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Saturday, March 31, 2012

Baby Girl P-truso: Adalyn?

Lauren writes:
We're expecting our first in June, a baby girl, and I'm completely second-guessing our name choice! Our last name is P-truso and our chosen girl name is Adalyn. We had never heard the name until it was used on a shelter dog, named by a woman who had also never heard the name before. I didn't know of its popularity until I brought it up to a group of out-of-state friends, one girl knew several baby Adalyns and said it was too trendy. Now I'm concerned about popularity, not so thrilled for her to be one of many Addys, and to be super trendy like Addison/Madison and one of many in her class,so we're trying to come up with alternatives but none are as appealing to us as Adalyn, so we need help!

Names we considered:
Elise - love the nickname Elsie but something about the S in both names wasn't working
Natalie - but she called Nat, so had to nix
Lydia - love it, but seems everyone is naming their babies Lydia this year, and my husband wouldn't commit.
Elena - I loved everything about this name but my husband has an aunt with a similar name and adamantly refuses to use it
Katelyn - a bit, boring.
Caroline - there's two pronunciations for the same name and for Caroline I like the ine like nine pronunciation, would be annoying to constantly have to tell people how to pronounce it.
My husband also likes Haley and Madison but I prefer more flowing, girly names so have to find a girly name he also likes.

We're still thinking about sticking with Adalyn. We've been calling her Adalyn for almost two months which makes it hard to switch. We've also gotten mostly really positive reactions from friends and family, compared to other names we've liked. I like Adalyn for its similarity to Madelyn which is a name I love but refuse to use any M names, it has three syllables which I usually prefer, and my husband would actually commit to the name. I'm a Lauren of the 80s and it never bothered me to have two other Laurens in my graduating class of 180, and I still really like my name. I've been stalking baby boards and haven't seen anyone planning to use the name Adalyn (or similar spellings) but I've seen several Lydias which is my next favorite name, and we live in Ohio where according to SSA the name isn't even in the top 100. I'm just seeing conflicting info about how the name is trending, on some sites it seems the name already peaked, just lots of concerns.

Other factors to consider are that for a middle name we both really want Anne. It may be a bit boring, but my mom passed her middle name to my older sister, and I would to do the same with our daughter. Won't use any name that starts with an M or a P. Even though we have a longer last name I tend to prefer longer first names, and also like cute nicknames. Lastly, if our second child is a boy he will be Cameron Joseph and called CJ, two family names that we love.

Hope you can help!

One thing that makes the popularity of Adalyn so difficult to figure out is all its many spellings. Here are some of them, along with the number of baby girls given that spelling in 2010 (according to the Social Security Administration):

Adalyn - 1261
Adelyn - 825
Adalynn - 686
Adelynn - 458
Addilyn - 260
Addelyn - 134
Adilyn - 133
Addilynn - 123
Addalyn - 118
Adilynn - 105
Addalynn - 62
Adalynne - 45

That's only 1,261 Adalyns, but 4,210 when spellings are combined. And I wouldn't be surprised to see a big leap up when the 2011 data comes out in May. I see that in Ohio, Addison and Madison are both in the Top 10 (nationally, only Madison is Top 10, though Addison is #11); if I had to guess, I'd think this will likely make Adalyn popular there too as people search for less-popular alternatives.

Another thing that makes it challenging is what you've already noticed about the similarity of Adalyn to popular names Madison, Addison, and Madelyn (themselves names with many spellings), and the current abundance of the nicknames Maddy and Addy. These things can make a name feel even more popular than it is. A classroom containing a Kylie, a Kyla, a Kayla, a Kyler, and a Kyle is going to make all those names feel as if they're EVERYWHERE, even though the popularity of each name alone isn't so bad.

In your case, the issue that catches my attention is that for a boy you would want to use Cameron: Adalyn and Cameron don't quite rhyme, but they come very close to it. On the other hand, they go together very well in style and in popularity, and the rhyminess is significantly less if I say it Cam'ren instead of Cam-mer-ren. On balance, I think this is a point in favor of Adalyn.

I can think of other names that seem similar, but they have their own issues. Evelyn, for example, is similar in rhythm and sound to Adalyn, and similar in style to Lydia---but it too is getting popular, and it's not a great style fit with Cameron. Emlyn is rhymier with the Cam'ren way of saying Cameron, and Em- names are very popular. Adeline has longer roots than Adalyn, but it still has the Addy nickname, and the style isn't as good with Cameron. Juniper has the right rhythm and style, but the repeating P-sound with P-truso is choppy.

Violet is possible: the style isn't quite right with Cameron but it isn't a clash either, and Vi and Cam is cute---if a little evocative of Viacom.

If you wanted to go cutting edge, the popularity of Hadley makes me wonder if Hadlyn could work. But it still fits into that group of names that seem more common than they are.

Ellery comes to mind, and Ellery Anne is adorable. But the El- names, like the Em- names, are right up there with the Addy/Maddy names.

Linnea (linn-NAY-ah) might work. It's similar to Lydia and Elena; it goes fine with Cameron; it has the cute nickname Linnie; it's not a bit trendy.

But if you want to stay with Adalyn, going into a name with eyes wide open is much different than if you're surprised by issues later on. (And perhaps you could set the nickname Lynnie up early on, to avoid Addy.) Every name will have its own downsides, it may be worth it to take the "popular/trendy" downside instead of the "not our favorite name" downside.

Name update! Lauren writes:
Sorry so late but I wanted to give an update! Our Adalyn Anne was born on June 26th and is the happiest little girl around!  Surprisingly everyone we know and even nurses at the hospital commented how unique the name was!  I've considered using nicknames but I preferred Lynnie and my husband liked Addy, so we just stick to calling her Adalyn, or A or Abug :)  I still love her name and she seems like an Adalyn to me.  Thanks for all your help!


Friday, March 30, 2012

Baby Girl Joyce, Sister to Tristan, Avery, and Sage

Jackie writes:
I have 10 weeks left in my 4th pregnancy and can't come up with "the" name to save my life :) Our last name is Joyce and this will be baby girl #3 for us. Big brother is Tristan Michael and the big sisters are Avery Lynn and Sage Isabel. If this baby was a boy, we were thinking of Sebastian or Sawyer for a boys name although Declan is my all time favorite boy's name (husband doesn't like it).
Right now our top contenders are:
Grier (my fav)
Rowan (husbands fav)

I have also considered using Sawyer as a girl's name as well.
We haven't even touched upon middle names yet!! Michael and Lynn are both family names, Isabel was just a name I liked that I would never use as a first name because of how common it is.
We don't want any classic or real common names and are trying to stay away from anything too trendy.

Any help would be greatly appreciated!!

We have finally picked a middle name- Elizabeth, and have come up with a list of 5 names that we like.
Our top 5 are:
London Elizabeth
Rowan Elizabeth
Sloane Elizabeth
Grier Elizabeth
Reese Elizabeth

We are always open to more suggestions!!
Any help would be greatly appreciated!!

The middle name makes all five options flow beautifully. When I try first/last only, a couple of them sound a little choppy to me: Reese Joyce, with its repeating endings; Grier Joyce, which suddenly sounds like "career choice." I think my own favorite from the list is Rowan Joyce. Let's have a poll over to the right to see what everyone else thinks. [Poll closed; see results below.]

Other possibilities:

Cleo Joyce
Darby Joyce
Finley Joyce
Larkin Joyce
Mirren Joyce
Padgett Joyce
Piper Joyce

Name update! Jackie writes:
Our daughter, Sloane Elizabeth, was born on May 4th after a quick but intense labor. She weighed 8 pounds 9 ounces and was 20 inches long. We went into the delivery room with the names Sloane Elizabeth and London Elizabeth. Once we saw her, we knew it should be Sloane. My husband and I both pictured the name Sloane as a dark-haired baby and as you can see by the attached picture, she has tons of dark hair. Thanks again to you and your readers for helping us pick out a name.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Baby Twin Girls H____n: Emmie and ?

R. writes:
Here is a list of stuff you might want to know:
- I am pregnant with twin girls
- They will be delivered by a c-section on the 2nd of April
- They don't exactly have names yet
- We have a list of names we love, but cannot choose
- Our last name starts with a 'H' and ends with an 'n' (but that's not important because all of the names we like sound okay with it!)

What I mean by they don't "exactly" have names yet is that we know that baby A will be called Emmie. I love it so much! Anyway, the problem with Emmie is it might be a bit too cutesy for an adult. I know that problem is easily solved by giving her a longer name and calling her Emmie. However there are not really any longer names I LOVE. We have considered the Swedish name Emelie (e-MEEL-ee, not Emily), and while I like it, I can't imagine having a daughter Emelie, if that makes sense? Another name I like is Emerson, but I don't know if a grown business woman would rather be called Emerson over Emmie anyway? It might be a bit 'trendy'. We have looked at countless names with the nickname Emmie, but none really stand out. Should we just go with Emmie, or is Emmie too cutesy? Or should we use Emelie even though we would never call her that?

Okay, onto baby B! This is our list...we have cut it down A LOT:
- Ava
- Isla
- Leah
- Lila
- Scarlett

Honestly when saying "Emmie and (insert each of the names on our list)", Emmie and Leah gives me the most warm and fuzzy feeling (maybe it's because they both have an 'e' sound in them, so they sound cute together). BUT Leah is my mum's name. My mum is my biggest inspiration, and she is truly an amazing lady. I would love to name my daughter after her, but I worry that it could get confusing and I'm worried that Emmie would be jealous that she wasn't named after anyone. Also when I think to myself 'oh maybe Leah is the way to go', I get sad because I want to use another name, LOL. The girls will most likely be our only babies, so I don't even have the hope that I will be able to use the other names.

So, yeah...I don't know what to do!

What are your thoughts? Could you perhaps do a poll for baby B?


Okay! I've put a poll over to the right! [Poll closed; see results below.]

My impulse after reading through just once is to suggest you name them Emma and Leah. I like the matching endings and matching number of letters/syllables. If I were a businesswoman, or even if I weren't, I would prefer to have Emma to fall back on. I love the parts about really wanting to honor your mother and about getting the warmest feeling from that combination, and I think it's unlikely Emmie would be jealous: (1) I usually suggest giving the honor name to the second-born twin so that they each have something special, and that's what you're already planning, and (2) I think the way you love the name Emmie so much is enough to provide balance.

Problems with this idea: (1) one of the things you like is the matching E sounds, and that's gone in the formal names; (2) the nicknames (Emmie and Lee) are not as compatible as the full names; and (3) presumably you've already considered and rejected the name Emma.

My second suggestion is to name them Emme and Leah. Emmie and Emme are pronounced the same, but to me Emmie seems like a nickname while Emme looks professional/complete. Emme and Leah have the matching number of letters and the matching E sound, but not the matching endings. Problem with this idea: spelling/pronunciation issues with Emme.

My third suggestion is to use the name Leah to give you a long form of Emmie: something like Emmalia. Problems with this idea: (1) significantly diminishes the honor name; (2) spelling/pronunciation issues, especially being mistaken for a re-spelling of Amelia (I'm picturing it instead pronounced like Emma Leah); (3) even harder to come up with a twin name.

My fourth suggestion is to use Leah as a middle name for one girl, and use Lila as the middle name for the other. Then Emmie or Emme or Emma for the first name of Twin A, and perhaps Ava for Twin B. Emma Lila and Ava Leah. This lets you use four of the names you like. Problems with this idea: (1) it uses up four of the names you like, which could be a regret if you have more children to name later on; (2) no nickname for Ava.

My fifth suggestion is to leave Twin B's name until after the twins are born. Take a look at her, and then pick from your list. From your list of five, I think the first four are best with Emmie. Emmie and Scarlett seems like too big a style difference: one super-sweet and one super-sassy. Charlotte is very similar in sound but more like Emmie in style: Emma and Charlotte, Emmie and Lottie.


Name update! R. writes:
Our healthy twin girls were born on the 2nd of April. We decided to name them Emma Lynlee Rose and Leah Adele Beth. Emmie and Leah :-)
Thank you for convincing me to use Leah!

Monday, March 26, 2012

More on Going by a Middle Name: Getting Others to Comply; Invitations and Personalizations; Legal Stuff

Joseph's Mom writes:
I was just reading up on the above article. My son goes by his middle name for many reasons. His first name is Joseph ( it's my husband's MN, his grandfather's FN, my husband's nephew's FN, my brother's FN and countless relatives in my family's FN. The flow is much better and so are the god forbid "teenager n.n. of going by one's initials. We also have an extremely common last name, so coupled with Joseph makes me cringe with 1000's of others ie. Jennifer Jones) my questions are:

1. How do I get my in-laws to not make up their own name for him? Ie. Joey. He has and will never be known by this, especially seeing as it's their older nephew's NN. (history to make you lol, all others kids do not go by their "legal" name but yet by a nn ie. Jennifer= Jennie, Richard= Ritchie . So WTH is it a problem with our son going by his MN vs a made up NN?)

2. On invites, toys, monogram bags etc. I would prefer the MN or his every day name used, is this wrong? I know school, doctors, savings bonds it will always be his legal name or J.___

3. After reading the responses, my question is how does one have legal stuff with their MN's such as a credit card? I assumed this was not possible.


The third question I will have to turn over to others who have had experience with it.

To continue backwards through the list, I think it makes perfect sense to use his everyday (middle) name on invitations and toys and so forth. If I knew an Andrew and he went exclusively by Drew, I wouldn't be at all surprised to see "Drew" embroidered on backpacks or stitched on bean-bag chairs or used to issue invitations. And if everyone knew him only as Drew, and he referred to himself as Drew, this would be only sensible. It would be the same if I knew a Joseph Paul Smith IV who always went by Paul: I would expect to see "Paul" on his lunchbox and on his coat tag and on his birthday party invitations. It would be trickier with monogrammed initials, but I might just not DO monogrammed initials. Usually such things are optional/decorative.

I've saved the first question for last because it is the most difficult. Going by a middle name shouldn't be any stranger than going by a nickname of the first name, but in our culture it just IS. Should your in-laws call your son by the name you've specified? Yes, of course. Can/should you force the issue? Probably not---or rather, only up to a point. I suggest reading Baby Naming Issue: Other People are Using an Unwanted Nickname for fuller coverage of this topic, and also to get commiseration/ideas from the comments section. The short version is that I do think it's possible to say in a kind but firm voice (it should be their son's kind firm voice, I think, for maximum effect and minimum relationship damage) something like "We'd really prefer you call him Paul; that's the name he'll be going by," or to politely/sweetly correct them each time with "It's Paul" or "Oh, we're not using Joey, we're using Paul."

But if they don't change their behavior in response to this, you will have to decide if it's a hill you want to die on---especially considering your son may himself choose to go by Joe or Joey when he's older. In the long run it can be the happier path to roll your eyes and spin it as "their special nickname for him" (and get a little pleasure from saying so in front of them when you correct other people), and let your son tell them "no" later on if he doesn't like it.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Baby Boy Pearce, Brother to Molly Rose

Maggie writes:
My sister introduced me to your blog a few months ago, and I am hooked! And now I need to ask you for your help. I’m 25 weeks pregnant with a precious little baby boy (due in early July), and the husband and I cannot agree on a name for him. My name is Maggie, hubs is Kevin, and our last name is Pearce. We have a two year-old daughter named Molly Rose, and #2 may or may not be our last child. We’re thrilled to be adding a boy to our clan…….except that we CANNOT figure out his name!

We were actually kind of surprised to “see blue” on the ultrasound, and maybe part of the reason is because we had already compiled a list of girls’ names that we both loved. In case it helps at all, they were Heidi, Charlotte, Alice and Claire. But when it comes to boys’ names, the hubby and I have very different tastes.

My current favorite is Weston, nn Wes. Husband’s response: “is that even a real name?” Close seconds are Gavin, Connor and Austin. I also love the name Parker, but something about Parker Pearce sounds silly to me.

Husband likes more traditional names, and strongly prefers that whatever name we choose be two syllables so that it flows nicely with our one-syllable last name. He brings up Andrew a lot. I’m turned off by it only because it seems kind of ordinary to me. That being said, we are planning to use a traditional, honor middle name–either David or Francis. So I’d rather have something a little more modern (but not too popular!) for his first name.

When we first discussed baby names about five years ago, we both really liked the name Ryan. It’s still in the running, but I think we both find it slightly boring having had it on our list for so long. And more importantly, I’ve seen it pop up recently as a girls’ name. We’re both really not into gender-neutral names, so that’s a definite strike against using Ryan.

Choosing Molly’s name was so simple – we both loved it as soon as we heard it, and while we pretended to consider other names, we were pretty much dead-set on using Molly from the start. Rose is an honor name, and so are both of ours, so we’d like to continue with that tradition.

Since we had that “a-ha!” moment with Molly’s name, I was hoping the same thing would happen for this baby boy. Am I being too unreasonable? Should we just go with a name that we can both live with, but one of us is not overly excited about? We’re completely open to any advice and/or new ideas that you can add to our list, and I promise to share what name we pick when he makes his big entrance into this world!

Thank you!!!!

If your husband's tastes are more traditional, I wonder if he'd like Wesley instead of Weston?

To do this in reverse to your husband's choice of Andrew, I think Anderson is super sharp. Or there's Drewan/Druan, which is like a perfect combination of Ryan and Andrew, but is probably too modern/invented to appeal to your husband.

The Baby Name Wizard has Turner as a suggestion if Parker is not quite right, and it's much better with your surname. Turner Pearce; Molly and Turner.

I know what you mean about a name getting kind of boring after spending so long on the list. You might still want to use Ryan, and it's nice to have a "This would be fine" name available as back-up---or maybe we can find something that is similar but will feel fresher to you:


With Molly, I especially like Henry, Ian, Isaac, and Simon. I also like Molly and Liam, and can't decide if the repeating "lee" sound is too much, or if it ties the two names together.

Name update! Maggie writes:
Our beautiful baby boy arrived June 30th at 8lbs 6oz, and we named him........Ryan Garry! In the end, we decided that "Ryan" really was THE name for our little man, and we have to thank you and the many people who commented on our post for helping us to realize that. And to add an element of surprise, we used my dad's first name for Ryan's middle name. He was thrilled! Thanks to everyone for their suggestions and helped tremendously!

Ryan's picture is attached!

Friday, March 23, 2012


Anna writes:
Okay. Here's one for you. And I really do want your honest opinion. Our top favorite at the moment is a little out there, and I've never seen it discussed on your blog. I proposed it to my usual Impartial Island Name Tester (My hair stylist. They're perfect for this. They won't tell anyone, and they hear A LOT of names), and recieved NO RESPONSE, which I took to mean, ""

We may use it anyway, but if you and your readers tell me what you think, I'll have at least heard it all.

It's Barnaby. And I want to call him Barney.

Hear me out. I think it has a pleasant sound. It is an old-timey, unusual name, yet you know how to say it and spell it. It seems of the ilk of Henry and George and all those others coming back into common usage. Actually, we would want to use George as the middle name, after my dad. Barnaby George.

I'm not really bothered by the Purple Dinosaur. My three year old has almost never watched that show, and a child born this year would see even less of it. Also, even if there WAS some teasing related to the dinosaur, I feel like there isn't much mileage there. "Like the Dinosaur?"... and that's really it. Maybe the song?

So, I guess what I want to know is, CAN THIS NAME BE SAVED? Or will everyone wince when they hear it and make fun of us behind our backs?

Thanks as always for your wise council,

I really really really really honestly like it. It was on our list for Edward, and the main reason we didn't use it is that it didn't fit with the "Top 50"-type style we'd been using for the kids so far, nor did it go well with our "I must use it or I will die" girl name (or actually, it went very well, but in a way we didn't want, and this is getting too confusing considering I use pseudonyms here but you will just have to trust me that all of this is to say I really like the name). I've suggested it a time or two or three, generally to parents who are looking for a totally established name with long roots---but also want something distinctive and unusual and kind of FUN. So many of the boy names that fit my own family's tastes are a little...well, boring to use. We LOVE the name and we want to use it, but it doesn't THRILL. A name like Barnaby has THRILL.

I think it falls into the category of "names that will startle people when you first tell them, but soon they will be thinking how adorable it is." Here is where I think the long roots help so much: if you use a Startle Name like Zophinion, you are ON YOUR OWN in justifying the usage. If you use Barnaby, you have THOUSANDS OF YEARS of name-usage backing you up.

Plus, even though the name has recently been almost unused in the U.S., it continues to be familiar. This to me is a huge selling point. With Zophinion, no one has ever heard of it; with Barnaby, people might be startled, but they'll know the name. It might not be to their tastes, but then, maybe their babies' names aren't to our tastes either.

If I used it, I'd want to use Barnaby as-is, rather than shortening it to Barney---but that's because one of my favorite parts of the name is the -aby ending. So cute! So whimsical! So fun to say!

I'm feeling tempted to push you to use it. I will try to stop pushing now and let other people give their opinions.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Baby Girl S_____in, Sister to Piper Wesley

Chris writes:
My wife and I will welcome our second daughter into this world within the next couple of weeks and I'm embarrased to say we do not have a name picked out yet! Our two front runners are Palmer and Sloane. However, we are not in love with either and are hoping that we will eventually come across a name we absolutely love or end up siding with one or the other - Palmer or Sloane. Our last name starts with a S and ends with in ( My name is Chris and my wife's name is Hollie. I would prefer a first name that does not end with an S as my first and last name kind of run together. By the way, I would wait and let my wife type this tomorrow but she is having contractions so I better hammer this out quick! So, we have one child. A precious little girl named Piper Wesley. We like names that are different yet not too crazy. I love the name Harper but I know a handful of babies named Harper. Far too common for us. We are open to any suggestions and hope you guys can help us so our new baby girl will have a name when she is born! Need help with middle names too. If we end up going with Palmer or Sloan, we want the middle name to be feminine considering both are not very girly. Perhaps, Sloan Alexandra...Palmer Grace....

SOS. Please HELP!!!!!!

Normally we answer questions that arrive in the previous week, so I would have put this on the "no hope of answering in time" pile. However, it reminds me of a previous post we did (Baby Girl Chaplin, Sister to Lennox Elizabeth), which at least would give you feedback on Palmer and on mixing first names with surname names, so I'll go ahead and post a link to that one and perhaps that and its comments section will be of some use.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Baby Name to Consider: Adley

Emily writes:
Adley. There is a girl on The Voice with this name. I like it but I don't know about the rest of the public. What do you think?

It ought to work. Madison opened up the way for Addison; Madelyn made Adelyn more appealing; and I've heard people mentioning Ayla now that we've gotten used to Kayla. The name Hadley is increasing in popularity (according to the Social Security Administration, it went from #921 in 2000 to #216 in 2010---and that doesn't count spellings such as Hadleigh and Hadlee and Hadlie), so Adley seems like a natural next step.

And in fact, in 2010 there were 79 new baby girls named Adley, 50 named Adleigh, and 20 named Adlee. (A few more were named Addley and Addlee, but for me that brings to mind the word "addled," so I'd stick to one D.) Another 18 were named Atlee and Atleigh. And 17 were named Atalie---perhaps helped by the popularity of Natalie. I also found 123 named Adalee, 82 named Adalie, and 38 named Adaleigh, but I'm not sure if that's Ada-lee or Adda-lee.

The nickname Addy will be both a selling point and a deal-breaker: some people will be looking for another way to get the nickname, and others will think it's unfortunate that she'll get lumped in with all the other Addys.

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

Poll results for "What do you think of the name Adley?" (356 votes total):

I love it! I'd want to use it! - 10 votes (3%)
I like it! I'd want to consider it! - 47 votes (13%)
I like it for someone else's baby - 127 votes (36%)
No particular opinion - 28 votes (8%)
Slight dislike - 112 votes (31%)
Strong dislike - 32 votes (9%)

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Baby Naming Issue: A Nickname for Zechariah

Holly writes:
Hi! My husband and I are expecting our first child in late August (our last name is Miller). At this point we don't know if it's a boy or a girl but we do plan to find out in a few more weeks. For a girl, we both like/agree on the name Montgomery though I can't decide yet on a middle name. Since Montgomery is pretty long, I thought about Emory or Emery as a nickname. My husband seems okay with this and I really love it. Now, the bigger issue is a boy name. My husband LOVES and desperately wants to name a boy Zechariah. I'm still debating whether or not I like it (it's starting to grow on me) but the main issue I have is that it's also a long name and doesn't seem to have any good nicknames. The obvious one would be Zech or Zeck but does this sound too weird? If someone introduced themselves as Zech to me, I think I would say "Zek? Zach? what?" I don't really want our son to have this issue every time he meets someone and using the full name Zechariah all the time again, seems too long to me. My husband said we could go with Zeke as a nickname but that makes no sense to me. Zeke doesn't relate to Zechariah in anyway, does it? Just to clarify, we would pronounce it ZEchariah not ZAchariah, so Zach or Zack is out. Thanks!

Are you sure you don't want to consider Zachariah? It solves the issues, and the two are barely-different variants of the same name.

If you definitely want Zechariah, I don't think Zeke (or Zach) is any more of a stretch than Emory/Emery is for Montgomery. Both nicknames take into account some of the sounds/letters from the name, while changing/dismissing others.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Baby Girl Ca_____, Sister to Graham Alexander

Julianne writes:
Hi! Love your blog and all your suggestions. Hoping you can help me with name ideas for our baby girl due in May.

We have a son named Graham Alexander. (Yes, very similar to Alexander Graham Bell but we don't mind that at all since first name is strong with our last name.) Both names are family names.

Since our last name starts with a 'Ca' and ends with an 'ry', we'd like to avoid any first names that start and end with the same.

I do, however, love the name Caroline, just hesitant because of future nicknames, like CaCa. BUT, I do like the idea of the nickname CC. Or CiCi.

So names I'm not interested in:

-anything ending in -ie, or -y (too rhymey with our last name) -
unfortunate because I like names like Hattie or Hallee

-anything starting with Ca-
(like Catherine, Cara, Carsen, Carrie) - which is too bad because I like some of those names too

-anything ending in -s (so first and last names don't create the word "scary")-
which is also too bad because I like names like Hollis and Ellis

I like traditional names with a contemporary feel, if that makes sense. And would love for her name to pair well with Graham.

Can you help? Thanks!!! (this is obviously keeping me up at night! :))

You might be able to use an -ie/-y ending if it has the right rhythm, or more than two syllables: if your last name were Gary, for example (Gary is what I'll use in the post to keep the surname private), Hallee Gary might be too rhymey (though it hasn't struck me that way with Halle Berry), but Cecily Gary might be fine. Or maybe Hallee Gary is too rhymey, but Hillary Gary would be fine---well, or maybe we'd want to avoid two -ry endings. I like Cecily, though: Cecily Gary; Graham and Cecily. And Cecily gives you the CeeCee nickname on its own.

It also might work to use a full form of an -ie/-y ending name you like, if it doesn't matter as much to you if nicknames are a little rhymey with the surname. Hattie could be short for Harriet or Henrietta, for example. Harriet Gary; Graham and Harriet. Or, well, with that specific example I suppose we might end up with Harry Gary---but the gist of the idea is that SOME -ie/-y names might be salvageable with full forms.

If you like Hollis and Ellis but want to avoid the -s ending, Holly might still be out but Ella is available, or Ellison, or Eliza, or Elsa.

Looking now for names to give you the CC nickname, I think Celeste would work beautifully. It gives you CC without a CaCa problem; it's an established name but it's sounding fresh again; and I love it with Graham. Celeste Gary; Graham and Celeste.

Charlotte would work well, too: Charlotte Gary; Graham and Charlotte.

Or Claudia. Claudia Gary; Graham and Claudia.

Changing back to just names I think are good with Graham, I like Genevieve. Graham and Genevieve.

Or Stella. Stella Gary; Graham and Stella.

Or Penelope. Penelope Gary; Graham and Penelope.

Or Rose. Rose Gary; Graham and Rose.

In fact, I find I'm having trouble narrowing things down: so MANY names sound good with Graham!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Baby Boy or Girl Moore

April writes:
After struggling to conceive, my husband and I have been blessed with a pregnancy. We are due October 1st. DH doesn't want to know the sex of the baby, and I don't have strong feelings about needing to know, so we're preparing two sets of names. The names need to fit in with several family traditions. We've decided to use his last name (Moore), but my family of origin traditions for first and middle names.


1. In my family, the middle name Oliver is a tradition for the first born male in a generation (it's my brother's middle name, my grandfather's middle name, my great-grandfather's middle name etc.). Since I am the first sibling to have a child in my family, I'd like to use Oliver in the middle for a boy.

2. The second tradition in my immediate family is to have the initials spell out an additional name. For instance, my initials spell AMY. I loved growing up with a "secret" extra name and want my child to have the same gift. Also, I think my parents would be thrilled if I carried on the pattern they started with my siblings and me.

My husband and I have had no trouble coming up with girl names to fit this pattern. Currently, our favorites are Genevieve Elise (GEM) and Penelope Alice (PAM). We wouldn't turn down more suggestions at this point, since we have a ways to go yet, but we need much more help with a boy's name. Other first names for girls that we like but that don't fit the initials pattern include Celeste, Lydia, and Cecilia.

The boy's name is giving us more trouble since there are two traditions restricting our choices. Basically, with Oliver in the middle, the most reasonable option is to find a first name starting with T to get to TOM. If we don't use Oliver, we are considering Simon Arthur (SAM), although I'd probably rather break with the initials tradition than the Oliver tradition, so maybe we'll just reserve that for a second boy, if we are blessed enough to have one.

Here are a list of boy T names we have come up with and all of the crazy reasons we have for not liking any of them:

Theodore - We love this name. Sadly it rhymes with Moore.

Toby - Reminds us both of a dim-witted character on a television show that we both watch.

Truman - Husband says he won't name child after president who bombed Hiroshima.

Terrance - The nickname Terry drives me nuts. I suggested Ren to the husband as an alternate nickname idea, and he hates the idea.

Timothy - Makes me think of Tiny Tim or Timothy Titmouse -- which both seem annoying to me.

Titus - Husband says it has the word ass in it, so it's out.

Troy - We both like this name. However, we're living in upstate NY right now and to our neighbors this is a city that they don't like.

Thomas - Way to common with the last name Moore. Also the same name as that of famous people from the past. My father-in-law has a super common first name and when combined with his last name, it's a huge hassle with identification (incorrect bills, court orders etc).

Tristan - Love the meaning behind the name, but for some reason it sounds a bit prissy or nerdy to us and our child is likely to be a nerd, so we don't want to make it to hard for him.

Travis - Nothing actually wrong with the name itself, but it's the name of a professor I had in college that I disliked.

Trevor - I like it, but Trevor Oliver sounds awkward to me with the double r ending.

Thaddeus - It's okay, but for some reason it just always sounds like it being said wrong to me. Also, Thad Moore sounds similar to the name of a summer camp that I used to go to and that's just strange to me.

Trent - Reminds me of the politician Trent Lott, which is not positive for us. Also, the Council of Trent, which just seems odd.

I keep feeling like the perfect T name is out there, but since I'm already a name nerd, I'm starting to lose hope in the idea that there is a T name I haven't thought of yet. Perhaps I already know the perfect T name, but I just need someone to help me see it in a different light? Swistle, you always give great advice -- want to give it a shot?

Another possibility is to go for the initials DOM. Or, if it's okay to use more than one middle name, you could do COLM or NORM. But I agree with you about going for TOM if possible: it practically cries out to be used here.

When I was expecting Henry, Matt Lauer and his wife had a baby boy and named him Thijs, pronounced Tice. I have Dutch ancestry and so does Paul, and I also immediately loved the sound of the name, so I spent quite a bit of time trying to figure out how to use that name in the United States. My conclusion was that I didn't think the spelling was possible to use here without a lot more hassle than I was willing to take on, and I didn't want to Americanize the spelling.

It seems like a good possibility here: it's like Titus without the...tu. Tyce Oliver Moore. Both Ty and Tyson are familiar enough to pull Tyce with them. The flow isn't perfect, but with two traditions to satisfy, something else may have to give.

For that reason I also think Trevor could be reconsidered. Trevor Oliver does have a little repeated-endings issue, but will you be saying the names together often? Or, wait. Actually, "Trever Moore" makes me think of what the raven kept quothing.

Thatcher would be cute, though. Thatcher Oliver Moore.

Or would Trevin work? Trevin Oliver Moore.

I also want to revisit Theodore, since you both love it. I've been saying Moore more like "boor" or "moor" than like "-dore" or "more," but the rhyming issue leads me to believe I may saying it wrong. (After all, I rhyme the words "door" and "poor" with "more," so Moore could be the same.) Plus, if you'd mentioned Theodore without mentioning the issue with the endings, I would have pointed it out even pronouncing it like moor. And after saying Theodore, I'm more likely to pronounce Moore to rhyme with it. So it IS an issue, but maybe it's not a deal-breaker. Or you could go with the stand-alone name Theo, but I think that might lead people to put it with Moore as if it were Theodore: "Theomoore." Well, maybe it IS out, but I'm reluctant to let it go.

Would the name Tobin still make you think of the dim character Toby? Tobin Oliver Moore.

Your husband's objection to Truman sounds like it isn't up for discussion, but I feel like discussing it anyway. Using a name doesn't mean it has to be "after" everyone else who had the name---and certainly not after a PARTICULAR previous owner of the name. President Truman is perhaps most people's primary association with the name, but if people said "Oh, after President Truman?," there is room for saying "No." Well, fine, I see the reasoning and I guess it's off the list. It's just such a great T-name, and it's great with your surname, and I think of it as a surname name rather than a tribute name---but I understand how it is when an association takes over a name. In fact, I think part of my woe here is that I didn't previous associate Truman with Hiroshima, and now I do.

If the main problem with Thomas is that it's too common, you could use Thomason or Thompson. Thomason Oliver Moore; Thompson Oliver Moore. I think I prefer Thompson. But in talking about it with my mother, she brought up the point that having a name with the nickname Tom might take away the entire point of having a secret initials name.

Thaddeus/Thad makes me think of Todd. Todd Oliver Moore. Does that sound just as much like the camp name?

Teagan is used more often for girls than boys, which is too bad because it might fit the bill perfectly. Teagan Oliver Moore.

The Baby Name Wizard also lists Teague for boys, and that's not being used for girls at all. Teague Oliver Moore.

Oh, or Tiernan! Tiernan Oliver Moore.

It's rare in the United States, but Timon is one of my favorites of the T names so far. It sounds like Simon, without any Simple/Says issues. I'd expected it to get more common when everyone was searching for ways to get to the nickname Ty, but it didn't. Timon Oliver Moore. [Never mind: I see from the comments section that I was wrong about the pronunciation.] [Second edit: Well, or maybe I'm not wrong. HowJSay says it to rhyme with Simon. Pronounce Names shows several pronunciations, starting with the one that rhymes with Simon. Timon's Thoughts says one pronunciation is to rhyme with Simon. The Bible Workshop says it rhymes with Simon. The Shakespeare Glossary says it rhymes with Simon. Babynamespedia has it rhyming with Simon. The Baby Name Wizard says it rhymes with Simon. So I'm putting it back on my list.]

Name update! April writes:
I am proud to announce the birth of Alice Younglove Moore.

My baby girl was born on September 21st, so we did not have to worry about boy names in the end. However, after discussing your decide first names first policy we decided not to do initials spelling a second name for our daughter either. Instead, we opted to make a family connection to my side with her middle name as my maiden name. Also, her initials AYM are an anagram of my initials AMY.

Thank you for your advice! We'll keep it in our back pocket if we ever decide to have another. :)

I'm attaching a picture of our perfect little one to this email.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Baby Girl Cameron

Elizabeth writes:
My husband and I are expecting a baby girl around April 20th. We have really struggled with picking a final name and are just fine with having 2 or 3 choices and deciding when we meet this little lady- however picking 2-3 has proven difficult as well. Our last name is Cameron. We would like to give her a "classic" sounding name that grows well with her from infancy through late adulthood. Here are some first and middle names that we have been considering. Any advice is welcome!

Della (great-grandmother)
Katherine (nickname: Kay- honoring maternal grandmother)

Hayes (family name)

Any other name suggestions are appreciated and we are definitely looking for some advice in terms of name order.

Thank you!

If you are looking for a classic-sounding name that will grow with her, Katherine's your girl. I'm not sure, though, about the sound of Katherine Cameron. Similar classic names: Margaret, Elizabeth, Victoria.

From your lists, my (alphabetized) favorites are:

Della Hayes Cameron
Della Katherine Cameron
Della Wyeth Cameron
Katherine Hayes Cameron
Katherine Maeve Cameron
Maeve Katherine Cameron
Maeve Wyeth Cameron

It's too soon to call it, but I'm worried Adelyn/Adalyn/Adalynn/Adelynn/Addilyn might end up clumped with Addison and Madison rather than with the classics. I'd suggest Madeline or Madeleine or Adeline or Abigail or Nadia or Adrianna or Adelaide.

If you like Wyeth, I suggest Meredith and Willa and Gwyneth and Elizabeth and Athena and Bethany and Lilith. I'd like to suggest Bronwyn and Rowan and Arwen and Bethan, but I'm not sure they're right with Cameron.

If this is your first baby and you plan on having more, I recommend thinking about what effect each name will have on names for future siblings. (See also: Advice for First-Time Parents.) There are so many different styles on your list, and it would be helpful to find out which most closely represent your own naming style. If you have a little girl named Katherine, and then you have another girl later, will you be able to find a sister name you like? If you instead name this little girl Wyeth, will you be able to find a sister name you like---or a brother name you like? It's hard to have to think about sibling names when it's already hard enough to think of a name just for THIS baby---but it may save you significant stress in the future.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

How Do You Pronounce the Name Rowan?

My mother and I had a discussion the other day about the name Rowan/Rowen. Neither of us personally knows anyone with the name, or has heard it pronounced by anyone who does. I've been assuming a "row your boat" pronunciation, to rhyme with Owen. My mom has been assuming the first part was pronounced as in "ow, I hurt myself," or as in the word rowdy, or as in Howard.

I tried to search online, and most of the evidence supports the row-your-boat pronunciation---but many places give the "rowdy"-type pronunciation as a second or alternate pronunciation, if not as a first. It's additionally complicated because rowan and rowen are both nouns, and their pronunciations may or may not apply to the pronunciation of the name.

I'm going to put a poll over to the right, with a variety of answers to cover a variety of circumstances: I'd think we'd want a vote from someone who actually knows an actual Rowen or Rowan to carry more weight than a vote from someone who, like my mom and me, is just assuming a pronunciation. [Poll closed; see results below.]

Poll results for "How Do You Pronounce the Name Rowan?" (506 votes total):

I know someone; it's like Owen - 255 votes (50%)
I know someone; it's like rowdy - 2 votes (0%)
I know at least once pronounced each way - 1 vote (0%)
I don't know someone; I thought it was like Owen - 245 votes (48%)
I don't know someone; I thought it was like rowdy - 3 votes (1%)

Friday, March 9, 2012

Baby Boy or Girl Carlos, Sibling to Clayton and Chloe

Kimberly writes:
Help! I'm literally losing sleep over a possible baby girl name. We do not know the sex of our third and final child, which will be here in less than 5 weeks! Our twins are 21 months old. Their names are Clayton Joseph and Chloe Grace. Our last name is Carlos. If we have a boy, his name will be Jackson James. I'd like to use Faith as the middle name if it's a girl, but that's not an absolute must. Since Clayton and Chloe are older names, I'd like to stick with that theme. Names we've considered, but I just can't seem to commit to are:

Macie Layne (husband loves)
Ashby Faith (we both love, but not sure about the rest of the world!)
Olivia (beautiful, but so popular)
Sadie (very common dog name!)
Violet (I like, husband isn't a huge fan of)
Harper (I like, husband says it isn't feminine enough)

Please advise...I'm desperate and feeling so unprepared!!

I think the rest of the world would likely be fine with Ashby: it's similar to the well-liked name Ashley but with a fresher sound, and surname names are currently in style. My main hesitation is the vast difference in popularity between the names Chloe and Ashby: according to the Social Security Administration, Chloe was #9 in 2010, but Ashby hasn't been in the Top 1000 since 1907---and that was as a boy's name. In 2010, there were 11,656 new baby girls named Chloe (and another 6,771 named Khloe/Kloey/Cloe/Cloey/etc, bringing the ranking from #9 to more like #3), and only 27 baby girls named Ashby.

Another hesitation is that Chloe is completely feminine in the U.S.----but Ashby is unisex, used in 2010 for 18 boys.

Here's why neither of these hesitations make me feel like you shouldn't use the name: because neither of them FEEL true. Because of Ashley, the name Ashby seems more common and feminine than it is. Also, because the name Clayton falls somewhere between Chloe and Ashby (it was #252 for boys in 2010), it isn't as jarring a feeling as it might be if you had Jacob, Emma, and Ashby---and even THEN, the "Ash" part makes it fit for me. AND you both love it, and I think there are few explanations more suitable for explaining away hesitations.

I do find Ashby a little difficult to say, however. The transition from -sh- to -by requires a mouth adjustment I guess I don't usually have to make, and I find it sometimes means I say the ending with more of a P sound than a B sound: Ashpy rather than Ashby. Would you like the name Shelby instead? Shelby Carlos; Clayton, Chloe, and Shelby; Chloe Grace and Shelby Faith.

I have a slight preference for the spelling Macey over the spelling Macie, but I can't put a finger on WHY. It would also give her a different ending than Chloe's, which could be a plus or a minus.

If you love the name Olivia, I encourage you to use it. Its popularity is very close Chloe's when alternate spellings are taken into account, and it really is a beautiful name. Olivia Carlos; Clayton, Chloe, and Olivia; Chloe Grace and Olivia Faith.

I think Sadie is well-established enough as a human name to be safe to use: it doesn't fall into the "But that's a DOG'S name!" category. But I understand if it rules out the name for you: once I'd met two dogs named Bijou, it made it hard for me to think of it as a possible baby girl name. Sadie is a traditional nickname for Sarah, so one possibility would be to use the name Sarah, and then try Sadie as a nickname; then if it DID bother you, you could drop Sadie and use Sarah or Sally instead.

Sadie makes me think of Laney, which can be a stand-alone or a nickname for another name; my favorite long form is Elena. Elena Carlos; Clayton, Chloe, and Elena; Chloe Grace and Elena Faith. I'm not sure if the repeating "ay" sounds of Clayton and Elena are too similar or if they tie the sibling group together nicely.

Delaney is another long form that would work. Delaney Carlos; Clayton, Chloe, and Delaney; Chloe Grace and Delaney Faith. Again the issue with the repeating "ay" sounds.

Avery is quite unisex, and I'm not sure that goes as well with the very feminine Chloe. But I don't think it's deal-breakingly unisex, especially since although the usage of Chloe is all-girl, the name itself is not particularly frilly.

Ava is more girly and not at all unisex. It's also more common than Avery, but not a lot more common: #5 to Avery's #23---and with alternate spellings such as Averie/Averi/Avarie added in, Avery is in the top 10. Ava Carlos; Clayton, Chloe, and Ava; Chloe Grace and Ava Faith.

I was about to suggest Harlow(e) to make Harper more feminine, and then realized that Harlow Carlos is not the best fit! If you like the -per ending, there's also Juniper and Piper.

Ella is nice with Chloe, both in femininity and in popularity (it was #13 last year, and is even more common than that because of all the girls using it as a nickname for Elizabeth and Eleanor and so on). This is one of my favorites for you. Ella Carlos; Clayton, Chloe, and Ella; Chloe Grace and Ella Faith.

Stella would also be nice. Stella Carlos; Clayton, Chloe, and Stella; Chloe Grace and Stella Faith.

If you wanted to continue the Cl-sound theme, Claudia would work. Claudia Carlos; Clayton, Chloe, and Claudia; Chloe Grace and Claudia Faith. But I don't think there's any need to do so: the first two children being twins makes it even easier than usual to break the pattern for a third.

Georgia came suddenly to my mind when I was re-reading the letter. Georgia Carlos; Clayton, Chloe, and Georgia; Chloe Grace and Georgia Faith.

Or Molly. Molly Carlos; Clayton, Chloe, and Molly; Chloe Grace and Molly Faith.

Or Audrey. Audrey Carlos; Clayton, Chloe, and Audrey; Chloe Grace and Audrey Faith.

Oh, or Aubrey, since it's more similar to Ashby. Aubrey Carlos; Clayton, Chloe, and Aubrey; Chloe Grace and Aubrey Faith. I really like that.

Ashby and Olivia make me think of Libby, which can be used as a stand-alone name or as a nickname for Elizabeth.

Your mention of Violet made me think of Charlotte. I like the way she'd have a Ch- start to her name like her sister, without having to repeat the Cl- sound. But do Charlotte and Carlos share too many sounds? Charlotte Carlos; Clayton, Chloe, and Charlotte; Chloe Grace and Charlotte Faith.

Name update! Kimberly writes:
Our sweet little boy is here! We were both surprised to hear the words, "it's a boy" because we both thought it was a girl. Easton James was born on April 3rd and is just perfect! We love his name, which was inspired by the country music singer, Easton Corbin. His name literally changed days before his arrival. I was so happy my husband agreed to it. His twin siblings, Clayton and Chloe are adjusting well to their new brother! Thanks for your help!!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Baby Girl Cunningham, Sister to Jackson ("Brooks") and Emery

Mackenzie writes:
Background on the family would include myself Mackenzie Ruth and my husband Jackson Elliot "Jack". Our last name sounds like Cunningham and this baby girl, our third child together, is due on April 23rd, 2012. We have two older children Jackson Brooks IV "Brooks" and Emery Taylor "Emery". Long story short, my son goes by his middle name as he is the fourth, his first name was not my first choice, but it is the "Cunningham" family tradition to name the first son Jackson, and Brooks is a more appealing, unique choice of a name. Everyone in our family calls him Brooks, he introduces himself as Brooks to new people and although he knows his name is Jackson, he prefers to be called Brooks and will correct people if they use the wrong name with him.

Then we have our sweet baby girl Emery Taylor. I wanted her to be named Emerson Taylor after my maiden name (Emerson) and a friend who passed away in high school (Taylor). But, there was another "Cunningham" tradition that was in the way. The middle name Marie is typically used for women on that side of the family, but I was very adamant on my name choice. We compromised and gave her the name Emery because it sounds like it incorporates Marie (although my husband did lobby for Emarie/Emerie but I just couldn't do it).

Now we get on the subject (finally!) of baby girl #2. My husband now insists on using the middle name Marie (as we did not use it with Emery), but it doesn't feel right to me. We named our son after the Cunningham side of the family and Emery is partially named for the Cunningham's, although her middle name represents a childhood friend of mine. I feel it is time to honor my part of the family. Possible name that could be used as either a first or middle name would be:
Lillian, Catherine, Ruth, Elizabeth, Caroline, Hadley, Shea, or Addison

Names that we have also looked at have been:
Kennedy, Reagan, Leighton, and Kinley

The pressure has also been put onto us by both sides of the family. My parents are arguing that they is no namesakes after them (William Hayes and Lillian Elizabeth), while my husband's family is arguing the debate of Marie as a middle name.

Please help us Swistle as it seems you can be the only person of reason in the situation. Please!

My first impulse is to go back in time and pressure the two of you to use Emerson instead of Emery: not only is "mother's maiden name as child's first name" one of my favorite family name ideas, but it's a beautiful balance for the "named for his father" naming tradition of your first child.

If altering the name Emerson to incorporate Marie WASN'T enough to satisfy the tradition, then the name Emerson should have been left alone (otherwise the sacrifice was too great to justify the change); because of this, I decree conclude that that Marie tradition HAS been satisfied. Perhaps this will make more sense to your husband's family if it is suggested to them that changing your family name from Emerson to Emery was like changing their family name from Jackson to Jacoby. You gave up a great deal for the sake of their tradition---and two must-use (as opposed to fun and optional) traditions from one family is unreasonable to begin with.

Meanwhile, it sounds as if both sides of the family are being pushy and disagreeable. No one may demand a namesake be used, or complain if it isn't. Namesakes are honors not be expected, but rather to be received with happy, teary-eyed surprise. Both sets of your parents made their own baby-naming decisions for their own babies, and now the decisions are up to you and your husband. You may even need to point this out in a polite and loving way. (It will help even more if your parents didn't use family names for you and your siblings, or if your husband's parents felt at all burdened by their own need to follow traditions.)

Now that we have dealt with the grandparents, we need to deal with your husband. The children in this family all carry his family surname, is that right? First and middle names are not also to be chosen based solely on his and his family's preferences; if anything, the fact that his family is honored in every child's name already should tip the use of other honor names toward your side of the family, so that each full name represents both sides. The names are to be decided by the two of you together; there is no room here for insisting, or for acting as if traditions are requirements that trump the other parent's naming rights. He was very fortunate to marry a woman who was willing to let her son be named by tradition; insisting also now on a "typically used" middle name tradition is pushing it.

(Not that these paragraphs of should-ing and shouldn't-ing will do you much good if the other people involved disagree. But sometimes it is heartening to have others on your side, even if it makes no difference to the reality of the situation.)

With the name Emery, my favorite names from your family list are Hadley, Shea, and Addison. And although I feel outraged on your behalf and it makes me feel stubborn and resistant to this idea, I reluctantly mention that Hadley Marie would be pretty cute, and would be a nice way to give each daughter a name that's a mix of mother's and father's sides.

But I prefer Hadley Elizabeth. Or Addison Hayes would be nice with Emery Taylor. I'm finding Shea harder to work with, and Shea Cunningham sounds a little like Chez Cunningham, so maybe I'd put Shea in the middle name slot instead: Hadley Shea, Addison Shea.

I especially like the idea of using your middle name Ruth, to give each daughter a tie to your name as your son's name ties to his father's. Hadley Ruth, Addison Ruth.

The names on your joint list (Kennedy, Reagan, Leighton, Kinley) are all great with Emery, but they don't seem as good with Cunningham. Maybe Landry would work. Landry Cunningham; Emery and Landry. Because it's a unisex name, I'd go definite-feminine for the middle name: Landry Ruth, Landry Elizabeth, Landry Catherine.

Or to get rid of the unisex aspect, Laney would work well. Laney Cunningham; Emery and Laney. Laney Shea is fun to say, or Laney Ruth, or Laney Elizabeth.

Or Shelby. Shelby Ruth Cunningham, Shelby Elizabeth Cunningham.

Lila isn't exactly Lillian, but might please your mother anyway. Lila Cunningham; Emery and Lila.

Or hey, would you want to do another combined name like Emery? Lilabeth would reflect both of your mom's names, and then if you did Marie in the middle maybe everyone would be happy. Lilabeth Marie Cunningham; Emery and Lilabeth.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Baby Naming Issue: Is an Altered Honor Name Too Much of a Stretch?

C. writes:
Children are not anywhere close in the future for me right now, but I have been thinking of names and ways to honor my family members. My grandmother's name is Irma, and I would like to use that name somehow. The problem is she strongly dislikes her name, and I am not a huge fan of it myself. The way I went around this was trying to find names that are similar. I thought of "Marie" and figured it could honor her since the letters to form "Irma" are included with an extra "e'.

Long story short, my question to you is do you think that Marie is too much of a stretch to honor my grandmother, Irma? I appreciate your help, thank you very much.

You're asking a specific question, but I'm going to broaden the topic and answer more generally: it's the sort of question that comes up frequently, and I've been meaning to write a post about it for the reference section.

I have two tests for whether an altered honor name is too much of a stretch---one test for each of the two reasons I'd use an honor name.

1. The first reason I'd use an honor name is to remind me of the person. I think of my grandfather every time I think of or tell the story of Rob's middle name, which is my grandfather's name. The test for this one, then, is "Will the altered name make you think of the person being honored?" It very well might: maybe every time you think of the name Marie, or every time you talk about the name with your future daughter, you'll think of the clever solution to your grandmother disliking her name, which will of course make you think of your grandmother. Or maybe it won't: maybe the name Irma would bring your grandmother instantly to your mind, but the name Marie has completely different associations for you, or you'd feel funny giving the explanation for it. The answer to this test will completely vary from situation to situation, because there are so many different variables: the person thinking about it, the person being honored, the particular name being used, the particular reasons for not using the actual name, etc.

2. The second reason I'd use an honor name is to please the person being honored, and to show them how highly I think of them. (Or to please/show other family members, if the honoree has died.) The test for this one, then, is "Will the person being honored get this message from the altered name?" That is, will your grandmother Irma feel honored by having a namesake Marie? (Mira would be another possibility.) Maybe so, especially if she wouldn't want her own name used, and if you explained it to her as a workaround for this problem. You could test things out by bringing up the topic with her now, before there's the pressure of an actual pregnancy---just a nice chat about all the family names you might want to use someday. She may even have a suggestion: her maiden name, her middle name, her mother's name, her sister's name, a name she always wished had been hers, her birthstone, her favorite flower, etc.

As part of this test I do an exercise where I turn the question around so it's me and my name. It doesn't work perfectly in this particular case (because I can't think of a name that could be made out of all the same letters as my name), but for example I'd ask myself if, as a Kristen, I'd be honored by a great-granddaughter named something other than Kristen---and how far away from my name could it get before it didn't feel like an honor anymore. Would I be honored by a little baby Kristin? How about by a little baby Christine? Kiersten? Kirsty? Krystal? How about by a baby Tristen or Trista or Christian? A baby Kira? Karys? How about by a Katelyn? A Tessie? An Eirlis? And so on. At which point do I stop feeling any personal connection to the name being used?

And because we're on the topic of avoiding using a name someone has always disliked: If it seems important not to try to honor someone by using a name they dislike, it seems important to make sure the substitute name is not also one they dislike.

In general, my opinion is that every step away from the original name (either given name or always-used nickname) decreases the honor considerably---but that this can still be okay as long as everyone realizes that and treats it as such. The only time I get bad feelings about such things are when someone uses a name that's way off ("We named the baby Amelia after you, Grandma Mildred!") and wants the honoree to respond at exactly the same level of sentimental joy as if the actual name had been used. If I were Grandma Mildred, I think I'd be more pleased if someone instead said to me, "I was looking at a name book and noticed that both Amelia and Mildred were listed as long forms of Milly. So now your names are connected in my mind, and her name always makes me think of you!"

I also find it reassuring to keep in mind that even though an honor name is a great way to remind us of the person and show the person how highly we think of them, it's not the only way to accomplish those things. Sometimes a name just doesn't work out as a baby's name, but there are many other ways to honor and remember someone you love.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Middle Name Challenge: Ellery ____ Montgomery

A. writes:
My husband and I are expecting our firstborn Oct 2 2012 and while we already have a boy name picked out, we think we have a girl name picked out but cannot come up with a good middle name. We are 99% sure that if we have a girl, we will name her Ellery and call her "Elle" at times. We like the middle name Gray because we both love that color and thought that a middle name ending in the long "A" sound would flow the best. However, several people have told us that Gray sounds too gloomy to go with Ellery. We can't use Mae as that is our niece's middle name is Mae and we don't like Rae. We would like a shorter middle name because our last name is Montgomery. My twin sister's name is Skye and while I like that for a middle name, my husband doesn't want to have any part of the name named after someone we know or are related to. Can you please suggest middle names to go with Ellery Montgomery?!

P.S., if our baby is a boy, we will name him Stellan Ford Montgomery as Ford is my maiden name.

Thank you!

I can see how the name Grey/Gray could sound gloomy, but it doesn't ring that way for me. I think more of handsome grey business suits, sweet grey mares, pretty grey skies (which I like, but I know not everyone does), unusual/attractive grey eyes, dove grey gloves, and the fashionable wall color. And I think "We both love that color" is enough to reassure anyone who might wonder about gloominess. My mind immediately turns to the fun of finding pretty grey things for her nursery and wardrobe, and to maybe sometimes using the nickname Ella Grey.

My own personal preference is for the spelling Grey. For me it evokes all those more positive feelings about the word, while Gray makes me think of Gary.

I also think the sound of Ellery Grey is wonderful. My only hesitation is that Ellery Grey Montgomery has a lot of ery/rey endings for one name.

If you like the color aspect of Grey/Gray, you could go with Blue or Rose or Jade. Blue would give you a sneaky secret wink to Skye. So would Grey, for that matter, but Blue is a more positive-sounding wink---which is odd, now that I think of it, since "blue" is a synonym for sad. Well, there it is, though: blue skies mean cheeriness and grey skies don't.

I think it would be fine to re-use a niece's middle name if you love it, and could even be a sweet tie between the girls. But if you'd rather not or you suspect it wouldn't fly with your niece's parents, and if Rae is out, there's also the vintage charm of Faye and Kay. Day would also be cute: Ellery Day. Or Ellery Eve is pretty, or Ellery Joy. Or Ellery June/Jane/Jean/Joan/Jo. Or Ellery Paige/Sage/Raine/Laine/Faith.

I think I like a 2-syllable middle name even better, rhythm-wise, especially if the emphasis is on the first syllable: Ellery LA-la Montgomery instead of Ellery la Montgomery. Other two-syllable examples: Ellery Eva, Ellery Iris, Ellery Nina, Ellery Hannah, Ellery Briar, Ellery Violet, Ellery Meadow.

Would you like Ellery Sterling Montgomery, or is that too much? Sterling evokes some of the same feelings as Grey for me, but with less potential perceived gloominess. On the other hand, that's three names in a row with -er-, and Sterling's traditional use for boys may tip the boyishness of Ellery further than you'd like. Ellery Silver Montgomery tones down the name a bit, but still has the -er- issue.

I hesitate to call a 99% favorite into question, but I think part of the challenge here is that Ellery and Montgomery have matching -ery endings and almost rhyme. As with all repeating name-sounds, this can be a positive or a negative: it can tie the name together pleasingly, or it can give it a stuttery or singsongy sound.

A name like Elena would eliminate the rhyminess while still leaving you with Elle. Elena Montgomery.

Or for something a little lacier, Eliana Montgomery.

Or for something a little less lacy, Ellis Montgomery. I'd go very feminine with the middle name, then; I probably wouldn't use Grey. I like Joy or Jane: Ellis Joy Montgomery; Ellis Jane Montgomery.

Even less lacy: Ellison Montgomery. Again, I'd use a distinctively feminine middle name.

Or Elsa Montgomery. Very similar to Ella, but much less common.

I'm not sure Eliza would be your style, but it's my style so it springs to my mind. Eliza Montgomery. That's a name I'd like to have myself.

Reading over your letter again, I notice Stellan is your boy-name pick. Is this a name you would still like to use if you have a girl now and a boy later, or is it a matter of first-come-first-serve for the -ella- sound? If you'd like to use it later, that might affect which girl names I'd suggest: Elena and Stellan seem fine for sibling names, but Ella and Stellan would not work as well.

And since this is your first child, I'll include a link to a more general post: Baby naming advice for first-time parents.

Name update! A. writes:
Just writing to update you that our daughter was born weighing 7 lbs 3 ounces, 19 inches long! The night before we found out the gender we had changed the boy's name from Stellan to Lawson and at that point were up in the air about a girls name even though we were 99% sure beforehand that we would name her Ellery. We had received some mixed feedback about her name so we had been looking for other options and were considering the name Ayla. As soon as we found out we were having a girl we walked out of the sonogram knowing her name would absolutely be Ellery! We took your suggestion and spelled the middle name Grey vs Gray. Thanks for the help, we'll be coming back when it's time for our second child!! P.S. I still enjoy reading your blog and have referred several friends who are expecting!

Here's a picture of our sweet Ellery and her beautiful lips!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Baby Naming Issue: Going By a Middle Name

Allison writes:
I may be imagining this, but it seems like I recall you writing once on your baby name blog about naming a baby with the intention of the baby going by his/her middle name. My husband and I are expecting a baby boy and are considering doing this--my only hesitation is the "pain in the butt" factor of having to correct people. Am I imagining that this has been a topic before? I searched the archives, but couldn't find it. If it hasn't been a topic, I'd be interested to get your readers' thoughts on this as it is a hard decision (and one I certainly don't want to regret if we wind up going for it and having to correct people daily).

Thanks for your help!

I know we've discussed it before, but darned if I can find it! Searching "middle name" gives me...pretty much every single post. And it might be one of those topics we've repeatedly discussed within a post, without it ever featuring as the main topic. So let's discuss it as the main topic now.

I think going by a middle name works fine, but that to justify the hassle there should ideally be a good reason behind it. Sample good reasons:

1. You absolutely must use a family name you hate. You use it, but use the name you actually wanted to use as the middle name, and have the child go by that.

2. All juniors, thirds, fourths, etc.

3. Compromises, when nothing else works. I went to school with a boy whose parents couldn't agree on the order of his names, not even at the very last second. So they flipped a coin, named him Adam Jason, and called him Jason. This made a good story on the first day of every school year.

3a. I can picture this also as a solution to a namesake issue, where the parents would like to honor both grandfathers but they want to make it as fair as possible, so they give the first-name slot to one grandfather, but the daily namesake use to the other.

Here's an example of a reason I consider not worth it, but of course it will depend on each family and how they feel about it: reversing the names to improve the rhythm of the whole name. I worked with a woman whose parents wanted to name her Joy and give her the middle name Linda, but thought Linda Joy sounded better. So they named her Linda Joy, and called her Joy her whole life. She thought this was a huge pain in the buns, and wished her parents had just named her Joy Linda: the upside of having a better name rhythm was minor compared to the downside of corrections and forms and confusion and explaining. (She said she'd planned to change it after they died, but by that time she was well into her 60s and the hassle of changing every single legal document seemed overwhelming.)

I've also seen people do it because they thought the honor name had to go in the first-name slot, but didn't want to call the child by that name. In which case I think it makes more sense to put the honor name in the middle-name slot, which is an excellent honor-name position and also removes the awkwardness about why exactly no one wants the child called that name.

I think, though, that regardless of the reason for doing it, the practice is common enough that the hassle, though steady and persistent, will stay at a minor and not particularly confusing level. "He goes by his middle name" is so short and easy to understand, and both you and he will get accustomed to responding to his first name at doctor appointments, on envelopes, at roll call, etc. It's something you'll have to say over and over again throughout your lives, but most of us have to say something over and over again about our names: "That's with an -en," "It's an EES sound, like in Lisa," "Yes, it's French," "No, I kept my own name," "The K is silent," and so on.

One more thing it's good to keep in mind is that the child himself may choose to go by his unused first name later. This particularly applies if the parents are using a first name they dislike: it's good to think out ahead of time that if the child prefers that name and chooses to go by it later on, it would be a tough argument to say that he shouldn't use his own first name.

There! Have we covered all the situations? Does anyone have firsthand or secondhand experience with this, and can report on the level of hassle involved?

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Baby Girl Marley, Sister to Joseph (Jed)

Nikki writes:
I love reading your blog and hope that you could be of assistance in naming our new little girl due in early April 2012.

We have a beautiful 22 month old boy named Joseph Edward - called Jed. I am Nikki (actually named Nicole) and Hubby is Joey (Joseph III... our son is a fourth!) Last name starts with an M and sounds like Marley. We are planning to have more children after this girl as well.

We had a horrible time choosing our sons name as I am a bit more out of the box on naming boys and my husband is more traditional. Our son was born at 35 weeks and we knew that he would be the 4th but did not decide on Jed until he was almost 3 days old! I really loved the idea of calling him Ford to play on the fourth or even Ward as a nickname from Edward... in the end Jed fits him perfectly and I am so glad that we chose it! I love that his nn is unique yet he has a classic name too if he ever wants to go by that when he gets older.

We are very excited about having a girl and I really want to get her name settled on early so we aren't at the hospital unsure of what to call her! We both love the name Sloane but 2 friends have just used that name for their little girl. We both gravitate towards the more masculine sounding names for girls. We also really loved Hayes but I worry that it is too masculine and also not sure how I feel about it for when she gets older. That had me thinking of names that we might use to get Hayes as a nn and thought of Hazel. It doesn't seem to jump out at me as the one though. This led me to Quinn which I love but can't seem to get a middle name that works with it as I feel it needs a longer middle name. What do you think about the names we have on our list (really just Quinn and Hazel) and also any suggestions for names that are similar to them or Sloane that we might have missed?

Thanks so much for your help!

Well here we are at 33 and a half weeks and still nameless! I am starting to get really nervous as my son came at 35 weeks! Please help and I promise for an update from the hospital bed!

We do now have a top 5 list that we review nightly and are trying to slowly get down to our little girls name. So here it is in the order of our preferences... We are both happy using the middle name of Quinn with most of these names but open on that too!

1. Seraphina (nickname Phina) - like that it feels classic but still unique. Is it becoming trendy? Do people think of the Afflecks every time they hear this?

2. Fiona (nn Fia) - love the meaning and have never met anyone with this name! Will we be setting our daughter up for the Shrek teasing?

3. Karalina (nn Lina) - we like the Kara leena pronunciation? Would you pronounce this way?

4. Lilyana (n Lana) - love the name since I am due at Easter time. Not a fan of the Lily nn with our last name. Think that could be avoided?

5. Sophia (nn Phia) -love the name hate the popularity. Think that this will be a deal breaker.

We really want a unique name that is also not going to feel dated or weird with a fun nickname like our son has. Are we missing a name that fits this?

Thanks so much!

1. Seraphina. I immediately think of the Afflecks, but I think that will change with time as the name becomes more widely-used and the associations therefore become more diluted. I think of it more as the Afflecks making the name usable. But the celebrity connection can definitely give a name a "trendy" feel, even if the name isn't very common.

2. Fiona. I've seen Shrek, and I've heard the connection mentioned periodically when the name is mentioned in a post, but it's not one that comes to my own mind. I don't know if children would tease about it or not. I'm hoping someone here has an elementary-school-aged Fiona and can report.

3. Karalina. I'm glad I pronounced it in my mind before reading the rest of the section, so that I can report that I first pronounced it with a LEE sound. If I encountered it out in the world, I would probably ask if it were LEE or LIE. Two similar possibilities: Karenna, Linnea.

4. Lilyana. I'm not sure if Lily could be avoided. Certainly this is a good generation for avoiding a nickname, and maybe if you set up the Lana thing early on? But Lana is not a natural nickname for Lilyana, and Lily is, so you may meet with resistance. Spelling it Lilliana could help a little: Lilyana visually suggests the nickname Lily. But if popularity bothers you, I suggest crossing this one off the list: the spellings and variations (Lilliana, Lilianna, Lilyanna, Liliana, plus all the Lillians and Lilys) add up to a very popular name. Would you consider going straight for Lana? That's a name in its own right, and significantly less common.

5. Sophia. I think you can cross this off the list if popularity bothers you. It also seems like Joseph and Sophia might have too many sounds in common. (Even closer: I'd nearly suggested Josephina because of its similarity to Seraphina and Sophia, before remembering that your Jed is actually Joseph, as is your husband. Oops.)

A name that kept coming to my mind as I read the possibilities was Philomena. It has sounds in common with every name on your list, it's not in any current danger of trendiness, and it's unusual without being weird.

Another possibility is Willemina/Wilhelmina. I prefer the first spelling: it's the one from my own Dutch family tree, but I also think it fits better with current styles and is easier to spell. This gives you the nickname Willa as well as Mina.

Both Philomena and Willemina also bring us around to the more boyish sound you were looking for in your first letter: Phil and Will/Wills are other possible nicknames.

A name similar to Sloane is Lane. Lane Marley; Jed and Lane. She'd also have the nickname Laney if she wanted something more feminine.

Or another idea would be to give your daughter a traditional name and unusual nickname, to coordinate with your son's name and also to help avoid datedness and trendiness. Elizabeth, for example, with the nickname Beck. Joseph and Elizabeth; Jed and Beck.

Or I wish I could suggest Margaret with the nickname Daisy, but that probably won't work with your surname.

If you decide to go back to Quinn as the first name, we did a Middle Name Challenge for that awhile back.

Name update! Nikki writes:
We are so very excited to announce that our beautiful daughter, Fiona Quinn was born on 3/29 weighing in at 6lbs 13 oz and nearly 2 weeks early. Thanks so very much for all of the feedback and comments! They really helped us to choose the perfect name!