This blog has moved! Please join us over at!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Baby Naming Issue: The Chosen Name has a Bad Meaning

Brooke writes:
I am less than two weeks away from my due date and we are in a predicament. I would really really appreciate hearing your thoughts and your reader's thoughts on this name situation. We have a name we really like and while my husband thinks it's rediculous that I took this name off the list a long time ago because of it's meaning, I am still hesitant and want to know if I would be making a mistake by using it. The name we like is Cora which means "maiden" - this alone is no big deal really. The middle name we planned on using is Marie which means "bitter". Would Cora Marie hate us when she gets older and finds out her name means bitter maiden??? Marie is my middle name and my mom's middle name. We want to use a family name from my side since we did a family name from my husband's side for our son's middle name.

A little background info that might help: my name is Brooke, husband is Bryan and our son is Drew Thomas. Our last name is Fletcher. Our top girl names are Cora, Kate and Audrey.

Cora Marie
Kate Amelia
Audrey Kate

Family names: Marie (my middle and my mom's) Lucille (my grandma's first name), June (my mom's favortie aunt), Kate (way back on both my grandmother and grandfather's side), Rosa (I LOVE Cora Rose, but this would be a stretch and Rosa is way far back in the family tree). I also love Cora Mae - could Mae be a newer version of Marie or am I pulling at strings here???

I am dying to know your thoughts and am completely open to any suggestions other than what have going!!!

Name meanings are fun, but this is where they bite us in the butt.

Historically, people have enjoyed attributing meanings to items. That doesn't mean those meanings are inherent to the items: one community decides a certain flower or certain color or certain gem or certain day of the year means one thing, and another community might decide something completely different. In one culture, white fabric is used for weddings and religious purity; in another, for funerals and mourning. Which of those reflects the true meaning of the color white? Neither: both meanings are imposed upon the color rather than obtained from it. Yellow roses mean "jealousy"---but also "friendship," "apology," and "dying love" (source). Which of those is the REAL meaning? None of them: all such meanings have been tacked onto the object for fun. If someone gives you yellow roses, the most likely message is "Here, have some pretty yellow roses."

It is the same with the name Cora Marie: it doesn't truly MEAN "bitter maiden" unless you intend it to mean that, any more than a yellow rose truly means "jealousy" if you don't intend it to mean that. A yellow rose means only itself: it is a yellow rose. The name Cora Marie means only itself: it is the proper noun Cora, followed by the proper noun Marie. Baby name books don't even agree on the meanings of names; and combining names to make compound meanings creates compound problems: the meaning of one name is not designed to refer to the meaning of another name.

Marie is said to mean bitter because it's similar to the name Mara which, in a Bible story, a character claims means bitter (source). Or maybe Mara means "to flap" or "to be filthy" or "to rebel" (source). In either case, does the possible meaning of a Hebrew word pronounced MAH-rah really impact the meaning of the French name pronounced mah-REE---and to the extent that a child sharing that name with millions of other women throughout history (as well as with her personal family ancestors) would take it as a personal slap in the face from her parents? Is that how you feel about your middle name, or how your mom feels about hers? Do any of us wonder, when we meet a Marie, if she hates her parents for giving her such an insulting name?

Besides, according to the The Oxford Dictionary of First Names, the names Marie, Maria, and Mary are separate from the name Mara and instead all come from the Latin word meaning "sea" (the same root as words such as marine, marina, and mariner). Presumably your daughter will not mind as much being known as a "sea maiden"---or mermaid, if you prefer.

The "maiden" part is also uncertain: according to the same book, the name Cora was invented in the 1800s by a novelist. Did that author imbue the name with a meaning at the moment of its invention? Was a special court convened to divine the true meaning of the name before registering it in the baby name books? No: the Oxford Dictionary speculates that the name "could represent a Latinized form of Greek Kore 'maiden'." Nobody knows what Cora means, because the name Cora doesn't have a meaning---not that this stops the baby name books from reporting one.

By all means, if you enjoy playing with the meanings of names, go ahead and do it: just as it might be fun to have a bouquet of striped and solid carnations seem to say "yes" and "no" at the same time, it could be fun to say a name like Cora Beatrix meant "happy maiden." But letting these imposed meanings stop you from using names you love is another matter. It would be like digging up the hydrangeas you loved because you didn't want your neighbors to think you were frigid.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Baby Girl Welch

S. writes:
I have been following your blog for a long time and love reading your baby naming advice. I am hoping that you and your readers can offer some suggestions on a name for our baby girl.

This past June my little brother (and only sibling) passed away unexpectedly after a horrible accident. He was only 25 years old. Being not far apart in age, we were always really close, and so it goes without saying that losing him has been incredibly difficult.

Two days after he died, and after almost a year of trying, my husband and I found out that we were having a baby.  This is our first, and we are beyond excited. Our little girl is due on March 8th.

When I first found out that I was pregnant, I knew without a doubt that I would honor my brother somehow with our baby's name. My brother's name was Jordan, spelled with an "i" between the "J" and the "o." My parents did this because the Italian version is Giordano and they wanted that to be represented in his name. My maiden name is very Italian, so it worked. I decided that I wanted to use his name as our baby's middle name, regardless of whether we had a boy or girl.

Now that we know we are having a girl, we are having a hard time finding a name that sounds good with my brothers name.  I know it's always more challenging to pick a first name to go with a middle name than the other way around, but we are beginning to think that because of our situation, we might just have to live with the fact that our daughter's first and middle names may not go together as well as we would like.

 Our last name is Welch, spelled with an "s" instead of a "c." We have a good list of boys names that we love, but not so many girls names.  For girls I tend to like to antique charm and androgynous names.  Our favorite right now is Avery, but I think Avery would sound best with a feminine middle name, like Elise or Isabella. If we used it, our daughter will have two androgynous names. I'm not sure if this would cause an issue for her. The other girl name we really like is Alivia (or Alyvia). I love the name Olivia, but it is so popular now and Alivia sounds to me like a fresh version of it. What are your thoughts on this name? Which spelling do you prefer? Another name I like is Ainsley because it would go great with our Irish last name, but my husband does not like it (same with Aubrey).

Our list of boy names is below:
Declan (Dex)
Finley (Finn)

We would like to have 3 or 4 kids.

We would love to hear any advice or suggestions that you and your readers have.  This baby is bringing so much joy to our lives during a time when we really need it, and we want to give her a name that she will hopefully one day love and be proud of. Thank you!!!

I agree: there are situations where other issues trump flow and style, and this is one of those situations. I think people can get stuck when they try to have it both ways: a crucial preference AND perfect flow / style / everything else.

I also agree that since you have a variety of names you like, it would be nice to choose one of the more obviously feminine ones with a unisex middle name. You could save Avery for a future child, or you could see if you like any similar-but-more-feminine names such as Ava or Avaleigh.

The question about whether to use a different spelling of a name will get you every answer from the entire spectrum. Some will think it makes it completely different in a positive/fresh way; others will think it's exactly the same but with the addition of a complicated spelling issue; still others will think it makes it completely different but in a negative way. And pretty much everyone thinks it depends on the particular name and the particular spelling/pronunciation variation: Madison/Maddisynn is a different issue than, say, Isobel/Isabelle, or Catherine/Katharine. I've noticed a lot of negative word choices being used by both sides of such discussions, so clearly it's an emotionally loaded topic.

My own personal opinion is that I'd generally prefer to use a common name than to use a re-spelling or alternate spelling of a common name, and that I would myself prefer to be a Kristen than a Kristynn. Others will feel THE EXACT OPPOSITE: they will FAR prefer to change the spelling of a name, and they will have always wished their own names had a more interesting spelling. Furthermore, one of my children has an alternate spelling of a common name (it's an honor name, and we used the honoree's spelling), so clearly my opinion is only general, and is considerably flexible.

I wonder if you'd like:


I notice that some of my favorite combinations are the ones that would give you a 3-2-1 pattern: Genevieve Jordan Welch, Avaleigh Jordan Welch, Livia Jordan Welch, Eliza Jordan Welch, Cecily Jordan Welch. I find I tend to put the names that end in N toward the end of my list, because of the repeating ending with Jordan: I don't like Avelyn Jordan as much as Avaleigh Jordan, for example.

Because this is your first baby, there are some other issues you may want to consider. If you find you like antique charm AND androgynous names, it can be helpful to think through the subject before choosing any names: would you want to mix them (sisters named Avery and Isabella, for example) and, if not, which style would you prefer to allow to dominate? One good way to mix styles is to do first names in one style and middle names in another; since your first daughter will have a unisex middle name, a pattern of antique charm first name + unisex middle name might work beautifully.

I also think it's useful to consider ahead of time which names might rule out other names. If you use Alivia this time, will you still want to use Avery later, or would those two names be too similar in sound? If you use Alivia, would you still be able to use Oliver for a future boy? If not, it's a good time to think about which name you'd prefer to use.

Sunday, October 28, 2012


The polls are killing me. Do you see how a Blogger glitch reset them all to zero? Hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of votes, all lost. I was leaving the polls up in case a fix restored the counts---but the Rosetta one has gathered additional votes since being reset, and each time has again reset to zero. I'd been thinking I might re-run the polls, but that won't work if those too will just keep resetting to zero. I'll leave them up a few more days just in case---and so Blogger can look at them if necessary to figure out what went wrong.

Update: Thank goodness, Blogger fixed it! I've put the poll results in their respective posts.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Baby Boy Groot

(Today I have several posts I ran out of time to answer at usual length in the week after they arrived, but I'd jotted down a single suggestion in the spreadsheet. I'm going to post several in a row today with my extremely brief response, so that others can work on them further if they want to.)

C. writes:

I wrote to you during my last baby naming experience, but you, quite understandably, did not get to my letter. Now I'm in what I think is an even worse predicament. My husband, P@ul, and I (Catherine) are expecting our 5th baby, a baby boy in February. We have one son who is named after my husband and I think that is our problem. The name P@ul is not my style, but my husband felt strongly about having our son named after her him, so P@ul it was. The name has totally grown on me and I love it because it is the name of my darling boy. But it is still not my style and I feel stuck in choosing a sibling name to go with it. If I could have named him what I wanted to he would have been Knightly or Stafford. I would not use either one of these names now. Not only because they don't go with Paul, but because I think my naming style has evolved and I would really like something classic, old school, but that sounds current without being overly popular, and is a good sibling match for P@ul. Here are my only two contenders for this baby . . .

1) Charles - I love the name Charles, I think it goes well enough with P@ul and I love the nickname Charlie, even more so than I love the name Charles. But there are so many little girls running around with the nickname Charley, and I don't want this boy to ever feel as though we gave him a girls name.

2) Linus - I'm well aware of the Peanuts association, but it doesn't bother me at all. I'm not totally sold on it, and my husband doesn't care for it all. Also I don't think it fits with Paul as well as Charles.

And a couple of names that I like but that are out for various reasons.

I also like Jack, but it is my father's name and I already have 1 nephew named for him, and a nephew on the way who will also be named for him, I think that's probably plenty for one family. =D

I also like Michael, but my husband doesn't it and I have 2 brothers in law with the name, too.

I feel stuck in a baby naming rut in trying to come up with a baby name that matches a name that, I love, but is not my style. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Our last name is very Swiss and very harsh sounding to the ear. The name Groot (rhymes with Boot) is a good stand in.

This is difficult to answer without the other sibling names, but I would suggest John. I'm not sure, though, if this might be the very name being used to honor your dad Jack.

Baby Girl Roach, Sister to Vivian

(Today I have several posts I ran out of time to answer at usual length in the week after they arrived, but I'd jotted down a single suggestion in the spreadsheet. I'm going to post several in a row today with my extremely brief response, so that others can work on them further if they want to.)

K. writes:
We are due with our second baby girl in early February 2013.  We have one daughter, Vivian Marie, who will be 3yrs old this November.  Selecting her name was easy, the name Vivian had always been in the back of my mind (even before Brangelina chose it).  I had always loved it, and when I suggested it to my husband, he liked it right away! 
Well, things are not going so well this time.  We aren’t arguing over names, we just really don’t have any contenders.  We are thrilled to be having another girl, the only issue is her name!  I don’t want her to feel second best or that we didn’t put any effort into finding the perfect name.  I want to find a name we love just as much as Vivian, but nothing is really jumping out to either of us.   
Another challenge is working around our last name…Roach.  Yep, just like the bug!  All color or flower/nature names are out.  It is also a harsh one syllable name.  I think of it like the period to the end of a sentence.  Because of that, I feel the first & middle names need to be a 3/2 or 2/3 syllable combo to soften the feel of the name.    
We believe this will be our last child.  However, we have not made a definite decision, so the thought of a third child is out there.  If we were having a boy, we had considered Jonathan and Arthur.  I love both of those, but we did not get too far into the boy name discussion.
I want to stay away from “V” & “R” names, and I don’t want a name that is too popular.  Unfortunately, I think I have become overly critical in my obsession with finding the perfect name.  Here is a list of names I like along with my concerns/reasons why they won’t work.
Miriam – I really like this name, but it is too similar to Vivian.
Evelyn – I like this name, but again worry it is too similar in sound to Vivian.
Juliet – I like this name, but don’t love it.
Charlotte – this name was brought up, but I immediately discounted it because it is too popular.  Also I don’t like the “CH” beginning with the “ch” ending to Roach (even though I know the Charlotte “Ch” is a softer sound, the visual just bugs me).
Judith – We both like this name, but don’t love it.  Also, it seems a bit too old-ladyish next to Vivian.
Josephine – I love this name, but we have a Joey, Joseph, and Sophie in our immediate family (Sophie negates using “Josie” as nickname), but I am considering this for a middle name.
Suzette – I really like this name (met one beautiful baby girl with this name and instantly loved it), but I’m not 100% sure it’s right.  Also, we have a friend with a Scarlett, is that too similar? 
Brynne – I actually love this name, but my husband does not.  I also worry it is too short next to Vivian, and that it doesn’t sound great with Roach (this is the only 1 syllable name I have liked).
Corinne – I love this name as well, but my husband does not.  I also do not want the nickname Corrie (negative memory of girl I knew named Corrie).
**Just a side note that I love the sound of Brynne & Corinne and can’t get that idea out of my head, but neither name  seems to really work for us.
Adele – Both of us really like this name, and want to love it, but we just don’t feel 100% that it’s the one. 
Audrey – I really love this name, and my husband is warming to it.  I mainly just worry that this one is too popular especially next to Vivian…otherwise this is a current top contender.
Names I have considered, but rejected:
Names I am considering for middle names:
Frances (family reference)
Helena/Helene (family reference)
Please let us know what you think…I know you get so many requests for help, but we would be so grateful to hear some of your advice!!

Thank you!
I emailed you a few weeks ago about our new baby girl, due Feb. 8th (email below).  Since emailing you, we have made some progress, but I would be so grateful to have your input!!!

Basically, we have it narrowed down to these names:

**My husband has also put Celia and Julia on his list, but I cannot get on board with these.  The "Seel-ya" sound and "Jool-ya" sound just don't sit right with me, especially next to Vivian (our first daughter's name).

I still love everything about Adele, but just can't make the commitment to it 100%, and my husband is still mulling it over.  We both agree that Adele/Audrey have a similar feel, and my husband says Audrey is easier for him to say out loud.  I think that might be just because Adele is a name that is new to us...we don't know anyone with that name, so he isn't used to saying it.  With Audrey, I am still worried that it is too popular and/or could be come too popular, plus the name Aubrey is so similar and it is becoming quite popular.

Then there is Lydia.  She is back on the list.  Lydia was a possible contender when we were naming our first daughter, but it really wasn't discussed for long as we pretty quickly decided on Vivian.  This is a name that I really like, but I have waffled on it.  Right now, I am liking it more the more I think about it.  However, I am worried that this name also could be come too popular.  I love the idea of a 3-syllable name that ends in A.  For some reason that flow just sounds good with Vivian to me, and Lydia is the stand-out in that category right now.

What do you think?  I would love the opportunity to hear your thoughts!!  At this point we are open to other suggestions for our short list, these are just the 3 names we both agree on at this point.  We would be so grateful to have your input!

I suggest Eleanor, with nicknames Ellie or Nora. Eleanor Roach; Vivian and Eleanor.

Of your three finalists, my favorite with Vivian is Lydia.

Baby Boy Banish, Brother to Leo and Henry

(Today I have several posts I ran out of time to answer at usual length in the week after they arrived, but I'd jotted down a single suggestion in the spreadsheet. I'm going to post several in a row today with my extremely brief response, so that others can work on them further if they want to.)

Rebecca writes:
Help! I have two beautiful boys and am due with another boy on Christmas Eve. But I just can't find a name that I really love. My other boys names are Leo Xavier and Henry Jude. Our last name is like Banish. I love their names and I want something equally special. But because this is our third boy, I kind of wanted to name him something a little less common but still sticking to the old fashioned English sounding names. Names we have thought of so far are-
Alfie (probably number one at the moment) but not sure about a grown man with this name and not sure if I could do Alfred.
Oscar- I loved this name for a few weeks but now I don't know about it. Something just doesn't feel right.
James (nickname jimmy)- very, very common though
Rupert- too old man like??
Franklin- quite long compared to my other boys names
Atticus- LOVE this name but husband is not convinced
Edward or Edmund- love the nicknames Ted, Ned, Teddy etc. prefer Edward but worried about the twilight thing.

Possible middle names (but haven't really thought that far ahead yet!) are Luke/Lucas, Sonny, Noel (Christmas baby).

I really want to find a name that I love for this precious little guy but I'm running out of time and nothing seems to fit!

Kind regards (and pleas for help)

I suggest Felix! It's one of my own favorites, and I think it's wonderful with Leo and Henry while also being less common. And it means happiness and luck, which is lovely.

Name update! Rebecca writes:
I had my beautiful third boy five days ago so thought I would update you on the name we chose for him. We decided on Oscar Noel for our precious little guy. It suits him perfectly and nothing else seemed right for him. Thanks for everyone's help and suggestions! 

Baby Boy Kelly; The Name Rhymes With a Godchild's Name

(Today I have several posts I ran out of time to answer at usual length in the week after they arrived, but I'd jotted down a single suggestion in the spreadsheet. I'm going to post several in a row today with my extremely brief response, so that others can work on them further if they want to.)

K. writes:
My husband and I are really struggling to name our baby boy, due January 3rd. This is our first baby. Our last name is Kelly.
For a little background, I think we mostly like strong, traditional names. We have decided on the middle name of Michael, since that is both of our fathers names. I know you say that you shouldn't pick a middle name before the first, but in this case, I think it goes with most first names and frankly, middle name flow isn't that important to me - I'd rather use an honor name.
We have one name that we both love - Owen. I think that we would have decided on this name weeks ago if it weren't for one problem. My best friend is due any day now with a baby boy they are naming Rowan. I am the godmother. We don't live in the same city now and.only see them 4-6 times per year, but I talk to her almost daily and I don't know if it's too weird to have baby names that rhyme. I tried to bring it up casually, but she didn't really say anything either way.
For the time being, we have decided that Owen is our first choice and we might go with that if we don't come up with something else. Our second choice is Patrick, a name I love and my husband's grandfather's name.
Other names on my list (my husband has vetoed most): Henry, Jack, Charlie, Sam, Max, Oliver, Elliot, Everett, Milo, Finn, Bennett, Will, Mason, John (the only one my husband doesn't hate).
My husbands list: Sean, Evan, Chase. I don't like any of those.
Names we like that are out for family reasons: Aidan, Liam, Andrew
I don't know if we should just go with the name we like or if we should keep looking. Owen has been the only name we can even come close to agreeing on so far. Maybe there's something we haven't thought of?

If Rowen were the name of a friend's child, I would say go ahead and use Owen. Since Rowan is your godchild, I'd avoid Owen---although I don't think it's any kind of disaster if you go ahead and use it. I suggest Nolan instead.

Or I do love the name John tremendously, and I love it with Michael. Since your husband likes the very similar name Sean, it seems like an excellent compromise name.

I do generally suggest not choosing the middle name first, but only to make the naming process easier. Of course if there is a very important honor name and the parents are willing to make compromises in their preferences in order to use it, the suggestion does not apply in that particular situation.

Name update! K. writes:
In the end, we decided to go with Owen, since it was the one name that we both loved and agreed on. Your readers' advice was so helpful and really gave me the courage to go with the name that I loved.

We had our baby on January 8th and we couldn't be any happier with his name. Thanks so much!

Baby Boy Salter, Brother to Lucy June and Nora Rose

(Today I have several posts I ran out of time to answer at usual length in the week after they arrived, but I'd jotted down a single suggestion in the spreadsheet. I'm going to post several in a row today with my extremely brief response, so that others can work on them further if they want to.)

Ellen writes:
Swistle! did you know that you can get pregnant the first time you have sex after giving birth? ME EITHER. (I mean I guess I knew but not welll enough to avoid it...)
soooo my husband (Edward) and I (Ellen) have basically been in shock and it's only just now occurring to us that we should maybe name this current baby that's baking in there.  i'm  now eight months pregnant and we have  10 month old twin girls, Lucy June and Nora Rose. yes, our THREE children will be under a year apart, and yes, we are freaking out. also hiring babysitters frantically. Ahem. 
we DID want three kids, we just weren't thinking we'd have them this close. With the girls, with spent months and months figuring out their names. They were carefully planned, etc. We love that their names have such a nice rhythm. our surname is Salter, btw. anyway, with this preg. it took me an embarrassingly long time to even realize i WAS pregnant, because of the whole having infant twins thing, and we just started seriously thinking about names last week. it's a boy, btw. so with the girls, like I said we thought long and hard and settled on names that were kind of similar--four letters, similar styles--but didn't sound super alike. We sometimes call them Lucy and Nora but more often Lucy June and Nora Rose, because the names are super fun to say. We'd like a similar double barreled concept with The Boy. Our girls do not have family names, we told our families that we would find many other ways to honor them., help? oh, we don't want to repeat initials. we don't really care about popularity, especially as we usually call the girls their full names. 
our hastily brainstromed list, we are thinking about combos from this list

Owen (but maybe too close to my name, but that might not matter at all since i'm the mom?)
Henry (but I dont want to repeat ending sounds)
Caleb (but maybe too bliblical? we are not bliblical, we're Unitarians)
Tate (but sounds kind of girly, I guess because of Tatum)
we are oddly drawn to Moss, but it isn't really a name, so.
Gage (doesn't seem quite enough like a name)
Gray (but this really name-y? but could be a good middle, its a word name like June and Rose. but on the other hand, isn't gray kind of depressing?)
Jude (but super close to June)

Any suggestions for us? BTW our dogs are Ambrose and Izadore, for what that matters, which probably isn't much.


Owen Reid leaps out at me as an excellent combination, an excellent name, and an excellent way to repeat the 4-4 letter, 2-1 syllable pattern. I don't think Owen is too close to Ellen.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Baby Boy Hennen, Brother to William

Kelly writes:
I LOVE your blog, follow religiously, and would appreciate yours and your readers' advice. We are having such a hard time naming our second child!  I am Kelly (Jean) and my husband is Brian (Paul). Our last name is Hennen (Hen-nen). We have an 18 mo old little boy, William Andrew, who will be 22mo when this baby is born in the middle of February (17th). I love William's name, he goes by William. Frequently, William Andrew when I want his attention. I love the way William Andrew Hennen are all two syllable names and flow really nicely, in my opinion. When we started thinking of names I love the way Kelly, Brian, and William sounded together when picturing introducing our little family to people.  I love his name so much; I can't find one that I like as much.
I thought I didn't like "trendy" names, but I realize that William is top 5 and has been a top name for...forever. But I still love it. William was my grandpa's grandpa's name, and also a name on my husband's side. Andrew was my mother's father's name and is big on my side of the family. But big as a middle name, I kind of want our boys/children to have their own first name. (Not a name that is the name of our siblings, sibling's kid, cousin or cousin's kid). This rule eliminates some favorites: Grady (love that this is different but not unheard's my brother's name, he's Grady Andrew), Thomas, Timothy, Jonathan, Noah, Zachary, Patrick, David, Daniel, Matthew, Michael, Nicholas, among others.
We've kind of eliminated names ending in N, because, Bri-an Hen-nen just doesn't flow well. So, no Aden, Stephen, Simon etc.
Middle name I would like to keep from the family...I know this contradicts my first point. But Andrew is so big in my family, and I like that it ties William to the past. Some middle name options: Lee, James, Joseph (don't like for first name because I don't really like Joe or Joey, and my husband has several Uncle Joe's and Cousin Joe), Frederick, Russo. Russo was my mom's maiden name, and I really wanted William to have Russo for a middle name but hubby nixed that idea. My top middle name besides this would probably by Lee. It's my grandfather and father's middle name. My grandpa's first name is Clinton and my dad's first name is Kim. Dad would kill me if I named a boy Kim, and Clinton doesn't seem to flow well with Hennen.
Names hubby didn't like but I did (not enough to fight for them):
Jeffery, Miles, Caleb, George, Vincent, Bradley, Milo
Names we like but we're not sold on:
Samuel - sister in law's dog's name. We have a nephew (Matthew) who'd be 3 1/2ish when this baby is born and would that be confusing to have baby Samuel and dog Sammy? For my hubby, he thinks that it's okay to name a kid "after" a dog, I don't.
Eric (1 syllable) - also my husband's boss' name, he feels weird about naming a kid "after" his boss.
Paul (hubby's middle name, but 1 syllable)
Theodore (nickname Teddy) - hubby doesn't like it.
Lucas (all I think of is George Lucas and a big gray beard)
Nathanael (nn Neal? 1 syllable) - probably a front runner. Hubby has a cousin whose kid is Nathanael nn Nate or Nathan.
Elliott - hubby doesn't like.
August - maybe middle name option? Giving both boy's A. initials but not family names?
Alexander - hubby has a cousin Alex (a girl) and I'm not too fond of Alex Hennen. William and Alex?
Benjamin - like, but worry that Ben Hennen is too rhyme-y.
Oliver - with middle name Lee, would it sound too much like Oli-Lee?
Oliver is it too trendy? I'd love Henry, but isn't that Prince Harry's name? Prince William and Henry...? And also, Henry Hennen, definitely too rhyme-y.
When we were pregnant with William we also liked Wesley, but now we don't like having boys with the same initials. Plus, that might rope us into using W. for first name initials for more kiddos.
I'd like one more child. If this baby was a girl, we like Julia, Molly, … now I can't think of any more. They must have left my mind when I saw those boy parts on the screen a few weeks ago. :)
Any thoughts or help would be appreciated.
Hope this email made sense; it was kind of hard to type out all of our criteria once I got started!
Thank you in advance!

I think it would help to start by separating two kinds of common names, but I'm not sure what to call the two categories. One category would probably be called "trendy" names: they're currently popular, but they weren't even on the charts ten years ago, and in ten more years they might be gone again. Sometimes they're groups rather than individual names, like "the Addy/Maddy names" and "the -aden names" and "the tradesman names."

The second category is also common, but we wouldn't call them trendy. Maybe classics, or traditional, or basic---something like that. This category is the category the name William falls into: it's currently in style, it's currently popular---but it's been popular for ages, and we expect it to remain popular for ages. It might come and go a bit, fashion-wise; the fashionable nickname might change from Billy to Willy to Liam to Will; but we wouldn't call it trendy.

There tends to be some overlap. For example, the names Oliver and Henry have definitely come into style recently in a way we might call trendy---and yet they're also classic/traditional/basic names. I wouldn't even call them trendy, I'd call them classics enjoying a resurgence of popularity. But if someone said those names were/felt trendy, I would know what they meant by that: there's a trend for antiques, and Henry and Oliver fit in with that trend; there were no Henrys or Olivers in my classrooms growing up, but they're all over the place now. They're in an overlap area. And in the other direction, names that are "new/modern/trendy" in one generation can go on to join the ranks of the classics.

So I think it's perfectly understandable that you would (1) not like trendy names, AND (2) name your first son William. It also makes perfect sense that you would want the first name to be the child's own, but want a family name for the middle.

You have so many good names on your list, I'm more inclined to sift through those than to come up with more to add.

I think the name Samuel would work beautifully. Samuel Hennen; William and Samuel. If Sammy were the name of your own dog, I would probably reluctantly rule it out (we wanted to use Oliver but had a cat with that name), but a sister-in-law's dog seems fine---especially if the dog is Sammy, not Samuel. You wouldn't actually be naming a child after a dog, any more than you'd be naming a child after any of the other holders of the name Sam/Sammy/Samuel, or any more than you named your William after my William; they'd all just happen to share the same name. It doesn't seem like it would cause any major confusion: if the 3.5-year-old was briefly confused even after having it explained to him that sometimes people have the same name (other family/friend examples can be used to support this point), he won't still be confused at, say, age 5. I like Samuel August, or Samuel Joseph.

Eric is two syllables. But I too would feel a little uncomfortable using a boss's name, unless that boss seems likely to be quite temporary. Aidric might work instead, or Derek, or Jared.

I think Paul is another great choice. I know you like the 2-2-2 rhythm, and so do I, but other rhythms are nice too. Paul Russo Hennen is great. If your husband is going to veto Russo again, I'd choose Paul Frederick Hennen or Paul Joseph Hennen.

Nathaneal is another good one, though I think the nickname Neal would be a hard-sell. If it's important to you that it not be Nate/Nathan, I'd say it's a poor gamble.

And of course I love Oliver. I think Oliver Lee is fine, but if it's likely you'll use first/middle a lot, and it seems like it IS likely, I'd choose something like Oliver Joseph or Oliver Frederick or Oliver Grady.

Name update! Kelly writes:
I wrote you back in October wanting help for our little brother to William. Just thought I'd let you know we had our baby boy last week!  A little early at 37 weeks but healthy and happy.  Our top two favorites after seeing this little man ended up being Samuel lee or Lucas Clinton.  I know.  I was shocked I liked Lucas Clinton as much as I did.  But as soon as he was born it was like a light bulb "oh, that's Lucas!"   I did agonize about 36 hrs ish with the, would I be disappointed if I didn't use Samuel since it really had been a top choice question.  But in the end, he really is our little Lucas.  We're all adjusting and getting into our routines now that he's here.  I wanted to thank you and your readers for your input.  I kept coming back to the post over and over weighing the opinions and advice.  So, thank you!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

What are Your Favorite Noun Names?

Lashley suggests the next installment in our Favorites collection could be favorite noun names. As with all our favorites categories so far, as soon as I start to make a list, I realize the problems: in this case, there could be so much cross-over with occupation names, place names, nature names, virtue names, etc. And as with all our favorites categories so far, I suggest that we rise right above it, floating gracefully as if we've never fretted a day in our lives: Do we think of it as a noun name? Can we put "a" or "an" in front of it and have something that makes sense (a rose, an archer)? Then we will put it down on the list.

And we don't need to worry about making sure our list accurately represents our actual top favorites: mention some that come to your mind as ones you like (for your own babies or for other people's), and you can always come back later if you think of others. And we're not worried about duplicates; in fact, we WELCOME duplicates, since they can show how well-liked a name is. Our goal is to make a nice list together, a list that someone can browse through it for ideas and inspiration.

Here is my own off-the-cuff, not-spending-hours-researching-it-to-make-sure-I-considered-every-possible-name, casual, fret-free, just-SOME-of-my-favorites list of noun names:


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Baby Girl Picks-with-an-H, Sister to Felicity

Erin writes:
We are expecting our 2nd daughter in about 5 weeks, and my husband and I can't make up our minds!

Our first daughter is Felicity Katherine, last name rhymes with Picks, and starts with an H. We had absolutely no problem naming her, and I am still totally in love with her name. That being said, it is a tough one to find a sister name for because it is familiar but not overused, and it exudes happiness.

We lean towards classic names  that won't be instantly tied to a certain decade. RIght now, we feel pretty confident that her name will be Helen Elizabeth or Harriet (but mostly call her Hattie) _____, though I suppose we'd be open to new suggestions (it just feels like we've considered EVERY name out there).

We love the quirky, fun alliteration of the double H names. My dilemma is that I think Hattie goes the best with Felicity, but I like Helen _icks better than Harriet _icks. And even though we intend to mostly call her Hattie, I know she will occasionally need to use her full name. Also, after reading some of your past readers' emails and comments, the thought occurred to me someone might call her Hairy _icks. That thought had never occurred to me (or anyone else who I've shared our options with) until one of your commenters made a similar observation about the name Harriet Butler (Hairy Butts). Would that have crossed your mind with our name?

Does Helen or Harriet/Hattie immediately stand out as a better sister name to Felicity?

If we go with Helen, I'm not sure what nickname options there are. None of the ones I've heard of feel very intuitive. I like Nell, but it doesn't feel very natural. But maybe something will just naturally evolve as her nickname. 

The other remaining question is what Harriet/Hattie's middle name would be. I love Elizabeth, and it is a family name, but I think that might be too much of a mouthful. Our other possibilites are Anne (for Anne of Green Gables) and Lee (my middle name and mom's maiden name) or Alice (grandmother's name). Do any stand out as much better sounding than the others?

Thanks in advance for any help you can offer!!

It's a close one, but I think I prefer Harriet _icks to Helen _icks, and I agree that I think Harriet/Hattie is better with Felicity than Helen. And it sounds as if you prefer the name Harriet.

If you do choose Helen, it's such a short name you may not need a nickname, especially if Felicity doesn't go by one.

If you choose Harriet, I think Harriet Elizabeth sounds great. It has the same number of syllables as Felicity Katherine, and I like longish girl names, so it doesn't seem like too much of a mouthful to me. I also very much like the sounds of Harriet Anne and Harriet Lee, but with shorter, less girly middle names, I start feeling as if the two girls' names would be too contrasted: one ultra-feminine and whimsical, the other hip and quirky.

I don't know if I would have thought of Hairy or not. I think the recent post might have brought it to my mind---but even with that, it didn't occur to me until you mentioned it. Perhaps other children would think of it more quickly, though.

The name Henrietta would solve that issue, while still being similar to Harriet. Possible nicknames: Hennie, Etta, Ettie.

For another happy name, I suggest Annabel. Felicity and Annabel sound similar to me: both with hints of whimsy and Britishness and early colonial Americanness.

I also suggest Penelope, for the same reasons as Annabel.

And Clarissa, same reasons again.

And Phoebe, same.

I also suggest Eliza, and Eloise. Those feel a notch less whimsical than Annabel and Penelope to me, but they have a sass and spirit that I think goes well with the name Felicity.

Genevieve, too, is lower in whimsy, but I think it's great with Felicity. I like the nickname Evie, but Genna and Genny and Gen and Eve are available too.

Or Josephine, with the nicknames Josie and Jo.

For a bit of a long shot, I suggest Anastasia. It's a somewhat different style than Felicity, but I like the way both names are long and unusual. The darling nickname Annie helps sell it, too.

Name update! Erin writes:
You were kind enough to post my dilemma back in October or November and I wanted to let you know that our little girl, Harriet "Hattie" Elizabeth Hicks, was born on 11/29.

You and your readers' comments were so very helpful to me, so thank you very much. We went back and forth even on the day she was born but love the name we landed on.

Thank you again!!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Baby Naming Issue: Rosetta

Dana writes:
I was hoping you'd be willing to open up a poll to ask your readers if they think that the name Rosetta has become unusable due to its strong association with the language learning company, or if it can still be used? My husband and I love, love, love the name, but I'm concerned/fairly certain that it's off the market due to its strong, strong association with the Rosetta Stone company. I'd love to get more data points on this, though!

For me, the very second I saw the word Rosetta, the word "Stone" leaped to my mind---not from the language company, but from the Rosetta Stone the company is cleverly named for. The connection is so strong, I'm having trouble thinking of a connection that's similarly strong. It's as if someone said "The leaning tower of..." and I'd automatically and irresistibly think "Pisa" every single time. Inseparable.

On the other hand, the name fits RIGHT IN with the current interests in the names Rose and Etta. And if I knew a little girl named Rosetta, it would bring my Rosetta Associations Tally from 1 to 2, and that might make a tremendous difference quite quickly: the first time I encountered the name Brooklyn on a child, I thought only of Brooklyn, New York---but now Brooklyn also seems like a name.

Let's have a poll over to the right to see what everyone else thinks. [Poll closed; see results below.]

Poll results for "The Name Rosetta" (542 votes total):

Unusable because of the stone - 123 votes (23%)
Usable only if a bunch of people use it - 60 votes (11%)
Usable - 314 votes (58%)
"What stone?"/usable - 22 votes (4%)
Can't decide - 23 votes (4%)

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Baby Naming Issue: The Rule About Not Picking a First Name That Ends in the Same Letter as the Beginning Letter of the Last Name

K. writes:
My husband and I would really, really appreciate your input on breaking a naming rule. The rule we've seen out there a lot is that you are not supposed to pick a first name that ends in the same letter as the last name.

We want to break this rule! We love the name Christopher. Our last name is Riolo (pronounced Ree-oh-low). Can we break the rule? No one talks trash about Christopher Robin's name, and his similarly breaks the rule with Rs.

We are expecting our third baby boy. Our first two boys are Michael and Timothy. We only like classic, timeless, biblical/saint names for our children. There are other boy names we love, like Gabriel and Samuel, but they just don't go with our last name.

Please, please advise. Thanks so much.

Here is the thing about naming rules: they're rarely rules. Sometimes I see naming guidelines or naming suggestions, which may or may not CALL themselves rules. But of course at most they're general guidelines or suggestions: they don't necessarily apply to a particular situation.

The reason for the guideline you mention is that a shared sound CAN make two names sound like they run together, and/or can make them tricky to pronounce, and/or can make the shared sound seem to disappear from one of the two names. (This can also happen without a shared sound, as in the famed example "Ben Dover"---so it's something that should be checked regardless.) For example, my own first and middle names are Kristen Nicole; in theory, this could sound like Krista Nicole. Since they're my first/middle names instead of my first/last names, it's no big deal. If they were my first/last names, it might be something my parents could have considered---but if they'd decided it was okay, it would still have been no big deal: I doubt the inconvenience of occasionally being mistaken for a Krista would have been any more of a problem than the inconvenience of occasionally being mistaken for a Kristine, which happens despite no issues with the surname. It's a bigger problem when the run-together makes the name difficult to say, or causes a boy name to sound like a girl name or vice versa, or results in something like Ben Dover.

Do you think Christopher Riolo runs together or is in any other way difficult to say, to the extent that it rules out the name? Do you think it makes it sound like the name is either Christopha Riolo or Christopher Iolo, to the extent that it rules out the name? Do you think the shared letter makes the name embarrassing or difficult for the child? If not, then you don't even have to break a rule---you just have to decide it isn't a guideline that applies to this particular situation.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Baby Naming Issue: Juliette

M. writes:
I am very emotional and I need some reassurance about the name my husband and I have chosen for our 3rd daughter (due this January). We have two daughters already, Annabe11e Marie and C1ara E1izabeth. Their names were chosen easily and without any conflict. Our last name is fairly normal and can go well with almost any first name. After much discussion and thought, my husband and I have chosen the name Juliette Pearl for baby #3. 

The problem is that I am starting to have doubts about this name. I loved it at first, so much that I told anyone who asked, including our daughters who now refer to "Baby Juliette" all the time. My husband loves the name - he thinks it sounds feminine and elegant and I agree; however, I have some issues. For one, I am thrown off that everyone is pronouncing it JU-liette instead of juli-ETTE. I am also worried that Juliette is such a heavy and grown-up name that it may not "fit" a little girl. 

I still love the name...I am just having cold feet. My husband thinks I am being a touch hormonal (which I acknowledge is a real possibility), and that I need to relax. I just wonder: what is your impression of the name Juliette? Is it too much for a child? Is it a sweet and elegant name that matches her sisters' names?  I know you are incredibly in demand and have a lot of requests, so I really appreciate any time that you choose to devote to this issue. 

Thank you so much!

I second your diagnosis of cold feet. It sounds like this is the right name for your family.

My guess is that the issue of emphasis will be persistent but minor---similar to the way Annabe11e will, over the years, regularly need to clarify for people that Annabe11e is spelled with two N's and two L's and an E. Most names have an issue of this type.

Juliette does not seem like a heavy name to me, which makes it hard for me to consider if it would be too heavy for a little girl. It seems sweet and elegant to me, like Annabe11e and C1ara.

But if you decide it's not right for you, there's still a third of the pregnancy left for changes. If you think there's any chance you might not use the name, I'd start by telling the children that the name is not yet certain, to take some of the pressure off. Hearing the name in their little voices, it can feel like it's a done deal---but it really isn't, at this point. And of course I'd tell your husband that you're not yet certain: he can call it cold feet, but if it's NOT cold feet, he's going to keep thinking the issue is closed until you say so. But you still have plenty of time to think and decide, and if you're not done thinking and deciding, he needs to be brought back into the thinking/deciding stage too, instead of thinking it's all taken care of.

Name update! M. writes:
Thanks for your help with our baby's name. After much thought, we stuck with Juliette (nickname Jules) and it fits our little darling PERFECTLY. It's a perfectly feminine name for the third of three sisters.

As an aside - I just yesterday learned that Mabel was originally a nickname for Annabelle. I wish I had known that six years ago when we named our Annabelle - I LOVE it as a nickname; however, six is a little old to start using that kind of nickname and my daughter hates it. I told her that I will use it when she's being a stinker. Ha.

Thanks again for your help!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Baby Naming Issue: Olive Bruce

Erin writes:
My husband and I are expecting a baby girl arrival on March 2, 2013. This is our first child and we plan to have 3-4 children. My name is Erin and my husband's name is Daniel. Our last name is Bruce. Yes, two first names :) (actually, three if you count the middle name). We have been following your blog since the beginning of my pregnancy and have spent a lot of time tossing around name ideas for the baby - thanks for making this so much fun!

Ok, here's the current dilemma. My husband and I have had a feeling we were having a girl since we discovered I was pregnant. We fell in love the name Olive. We like it for various reasons ... the sound of it, the strong feeling it gives, the non-traditional feel while still being pretty, the biblical connotation of Olive coming from the olive tree meaning peace, etc. We began calling the baby "olive seed" once we found out about the pregnancy. This was great until we started saying the full potential name out loud "Olive Bruce" ...

[Note from Swistle: While reading this letter for the first time, I paused here and said the name out loud to see if I would discover the same issue: I wanted to see if it would occur to me if I didn't have it planted. I'm putting a big space here in the letter so you can do the same.]

... and discovered that it might sound too much like olive juice when stated! Ah! I have said the name over and over in my mind so much that I have lost all unbiased and objective view on it. I especially love the full name Olive Amelia Bruce and kind of have my heart set on it. BUT, I want to consider all options for our baby girl and don't want to put undue hardship on her by giving her a name that reeks havoc on her Bruce last name. What do you think? Would you eliminate Olive as an option with Bruce as a last name?

The runner-up option right now is Esme. Esme Bruce (not sure on middle name). We love this name, too. I picture a completely different little girl, but I still love it. We have ruled out all first and middle names starting with a B. We also have interest in the following names:

Nell (possibly Penelope with nickname Nell or as a middle name)
Emerson (Emmy)
Sinclair (Claire)

Basically, we are all over the map. Names we would use if the baby was a boy: Julian (Jules), Elliot, Pierce, William. Any help is MUCH appreciated.


In my opinion, Olive Bruce does not sound too much like olive juice. When I was first reading your letter, I got to "This was great until we started saying the full potential name out loud...," and I deliberately looked away from the letter and said the name out loud---and couldn't figure out what the issue was without reading on.

The main thing for me, I think, is that "olive juice" is not a thing I would say. I'd say "olive brine"---and olive brine doesn't come up in conversation very often. If the name in question was Apple Bruce, or if the name sounded like orange juice or lemon juice, or if I had more opportunities to refer to olive brine and also frequently called it olive juice instead of olive brine, I might feel differently.

Also, if I were saying "olive juice," I'd emphasize it differently than if I were saying the name Olive Bruce: I'd put more emphasis on the first syllable of the word olive and under-emphasize the word juice: I'd be saying it adjective-noun instead of name-name.

Also-also, even if other people thought it sounded like olive juice, olive juice is not a negative thing. It would be different if the name sounded like something really awful or embarrassing, but saying "Ha ha, your name sounds like olive juice!" or "Olive Bruce, olive juice!" seems like low-impact teasing.

But if you decide against Olive, Esme is also a wonderful name.

Let's have a poll over to the right to see what everyone else thinks. [Poll closed; see results below.]

Poll results for "Olive Bruce (read post first)" (533 votes total):

I thought of the issue; it's a deal-breaker - 45 votes (8%)
I thought of the issue; it's not a deal-breaker - 42 votes (8%)
I thought of the issue; I can't decide - 27 votes (5%)
I didn't think of the issue; it's a deal-breaker - 12 votes (2%)
I didn't think of the issue; it's not a deal-breaker - 375 votes (70%)
I didn't think of the issue; I can't decide - 32 votes (6%)

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Name Updates!

Update on Baby Boy $amuel, Brother to Louisa Claire
Update on Baby Boy Gabriel, Brother to Elizabeth Rose and Luke; And Middle Name Challenge for Luke ____ Gabriel

Middle Name Challenge; Family Honor Names in a Divided Family; Honor Names vs. Dearly Loved Names

Jessica writes:
I am a devoted reader of your blog - I absolutely love it and think you give the best advice. I was convinced that because I'm such an avid reader I would never need to ask you for help, but here I find myself 30 weeks pregnant and at a total loss!

My name is Jessica, my husband is Patrick and we both have a hyphenated last name that sounds like Rinn-Loven. We have a two year old son named Milo Thomas and are expecting a little girl in early November who will definitely be our last child. After spending a LOT of time thinking about names, we are 99% certain that this little girl will be named Cora. We love that it's short, classic, feminine without being frilly and "Cora, Unashamed" is a favorite short story of mine. I'm a little concerned that it's getting too popular but think I love it enough that I don't care. If for some reason she comes out and absolutely is not a Cora, other favorites are Olive, Rosalind, and Matilda. But I'm pretty sure she's Cora.

But I'm writing because I am terribly stuck on a middle name. Middle names are important to me; we often call Milo by his full name and I love that Thomas is after my father in law who passed away soon before Milo was born and was a wonderful man. Since Milo's middle comes from my husband's family, we decided this baby's middle would come from mine. The problem is that my parents split up when I was very young and my family has always been very divided and I'm afraid if I choose one side I will be letting down the other. So here are our current favorites and the concerns we're having with each one:

Cora Hazel (husband's favorite) - Hazel was my paternal grandmother and someone I was very close to. Concerns are that the names don't seem to flow all that well together and my mother and grandmother very much did not get along, so I'm worried that my mother would be upset if I chose Hazel.

Cora Shane - my sister is named Shaynee and is the person I am closest to in the world. Plus, like me she represents both sides of my family. Problem is that I usually really don't like traditionally male names on girls, so I'm worried about using Shane (but Shaynee really isn't my style) plus I have a younger half-sister so is it awful to use the name of only one sister?

Cora Frances - this is a bit of a stretch but researching my ancestors I saw that my great-grandparents came to the U.S. on a ship called the France and I thought it would be nice and not too controversial in my family if I used Frances. My husband's not thrilled about the name, though.

We tried to think of non-family names that still have meaning for us and we both seem to like:
Cora Beatrice
Cora Clementine
Cora Flannery
Cora Juliet
Cora Scout

But none of these feel quite right. If we're not using a family name, we'd like the name either to have a nice meaning or for it to reflect a literary character or strong historic woman so that it still had some meaning for us. I know I might sound crazy to some people because it's "just" a middle name, but middles are really important to me and since this will be my only daughter I desperately want to get it right.

Any suggestions or advice you or your readers have would be much appreciated. Thank you!
Me again with one quick update in case you choose to post my question. We're still 99% sure our little girl is Cora and top contenders for middles are still Hazel, Shane or Frances but we've decided that our second favorite name is definitely Olive, so if the baby is not Cora she'll be Olive. My husband is 100% settled on using Cora, which I still love but I'm finding myself incredibly sad at the thought of never having an Olive, which is a name I have adored for a long time. So the question is, should we go with Cora Olive? Does that sound terrible together? Am I missing the chance to give her a special connection with a family member if I don't use an honor name like her brother has?

I think honor names end up being primarily for the satisfaction of the parents. I do think many people feel happy about their own honor names, and that they do feel a connection to that family member or historical figure as they tell their naming story over the years---but that many other people don't care much either way and/or don't feel an increased connection. I continue to feel so happy that I gave my eldest son my grandfather's name as his middle name---but my eldest son barely cares at all. My grandfather died when my son was very little, so there's no special connection there; the name was instead about my own connection to my grandfather. I think Rob likes that he has an honor/family name (and my grandfather definitely liked that I used it), but I think he would also have liked a non-honor name.

So for me, the sadness at never having an Olive would trump the connection to a family member or literary character---especially in a family where an honor name is likely to come with stressful issues and possibly hurt feelings. Your daughter would have the same middle-name naming story as my daughter does: that one of her parents loved the name so much, it had to be used. It's a good naming story; it has gone over well at our house in our tellings of it to her. The special connection of the name would be to you, because of your love for it. Furthermore, it's fun to think that because of that story, your daughter might use her middle name as her own daughter's first name someday: you might get a granddaughter named Olive!

But that's only how my own feelings are ranked. Your own feelings might not be the same: maybe when you think it over, you'll find that your sadness at not using a namesake name trumps your sadness at never using the name Olive. Maybe you'll find it would be enough to instead use the name Olive for a pet, or for a doll for your daughter.

If you don't use Olive, I think Shaynee is the clear best choice. With the name Hazel, I was thinking of my late mother-in-law and how I'd be okay (if a bit teeth-clenched for a moment) if one of my kids named a child after her---but I think my feelings would be more extreme if Paul and I had split up and it was my EX-mother-in-law we were talking about. I would hope that a sweet little granddaughter would give me a new association with the name, but it would be a hurdle because I'd know the association was MEANT to be there. With the name Frances (for the boat France), it feels like too slim a connection to be worth giving up the name Olive.

But with the name Shaynee, I love that it would be for someone you have a close relationship with (someone your daughter could also hope to have a close relationship with, hugely increasing the odds that the name WOULD give her a special connection with a family member), and I love your reasoning that your sister belongs to both families equally. I'd use the actual name, rather than modifying it: I think naming style is only a tiny, tiny issue with an honor name---and since neither the original name nor the modified name fit your style, I'd use the original. (If you do go with the modified version, I think I'd go with the spelling Shayne: it makes it more feminine AND makes it more like your sister's name.) Cora Shaynee Rinn-Loven. I am trying hard not to PUSH you to use this, because I anticipate it bringing you so much satisfaction in the future---and I'm imagining what a thrill it would be for your sister!

Another option is to use two middle names: give her a family honor name AND the name you love, and it's win-win. Cora Shaynee Olive. It's a lot of name with a hyphenated surname, but the names are short and most of them will be tucked away; for everyday use, she'd just be Cora Rinn-Loven.

I don't think you have to use the names of both sisters. I see how it could be a little awkward if you were having two daughters---but you're only having one daughter, so it seems like it makes sense that you'd just choose one honor name, and that the name you'd choose would be of the person closest to you. I also hope it will be delicately clear to the whole family that using your half-sister's name would be more fraught with issues than using your sister's name.

So, let's see. I think you'll be most happy with Cora Olive or Cora Shaynee, so those are the two I'm voting for. But there's another possibility, and that's that she'll be born and you'll take one look and both say, "Oh, man, she's definitely an Olive!" In that case, she could be Olive Shaynee: the dearly-loved name and the dearly-loved family member.

Name update! Jessica writes:
I can't thank you enough for posting my question. You and your readers' responses gave us a lot to think about and ultimately helped us choose our little girl's name. Cora Olive was born on November 7th and is just perfect. I'm so excited that I got my Olive and already can't imagine her by any other name! Thanks again!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Middle Name Challenge: Nathaniel _____ G.

G. writes:
I definitely could use some name advice.

We already have one son, born January 2010, named Noah Christopher. Our last name starts with a hard G like in "goal." Christopher is my husband's middle name and he just liked Noah.

I am due with boy #2 on Feb 25, 2013. We have agreed (for now) on Nathaniel for the first name but are stumped for a middle. Husband's first name is Johnathan (and it was originally supposed to be John Nathan Christopher until his mother objected), so we're taking the Nathan from that. 

I suggested Joshua, my husband's brother's name, as a middle. Husband doesn't like the sound of the J following the ending L. 

We would both consider giving the baby a middle name after my dad, but his names are both fairly awful - Eugene Francis. He does go by Gene (and my name is derived from his), but I don't think the husband would go for that since Gene has the same starting sound as Joshua. I might try to convince him. My dad doesn't like his name, so I don't really feel like pushing past my dislike would be worth it, even though I would love to find a way to incorporate his name.

There are no other good male family names on either side to choose from, and we're kind of stumped. Despite what our choices in names indicates, we're not particularly religious, so no requirements there. 

Middle names husband has rejected so far: Joshua, Lee, Anthony

Since both boys have names honoring your husband's side of the family (and do they also have your husband's surname?), I feel very motivated to find a middle name that honors your side this time. Perhaps even if your husband doesn't find the L/G combination ideal, he can tolerate it for the sake of honor and balance? Nathaniel Gene is great, and I suspect your father would find new appreciation for his name seeing it on his grandson; it's particularly encouraging that he liked his name well enough to give a version of it to you. And since the two names from your husband's side are directly from your husband's own names, it gives a pleasing balance to find a name that reflects your own name as well as your dad's.

But if you're not keen on Gene either, are there any surnames from your side that would make good middle names?

Or perhaps you could find something that represents your family's ancestry? Or the name of an important town/street in your family's history?

Or, I suppose we could go back for another name from your husband: if the Nathan- of Nathaniel is from Johnathan, the middle name could be John. Noah Christopher and Nathaniel John. While I'd prefer a better balance of family names, in some families the names just don't work out that way. And it does appeal to think of both boys having names from their father. And it does make a good naming story: from John Nathan to Johnathan to Nathaniel John. My first choice, though, is still Nathaniel Gene.

Without the surname, it's difficult to find more middle names that would sound good with the whole name, but here are some that I like with Nathaniel:

Nathaniel Charles
Nathaniel David
Nathaniel Davis
Nathaniel Dean
Nathaniel Emmett
Nathaniel Everett
Nathaniel Flynn
Nathaniel Frederick
Nathaniel Henry
Nathaniel Louis
Nathaniel Owen
Nathaniel Peter
Nathaniel Ryan
Nathaniel Sawyer
Nathaniel Scott
Nathaniel Shepard
Nathaniel Tyler
Nathaniel Wesley
Nathaniel Wilson

Monday, October 15, 2012

Baby Naming Issue: Do You Think "Falling Down" When You Hear the Name London With Certain Surnames?

I have noticed something, and I want to do a poll to see if this is something LOTS of people do, or if it's something where you will be looking for a delicate way to ask me if I'm off my meds.

Here it is: I notice that the nursery song "London Bridge is Falling Down" is so hardwired into my brain that if I try to use the first name London with any surname that has even the same RHYTHM as "bridges" (I now know it's "bridge is," but I didn't know that for many many years---and besides, it has the same rhythm either way), my mind leaps immediately to "falling down."

So, for example, if I tried the name London with the surname Johnson, I'd say "London Johnson" and then I'd immediately think "...falling down, falling down, falling down." Same with London Williams, London Walker, and London Carter: my mind adds "falling down," because of the rhythm. (These are just random examples; feel free to substitute your own 2-syllable surnames for testing.)

This doesn't happen if it's a different rhythm. If it's London St. Clair, I don't think "falling down." If it's London Jones, I don't think "falling down." If it's London Anderson, I don't think "falling down." It's only if it's a two-syllable surname with the same rhythm as "bridges"/"bridge is."

I suspect most of this is because I don't know anyone named London: to me it still registers first as a place that has a bridge. If I knew a London, my guess is that this effect would fade considerably if not completely.

And now what I want to ask you is: Is it the same for you? Let's have a poll over to the right. [Poll closed; see results below.]

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Name Updates!

Update on Baby Naming Issue: A Family Naming Tradition Breaks a Household's Naming Traditions
Update on Baby Girl Wreath-with-a-C, Sister to Tr!ll!@n; Are the Sibling Names Too Close?
Update (and photo!) on Harris or Harrison Hamilton?

Baby Girl or Boy, Sibling to Hank and Stella

Kinsey writes:
Here we go.  You've helped me twice before so I'm counting on you again!  This is the biggest predicament we've been in though.   I'm pregnant with our third child (gender will be a surprise) and we are absolutely clueless on girl options for our baby!!    Neither of us like anything at all!  We have a 3 yr old boy, Joseph Hank (goes by Hank), and a 14 month old girl, Stella Rose.  Both kids have family names (Joseph and Rose) and we are thinking of one of the following family names for middle if baby is a girl: Leigh, Lauren, Clark

Some things to think about:
We like different, without being too weird.
I love the double L in Stella and think it would be neat to find another girl name with that, but definitely not a must.
Obviously we like old school names.
I like girly names, but still with spunk!

Suggest away!

If the baby is a boy, it would be fun to find a name that parallels Hank's: a name like Joseph, followed by a name like Hank. Something like William Gus.

Names like Joseph:


Names like Hank:


A few sample combinations:

Andrew Dean
Daniel Mack
David Abe
Matthew Otto
Michael Sully
Nicholas Mitch
Samuel Abe
William Gus

Or, if you'd rather not call him by his middle name, I think I would choose a first name that ideally sounded like both Joseph and Hank: Samuel, for example, which goes well with Joseph, but then Sam goes well with Hank. Or Nicholas: Joseph/Nicholas, Hank/Nick.

If the baby is a girl, I suggest the name Harriet. It has a double R, and I think it's great with Stella and Hank. More suggestions:

Charlotte (Lottie, Charlie)
Cordelia (Delia)
Frances (Frankie)
Georgia (Georgie)
Lucille (Lucy)
Mattea (Mattie)
Matilda (Tilly)

Friday, October 12, 2012

Baby Girl or Boy Shafer, Sibling to Lily Grayce

Jessica writes:
So we have a baby naming dilemma - so much so that my dear husband keeps saying, "well, we have 10 days after the baby is born..."

Our last name is pronounced Shafer. We have one daughter, Lily Grayce. We used Grayce with a 'y' in honor of good friends, and the mum happens to be British, so the "y" version is the popular spelling. We're not too concerned about popularity, and prefer that over odd spellings and unheard-of names. Where we live "Lily" is not all that popular, despite it sitting high on the charts, we know one other Lily who is about 5 years older than ours.
My husband's name is Eric and my name is Jess(ica) but as I usually go by the shorter, we all end up with four letter names with distinct letters - this makes it easy and neat, and we like it, but we're not stuck on 4 letters. We do prefer to have different initials at least between siblings and preferably the whole family. We'd love to have 4 kids at least if life allows, so we're trying not to get into too much of a pattern - hence we're not wanting to go with another "L" name for fear of having either all "L" names (tricky) or changing after kid 1&2 which feels odd. We also don't want to get into a pattern of "y" or "ie" endings. It seems like "er" ending names clash with our last name, so we're not having luck there either - between the "y"/"ie" and the "er" that knocks out a lot of names!
We're not finding out what we're having this time, but we already have our options fairly settled for boy names, it's girls we need help with!

We do tend to favor shorter names, and if we were to chose a longer name we would likely use a 1-2 syllable nickname on a daily basis. We even cut Lily down to "Lils.." a lot, so we're pretty lazy..!
We love Ruby, but it keeps us in the "y" ending... also considering Claire/Clara, Pearl, Olive (but not Olivia), and Sage.
I like Stella, Astrid, and Hazel, but my husband was not convinced. He has no ideas of his own. Our 2.5 year old would like to call the baby "Baby Poptart."

We like Jade, but don't like the meaning. We have also avoided short R girl names due to a close in age girl cousin named a variation of Ryan and a close friend named Roma, tho we are willing to bend on that for the perfect name! We've discarded flower names as well due to not wanting an obvious garden... but we're ok with plant and nature names.

If it helps, our top boy names are Milo, Jude, and Rowan, which would likely be paired with the middle name of Ellis, tho we're not decided by any means...

Can you save our 2nd kiddo from being "Baby Poptart" forever? 
4-8 weeks to go (depending on who you ask and how long this one likes to bake) but still no settling on a name! We have some updates and changes tho, so perhaps you'll be up for helping - pretty pretty please? :D
We're down to boy's names Milo or West, which obviously have very different feels to them. We did favor the middle name "Maxin" (spelled with an 'o' not an 'i') which is my husband's grandmother's maiden name, however we're not sure about it with our last name (pronounced Shafer). My good friend and name lover greatly dislikes West (not a breaking point) and recommends Weston, but it reminds me of both the TV show Burn Notice and the Weston Price Foundation... maybe neither are an issue - thoughts? We have considered playing of my maiden name somehow to make a middle name for West or Weston - my maiden name is said Ree-mal-ee (spelled simply) so we considered using something like "Remington" but are afraid this might sound a bit NRA :) That's where we sit with the boys.
For girl names, we've added a new favorite to the top spot: Gwen. We keep debating different "Gwen-" names but keep coming back to Gwen because we're certain to shorten it to that for daily use anyway. Finding a middle name here again poses a bit of an issue. My husband suggested Pearl, but then we have GPS.. again, maybe not an issue. I'm not certain it's a great match tho, seems like we need a longer middle to make things flow better and we just can't seem to find one that fits.
Backups to Gwen we're still considering are Ella, Elle, Claire, and Ruby (tho we're still not fond of adding to the "-y / -ie" collection.
Will you give us a much needed hand?

The name Gwen seems great to me: four letters, but new initial, new ending, new sound. I agree with you: I'd want a middle name with more than one syllable. I'd go through the list of names that you liked but didn't want to use in the first name slot because they started with L or R or had an -ie/-y ending. Gwen Ruby Shafer is very nice.

If you like Claire/Clara but would prefer four letters, I suggest Cora. Cora Shafer; Lily and Cora.

Or Cleo. Cleo Shafer; Lily and Cleo. This wouldn't allow for Milo later, though.

If you like Ruby, you might like Ruth. Ruth Shafer; Lily and Ruth.

Or June. June Shafer; Lily and June.

Elle and Ella make me think of Anna. Anna Shafer; Lily and Anna.

I think Gwen is the best one, though.

If the baby is a boy, I favor Milo---not only because that was one of our finalist names for Henry, and I still have a soft spot for it, but also because it seems to have fewer issues than the name West. I prefer the name West to the name Weston, but the name West has the unfortunate issue of making names sound like towns: West Shafer. I also find the transition between -st and Sh- a little difficult to say: I end up with something like Wes Chafer.

I like Westley best as a longer form: that would still give you the four-letter nickname West, while also impressing fans of The Princess Bride AND removing associations with foundations and towns. It does give you another -ly name, but I think two in a row is a surmountable pattern, especially since one is a boy and one is a girl. (It's three in a row where I think it's nearly impossible to resist the pressure.)

But Milo avoids all these issues, so that's what I'd go with. Milo Shafer is wonderful; Lily and Milo is wonderful. I like Maxin fine with your surname, or I like the idea of using your maiden name as-is: Milo Maxin Shafer or Milo Reemalee Shafer. I prefer Maxin, because I'd prefer to avoid the initials MRS. If the actual spelling of your maiden name looks feminine, it would be nice for a girl: Gwen Reemalee Shafer.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Baby Boy Bieber

N. writes:
We are expecting our first child, a boy, this January and I am having the hardest time settling/making my peace with a name! We had all sorts of girl names that we loved but boy names are a completely different story . . . honestly, my first thought when we found out the gender was - how will we ever find a name?!  And ever since then, I've just been going round and round in my head about it.

So, here are the details: our last name sounds like Bieber (No, "Justin" is not a contender) but is spelled differently and we will be giving the baby my maiden name as a second middle name.  My maiden name sounds like Elbrecht (pronounced *very* German, like you're sneezing at the end, not "Elbright").  We both would really like to use family names and would like something uncommon but not weird.  Although, to be perfectly honest, I'd be willing to break the family name rule if we found a name that we really loved.

Ok, the lead contender right now is Hartman David, but I keep worrying that Hartman is too strange and/or people hate it.  Does it make you think of Cartman from South Park?  Is it less weird if he goes by Hart?  But I do like that David means beloved and that Hart is close to, well, heart.  Goes together, right?  Plus, he could always go by David if he really hated Hart.

If we don't use Hartman as the first name, it'll definitely be the second as we're both agreed that we want to honor the person it'll be after.  Other possible first names under consideration:
Clark (husband worried about "Clark" being associated with Clark Griswold, I worry that Clark is too "hard" sounding)
Owen (possibly my favorite, although I worry that it is just too popular, and my husband has a mild distaste for it for some reason . . .)

Considered but discarded:
Xavier (my favorite, husband hates)
Wyatt (my second favorite but not a family name and previously claimed by friend)
Richard (hated by current name-holder)
Paul (just no love for it in particular)
Benjamin, Andrew, Joseph (too common)
Lloyd, Vernon, Virgil, Olaf (too weird, also, by this point, we are way back in ye olde family tree)

Although this will be our first babe, we plan to have several more so . . . hopefully they will be girls! (Just for ease of naming, of course.)  And, for reference, the girl name we loved was Eloise.

Please, please help!

Oh, I forgot one!  I also suggested Calvin in the beginning (because of my love for A Wrinkle in Time and Calvin and Hobbes) and we both thought it acceptable but ultimately haven't pursued it because it's not a family name.  Part of me wonders if I just need to let that go since it seems so constraining . . . but then I love the idea of making the name a tie to family history and previous generations.

Thank you!

Reading about how difficult it is to come up with enough family name candidates for even the first child of a hoped-for several, I do think you should consider changing that policy. Or rather, I think you should consider deciding that three family/honor names per child is enough to satisfy that preference, and the fourth name can be one you chose because you liked it. And then it won't matter as much if the family/honor name is one you don't fervently love or is a little unusual or is one that someone else already used, because you can use it as the first of the two middle names and voila! Or if you find you have plenty of family names to choose two different ones for every single girl you have, that will be fine too: the rule would just be "At least one family/honor name, in addition to the two other family names each child will automatically get," instead of "All four names need to be family/honor names."

The name Hartman first makes me think of Phil Hartman, which would be a positive association for me except that I also think right away of his sad death. But it's hard to say what percentage of the population would think the same way, and his murder was fourteen years ago now. It's unlikely the child's peers will make the association, even if a percentage of the peers' parents/teachers do.

I do then think of Cartman. It's unfortunate, because Hartman is a wonderful name. And if I knew a baby named Hartman, I wonder if both associations would quickly vanish? And having multiple associations does tend to diffuse the strength of any one association. And it's an honor name, and "It's a family name" is a very useful thing to say.

When I write out Hartman David Elbrecht Bieber, I notice that it looks like three surnames and one first name. Would you like David Hartman Elbrecht Bieber instead? It seems as if it solves all the problems while keeping all the names. The name David feels common, and was #18 in 2011 according to the Social Security Administration, but so far none of my children have had a David in the classroom.  Perhaps many of the children named David are namesakes going by middle names instead? Or perhaps it's that my particular town is David-poor and all the Davids are piling up in other children's classrooms.

For the name Clark, my first thought is "Oh, great fresh surname name!"---the same as I think when I hear of a child named Smith or Miller. My other association is with Clark Kent, and that's a positive one. I don't think of Clark Griswold, but I've never made it all the way through a National Lampoon movie. Paul has watched them repeatedly, so I emailed him at work and asked him "If you heard of a baby named Clark, would you think of Clark Griswold?" He replied: "No, I'd think of Clarks Kent and Gable."

I'd also suggest Grant, which is in the same file drawer of my mind.

Calvin seems like a wonderful option to me. Calvin Hartman Elbrecht Bieber, with the great nickname Cal if you want it. I love it.

If Owen is close-but-not-quite, I suggest Ian---unless that vowel sound is odd with the surname, as I think it would be if it were exactly like Bieber, in which case I suggest Evan or Nolan or Rohan.

Name update! N. writes:
I gave birth to our baby son a few days ago and wanted to write to thank you for your help!  We honestly hadn't thought about how much Hartman sounds like a surname previously - and how strange that would be to proceed a name that sounds like a first name (aka Hartman David) - so your advice decided us on using Hartman as a middle.  We were going with David Hartman for a long time, but ultimately I was just too uncomfortable with how popular it was and my husband didn't like the nicknames Dave or Davey.  Soooo, we went back to the family tree and decided on a male version of Eloise (you'll remember that this was our favorite girl name, and it is also a family/honor name for us) - and landed on Elliott, with the nickname Eli.  And we couldn't be happier with the name and our son!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Baby Naming Issue: Are Calvin and Alice Too Similar?

Lisa writes:
Our second child is set to arrive mid-March.  We did not find out the gender the first time around and will not this time either.  For our first child we had narrowed down our name choices to Calvin or Miles for a boy and Alice for a girl.  We had a boy named Calvin David! Now, as we are narrowing down the choices for our second child, I am not sure whether Calvin and Alice sound awkward together because of the repeition of the "al." We were SO set on it for a girl the first time around and now we are having major second thoughts when it is paired with Calvin.  We are planning to have more children (4 or 5 total, so we could always hold off on Alice if it is a girl and hope to use the name when it won't be so closely paired with Calvin). Other names we like for girls are : Beatrice, Daphne, Eloise, Greta and Millie.  For boys, we like Brooks, Miles and Wesley, which I think all go fine with Calvin!

So, what do you think: Calvin and Alice...yay or nay?

I vote that Calvin and Alice are not too similar. I think this is one of those situations where if I were suggesting the name Alice to you, I'd think it was worth pointing out that the -al- sound repeats so that you could think about it beforehand, but I'd be saying that in my opinion it tied the names together nicely rather than sounding repetitive.

If it continues to bother you, I do like your idea of setting the name aside for a possible future girl: separating the names with another name or two would definitely diminish the similarity. It's a risk, of course, since you might not have another girl---so it's a matter of how sad you'd be if you gambled on this plan and then didn't get to use the name. The best of all would be if you had a boy this time, since that would separate the names automatically, without a gamble!

If you have a girl this time and choose to delay using Alice, we'd want to look at each of the other names on your girl list and see if any of those would rule out using Alice later. Beatrice, for example: would it bother you to repeat the -ice ending? Try it out and see: Calvin, Beatrice, and Alice. Or if you use Eloise, would it bother you to have two girls starting with a vowel-L combination? Calvin, Eloise, and Alice. All of these will be so subjective: if it were me, I'd rather not have two -ice endings in a row (though I wouldn't mind if they were separated by another child, I don't think), but I don't mind the El/Al issue; someone else might be the other way around, or dislike both, or not mind either.

Let's have a poll over to the right to weigh in on the immediate question, which is whether it's okay to use Alice this time, if the baby is a girl. [Poll closed; see results below.]