling Beck "Beckett." The names seem too similar to me, though an excellent style match.

I think Gus is great with Beck and will work fine as a name for an adult---and if it didn't, he'd just go back to using August.

Because your firstborn has an honor name, I think you have some flexibility: it's common for a firstborn's name not to quite match the style of the sibling names, because of all the people who had to use James IV when their style was more Caden, or all the people who changed naming styles, or who used a name that didn't fit with their usual style and then couldn't find any names to go with it. If anyone were to blink at, say, Beck and Elliot (and I don't think they WOULD blink---sounds like a literary style match to me), they'd stop it as soon as they realized the name Beck was a family name. If Elliott seems too much longer than Beck, using the Eliot spelling would help some with that, as well as increasing the literary appeal.

Emmett is similar to Elliott, but with only two syllables instead of three.

Lucas is nice too. The strong K/hard-C sound helps connect it to Beck.

If you like Noah, and you like Nicholas for the Christmas-name connection, I wonder if Noel would work? Noel Coakley; Beck and Noel.

If you'd like to stick with the one-syllable idea, I like Reid and Grant. Or Dean or Dane? Or Grey? Or Finn or Gage or Nash or Hayes. There are a lot of good ones in the Brisk and Breezy section of The Baby Name Wizard.

Or Levi would be nice. Levi Coakley; Beck and Levi.

Or Miles. Miles Coakley; Beck and Miles.

Or Ezra. Ezra Coakley; Beck and Ezra. I like the coordinating short-E sound tying them together.

Or Leo is nice and short, without making you feel like you're painted into a one-syllable corner for future children. Leo Coakley; Beck and Leo.

Ian, too. Ian Coakley; Beck and Ian.

Or back to one-syllable: Heath. Heath Coakley; Beck and Heath.

Name update! Elizabeth writes:
Just wanted to thank you (and your readers) for all the naming assistance and let you know that August Martin Coakley was born December 23, weighing 8 lbs and measuring 20.75 inches. We are having a wonderful time with baby Gus!

We vacillated between the names Elliot and August for a long time. About a month before Gus was born, however, a good friend had a baby boy and named him Elliot. That in itself wasn't a deal breaker; she lives far away and isn't part of our daily lives, but it made me realize that Elliot was a very specific person, and he wasn't my baby! From then on I started thinking of the baby as Gus, and my husband did too. One of your commentators noted that she felt our "style" was really honor names, and I think she was right. By giving our son the name August Martin, we were able to honor both sides of the family. It was the perfect name for us!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Baby Girl, Sister to Henry and Juliet

G. writes:
I have been following your blog and love your suggestions.  I am hoping you might be able to help us. 
In 3 weeks, we are expecting our third child, a girl.  We are having a terrible time with her name.  Our first two are Henry and Juliet.  Both middle names honor family. For this baby, both my husband and I would like to include some version of the name Fran as a tribute to my late grandmother.  Her full name was Francella, and we are open to using any form of Fran - examples include Francine, Frances, Francie, etc.  I do love the nickname Frannie as well.  In addition, I am open to this being a first or a middle name.  My husband does not like Francesca though.
Additional names that we have narrowed down so far include:
  • Mary - this was her name for several months but then I started to second guess when my husband mentioned that the middle name Frances has a very old catholic ring to it
  • Ruth - my husbands favorite though I am not too sure about
  • June - I love this name though I fear it is too close to Juliet
  • Elizabeth - another top favorite but I fear it may be too high on the charts - I like the full name only...and I wonder how often the full name "Elizabeth" is actually used verses one of the nicknames.
I am not a huge fan of names starting with the letter "A".  If this baby was a boy, James, George or Louis would be the front runners.  Unfortunately, one of my friends named her daughter Louisa so I wouldn't feel comfortable picking that name.  We have considered Jamey for a girl. Georgia / Georgianna isn't a favorite though.
My intuition is telling me based on her movements that this baby is going to have some spunk.  I would love a name that is fresh and youthful but will age well with her - and I fear our list doesn't quite capture that...would love input / suggestions as we are quickly closing in on delivery.
Thank you!

I suggest Frances Ella.

I also encourage you to reconsider Mary. There was a Mary in my son's class a few years ago, and I was startled by how fresh the name seemed. Mary Frances does have a bit of a Catholic schoolgirl sound to it, but to me it's a very appealing sound. A Mary Frances could be a two-shoes or a sassy-boots or both, and I can picture getting quite a bit of happiness out of calling her both names together. I really love it, and I think with so many biblical/religious names going mainstream, it will work beautifully.  Plus, it sounds like this was the name you really wanted.

For something with a similar sound but less Catholic, Mary Ruth would be great as a double first name. Mary Ruth Frances.

Or Mary Francella would hardly sound Catholic at all.

It's certainly quite common for an Elizabeth to go by Elizabeth right now, though I too wish we could know HOW common; despite the reported popularity, I've only encountered two Elizabeths in the school system so far (and none going by Liz, Beth, Libby, etc.), so that's not much of a sample. One way to make sure it's never nicknamed is to use it as the middle name. Frances Elizabeth.

Or one of my current favorites is Eliza. It's less common than Elizabeth, and less often nicknamed.  And it's just FULL of sass. Eliza Frances. I would like to have that name for myself. Or Eliza Francella is perhaps even prettier.

If you like Louisa but a friend's daughter has the name already, I suggest Eloise. I think it's wonderful with Henry and Juliet, and it works well with the middle name Frances or Francella.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Baby Naming Issue: Tilly vs. Tillie

Casey writes:
My husband and I are expecting our second child, a girl, in early December. We have a two year old son named Arlo Harrison. We actually came to a consensus on our daughter's name very quickly due to early concerns that she might have a very serious birth defect (which thankfully was later shown not to exist!) We decided on the name Matilda Kate. We very much like the name's meaning: "mighty in battle," and were drawn to it when it looked like she might have some early battles to overcome.

So why am I writing? We are planning to call her "Tilly," but I have no idea the correct way to spell it, and I am very much one who likes to spell things THE correct way! I've looked around google to see if I could find a consensus on Tilly vs. Tillie, but have yet to find a concrete answer. My initial thinking was that "Tillie" was correct, but then I read somewhere that it had too many parallel lines, and now I wonder if that's not the case. I don't find that I have a strong preference for either one, and I realize that having her name misspelled is not as big of a deal as it would be if Tillie/Tilly were her given name, but I'd still love your and your reader's thoughts on which is most commonly accepted!

Many, many thanks!

It is times like this I wish for a giant shelf of name encyclopedias. Well. I do have The Oxford Dictionary of First Names, and that is a start. It has a listing for Tilly but not for Tillie. Tillie is mentioned within the Tilly listing as a "variant." So according to The Oxford Dictionary of First Names (the book I trust most for name origins and meanings), Tilly is the main spelling.

The Baby Name Bible lists both nicknames in the same entry, with the -ie spelling first: "Tillie, Tilly." (This choice may be alphabetical: Abby/Abbie is also listed "Abbie, Abby.") Then in the description, when one or the other spelling needs to be chosen, it chooses Tillie: "Tillie is cute, frilly, and sassy all at once."

The Baby Name Wizard lists nicknames for Matilda in this order: "Tilda, Tillie, Tilly, Mattie." In the description, when one spelling needs to be chosen, it chooses Tilly: "It's also rising in the U.K., along with the nickname Tilly." Under the listing for Abby, it says this: "In the 19th century, Abbie breezed along happily with names like Tillie and Mattie. Today Abby is the most common spelling..." (I include this because perhaps it indicates that the dominant ending changes with fashions.) Tillie is listed as a sister name for Lottie and Roscoe; Tilly is listed as a sister name for Maisie, Pippa, and Roxie.

Tilly is the one I would have guessed was the main one; in general, I think of the -ie ending as less standard for most names, although of course there are exceptions (Carrie, for example, or Hattie or Maggie or Elsie).

For the specific example of Tilly/Tillie, I prefer the look of Tilly---but that of course would be purely subjective. I think one reason I prefer the Tilly spelling is that -lly/-llie words seem to more often end in Y: Billy, chilly, dilly-dally, filly, frilly, hilly, Holly, Kelly, Milly, Molly, pilly, Polly, Sally, Shelly, silly, Willy. In favor of the Tillie spelling: Billie, Callie, Ellie. (Other -llie/-lly examples to add to the list?)

The Social Security Administration's data base can't tell us how people are spelling it when it's a nickname, but it can tell us that in 2011, there were 51 new baby girls named Tilly and 36 named Tillie.

I think the answer here is that there is no answer: both spellings are valid, neither one is "right." You can choose the spelling you prefer. And she will probably spell it both ways in junior high!

If it would be helpful, we can also have a poll over to the right to see what most people consider the correct spelling. [Poll closed; see results below.]

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Baby Boy $amuel, Brother to Louisa Claire

M. writes:
My son is due September 16th and is currently nameless. My husband (Josh) and I (Melissa) already have a little girl named Louisa Claire, and will hopefully have another baby in a couple of years time. Our surname is $amuel, which you would think would be easy to work with. For us, it has not been so easy. Even Louisa's name doesn't sound quite right with it.

Our favorite name is Max, but Max $amuel sounds like Mac $amuel or Max Amuel when said out loud. Do you think that is a definite deal-breaker? His middle name will most likely be Hudson, so it would be Max Hudson $amuel. Of course we could name him something like Maximilian, but as we don't like that at all he would go by Max 100% of the time, therefore he would still be Max $amuel.

I have been looking at names on your blog and a name you suggested recently has really stuck in my head and I have found myself absolutely loving it! The name is Caius. Of course it doesn't work with our surname either. Caius $amuel = Caia $amuel :-(

Other names I really like that my husband does not like include Oliver, Everett and Evander. Clearly I like 'v' sounds!

My husband like's the names Jacob, Aidan and Lucas. I don't particularly like Jacob, I like Aidan but not enough to consider it (plus a friend of mine has a Jayden and another friend has a Kaiden), and obviously we cannot have a LOUisa and a LUcas AND it doesn't work with our surname (although I do like it).

At the moment we are also considering the name Declan, which I do really like. However I don't believe my husband likes it as much as he claims...I think he is sick of talking about baby names so is just agreeing to whatever I say (LOL).

Any suggestions would be very appreciated! Popularity does not concern us too much, but I would prefer to use a name that is not so common.

My general feeling about run-together names is that it depends on how embarrassing/confusing the run-together is, and on how much you love the name. I definitely think it can work if the former is low and the latter is high.

I think Max $amuel is workable if you love it. Neither Mac $amuel nor Max Amuel is an embarrassing mistake, and I think you and he would get accustomed to pausing between the first and last name to make it clear: "Max...$amuel." Or, for example, you'd say, "Hi, this is Max. Max $amuel."

Caia $amuel is a more embarrassing confusion. The name Kai would work better: Kai $amuel. But Kai does not seem as compatible with Louisa as some of the other options.

I like Declan from your list, too.

May I suggest one of my own recent favorites? George $amuel is handsome, and Louisa and George is almost irresistible to me.

Another of my own pet favorites: John $amuel; Louisa and John.

Everett and Oliver makes me think of Elliot and Emmett.

If you don't mind repeating an initial, I wonder if Levi would work. In style it reminds me of a sort of combination of Max and Oliver and Jacob, and it has the V sound you like. Levi $amuel; Louisa and Levi.

I was curious to see what The Baby Name Wizard would recommend as brother names for Louisa; she lists Foster, Hugh, Jules, Emerson, and Anton. My favorites from that list are Foster and Hugh.

A name similar to Max is Jack, but with less of a run-together issue---it could be Jax $amuel, I suppose, but Jack is so much more common.

Name update! M. writes:
One of your lovely readers suggested the name Sullivan which I loved and also turns out to be a family name on my husband's side. We ended up agreeing on it a couple of weeks before he was born, and decided to use Max as his middle name. I was a bit sad to think that I will never have my Max, but there is no guaranteeing we will ever have another boy. Plus I LOVE having my little Sully :-)

So Sullivan Max $amuel he is!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Name Updates!

Update on Five-Year-Old Girl Voisey, Sibling to Ezekiel, Basil, September, and Soren!
Update (and photo!) on Baby Naming Issue: Using One Side's Naming Tradition or the Other Side's Honor Name?
Update on Baby Girl El_____, Sister to Fielding!

Baby Boy Grefay, Brother to Jack and Lila

Jennifer writes:
Just discovered your wonderful site in my frantic search for the perfect name for baby #3 (due September 6, but realistically, any day now!!). This pregnancy has flown by and we’ve been putting off the naming decision until now!

So, our son’s name is Jack and our daughter’s name is Lila. Now we’re having another boy and have not fallen in love with any name. Well, I have fallen in love with one: James. BUT, it’s my husband’s name (although he goes by Jim) and he refuses to name our second son James for fear that later in life our firstborn son will grow resentful that he wasn’t given his Dad’s name. I think this is ridiculous thinking…but is he right? Can only the firstborn son carry the father’s name?

So in lieu of James, I/we like Max, Charlie, Benjamin, Bradford, I also like Graham but I feel it clashes with our surname starts with ‘Gre’ and ends sounding like ‘fay’ (similar to the sound of ‘buffet’. I hope that makes sense)…it sounds very French when  pronounced correctly (which is rarely!).  

If this were a girl, I love the names Georgie (Georgia) and Harper and Maggie…

I hope you can help! Maybe it’s hormones and fatigue but I can’t seem to make a rational decision or even think straight at this point!

Although it's traditional for the firstborn child to be the namesake, there isn't anything inherently more worthy or important about the first child; I suspect the only reason is so the honor name is used at the first opportunity. If there's no reason for the children to believe that this third child would be particularly favored by his parents, I think it's likely the children won't much care---or if they do care, the caring could go either way: either "Why didn't _I_ get dad's name?" OR "Why didn't YOU have to get dad's name?" An honor name is a mixed gift: there aren't any specific benefits that go along with it (the benefits are more for the one who is honored)---and there are downsides, such as not having a name all of one's own, and dealing with any confusion that results from sharing.

One of my friends had twin boys, and they gave the father's name to the secondborn twin, so that each boy would have something: one boy is the firstborn, and the other is the namesake. It seemed like a good idea to me, and a good source of spin for other situations.

In this case, my bigger concern would be that the names Jack and James seem very similar, especially with a father Jim. Jack and Max also seem very similar to me, though a good fit style-wise.

Charlie is my own favorite from your list. Jack and Charlie are highly compatible names, but without being too alike. Benjamin is a very close second, especially if he'll go by Ben: Jack and Ben is a wonderful pair of brother names.

I also suggest Henry: Jack, Lila, and Henry.

Or Sam: Jack, Lila, and Sam.

I'm finding it a little challenging to find a brother name for a Jack. I think it's because Jack is a nickname name but also considered a stand-alone choice. So it feels compatible with other nickname names (Max, Sam, Ben, Charlie), but those names are not as often used as given names. So then having, say, a Jack and a Charles, or a Jack and a Benjamin, or a Jack and a Samuel, feels as if one boy has a good nickname and the other doesn't, or that only the nickname is the same style as Jack.

A name like Leo would be perfectly compatible with Jack---but I'm afraid it's too close to Lila. Drew might be perfect: it's short for Andrew but often used as given name. But I'm not sure it works well with the surname. Maybe Cole? It can be a nickname for Nicholas or Colton, but it's also given on its own. Or Liam---but again, probably too close to Lila.

Other nickname possibilities:


From this list, I think my favorite combination is Jack and Will. (Another post asked if "Jack and Will" would bring "Jack and Jill" to mind. I thought probably it would be a minor issue, and that it would be easy to say "Will and Jack" instead---but it's the sort of issue I like to mention so that you can think of it beforehand rather than afterward.) I like how all three children would have four-letter names, unless that would make you feel pressured for future children. Jack, Lila, and Will.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Baby Name to Consider: Thames

Nichole writes:
For some reason, my husband has become completely enamored of the name Thames and wants to use if for our next son.  I looked up pronunciation and the Thames River in England (and thus the British pronunciation) is "temz".  But the Thames River in Connecticut (and thus the American pronunciation) is said to be "thaymz or taymz".

My questions: 1) how do you / how does your average N. American reader pronounce Thames when read and spoken?; and 2) is "Thames" a name that is too off-the-wall to consider as a first name?

Thank you!!

Oh, interesting! I immediately pronounced it "temz" in my mind---but if I saw it as a child's name, I'd wouldn't assume that was the way it was pronounced. I wasn't familiar with the Thames River in Connecticut, but I still would have wondered if Thames as a name might be pronounced to rhyme with James, with a soft TH sound; I'm not sure if the river in Connecticut is well-known enough to affect the U.S. pronunciation. I'd also wonder if it might be a creative spelling of Thomas. Or I'd wonder if it might be thay-mus, to rhyme with Seamus/Shamus. I'd be very uncertain, and would feel uncomfortable even taking a stab at it.

According to the Social Security Administration, the name is unused or nearly unused in the United States: Thames is not in the data base, which means it was used for fewer than 5 boy or 5 girl babies in 2011.

My own opinion is that it would be a hassle to carry that name in the United States, with more confusion over spelling and pronunciation than would be worth it. I think, however, that it would make a terrific and distinctive middle name.

What does everyone else think? Let's have a poll over to the right. [Poll closed; see results below.]

And in the comments section, say how you would have thought Thames was pronounced if you encountered it as a child's name.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

What Are Your Favorite Unisex Baby Names?

Reader Melissa had a really good idea: We should do a series of posts called things like "What's your favorite unisex name?" or "What's your favorite uncommon name?," and then have a list of links to that series in the sidebar. It might make a good reference section for people to browse when they're looking for inspiration.

So let's try it, and let's start with "What are some of your favorite unisex baby names?"

If you're like me, you might be suddenly nervous about your choices. Let's agree NOT to be: we'll just list any that come to mind, and it doesn't matter if they're our actual top favorites because we can always come back and add more later, and of course our answers don't have to correspond with names we'd use OURSELVES, and duplicates in the list are fine and expected and even helpful for showing group preferences. We're just creating an inspiration/idea list for others to look through.

I'll go first:


Now it is your turn. You can list one or many, whatever you like. Think of it like someone says to you "I'd like to find a good unisex baby name," and you say "Ooo, how about...?"

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Baby Naming Issue: Can a Baby Choose Its Own Name?

Sasha writes:
Just saw your site and I really love the in depth name discussions. I have a situation so I thought I would ask your advice.

My husband and I are expecting a baby girl in January. The name we have chosen is Victoria, namely because it has always been my favorite name. We are both Anglophiles, we love the regal sound and I like the fact that it is not in the top ten. Our last name is Marks, so Victoria Marks has a good British feel about it, even though we live in California.

Now the other night my husband had a dream that the baby was born and looked up at him and said "Hi my name is Zoe." He now feels that she is more of a person to him as Zoe than as Victoria. We are thinking of naming her Victoria Zoe and he has started to refer to her as Zoe.

I still want to call her Victoria, as that is the name I love in my heart, but I am also open if Zoe is indeed the better name for her. This is my first and will be my only child. So my questions are: has anyone had a name shake up and how did you feel about it afterwards, and, is it possible for a baby to "choose" her own name, so to speak, in a situation like this?

I am looking forward to your thoughts on this.

The question is not whether I believe it's possible for a baby to choose its own name, but whether YOU believe it. Do you believe that each fetus has its own inherent name even before birth (as opposed to the name chosen according to the parents' tastes), and that the fetus can broadcast that name telepathically into its father's dream?

If you do believe this, then the child's first name should be Zoe: she has specifically chosen it (or, depending on which belief we'd be going with, has come to understand that it is hers), and has specifically and clearly told you. Ignoring those wishes and giving her a name you KNEW wasn't hers would be a serious decision.

If you instead believe that people have many dreams about their babies-to-be, and that those dreams are dreams rather than prophesies or truth-revealing communications, then you can continue to do what parents generally do, which is to choose the name themselves.

My own dream experience has not been one of truths revealed. During my pregnancies I sometimes dreamed a baby boy was a boy, and sometimes dreamed he was a girl. Sometimes I dreamed he was born way too early, or that he was something other than a baby, or that he died, or that I gave birth to him at home, or that he was blonde, or that I wasn't pregnant at all. Sometimes the dreams happened to correspond to reality, and most of the time they didn't.

So in your shoes, I would see a husband's dream as a fun story that we might want to incorporate into the naming process if we happened to agree on the name anyway. I'd go with your plan: sticking with your original agreed-upon name choice rather than dramatically switching styles, and using the dream name as a fun middle name as well as a nickname for her daddy to call her. Victoria Zoe Marks is a wonderful name, and Z. is a very fun initial, and the naming story is a highly enjoyable one.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Twin Baby Boys Squelch-with-a-W, Brothers to Lila Grace

Kristin writes:
I am pregnant with twin boys and in my 36th week. I had a pre-term labor scare a few weeks ago and have been on bed rest ever since, so these boys could arrive at any moment. The one thing left on our to-do list is to come up with names.

We have an older daughter whose name we absolutely love, Lila. Lila is classic, elegant, easy to say and spell, old fashioned, yet contemporary and it suits her to a tee. Grace is her middle name - it's a family name that was coincidentally present on both my husband’s and my side of the family. So it was a no brainer that our daughter would take that as her middle name. Our last name sounds like Squelch but with a "W". Therefore, we want boys names that aren’t too harsh sounding. My husband’s name is Evan and mine is Kristin.

Requirements are that the first name be two or more syllables, doesn’t start with W and isn’t be in the top 100 names. I also don’t want matchy, rhymey names or names that start with the same letter for our twin boys. Unfortunately, we can’t seem to agree on any names and neither of us loves the options we’ve come up with either. We feel like we’ll never love any boy’s names as much as we love Lila’s.

My first name ideas: Bryson, Everett, Bennett, Emmett, Emerson, Avery and Grayson

My middle name ideas: Owen, Miles and Alexander

My husband’s first and middle name ideas: Miles, Max, Jason and Earl

My husband like Miles and Max as first names. But Max paired with our last name sounds like a single first name. Also, I don’t like the M and M theme or the fact that they are monosyllabic. I’d like a better flow with our last name. I really like Everett Miles but the fact that my husband wants to use Miles as a first name and Everett is so close to my husband’s name Evan, makes me question it. “Hi, I’m Evan and this is my son Everett.” Sounds odd, right? My husband doesn’t like Bennett because he worries about him being nicknamed Benny. But I love the meaning – blessed. Emerson reminds him of the band Emerson, Lake and Palmer. Does anybody have that association these days? He also dislikes Owen but I like that it is a variation of the name Evan. So, in essence, it's a tribute to my husband. He has also mentioned Jason which is his first name and his father’s name. I don’t love the name but I’m willing to consider it probably more as a middle name because I’d like to stick with classic old timey names as a theme for our kids and don't really think it goes with Lila. Another one of his suggestions is Earl, his father’s middle name. Certainly better as a middle name than first but kind of old sounding. Any ideas for us?

I will start by suggesting that your goal not be to find names you love as much as Lila's name. The name Lila has already become synonymous with your much-loved daughter; any new names are unlikely to measure up until they've had time to become your sons. It's also possible that boy names you love as much as Lila's name don't exist---and yet you would nevertheless need to choose names. So instead, I suggest the more attainable goal of finding your favorite two boy names.

And in fact, I might start by finding ONE favorite boy name. An exercise that can be useful when naming twins (especially if you don't want any twin-name gimmick) is to pretend you are expecting just one baby boy, and find a name for him; then pretend it is some time later and you are expecting another single baby boy, and find a name for HIM.

Looking at your lists, the pairing that stands out to me is Miles and Everett. Like the name Lila, both are old-fashioned yet contemporary names. They're coordinated but not matchy in any way. You've got Miles down as a one-syllable name, but I say it with two syllables: my-yuls. Evan and Everett seem too similar for brothers, but not for a father/son; I think the mild connection is nice, and that the frequency of it seeming strange in an introduction is likely to be very low. I do wonder if Lila and Miles are too similar, though; they do share a lot of sounds.

If Everett continues to seem too close to your husband's name, and if Miles doesn't seem too close to Lila, my next choice is Miles and Bennett. I think as long as your son doesn't himself choose to go by Benny later on, you can avoid the nickname.

My concern with Emerson isn't the band but the usage: currently it's used more often for girls. The name Avery, too, is currently used much more often for girls. If you use either name, I suggest using both: Emerson and Avery are very compatible names. I'd use them with boyish middle names, for clarity; perhaps Emerson Miles and Avery Bennett, or Emerson Earl and Avery Jason if you'd like to use the family names. Lila, Emerson, and Avery.

I see a lot of -ett and -son on your list, so I think I'd explore that for more possibilities. I'll avoid very common names, but I'm ignoring the arbitrary Top-100 cut-off: since some of the names on your list are Top 100, I'll assume you mean "not very common" (i.e., not Mason) as opposed to "#101 is fine, but #100 is not."

Elliot is one of my own favorites, though maybe it's too much L with a sister Lila. I might pair it with Oliver, and then perhaps the L sound is unifying rather than duplicating: Lila, Elliot, and Oliver.

Or perhaps I'd pair it with Simon, so that one boy shares the L sound and the other shares the long-I: Lila, Elliot, and Simon.

Garrett is another possibility. Perhaps we could pair one -ett name and one -son name! Garrett and Harrison. Garrett and Anderson. Garrett and Davison. Or replace Garrett with Beckett---there was a character named Lyla Garrity on the television show Friday Night Lights; I'm not sure how many people would think of it with a Lila and a Garrett. Anderson and Beckett for Baby A and Baby B, if you like a leeeeeetle twin-name gimmick. Or Beckett and Harrison, or Beckett and Davison, or Beckett and Thompson.

I love the name Henry with Lila. Henry works well with Simon, Oliver, Everett, Emmett, Elliot, Miles, Grady, Isaac, Frederick---lots of names.

We recently did another question about twin boys, and I got caught up in the fantasy of naming twin boys and made a bit of a list; perhaps that might be of some use. Some of those pairs are a little matchier than you're looking for, but individual names might stand out. Henry and Malcolm. Harris and Calvin. Emmett and Louis. Ian and Leo. Davis and Simon. Gideon and Ruben.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Will the Name Marigold Become a Huge Hit?

Kym writes:
Hubby and I are expecting our sixth child, a girl, sometime this October. We are calling her Marigold - a name I've loved since the sixth grade and a name that hubby has grown to love, too. It has take me (not hubby) a good while to grow brave enough to use this name, because I'm sure there will be raised eyebrows and chatter behind our backs, but the name has finally solidified for me and to us, our daughter is already Marigold. There is no other name I love (except for the names we've already given our other daughters.) Now, my only concern is that I was told there is a new NBC show premiering in September in which there is a girl guessed it....Marigold. I've confirmed this; it is true. I am a tad worried that there will be a huge influx of Marigolds being born in the next few years, not to mention how many will think we named our October daughter after the girl in the September show. It's rather bumming me and I need some input. Will this very uncommon name become a huge hit?


...I suppose I shouldn't be so definite. Violet, after all, has done quite a journey up the ranks recently. But I still say no for Marigold: I think it's a charming name, it's on my own list, and I think it's more likely to stay unusual---if not QUITE as unusual as before.

I think there will be at least a little jump from the show, because many people who have never even heard of the name Marigold will now suddenly have it brought to their attention---but I think there will be a lot of people who HAVE heard of it who will say "Oh, shoot; well, now that it's in a show I don't want to use it anymore." I also think that if the show is a success, you will have to deal with the occasional or even frequent "Oh, like the show?" But you will say, "No, we chose the name before the show came out," and that will be the end of it. And maybe the show will tank and it won't even be an issue at all.

Keep in mind, of course, that many a person has made many a prediction that looks very, very silly later on. "Oh, computers will never take off!" "Television is just a fad!" "Madison? That's the perfect ha-ha name for the crazy mermaid to choose, since no one would ever ACTUALLY use it!" There IS the risk that the time is absolutely ripe for a name like Marigold (books and TV shows often tap into incoming trends, rather than being the cause of them), and that the show will rocket it to the top. I'd put my money on a small spike that works in your favor by giving the name a pleasing normality/familiarity that keeps people from acting like you named your daughter Tulip or Hydrangea---but I could easily be absolutely wrong.

It sounds like it doesn't really matter, though, if your daughter is already Marigold to both of you. It's too bad about the show, but it doesn't seem like you'd want to change her name on the off-chance that it will be a serious problem.

Let's have a poll over to the right to collect others' predictions. [Poll closed; see results below.]

Name update! Kym writes:
Well, here she is...our little flower, Marigold! Not one person has made any association with "that" TV series yet, and I'd say a good 98% of the people who hear her name absolutely LOVE it. So that makes for a happy momma (though I'd be happy regardless). Marigold was born in October and after choosing her name, we learned that the flower for the month of October is....the marigold! Fancy that. :)

Thanks all for your comments!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Baby Boy Wylie, Brother to Violet and Scott

K. writes:
I am 4 weeks from having a beautiful baby boy in my arms and I don't feel settled on any name. I still probably spend 5 hours a day thinking about it.

Our last name is Wylie, and we're considering Robert, Cooper, or Zachary as middle names (all significant family names.)

My daughter is Violet Noelle Wylie. And my son is Scott Brian Wylie. I love how Violet and Scott sound together, though I know they're stylistically different. Violet had long been my favorite girls name and Scott is my husband's middle name. I'm so glad I took a bit of a risk on Scott. I'm sure some people think it stale and tired. But for the most part it gets good reaction and actually feels fresh on the under 5 crowd!

So my dilemma:

We're leaning towards Oliver. But I just can't stand how popular it is. It is particularly popular in my state even though I don't know a single Oliver. The other problem is that Oliver sounds like Violet's brother but not really like Scotty's brother!

Other's on the list:

Sam (sooo popular!)
James (nn Jamie)

I feel like its slightly odd to use Simon, Peter, and James since they're so biblical? Am I over thinking that? The other small problem with Rhett, Reid, Heath, and Penn is that they lack nickname potential. I used to love one syllable boy names (hence choosing Scott) but the name pretty much got hijacked and we call him Scotty 99% of the time. So now I fear the one syllables a bit! What should I choose? Of course, I'm open to other suggestions from you and your readers. This is our last baby and I so want to love his name as much as I love Violet's!!

I think names like James, Peter, and Simon have all been fully mainstreamed by now: someone certainly COULD use them because of their biblical status, but they're just standard names at this point---as are Matthew, Andrew, Joshua, David, Michael, Benjamin, Daniel, Ethan, Mark, Caleb, Luke, Jonathan, etc.; practically the whole classic/traditional/timeless list are names that also appear in the Bible. Even Noah, Ezra, Ezekiel, Moses, Abraham, and Isaac are mainstreamed at this point, due to a recent trend of Quirky Biblical names. Perhaps if I encountered a family with ALL biblical names, I might WONDER---but encountering just one name from the list, it wouldn't even come to my mind. In a family with a Violet and a Scott, it certainly wouldn't seem biblical.

Although I do like to avoid style clashes within a sibling group, I think there are many styles that are different yet perfectly fine together. Scott and Oliver is an example of this: they're definitely not the same style, but they're fine: at most they provoke a small, interested, surprised feeling---but no "What happened THERE?" feeling as there might be with, say, Maverick and Jason, or Sunshine and Jessica. Scotty and Ollie is pretty cute!

I think if you've found you nicknamed Scott to Scotty against your original plan, I would avoid Penn.

Simon and Sam have an initial working in their favor: when two names are of somewhat different styles, a matching starting initial can make them seem more similar. Scotty and Sammy, Scotty and Simon.

Rhett has a similar situation but with its ending: the three names become linked through their ending T-sounds. Violet, Scott, and Rhett. I can see how you might want OR not want that; I think if I encountered it in the wild, I'd find it appealing. I even like how both boys have double T's.

Scott and Peter seem like a very good combination to me, and the T sound in Peter ties his name to his siblings.

I think my favorite from your list is James/Jamie: it gives you the same "one-syllable name, two-syllable nickname" pattern as with Scott. James Cooper Wylie; Violet, Scott, and James; Scotty and Jamie.

I suggest not trying to compare your feelings for a new name to your love of a name you loved for years and that has now fully become your daughter to you. The new name is almost always going to feel a little funny at first, while the established name can feel as if it's been perfect from the beginning. Instead, the goal can be the easier one of just finding the name you like best of the possibilities: not "As much as I love Violet" but "The one I like best from this list."

Since you've had the experience of finding that a name off its style peak can sound fresh on a small child, I suggest the name John. Like Scott, it's one-syllable and not currently on-trend. Like Scott, it sounds fresh and surprising in a kindergarten class full of Cadens and Masons. (In fact, that's how the name first caught my riveted attention: I saw it written in a child's hand on a cute drawing up on the kindergarten wall.) John Robert Wylie; Violet, Scott, and John; Scotty and Johnny.

I'd also add Grant. It has the T-ending, and I think it goes well enough with both Violet and Scott. Though Scott is more familiar to me at this point as a first name, Scott and Grant are both surnames.

Name update! K. writes:
Our beautiful boy was born on September 14th via repeat c-section. It took me about 2 days to settle on his name, though my husband was certain from his birth. Now, I am so in love with his name, I really can't believe it. I was so worried I couldn't be satisfied this time around. We chose Simon Cooper Wylie as his name. It's thanks to you and your readers! First, I was hesitant to have the name start with an 's' but once I removed that restriction knew I had a winner. Secondly, when only a few people liked Simon the best off my list, I realized I was routing for it! That made it easy! Thanks so much!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Baby Boy Gabriel, Brother to Elizabeth Rose and Luke; And Middle Name Challenge for Luke _____ Gabriel

Jen writes:
So, I am getting rather pregnant now and will be having this baby around September 26th.  (And that is a pretty solid date, as I am being induced for all sorts of medical reasons.)  Once upon a time, when I was first pregnant years and years ago, my husband and I struck a bargain.  If the baby was a girl, I got 51% of the naming decision and if it was a boy, he got 51%.  And then the next baby, the "loser" got 51% regardless of sex.  Well, the first named baby ended up being a girl, so I chose the name Elizabeth Rose.  (Our last name is Gabriel, by the way.  I am Jen and he is Matt.  And yes, we were both born in 1981, how did you guess?)  Elizabeth is my sister's middle name and Rose was Matt's grandmother's first name.  So Elizabeth's name is two honor names but (ahem, don't tell my sister this), those are mainly just names we liked and then we were like "oh, isn't that convenient!"  

Anyway, this time it is Matt's turn to put in 51% of the vote.  (The 51% can sound misleading, it's just kind of that person's job to come up with a name to which the 49% stakeholder says "oh, I love that name too!")  This baby is a boy.  And we are stuck.  We could name a girl in about fifteen minutes but we have been working on this boy's name since MARCH and aren't really much further. (I'm high risk, so I've been ultrasounded about a million times and have known it is a boy since twelve weeks.  There is no doubt that it is a boy since this has been confirmed a good dozen times.) 

Matt's first choice for a name is John.  And I love the name John.  (Also, it is Matt's middle name, which I think makes it extra great.)  Except for one thing...the way it sounds when it is said out loud.  Which is a pretty big thing for a name.  It just sounds too short to me.  And I've felt this way for a long time, as we have an acquaintance with a baby named John and every time she calls him, my brain says "and where is the rest of your name, kid?" So my feelings on this aren't likely to change.  Matt does not like Jonathan as a second option, mainly based on spelling.  And his feelings haven't changed since I first suggested that months ago. 

Probably my front runner name right now is Andrew John.  Neither of us like the nickname Andy (AT ALL), but one thing I have learned with having an Elizabeth is that we have pretty good control over nicknames, at least so far.  She's never called Beth or Liz or anything like that, mainly because Matt and I don't use any of those.  My dad had a short spell of calling her Lizzie, but since no one else used it or really encouraged it, Elizabeth it is.  (She's actually called Dibits a lot of the time because that is how she first pronounced Elizabeth herself as she was learning to talk and it stuck.)  So if we went with Andrew, he would be called Andrew or Drew.  Matt actually likes Drew quite a lot.  But he's not totally sold on Andrew and also feels like he wants to hold John in reserve in case we have another boy at any point. 

Other names we have considered, in no particular order:

Kevin (we actually named our marriage project babies Kevin and Nicole, back in high school economics class.  Matt and Jen: Naming Pretend Babies since 1998 and Can't Do It For Real)

Steven (we like it but we both hate the nickname Steve and there's not a lot you can do about that one)

Joseph (again, hate the nickname Joe or Joey)







We also love the name Michael and would probably use that without even thinking about it...but that is Matt's youngest brother's name and we already have a Michael.  I'm totally anti juniors and I would never use a repeat name of a close family member.  I would use a middle name (obviously, as we did) or a distant relative that we never see, but we see Mike quite a lot. (Also, Robert, but we have a very close friend Rob that lives near us that Matt sees on a daily basis.  So no.) 

Now, for my second naming dilemma.  Last year, we had a late term loss of a little boy we named Luke.  We discovered that he was dead before we discovered that he was a boy (I wasn't high risk yet, so no ultrasounds every week), so we literally named him in a few minutes, in tears, after he was delivered.  I've felt bad ever since that he never got a middle name.  I would like to give him one now, but it would be just for us. We wouldn't be going back and changing his official name on anything.  I don't really have any ideas for his middle name (and it hurts to think about it too hard). I'd like something that sounds good with Luke and maybe has some kind of meaning.  So if you have any good ideas here, I would be grateful. 

Now, go forth and name my baby!

I am gnashing my teeth, GNASHING THEM, over the John situation. John is one of my top favorite boy names, and you are SO CLOSE to using it, and "Elizabeth and John" is wonderful, and so I WANT to tell you that you DO NOT feel the way you do about the spoken-aloud version---but you have seen it happen on an in-person John, and so I agree with you (reluctantly, SULLENLY, agree with you) that it sounds like that's not going to work out. (Gnash gnash.) (Would it help if you could call him Jonty as a nickname? Or is that the same spelling issue as Jonathan?) (And you could call him Baby John until John didn't seem so short anymore!) (GNASH.)

Another John option is to give him a double name---either by actually giving him two first names or by calling him by first and middle. It gives you John, while also giving you a longer name to say.

May I suggest the pseudonym I've grown very fond of with the name Elizabeth? I call my twins Elizabeth and Edward as their blog names, and my mom and I have over the years found that now we almost wish I HAD named them Elizabeth and Edward: we find the names so appealing together and separately. Edward Gabriel.

If Edward is close-but-not-quite, I love the name Edmund.

Instead of Kevin or Steven, perhaps Evan or Ian.

I love Henry from your list. We almost used it for our youngest boy, but then another name took the lead so I contented myself by using it as his blog name. Henry Gabriel. Maybe Henry Michael or Henry Robert or Henry Tyler? Or, the middle name position is the perfect place for a love-the-name-but-hate-the-nickname name: a Henry Joseph or a Henry Steven completely avoids Joe/Steve.

Now. Brace yourself, because I want to push you to use a name on my "Why Won't People OBEY Me?" list (also on that list: John, Karl, Louise). It's a bit of a hard-sell name, but it goes beautifully with the names on your list. It's George. GEORGE. Let it sink in. Think of George Clooney, perhaps.

George Gabriel. It's one syllable like John, but it takes longer to say. Possible downside: would it bother you that the initial sounds were two different pronunciations of the letter G? Another possible downside: a little tricky to find a middle name. George Michael is out. George John is choppy. George Robert, George Steven, George Joseph---nothing clicks into place, quite. I looked up George Clooney's middle name, and it's Timothy; that does work well! Maybe something else with more than two syllables: George Nathaniel, George Everett, George Oliver, George Zachary---yes, I think the key might be to go for more syllables.

I like Everett and Oliver as first name options, too. Everett Gabriel, Oliver Gabriel.

James is another "one-syllable but may feel longer" option. James Tyler Gabriel, James Henry Gabriel, James Michael Gabriel.

I think a Benjamin would make an adorable little brother for an Elizabeth. Benjamin Gabriel; Elizabeth and Benjamin. Nickname issues to consider, though.

Or Nicholas. Again with nickname issues.

Or Owen would be sweet, and no natural nicknames.

For Luke, I suggest the middle name Matthew, after his father. Luke Matthew Gabriel.

Or if your maiden name would work, then he would have his own name, then a name from his mother, then a name from his father.

Or I might use the opportunity to honor an important male family member. It might be too painful for a living family member to be honored in this way (my first suggestion may be too painful for your husband), but perhaps a grandfather or great-grandfather or great-uncle.

For a meaning name, some baby name books say Geoffrey/Jeffrey means "peace" or "God's peace." The Oxford Dictionary of First Names says the name Noah means "rest" or "to comfort"; the name Solomon means "peace"; and the name Wilfred means "a hope for peace."

Name update!  Jen writes:
Greetings, Swistle and Baby Namers!

Our baby was born on September 26, with me arriving at the hospital in strong labor ten minutes before my scheduled check-in time for my induction.  So the induction became a moot point and Ryan Matthew was born safely and alive, two hours later, at exactly 6:00pm!

Thank you for all your naming advice.  A few weeks before he was born, I demanded three finalist names from my husband.  Then we both said “Ryan? Hmm. Yes. Ryan.”  And after lots of jokes about giving him the middle name Brian, we chose Matthew since Matt likes namesakes and would like to have one, if it weren’t a deal breaker for me.  One of item of note- many of them names suggested both by you and by the commenters were names we either considered and dropped (close friends or similar reasons) or names of close family members.  (Both Matt’s brothers’ first and middle names were suggested.) So obviously you are very good at matching our naming style!

Here is Ryan’s birth announcement and a picture of him with his big sister!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Baby Girl Ferreira, Sister to Nicolas Vi

Jennifer writes:
I really love your blog and have been following it since I was pregnant with my son.  My husband and I are expecting our second child, a girl, at the end of Oct. this year.  We're having a difficult time coming up with a name.  My husband's name Michael Ferreira and my name is Jennifer Dai-Ferreira.  We've decided on a Vietnamese middle name to pay tribute to my heritage.  The middle name will be "An" pronounced like the name "Ann".  It means peace in Vietnamese.  We have a 3 year old son named Nicolas Vi Ferreira.  His middle name is also Vietnamese and means vitality or strength.  It was also the name of my great grandfather. 
My husband and I are considering the following names for our baby girl:
My favourite is Giselle but I don't think it works with the middle name 'An'.  I'm considering adding another middle name before An but I'm afraid it may be too cumbersome.
As for the name Madeleine, I'm afraid it may sound too old fashion and I don't like the nickname 'Maddy'.  I would prefer 'Leni'. 
I like the name Penelope but I'm not in love with it.
I also like the name Sophie but I'm not sure it's a name that could carry her from childhood into adulthood.
Since both my name and my husband's name are so common, we would like to give our daughter a less common name.  There were always at least two other Jennifer's in my class growning up.
Lastly, I want to give her a name that will withstand the test of time and will serve her well wherever her life and career takes her.
Any suggestions would be welcomed!

If it's important to avoid common names, Madeleine and Sophie are both probably out. The Social Security Administration lists Sophie as the 51st most popular girl name in the United States---but Sofia is the 19th, and Sophia is number one. And adding up the various spellings of Madeleine, Madeline, Madalyn, Madelyn, Madilyn, etc., brings that right into the Top Ten.

Madeleine, furthermore, can feel like it's in a group with the other Maddy/Addy names (Madison, Addison, Adelyn, etc.), which may make it feel even more common than Sophie/Sophia/Sofia: a classroom with only one Madeleine but also a Madison, and Addison, and an Adelyn may feel similar to a classroom with two or three Jennifers. This feeling could be significantly reduced if she goes by Leni---but I think that nickname might be a hard-sell for a public so accustomed to the Madeleine/Maddy combination, a bit like trying to get a Jennifer called anything but Jen or Jenny: possible, but challenging.

The good news about the names' popularity means that Madeleine definitely doesn't sound old-fashioned right now, and Sophie will definitely be considered a childhood-to-adulthood name (though you could also use Sophia and nickname her Sophie). And since the current #1 most popular girl name in the United States is only used about 1/3rd or 1/4th as much as the name Jennifer was in its #1-status prime, perhaps neither one is so common it needs to be ruled out.

Penelope is less common but is currently doing a bit of a race up in popularity; it's hard to know where that will end up. Penelope An is adorable, however, and Penelope is currently only the 169th most popular girl name. For perspective, the Social Security Administration reports than in 2011 there were 28,980 baby girls named Sophia/Sofia, and another 4,690 named Sophie, but only 1,847 named Penelope.

I think your favorite is also great, and that Giselle An Ferreira works just fine. The name Giselle is slightly more common than the name Penelope (there were 2,030 new baby girls named Giselle in 2011), but it feels LESS common because it's been doing less leaping-and-bounding up the charts. It has been rising, perhaps because of the currently popular -elle ending, but seems to have tapered off for now.

If you had a back-up choice for the middle name, Gillian/Jillian or Gianna would be similar options. Ooo, or Geneva or Genevieve or Georgia or Josephine or Annabel! Or Gemma or Noelle or Lena. And I always think of Fiona when I'm considering Sophia, but I'm not sure how well that goes with the surname.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Name Updates!

Update (and photos!) on Baby Boy Detwiler: Issues of Twilight and Beer!
Update (and photo!) on Baby Girl or Boy Mets, Sibling to Warren!

Baby Name to Consider: Grover

Jenn writes:
I am (unfortunately) not yet pregnant, but in a trivia quiz today my husband and I came across the name Grover (the question was about Grover Cleveland).  We both decided that we like the name, and are considering it for our ever-growing-and-changing-shortlist.  However, we are aware of the very strong association with Sesame Street.  So I'm wondering what everyone thinks.  I know that the association will be strong for most, but does it make it unusable?  Would it be better in the middle name slot?  What makes it different to Oscar, also from Sesame St, but now on so many cute wee boys?

Hope you and your fabulous readers can help us out.

PS - Before you say it's no good - how cute would little Grover in a Super Grover shirt be?

PRETTY CUTE, that's how cute. I have three associations with the name Grover:

1. Loveable furry Sesame Street Grover.

2. Former U.S. president Grover Cleveland.

3. A former hippie co-worker of mine, who used to ask me in dreamy tones how many birds I'd seen today. (Bird-counting is how you show you're tuned in to nature around you.) (Apparently.)

The comparison to Oscar is a good one: without it, I'd be tempted to say I was afraid the name Grover was too tied to Sesame Street---but you're absolutely right, the name Oscar is managing to overcome that. In 2011, the Social Security Administration reports 2,359 new baby boys named Oscar---but only 9 named Grover. WHY?

Even more mystifying, Oscar isn't the recent "finally overcoming the television show" success I'd been thinking of it as: it was in the Top 100 until 1925, and it's stayed steadily in the 100s and 200s rankings ever since. I'd have thought it would have gone down in popularity after Sesame Street aired, but in fact it got MORE common.

The name Grover had a remarkable surge in popularity around the time Grover Cleveland was president in the late 1800s, and then dropped to mostly the 200s and 300s for about 50 years, then dropped even further (400s, 500s, 600s, 700s) in the next 25 years, and then disappeared from the Top 1000 altogether in 1974 and hasn't been back.

WHY? Theories welcome! And in the meantime, let's have a poll over to the right, with reasons for our voting choices in the comments section. [Poll closed; see results below.]

Poll results for "What do you think of the name Grover?" (468 votes total):

I love it! I'd want to use it! - 34 votes (7%)
I like it! I'd want to consider it! - 62 votes (13%)
I like it for someone else's baby - 161 votes (34%)
No particular opinion - 14 votes (3%)
Slight dislike - 99 votes (21%)
Strong dislike - 98 votes (21%)

Friday, August 10, 2012

Baby Naming Issue: Is it Okay to Use the Same Middle Name for Two Children?

Bethany writes:
I currently have two children with names I love- Daniel Henry and Elsa Catherine. I am pregnant again and am considering these names: William Henry and Clara Catherine. The thing I like about the middle names is how well it flows with our last name, Hyde. We do call the kids by all three names quite often. My spouse thinks this idea is nuts, and I am just wishing that I named our son William instead Daniel and our daughter Catherine instead of Elsa.  He may be right, I may have to mourn the perfect names William Henry Hyde and Clara Catherine Hyde.

Unless the Swistle Baby Naming Cohort thinks its not too odd to share middle names.

My vote is that it's not too odd! I think of the middle name as a perfect place to...PLAY, I guess. It's where you can do things you wouldn't do with a first name: for example, use names that are not really your style but you love them anyway, or use names that have deal-breakers such as bad nicknames or bad initials or a problem with your surname, or use names that are too way-out-there or too overly-common for your preferences, or use names that would have clashed with sibling names---or use duplicate names.

The one downside is that I think once you do it, you have to do it for all the siblings of that sex (and maybe also for the siblings of the other sex), which can make first-name selection difficult. You don't actually, literally HAVE to, but the pressure would be intense, and NOT doing it would take it from a fun "This is a cool bonding thing we do in our family!" (with the fun possibility that the children might grow up to do a version of it with their own children) to an odd "Hey, how come they get their own names and I don't?"

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Middle Name Challenge: Everleigh _____ O'Donner-with-a-C

Lanie writes:
My husband and I are expecting our first child (a girl) in December. We have already settled on the name Everleigh. In fact, there were really no other first names we were considering for a girl. We are trying to find the most perfect middle name, but are having a hard time finding a middle name to go with Everleigh. Our last name is O'Donner, but with a C. 

My husbands top choices in this order are:


We also considered a family name Lillienne for a middle name before we came up with Everleigh (but vetoed it because it seems to heavy on the "L's"). I'm not sure I want to start the family names with our first and feel we need to keep that tradition up for subsequent children. I like the idea of our child having his/her own identity. Although my husband did okay "Lil" to be on the middle name list for my grandmother who goes by Lil nearly exclusively. Again, heavy on the "L's", but it's a short one syllable name with meaning for us.

I like Everleigh Paige, but feel that we just picked Paige arbitrarily because it sounded nice. I feel like there could be a better middle name out there. Our styles are decorative names that feel a little old fashioned, that are different, not in the top 1000 (but for the middle name is okay) and bring in some nature words. For instance, we plan on Ever for a nn. Because Everleigh seems so illustrious when written out, I feel she needs a shorter middle name with less syllables, and more meaning. I've done some google searches and found out that other people that named their daughters Everleigh named the middle names "Skye", "True", and "Rae". I feel like we need a similarly short name, that is pretty and meaningful or strong.

Aspen is on the list because we both love nature and it was one of the only ones we could agree on. I just am worried it might be too "granola" of a name, which points us back to Paige.

My husband vetoed:
Lux (to heavy on the "L's" again), but I liked the idea of a short one syllable name meaning "light"

And I vetoed:

Quinn (although I have to admit it sounds nice, I'm just not a fan of the name)
Siobhan (too much Irish for me with our last name)

To give you an idea, our boys names list was:

Lachlan Blaze
Chase River
Brahm Hayden

I liked all of these names so much, I was relieved when finding out we were having a girl so I didn't have to choose between them. 

Can you give me some ideas and opinions about middle names that are one syllable (or two) that might flow well with Everleigh? Your website is the best resource I have found for baby naming ideas, and I would love to get this settled in my mind. My husband is perfectly fine with Everleigh Paige, but he is open to hearing something that might be better. That will probably be her name if we don't figure something else out, but something bothers me that I am not feeling like "Yes! That will be her name!!"

Thanks for all your help!

The middle name position is an especially nice place for any name you liked very much but without wanting to use it as a first name. If, for example, you really liked the name Rose but not with your surname, it would make a great middle name. Or if you initially loved the simplicity of names like Anne or Jane or June or Mae but then realized they weren't your naming style, they too would make great middle names.

I found when I was thinking it over that I'm with you on the L sounds: Claire is one of my favorite names and it's great with the rhythm of Everleigh---but I don't like it as much as I like Everleigh Anne or Everleigh Rose.

The middle name is also a nice place for a meaningful sentiment name, especially with the nickname Ever making a little motto out of it:


For something more naturey:


Sage seems like one of the best from the lists: it's very similar to your frontrunner Paige, but it has both attribute and nature associations. And Ever Sage ("always wise") is a great motto.

Jade also has some of the same sound as Paige, but with a nature association.

I think my own picks would be Everleigh Joy, Everleigh Garland, and Everleigh Spring.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Name Update!

Update (and photo!) on Baby Naming Issue: All the Names We Like are Too Popular!

Baby Name to Consider: Kilo

E. writes:
I am looking to get opinions on a name I've been considering. I am only 6 weeks pregnant,  and we are choosing to not know the sex of our baby until birth. Our last name is Lawrence so I really do want a unique first name to go with our common last name. One boy name that I really like is Kilo (kee-loh) with a family name for the middle name. I got the idea from hearing a gentleman as a guest speaker on the radio,  he was named Kilo and I really like what he was speaking about. I also really like how the name is simple and still unique. At one time I also liked the name Keno but quickly dismissed that name due to its association with gambling which I choose to not gamble for my own moral beliefs. Now with Kilo, would people associate this name with anything negative? Like drugs? I kind of live in a bubble and not sure if drug dealers use kilos more commonly or grams or some other unit of measure? Possibly I am overthinking this but wondering what somebody's first thought is when they hear "Kilo"  I do love the name however I don't want any regrets if people have a negative association with its word form.

My associations aren't negative, but they're definitely measurement-related rather than name-related: Kilo is filed in my mind with words like meter, yard, inch, and gram. The name is not in the Social Security Administration's baby name data base for 2011.

If I saw Kilo used as a name, I would think it might be pronounced Milo with a K.

Another association was niggling in the back of my mind; I finally figured out it was reminding me of Cee Lo Green, who sang the huge hit "F**k You!" in 2010.

What does everyone else think of the name potential of Kilo?

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Baby Girl or Boy Tune

Ashley writes:
I’ve been reading your blog daily for over a year now, well before I was even pregnant, and I’m a huge fan! Since I’m one of those people that have been naming my future children since I was 8, I’m surprised and frustrated that we are having so much trouble. I am currently 33 weeks, due in mid September. We do not know the gender, which has been quite the fete after requiring an amnio and several ultrasounds. With everyone around us (doctors, techs, etc.) knowing the gender, Ive gotten the vibe it’s a boy. My husband however, is convinced it’s a girl. One of us is going to be very surprised!

Anyways, here is some background on us. My name is Ashley Bray, husband is James Anderson and our last name is Tune (spelled differently).

We are pretty set on the boys name, James Wiley and he will go by Wiley. My father in law is James Russell, my husband is James Anderson, so we like the idea of keeping with this tradition. However, both my husband and FIL go by Jim, and it gets really confusing at times, so we want him to go by his middle name. I love that Wiley is unique, but a name most people have heard of before. Possible future brother name is Drake (my maiden name).

Now for the real problem, finding a girls name we both like. My style is last names at first and/or androgynous. I don’t like anything too girly/frilly or overly popular. My husband on the other hand seems to be stuck in the 70’s and 80’s with his naming style.

We would like to use the middle name Bray (my middle name and grandmother’s maiden name) as long as it works well with the first name we decide on.

My list of faves that hubby has vetoed:
Campbell (soup association)
Rowan (because he has a rowing machine...crazy, I know!)
Finley (his neighbor growing up's last name)

His list:
Nicole-nickname Nix

Names we agree on:
Lowen/Lowan (rhymes with Owen)

However, I have issues with each of these names. Is Ellis too close to all the Elle, Ella and Ellie’s out there? Does Lowen/Lowan seem like a made up name? And Nix is ok, but I would want a better full name. Nicole is too old school, I don’t care for Nicolette and Nixon has a negative association. Can you think of any other names Nix could be short for?

I would greatly appreciate any other name ideas you and your readers have for us.


Ha, yes, your husband definitely has '70s/'80s style going on there. I don't know why this is a problem for so many men! Maybe they are less likely to be around little kids, or less likely to think about baby names? I swear that when Paul and I were naming babies he just thought, "Hm, who did I go to high school with?" and made his list from that!

Sometimes it helps to find names similar to the ones someone likes, but more current---just to sort of eeeeease them into it. Instead of Nicole: Nola, Nora, Nadia, Victoria, Annika, Colette, Logan. Instead of Allison: Addison, Adelyn, Emerson, Ellison. Instead of Jessica: Annika, Gemma, Veronica, Danica, Genevieve, Josephine.

But after seeing his reasons for vetoing other names (you can't use Rowan because he...has a rowing machine?), I'm not sure that will help. It may need to be a swift firm explanation: "No, honey, those are the mom names now. Here, take a look at the current Social Security list."

Would he like any names similar to the names on your list? Brinley instead of Finley? Payton instead of Leighton? Arwen or Garnet instead of Arden?

Ellis has almost certainly come into style because of other popular El- names. It's much less common, but may still have a "group" feel to it. Ellery and Ellison are other possibilities; Ellison is particularly awesome because of how similar-yet-different it is to your husband's idea of Allison. If you wanted to avoid the El- grouping, you could consider Hollis.

Lowen ought to be a gorgeous, distinctive choice, but Lindsay Lohan has ruined it for me. She and her struggles will, one hopes, not dominate the name for ever---but sometimes celebrities go on for decades, continuing to be well known mainly for their various issues. It would worry me---and yet the more I say Lowen, the more I want to find a way for you to use it. My mom came upon the name Elowen awhile back, and I wonder if that would fit the bill: no Lohan association, the El- of Ellis, the -owen of Rowan, and even some of the sounds of Nicole and Allison.

Because I've never encountered Nix as a name or nickname, my only association is with the word nix, as in to veto or say no to. Well, and also some Nixon, of course, and some rock star association because of Stevie Nicks and Nikki Sixx. I think it would sound cute (more like how Nicki sounded to our parents: sassy but sweet) once I knew a little girl with the name, but I agree with you that it should be a nickname. You could use it as a nickname for Lennox, which I think meets your other preferences: not too girly, and it's a surname name. Lennox Tune, nickname Nix.

It's perhaps a stretch, but Nix could also be short for Annika or Danica.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Baby Boy Farris-with-an-H; Are These Names Too Feminine?

Melody writes:
I've been reading your blog for a while now, anxiously awaiting the time when I would actually need your help! I'm exited to say that I'm expecting my first child, so the time has finally come! my name is Melody and my husband is Brendon. Our last name is Farris with an H. We are expecting a son in 3 1/2 weeks and are almost set on a name. Luckily, my husband and I have very similar naming styles and a couple of names that we love and sound perfect with our surname. So what is the problem you may ask? Well, most 5 of our top choices are extremely common and well established girls names. While most of them had strong roots as boys names years ago, they are now considered as completely "girly". While these are the names that we absolutely love, we don't want our son to grow up being constantly teased. We could really use some advice on what you, as a mother and an expert, think is usable!

The name that we had picked out for a girl was Amelia Bianca called Mila or Bianca Mila called Bebe.

Here are the 5 names in order from least to most favorite:

Our least favorite right now is Shay. It doesn't really fit with our usual style but I love the sound! However, we are constantly tortured by the fact that our neighbor has a little girl Shea… and I hear this as a girls name quit often around where we live.

After Shay, we really like Morgan. This seems so boyish to me I can't even picture it on a girl. However we have gotten many comments that it is "unusable" for a boy, and he'll be tormented and teased… While I do kind of agree it breaks my heart because I love the name so much!

Also love the name Robin. This also seems so masculine because of Robin Hood of course, Robin Williams, and singer Robin Thicke… We were thinking of naming him Robert and calling him Robin, but I just don't love Robert like I love Robin. My husband suggested Robinson, but my best friend just told me that that is what she is going to be naming her son! Now I feel like that rules out Robin for me too so maybe this isn't an issue anymore…

But our most favorite right now is Kay. Me and my husband both love it and already see it as our sons name… yet its probably the most girly name of the bunch! When I hear it, I think of Sir Kay (from the King Arthur stories, he was his brother), and it was originally an english boys name. However, it is now probably most known as a nickname for the girls name Katherine.

I've come to realize that I can't name my son Kay without worrying about him getting teased later, so we decided to just use it (if we do end up using it) as a nickname. We really love the name Zachary, which is obviously a strongly established boys name, and were thinking of naming him Zachary Hugo (middle name will be Hugh or Hugo no matter what), and calling him Kay, even though they are 2 completely different names.

Along with that, some other options we thought of were, Mackay/McKay called Kay, Cassius/Caspian called Cay, Clayton called Cay (we really like this one). (Sidenote: we like the spelling Kay better, but feel that Cay is more masculine.)
What do you and your readers think?

On a different note, I was watching the old Bravo tv show 9 By Design the other day, and learned that one of the boys on the show is named Holleder. I forget who he was named after, but I've really started to love the name! Hollister is an old family name on my side, so we could just say that Holleder was a family name to anyone who asked. But then again, I wouldn't want it to seem like I named my son after those people!

I just feel like whichever way we go we are setting our son up for years of nasty remarks! Should we just name him Zachary Hugo and call him Zach?

Ahhh I'm literally tearing my hair out! Swistle, we need your help! What do you think about Kay? Holleder? Morgan? Are they too girly? Please let me know!

Thanks so much!! We appreciate your help.

My own opinion is that Kay is too feminine for a boy. However, I think the initial K. is not too feminine, and I've noticed initial-nicknames seem to be coming into style: several people recently have mentioned using, for example, E. as a nickname for Elliot, or J. as a nickname for James. I think you could name him any name starting with a K (Keane, Keaton, Keegan, Kent, Kian, Kieran, Kyle, Kyler...), and then use K. as his nickname. There may be a couple of auditory double-takes, but probably not a huge deal.

Or would you like the name Kai? The pronunciation is a little different, but it's solidly a boy name. It can be a stand-alone name, or it can be short for Caius.

Or I wonder if you'd like the nickname Kip. I think it's adorable, and that its appeal is similar to Kay's. It's used as a nickname for Christopher.

McKay seems like it might be a very good solution, but I worry that it's too similar to Makayla. It's common to have very similar boy/girl versions of a name (Kyle and Kylie, for example), but the name McKay is very uncommon and the name Makayla is very common, so I worry more about confusion.

I know one boy named Shea. It does seem like a very soft and gentle name, but it strikes me as unisex rather than girl. According to the Social Security Administration, in 2011 there were 232 new baby boys and 298 new baby girls named Shea/Shay/Shaye. One option would be use Shane; you could even still call him Shay.

Because you like both Shay and Kay, I suggest Jay. According to the Social Security Administration, the name Jay was given to 700 boys and 0-4 girls in 2011. My mom and I both love the name; she's said that if she had another baby boy to name, she'd like to call him Jay.

I'd also like to suggest Hayes, and I think the HHH initials would be fun, but I'm not sure it works with the surname.

Wade would work well.

The "ay" sound is also prominent in a number of currently popular boy names: Aiden, Brayden, Cayden, Hayden, Jaden, Leyton, Mason, Peyton, Rayden, Zayden, etc.

I haven't encountered the name Holleder before, and had to look up how to pronounce it. I didn't find a clear answer, but one site said something that made me think it might be pronounced like Hollander but without the N sound: Hah-leh-der. Or is it like Holder? In fact, Holder might be a good one to add to the list of options. It seems dicey to say Holleder is a family name if it isn't, and the spelling/pronunciation issues seem significant. It's too bad Hollister doesn't really work with the surname; I love family surnames as first names.

Morgan does seem to have crossed to girl, though not entirely: the Social Security Administration reports 469 boys and 3640 girls named Morgan born in 2011. Notice that although there are many more girl Morgans than boy Morgans, there still are quite a few boy Morgans. Other options: Keegan, Logan, Finnegan, Morrison, Rohan, Riordan, Malcolm.

If you decide Robin isn't out for you (is your best friend expecting a baby boy right now, or is she just talking about some possible boy in the future?), it could also be short for Robertson---though I like it best in its traditional role as a nickname for Robert. I think it's okay if you don't like the name Robert as much as the name Robin; it's common to accept a name to get a nickname or to accept a nickname to get a name, and rarer to love both name and nickname equally. The Social Security Administration shows 301 baby girls and 99 baby boys named Robin/Robyn in 2011, and I think any "girl name" protest could be put down pretty quickly with that list of famous male Robins.

Update---Melody writes:
Hi Swistle! Thanks to you and your readers for all your help and suggestions! You've helped so much.
I just wanted your opinion on one more thing. We recently heard of the name Cayman/Caymen, and think it is really cute (and masculine:)! We would of course call him Cay. However, my husband feels like we'd be "making up" the name... I've never really met another Cayman, so I'm not sure if he's right or not... However, this has become a frontrunner for us, so I wanted to know what you and your readers thought of it.
Again, thanks for all the help!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Baby Naming Issue: Is the Name John Watson a Problem?

Rachel writes:
My husband is Nick and I'm Rachel. Our last name is Watson. We're having a boy on November 7 and have a name that we really love. It's John. The problem is that our son would share his name with the doctor in the Sherlock Holmes stories.

Sometimes it seems like a big deal, since there have been quite a few Sherlock Holmes films and TV shows lately and it's a well known character. Other times I just think that it's not like it's the name of an evil character or anything bad and just not important at all really.

We're planning to call him John and don't like Jonathan or Jack. The middle name will be Nicholas.

Oh, how interesting! I am moderately familiar with the Sherlock Holmes stories (have read some recreationally, and also had to study a couple of them in school), so I'm definitely familiar with Watson, and he would be my first association if someone gave a child the first name Watson. But somehow I had not retained the information that Watson's first name was John; I think of him as "Watson," and that's it. And, as you say, Watson is a GOOD character, not a bad guy or anything.

It has been a long time since I read/studied a Sherlock Holmes story, however, and I haven't seen any of the recent movies or television shows, so my Sherlock Holmes knowledge is hardly what I'd call FRESH. Also, I am extremely biased, because I love the name John and I fervently want you to be able to use it.

So I think we need a poll, to let cooler heads prevail. As usual for this sort of situation, I want to divide the "it's a problem"/"it's not a problem" opinions into two groups: those who knew already that John was Watson's first name, and those who didn't. [Poll closed; see results below.]

Poll results for "The name John Watson" (512 votes total):

I knew Watson's first name; it's a problem - 35 votes (7%)
I knew Watson's first name; it's not a problem - 127 votes (25%)
I didn't know Watson's first name; it's a problem - 10 votes (2%)
I didn't know Watson's first name; it's not a problem - 334 votes (65%)
I can't decide - 6 votes (1%)

Friday, August 3, 2012

Baby Name to Consider: Kimbra

J. writes:
I was recently introduced to the music of New Zealand musical artist Kimbra aka Kimbra Lee Johnson and thought her name was ripe for using. It has the familiarity of Kim/Kimberly with today's popular BR sound found in fast-risers Aubree, Briella, Brielle and Aubrey (referenced on the Baby Name Wizard blog).

Although the bree sound is current, I suspect the -bra sound belongs more to names such as Deborah and Barbara. But combining the -bra of two generations ago with the Kim- of last generation does result in a fresh and surprising sound.

Other things that come to mind when considering the name Kimbra:

1. cobra
2. bra
3. Simba
4. limbo/limber

So for me, it's the perfect name for a pop star: distinctive, with sexy/wild associations---and, since she's an adult, no fears of middle school classmates repeatedly remarking on the "bra" element.

The Social Security Administration doesn't have Kimbra in their data base for 2011, which means the name was given to four or fewer babies that year. Since Kimbra's album appeared in North America only this year, we may see a change right away in the 2012 data. I can picture someone using it as a combination honor name for a baby's Grandma Barbara and Aunt Kim.

What does everyone else think about the name Kimbra? Let's have a poll over to the right. [Poll closed; see results below.]

Poll results for "Name to Consider: Kimbra" (354 votes total):

I love it! I'd want to use it! - 5 votes (1%)
I like it! I'd want to consider it! - 16 votes (5%)
I like it for someone else's baby - 55 votes (16%)
No particular opinion - 28 votes (8%)
Slight dislike - 146 votes (41%)
Strong dislike - 104 votes (29%)

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Baby Naming Issue: An Important Honor Name is Not the Parents' Style

Stephanie writes:
I need your help....again!  You and your readers gave me the push I needed to name our last baby, and you addressed a naming quandary I was worried about early in a previous pregnancy [naming a second son after someone when the first son already had a name honoring the same relative].  Sadly, that pregnancy ended in a loss.  Ecstatically, we are finally expecting our third child, due December 15, but expected to be early.  We just found out that this baby is a girl, so that eliminates the previous honor name quandary, but introduces a different one!

We have a son Thomas (family surname) M. and a daughter, Audrey Kathryn M.  Both middle names are our middle names, with my son's middle name going back several generations as a middle name. Our naming style is traditional (that less common spelling of Katherine is my mother's fault :) ), and we have a short list of candidates from before. We are not in love with them, but DH hates most female names. I can live with this though.  The issue now, is the middle name.  I desperately want (need) to honor my grandmother here.  The reasons are highly emotionally tied to her death shortly after my daughter's birth and the two losses we suffered last year.  So, what's the issue?  Her name was, well, not our style.  D0nna Je@n Lew1s.

Can your readers brainstorm for me?  A great classic first name and a middle name honoring my grandmother?  Candidate first names are:  Anne or Anna, Mary or Marie or some other variant.  I like Elizabeth and Margaret, but DH does not.  My favorite idea for a middle name is Lew1s or Anna Je@n but DH isn't sold.  Naming our son was so easy! Girls are just hard for us.  Flow with the last name isn't a big issue.

Here is what it is going to come down to: on one side of the scale is your desperate need to honor your grandmother by using her name, and on the other side of the scale is the fact that her name is not the style you'd normally choose. Which seems like a more important side of the scale? It would be completely reasonable for you to decide you'd rather choose a name you like better, and to find other ways to honor your grandmother.

It's true the name Donna isn't in style for today's babies, but that's also true of most of the names of adults we'd like to honor: each new generation kicks out of fashion most of the previous generation's names. (Exceptions to this may find themselves with an unexpectedly high number of namesakes.) I think it's even part of the reason namesakes are considered such an honor: it means something to sacrifice fashion for significance. If you were intent on using the name as a first name, I might reluctantly agree that it was not going to work---but in the middle name position, style seems like a very minor matter. Many of your baby's peers will also have out-of-fashion middle names, and for similar reasons.

You could play around with names that aren't your grandmother's, trying to make those names honor her, but all of them will be a significant step down in honor. You could use the same initials, use a name with similar sounds or letters, use a name with a similar meaning, use one of her nicknames, combine names to make a different name, use an updated version of the name, use the name of one of your grandmother's relatives, etc. For each possible solution, think to yourself, "Does this name bring my grandmother immediately to my mind? Would my grandmother recognize this as a tribute to her?" If yes, then they are good options.

If you called your grandmother "Grandma Lewis," you might find that the name Lewis brings her to your mind more quickly even than her first name---though if you're like me, it brings to mind the entire side of the family and not just one person. You could use her middle name; it's done commonly enough. But for me, my grandparents' middle names don't bring my grandparents to my mind, whereas their first names do.

Each time I re-read your letter (as well as the additional part not for publication), what stands out to me is that you are not just doing this because you loved your grandmother and feel warmly about the idea of using her name, but because you NEED your daughter to have her name. So in your case, I don't recommend any compromise names or fixes; I strongly urge you to go directly for the name Donna. I recommend saying it over and over in your mind until it does that thing where words/names turn into combinations of sounds, and see if that helps you hear the sound that caused so many parents to choose the name for their daughters to begin with. You could also see if you preferred it as a double middle name: Donna Jean, or Donna Lewis. This has the additional benefit of dramatically strengthening the connection to your grandmother.

In time, whether your daughter's middle name is to your tastes or not will, I hope, pale in comparison to the comfort and satisfaction it will bring you to be able to say to her "You were named for my grandmother," and tell her the stories you want to tell her. And the good news is that names tend to come around again: by the time your daughter is grown, she may be like one of the current lucky women who have suddenly found that their previously-disliked middle names of Emma or Abigail are now considered wonderful.

The other comforting thought is that middle names are rarely used or thought of after the birth announcements go out. When you do think of her middle name, it will almost always be because of your grandmother---so, with feelings of love and happiness. All the rest of the time, you will be thinking of her first name, which can be something more in your style.

Anna Donna has some appeal to me, as do Maria Donna and Mary Donna, or maybe Marianne Donna or Annemarie Donna. People tend to be split on whether they like two names in a row with -a endings; I tend to be in favor. And because the honor name is so important here, I would only barely consider flow anyway.

I wish I could suggest one of my own favorite names, Eliza, but the movie My Fair Lady has forever connected Audrey Hepburn and Eliza Doolittle in my mind. Maybe Eloise would work? Eloise Donna.

I was also thinking Ella Donna sounded so beautiful to me---and then realized it was certainly because of Belladonna.

With siblings named Thomas and Audrey, I would lean heavily on the Timeless section of The Baby Name Wizard. Here are some of my favorites:

Abigail Donna
Caroline Donna
Cecily Donna
Charlotte Donna
Clara Donna
Cora Donna
Eleanor Donna
Elsa DonnaEmily Donna
Eva Donna
Eve Donna Jean
Grace Donna Jean
Greta Donna
Hope Donna Jean
Ivy Donna
Jane Donna Lewis
Josephine Donna
Julia Donna
Laura Donna
Leah Donna
Miriam Donna
Naomi Donna
Nora Donna
Rose Donna Jean
Sarah Donna

Name update! Stephanie writes:
I am certain neither of us expected this update to come so soon, but baby girl M had other plans.  She arrived two weeks ago at just 25 weeks, while we were on a vacation!  So far, Mary Lewis M. Is proving to be a tough little fighter with the feisty spunk of her namesake. We were caught off guard with having to name her before we had settled on a name.  It felt strange to use her name for at least the first week, but I'm used to it now, and we love the simplicity of her very traditional first name.  I will send a picture once she is bigger and stronger.  For now, know that we appreciated the input from you and your readers!