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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Baby Girl Math-E, Sister to Isla Juliet

Jacquelyn writes:
We need your help! Our second daughter, and most-likely last child, is set to arrive this March, and we are going in circles trying to name her. Our first daughter is Isla Juliet, last name sounds like Math-E. Although we didn't foresee Isla becoming as popular as it has, we continue to adore it. It falls in the short and sweet category that we prefer, and feels feminine and spunky at the same time. We would like to give this baby a moniker with similar qualities, yet not projected to skyrocket the charts as her sister's did. We are confident that the perfect name is waiting to be unearthed...and you can help us do that!

There are several names that have been on and off of our list, including Lucia, Eva, Cora, and my husband's all time favorite, Alba. We may be willing to reconsider these, but for some reason or another, they just aren't feeling "right."

As it stands, two names - and two names only - continue to be in the running:


We like both names well enough, but have found problems with each. With Thea, we worry that that the repeating "thee" sound in our first and last names is too much. And while Eleanor is our top contender at this point, we only like the name as a whole. Is the ever-popular Ellie inevitable? Is Eleanor destined to be uber-popular? When it comes down to it, we feel that there could be a better choice out there that we just haven't come across.

I should also mention that we have yet to choose a middle name, but will be keeping with family tradition and giving our daughter a "J" name like my husband and his brothers', mine and my sisters', and our daughter's middle. So any suggestions there, while certainly not expected, would be of great help.

Thank you for taking the time to read our naming dilemma. We are grateful for your insight, and your opinions are highly valued and so very appreciated.

I do think Thea Math-ee is too much ee and th.

Eleanor is rising steadily. In the 1980s, it was in the 600s. In the 1990s, it was in the 500s and 400s. In the first decade, it was in the 300s and 200s. And in 2010, it was #165. It's not racing up the charts, but it's going at a nice brisk walk.

But I wouldn't necessarily let popularity rule out the name. For one thing, it's hard to know how many little Eleanors will be called Eleanor. Many parents are choosing it as a way to get the nickname Ellie, and others are choosing it as a way to get the nickname Nora (which I'd be recommending to you because of its similarity to Thea/Isla/Cora, except it's rising even faster than Eleanor). I do think it's easier now to prevent people from using nicknames you don't want them to use---but of course she might get older and choose a nickname for herself.

I wonder if a name like Linnea would appeal? Linnea and Eleanor share similar sounds, but Linnea ends up with a lighter touch---more like Isla. Isla and Linnea.

Linnea makes me think of Fiona. Isla and Fiona.

Fiona reminds me of Bianca, a name that's approximately the same popularity but falling instead of rising.

I see that one of my mom's favorite names is in The Baby Name Wizard as a sister name for Isla: Esme.

I think Audra has some of the rich sounds of Thea and Eleanor. Isla and Audra.

Instead of Thea, would you like Bria or Cleo or Delia or Freya or Gia or Mira or Opal?

You've probably spent a good deal of time in the J names already, but a few of my favorites are:


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Baby Girl Garnet, Sister to Brendan and Bridget

B. writes:
I never thought I'd need baby name advice, but here I am. I have a 4 year old son, and a less than one year old daughter and I am unexpectedly pregnant with baby #3 (definitely the last) due in April 2012. Our last name rhymes with Garnet (emphasis on first syllable). My son is named Brendan and my daughter is Bridget. We didn't necessarily plan on two names with Br- but we didn't see it as problematic either. They were names we both loved and had family connections.

Middle name: Probably going to be Maria in honor of my mother-in-law. Less concerned with it working with middle as I am with last.

Names we've considered:

Brynn (I like, husband doesn't, and is it too cute to have three names have Br- starts?)
Fiona (husband loves, not sure I do. Shrek association?)
Bevin (I like, husband doesn't)
Ellen (I don't love, maybe variations? Kind of like Ellie as a NN)
Nora (probably out because of negative family association)
Maeve (probably out because of negative family association)

Names that are out (due to use by family): Claire, Kayleigh, most anything ending in -een (Maureen, Eileen, Kathleen, etc.), Meaghan, Catherine. I generally don't love the idea of a hugely popular / trendy girl name (there goes Ava, Olivia, Emma, etc.) Husband likes Isabella. Feels far too popular/trendy for me. As you can see, we (generally) like Irish sounding names, but my husband balks at the more traditional names with spellings that don't "match" the pronunciation (see, e.g, Aisling, Aoife, Niamh) -- though I've advocated a phonetic variation like Neve.

I could really use some fresh suggestions and a new perspective.


I think I might not do a third Br- name in a row (I wouldn't rule it out, either, but it's a very distinctive theme so I'd want to be sure it was what I wanted), but I think I WOULD be hoping to find a B name I liked: a B name would keep the third child from standing out, but would also keep the theme from seeming too forced/cute. Some possibilities:

Brendan, Bridget, and Beatrix
Brendan, Bridget, and Bethany
Brendan, Bridget, and Bianca (similar to Fiona, but no ogre)

The trouble is, a LOT of good girl B names are Br. If you do go that route, I'd look for ones that have a distinctively different sound (i.e., not Brenna because it's so close to the Bren of Brendan; not Brecken because it shares not only the Br but also the short-E and the N-ending of Brendan). I've put Brinley on the list because the -ley adds such a different sound---but the short-I and the N might make it too close to the Bren of Brendan and the Brih of Bridget. (Spelling it Brynley might remove some of the visual similarity, and also give you the Brynn you liked.)

Brendan, Bridget, and Braelyn
Brendan, Bridget, and Bria
Brendan, Bridget, and Briar
Brendan, Bridget, and Briarley
Brendan, Bridget, and Brielle
Brendan, Bridget, and Briley
Brendan, Bridget, and Brinley
Brendan, Bridget, and Briony
Brendan, Bridget, and Britton (Britten? Brittyn?)
Brendan, Bridget, and Bronwyn
Brendan, Bridget, and Brooklyn

If I weren't going to use B/Br, I might look for a name with a strong B/Br sound in the middle (Gabrielle, for example), or I might find some other tie-in: Margaret, for example, to echo the ending sound of Bridget, or a strong D sound to tie it to the D sound in each of the other names. Some of these might not work with the surname, depending how close it is to Garnet.

Brendan, Bridget, and Aubrey
Brendan, Bridget, and Cambria
Brendan, Bridget, and Danica
Brendan, Bridget, and Gabrielle
Brendan, Bridget, and Greta
Brendan, Bridget, and Gretchen
Brendan, Bridget, and Gwendolyn (too rhymey with Brendan?)
Brendan, Bridget, and Juliette
Brendan, Bridget, and Keelin
Brendan, Bridget, and Kendall
Brendan, Bridget, and Madigan
Brendan, Bridget, and Margaret
Brendan, Bridget, and Meredith
Brendan, Bridget, and Sabrina
Brendan, Bridget, and Violet

Since you like both Ellen and Nora, Eleanor would be a nice way to get the sounds of both while diluting the negative family association. I'm also reminded of Lauren.

Ellen and Bevin and Brynn and Maeve make me think of Evelyn.

Fiona makes me think of Bianca, and also of Ione, and also of Catriona (I'm thinking of the four-syllable cat-tree-OH-nah pronunciation, rather than the Celtic three-syllable cat-TREE-nah pronunciation).

Oh, or Rowan! It's similar to Fiona, Ellen, and Bevin.

Name update! B. writes:
Maeve Teresa was born on 4/18.

We decided it was silly to choose a name we didn't love just to keep the B "thing" going (Bonnie, though, was a strong contender for a while). Though I loved a few of Swistle's suggestions for the 'br' sound elsewhere, husband wasn't on board with any. One of the commenters generated a nice list of strong Irish girl names, but I had difficulty selling husband on most of them (Deirdre, Aislinn, Caitlin each was a contender at one point, as was Maura). We went into delivery pretty set on another name (Fiona), but neither of us thrilled with the choice. Then she was born, and she just looked like a Maeve, and we haven't had one moment of naming regret since. Thanks for everyone's suggestions and help!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Name Updates!

Update on Baby Girl N___stat, Sister to Lincoln!
Update on Baby Naming Issue: Roman Bishop!

Baby Girl Northcutt, Sister to Reid and Jace

Meredith writes:
I enlisted your help a couple years ago in coming up with a name for our second boy. We are now pregnant again, and with a GIRL!!! But, we are once again having a hard time agreeing on a name. The middle name will be named after my husband's grandmother, Jo. The name we like is Collyn Jo, but I'm thinking that after having 2 boys, I want a pretty, girly, feminine name and Collyn has a "boyish" ring to it. Our boys names are Reid Michael and Jace Ryan. Another name I like is Charlotte. Our last name is Northcutt, so something that flows well with that. Even though the boys both have one syllable names, I think our girl will need to have a 2 or 3 syllable name in order to go with Jo. Thoughts?

Thanks so much! I love how you put so much thought into the names!!!!

If you want to tweak Collyn to make it a little more feminine (though changing the i to a y already does a good job of making it clear to the eye if not to the ear), I suggest Calyn (rhymes with Alan), nickname Callie if you want it (an improvement on Collie). Calyn Jo Northcutt; Reid, Jace, and Calyn.

Another option, even more feminine, is Calla. Calla Jo Northcutt; Reid, Jace, and Calla.

Jo would also make a wonderful first name. Jo ______ Northcutt; Reid, Jace, and Jo.

Was Jo short for Josephine? That would be lovely, too: Josephine Northcutt is a wonderful name.

Collyn reminds me of Marin. Marin Jo Northcutt; Reid, Jace, and Marin.

Just sitting here mulling the brother names, I suddenly thought of Piper. Piper Jo Northcutt. Reid, Jace, and Piper.

I think Kiley would work wonderfully, too. Kiley Jo Northcutt; Reid, Jace, and Kiley.

I agree that the middle name Jo works best with a longer-than-1-syllable first name. If you would otherwise have liked the coordination of three 1-syllable names, a similar idea would be to give all three children 4-letter names. Some possibilities:


Or you could choose a longer name to go with the middle name, but one that has a 1-syllable nickname. Laney Jo Northcutt---but Reid, Jace, and Lane. Rosalie Jo Northcutt---but Reid, Jace, and Rose. Caitlyn Jo Northcutt---but Reid, Jace, and Cait. Teagan Jo Northcutt---but Reid, Jace, and Teag. Skylar Jo Northcutt---but Reid, Jace, and Sky.

Or if Jo was short for another name, you could use that other name as the middle name instead, and then be free to choose a 1-syllable first name.

Name update! Meredith writes:
I really enjoyed all the thoughts, opinions, and suggestions I received from you and your blog readers on the naming of our baby girl! We've decided to go with Brynn Kathryn. Reid, Jace and Brynn. :)

Thanks again!!!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Baby Girl James, Sister to Max Oliver

Elena writes:
My name is Elena and my husband Oliver and I are expecting our second baby - a girl - who is due on the 5th of January. We have a son named Max Oliver, and we absolutely adore his name. Fortunately we do not have the problem of being unable to agree on any names. We have three girls names that we would be happy to use in a heartbeat, but they have some issues that may make them unsuable. Middle name will be either Elena or May after me (family tradition).

Our top name is Alaia, uh-LIE-uh. There is the obvious problem of "a liar". Infact when I told my mum that we loved Alaia her response was "Alaia? Like a liar? That could cause some problems." Although the next day she told me that she actually really liked it, after she thought more about it. It sounds sooooo pretty when you don't think of "a liar". But I would hate to give my daughter a name that gives her grief. Another problem is that Elena and Alaia are kinda similar sounding, though I do go by Elle 80% of the time. So what do you think? Is Alaia usable? If we used Alaia she would be Alaia May.

Our second name is Ruby. Max and Ruby. Like the childrens TV show. Does that make Ruby unusable for us? We LOVE it, and we love how Max and Ruby sound together, but does it seem tacky? Like we were trying to copy the TV show? She would be Ruby Elena. Max Oliver and Ruby Elena. Oh it's so cute! We are hoping to have one more baby, so if we had Max, Ruby and Theo (our favourite boy name) does that make it better?

Our third name is Mia. It comes with little problems, such as the repeating 'M' initial. Max and Mia. I think it sounds cute, but I don't know if it's too cutesy and tacky. We also know a few little girls named Mia, so I don't know if it's a bit popular (I know Ruby is popular too (at least in Aus), but we don't know any). Also the middle name is an issue, Mia May sounds way too cutesy, but Mia Elena doesn't sound right either because of them both ending in 'a'. So yeah, I'm just not sure.

Our last name is James, so we really want a girls name that is clearly feminine. Some other names we have considered, but aren't using are:

And like I said before, our favourite boy name is Theo, so if we have another boy this will most likely be his name!

So what do you think Swistle and readers? Are these names usable or unusable? Maybe a poll could be helpful. Suggestions for other names would be great too!

Another issue with Alaia is pronunciation: I wouldn't have known how it was pronounced, and probably would have tried "ah-LAY-yah" first (I'd be thinking, "Maybe it's like Alaina, but without the N"). After finding out the actual pronunciation, I noticed I immediately started using "a liar" as a mnemonic to help me remember how to pronounce it---unfortunately reinforcing that connection.

Names similar to Alaia that might avoid the issues:

Maya/Mya (same middle name problems as Mia)

My favorite is Eliza: to me it sounds almost exactly like Alaia, but without the liar-sound and spelling/pronunciation issues. Eliza May James; Max and Eliza.

My kids watched Max and Ruby, so for me it's an instant and deal-breaking connection. I think if you had another child in between a Max and a Ruby it would improve things somewhat---but still not enough for me to take it out of the category of "Names that were unfortunately eliminated by other names used."

Names similar to Ruby that might avoid the issues:


My favorite is Ivy: the sassiness of Ruby without a children's television theme song springing to mind. Ivy Elena James; Max and Ivy.

I also like Phoebe. It has the sassiness and also the -bee ending of Ruby. Phoebe Elena James; Max and Phoebe.

Max and Mia are definitely very, very cute, but not in a way that makes me think Mia should be ruled out (i.e., just cute, not tacky). One concern is whether having two 3-letter, M-initial names will make you feel backed into a corner when choosing a name for a possible third child.

Names similar to Mia that might avoid the issues:

Cleo (but would rule out Theo for a future child)
Gia (maybe not with James)

My favorite is Willa. It's sweet like Mia, without crossing the possible Too Cute line, or backing you into a corner later. Willa May James; Max and Willa.

I also like Isla, especially since it appears on two of the lists: it's like a cross between Alaia and Mia. Isla May James; Max and Isla.

Name update! Elena writes:
Our little girl arrived a whole week early on the 29th of December. Oliver and I could not decide which name was our favourite, but we managed to narrow it down to Isla May and Lucy Elena. We had decided to wait until she was born to decide. When we met her, neither of us knew what name she 'felt' like. When Max came to meet her we asked him if we should name her Isla or Lucy, and he said Isla. So she became Isla May. We are all in LOVE with our Isla, and couldn't be happier with her name. I also love that Max got to choose her name...he tells everyone that he "choosed Isla"!

Thank you Swistle and to all who commented!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Baby Girl Wice, Sister to Natalie and Noelle

M. writes:
I am hoping that you can help me with our baby girl name conundrum. My husband and I have two little girls and are due to expect our third (and final) child in January. Since all reports seem to show that this child is a girl, we are looking at the girl name list for a third time! Our other daughters are Natalie Sage and Noelle Juniper. While Natalie and Noelle both are Christmas names, we named them those names because we liked the sound of the names and not because they had to do with Christmas. We are not looking for another N name, nor are we particularly interested in continuing the Christmas trend, although it would have been Nicholas if the child was a boy. We also are fond of nature middle names since we love hiking and the great outdoors. Our last name is very similar to Wice (rhymes with mice). Our short list for first names includes Alaina (Lainey), Victoria (Tori), Amelia, Avery, and Rachel. Our short list for middle names includes Wren and Acacia. I am a little concerned about some of these names becoming too popular. I don't mind a trendy name but don't want my daughter being one of three with the same name in kindergarten! We are not necessarily locked into our short lists and are open to new ideas. What name do you think we should choose for our last little girl?

Popularity is such a tricky thing. Going by statistics alone (which is dicey, since the statistics are national and might not be played out in as small a sample as a classroom), Amelia is #41 and rising. Alaina is #207, but combining it with spellings Alayna, Elena, Elayna, Alena, and Elaina (most of which are rising, but not rapidly) brings it to #36---and adding in Lainey and Laney (which I wouldn't normally recommend because it's misleading, but just to give the idea for classroom-duplication-likelihood purposes) would bring it to #23. Victoria is #32 and gradually falling in popularity. Avery is #23 for girls and rising rapidly, but it's also used for boys, which increases even further the likelihood of another Avery in a classroom. Rachel is least common at #100 and falling briskly---though my mother taught in Christian schools and it's much more popular there, so it depends on your own circle. For comparison, Natalie is #14 and Noelle is #366.

With Natalie and Noelle, my favorite is Alaina (visually I think I like it even better as Elena, but that does make the nickname harder to spell; Elaina, maybe? but then the initials are EW, so never mind this whole parenthetical). But neither middle name seems quite right with it (I like it with Wren, but then Wren Wice seems choppy and difficult to say---although middle/last flow is not typically a big deal).

I think Ivy and Holly would both be sweet nature-theme middle names: not TOO Christmassy, more like "botanical names that just happen to be cool with the Christmas theme in case that appeals to anyone to keep that going." Alaina Ivy Wice, or Alaina Holly Wice.

I also think the name Laurel works beautifully: Alaina Laurel Wice. Or Hazel: Alaina Hazel Wice. For something more whimsical, I have a soft spot for the name Clover: Alaina Clover Wice. For the sweet birdness of Wren without the choppiness with the surname, I like Starling: Alaina Starling Wice. (And the "star" part makes it just a little Christmassy. I know you said you're not looking for that, but I'm finding it such an appealing theme!)

I thought I might look for a few more first name candidates, and I started by looking up Natalie in The Baby Name Wizard to see what categories she put it in---and she has Noelle for a suggested sister name! Since she seems to have your number, I wonder if you'd like any of the other suggested sister names: Gabrielle, Brooke, Jacqueline, Bethany. Or for Noelle: Simone, Lea, Eden, and Giselle. I like Bethany and Simone best. Bethany Acacia Wice; Natalie, Noelle, and Bethany. Simone Acacia Wice; Natalie, Noelle, and Simone.

I love Clara with the sister names and with your surname, and the very subtle Christmas tie-in (I can't stop!) is that that's the name of the little girl in The Nutcracker. Clara Starling Wice; Natalie, Noelle, and Clara.

Or Eva (slight Christmas Eve tie-in, if you want it). Eva Wice; Natalie, Noelle, and Eva.

If you decided to go with a third N name after all, I think both Naomi and Nora are wonderful. Naomi Wice; Natalie, Noelle, and Naomi. Nora Wice; Natalie, Noelle, and Nora.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Baby Boy Faith, Brother to Cade and Colin

Candice writes:
Help please!
I am due in about 10 weeks with our third boy. We have Cade Bryan, who is 5, and Colin David Franklin, who is 3. Colin's middle names are his 2 grandpa's names, so we are set on honoring family. I am Candice and my husband is Bryan, and our last name is Faith. So obviously 'Christian' is not an option. We are having a hard time naming this last child! We are mainly looking at B or C names, but not exclusively. We like names that are somewhat unusual. Being a teacher, my goal is to not have my children be in class with someone of their same name. (although Cade has gotten quite popular since we picked it.) Here is the list we are considering, but by no means are we only going to use one of these. We are open to any and all suggestions! The top 7 are marked, the others are in no particular order. If this baby were a girl, she would have been Brinley or Lucy.


Any thoughts are greatly appreciated! thank you!

The name Cade had a peak in 2001 at #201, but since then has been steadily getting less common:

(screenshot from The Social Security Administration)

The name Colin is significantly more common than Cade, but has also been much steadier in its popularity ranking, which makes its popularity less noticeable. (Combining it with the spelling Collin, the name would be #70 in 2010.)

(screenshot from The Social Security Administration)

If your primary goal is to try to avoid classroom duplicates, I'd cross Owen off the list: it was #47 in 2010 and it's still climbing. Max is trickier to figure out: it was #98 in 2010, but combined with Maxwell and Maximus (two of the more common long-forms) it's already up to #46 so I'd cross that one off too. Brycen/Bryson together are #95; that's getting more comparable to the popularity of the name Colin. Chase is #66 (and sounds like a command when paired with the surname); Carson/Karson is #71. I'd scratch off Cameron: Cameron/Camron/Kameron/Kamron was #40 in 2010, but it's also used commonly for girls so that increases the chances of a classroom duplicate.

So from your list of favorites, I'd say Cayson is the best choice for avoiding classroom duplication. Even combining it with Cason, Kason, and Caysen, it was still only #253 in 2010: about as common as Cade/Kade, but still much less common than Colin and all the other candidates.

But the statistics are national so can be misleading: certain areas tend to have more of certain sorts of names. And statistics don't take into account how similar the names Cade and Cayson sound: I think there might be some trouble with people getting the sounds confused and ending up with Case and Cayden.

So I think if I were you I might go with a riskier-but-still-not-TOO-risky name from the finalists: Brycen or Carson, I think. Either of those is uncommon enough to be statistically unlikely to have two in a classroom, but quite different in sound from Cade and Colin. If you might have more children later on, I'd choose Brycen to introduce the second possible initial early on. If three is it, I'd lean more toward Carson.

Or, I might move down into the list of alternates. Is Cyler pronounced with a soft C like Cyrus and Cyril, or is it the same as Kyler? If it's a respelling of Kyler, I think I wouldn't use it because of mispronunciation hassles. Colin and Callum are hard for me to say together, and Cole seems like a blend of Cade and Colin, but I think Colter or Coleman would work great: they LOOK like they'd sound too similar to Colin, but they don't. Camden also seems like it would work very well.

Name update! Candice writes:
Thank you for your input and the advice of your readers! We have decided to go with Bryson Benjamin Faith. We have had some negative comments from family and friends that thought we should go with another 'C' name because we have Cade and Colin, but we think Bryson fits well with our family, especially considering my husband is Bryan. Thanks again for your help! Bryson should be joining us soon, and I'll be sure to send a picture when he gets here!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Baby Naming Issue: A Grandmother Insisting on a Naming Tradition

Kristen writes:
I am pregnant with my second baby due in April, and not only are we having trouble choosing the name of this little angel, but it seems that our 1 1/2 year old daughter's name is also again a subject of the name game... First of all, my name is Kristen and my husband's name is Angelo- I'm surprised our names are not up to debate. Our last name sounds like Scorus, my husband comes from Greece. Our daughter's name is Seraphina Madelyn Scorus - we just loved Seraphina and Madelyn was my Gramma's middle name. We call her Phina most times. I also have a 16 year old stepson traditionally named after my husband and his father- Angelo Jorge. Anyway... we do not know the sex of this baby although if he is a little boy we have settled on Atticus Maximilian. All the aforementioned drama occurs around a little girl's namesake.

We recently learned via a random, and very loud might I add, 2am phone call from Greece that my huband's very lovely, and very traditionally Greek, mother has used the 1 1/2 years following Seraphina's birth to stew on the fact that we did not name her Hericklia after her. Ok I went the unique, religious, traditional route with Seraphina and I am willing to push the name envelope, but I wouldn't even be sure what font to choose for the name Haricklia on baby announcements. And if you're wondering, yes we tried to satisfy this request with Lillian or Lili as a variation, even Harriet, but it's a no-go on the moniker route. I really don't think it's even our middle name style unless Swistle creates a miracle here. Which is entirely possible I've read.

So here I am, listening to advice ranging from "follow tradition" to "it's your baby, don't listen to anyone else." Whatever. Over it. My little girl can have two middle names and my mother (Ginger by the way, oh my goodness) at least understands my predicament and isn't insisting on including her name. Either that or the love of her future granddaughter has caused her to understand the possible effects of the name Haricklia Ginger or, Ginger Haricklia for that matter, stamped on her report card. So all I can think of is adding a third name, but my first daughter has only two. And this only semi-solves one problem- we still can't think of a female sibling name for Seraphina Madelyn, regardless! We've liked Scarlet (but Scarlet Scorus probably not), Charlotte (but we neither live in the city nor the web) and Genevieve (Umm it's okay we guess and Ginger appeared on it's nickname list- proof that I am not entirely an undutiful daughter). Oh, and the whole situation is compounded because due to medical complications, this baby blessing is most likely our last. Oh mighty Swistle, OH MIGHTY SWISTLE, help! Please? Or maybe I can just place an order for a little boy;)

Thank you very much!

If I'm following along correctly, the Greek tradition is to name the firstborn son after his father, and the firstborn daughter after the father's mother? So the tradition was followed for your husband's first child, but then was broken for his second. Is it possible that your mother-in-law isn't even asking to have her name used for the possible second daughter, but is just letting you know she's still mad about the first one?

It seems to me that if your mother-in-law is accepting no compromises on the name, it's unlikely she'd be satisfied by a compromise of the entire tradition (by using the name on a secondborn daughter instead of the first). Nor does it sound as if she'd settle for the second middle name slot. I think at this point it is up to your husband to say to his mother that the first daughter has already been named without following traditions, and that it wouldn't be right to give the firstborn daughter's naming tradition to the secondborn daughter.

However: I am aware that it is one thing to talk about how other people should handle things in our imaginations (where every such confrontation leaves the problematic person speechless in the face of our logic and eloquence), and another thing entirely to implement such plans with real people in real families---especially if the people and families love each other and want to get along and want not to hurt each other's feelings. It's easy for me to say that both your mother-in-law's name and her demands are unworkable; it's another thing entirely for you to have to deal with the fallout while I sit over here and don't have to take any phone calls about it. I do think firmness/resistance is justified here---but when dealing with someone who is already being unreasonable, I don't think it will necessarily help, or work, or bring her to the point of seeing reason and understanding the decision. (Except in my imagination, where she is not only embarrassed about her demands, but also very sorry for waking up a pregnant woman.)

So. That brings us to what WILL work. WILL your mother-in-law accept her name being used as a second middle name, or will she interpret that as a slap? If she will accept it, I think that's what you should do. It would bother me, too, that the sisters would have a different number of names, but it's an easy thing to explain to them with an affectionate roll of the eyes. Your younger daughter can drop the name entirely later on in life, or perhaps she'll like having her grandmother's name and enjoy surprising people with it and then telling the story.

It would also bother me to be giving in to an unreasonable demand (I'm imagining if my late mother-in-law had been making baby-name demands, and I'm not sure that would have ended well for anyone)---but again, sometimes it's the way these things go. A middle-name slot is probably worth it to avoid feuding and hard feelings. And I have some sympathy for her, if for example she winced while following these traditions with her own babies, and was thinking that the upside would be getting a dear granddaughter named after her. (DID she follow the traditions herself? If not, there's your out! If so, it makes it harder.)

If only first-name status will please her, you're stuck and you'll have to make your decision: let your mother-in-law name your babies as well as her own using traditions that are hers but not yours, or prepare wearily to handle the consequences. It's encouraging, though, that the consequence of not doing things her way with Seraphina's name led only to one single 2:00 a.m. phone call a year and a half later.

I know you said your mother-in-law rejects Lillian and Harriet, but I wonder if everyone could come to an agreement on Ariclia. (I'm pronouncing it ah-RICK-lee-ah or air-RICK-lee-ah or air-reh-CLEE-ah in my mind, but perhaps all of these are too different from the pronunciation of Haricklia.) This removes the unfortunate "hair" issue of your mother-in-law's name, while preserving much more of the essence of the name than Lillian/Harriet would. Ariclia seems exotic and usable to me (the names Erica and Leah make the sounds familiar), and a good sister name for Seraphina. I would suggest pitching it as "translating the name into English," instead of as "removing the unfortunate/unusable parts."

Another possibility is to see if she would be satisfied with ANYTHING ELSE. Would she accept a name with the same meaning as hers? Or her mother's name? Is there a traditional nickname for her name that would be usable? Or could you use your husband's grandmother's middle name, to parallel the choice for your first daughter, and explain that THAT'S the naming tradition you're using?

If the decision is made to use Haricklia as the second middle name, I like Felicity for the first name. I like Philomena even better, but I wonder if it's too rhymey with Seraphina. Or Victoria? Seraphina and Victoria. Phina and Tori.

Ooo, or Anastasia! Seraphina and Anastasia! I love that so much.

Kalliopi is a Greek name that looks like a creative spelling but isn't. I might use Calliope instead. Phina and Callie.

That makes me think of Penelope. Seraphina and Penelope. I love that too.

I know all these make for a very long name, but (1) my tastes run to long names for girls and (2) in this case, I'm inclined to think that when you're stuck with two middle names and one is long, AND your first daughter has a long name, you might as well GO FOR IT, length-wise. Anastasia Charlotte Haricklia Scorus. Penelope Charlotte Haricklia Scorus. Genevieve Charlotte Haricklia Scorus. WORK that alphabet. Or, of course, use a shorter middle name for the first of the two: Anastasia Jane Haricklia Scorus, Penelope Kate Haricklia Scorus, etc.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Name to Consider: Jevan

Allison writes:
I was wondering if you could do a name to consider post for the name Jevan. jev-an. Basically just Evan with a J in front. I really like the sound of it but I was wondering if it sounds too made up?

Because I know a child named Javon (juh-VAHN), I saw the name and pronounced it similarly (accent on the second syllable: jeh-VAHN). I'm not sure how I would have pronounced it if I didn't know a Javon (whose name I heard before I saw). We ran into the same issue when we discussed Drewan: some of us saw it as DREW-win, and some of us saw it as dreh-WAN. I see the Social Security Administration has 33 baby Jevans born in 2010; I wish we could find out how they're pronouncing it.

I like it when an unusual name has an easy way to explain it to others hearing it the first time, and this one has really good ones: "It's like Evan, with a J in front." "It's like Devan but with a J."

It gives me the same reaction as when I first heard the names Jaron, Joren, and Javon: they don't sound made-up to me; instead they sound like names from another country or names I just hadn't encountered before.

What does everyone else think of it?

Friday, November 11, 2011

Baby Twin Girls Lavender, Sisters to Cohen Fox

Erin writes:
I am currently 22 weeks pregnant with fraternal twin girls and I am due January 29, 2012. I really have a hard time coming up with girl names but think I have one for Baby A. My problem is that I am having a really hard time coming up with a first name for Baby 'B.' Our last name is 3 syllables, starts with L and rhymes with "Lavender."

My name is Erin, my husband is Daryl and our 18 month old son is Cohen Fox "Lavender." I love boy names and have no problem coming up with them. If one of these babies was a boy they would have likely been Emmett Hawk (Hawk, because I love animal middle names for boys). I like double consonants and also liked boy names Beckett and Wyatt.

I don't know if a description of my son might help with names, but he's a quick idea. My son is blond haired with beautiful, coarse waves and he is blue eyed (born with a full head of black hair though that changed when he was 4 months old). I'm assuming my girls might also follow this trend. My husband and I are both dark haired but he has blue eyes and I have brown. My son is stocky and sturdy. He's 35 lbs at 18 months old, but he's also off the charts for height. He has big blue eyes, a cute broad but button nose and full lips with apple cheeks.

I am a maternity nurse and hear names all the time and I think because of that I really don't like most of the top 1000 girl names on most charts.

As far as naming the twins, we have actually decided on Avalon Juno "Lavender" (Avalon actually came to me in a dream and I loved it) for Baby A and we know that we want Quinn as a middle name for Baby B.

I had originally picked Tabitha as a first name for Baby B but my whole family pretty much hates it (mainly because of the shortening to "Tabby"...I like the idea of Beth as a nn though), so I'm back to the drawing board. I recently took a liking to Everly and Ember but again I'm getting snubbed noses. I think Everly might be a bit to close to Avalon because of the soft vowel and then v sound (and you might get Avy and Evie for nicknames which are really close).

I prefer 2 to 3 syllable first names as well. I like names from fantasy/fairy inspired, or that are just off the beaten path but not too "out there." Names already used by a couple of my cousins that I love are Briar and Brynn. I like nature type names as well. I really like Willow, but family approval. So frustrating! I got a lot of flack about Juno, but my husband loves it and it's a middle name so we are keeping it as is. I think it would be cute to have the name start with B (then we would have first initials of A, B, C, D, & E in our family), and thought Braeleigh was cute, but my husband didn't like it because it's a bit of a mouthful with our last name. I'm also not a fan of alliteration with our last name though so I've been avoiding "L" names.

Anything you could suggest at this point would be so helpful.

I thought I'd send an update on our naming process. We could still use a bit of help! I am almost 28 weeks pregnant now with fraternal twin girls. Baby A is still Avalon Juno "Lavender" at this point and we have decided on Baby B's first name to be Brooke. We definitely want to use the middle name Quinn but I'm having a hard time with the flow of Brooke Quinn with the hard K sounds so close together. I thought of switching the middle names, but my husband doesn't want the initials "BJ" in there. My sister has a friend with those initials as well and has had nothing but teasing for ages. The name Quinn is important for us to keep because it is a name my sister loves and she wants us to use it. Considering she was our egg donor for our IVF pregnancy, I really want to use it too. I'm sure we could compromise on the middle names and remove Juno (although we've liked that name since I was pregnant with my son), and have Avalon Quinn and Brooke ____ . So stumped!

Any help would be great!


I wonder if any of the names your family doesn't like (or any of the names you liked except that they didn't work as sister names for Avalon) would work as middle names for Brooke.

Brooke Ember
Brooke Everly
Brooke Tabitha
Brooke Willow

My favorite from that group is Tabitha: Avalon Quinn and Brooke Tabitha. I like the way they'd each have a 1-syllable name and a 3-syllable name.

But looking at the logic puzzle presented in the letters, it seems like the easier part to change is the first name Brooke. That's the name that's currently preventing you from using Juno, which was unshakeable in the first letter and which you say in the second letter you've liked since you were pregnant with your son. It looks like it's a matter of choosing which name you'd prefer to use, Brooke or Juno---and Brooke is a more recent choice, and one that doesn't fit your first-name preferences as well as Avalon does.

The Baby Name Wizard mentions both Meredith and Bethany as names similar to Tabitha. I'd add Meribeth, a name we encountered on a child at the pool this summer and really liked. Avalon Juno and Meribeth Quinn.

Or Matilda. Avalon Juno and Matilda Quinn.

Or Minerva. Avalon Juno and Minerva Quinn. I like all the V sounds with your surname.

I wish Lorelei would work with your surname, because that would be so perfect with Avalon.

Ember reminds me of Cambria. Avalon Juno and Cambria Quinn.

Everly reminds me of Waverly. Avalon Juno and Waverly Quinn. V sounds again.

Willow and Briar remind me of Juniper. Avalon Juno and Juniper Quinn. I don't know if the repeating June-sound would bother me or not; I might even kind of like it.

For a B name, one that comes to mind is Bronwyn. My impulse is to switch the middle names, but that lands you right back with the BJ problem, so it's a little rhymey with Quinn. Avalon Juno and Bronwyn Quinn.

Another is Briony, which can be pronounced BRY-oh-nee as a botanical reference, or BREE-ah-nee as a modern sound-combination name. Avalon Juno and Briony Quinn.

Another is Beatrix, one of my own favorites. Avalon Juno and Beatrix Quinn.

Another is Bridget. Avalon Juno and Bridget Quinn. I like the repeating short-I sound in Bridget Quinn: it sounds happy and energetic to me.

If Brooke is set, I'd add Waverly to the middle name candidates. Avalon Quinn and Brooke Waverly.

Name update! Erin writes:
I just thought I'd drop a line to let you know that our baby girls have arrived! They made their debut 5 weeks premature at 35 weeks and 2 days. We wanted to thank you for your naming advice and for all the feedback it received. We decided to name Twin 'A' - Avalon Juno and Twin 'B' - Bellamy Quinn. I love their names!! The twins are fraternal and completely different. Avalon was the bigger and fairer of the two at 5 lbs 7 oz and Bellamy was 4 lbs 8.5 oz and has a head of dark hair. We are using the nicknames "Avy" and "Bella" for short. I do have a quick follow up question though...How would you spell "Avy" without giving it a hard A sound? Avy, Avi, Avie, Avee, Avey? No matter how I look at it, it seems to sound like Navy without the 'N.' For a 22 month old, Cohen is a great big brother too! Now we have our A,B,C,D,E family ;)

I have also attached a picture of the girls at 3 weeks old. Avalon is in the front, and Bellamy has her hand on her sister's shoulder.

Thanks again!!

I would use Abbie/Abby as the model and spell it Avvie or Avvy.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Five-Year-Old Girl Voisey, Sibling to Ezekiel, Basil, September, and Soren

Karla writes:
You've helped me before:
We ended up having a boy, and we named him soren micah.

NOW, we are adopting a girl, and based on your help (and suggestions) from last time, I would choose Iris Mabel in a heart-beat. And am still very open to that...
BUT, our daughter is going to be close to 5 1/2 when we adopt her, and her name right now is Yan Rui (pronounced Yonna Roo-ay, with Rui prounouced as one syllable).
While we believe giving her a name that we have chosen is an important means of communicating her place in our family (I know there are different thoughts about this, but that's where we stand right now), we wonder if it is best to keep it as similar to her name now as possible.....OR if not that, to at least choose a name that is similar in meaning.
If we go by meaning, her name means "happy" and "lucky". Names that we have found that mean similar things are Felicity, Felice, Aida...I don't mind any of these, except Felicity Voisy sounds weird. And Aida is too close to Adeline, our deceased daughter, and we're not comfortable (nor do we feel its appropriate) to make our newest daughter any type of namesake (also based on Swistle fan commments from last time).
If we go with names that sound similar, we have only come up with Anna (pronounced Onna) Rae. What do you think?

Thanks again

I see what you mean. I feel the same way about names: that giving a name, because it's one of the official acts of parenthood, can be an important symbolic relationship-establishing act---but that when the child in question is five, it's more important to let her keep her own name. I'm imagining my six-year-old daughter and how she'd feel about changing her name to something else (even if it was something that meant the same as her name), and it's giving me a wrenched feeling.

I wonder if it would work to use Yonna or Yana? It would be translating her name from one language to another, which is a common thing to do with names (especially if the name was originally in another alphabet), and as I say it and think about it, I think it's a very pretty name. It'd distinctive and a little exotic, but easy to pronounce, and familiar because of names like Donna and Brionna. For unusual names, I love if there's an easy thing to say to help someone understand the name, and Yonna has a perfect one: "It's like Donna, but with a Y instead of a D." Or "It's like Brionna, but without the Bri." I also think it goes well with the other sibling names, and especially with the sister name: Ezekiel, Basil, September, Soren, and Yonna is a nice mix. And I like it with your surname: Yonna Voisey.

Yes, I think that would be my first choice. I think I would translate her name to U.S. English and spell it Yonna or Yana; I'd leave her middle name spelled Rui because pronunciation issues are no big deal and even kind of fun when it's a middle name; and then I would give her a second middle name of your choice, anything you like (though a name like Felice would very pleasing symbolically), and I'd make a big deal about how that is the name you are giving her now that she is your child and a part of your family.

What does everyone else think the Voiseys should do?

Edited to add: Karla writes:
I am sorry for the confusion....seriously, this is my LAST time writing you, because this is our last kid. :)  but apparently, there are various ways to say our soon-to-be adoptive daughter's name, depending on tone (or something?)  While one Chinese friend told me one way, we finally got in touch with someone who is in contact with the orphanage, and our particular child's name is not pronounced Yanna.  It is pronounced Ian (Ee-yen).  
While lots and lots of people suggested we not change her name, does that advice still hold when her name is an American boy's name?  My opinion is that we should keep her name.  She is five.  We have already named our kids pretty unique names (Basil, September, Zeke, and Soren), so it's not like she'd be in a family with a bunch of kids with really popular, normal names.  So if her name doesn't follow trends, that might be okay.  Secondly, while we thought we were giving our boys names that were old-fashioned, but obviously male names, (Basil, Ezekiel, Soren), many, many people have assumed Basil is a girl if they haven't met him yet.  And people aren't sure about September's gender either.  So....while there are not many female Ians that I know of (except the model Eyen), I wonder if people will just get used to it when they meet our daughter...Besides, are there enough gender-neutral names (Dillon, Reagen, Madison....) that are similar enough that Ian will just fit in?  Finally, if you agree with me on not changing it (even with this new information), I am curious how you would suggest spelling it.  I really don't want to spell it Ian, like the boy name....I would like a different spelling....something more female....kind of like Leigh looks like a girl name while Lee would lean towards boyish.  I looked into different spellings and thought the British spelling, Iain, seems the most girly.  I KNOW she would need to tell everyone how to say her name, but at least not every teacher would look at it and think "boy".  What do you think? 

Thank you AGAIN.....

Name update! Karla writes:
I know I emailed you again, for advice on our soon-to-be adopted daughter's name, but we had to make a decision for the paperwork, so we did. 
While most of your reader's suggested keeping her name when we all thought it was pronounced "Yanna", which is what I was originally told, I wondered if their advice would be the same if they knew it was pronounced Ian, which is how it is actually pronounced (as we found out recently), since there is such an association with a boy's name in America.  Well, we discussed it, and decided there were enough Dillons and Morgans and Reagans that were girls, so Ian would have to fit in! :) Especially since that is already her name!  So, we kept her name as suggested, but changed the spelling to Eyann, to make it look a little more feminine.  Thanks for everyone's feedback.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Baby Boy or Girl B_____ss, Sibling to Owen Albert

Amy writes:
I am due with my second child on TUESDAY and I need HELP with a name. To make matters worse, the baby was not cooperative during the ultrasound and we have no medical reason to have another so we need to pick names for boys and girls. I love talking baby names and reading naming books & blogs, but my husband doesn't like to talk about them at all which is not helping.

My first son is Owen Albert and our last name starts with B and ends with ss. My husband and I are Bryan and Amy - VERY popular names for our generation - I was one of 3 Amy's in my first grade class and my husband was one of 4 Bryan Bs in his grade. We picked Owen just because we both liked it - its a little bit more popular than I'd hoped but so far we haven't met any others his age in our small town. Albert is after my grandfather, who died just before Owen was born.

My main concern for our boys names are honor names and sibling rivalry. For a boy, one name that was on our short list for our first son but just didn't seem to suit him was James Everett, after our 2 fathers. My issue now is that I'm not sure how I feel about naming my first son after a great-grandfather he never met (and only in the middle name) and then giving the second son a name after 2 grandfathers that he sees all the time - we all live in the same small town so we see my father and my husbands father very regularly, 2 or more times a week each. Does this seem like a reason for sibling rivalry to you? The other issue is that this "uses up" the only family names we like for boys, AND it means I've "used up" all the names from my side of the family leaving none for my sister (the only male options left on that side are Matthew which is always used for the oldest son of the oldest son and has been used already this generation and Elmer and Dudley - not appealing to either of us). On the other hand, I'm not sure how I feel about using one grandfather's name without the other - is it insulting to use one and not the other when they both know James Everett was on the table at one point? And all the other boys names that were on the shortlist for Owen are either too similar to Owen (Evan, Ethan, Gavin) or have been recently used by close family or friends (Caleb, Colin). Other names I've suggested that my husband vetoed: Miles, Elliot, Neil, Liam. We have 2 requirements for our names - not a biblical name, boys names without a -y nickname (Robert to Robby, John to Johnny) because in my family the little boy nicknames stick for life and I'm not fond of them (and yes, I know, James violates both rules - my father is called Jim and is still called Jimmy by his brothers, but I'm willing to break the rules for a family name).

For a girl, my shortlist names are Claire, Maggie (short for Margaret or Marjorie) and Paige, but we don't have a middle name yet. Claire is a family name, the others are just ones I like. My mother, grandmother & I all have "R" middle names, so that would be a fun tradition to continue but its not a 100% must.

So the overall question is: do you think its a problem to "use up" family names on the second child when you think you want 3-4 and leave none for my sister? And what about the sibling dynamics with a second boy named after such close relatives? Should I go with my gut and say that if I have to ask it, then its probably a problem? And if this is too much of a problem, what in the world should I name this kid?

Feel free to edit this down to a more managable post, the overall question above is what I most care about.

Thank you!

Name update! Amy writes:
Thanks to all your help Swistle & commenters! Although I still really liked James Everett, it just didn't seem right for this baby either, and although I liked the suggestion of Everett James I didn't like the idea of always saying "which Everett? Grandpa Everett or Baby Everett?". In the last few days before he was born, one name came forward as a top contender, which had been our "joke" name for our first son - Porter. It was an inside joke to us, since we brew our own beer. But with the rise of occupation names and -r ending names like Connor and Asher, Porter grew on us more & more. I also found out that Everett was a family name - it was also middle name for my husband's grandfather and at least one generation back as well. So on 11-11-11 after much deliberation we welcomed Porter Everett and are very happy with his name. Thanks again!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Baby Boy Secret, Brother to Tate and Cole

Melissa writes:
I am kicking myself!

I am due in one week with our third boy. We have known for months and months that we were having a boy, and we worked very hard at getting pregnant. We had a tough pregnancy that we thought we'd lost several times, and then about midway through, we learned he was quite small and had to watch him closely with near weekly scans and measurements and an amnio we weren't planning on having just to prepare us for anything that might come.

Well, the results were relieving, and he's finally doing great and growing, and I've been really relaxed and happy for the first time in this pregnancy - for the last month of it!

I think I am in denial, however, as we still don't know how we are going to NAME HIM!

With our other two, we were clear, certain and excited by our selections. Our first son is named Tate Fletcher. Our second son is Nicholson Scott, but we call him Cole. So we have Tate and Cole. Our last name sounds like Secret.

At first, I thought I really loved the name Leo for our new little guy, given how small and what a fighter he is. He'll be our lion cub. But I wasn't sure my husband was all in as he was a bit 'Meh' about it. So I came up with a few other names, floated them and then we sort of left it.
We just knew we'd know when the time came. Well, we don't, and the time is nearly here... Aaaaargh!

Our short list (I think) is:

Rafferty (with nn Rafe)

And our middle names are:

Henry (after Mark's Grandfather)
Lloyd (my dad, who is loved by all)
Christopher (my brother I adore and who is the best uncle ever - no kids)
William (a family name)

I am not against Luke per se, but feel it is awfully popular. Mark likes it but could go with Jude. I like Jude, but worry it may be trending toward the girls (grrrrrr...another great boy name that the girls snatch!) I also think it sounds like we're sort of trying too hard with the 3 short, strong, one-syllable names. I love, love, love Rafferty, but my best friend does NOT like it. It makes me nervous. If I had to pick right at this second, I'd probably go with Leo Christopher, but I'm worried I'm settling with the easiest and that I'll regret it.

I'm really struggling here, and Mark has no clue either. I've been reading your blog for months, LOVING it, and never thought I'd come close to needing you!


Name update! Melissa writes:
About 4 months ago, you posted a panicked plea from me on your blog about the naming of our third son. I'm writing with an update!

Our beautiful boy was born on 11/10/11. Though I was a touch disappointed with the date, as I'd SO hoped for my due date of 11/11/11, we soon realized it was actually fortuitous :)

Why was the 10th fortuitous? Because the 10th of November is the feast of Pope St. Leo the 1st. A loving and benevolent man by all accounts.

Our son is Leo Henry. Our little lion cub. He is perfect, as is his name.

Thank you for your help and to all who wrote in!

Name Updates!

Update (and photo!) on Baby Twin Girls Forrester, Sisters to Sam!
Update on Baby Girl or Boy Voisey!
Update on Baby Boy Wall-Ridges, Brother to Harriet Lucille and Matilda Corinne!
Update (and photo!) on Baby Boy Lyman!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Baby Girl B_________ton, Sister to Henry and Casper

Emily writes:
Help? We are due to have our third child in four weeks, our one and only daughter as we have two boys already. One would think I'd have a girl's name left over from the first two rounds, but I feel like I may have outgrown our original girl's name (Olive). My sons are called Henry and Casper, and I'm looking for something short and sweet but am struggling to find one name that speaks to me. Beyond short and sweet, we'd like to use my husband's late mother's name, Eliza, probably as a middle name but possibly as a first name to then use the middle name as what we call her (ex. Eliza Lake B____ton). I wouldn't mind including my grandmother's name, Lily, as well, but I'd like to maintain creative license on the name we actually call her. Is four names overkill?! And aside from that, just to make the job even harder the parameters get smaller as I'd like the name not to end in a "y" sound, like Henry, an "er" sound, like Casper, and I'd prefer it didn't rhyme with our last name, which starts with a B and ends with "ton". What on earth is left?!

Names I've been mulling over so be used as a first or a middle name with Eliza (and possibly but not necessarily Lily Eliza)

Read (a family name)
Indigo (Indigo Lily Eliza B_____ton, call her Indi, such a mouthful?)

Please guide me, Your Excellency! I'm so thrilled to finally have my baby girl, I just wish I knew what to call her!

Many thanks

I think four names works fine. My own kids have four names each, and it's been less of a hassle than I'd expected: even with five kids, I've only had to make two total corrections on forms. And it seems like a good solution here, where you have a lot of names you'd like to use. But I think ideally it works best to keep Name Irregularities at one per customer. So if you do give her four names, I suggest having the first name be the one you call her. Or if you do call her by her middle name, I suggest keeping her names down to three instead of "I go by the first of my two middle names." (Again, this is just ideally: sometimes other considerations are more important, and worth it.)

I wouldn't use Lily as the first name with the middle part of your surname [the surname is hidden for the post, but I can see it in the email]: it runs together rhymily for me with all the repeating sounds. I think it can work as a middle name, but I think it works better if separated from the surname by Eliza.

I'm also not sure if it will work well to use both Eliza and Lily, especially with the similar sounds of your surname, and especially if you also decide to use Olive: that's four names in a row with LI. Might you have another child later to use Lily, or is it now or never? I seem to be repeating myself a lot in this post, but despite the little hesitations I keep mentioning, I want to re-re-emphasize that (1) some names are more important than the minor issue of repeating sounds and (2) it matters less when we're talking about middle names. So ____ Lily Eliza B_____ton would be just fine, if this is the last child and it's important to you to use Lily. Though I think then I'd go with a simple first name (especially with a long surname): more Eve than Indigo. Eve Lily Eliza B_____ton is one of my favorites of the possibilities.

I also suggest Rose. It's common as a middle name, but unusual and fresh as a first name. It's short and it's sweet; it's great with Henry and Casper and doesn't repeat the endings; it's simple and non-rhymey with the surname. Rose Eliza B______ton; Henry, Casper, and Rose. Downside: probably rules out the idea of also using Lily.

Another flower name that I think works well for you but again probably rules out Lily: Iris. Iris Eliza B______ton; Henry, Casper, and Iris.

Another of my favorite short-and-sweets is Cora. Cora Lily Eliza B____ton; Henry, Casper, and Cora.

And another is Jane. Familiar but still uncommon; similar in sound to Tate and Lake; short and sweet; no repeating endings or rhymes. Jane Lily Eliza B_____ton.

Or for something even more unusual: Lane, which brings it closer to Lake from your list. Lane Eliza B_____ton or Eliza Lane B______ton.

Or Grey. Eliza Grey B______ton; Henry, Casper, and Grey.

I wonder if you'd like Cleo? Cleo Eliza B____ton; Henry, Casper, and Cleo.

Or Sloane. Sloane Lily Eliza B______ton; Henry, Casper, and Sloane.

One of my mom's favorite short/sweet/unusual names is Esme (EHZ-may). Esme Lily Eliza B____ton; Henry, Casper, and Esme. I like the way the sounds of Esme and Eliza go together, alternating with the way the sounds of Lily and B_____ton go together.

More ideas for Henry and Casper's little sister?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Baby Naming Issue: Spellings of Riley

Allyson writes:
I gave DH a list of lovely girl names (in no particular order: Madeline, Lauren, Alexis, Kaylee, Amelia, Emmaline, Hallie, Haley, Sydney, Riley, Addison, and Ashlyn) and there were two names he didn't veto- Riley and Addison. I prefer Riley over Addison, so that's the name we are currently debating. The problem is I think it should be spelled Riley, since it's the most common spelling. Having to grow up as Allyson, aka "that's Allyson with two Ls and a Y," I greatly value using the common spellings. He thinks Riley is a boy's name and it should be Ryleigh. I hate it, I think it looks too contrived. I suggested Rylee as a compromise, but he thinks "lee" makes it a boy's name. Sigh. So I guess my question is two parts: 1) Are there any other obvious spellings for Riley other than Ryleigh, Rylee, Reilly (which would be my second choice), and Rylie (which is listed as an option on Baby Name Wizard, but it makes me want to say Ri-Lie? 2) What do you do when you agree on a name but not the spelling?


Well, if you're Paul and me, you abandon the name, feeling bitterly resentful about the other person's ridiculous stubbornness. We both liked the name Elliot, but I ONLY liked Elliot and he ONLY liked Eliot, so we didn't use it at all and I'm still a little crabby about it.

This question reminds me of the Ivy vs. Ivee question we did awhile back. Our basic consensus was that the spelling is an important part of the name: if the spelling has not been agreed on, the name has not been agreed on---and often this ends in needing to move on to another name choice.

As with the Ivy/Ivee question, I'd start by using facts to see if I could break down resistance. Riley is not "a boy's name": according to the Social Security Administration, in 2010 it was given to 5,506 girls and 3,606 boys.

Nor does "-lee" make it a boy name: in 2010, the spelling Rylee was given to 2,957 girls and 314 boys. Now, if he would like to say that it FEELS like a boy name to him when it's spelled either of those two ways, he may do so (though it seems like he would be eager to attempt to adjust his feelings to reflect reality), but he may not argue that it IS a boy name.

The only spellings of Riley I don't see on your list are Ryley and Ryli. (I also saw Rylei, Rilei, and Ryliegh in the Social Security data, but I'm chalking those up to misspellings or different pronunciations.) I'm not going to recommend Ryli but maybe Ryley has potential: changing a vowel to a Y is a common feminizing device, so perhaps this would be a good compromise spelling. And considering how many spellings there are of Riley, I think she's going to have to spell it each time no matter what.

The other option is to use Riley as a jumping-off place for finding a new name:


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Baby Girl or Boy Rhymes-With-Bones, Sibling to Silas

Taylor writes:
Hi! I'm a longtime reader of your blogs and am expecting my second baby, gender to surprise us, in early April. Our last name is very common and rhymes with Bones. We have a three year-old boy named Silas D@vid, a name which I was unsure about at first but which I LOVE LOVE LOVE now. Both of Silas's names are family names, although Silas itself is from so many generations back (i.e., the Revolutionary War) that it didn't hold any sentimental meaning. My husband and I are both in our thirties. My name is Taylor and my husband's name is Matt. Given that Matthew was the most common boy's first name the year we were born and our very common last name, my husband was/is adamant that our children have somewhat unusual names. I am similarly adamant that these names be actual people names and not random words or places. (He lobbied hard for Silas to be named after various Civil War battlefields--Appomattox "Bones" was his favorite. Clearly I vetoed.) I also have a preference for family names.

I have two questions for you:

1) We are pretty settled on a girl name. If the baby is a girl, we want to name her after my mother. Unfortunately, my mom's name is somewhat problematic: Mary Gay--and she goes by Gay. Mary seems too vanilla, especially with our super common last name, and Gay is out because of obvious schoolyard taunting reasons. BUT, we both love the name May. Is it weird to name a child after someone without using that person's actual name? What does everyone think about this phenomenon?

2) We are completely stumped when it comes to boy names, which is problematic given that at our most recent ultrasound, we saw what appear to be boy parts. The tech, by our request, did not say one way or the other, so maybe it was a poorly placed umbilical cord?

I like the name Jasper (my great-grandfather's name), but my husband hates it. He likes the name Moses (an old family name), but I don't know.... It might grow on me though. I like the name Asa (also an old family name)--he's on the fence. Other potential family names: Henry (too common?), Lucius (problematic because of Harry Potter villain?), Sullivan, Boon, Homer (obvious Simpsons issue). Non-family names my husband likes include: Micah, Josiah, Ezekiel, Elijah, Ezra, Isaiah. Of those, I like Ezra best. We both like Abraham, nickname Bram, but friends of ours just used it.

Any help you can provide would be greatly appreciated!


Normally I am on the conservative end of the spectrum with namesakes: I think the very first change to a name causes a huge drop in honor. However, in this case I think you have a strong point against using Gay, and another strong point against using Mary.

Mary is a name like John: it's considered an almost generic name for a girl, and yet encountering one in an actual classroom is a pleasantly startling surprise. And so I'd currently be trying to pressure you into reconsidering it---except that your mom doesn't go by that name. My objection to changing a name is that it causes a drop in honor---but in this case using Mary might be the same drop.

Do you know how your mom feels about it? Does she identify with the name Mary but prefer Gay, or does she dislike the name Mary, or does she forget it's her first name and not recognize it if someone calls her by it accidentally? And is there a story about why she goes by her middle name? If it's because she dislikes the name Mary, I think that safely rules it out; but if it's because it was the name of her dearly-loved grandmother, who then moved in with the family so they started calling your mom Gay to avoid confusion, then that's another story. And does she realize the difficulties with passing down the name Gay, or does she think that's silly? All these things weigh in.

Going just on the information we have (you'd like to name a girl after your mother, but neither her first nor her middle name are good candidates), it looks to me as if your solution of using the name May might be the best possible option. (One slight hesitation I have is that May Rhymes-With-Bones brings to mind May June, but I can't tell how universal that reaction would be.) Would your mother's maiden name (or some other name of significance to her, such as her mother's name or her mother's maiden name) work as a middle name? That would help increase the honor back up towards using-the-actual-name levels.

Another possibility is to name her Mary May Bones and call her May. This uses your mother's real first name, and also parallels the first-middle combo AND the way your mom goes by her middle name.

Or May is a nickname for Mary, so you could name her Mary with a different middle name and call her May directly. Molly is another cute nickname for Mary, so you could see which nickname she grew into.

From the boy names neither of you is ruling out, I like Ezra and Isaiah best. The Harry Pottery reference of Lucius doesn't bother me, but I don't like the way Silas and Lucius sound together: so much L and S. (I have a similar but lesser issue with Moses.) Lucien would take out one of the S sounds and remove the Harry Potter issue---but it also removes the family-nameness. I think I would reserve Boon for the middle name slot: it's hard to find good one-syllable middle name candidates that aren't overused. Or I also like some of the other family names for the middle name: Ezra Sullivan Bones, Ezra Lucius Bones, Isaiah Sullivan Bones, Isaiah Lucius Bones, Isaiah Henry Bones.

My brother and sister-in-law had Silas on their list and also liked the name Calvin. Calvin Boon, Calvin Henry; Silas and Calvin.

Cal makes me think of Mal which makes me think of Malcolm. Malcolm Bones; Silas and Malcolm.

Would Abram be too close to your friends' choice of Abraham/Bram?

I also like the early-American-settler sound of Abel "Bones."

I think Gideon is underused, and goes wonderfully with your surname and with Silas.

Another name I consider underused is Rufus, but I'm worried it might be too rhymey with Silas.

I think I've seen Conrad on the same finalist lists with Silas before.

Oh, I wonder if Haskell would work? Silas and Haskell.

Or Hugo might be very handsome, and I like the repeating long-O sound. Silas and Hugo.

Or Milo or Leo, for the same reason. Silas and Milo; Silas and Leo.

Which makes me think of Lyle: Silas and Lyle. Too much long-I and L, maybe?

Or would you like Everett? Everett Bones; Silas and Everett.

Name update! Taylor writes:
Thanks so much for your awesome suggestions. My husband and I had decided on Abel for a boy, thanks to your input, but after a 30 hour labor that ended in a c-section, my husband suddenly decided he no longer had issues with my favorite name. Asa James "Bones" was born at 6:52pm on 4/4/12. Thanks again!