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Sunday, February 10, 2013

Baby Boy or Girl Arnold

Tysen writes:
I don't know how it took me this long to find your site but it is the single best naming resource I have seen in 8 months of searching that is entering panic phase, I really appreciate the insightful (and non-judgemental) approach of your and your readers. Here is my dilemma and I am hoping you can help: I am due March 9 with our first baby. We do not know the sex. I feel that my parents set an impossible bar because they gave me a very unique name that I have grown to love: Tysen (yes I am the mother). I have spent my whole life being complimented on my name, people commenting how surprised they are when I show up (I work in construction and they always expect a guy). My husband has an uncommon family name and goes by his initials. I feel big pressure to come up with a great girls name though I know "unique" names are more the norm and am fine if it is not utterly original.

My husband and I have settled on a boy's name, Xavier. This is the only matter of taste he and I have ever agreed on when it came up while we were dating years ago, he has backed of it but I am insisting we should name a son Xavier in honor of the blessed occasion of our only spontaneous agreement. We just completed renovations on our house without ever agreeing on one single thing: paint, furniture, counters...you get the idea. I like all things unusual and he likes traditional. He strongly favors family names, though there are some slim pickings on the female side in this regard. On his list of likes are Alexandra, Angela and Nicola (nikki). I like the sound of those, but they are far to common for me. Nicola might work, but I think of the 50 Nicoles I know.  Like one of the posts I saw from a previous reader, I think he thinks of the girls he knows from college and can't break out of the box. I might be making too much of this, but I am passionate about travel and languages and having diverse interests and have a very strong aversion to naming my kid (esp. daughter) something too common or conventional.

I have been doing battle for Sloane for months and am close to giving up. Other names I love that are out:  Lane, Rory, Evan , Ellis, Elliette (vetoed because we know people with these names or close to them).  Avery (too trendy). Other names I like that I am considering to put on the table are: Emery, Owen, Lowen, Emerson, Auri and Cole. Lennox is one I just saw tonight and am liking but might be tough with baby's last name (Arnold) and might be a weird boxer theme with my name? Cameron is on our very short list of mutual consideration.

I am reluctant to suggest any of this latest name crop  now and have them get shot down summarily as every other name I had pitched for the past 8.5 months. Family names that I could probably get approval for are Hunter (trying to get buy in that this works for a girl) or McNeill. 

So do you have any tips on what names might work for both of us or any thoughts on which ones of these are the strongest to your ears? I am so frustrated now that I don't even know what I like, I  suddenly feel for the US congressmen trying to find a  ugly compromise that pleases nobody.  I think something Scottish or Irish could satisfy the family part but I haven't found the right one yet. Do you have any tips on how to strategically broach the polar opposite taste issue? My only current idea is to hope he will take pity on me after watching the birth and agree to something I like that is not too outrageous. 

Help!!!


I think it can help in discussions to separate out each parent's preferences, to make it more clear when one parent is getting something or giving something up, and to make it more clear when both preferences can't simultaneously be satisfied and so there is a need for bargaining and compromise. "Okay, well, I know you want to use a family name, but then maybe we can go with my preference of having it be an unusual name." "Okay, so what if we use the traditional, common, feminine family name you'd like to use, but we'll put it in the middle name position---and then maybe we can go less common for the first name, as I'd prefer." "How about this: it can be clearly feminine, as you want it to be---but then very unusual, as I want it to be." "How about this: we'll choose something more familiar, as you want---but something unisex, as I'd prefer."

I think it can also help to have parents choose from each other's lists. It's easy for one parent to just say no to every name they hear the other one say; better progress can sometimes be made by trying exercises where each parent MUST choose their top three from the other parent's list. It shifts the mindset from "This name isn't a name I came up with, so it's automatically out before I've even really let it sink in" to "What names that THEY like do I ALSO like?" And it would be helpful to know which of the names from your lists he finds even slightly tolerable: from there, perhaps you could find something he likes even more.

You might make some headway by explaining that your wish to choose an unusual name for a daughter is a sort of family-name situation for you: not merely an issue of personal taste but of carrying on a new tradition.

The main difference I notice in your tastes is that you like unisex/boyish names and he likes very feminine names. If you plan to have more than one child, it will save suffering later to spend some time now sketching out a rough concept of how you'd like those names to go. It's difficult to picture sisters named Nicola and Evan, or Hunter and Alexandra. It's also useful to think ahead about sibling combinations such as Xavier and Hunter, where Hunter is a girl; or Xavier and Cole, where Cole is a girl.

From your list, I think you will find Emerson and Cameron too common for your tastes. They're a bit stealthy on the charts, because of all the different spellings. And because they're used for boys as well as for girls (especially Cameron), that dramatically increases the chances of two in a classroom.

I think what I'd do is look at each name on your lists and try to find something similar that might interest the other parent. For example, you have Owen on your list, which is very uncommon for girls (only 17 new baby girls named Owen in 2011, according to the Social Security Administration) and would in fact make a nice brother name for an Xavier. You also have Lowen, which has a more feminine sound but unfortunately also has a Lindsay Lohen association. Would Rowan also be to your tastes, while also being more feminine for your husband's tastes? Or Gwendolyn? Or Elowen? Or Bronwyn? Naomi? Cleo? Romilly? Imogen?

Or, he has Alexandra on his list. I wonder if we could shift that to something more unusual like Anastasia or Athena or Azalea or Lissandra or Allegra or Artemisia or Arabella or Antonia or Aviva. It combines his preference for feminine with your preference for unusual.

Which brings me to another possible type of compromise: you could use a name he likes, but something with a nickname you like. For example, you could name her Alexandra but call her Xander. He could still use the full name if he preferred, and the two of you could agree on a plan for what you'd use as the default for relatives and preschool and so forth. (At some point, she will get involved in that decision as well.) A name like Augusta is feminine but unusual, and would give you Gus. Francesca would give you Frank. Frederika or Winifred would give you Freddie.

I see you have Rory and Auri; would you like Aurora? It's quite feminine, quite unusual, and you could use both Rory and Auri as nicknames.

Or Lorelei.

If you like Sloane, I wonder if you'd like Simone?

Nicola seems like a very good compromise name to me. Nicole was in or around the Top 10 all through the '70s and '80s, but now it's not even in the Top 100---and Nicola isn't even in the Top 1000. Nicola McNeill Arnold, Nicola Hunter Arnold, Nicola Lennox Arnold.

Or do you like Annika? It sounds like Nicola, but without all those moms named Nicole.

39 comments:

gwen said...

My daughter's name is Olwyn (can also be spelled Olwen) and we pronounce it All-win. It is a very feminine name and quite unusual. We are always complimented on her name, although I will admit to being frustrated that some people still mispronounce it almost 4 years later. (They say ole-win, like they are saying Owen instead of saying the o like Oliver, which is how we say it)

Anyway, unique and feminine, it might fit the bill for you :)

Meg said...

I think nicola nn cole might be a good compromise. Good luck!

Also love the name Rowan. Or how about Ottilie?

Elizabeth said...

I thought this was a very well thought out response, Swistle.

I really hope the original poster gives us an update on this one.

Anonymous said...

I also thought of Nicola with the nickname Cole. I think that approach kind of approach could work well for you.

Another example might be Lennox as the full name, with the more feminine nicknames of Leni or Lena. Or maybe you'd like something like Linnea instead? Feminine, unusual and without the boxer problem of Lennox.

Or maybe a more unusual nature name might appeal? Willow perhaps? You'd also have Will as a nickname if you wanted. Luna (Lou) also comes to mind.

Instead of Avery maybe you'd like Aubrey?

You could also take a look at the social security baby name lists for the 1910-1920s. Traditionally male names were in vogue then, so maybe you'd find something less common and your husband might feel more comfortable with the idea of a masculine name once he sees a history for it.

Oh-and as a last ditch effort to warm him up to Sloane, have him watch Ferris Bueller again. If that doesn't work, I agree it would be time to move on to another name. Simone is a great suggestion for a more feminine sound-alike.

StephLove said...

Swistle has a lot of good suggestions for strategies and specific names that might come from them, so I'm going to zero in on his favorites. It sounds like he's budging more than you on the boy name so you might need to budge a bit more on the girl name. Nicola (or Nicolette perhaps) might be a good compromise name. Or Angelina instead of Angela (though I do think Mousling with that one.) Or Alexandra with the nn Xandra. I really like that, actually. Would it rule out using Xavier later or would you like Xandra and Xavier together?

Good luck choosing and please report back.

StephLove said...

Another thought. Since you were considering Celtic names and also unusual names I know a family with three girsl Riana, Ailyn & Keira. The last is familiar but I'd never heard of the first two until I met them. Ainsley could work, too. I think it has male origins.

Abby@AppMtn said...

Would Nicola with the nn Nico have any appeal?

Anonymous said...

Oooh I actually love the idea of naming her Xandra the above poster mentioned. Or Zandra so you don't corner yourself into an X theme. Swistle's Alexandra nicknames Xander suggestion is genius as well. I think the most surprising names are the most natural with a twist, and so far the list is looking promising. I'll always remember this heated debate a while back about whether someone could use the very unusual "Verne" for a girl when it was already worn by a student. So...how about Verne? It sounds like the feminine Fern which your husband might like. I'm also going to suggest the names Dagney, Holden, Scout, Maxine with the nn Max, Orson, Isadore, Briony, Maddox and Colby. Just a grab bag of choices you might like!

Hannah said...

Just pointing out that Cole could work as a nickname for Nicola!

Manday said...

Quite the conundrum! Swistle gives some great advice as to how to go about discussing it.

I love the idea of Xandra as the given name. It takes his traditional family name and makes it unique.

As for other ideas, I really leaped on the Gaelic idea - so many unique but still traditional names, and lots of unisex options. The one that really jumped out at me for you is Blair - feminine like Claire but definitely unisex. Other things I think you might like - (all Gaelic) - Argyle, Ainsley, Deidre, Ellar, Flynn, Glen, Kearney, Keely, Lane, or Neve.

Also, I know a little girl named Hunter, so that does not seem out of bounds to me. I find it more feminine than Owen or Evan.

Anonymous said...

Rowan, Bronwyn/Bronwen & Alexandra nn Xandra are all great suggestions. I also know an Augusta nn Gus & it's a great name.

A few more names that might appeal to both of you:

Kezia (traditional/unusual biblical name)
Noa (ditto)
Wallis (historically female, masculine sounding, nn Wally)
Lowell (literary surname)
Keats (ditto)
Lou
Lee
Jacoba nn Cobie/Coby
Elizabeth nn Zibby/Zabe
Davida
Zelda

Claire said...

I really like the suggestion of Aurora for you - it gives Dad the more feminine name he seems to like, and Mom two nicknames she likes (Rory & Auri) - and when the child grows up, depending on her personality, she can adopt either to throw on a resume without being too "out there" or she can put "Aurora" if she wants to avoid any gender-confusion in responses sent to her.

Lucy Bea said...

Love Aurora for you, so beautiful. Xavier makes me think of Xanthe, which is a gorgeous but extremely underused name.

Anonymous said...

Xanthe? Pronounced zan-thee. Has the zan sound like Alexandra, but unusual and works for little girls and grown women....

Gail said...

Some unusual girl names being used in Europe:

Xanthe
Calla
Maeve
Lumi (snow in Finnish)
Alba
Ione
Liadan
Runa
Monet
Liv
Azure
Eira

Swistle's suggestion of Aurora nn'd Rory or Auri is probably my favorite of her suggestions, and I also like Antonia, nn'd Tony.

I recently met a young woman from Berlin named Gizene, pronounced with a hard "G" as in gate, so this name is a current fascination. I can sympathize with your dilemma--you have a very unusual name that you really appreciate, so giving your daughter a common name must seem like you'd be selling her short.

Isla, pronounced either way (Eye-la or Ees-la) might be a name that straddles your need for unusual with his need for feminine. Or Ines.......

Good luck, please let us know.


Rita said...

Since your picked boys names is something as classic as Xavier, it really makes it difficult to pick a more "out there" or modern name for a girl. Names like Owen, Rory, Cole, Lennox, Hunter, and Evan feel logical choices for a son of parents who like Xavier. They all sound horribly mismatched for a girl.

My first idea was Sláine [SLANYA], Slania, Slanie, or Slaney - similar to Sloane, but much more unusual an authentic Irish Gaelic name meaning "health".

Some alternatives for the names you mentioned:
Alexia
Evangeline, nicknamed "Evan" or "Angela"
Nicolette
Lana
Victoria, nickname Rory
Eleanor
Alice
Amelie
Cecily
Olwen
Bronwen
Elowen
Morwen
Emer (also Irish)
Embla
Ellery
Elizabeth, nickname "Ellis"
Aurelia/Aurelie, nickname "Auri"
Colette, nickname "Cole"
Lux
Alix
Beatrix
Pax

Scottish Names:
Murron
Elspeth
Isla
Skye
Iona
Ishbel
Keeva

Irish Names:
Ashling
Eavan
Ena
Keelan / Keelin
Maeve
Neve
Orla

liz said...

I am going to second the idea of Frederica, which is the name of one of my Georgette Heyer characters (strong independent woman, goes by Freddie).

And I'm going to suggest Angharad, which is the name of the heroine in Robin McKinley's The Blue Sword. Again, strong independent young woman, goes by Harry).

While we're at it, Georgette and Robin are both good!

Kim said...

What about Blake?

Blake Alexandra
Blake Emerson

I do like Aurora nn Rory.

Aurora Sloane
Aurora Blake

Blair or Blaine is pretty cool. What about Devin, Dylan, Ryan or Reese?

I love the sound of Emerson Arnold too.

Good luck!

Kim said...

Ooh! Just thought of Nico as a nn for Nicola. Cool!

Anonymous said...

As soon as I read your post I immediately thought of Everley (or Everly). I heard the name once and thought it was feminine but unique and you can pull a ton of different nicknames out of it depending on your tastes. I personally love Sloane. Another name that I absolutely love is Isadore. Once again, very unusual, feminine and various nicknames. I also like Swistles idea of Augusta.

Good luck! Make sure you update us!!

mavis B. said...

my girl-cousin's name is "Rori," a little more feminine than "Rory."

Fourandcounting said...

I love the suggestions of Olwen/Olwyn and Blair. I like Blair especially with your surname.

As a teacher (college-level), I get the chance to run into quite a few remarkable women, and some with pretty unique and memorable names. Here are a couple that stand out - they are all such pretty and smart young women -
maybe inspiration for you?

Alden

Belen - (accent on the second e) - she was an exchange student of mine from Spain, and she was drop dead gorgeous (and so so intelligent.) I think her name is beautiful.

Bronwyn/Bron

Maureen/Moe - this is out of left field, I know, but I knew a Maureen who went exclusively by Moe and omg she was so wonderful and beautiful, I'd love to be her best friend forever and forever.

Jovie

Rhiannon

Carolyn said...

If you like Auri, another name could be Aurelia with nn Auri.

I know an Ariana who goes by Ari as a nn. Very cute, different spelling, but you could add the 'u' to get the pronunciation you want.

Chelsea said...

I highly suggest Nicola, nickname Nico, for you!

He gets his Nicola, you get your unusual boyish name, and Nico is SO cute.

Anonymous said...

i also love blair for this situation, great suggestion manday! and i love sloane- maybe just keep sneaking it into your suggestions?

Trudee said...

Love the suggestions of Aurora (nn Rory or Auri) and Nicola (nn Nico). How about Alexandra but with the nn Lex or Delaney nn Lane?

amie said...

A girl that I knew in college was named Eowyn pronounced A-O-win. I think that Eowyn Arnold sounds nice with a very feminine middle name like your husband prefers. It is very unusual and beautiful.

Jaime said...

What about Arwyn?

Jenny Grace said...

It was interesting to see someone who loves being named Tysen. My only female-named-Tyson association is this blog post: http://www.youcantcallitit.com/2010/09/07/why-boys-names-on-girls-are-not-always-a-great-idea/

Anonymous said...

If it helps at all, I have a cousin named Hunter. My aunt used a popular feminine first name, but Hunter as a middle. She goes by Hunter and has always received compliments on her name.

~Courtney said...

My favourite uncommon girl name right now is Alida / Aleida

Mrs S said...

I say fight for Sloane!!! This is a wonderful name for a girl. I hope he changes his mind and likes it.

I like Swistle's suggestion of Rowan for you. But Everly might be the best suggestion so far!

Others I like on girls:
Spence
Quinn
Harper -might too popular for your taste
Olive
Luella nn Lou
Carys -means love
Everly

And these our some names I had on my list. My husband didn't like a lot of them. I'll ** the ones he did like. Maybe your DH will too.:)

Bri Emery**
Sloane Everly
Lena Hadley **
Sloane Delaney
Isla James**
Mila Sloane
Mia Bronte
Eliza Bettie
Etta Sloane**
Fiona Harper nn Fee
Violet Sterling**
Briar*
Lydia Briar was on his list. Its a nice combo.
Tess/Tessa*
Peyton
Sage
Noa
Elsa**
Sterling**

Mrs S said...

Correction. Spencer not Spence in the previous post.

so many things to love... said...

What about a nature/place/item name?

Story
Lyric
East
Swift
Journey
Bless
Juniper

I know a girl named Phallon, and another named Capri...either of those?

so many things to love... said...

Oh I just had a thought...Scout!

Joanne said...

My daughters have ballet with sisters named Kestral and Elowyn and I love them, they are more unusual than my names but I appreciate them. I like Nicola with a nn Colie, like Jolie. Best of luck!

Anonymous said...

My favourites:
Everly
Harlan
Sloan

Anonymous said...

I have suggested this for another post - Nuala (pronounced Nool-a) is an Irish name and has a lovely sound and feel. I wonder if this is an unusual name similar in feel to Nicola. It is undoubtedly feminine.

Someone suggested Neve, but the traditional spelling of this is Niamh (pronounced Neve) - this is the Gaelic spelling,

Also like the suggestion above of Luella

TysenG said...

Thank you all so much for the comments. I am much belated in commenting, baby Boy Xavier Arnold was born in march and I missed that my post even made it to the blog. We are thinking about number two though and I am now very excited by all the great suggestions. I particularly love Isadore, Orson and am warming to all the love for Nicola (Nico). The company I work for is Aurora so that is out! Thanks again for all the thoughtful support and suggestion, maybe next time there will be a baby girl Arnold to benefit!