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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Baby Naming Issue: How Do Parents' Own Names Affect Their Naming Tastes?

Kayleigh writes:
This isn't a question about what I should name my baby, or if a name I've chosen is okay, or anything strictly like that. It is, however, a question about names. You recently had a question sent by someone named Kayleigh, which happens to be my name, and all of the names she said she liked are on my list, as well... and it's something I've noticed among other people in different name forums who have similar names. So my question is this:

How much influence does a parent's name have on their naming decision for their children?  Obviously, things like a father named Samuel Jones VII is going to bear rather heavily on the naming of a son, but what about other things- are women with common names more likely to choose unusual names, or will they be more comfortable with a trendy name because they turned out fine? Will someone with a name that lent itself well to nicknames be less likely to name their child something that will also allow that? Have you noticed any trends like that in your questions and in your readership?

Thanks so much!

One thing I can imagine playing a role here is the way certain names go with certain ages. For example, a mother named Kristen or Jennifer is likely to be in a different age range than a mother named Brittany or Courtney---and so two mothers named Kristen are more likely to have favorite baby names in common than a mother named Kristen and a mother named Courtney: in the years between them, naming trends will have changed.

Another issue is that we tend to notice people more if we share a name with them. If I'd posted a question by someone named Brittany who shared your naming tastes, it would have caught your attention too---but it likely wouldn't have caught it as firmly, or stayed with you as long. Same thing if I'd posted a question by a Kayleigh with different naming tastes than yours: you'd notice it, but that information would be more loosely filed than a double hit like same name AND same tastes. Over time, this can give an exaggerated feeling of correlation.

What I've noticed about the connection between naming tastes and the namer's own name is that every combination can be used for a cause/effect explanation---even if those explanations come out completely opposite. So for example, one person will say, "I had a really unusual name, so I want something unusual for my child too," and the next person will say, "I had a really unusual name, so I really want something traditional and familiar for my child." (I notice similar things with parenting experiences: one person will say, "We had sweets around all the time when I was a child, so I got in the unbreakable habit of eating them" and the next person will say, "We had sweets around all the time when I was a child, so they were never a big deal and never became important to me.")

I have wondered if naming tastes are set up largely by a person's own family/community. This would be one possible explanation for how people with similar names tend to like similar names: if a person grows up surrounded by people named Margaret and Elizabeth, they're likely to have a different idea of what a "normal name" is than someone who grows up surrounded by people named Oso and Grove---and a different feeling about what the reactions of their family/friends would be to a name they're considering. But that's when the previous paragraph kicks in, because some people grow up wanting what they think of as a normal name and/or wanting to fit/please their circle, and some people grow up wanting the opposite.

Definitely I think some of our naming tastes come from our own names---but I think our experiences with our names are so varied ("I hated it!"/"I loved it!" for two people with the same name) as to cancel out the effects. If I were to ask people to say in the comments section how their names affected their tastes, I think that's what we'd see: a nice even split between, "Well, my name definitely affected my tastes: I always wanted a nickname, so I gave my children names with nicknames" and "Well, my name definitely affected my tastes: I hated my nickname, so I gave my children names without nicknames." How we feel about our names affects our decisions---but how we feel about our names is more connected to us than to our actual names.


What do you think? Have you noticed any connection between parents' names and the names of their children? And if so, what issues do you think enter into that connection?

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Baby Name to Consider: Lysander

Jemima writes:
I am a big fan of your blog - I'm not expecting (so this is not at all urgent) but I LOVE baby names. I have lists and lists of my favourites, and I love hearing your take on my favourite names.
I have a LOT of favourite girls names (Penelope, Georgiana, Anneliese, Geneva, Felicity) and a few favourite boys names (Theodore, Felix, Hugo, Gabriel), but my big question is about a boy name I have secretly loved for a while now. The name is Lysander. Is it usable? I read a book as a kid that had a great character called Lysander in it and I loved it. But does it sound too pretentious (Shakespeare)? Does it sound too 'feminine'? Maybe a poll for readers - if they think Lysander is usable?
I think the nicknames Sander and Sandy are so cute, but I just don't know if I can saddle a kid with the name Lysander.
I am not opposed to "different" names - I love having an uncommon name (Jemima). What do you think, Swistle?
Thanks so much,

It OUGHT to work: it's similar to Alexander, which is very popular. And 31 new baby boys were named Lysander in 2011, so it's not completely unused.

To me it looks and sounds more toward the feminine and fancy end of the boy-name spectrum. It has a Renaissance Fair sound; I'd put it in the same category as names such as Percival, Leopold, and Clarence.

I think the nickname Sander goes a long way to make the name more usable; I'd worry a little about Sandy, because my experience with that nickname has been limited to girls.

I like that it's been around a long time. For unusual names, I vastly prefer the ones with long roots.

I think for myself, I would prefer to use the feminine form: Lysandra and Alysandra are both pretty, and I think it's easier for girls to carry fancy/unusual names.

Let's have a poll over to the right to see what we all think of it! And in the comments section we can discuss whether we think it's usable. [Poll closed; see results below.]

Poll results for "What do you think of the name Lysander?" (412 votes total):

I love it! I'd want to use it! - 24 votes (6%)
I like it! I'd want to consider it! - 54 votes (13%)
I like it for someone else's baby - 113 votes (27%)
No particular opinion - 17 votes (4%)
Slight dislike - 113 votes (27%)
Strong dislike - 91 votes (22%)

Monday, February 25, 2013

Name Updates!

Update on Baby Girl or Boy Richardson, Sibling to Constance (Connie)!
Update on Baby Boy Hollis-with-a-W, Brother to Corin Henry!
Update on Baby Boy or Girl Roomy-with-a-T, Sibling to Finnian!
Update (and photo!) on Baby Boy Loochka, Brother to Sadie Lenore!
Update (and photo!) on Baby Girl Burr-with-a-D!

Baby Girl or Boy S!mon, Sibling to Amelia Eve

Jessica writes:
You might remember helping me & my husband name our daughter, Amelia Eve, a year and a half ago after an epic battle of naming styles. Well, we are at it again - due in May with our second (and probably last) baby. Eve was my favourite name from day one but husband was lukewarm, Amelia was his top choice and I really liked it (and the nickname potential; Murray calls her Amelia, but I call her Mia most of the time). We had to compromise on popularity but overall we both love her name.

Sibsets are very important to us (okay, to me) and I would like another classic first name that can be shortened, coupled with an already-short-but-completely-gorgeous middle. Preferences for the first name are more than two syllables, not starting or ending in A, not top twenty. This child will also have either my or my husband's middle name as a second middle which has to be taken into consideration for overall length. Easy, right? Hah.

Knowing in advance that it would be a struggle, we started straight away this time and after hearing FOR THE LAST TIME that I will never be naming a son of his Sebastian, Murray has agreed that if this baby is a boy-child, he will be Oliver Fox. THE PERFECT brother name. My guess is that means we're having another girl.

So after starting from scratch (again), we have narrowed it down to  names  - none of which quite work. But here they are:

Eloise. The last remaining girl name on our list of three from Mia, we were both agreed that we would use it if we had another girl. Unfortunately we've both gone rather lukewarm on this name. It does seem to go SO WELL with Amelia, though, and gives me Lo & Lola - so cute.

Evelyn. This was a suggestion of yours from the first round which was - surprise, surprise - vetoed by my husband. Today he looked over at me and said, apropos of nothing, "I don't mind the name Evelyn." I wanted to kill him. Instead, I edited this draft. Nickname: Evi (eh-vee), possible middle name Mae. BUT, is it too close now that we've used Eve as Mia's middle name?

Anastasia. Yes! It's back! Vetoed immediately last time, hubby has finally seen the light and agreed (albeit reluctantly) to put it on the list. Nicknames Ana or Ani, check. Hopefully Fifty Shades of Grey has not ruined this name for us (don't get me wrong, I loved the book despite it being perhaps THE worst edited best seller of all time, but not an association I really want for my baby girl). Problems here are the repetition of both the first and last letter of her sister's name, which I really wanted to avoid, plus it's a bit of a mouthful unless we can come up with a tiny little middle name for it.

Quilla. This is Murray's top choice and was his great-aunt's name. At first I said NO WAY. Maybe if we had gone with one of our outliers like Piper or Winter or Sunday the first time around, I said. It doesn't go with Amelia AT ALL, I said. Then I thought... Is it really that far off? I've never heard it before, but if you introduced yourself as Quilla, I'd spell it just like that without hesitation. There are three things that put me off it: it's two syllables with our two-syllable last name, it has zero nickname options (Q? Illy?) - and it is MY TURN to choose the first name! (Included for the sake of honesty although it makes me sound selfish. It just seems so unfair given that I have been compiling name lists since primary school.) Middle name would likely be Isobel, a name we both love but can't use as a first. If we had just named our first Eve Anastasia like I WANTED to, I would use Quilla Isobel without hesitation - but does it fit now?

Names that have been vetoed by my husband: My first choice, Imogen (unfortunately, Murray feels the way about Imogen that I did about the phrase "and then he found his own release" by the middle of book two of the Fifty Shades trilogy - I really did love the books, though, I swear. Well, the first one, anyway), Eliza, Eleanor, Coraline, Madeleine, Electra, Adelaide, Louisa, Miranda, Clara, Elodie, Corisande, Clementine, Vivienne, Rosalind, Adeline, Juliet. We both seem to prefer vowel names. Are there any left?

Names that we have rejected for other reasons are Sophia, Charlotte, Violet, Scarlett, Georgia and variations.

Middle names are another problem as it turns out Eve and Ivy were the only already-short-but-completely-gorgeous names on our list, and Murray has gone from 'meh' to utter loathing upon careful consideration of Ivy. He has already rejected Wren, Snow, Swan, Jane, June, Io, Aria, Lyra, Lyric, True, Alice, Elise, Claire and Rue as well. I would prefer a bite-sized word name that's not too 'out there', but does it exist?

So what we are looking for here is a name like Amelia Eve, or Imogen Ivy, but NOT those names... Help!

Oh, I do love Eloise so, so much. I wonder if the name would freshen right up again when it was on the baby herself? I might try doing a Google image search for newborns, and then looking at their little faces and thinking "Eloise."

I don't think the first name Evelyn is too close to her sister's middle name Eve. I don't think I would even have noticed if you hadn't mentioned it---and if I DID notice, I'd think of how I'm the same way: certain sounds and letters appeal to me again and again. Perhaps we will find a middle name that has some small thing in common with the name Amelia, and that will make an even cuter sibling set! Amelia Eve and Evelyn Anne, for example, to have swapped initials; or Amelia Eve and Evelyn Leigh to have swapped sounds.

I think Kate would make a nice short middle name for Anastasia. Amelia Eve and Anastasia Kate.

It's hard to picture a sister pairing of Amelia and Quilla. I don't see any problem with a 2-2 syllable set-up, but I do see an issue with popularity: Amelia was the 30th most popular name for girls in the U.S. in 2011 (and Mia hit the top ten), while Quilla was completely unused. On the other hand, Quilla sounds similar to Ella and Isabella and other names currently in style. I'm not sure. Combined with the lack of nicknames and the your-turn issue, I think I'd use it as a middle name---especially since Q is one of the coolest middle initials ever.

Quilla and Imogen brought the name Gillian/Jillian to mind. Jillian S!mon; Amelia and Jillian. Maybe Jillian Kate or Jillian May or Jillian Jade.

Or maybe Eliana. Eliana S!mon; Amelia and Eliana.

Has he made ANY suggestions other than Quilla? I feel like I can't get a grip on his naming tastes, since all his contributions are almost exclusively vetoes.

I think the best choice overall is Evelyn. It's compatible with Amelia in style, popularity, and length; it sounds similar to Imogen; it starts with a vowel; it has cute nicknames; and your husband has not vetoed it. SOLD. Evelyn Quilla would be nice. Or I think Evelyn Mae accomplishes the possible goal of making her middle name similar to her sister's first name in the same way her first name is similar to her sister's middle name. Eve/Evelyn/Evi and Mae/Amelia/Mia.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Names Nested Within Names

R. writes:
Hi, there!

I'm listening to "The Distant Hours" by Kate Morton as an audiobook, and it struck me that the daughter's name is nested within the mother's name:

Daughter: Edith
Mother: Meredith
I doubt it's a coincidence, judging by how this book is going on, but it got me thinking: what other name combinations do this? Besides obvious nickname ones. My favorite of the few I could think of was Nathan/Jonathan.

I think it would be a cool, inside-jokey way of connecting otherwise unrelated names. What do you think?

Ooo, I like it! Let's see how many we can think of!

Hm, Anna from Hannah might or might not qualify, but Anna from Joanna wouldn't. Beth from Elizabeth doesn't, but Eliza might because the sounds are so different and it's its own separate stand-alone name rather than a nickname---sort of like Jonathan and Nathan. Lia from Amelia might.

Amaya and May
Annabelle/Isabelle and Abel
Belinda/Melinda and Elin
Candace and Ace
Liana/Lillian/Jillian/Brianna/Brian and Ian
Shannon and Ann
Jeremy and Remy
Catherine and Erin
Elizabeth/Isabel/Annabel and Abe
Corinne and Orin
Felix and Eli
Julian and Lia
William and Lia

Some of these might not qualify; it's a little hard to find the line.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Baby Naming Issue: Is It Okay to Use the Place Name of a Local Place?

LB writes:
I'm not pregnant as of yet, but we will be trying soon. I've been obsessed with names for as long as I can remember, and I'm really excited about one. It's not often that I get "stuck" on something like this; the name has become a small obsession of mine, but there is a problem.

The problem comes from a male name, since we're able to agree on MANY female names (frontrunners are Celeste and Violet. Our favorite, Olivia, became too popular for our liking).

The name is Brock. I LOVE it. My husband loves it, too, for many reasons. For one, it's an alliterative name to our last name, which is Barlow, which I've always been a fan of. It's not super common, but is easy to say and spell- I feel this is important. I also feel like it sounds preppy, smart and strong. One-syllable names, especially for a male name, have always struck me as really great. Also, we're Canadian, and this name is of significance (in a positive way) to our country's heritage.

However, due to the heritage, many things are named "Brock", including our highway exit, which is where the problem comes in. We live in a small-ish community, which has two highway exits, one being Brock St. As you can imagine, there are also some businesses with Brock in their title... Brock Restaurant, Brock Laundromat etc.

I've grown fairly attached to the name, for all the reasons above, and also because it's a name we can both agree on. Do you think it would be wrong to use a name that our child would hear all over the place? Does it seem odd to you? Please, crush my dreams now before I get too attached, if that's the case! :)

Other details: we plan on having only one child, and we hate creative spellings.

Thanks so much,

Are you planning to stay permanently where you live now, or is it fairly likely you'll eventually move? And is the Brock St. exit area a NICE area, or a dicey one? If it's considered a nice area, and if you might move away from there anyway, I don't think you have to rule out the name; even if you're not likely to move, I think it's still within the realm of okay. Definitely it's something to weigh into the decision, though: if it came down to two names you liked equally well, and one had the location baggage and the other one didn't, I'd go with the one that didn't.

On the other hand, my guess is that a small child would get a huge kick out of seeing his name all over the place, and you'd have so much fun collecting photos and items with his name on them. I'm imagining decorating a nursery with large photos you've taken of just the "Brock" part of various business names, street signs, exit signs, etc. And if you DO move away, it'll be a very pleasant association with where he was born. Hmm, that is swaying me back the other direction. I'm imagining if someone in the U.S. lived near a Lincoln St. exit and wanted to name a child Lincoln. I think the reaction to that would be mostly positive.

Am I right that the Brock association is with Isaac Brock? If so, I notice that the name Isaac shares an end-sound with Brock. It loses both the preppiness and the alliteration, and it's more common and also harder to spell, and it has two syllables and it's a completely different style over all---so in short it's not a likely candidate. But I thought I would mention it anyway, since it does keep the heritage and that hard-C sound, and I like it with your surname. Isaac Barlow.

Or we could look around for other names that capture more of the style and sound of Brock: Burke, Ross, Drake, Derek, Dean, Bryce, Beck, Blake, Brant, Brooks, Barrett, Lachlan, Declan.

Another possibility you've no doubt considered is using Brock as the middle name. The middle name position is a great place for names you love that, for whatever reason, don't work as the first name. _____ Brock Barlow keeps the alliteration and the heritage, but lets go of the laundromat and the exit.

The more I think about it, though, the less it feels like it's a problem. It seems like it would be a positive and fun association, and at worst he'd get a little weary of saying, "Yes, like the street." I think we should have a poll over to the right, to make sure I'm not just getting swayed by the fun nursery decor. [Poll closed; see results below.]

Poll results for "How are you feeling about a baby named Brock living near the Brock St. exit?" (357 votes total):

I think it's fun and cool! - 204 votes (57%)
Fine, but better to find something else - 80 votes (22%)
I don't like the idea - 45 votes (13%)
I can't decide -  28 votes (8%)

Monday, February 18, 2013

Baby Boy or Girl M@ttia, Sibling to Camden and Avery; Avoiding Trendy Names

Elizabeth writes:
My name is Elizabeth Mary and my husband’s name is Christian Jack. Elizabeth and Christian, plain and simple, exactly what we didn’t want for our children. Our last name is M@ttia (pronounced mah-tee-uh). We have two children already whose names we absolutely fell in love with and fit them to a tee. Baby #3 is due March 27th, 2013 and we’re really hoping to go into the delivery room with two names.

Our (almost six(!) year old) son is Camden Jack, whose name we selected because of its uniqueness. But now, due to two celebrities selecting that name for their own children (one with the same exact name!), the name is on the rise which is exactly what my husband and I were trying to avoid. As of right now, he is the only Camden that we know of in his school, at soccer, etc., which is what we wanted, but now it looks like this will be changing in the future.

Our (21 month old) daughter is Avery Catherine, who is affectionately called “Avery Cate or Ava Cate” around our house and by friends and family. Now in our state, the name Avery is not popular at all, and both my husband and I never realized the popularity of it until we visited some family out east, and the amount of Avery’s in my nephew’s elementary school was astronomical.

So both of the names that we thought were so unique are both on the rise and were looking to not make the same mistake with baby #3. We want to choose a name that sounds fresh off the tongue, yet isn’t too “weird” of a name.

For boys, we’ve believed we’ve narrowed it down to two choices. When I was pregnant with Avery, our boy name was going to be Brayden Mark, but Brayden has climbed the charts rapidly over the past two years, so my husband and I both agreed to settle on something else. The two names that we have come to are extremely similar (almost rhyming), but we’re stuck on what to ultimately choose. Name #1 is  Bennett Mark and name #2 is Beckett James. We’re split 50/50 on the names and we’re hoping you could give us your opinion on the two names.

Now a girl’s name is where we come to some difficulty. We also have two names that we narrowed it down to, but both names don’t seem to be the right ones for us. Name #1 is Hadley Isabelle and name #2 is Lucia Aubrey "Luci or Lucie". Now, we love both names, but both are getting more popular with each passing day, and this is what we are trying to avoid. We’re open to suggestions if you have them.

Names that we've nixed for both genders include:
Caden, Landon, Ryder, Luca, Bria, Liliana, Reagan and Brooks

Please help us Swistle. We're very open to your suggestions, along with your readers.  We wouldn't be asking for help if we didn't need it. We understand that you have an abundance of e-mails to answer, and you don't know how much we would appreciate if you answered ours.

Thank you for taking the time to read this.

Here is what I think is making you stuck: you want to avoid trendy, common names, but your tastes are absolutely on-trend. Every single name you like, every single sound you're attracted to, is what is in style right this minute. What it comes down to in these cases is which is more important to you: a name that fits your preferences for unique, or a name that fits your tastes?

If you want a name that fits your preferences, you'll have to look among names that aren't in style, which may mean finding a name that you don't like as much. That's not a route that makes much sense to me. I'd suggest instead the route of Going With It: you love on-trend names, and this baby will have two siblings with on-trend names, so I'd suggest going with what you love. Do you love the name Brayden? It hasn't climbed rapidly in the last two years: it's climbed rapidly in the last twenty. Beckett and Bennett are following right on its heels:

(screen shot from the Social Security Administration)

(screen shot from the Social Security Administration)

(screen shot from the Social Security Administration)

Of the three, Bennett is the best bet for avoiding trendiness: Brayden didn't appear in the Top 1000 until 1991 (though we have Braden as far back as 1970) and Beckett not until 2006, but Bennett has been in the Top 1000 since 1880 (the first year we have online records for). It still has a current sound, and it's surnamey like the sibling names, but it's not a modern invention.

(With all three names, I like how your children's initials would then be A, B, and C.)

For comparison, here are the charts for Camden and Avery:

(screen shot from the Social Security Administration)

(screen shot from the Social Security Administration)

Camden and Avery hit the Top 1000 for the first time in 1990 and 1989, respectively, and then made fast progress from there. The comforting thing about the Camden chart is that it shows Nick Lachey and Kristin Cavallari have nothing to do with the current popularity of the name: it was running up the charts long before you or they chose it. (Though they may now give the name a boost for new babies---who will luckily be seven years or so behind your son in school, so it won't affect the number in his classroom or on his team.)

Here's Hadley and Lucia:

(screen shot from the Social Security Administration)

(screen shot from the Social Security Administration)

Hadley is like Avery and Brayden and Camden: it appeared in the Top 1000 fairly recently and then went rapidly up the charts. Lucia is more like Bennett: it's come back into style recently, but it's been in the Top 1000 since the data begins in 1880---so if you're avoiding trendiness, that's the way to go.

The trouble with looking for new suggestions is that every name I think of that fits well with Camden and Avery is of that same style (surnamey, modern, somewhat unisex)---and that style is what's IN style. Even if I find names that aren't in the Top 1000, it's more like "not in the Top 1000 YET": any name I suggest could appear in the 2012 data and then quickly follow the same path as Hadley and Avery.

With a fairly unisex sister name (in 2011, there were 7303 new baby girls and 1776 new baby boys named Avery), I think I might look for something more unisex than Lucia (1308 new baby girls and no new baby boys)---or something with a unisex SOUND such as Everly (currently used exclusively for girls in the U.S. but sounds like it could be for either). Everly is too similar to Avery, but maybe Ellery? Bailey? The nice thing about the name Bailey is that it had that familiar rapid rise---but then it stopped. For the last 17-18 years it's just been hanging around in the same popularity area.

Because of that, however, Bailey may not have the fresh sound you're looking for. Berkeley instead? It's not yet in the Top 1000, so even if it gets there someday, your girl would have beat the rush.

Or Brinley. It has unfortunately already started what looks like a similar rapid climb (appeared in the Top 1000 in 2009 and has already made it to #525), but it's so good with the sibling names. Brinley M@ttia; Camden, Avery, and Brinley.

Carling is a name I found in the surnames section of The Baby Name Wizard. It sounds sweetly like darling, and it has the feminine nickname Carli. It's a surname name, and it's currently completely unused in the United States. Carling M@ttia; Camden, Avery, and Carling.

Hollis is similar. Only 60 new baby girls and 101 new baby boys were given the name in 2011; it's not in the Top 1000. The nickname Holly feminizes it. Hollis M@ttia; Camden, Avery, and Hollis.

Or Ellison. Not in the Top 1000, with the nickname Ellie if she wants it. Ellison M@ttia; Camden, Avery, and Ellison. I'd be inclined to match it to Avery Catherine by giving her a long nicknameable middle name: Avery Catherine and Ellison Josephine; Ava Cate and Ellie Jo. 

Or Ellis: 311 new baby boys and 183 new baby girls in 2011.

Lane is in the Top 1000 for boys but neither Lane nor Laine shows up for girls. Laine M@ttia; Camden, Avery, and Laine.

Or Larkin: not in the Top 1000 for boys or girls. Larkin M@ttia; Camden, Avery, and Larkin.

Lennox has just hit the Top 1000 for boys, but not yet for girls (44 new baby girls and 262 new baby boys in 2011). The nickname Leni makes me think of it as more girlish, despite the numbers. Lennox M@ttia; Camden, Avery, and Lennox.

I think Padgett is an adorable surname name. Padgett M@ttia; Camden, Avery, and Padgett.

If you wanted something very on-the-edge, I think the boys are done with the name Winslow, and that it has a lot of potential as a girl name. The Win- sounds like Winnie and the -slow sounds like Sloane. But I don't think it quite hits the right sound with Camden and Avery. Winslow M@ttia; Camden, Avery, and Winslow.

I think Bethan would work well, and gives the A/B/C initials. Bethan M@ttia; Camden, Avery, and Bethan.

Oh, or Mirren would be pretty, if you don't mind alliteration with the surname. Mirren M@ttia; Camden, Avery, and Mirren.

I just saw Locklyn on, unfortunately, another celebrity baby, but the name caught my eye. Locklyn M@ttia; Camden, Avery, and Locklyn.

Name update! Elizabeth writes:
Well here it is. I promised you an update and an update is what you shall get. We loved yours and your readers suggestions and we were debating for a few days, but not too intensively as we thought we had more time, except our little one had other ideas. Baby M@ttia decided to make an early arrival on March 1, 2013,and SHE(!) is absolutely perfect! She spent 11 days in the NICU as she was on the small side and had a bit of jaundice, but everything cleared nicely. She also spent 4 days without a name because we could not agree, The hubs wanted Lennox, and I had no idea what I wanted, just not Lennox. We searched the internet and finally, my husband found the name that eventually became our baby girl's. It's not exactly something you hear everyday nor was it even on our namelists or thought of before. It took me by surprise about how much it fit our little princess. So without any further suspense, our little girl is:

Kensington Grace M@ttia
4 lbs. 6.5 oz. 19 inches

Camden and Avery have affectionately dubbed her "Kenzie" and my husband and I alternate between "Kensington, Kensington Grace, Kenzie, and Kenzie Grace". As this was not our last child, we may come to you in the future for some more naming help, but in the meantime, thank you for everything. (Oh, and by the way, our boy name was Beckett James) 

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!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Do-Over: The Pronunciation of Cecily

Earlier today I posted a question about the pronunciation of Cecily, and I misunderstood the question: I thought it was asking if the name was SESS-sih-lee or SUSS-sih-lee---but in fact it was asking if the emphasis is on the first syllable (CEC-ily) or on the second (ce-CIL-y---like Cecilia). So let's scrap that old poll and have a new poll over to the right. [Poll closed; see results below.]

My answer to the question is that the emphasis is on the first syllable. Cecile is seh-SEEL, Cecilia is seh-SEEL-lee-ah, but Cecily is SESS-sih-lee (rhymes with messily).

The Pronunciation of Cecily

Katie writes:
I noticed that you recommend the name Cecily a lot. It's one of my favourite names to look at but I can't figure out if it's pronounced Cess-a-lee or Suh-see-lee. Which one would be the more common, "go to" pronunciation?

I say it Sess-ah-lee---and would not recommend the name if I thought it were pronounced with a Suss. Let's have a poll over to the right!

[Never mind! I misunderstood the question! See new post/poll!]

Monday, February 11, 2013

Baby Naming Issue: Y Spellings and Honor Names

Modessa writes:
First, some background, which you are free to edit out if you choose to publish my question:

Long-time reader, first-time writer because....I'm not actually pregnant yet.  My husband and I are, however, planning to start trying to conceive at the end of this year and I'm already enjoying mulling over potential names.

I'm particularly sensitive to the significance of names because I have never met anyone with my name (although I am named for my paternal grandmother) and I've never found my name in a baby name book.  While I was mildly frustrated as a kid that I couldn't ever buy personalized pencils or those license plates they sell at gift shops, I quickly grew out of that and now love having a unique name with a family history.  I do not, however, tend to like names with "creative" spellings.

If we have a daughter, my husband and I are are strongly inclined to name her after my eldest sister, Catey Lynn.  Catey is pronounced like Katie; my mother chose this spelling so that Catey would have the same initials as her grandfather.

Here's the dilemma (finally):

I would like to use the name Caitlin to honor my sister and I prefer that spelling.  I'm torn, though, because I agree with the point you have made that the honor of a namesake decreases the further away you get from the actual name of the honoree.

Spelling the name Catelyn would be truer to my sister's name, but I don't want people to look at the name and assume it is "creative."  Many of the negative reactions to names with y's that are perceived as "creative" are summed up in this past post:

Then again, the "creative" phenomenon is popular, so presumably many people would react positively to the name?  I looked up the spelling Catelyn on the SSA database, and it isn't in the top 1000 names for the past 13 years.  When I looked up Caitlin, I was surprised to see that the spelling Kaitlyn is significantly more popular.

Similar female names for births in 2011
I would love to get your and your readers' input on my dilemma and promise to send an update if/when I have a daughter.  Also, if this makes a difference, the middle name would be Jane (my mother's middle name) and she would be given my husband's last name, which is similar to Pristorius, so the choice is between:

Caitlin Jane Pristorius
Catelyn Jane Pristorius

All the best,

PS:  Even more detail, but I can't help myself!  Part of my preference for the spelling Caitlin is that I perceive it as being more traditional, and I have always appreciated having one unusual name and a traditionally spelled last name (which is why I kept my maiden name).  My husband and I have already decided to give our children his name, which is unusual and frequently misspelled.  Would I be setting my daughter up for endless frustration if I gave her two unusual names?  Given that the spelling Kaitlyn is more popular than Caitlin now, it seems like she is going to have to spell her first name out for people regardless of whether we choose Caitlin or Catelyn.  I could go back and forth forever, which is why I need feedback from someone with a neutral perspective.

There are two broad categories of names spelled with the letter Y: those that happen to be spelled with a Y, and those where a Y has been put in place of the usual letter in order to change the appearance/style of the name. An easy example is Emily: clearly that's name spelled with a Y, not a Y spelling. A slightly more difficult example is Evelyn---but again, that's not a Y-spelling, it's just a name with a Y in it. Same with Peyton, Layla, Lydia, and Taylor: not Y-spellings. Emylie and Evylyn, on the other hand, are Y spellings.

The line between the two categories can get blurry. Is Mikayla a Y spelling, or not? Michaela is the original spelling, and yet Mikayla FEELS like an alternate spelling to me, not like a Y-spelling. Sometimes a spelling starts out as a Y-spelling but then becomes a standard alternate spelling, losing its connotation of Y-for-creativity. To be "a Y-spelling," there needs to be the feeling that the name was spelled with a Y on purpose to make it special in some way: more unusual, or more feminine. Madisynne, for example, or Kamryn.

All this is to say that although Caitlin is the original spelling, I think of pretty much all -lyn names as alternate spellings, not Y spellings. It doesn't look creative to me to use Caitlyn or Katelyn instead: perhaps those seemed Y-spellingish when they first emerged, but now they just seem like other ways to spell the name. There is even room to argue that the -lyn is more appropriate, since the original spelling Caitlin was pronounced more like Cat-leen or Cath-leen. Or it could be argued that there are two sound-alike names here: that Caitlin is Irish, but that Katelyn is Kate + Lynn (like Maryanne or Marybeth) and can be spelled a variety of ways (like Marianne and Maribeth).

So that's my first point: I think you can spell Caitlin with a -lyn and not come across as someone who would use Madysyn. Many spellings of Katelyn/Caitlin are currently accepted as natural, non-creative spellings; you'd probably have to go to something like Kaytelinn before you'd activate the sensors. If anyone's eyebrows did twitch, the explanation of the reasons behind the spelling ought to take care of that.

My second point has to do with the honor factor. I agree that Catelyn seems like the most honor-y choice---but I'd say that going with Caitlin wouldn't make a huge difference. When someone wants to name a daughter Madison after Grandma Mildred, I wonder if they've considered how honored they'd feel by that if they were Grandma Mildred. But if someone names a daughter Catherine after Grandma Cathryn, it seems like a much smaller step away. And since you're already going from Catey Lynn to Caitlin/Catelyn, the spelling difference feels like it's tied to the name change rather than being a second step away.

In short, I feel like both choices are good choices for different reasons. You're a bit stuck here: you don't like creative spellings, but you want to honor someone with a creatively spelled name; neither option is going to fully satisfy both preferences. I think if I were you, it would come down to weighing the things that make the spellings different, to see which feels closer to what you want: the stronger connection to your sister's name on one hand, the original/traditional spelling on the other hand. I'm not sure which way I'd go if it were me. I might use Catey Lynn!

As for having two names she'll have to spell, I'm afraid she's stuck with that no matter what: there are just so many ways to spell Caitlin. But I don't think of it as a huge deal: I think it's so common now for people to have to spell both.

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, 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. 


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.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Baby Boy Sousa, Brother to Grady and Mason

H. writes:
Just yesterday I actually broke down and cried over trying to figure out a name for our third baby boy--I took this as a sign that I need some help. I am due in early April 2013 and my darling husband and I are at an impasse. My oldest son (from a previous marriage) is Grady Owen Lanser. I love his name. I loved it when I first stumbled upon it 10 years ago and have never had a single regret--naming him was blissfully easy. 

My second son is Mason Cruz Sousa, a name we decided on while I was 5cm dilated and hours from birthing him, clearly not a strategy I would advise to anyone. It took us about a month to realize we hated the name Cruz, and though he is two years old now, we have decided that we are going to have his middle name legally changed this year (haven't quite decided yet--Noah and Everett are contenders). And though I have liked the name Mason for a very long time, we did not spend enough time saying it with our last name--Mason Sousa, too many "s" sounds running together. His name, I do regret.

I am terrified that we will once again end up in the same crazed, in-labor, no-name-ready place we were with our second.

So this is where we are. I like: Beau, Everett, Noah, Levi, Leo, Garrett, Jonah and Wyatt, all of which he doesn't want to use for one reason or another.

He likes: Marshall, Phillip, Logan, and Dylan, though he is pushing hard for Marshall. Actually, I don't mind Marshall, but I am concerned about the nicknames he might endure (Marshmallow, Marsh), and I also didn't want two kids whose names start with the same letter (Mason and Marshall--too similar?) or two names that are both two syllable ending in "n" (Mason and Logan)

If we had had a girl, our possibilities were: Gigi, Vivian, Stella, Josephine and Maryn (pronounced Mare-in), names we definitely could agree on.

If you can offer any assistance, I would be forever grateful.

Everett from your list and Phillip from his makes me think of Elliot. Elliot Sousa; Grady, Mason, and Elliot. A new name beginning and a new name ending!

Or there's Emmett. Emmett Sousa; Grady, Mason, and Emmett.

The name Phillip Sousa brings John Philip Sousa to mind. It's by no means a negative association, nor was it very strong for me (for a minute I thought, "Hm, something about Phillip Sousa rings half a bell, I wonder why?"), but it's something I'd want to consider before choosing the name.

Would Mitchell work better than Marshall? It still starts with M, but seems much less matchy than Mas/Mars. I went to school with a Mitchell/Mitch who was so smart and kind, it's left me with a very good impression of the name.

I also went to school with a boy who went by his surname Marshall (we had a lot of Jasons, and there was a bit of a scramble to come up with alternative names), and I don't remember marsh or marshmallow coming up. On the other hand, I was only in one elementary classroom with him, and by high school a lot of that stuff is over, so I could have missed it.

Levi and Leo make me think of Liam. Liam Sousa; Grady, Mason, and Liam.

Garrett and Dylan make me think of Darien. Darien Sousa; Grady, Mason, and Darien. It repeats the -n ending of Mason, but having an extra syllable reduces the impact of that for me.

Or Deacon. Deacon Sousa; Grady, Mason, and Deacon.

Noah and Dylan make me think of Nolan. Again it repeats the -n ending of Mason, but I still like it---and so many boy names end in N. Nolan Sousa; Grady, Mason, and Nolan.

Beau and Dylan make me think of Dean. Dean Sousa; Grady, Mason, and Dean.

If it would be fun to repeat the two syllables and and five letters and long-A, I wonder if you'd like Caleb. Caleb Sousa; Grady, Mason, and Caleb. Each name has its own distinct beginning, ending, and consonant sounds, but they feel like a very good set of brothers. Jacob would be similar.

Because Grady and Mason can both be surnames, I'm inclined toward other surname names. Tanner, perhaps. Tanner Sousa; Grady, Mason, and Tanner.

Or Bennett! Bennett Sousa; Grady, Mason, and Bennett.

Or Carter. Carter Sousa; Grady, Mason, and Carter.

Or Clark. Clark Sousa; Grady, Mason, and Clark.

Parker. Parker Sousa; Grady, Mason, and Parker.

Calvin. Calvin Sousa; Grady, Mason, and Calvin.

For Mason's new middle name, Noah seems to blend/repeat too much (the -n/N- of Mason Noah, and then the -ah/-a of Noah Sousa), especially in a name where you're already sorry about too many S sounds. It all runs together for me: Maysa-noa-sousa. I love Mason Everett Sousa. At first I thought the MES initials were going to seem too much like "mess," but then I remembered I've encountered those initials regularly on an institution and I've never once thought of "mess," so it must not come to mind even for those of us who tend to be a bit oversensitive to such things. Another possibility, if your husband is very keen on Marshall but it turns out you just don't want to use it as a first name, is to use that as the middle name: Mason Marshall Sousa.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Baby Boy Terry

Tiffanie writes:
I came across your blog this summer and love the input and insight you and your readers give to expecting parents! I'm 21 weeks along and am hoping you might have to time to help my husband and I agree on a name for our little boy that is due mid-June.

My name is Tiffanie and my husband's name is Ryan. Our last name is Terry.

Finding a girls name was a piece of cake. By the end of the first trimester, and after only discussing names off and on briefly, we had picked out Emmeline Rose. Agreeing on a boys name, however, has been a totally different story. I'm dead set on naming my son after my father whose name is Rex. I've always known I've wanted to honor my father this way, and I also want to pass along a name from my side of the family. My husband is on board, but isn't sure he likes it as the child's first name. His favorite dog growing up was named Rex and he fears having a son with the same name will just be odd.

I've suggested calling our son by his middle name instead of Rex. My husband thinks we should use Rex as a middle name, but now that my dad was diagnosed with cancer this year, I feel even more strongly about Rex being the first name. Maybe I'm just overly emotional because of the pregnancy hormones, but deep down in my heart, I really want Rex as the first name.

Now, getting to our naming issue, we can't find a middle name, which will be the name we'll most likely call our son by, that seems right with Rex. We both don't want a name that can also be mistaken for a last name. My husband gets called Terry Ryan all the time. He would love a name that is a fairly obvious first name. (Although, I never would have thought Ryan would be mistaken for a last name, but it does!)

Rex Harvey is the only contender we currently have and both like. I worry Rex and Harvey are both such "old" and uncommon names that it is just too much. But, I just love the way it sounds!

Other names we have considered, but vetoed:

I'm not too found of using a popular name. I didn't like having to be called Tiffanie D. all through school because there were four other Tiffany's in my class and wouldn't want any of my children to have to do that.

Any help or insight you and your readers could share would be oh-so wonderful! I'm just so overwhelmed with the name game! (also, i apologize for the length of this e-mail)

Because your husband is uncertain about the name Rex, I think it should be the middle name. That's a lovely and significant place for an honor name, and seems like the sensible place for a name you're not planning to use: better to put it in the middle name position, and then maybe find pleasingly that you do occasionally use it with the first name: "Hey, Grady Rex, time for dinner!"

Using Rex as the middle name also sets you up nicely for future children: if you have another child and want to use another honor name but as the middle name this time, it won't seem like a lesser honor. And if your husband thinks of a relative he'd like to honor as the next child's first name, but you don't like the name for a first name, you won't feel like you're stuck returning the favor.

You have your reasons for wanting to use the name as a first name, but a baby's name is a decision for both parents to make. If your husband were insisting on naming the baby after himself or after his own father, or if he were insisting on using another name he'd always wanted to use, I would be reminding you right now that you didn't have to go along with that: just because one parent feels strongly about using a name or naming tradition, that doesn't mean one parent gets to make the decision all on his or her own.

It can help to picture the tables turned: imagine if you were having a girl, and your husband were insisting on naming her after his mother (or grandmother or aunt or sister, if coincidentally you like your mother-in-law's name enough to ruin the example), even though you weren't sure about it. It wouldn't really matter how strongly he felt about it, I would still be saying it was not up to him, and that using the name as a middle name was the perfect way for two people to compromise. Then you can work together on choosing your child's first name, so that it will be special to both of you instead of to only one of you.

If the name Rex were out of the picture, what would your joint name list look like? Are there names that have been vetoed because they didn't work as middle names with Rex? I'd suggest bringing those back into consideration. This may mean starting from scratch, since the rhythm of ____ Rex Terry is quite different than the rhythm of Rex ____ Terry. You may find you suddenly have many more names to choose from.

With a surname that can also be a first name, no name is going to completely prevent the names sometimes getting swapped---but you're right that some names will cause less of a problem than others. Grady and Everett and Dierks can look like surnames, for example, but Milo doesn't as much. The problem is compounded by your wish to find an unusual first name: if I saw "Henry Terry" I wouldn't think it was likely that the name was actually supposed to be Terry Henry, because Henry is a common first name right now and Terry is not. But if I saw "Harvey Terry," I would be less certain: Harvey is a very uncommon name right now, even less common than Terry (according to the Social Security Administration, in 2011 there were 472 new baby boys named Terry and 243 new baby boys named Harvey), so I'd be less certain.

This may mean making a choice between two preferences. Almost every name has a hassle of one sort or another; would you prefer the "Henry T." type of hassle or the "Terry Harvey" type of hassle? Luckily you have one person in your family with each of the two experiences: you can compare your Tiffanie D. experience with your husband's Terry Ryan experience. How often did each issue come up, and how difficult was it to handle? Would either issue be more or less of an issue than the hassle of spelling/pronouncing an unusual name?

If your husband is willing to let you make the decision on the first name, then I think Rex Harvey is a very nice name. Do you both like the sound of the name Harvey Terry, since that's what you would be mostly calling him? Some people don't like repeated endings, and some people like them. If you like it, I'd say you have your name.

Name Updates!

Update (and photo!) on Baby Girl or Boy Nawcan, Sibling to Josi@h and Audrey!
Update on Baby Girl Highsler, Sister to Shane Matthew!
Update (and photo!) on Baby Boy Hennen, Brother to William!