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Friday, February 15, 2013

Baby Boy and Girl Brown: Choosing Two Sibling Names at a Time---But Not Twins

Kayleigh writes:
So I have a bit of an interesting situation… I just recently stumbled across your blog, so I’m not sure if this has come up before. My husband and I are adopting a little boy, who is due next month(March 12th) and will hopefully be joining our family shortly after that. The little boy’s mother is my husband’s cousin, who lived with us during her first year of college a couple of years ago. We became close, and when she began seeking an adoptive family for her son, she contacted us, having been living with us when we started researching adoption. We’ve been discussing names with her, because she’s a hardcore name fanatic. We’re letting her choose the middle name, and she’s chosen Arlo(it’s a combination of her name and her boyfriend’s name).

Plot twist! A couple of months after beginning the adoption process, we discovered that I was pregnant as well.  A little girl will also be joining our family in about two months(April 5th). My husband and I are having trouble figuring out what to name these children. The problem is this: our children are going to begin their lives with enough differences as it is. We want to avoid clashing names. My husband and I, however, both dislike names that feel too matchy-matchy. No alliteration, no rhyming, and we don’t want to have a clearly matching theme.

For both children, we want at least their first names to clearly be one gender or the other, and reasonably easy to spell and pronounce. I was blessed with the name Kayleigh, and it is seldom spelled or pronounced correctly. I’m sure my parents meant well, because my maiden name is extremely common, but it was hard. It still gets mispronounced to this day, but I’ve come to terms with it. I don’t want either of my children to have the same problem; however, our last name is Brown, so I’m trying to find a different solution for the same problem.

Other general details: My husband’s name is Eugene. Since our names don’t really match, we’re not super picky about our children’s names going well with ours. We also don’t really care if their initials spell words, as long as they don’t have any directly negative connotations.

For boys, we tend to prefer Biblical-sounding names; for girls, names that are fanciful without being weak. In both cases, we prefer that the names have at least a couple hundred years’ history tucked under their belts. I personally like names that lend themselves easily to a nickname, but it’s not a must-have. We also gravitate to names that have around three syllables, and never a monosyllabic name(not with our last name).

Thankfully the selection of Arlo has helped eliminate some names due to flow or alliteration problems: Asher, Arthur, Cyril, Elias, Elliott, Luke, Oliver, Levi, and Simon. Names that haven’t been crossed off include: Sebastian, Jasper, Tobias, Frederick, Gideon, Matthew, Isaac, and Joseph.

For our daughter, we’ve rejected the following for spelling/pronunciation issues, trendiness, negative associations, relatives using these names, or just ‘not feeling right’: Eloise, Abigail, Minerva, Alice, Jillian, Margery, Madeline, Phoebe, and Valerie. Still in the running:  Gwendolen, Penelope, Thalia, Evelyn, Amelia, Cecily, Rebecca, and Miranda.

For her middle name, we’re leaning towards modified spellings of the Irish names of my grandparents’ generation: Eva/Eve, Orla, Enya, Ashling, and Siobhan(she-VAHN). Frances, Ellen(or Ella), Meredith, and Juliet, and Rose are also in the running as family names from the relatives who aren’t quite so recently off the boat.

I’ve also recently fallen in love with the names Bellamy and Everly, even though they both absolutely violate everything I’ve ever told myself I dislike about names(trendy, recent, almost too cutesy, potentially gender-unclear). I’m not really sure what it is that’s drawing me to those names, but I’m enchanted by them... and I have yet to mention them to DH.

Thanks so much in advance for all your help!

I often recommend that parents think ahead to future sibling names when naming their first child. It's an interesting twist to be actually choosing two at once, without twin issues to consider!

Bellamy and Everly do indeed seem like they fall outside your usual style. It's possible to get smitten with a new sound, but then find the crush fades with the novelty. I also think neither is quite right with your surname: Bellamy Brown seems too alliterative, and Everly Brown seems too surnamey.

Looking over your lists, I see tons of good names; it seems like at this point it's just a matter of choosing which ones. Here are a few sets I like:

Sebastian Arlo and Thalia Frances
Sebastian Arlo and Gwendolen Orla
Jasper Arlo and Miranda Eve
Jasper Arlo and Penelope Ellen
Tobias Arlo and Cecily Orla
Frederick Arlo and Evelyn Meredith (Freddie and Evvie)
Gideon Arlo and Rebecca Siobhan
Matthew Arlo and Amelia Juliet (Matt and Mia)
Isaac Arlo and Rebecca Orla (Zac and Becca, Zack and Beck)
Joseph Arlo and Miranda Juliet

I avoided the middle name Rose because it's a color name like Brown.

I like how Orla is a rearrangement of the letters of Arlo. It plays up the "almost twins" status of the two children.

Will names with a one-syllable nickname bother you with your surname?


What pairings would you make?

Names update! Kayleigh writes:
They're both asleep, and I don't know when that will happen again(and DH has to go back to work in a few days, eek!), so here's my update, which I can say with certainty will be the only thing I will actually get done this week. By the way, I don't recommend having a baby, adopting a baby, and moving all around the same time. Yes, it's crazy, but in fairness, we were supposed to have at least three weeks in the new house before either child made an entrance. And yes, this is going to be kind of a novel, much like my original post, but I can't figure out how to shorten this and still fit everything in. Also, I really hope this makes sense, because I've been having trouble forming proper sentences in the past couple of days because of reasons.

My husband and I were all set to go with Sebastian Arlo and Gwendolen Orla. We hadn't even noticed the Arlo/Orla connection before, which just shows the value of bouncing name ideas off of others! The original name was spelled Orlagh, so I guess we still had that silent 'gh' in our heads every time we thought about it. We also loved the way the Sebastian and Gwendolen just barely rhymed.

Well, you know what they say about the best-laid plans... as with many adoptions, the biological parents in ours had second thoughts(which we were supportive of). After a few days, they decided to go through with the adoption, but they had already given him a name. After a discussion with another family member who was also adopted, we decided to keep his name mostly intact. And so it was that Logan Orion [Sounds like Handlock] was born on March 3rd, and became Logan Orion Handlock Brown on March 8th.

Of course, that changed our name plans for our daughter, who made an early appearance on the morning of March 10th... which, yes, is two days after Logan joined our family.

Because we had 'lost' Sebastian, we didn't feel comfortable using Gwendolen. We also wanted to choose something that would be at a similar level of popularity. Amelia was our first choice, but of course the child came out with a head full of bright red hair. As DH and I are both avid Doctor Who fans, Amelia was just a little TOO fitting. So we finally settled on Evelyn Frances Meredith, which felt right the minute we said it. Evelyn and Logan have that same end sound that we had loved before, and they're in the same popularity bracket. Both got a literary+surname double middle. It's a pattern we're comfortable continuing.

For the commenters wondering about how we're going to handle the twin question, we're just going to say yes when asked. They're only a week apart, after all, and they actually look really similar right now. The answer may change as they get older. If they're happy being twins, they can stay that way. If they'd rather make it clear that they are different ages(even if it's just a week), then we'll just say that they're very close in age.

Again, thanks so much for posting our question and taking the time to give us some much-needed reassurance and feedback! Thanks also to your readers who commented- you all had some wonderful ideas that have helped us modify our name lists for future children. Thank you so much!


Brigid said...

Some days I look at these posts and think, "Why am I not lucky enough to be friends with this poster?" This is one of those days.
Your kids will be so blessed to have you two.

If you like Cyril, what about Cyrus? Cyrus Arlo Brown
Or Sirius, Sirius Arlo Brown.

I think Frederick's in a perfect position--familiar, not trendy at all, and just a handsome name for a boy or a man.

Or Malcolm. Malcolm Arlo Brown.
Malachi Arlo Brown.

Matthias Arlo Brown

George Arlo Brown -- one syllable, but strong and classic.

Simeon Arlo Brown

Hugh Arlo Brown -- nn Hugo

Have you thought about Ellen as a first name? Close your eyes and listen to it for a second--it's gorgeous, very feminine, and it's not nearly so popular as Ella or Eleanor. Elinor is another good variation.
Ellen Meredith Brown
Ellen Frances Brown

You like so many of the names on my list...would you like Philothea? She could go by Thea. Philothea Juliet Brown.

Valencia Jane Brown

Meredith Evelyn Brown

Miriam Alice Brown

Cordelia Siobhan Brown. Cora Brown.

Clara Ellen Brown.

Best of luck to you, and please let us know--with pictures of both your children. Much love!

Moira said...

The first two that jumped out at me were Sebastian and Penelope. Sebestian Arlo and Penelope Francis. I also like Frederick and Cecily together (Freddie and Cece).

Good luck!

Colleen said...

If you are trying to avoid names that are mispronounced, I have to warn you about Thalia.
We named our daughter Thalia almost two years ago, and my Mother-in-law still can't pronounce it. And she isn't the only one.
We pronounce it THAY-lee-ah, but what we most often hear is ta-LEE-a.
Good luck with naming your new babies!

Anonymous said...

I love Frederick Arlo! That one is the standout for me from the boy list. It's strong and traditional but not overused. I love that Swistle pointed out the Arlo-Orla thing. I really want that to work out somehow because it seems like a hard to pass up opportunity. If you like Everly, perhaps prefer it to Evelyn but have an issue with the trendiness I'd suggest Evelina or Evalina depending on what spelling you prefer. Evalina Orla Brown is a little singsongy but I think it's cute. Evalina Frances is even better! It would also blend so well with Frederick, being the Scandinavian variant of Evelyn. I have seen it spelled Avalina too with the pronunciation Eh-va over Evv-uh.

Anonymous said...

I also caught the Orla/Arlo connection and I think it would be a great way to give the kids a link to each other without being too matchy with the first names. I especially like that Arlo is being chosen by the birth mother & Orla also has family significance for you.

Of your list of girl names, I think you might be disappointed with Thalia because of pronunciation issues. And you might find Evelyn & Amelia becoming too popular.

My favorite pair is Frederick Arlo & Gwendolen Orla. I like that both first names are longer, but don't have any sounds in common.

Jasper Arlo & Penelope Orla.
Tobias Arlo & Rebecca Orla.
Joseph Arlo & Rebecca Orla.
Jasper Arlo & Miranda Orla.

Leah said...

I love the Arlo/Orla possibility and almost want to pressure you to use it! A subtle connection between near-twins that most people won't ever even know.. but has significance for both sides of the family.

Anonymous said...

I also love the idea of the Arlo and Orla as the middle names. I imagine the "almost twins" enjoying the connection.
For first names my vote is for Sebastian and Penelope, because I love both those names and (to me) they hold the same degree of whimsicality and fashion forwardness.
Cecily and Jasper would be my second choice, for the same reasons as the first.
I vote against Matthew, because while I love it in full, I think it is likely to get shortened to Matt, giving you the single syllable you wish to avoid. Also, it has been so popular to so long, there are so many Matts around, I think it feels a little bland next to your girl's choices. But, if you do decide on Matthew, I suggest Amelia as a good fit for the sister name.

Anonymous said...

I am only on to push you not to use Isaac and Rebecca together. It seems odd to have near siblings (just a few weeks apart) be named after a biblical husband and wife.

Wendy said...

I'd like to suggest the name Genevieve for the little girl. 3 syllables, classic name, clearly a girl, and also it picks up the last 4 letters of your husband's name in the first 4 letters of hers.
I like Genevieve Orla Brown.

Julie said...

Definitely don't use Isaac and Rebecca together. Our daughter is Rebecca and I must admit that I was sad to "lose" Isaac as a possibility for the future.

What about Margaret as a first name?

Wendy said...

Oh, and I think Frederick is fabulous for the little boy!

Gail said...

If you prefer Biblical names for boys, I'd encourage you to use either Gideon or Isaac because each of these is a lot less likely to be shortened to a one-syllable nickname. The same is true of Sebastian and Jasper. If you can abide with Toby, then Tobias is a great option as well. I'd forego Frederick because it's almost inevitable that it will be shortened to Fred Brown or Rick Brown.

For similar reasons, my favorites of your girl names are Cecily, Evelyn and Miranda--they are the least likely to be shortened to one syllable nicknames. Gwendolen will likely become Gwen Brown which is too rhymy/choppy; Penelope will likely become Penny Brown or Nell Brown; Thalia is beautiful but you will be both spelling it and/or pronouncing it a lot; Amelia is set to sky rocket in popularity--if you can overlook that, it's a beautiful choice. With Rebecca, you risk Becky Brown.

Top choices: Gideon Arlo and Cecily Orla

Kim said...

Sebastian Arlo and Miranda Orla are wonderful together!

I also like Tobias Arlo and Juliet Orla. Miranda Eve is pretty too.

I'd also like to suggest Nathaniel, Bartholomew, Barnaby, Jeremy, Helena, Felicity, Susanna and Imogen.

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

First of all, along with everyone else - I love Arlo and Orla ... gives them a special connection with each other!

No one has really commented on your choices of Bellamy and Everly - I personally think they sound good together, they have different sounds yet somewhat tie in together (without being too matchy-matchy). Neither are overly popular and no one would question which was the girl vs. boy name.

Other combinations/names I like:

Frederick and Genevieve ( I love the way they both have "e's" and "i's" in the names, they are both the similar in length.

Frederick and Everly... Freddie and Eve (eve-ee) sound cute together.

I like Tobias and Juliet. Both are very strong names (my daughter's name is Juliet and we absolutely love it).

What about William and Penelope?

I think you have a ton of really good options. Good luck and keep us updated!!

Jenny Grace said...

I'm really just here to say that I love Arlo/Orla

Swistle said...

Anonymous 5:03- Both Everly and Bellamy are used exclusively for girls in the United States.

KLTC said...

Bellamy + Everly = Beverly

Similar sounds but with an established history.

Anonymous said...

I really like Matthew and Amelia (Matt and Mia)!

StephLove said...

I like the Arlo/Orla connection for middles so much I'd pair Orla with any of the names, but here are some more combinations I like:

Cecily Enya
Evelyn Frances
Gwendolyn Ella
Gwendolyn Meredith
Miranda Juliet
Penelope Ashling
Penelope Siobhan
Rebecca Rose
Thalia Eve

And for the sibling names:

Gideon & Gwendolyn
Isaac & Evelyn
Jasper & Thalia
Joseph & Rebecca
Matthew & Miranda
Sebastian & Cecily
Tobias & Penelope

Anonymous said...

What about Eden Marie Brown for your daughter?

Manday said...

Independent of one another, I think Sebastian Arlo Brown and Gwendolyn Ashling Brown. However, when put together I do not like the matching "n" endings. I also agree I like the idea of Arlo and Orla, its a nice tie without screaming it from the first names.

I don't like Frederick Brown because it will become Fred Brown, which seems as anonymous as John Doe to me. Same thing with Matthew and Joseph. (Joe Brown and Matt Brown). Gideon has the same "N" ending again. I don't like Isaac Arlo because of all the vowels. This leaves TObias, and I like it quite a bit! So, my choice would be

Tobias Arlo Brown
Gwendolyn Orla Brown

Tobias and Gwendolyn
Toby and Gwen

Love it! Whatever you choose, I look forward to an update!

Megz said...

I would group your shortlist of boy names into three groups:

Matthew, Joseph and possibly Isaac being the common names that might be too common to go with your surname.

Sebastian and Frederick being long names. Not sure if you're looking for more ideas, but I think Theodore and Benjamin would fit nicely into this group too (although you might not like Ben Brown).

Jasper, Tobias and Gideon being uncommon names. I would also add Gabriel into this group as another possibility for you (and like the way the initials GAB are also the first three letters of Gabriel).

My personal favourite for you would be Theodore, especially with the name's meaning being God's Gift, as this little boy is a gift for you from your husband's cousin.
Theodore Arlo Brown.

For girls I think Theodore and Penelope go nicely together as Greek names. Thalia is another beautiful Greek name but Thalia and Theodore would create problems.

My favourite from your list is Miranda. Miranda Meredith maybe? It would go well with Gabriel (same number of letters and syllables) without being matching.

Good luck with your almost twins!

vanessa said...

I love Orla and Arlo!

Jasper is one of my favorite boy names. Jasper Brown. Jasper Arlo Brown. I love that.
Gwen Brown is too choppy. Genevieve is a good option tho...
I think I'll just make you a list:

Sebastian Arlo and Penelope Orla
Jasper Arlo and Cecily Orla
Tobias Arlo and Miranda Orla

Anonymous said...

How about Graydon or Harrison for a boy and Eleri or Victoria for a girl?

Anonymous said...

I agree that Orla and Arlo would be a cute combination but would you want more children later on? If you do, would you mind that they would not have the same middle name connection to the others?

Also, with your last name I would remove from the list the more common names:

Frederick, Matthew, Isaac, and Joseph. Rebecca, Evelyn, and Amelia.

Almost every single name can have a pronunciation and spelling issue. Seriously, it doesn´t take much so I would let go of thinking too much about that. Like Tobias - some will say To-BEE-as, others will say To-BYE-as. Thalia - some will say TAL-ya, others will say Tha-LEE-ah. What can you do?

Gideon Arlo flows best of the remaining names (Sebastian, Jasper, Tobias)- but does that make it *the* name for you? If you like Matthew more, then use it even if there will be a lot of Matthew Br-wn's out there.

I think Gideon would go best with Cecily or Miranda. Cecily Eve is simply divine!

Cecily Eve and Gideon Arlo sound similar yet are not matchy matchy.

If you like meanings, David and Carys could be nice together -both meaning love. David Arlo and Carys Rose?

Also, Samuel - God has heard. Samuel Arlo B.

Or Felix, meaning happiness. Felix Arlo B.

Bellamy and Everly are very trendy and unisex. Some names in a similar spirit that might appeal to you:

Carly - or Caroline, nn Carly

Connelly, nn Neil

liz said...

I love Arlo and Orla as middle names.

I like Gideon Arlo and Evelyn Orla. I love the connection in the middle names. The three syllables and six letters each in the first names (but still not matchy-matchy).

Anonymous said...

Aside from the name issue, I'm curious to know (original poster, if you're reading) how you'll handle the constant questions about whether they're twins. Especially if the names ARE at all match-y.

We have a similar situation, with little ones just a few months apart, and CONSTANTLY get asked -- at the mall, stores, appointments, family outings, etc -- if they're twins. At least once per outing. It's so awkward. When they were very young, we just said "yes" and moved on, but now as they approach the age of KNOWING they're not twins, we don't want to say "Well, no, this one is ours and this one is adopted." On the other hand, people are so delighted when they think they are twins, and they're just being friendly, so I don't want to rudely dismiss their question without an answer, or by simply saying "no." ... If you're reading, and have a plan, I'd love to hear it!

Anonymous said...

I would think "No, just very close in age" would be enough answer for most people.

Ira sass said...

I love Sebastian Arlo and Thalia Frances. I like Talia even better.

Joseph Arlo and Miranda Juliet is also nice, although the initials of Joseph Arlo or Jasper Arlo would be JAB, which is kind of awkward.

I like Juliet a lot for a first name too.

Other combo suggestions:
Tobias Arlo & Rebecca Eve {Toby & Becca}
Tobias Arlo & Juliet Orla {Toby & Julie}
Tobias Arlo & Gwendolyn Eve {Toby & Gwen}
Sebastian Arlo & Gwendolyn Eve
Sebastian Arlo & Gwendolyn Orla
Sebastian Arlo & Miranda Ellen
Sebastian Arlo & Miranda Siobhan

Reyzl said...

My favorite "non-matchy" twin names are Jonah and Paloma, because both names mean "dove," and I think it would be sweet to be able to call them your "little doves."

If it were me, I would pick middle names that had a connection, as well. Since Arlo has an uncertain etymology, that gives you a lot of options.

"Arlo Hill" is referenced in the poem "The Faerie Queen" (1590) by Edmund Spenser, so you could pick a middle name for your daughter that is also connected to that poem.

There are lots of lovely female names referenced in the poem including Alma; Belphoebe; Gloriana; and Una.

Or you could look for a reference in an Arlo Guthrie song, like Gates of Eden, Evangelina, or Creole Belle.

I suggest:

Jonah Arlo Brown
Paloma Belle Brown

I wish you and your family all the best!

Nichole said...

What a HAPPY predicament!
I love the Jasper/Penelope and Tobias/Gwendolen pairings! Good luck!

Kayleigh said...

Oh my goodness! I wonder what it is about the name Kayleigh- it's my name, too, and every single name you listed is on my list of names that I love.

I'm gonna have to add my voice to those who love the Arlo/Orla connection.

Have you considered Arlo as a first name? It flows really beautifully with some of the three-syllable boy names you've listed.

If you've fallen in love with the name Everly, that might be a point in favor of choosing Evelyn for your daughter- they're similar sounding, but Evelyn fits better with your other naming criteria. And yes, it's enjoying a surge in popularity, but it's an older name, and discarding a name for trendiness alone seems somewhat silly, especially if it feels right to you. It also has a similar feel to Ellen, which you put in your list for middle names.

For pairs: Gideon and Cecily sound like they belong together without being matchy. Tobias and Juliet also sound very sweet. Rebecca and Matthew are both very solid, timeless names that will lend themselves nicely to nicknames and grown-up careers. They also have the advantage of being easy to find on souvenir-type items... which I know never happened for me and I imagine was difficult for you as well. Oh, and I like Sebastian and Penelope because they have such an ancient history. I suppose Thalia does as well, but lie a previous commenter said- she will be explaining the pronunciation her entire life.

betttina said...

Wow, I LOVE Arlo and Orla! What a beautiful connection! Unique but not youneek. I LOVE it.

Butterflyfish said...

I love this baby name story. You made lovely choices. The Amelia Pond reference in your follow up made me happy. One of the commenters said at the start of this thread that she wished she was lucky enough to be friends with you in real life -- I had totally the same thought.
Best of luck with your two babies and everything.

Brigid said...

Oh, congratulations and welcome to the two newborns. What a beautiful family.