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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Baby Naming Issue: Will the Rising Popularity of Mila Make Milo Seem Too Girly?

Katie writes:
I LOVE your blog and we need some major baby-naming help! My husband and I are 2 weeks away from having our first child, a boy – due June 5th - and are completely stuck on names! I have been thinking about names for a while now and did not think I’d be in this situation. We just can’t make a decision!

My name is Katie and my husband is Daniel, but goes almost exclusively by Danny (and has since he was very young). Our last name sounds like “Lawson”. Our original criteria for names was…
1. Not super popular (Our last name is relatively common and I don’t want my child to have a common first and last name.)
2. Not girly at all (I would prefer not to have a name that could crossover and ‘go girl’. I know this is hard to predict, but would like to avoid if possible.)

Our current front-runner is Milo. We both really like it, but are worried now since all the buzz about the rising girl’s name Mila. Will the popularity of Mila make Milo seem more girly and/or more like an afterthought? Do you think Milo is too soft? We like that it is uncommon, but not ‘made-up’ or new, but can’t decide if it is just right for our baby.

Other names in consideration are…
- Henry (I love, but husband does not… thinks it sounds too ‘rich’ or ‘fancy’, also it may be too common)
- Silas (I’m not sold on this one)
- Lucas/Luke (too common?)
- Walter/Walt (I love, but husband thinks it is too much of a potential tease-magnet..)
- Everett (will it cross-over to the girls?)
- Hayes

Names that we like but can’t use due to friends/family/etc: Evan, Owen, Cole, Elias, Arlo, Jack (due to the Titanic association with our last name), Leo (slight Titanic association…), Chase

For the middle name, we are hoping to use a family name. Options are Michael, Charles, Robert, David, Walter, or Matthew (We would consider these for first names, as we’d love to have even more family connections in the name, but most of them are too common for us.)

Oh and we do hope to have more kids. For a girl, our top pick is Blythe which is pretty rare, so I am not sure how some of these names would match up with that…

So, as you can tell, we are kind of all over the place… Any advice?!? What do you think of Milo??

Thank you for reading.

Milo is one of my own favorite boy names, and was on the Final Three list for my youngest, so it is safe to say I am greatly in favor.

Some of the warning signs for a name "going girl" include: a gentle sound to the name (Noah, for example); having an easy feminine nickname (Ellie for Elliot, for example); the boys being done with it for now (Sydney, for example). Milo has the first but not the second or third.

I think sometimes having a feminine version of a name can encourage people to use the boyish version for girls---but other times it protects the boyish version. To use dated examples, having Paul and Paula seems to make people less likely to use Paul for a girl, not more. Same with Carl/Carla, and Robert/Roberta, and Eric/Erica: it makes it additionally confusing to use the masculine version for a girl, since a feminine version already exists. Instead of the masculine version seeming androgynous, it seems fully boy. [An anonymous commenter brings up a great current example: Oliver and Olivia.]

But does this apply with more modern versions? There's Kyle and Kylie/Kylee/Kyleigh---and Kylie is rising as Kyle falls. As Kylie is used more and Kyle is used less, what happens to Kyle for girls?

2000: 53 female Kyles; 11,964 male Kyles
2001: 56 female Kyles; 10,566 male Kyles
2002: 45 female Kyles; 10,059 male Kyles
2003: 61 female Kyles; 8,646 male Kyles
2004: 74 female Kyles; 7,818 male Kyles
2005: 38 female Kyles; 6,680 male Kyles
2006: 47 female Kyles; 6,147 male Kyles
2007: 41 female Kyles; 5,346 male Kyles
2008: 30 female Kyles; 4,694 male Kyles
2009: 34 female Kyles; 4,162 male Kyles
2010: 33 female Kyles; 3,560 male Kyles
2011: 57 female Kyles; 3,233 male Kyles

It's kind of hard to see a big obvious pattern, isn't it? The name Kyle is going steadily and obviously down for boys, but it's hopping all over the place for girls.

So how does all this apply for Milo/Mila? Well...that's why I'm just sort of talking around it, without seeming to make any clear points: I can't tell. Maybe the increasing popularity of Mila for girls will increase in a parallel way with Milo as the sounds come into style together. Maybe the increasing popularity of Mila will make some parents think of Milo for girls. Maybe the increasing popularity of Mila will make Milo even more solidly a boy name.

If you want my personal guess, it's that some people will always use "boy names" for girls---but that Milo is not likely to become "a girl name." There were fewer female babies named Milo in 2011 than there were female babies named Jonathan (12 vs. 20).

And we've already had a test period for this as the name Miley/Mylee/Myleigh came into style without causing Milo to become popular for girls.

But the rising popularity of a similar name for girls may make some parents wary of the name, making it less common for boys. Every time a name comes up, someone will mention that they know a baby girl (or three) with that name. There might be hardly any female babies with the name compared to the number of male babies with the name, but the impression sticks: people say "Watch out!"---and parents do. And other parents think, "It's going girl? I didn't like it for a boy, but I do like it for a girl!" [Thanks, Nedra, for pointing out a major data fail: something was amiss with my files, and the number of female names in the example I originally used here was significantly different than I wrote. I've fixed the error here by taking out the specific example, and I'm looking into finding out what went wrong.]

So far there's no indication that Everett is going to turn into a girl name, either. The Social Security database shows 14 female babies named Everett in 2011, and another 6 named Everette. That's nothing, relatively speaking: even Henry was given to 7 girls, and 22 were named Matthew. The similar name Evan was given to 99 baby girls. (Hayes was given to 286 boys and 16 girls.)

If it were me, I'd consider Milo and Everett both safe choices, and I think both go well with Blythe. If you want to play it extra safe, your traditional middle name options are great for that: if the unexpected occurs and the first name becomes popular for girls, there's a good completely masculine middle name to go by instead. (Or maybe not: 9 baby girls were named Charles in 2011! And another 9 baby girls named Robert! And 18 named David, and 36 named Michael!)

Other names that sprang to mind while writing the post: Simon, Isaac, Oliver, Warren, Emmett, Felix, Malcolm.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Baby Boy or Girl Ritchie, Sibling to Alexander and Genevieve

C. writes:
We are expecting baby #3 (the last baby) on June 8 (scheduled C, so no later than that) and we do not know the sex. We are having issues deciding on names – there are a few contenders for a girl and no standouts for a boy. Our last name is Ritchie.

Our son is Alexander Maxwell and our daughter is Genevieve Olivia and I absolutely love both names. Alexander is the only boy’s name my husband and I agreed on and it is my husband’s middle name, so it was a no brainer. Genevieve is always what I wanted to name a daughter and thankfully my husband loved it also. It is also a namesake for my grandfather (Gene). Both middle names were last minute choices that we thought fit well; there are no namesakes or other meanings associated. Both children go by their full first names and we hope that will continue. As we are Catholic, we also like that both are names of Saints.

For a boy… when we were discussing names for our first child, my husband was focused on mythology names (Nike, Mercury, Hercules) and now admits he is glad I put my foot down with an emphatic "no"! He is now on the trend of surname as first name (Lincoln, Freeman, Hamilton) and I think it would be similar to his fleeting love affair with the mythology names. I do not like surname as first name unless it is a family name (it would not be in our case). I also do not think fits in with the more traditional (and Saint) names we have for Alexander and Genevieve. I am fine with these as a middle name. Husband also likes Joseph; I’m not crazy about it but would be ok for a middle name. The problem is that there are absolutely no boys names that I love. The few possibilities we are both ok with are: Gabriel, Julian, Matthew, Nicholas. He prefers Julian, but for some reason, it feels too feminine to me. I could be convinced otherwise. We also cannot think of a middle name that goes with it. ... I love Nicholas, but it is the name of a cousin who passed away as a young adult and was kind of a wild child.

For a girl… Calliope and Penelope have always been on our girl name list. We have recently decided we also like Josephine and Caroline. I also like Imogen, but husband does not. My husband’s first choice is Calliope (he wanted to name Genevieve that, but the namesake won out), but I am less sure – it makes me think of a cacophony and the very loud carnival musical instrument by the same name. I also can’t think of a good middle name to go with any of the girls names. Mei is a contender - Mei means beautiful in Mandarin, our children are 1/4 chinese, we currently live in Hong Kong, and my Grandmother's middle name was "May". Problem is part of our family is from the deep south and we envision them calling her "Callie May" or "Penny May" which would be a nightmare since we don't like nicknames. It would also be the only single syllable middle name of the kids. Penelope Caroline? Josephine Calliope?

As I typed this, I googled Calliope and it turns out she is a Saint and her feast day is June 8 (the day this baby will be born). Fate? If so, then help with a middle name!

So, husband prefers Julian or Calliope with middle names unknown. I am not convinced but do not have a better suggestion and they are growing on me (Julian Ritchie does have a good ring to it). What are your thoughts?

Name update! C. writes:
Thank you so much for posting our request; we very much appreciated the input from your readers. 

Penelope Grace Ritchie was born on June 8.  Even for a few hours after she was born, we still could not decide between Penelope and Calliope (reader comments were split between the two!).  Ultimately, we chose Penelope because we thought it was ageless, whereas Calliope was little girl cute.

Since we did not know the sex, if anyone is curious, we had decided on Julian Matthew for a boy - this was by far the clear winner from the comments! 

Thank you so much for your help!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Baby Boy Nolan, Brother to Evan

Marie writes:
My husband and I are expecting our second son in early July and have yet to find a name for the kid.  With our first son it seems like we just happened across a name and loved it from the beginning whereas this time he loves one name and I love none.  Our first sons name is Evan; our last name sounds like Nolan, but with an R instead of an N.  He loves the name Bennett and I have mixed feelings about it.  Some days I like the name (and almost commit!) but other days I think it sounds a little soft or something.  Also, I don't like nicknames and would never call him Ben and wouldn't want others to either - I don't think I want that battle. 

Names that I like are Owen (but I think it doesn't go well with our last name), Henry and Emmett (but I'm not sure how I feel about the double E sibling name).  My husband likes Emmett but doesn't like Owen or Henry as much as Bennett.  The middle name will be either Thierry (pronounced TYAIR ee), honoring both my husbands grandmother Terry who passed away and my French heritage or Cruz (we got married in Santa Cruz).  Girl names that we considered before we found out the baby was a boy were Emerson (surprisingly I had no problem with that double E sibling pair) and Aislinn.  Evan decided to arrive 3 weeks early so I'm starting to panic that the new baby will be born and we still won't have a name for him.  I just keep waiting for something to hit me and to just know that we have found his name but I haven't had that kind of "yes, this is it!" moment yet.  Should I just commit to the name my husband loves (Bennett) but I only like (most of the time)?

I do think that if one parent can't think of any other name he or she likes better, and the deadline of The Baby Is Here has arrived and there is no more time to keep looking, it can work out well to go with a name that's "fine" with one parent and "TRULUV4EVA!!" for the other.

But I also think two strikes against a name is a problem, and the Ben battle is a second strike: people now are much less likely to go by nicknames, but if you're very opposed to them I think it makes for a happier life to find a name without such a natural one.

(A possible third strike is that when I say "Evan and Bennett" aloud, there is something that seems odd about it to me. I can't put a finger on it. Maybe the four similar vowel sounds in a row, combined with the repeating N-sound and the matching rhythms of the names?)

If you do decide Bennett isn't going to work, it's important for your husband to shift mindsets: the hunt can't be "You trying to find him a name he likes better than Bennett," but instead needs to be "Both of you looking for the name you like best out of the names that are not Bennett."

Emmett seems like an excellent alternative. It has a very similar sound, but no natural nickname. My one hesitation is that it seems very similar in sound to Evan. I don't think it's too similar to use, but it's getting close. (I'd also suggest Everett, but that one does seem too similar to me.)

Elliot seems great to me. It does repeat the E, but it doesn't have a natural nickname. Evan and Elliot. I like that a lot.

Other possibilities that sound similar to Bennett:

Some of these don't work very well in style with Evan, but I like Evan and Garrett, and I like Evan and Jared.

Departing from the sound of Bennett and focusing more on sibling names for an Evan, I suggest Keegan. I am freshly pleased with this name because I met a Keegan at a child's birthday party last weekend, and he was adorable. Evan and Keegan.

I also mention Derek, because it was the name agreed on by another couple I know who had a similar situation. Evan and Derek.

More possibilities:

Jonathan (nickname)
Nathan (nickname)

Name update! Marie writes:
Well, better late than never right? Bennett Thierry was born one day after his due date on July 12.  He was nameless for awhile after he was born but then I started to see how maybe he actually kind of did look like a Ben.  For now, while we can control it he'll go by Bennett and then when he's older my heart won't break if he decides to go by Ben.  Interestingly, after we finally told everyone his name my dad told us that since the baby was born he kept thinking that his name was Ben (but for Benedict) so that was pretty cool.  And then we also found out that my mother-in-laws husband had a grandfather whose name was Bennett.  So after all that crazy stress the name Bennett actually ended up being pretty special.  Everybody loves the name and we get compliments on it all the time.  Now after all is said and done we love the name Bennett for our little guy and couldn't imagine anything else for him.  And bonus I have a favorite name for a potential third kid (Leo) which of course guarantees that if we actually have a third kid it will definitely be a girl.  A huge thanks to you and all your readers who weighed in!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Baby Girl Townman or Balls

R. writes:
I have been reading your blog for a while now, and didn't expect to be writing to you so soon. I am expecting my first baby this summer. I am having a girl. The baby's last name will be either mine (similar to Townman) or my boyfriends (Balls). I am only seventeen (unfortunately not planned) but I am trying to be the best mom my baby could have. My boyfriend and I have a few problems. 1. We can't agree on any names 2. I want the baby to have my last name.

My list:
Rose (I like more classy, less common names)

Boyfriend's List:
Ava (Likes trendy, popular names)

What we agree(kinda) on:
Charlotte(both like but is getting a little popular)
Grace(I like but too common)
Amelia(same as above)

Names we can't use:
Cora(this is the only one I would have considered)

That's just the start of our issues. I really want my girl to have my last name. I love my boyfriend but I'm worried that we might split after the baby is born. Plus, his last name is Balls. He and his family always get teased about it. (unfortunately he has an uncle Harry Balls) He thinks that the baby should have his last name because that is usually what happens. It seems like we can't agree on anything!

Thank you!

It sounds to me as if it would be better for the baby to have your surname. While it's true that it's common for children to have their father's surname, it gets less common all the time---and in many cases, I think it makes more sense for the baby to have the mother's surname. If your boyfriend's surname weren't such a challenging one, I might suggest using his family name as the baby's second middle name, or hyphenating it with yours. As it is, perhaps it speaks poorly of my character to say that I might use the various reasonable concerns inherent in the situation as my excuse to get out of having to use his surname for the baby.

I am encouraged, looking at the lists of names:  the two of you have similar styles, and the differences are mostly a matter of commonness. If he already likes Olivia and Sophia, I can see leading him gently to something more like Violet---as opposed to what we'd be facing if his favorite girl names were Ryder and Storm.

Let's start with his choice of Ava and see if we can work outward to something more to your tastes. Eva would be beautiful, as would Eve. Or Audrey, or Ivy, or Genevieve.

From his Sophia, I suggest Fiona, Josephine, Phoebe, Phillipa, Simone, Stella.

From his Isabelle, I suggest Isadora, Annabel, Maribel, Rosabel, Clarissa. Annabel especially seems like a good compromise between your Annelise and his Isabelle.

From his Olivia, I suggest Liviana, Eliza, Molly, Lydia, Linnea.

If you like Cora but can't use it, is Clara too close to be considered? That's one of my favorites for classy sweetness, along with Eliza and Jane.

Or Nora? Too close to Cora, or okay?

I wonder if Emmeline would work. My guess is that he'd like Emma, but the longer variation is much less common and has more the flavor of Annelise from your list.

Name update! R. writes:
Hi everyone! Thank you to everyone who commented and for all the ideas! Im sending this right now so I don't forget later.

So in the end, we decided give our baby my last name. My boyfriend has had teasing in the past, and he decided she didn't need to get teased about her last name. We then tried to encorperate Balls into her middle name, by choosing Annbel.(Bel is close enough to Balls for us, and there are Anns on both my side and his side)

Her first name took a while. He actually like alot of the suggestions, but thought they were a little too "out there"(I'm not sure why, I guess names outside the top ten are out there for him!) But there was one name that he really liked- Josephine. I loved it alot because it honored my dad, Joseph, who goes by his middle name most of the time. It just so happened that she was born on my dad's birthday! Josephine Annabel Townman was born July 1 at 7 lbs 9 oz. Our little girl is so sweet! Thanks again everyone!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Baby Naming Issue: Cohen

Jaime writes:
I'm really hoping you can help us. This is my second email to you, my first was simply a cry for help in finding a boys name but now I really need help.

Please keep in mind that we live in Canada so some of our baby name choices and their popularity are different than the US.

My husband and I like names that can be said easily, that aren't too trendy but that are not too different. We tend to like names that are on popular lists. Our daughter, Addison, was born 4 years ago and in Canada at the time it was less popular. Now it has gained popularity and I'm ok with that. So names that are perhaps number 48 on the top 100 is fine by US. 

Here are some that have been on the list:

So here's the problem. We like the name Cohen a lot  it seems to be the best fit for us so far.  It has taken us a long time to get to a name we both like. When I googled the name and it's meaning it sounded fine, "priest" in Hebrew. Then I read a little further and read that it can be controversial in some ways because it can be seen as disrespectful among the Jewish community.  In Canada it is currently number 35 on the Baby Centre website. So it is clearly used often enough and it is apparently on the rise. If I look the name up on US websites some lists don't even have Cohen in their top100.

I've read forums of people who don't think it's big deal while others are appalled at the disrespect and ignorance that people have shown in naming their babies Cohen. I am certainly not in the business of offending members of any Jewish community nor do I want to set my son up to offend others simply by his name.

Please help.

The Cohen issue is not one I was familiar with, and I cringe at the thought of wading through all the angry-toned search results I'd have to read to get a grasp on the issue---but I have a general policy about all such things: if there is some risk of offense or other ickiness involved in using a name, and if you are not yet bound to that name by blood and tears, it is usually better to keep looking.

So in this case, if your maiden name were Cohen, and if since childhood you'd wanted to use the name for a son, and if coincidentally you and your husband were huge David X. Cohen fans, and if you'd gone the whole pregnancy assuming you'd name your son Cohen and then in the delivery room a nurse pointed out the issue, then I would be like, "Meh! There seems to be some sort of issue with this name, but it looks to me as if no one is actually using it with the intent to offend, and it's coming into style because of all the Rowans and Owens and surname names, and pretty soon it's going to be popular enough that there won't be any offensive connotation anymore at all, and especially with religious/cultural issues (i.e., where it's an issue in one religion/culture but not an issue in others) it's really hard to know at what level of someone else's being-offended we need to take the responsibility of avoiding it, and it sounds like Means Something as a surname but not as a first name, so just go ahead and use it, and if anyone remarks on it you can explain your reasons."

Instead I will say that if it's just the first name you've found that you can agree on, maybe that's not enough reason to take a risk with something like this. It's hard to evaluate the disrespect/offense in something unless it affects oneself: it always seems like other people's touchy areas are "touchy areas," whereas one's own touchy areas are Big Outrageous Serious Things, Symbolic of Deeper Problems. For myself, I don't think I'd find it worth it: if I'd used the name Cohen oblivious to the controversy, I wouldn't go out and change it, but if I knew about it ahead of time I'd steer clear just to avoid the headache/fretting.

On the other hand, if time goes by and the end of the pregnancy is nigh and you still can't agree on anything else, return to the first point and maybe just go ahead and use it. You'd be using it as a rapidly-rising surname name, not as an attempt to offend.

Does anyone know if there are the same issues with other spellings? For example, could you use Coen like The Coen Brothers, or is that just as potentially offensive? It's too bad Cowen looks so bovine.

If you like Cohen, maybe you'd like:


And let's have a poll over to the right to see if we can gauge how serious/well-known this issue is. [Poll closed; see results below.]

Poll results for "The Cohen Issue" (476 votes total):

I knew; it's a deal-breaker - 134 votes (28%)
I knew; it's not a deal-breaker - 36 votes (8%)
I didn't know; it's a deal-breaker - 113 votes (24%)
I didn't know; it's not a deal-breaker - 171 votes (36%)
I can't decide - 22 votes (5%)

Name update! Jaime writes:
Remember me...the Cohen issue?  That sparked quite the conversation. After reading all 84 comments, we couldn't even fathom sticking with the name. So we went back to the drawing board. In fact I went back to a name I liked right away, and one that you suggested, and gave my husband some time to explore the meaning. In the end we agreed!  Callum was born last week. I can't imagine him having any other name. Thank you for helping us and thank you to everyone who commented. 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Baby Girl K., Sister to Owen Grant and Olivia

K. writes:
Our second baby girl and third child is due any time and we can not decide on her name.  My doctor was ready for me to go to the hospital today, but I am worried that I havent decided on her name! 

Our 4 year old son's name is Owen Grant (he goes by both names) Jakob and our 2 year old daughter is Olivia Katharine Grace.  Grant is a family name as are all three of Olivia's names.  They are actually my mother's name, my grandmother's and my great grandmother's so I always knew I what I  wanted to name a daughter and it helped when she was born looking just like my grandmother.

While we were deciding though, I was really torn that Olivia was a top 10 name, but I decided that it was a family name and I had always wanted to use it so I went with it anyway.  I love her name and do not regret it, but because Sophia is not a family name, I worry that it will just seem like I picked a really common name.  (I certainly dont want to have the Jennifer of her generation)  BUT,  I think that Sophia has a similar feel to Olivia (elegant, classic, regal) and I do like that it has the O that both of the other kids have. 

The fact that both of their names began with O was simply chance.  I always knew I wanted to name a baby girl Olivia  and I just loved Owen.  I always knew I would use Grant.  So, I am definitely not looking for a name that starts with an O.  I do want a name that ties to their names though.  Olivia also goes by Livi, Liv and Livia- we use all the variations and love them.  Owen Grant loves his name and will correct people who dont use both. 

So, our finalists are:
Sophia Elizabeth Kate  (my Great Grandmother was Katharine Olivia and she went by Kate)
Sophia Elizabeth Blair  (Blair was my the middle name of my maternal grandfather but my husband doesnt totally love it)
Vivienne Elizabeth Kate   (Elizabeth was the name my mother had wanted to use for my middle name and I always remember knowing that growing up- she definitely had naming remorse even asking if i wanted to change it as an adult)
Vivienne Elizabeth Blair

I think my husband doesnt care nearly as much if Sophia is ultra popular so he has a slight preference for it, but he is open to either name. 

The last two eliminated from our short list were Lila and Corinne.  My husband's last name starts with K  so I felt like Corinne K_____ was too much of a mouthful and the Corinne kind of got swallowed.  Also I really dont care for Cora or Cory as nicknames.  (Also I realized that our children speak spanish with our nanny and our nanny couldnt pronounce Corinne easily at all while all the other names seemed fine in spanish).  
Livi and Lila are sweet together, but where we live I know as many or more Lila's as I do Sophia's so I decided between the two, Sophia was my preference. 
I like that Vivienne is not as common but I wonder if its a little too much to have Livi and Vivi for nicknames.  I thought we might also be able to use Evie for a nickname for Vivienne. 

I also like Leighton and Ashton but I worry that because they are general neutral, they just dont have the same feel or elegance as Olivia's name. 

My husband does not like any of the nicknames for Elizabeth which is why it isnt a first name contender. 

I notice that other people mention their heritage, ethnicity, etc.  We are basically of European heritage and both of us and both of our kids are blonde.  We are hoping this little girl might have red hair which also runs in the family. 

Any help you have would be great!!     Then I would feel like I was ready to go to the hospital. 

Thank you!

Sophia is a masterful choice: well-coordinated with Owen and Olivia in both popularity and style, and with the additional satisfying touch you mention of not starting with an O but still having a strong O sound. Olivia and Vivienne have so many short-I and V and long-E sounds in common, they almost seem like scrambled-letter versions of each other; and I agree that Livi and Vivi is too much. Sophia is indeed a popular name, but it would take three to four times the current number of Sophias to match the popularity of Jennifer at its peak.

Elizabeth is a great middle name: the family story, but also being beautifully coordinated with Olivia's middle name Katharine.

I could go either way on the second middle name: it's not quite balanced to have a second daughter named for the same namesake (especially for a great-grandparent)---but on the other hand, Kate is so perfect as the coordinating name for Grace, and your husband prefers the name Kate to the name Blair. If you didn't mind changing the rhythm, I wonder if you'd like something like Sophia Elizabeth Lila or Sophia Elizabeth Corinne. Or you could use Sophia Elizabeth Vivienne and get both name options in there. Or are there any other female family names, maybe on your husband's side?

There might not be time for this, but it may also be helpful to have a poll over to the right with your four candidates, so let's do that. [Poll closed; see results below.]

Name Updates!

Update (and photo!) on Baby Boy Like-Miller-with-a-B, Brother to Callum Daniel!
Update on Baby Naming Issue: Okay to Use Henry Potter?
Update (and photo!) on Baby Girl Joyce, Sister to Tristan, Avery, and Sage!
Update on Baby Girl Renyold, Sister to Jones, Dallaway, Foster, Maguire, and Lanham!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Baby Naming Issue: Duplication Used to be Fine With a Friend, But Now Isn't

M. writes:
So this is my story…its long and full of drama!

I have a 20 month old little girl. When I was pregnant with her, my sister in law and close friend were both pregnant as well. Of course, we all had our list of names. When we started coming out with our names, we noticed we had a few of the same we liked. My top choices were: Gianna, Lola, and Isabella. Well, now all the babies are born. My daughter is Gianna, my sister in law named her daughter Marybella, and my friend named hers Lola. My friend has since moved to Miami, we see them about once a year.

I have a long history with loving the name Isabella and anything Bella. My sister in law knew that and from the beginning, she told me they were going with Cecilia. Then, all of a sudden, it changed to Marybella. I was a little upset because the whole time she told me something else, and if I had another girl, she would be Isabella or Bella.

Here we are, and I am pregnant with twin girls and my sister in law is pregnant with a little girl as well, we are 2 days apart in our due dates. I was stoked as I thought I would get to use all my favorite names when I pregnant the first time! I was going with Lola and Isobel (nn Bella). I am 27 weeks pregnant BTW. I was set on those names. My sister in law didn’t care, because she knew when she named Marybella, that if I had another girl, Bella would be in the name. BUT my friend who lives in Miami, cares, I live in Texas. I decided to go ahead and talk to her about us choosing the name Lola for one of the twins and she wasn’t happy. She said she didn’t own the name, but that she wanted something unique and put a lot of thought into that name. When I was pregnant with Gianna and we were thinking about using Lola and they were too, they didn’t care. Now it’s an issue. I don’t know what to do because I was set on that name to go with Isobel. From the first kick I felt, I called her Lola. Am I wrong to use that name? I’ve tried to think of variations where we could use the nn Lola, but I’m so torn! HELP!!

Hm. It is hard to know what to advise here, because it seems to me that it should be fine for you to use Lola (your friend knew it was one of your top choices even before she named her daughter; your friend now lives far away; the name Lola was #221 in 2009 and #211 in 2010, so not an ideal choice for uniqueness; you guys had agreed you didn't mind if you both used the name), but it is not clear in this way to your friend, and that's the important person for it to be clear to here. And she's said she doesn't want you to use it and, depending on how you brought the topic up with her (did it sound at all like asking if it were okay to use it?), may now feel even more upset if you go ahead and use it despite her feelings. Tricky situation.

It's possible and understandable that she may have changed her feelings about sharing names in the last year or two, and/or since having a child with the actual name (as opposed to just considering candidates). And there could be other things we don't know: maybe your daughter was born first, and although she knew the name Lola was on both your lists and she wasn't going to fight you for it, she had decided not to use Lola after all if you ended up using it. Or maybe her daughter was born first, and she'd thought she was okay with name duplication until she found herself holding her breath hoping you didn't use the name as well. Or maybe she would have thought it was kind of fun if you'd both had daughters named Lola the first time around, but is less keen on it with a 2-year spacing.

These things can get kind of complicated, is where I guess I'm going with this. And it's easy for an outsider to say "Psh, you should use it! It's fine! She shouldn't be upset!"---but of course much harder when you're on the inside and it's your actual friend and actual relationship and "should" doesn't seem to be applying as expected.

So in the meantime, I'd be looking at other similar names to see if there were any I liked as much; there are so many good ones with similar sounds/styles:


If you don't like any other name as much as you like the name Lola, you may need to make the decision to go ahead with the name despite your friend's feelings about it. In which case I think I would be understanding of her feelings, but would gently persist in saying that the name had been on my list since the first pregnancy, and that I was so pleased to get a chance to use all three of my favorites, and that I hoped it would be fun for us to each have our own little Lola.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Baby Girl, Sister to Olivia Margot and Lila Grace

Emily writes:
I am looking for some inspiration and help in naming our third child, who will also be our 3rd daughter.  This will be our last child.  Our baby isn't due until October so i know there is a lot of time left, but my husband and i are just not able to come up with a short list. (well not really).

My older daughters (who are 10 and 8 yrs old) are named Olivia Margot (middle name is my middle name) and Lila Grace (middle name is an aunt's name).

My name is Emily and i like my name but wouldn't give it to my kid (no juniors for us). I use my maiden last name.  Our kids are basically Irish, Swedish & Italian. Olivia has strawberry blonde hair, fair skin and green eyes;  Lila is golden blond haired, has tan skin, and green eyes.  my hubby and I are green eyed too  - obviously we don't know what this new kid will look like but you get the picture.  I don't think we want anything that [at least in our area] is very Italian themed (Gabriella, Adrianna, Carmela  Lucianna etc.). 

We came up with Lila because we loved the name Leilani in Hawaii and were inspired. We decided we couldn't pull of Leilani (neither of us have any ties to Hawaii) so we considered Lily and arrived at Lila (still love it!) (we pronounce it L-I-la (long I sound like ICE). Olivia always sounded lovely and had a nice sound to it with Margot (we picked this name more easily than we did Lila).

We LOVE our daughters' names and would like something similar for daughter #3 - feminine, somewhat traditional, not too trendy (not interested in Taylor, Tyler, Skyler, Cameron etc - no offense to those who like those, just not my cup of tea).  I don't think i'd ever be brave/bold enough to name my daughter anything like Piper even though it's cute on other people's kids.
Some names that have peaked my interest are Valentina, Sophia, Lena, Julia (hubby doesn't like this), daisy (he doesn't like that either), Katie. We rejected Valentina b/c we don't like "Val" or "Tina" as nick names.  And probably that is a lot of name for a kid. it's also similar to our favorite pizza place so we crossed it off (Valentina's! pick up or delivery?) :)  My husband's current name that he is tolerant of is Sophia.  I am less tolerant of it due to its popularity, but it's a nice name. I say tolerant b/c neither of us are willing to say we'd actually give that name to our daughter.  I don't want something too old either like Hazel or Mathilda (i do like Victoria and Elizabethe and Emma (hubby doesn't like those but especially doesn't like Emma).  These still aren't making it to a short list or anything, but maybe will give you an idea. 

We do like the way these names sound - i think we like the 'A' sound at the end. not a requirement though.  I like what both my kids' names mean, but that is not how we picked them.  We also considered Scarlett and Charlotte.  eh... we just aren't feeling anything. i don't want Isabella, b/c i simply know too many of them.

I like the idea of glamorous hollywood names like Sophia Loren & Ava etc. but don't want to be so trendy. I also like the feeling of a Southern name (at least i think I do - not as in Bobby Jo though).  

If we were having a boy, the names I like are (in no particular order) Christian, Jake (my dad's name, but i also really like it), Mark, Max and Sean.

As you can tell i am all over the map. :(

Many thanks and I like your blog!

If Sophia is close-but-not-quite, I wonder if you would like Fiona? Olivia, Lila, and Fiona.

Or Simone? Olivia, Lila, and Simone.

Oh, or Stella! It has a current sound like Olivia and Lila do, but it's not as common as, say, Ella. Olivia, Lila, and Stella.

If Scarlett and Charlotte are not quite right, I wonder if you'd like Violet? Olivia, Lila, and Violet. Lila and Violet might have too many sounds in common, though; I can't quite tell.

I think the name Cecily would fit very well with the other names: continuing the L theme, but not repeating too many sounds. Olivia, Lila, and Cecily. I like that a lot.

Or Clarissa. Olivia, Lila, and Clarissa.

Cora also seems like a nice fit. Olivia, Lila, and Cora.

Or Nora. Olivia, Lila, and Nora.

Or Clara. Olivia, Lila, and Clara.

Or Hannah. Olivia, Lila, and Hannah.

If you like Isabella but know too many, do you like Annabella? Olivia, Lila, and Annabella.

I see you mention Lena; do you like it any better if it's Elena? I like the way it makes it a little more different than Lila---though I guess that same change also makes it a little closer to Olivia. Olivia, Lila, and Elena. 

Lena and Valentina make me wonder if you'd like Mina. Olivia, Lila, and Mina.

For something similar to Ava but not as common, I suggest Eva. Olivia, Lila, and Eva.

Again similar to Ava: Audrey (Hepburn). Olivia, Lila, and Audrey. That's probably my top choice for style compatibility but sound variety.

Does Ruby sound too old? Olivia, Lila, and Ruby. I love those together.

Name update! Emily writes:
We ended up having our third daughter a few weeks early on September 28, 2012 (due to preeclampsia). She was born at 37.5 weeks and weighed 8 lbs. Her name is Amelia Rose and we love her and her name!

Thank you very, very much. I read and re-read your post and the comments from others multiple times and it was very helpful. We thought we were leaning toward Caroline Rose or Katie/Katherine but in the minutes before the c-section I decided I loved Amelia. 

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Baby Naming Issue: Using a Student's Highly Distinctive Name

A. writes:
I'm wondering about the etiquette around a certain naming issue that I'm having.

I am a teacher and one of my students (a girl) goes by an "old man" type of nickname. It's kind of like she goes by "Elliot" -- a name that is identifiably masculine, but that doesn't sound ridiculous on a girl. Unlike "Elliot," however, this name is not popular for boys or girls -- in fact, it's never been very popular. The most popular that it was was #273 and that was back in the 1800s. It hasn't even been in the top 1000 since 1968. The long-form of the name (as opposed to the nickname) was given out more often, but even it barely ever broke into the top 100 (and this girl is definitely not going by the long-form of the name). This student has a common and feminine name, but she's gone by this unusual male nickname for as long as I have known her and everyone (students, teachers, even her mom) calls her by it.

In addition to this girl being a student of mine, her mom is also a teacher at the school -- so her mom is a colleague of mine. And our staff is small and all the babies that have been born to staff members are welcomed with a big announcement to the whole school community.

So here's my problem. I LOVE this girl's nickname and would love to use it as a middle name for a future daughter. But I don't know whether it would be TOTALLY awkward. It would be obvious to everyone involved that I'd never thought of the name (or even heard of it, really) before meeting this student. Would that be embarrassing? Like I'm naming my kid after a student? Would the colleague/mom of the girl feel weird about it? She's not my best friend at work and she can be kind of critical, so I don't know how she'd react.

And I would feel weird for the student as well. The student is well-known and popular, but also pretty shy. I'm pretty sure I'm not her favorite teacher, so it's not like she'd feel super-honored or anything. It's already pretty awkward for her to be the kid of a teacher and have friends in her mom's classes. I'd hate for her to feel even more awkward when a teacher names her kid after her!

Just as a reminder, I'm only thinking of using this name as a middle name -- not as a first. But it would be impossible to hide the middle name from the staff and students at the school -- and awkward to try! What would be the best way to go about this? Should I just give up on the name? Talk to the mom in advance? Talk to the girl in advance? What would make the most sense?


I have two different answers. One is for if you're right now pregnant with a baby girl, and the other is for if you're not.

If you're not, I think what makes the most sense is waiting to see if it will be an issue at all. Maybe by the time you're naming a baby girl, neither the student nor her mother will be at your school, or maybe you'll be at a different school where no one has ever heard of the student. Or maybe by then you won't still want to use the name, or maybe the other parent won't want to, or maybe you'll have changed surnames and there will be a clash, or maybe your favorite first name will sound bad with it. Or maybe you'll only have sons. Or maybe by then the student's mother will have said wistfully in the staff room, "I just wish there were OTHER girls with that name! She loves her nickname but hates being the only one!" Or maybe you'll have a boy first, and this student will end up babysitting for him and become so special to your family that it will make perfect sense to give your next baby her name as a middle name.

If on the other hand you're currently pregnant with a baby girl (or you're pregnant and not finding out the sex until the birth), and if the other parent also wants to use the name and it's great with the first name and last name, then let's see if we can figure out a way for you to do it.

I agree it seems like the awkwardness/weirdness of it is not avoidable. Our goal, I think, is to see if we can reduce it to usable levels. I'd start by scouring your family tree and the other parent's family tree. I mean, SCOUR it. Go back as far as you've got, and search every twig. Let's say this student's name were Clementine, and she were going by Clem. Search to see if you have ANYTHING like that in your tree, either first names or surnames. Clement? Clemence? Clemmie? Clemens? Clemmons? VanderClem? ANYTHING. If you find anything, you can now say breezily "It's a family name." And as everyone looks at you a little incredulously, you can add casually, as if suddenly realizing there could be offense taken if it sounds like you're NOT naming after your colleague's daughter: "And of course, Clem Johnson is such a nice girl, it definitely helped the name catch my eye!"

If there's nothing in the family tree, I think I would take an intermission and consider again whether the awkwardness/weirdness is worth it. We all have these names, I think, where we really really want to use them, but there's some reason we just CAN'T: name of husband's ex-wife, name of our daughter's half-sister or step-sister at her father's house, name of a celebrity, name the other parent hates, name that is hilarious/embarrassing with the surname, etc. I mean, it's not that we literally CAN'T use the name, but at some point the issues overwhelm it and we reluctantly cross it off. These names become excellent conversation material later, especially with other name enthusiasts: "I wanted to name a son after my dad James SO BADLY! So of course I end up marrying someone with the last name Bond." or "I'm STILL mad at Alan for hating the name ____! That's been my favorite name since I was a CHILD!" And it can be fascinating to the child to hear what other names were considered.

Are there any names very similar to the nickname, that you might like just as much? This is where my stand-in name isn't going to help with making a list---but I'd look for names that rhyme with the nickname, or have similar sounds, or are from that same style category. I might browse the 1800s name lists for similar guy nicknames, or see if there were any similar guy nicknames in the family tree.

If you come through this intermission strengthened in your resolve to use the name, I think my own strategy would be to start talking about baby names with colleagues (you don't have to give away the first name you're actually going to use, if you want to keep it a secret---just mention other names you've considered), and start mentioning that you're "thinking of using" the middle name Clem. This would give everyone a heads-up, which I think would go a long way to reduce the anticipated awkwardness after the birth. (I wouldn't ask the mother or the student if it were okay to use the name, unless you're prepared/willing to abandon the name if they say no.) I'd come up with some responses ahead of time to things I thought others might say. Them: "You mean...after Clem Johnson?" You: "Oh, not really---but of course that's where I first heard the name, and she's a great girl so it certainly didn't HURT the name. I just found it really grew on me." Or "I'd liked the name already for a boy, but having Clem Johnson in my class is how it occurred to me I could use it even if I had a girl."

Does anyone have any other ideas of how to pull this off with the least awkwardness possible? And let's have a poll over to the right to collect general reactions to the idea. [Poll closed; see results below.]

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Baby Naming Issue: Names Blending With the Surname

Michaela writes:
I am due with our first baby (a boy) on the 29th June.
I had "my" boys name in my head for years, Leonardo (after da Vinci, not DiCaprio), with Leo as a NN. It was the only name I had found that I like that I thought sounds good with our surname.
Unfortunately, by complete coincidence, my sister loved the same name, and my beautiful nephew Leo was born a couple of months before I got pregnant. She had no idea how I felt about the name when she chose it, so it is sadly a case of first in, best dressed and no hard feelings.

I thought about using Leo anyway but my sister and I are very close and our kids will spend a lot of time together. I want my bub to have his own name, so have regretfully had to let the name go.

My problem now is that I can't find another name that my husband and I both like that goes with our surname - Evans.

Seems like a simple enough name to match, but I feel that every name I think of sounds like it runs into our surname, e.g Lucas Evans sounds like Luca Sevens, Kieran Evans sounds like Kira Nevans. My husband and I both like classic names but want to steer clear of anything too on trend or super popular. I have an (until recently) unusual name with an unusual pronunciation and have spent my life correcting people on both spelling and pronunciation and don't want to subject my little one to the same inconvenience. (in case you are wondering, is spelt Michaela and pronounced Mic Carla, not Mic Kayla)

A surprising finalist (the only one we have so far) is Joseph, which I was happy to see wasn't as popular these days as I thought it would be. However, I am still concerned about it running into our surname. Does Joseph Evans end up sounding too much like Joseph Fevans, or am I just overthinking this waaaay too much?

Our little one's middle names will probably be William (after my grandfather) and also maybe (a very uncertain maybe) Glyndor after hubby's grandad. That gives us a 2-2-2 or 2-2-2-2 rhythm, which I know isn't ideal but considering how much trouble we are having just finding a first name, it is a whole other issue I'm not quite ready to worry about just yet!

I would love to know your thoughts on run-on sounding names - do you use a full name enough to make that a deal breaker?

The main thing I worry about with run-together names is the inadvertent creation of an incorrect (and sometimes embarrassing) name or word---as with your example of Kieran Evans becoming Kira, or with the classic example of poor Ben Dover. But even when a name could/does create a new name, it's still not necessarily an issue: Faith Evans could be misheard as Fay Thevans, and yet I never did mishear it that way.

With Joseph Evans, no incorrect or embarrassing name is created. If the surname is sometimes heard as Fevans (and I think there is low risk of this, since Fevans is a very uncommon surname while Evans is familiar), that seems like a very minor issue: most people have to spell their surnames when giving them, and most surnames are regularly misspelled or misheard. And this particular mis-hearing isn't embarrassing in any way.

As for the syllables/rhythm, it's a matter of personal taste. I myself like the 2-2-2 rhythm to the point of gravitating toward it, so I think Joseph William Evans is a great name. The only issue I see is that he will not be able to use his monogram if he does the old-fashioned style (first initial, surname initial, middle initial). But I am not seeing much of that monogram style in my own circles, and perhaps you don't see much of it in yours either. It's rare for me to even remember to check for issues there.

Because you liked the name Leo and felt that name worked well with your surname, I'd also suggest Milo. Milo William Evans.

Hugo is another similar choice. Hugo William Evans.

Or there's Arlo or Nico or Matteo or Theo.

I also like William in the first name slot. William Glyndor Evans.

Even if you did choose a name that ran together a little, it would be okay, I think, as long as it didn't create a name that might embarrass him: that is, I wouldn't use Kieran/Kira, for example, but I don't worry so much about Lucas/Luca. You would introduce him carefully: "Hello, I've brought Lucas for his appointment. Lucas [pause slightly longer than a space, not quite as long as a period] Evans." It would quickly become habit, that tiny extra careful spacing. I do it myself, because I've found that people can hear my name as Krista if I'm not careful to pause, and because I used to work in a pharmacy and found that almost all first/last names blend together when they're not familiar to the person wondering whose prescription she's looking for.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Baby Boy Johnson

K. writes:
I know you've tackled this one before, but I'm at complete loss. Early on we decided we liked the name Alexander (our first baby). His middle name will be Thomas after my husband's late father. But we made the mistake of telling people about it. It didn't help that the husband wanted to call him Alex and I wanted to call him Xander. Not only that, but the mother-in-law's boyfriend (whom I hate, deeply) decided it was fun to call the baby Alex. But I digress. We decided the name was dead and after much research came up with Zachary. Which is OK I guess. My husband still feels that Alexander is the best name. That it just "feels right," but still refuses to call him Xander (which is too popular to be unique anymore anyway).
I guess I'm just frustrated that a perfectly good name has been destroyed for me and we can't seem to find any other names that we both like. The only girl's name we ever agreed on was Amelia.
Any advice you could give me on coming up with a similar but more awesome name would be much appreciated!

Was the name destroyed because of your mother-in-law's boyfriend liked the same nickname your husband liked? Or was it something about the reaction people had to the name when you told them? Or was it because you and your husband can't agree on a nickname? I can't tell what it was that destroyed an otherwise perfect name.

For similar names, I'd start by looking for other longish boy names with good nicknames:


But if the problem with Alexander was that you and your husband couldn't agree on a nickname, you may have the same problem here: you may want Nico or Cole while he would prefer Nick, for example.

In which case maybe it would work well to find a name that doesn't have an automatic nickname. And I think I might look for something outside the Top 10: I normally am a fan of common names, but with the surname Johnson I might look for something more unusual.


(I just know there are going to be some of these that are the names of famous Johnsons already. So many Johnsons!)

Name update! K. writes (in the comment section):
K...the original question was from me. I apologize for muddying the issue. Alexander was mostly out because of the nickname battle, the boyfriend was just the cherry on top. We ended up using Thomas for the first name. I know, it's not very unique, but it really just fit him when he got here. And in this day and age there is something to be said for the anonymity that comes from having a common name. :D

Thanks for all your replies and suggestions.
K again, sorry, I forgot to mention that the middle name was changed to Grant. The hubby and I call him Thomas and Tommy, and bug and little one. 

Monday, May 14, 2012

Baby Boy Puente

K. writes:
My boyfriend and I are 20 weeks pregnant with a baby boy, due in late September.
The last name will be Puente, and I'd like to use David as a middle name to honor my father.  We've had long discussions about names and we have a list of 8, although I don't feel strongly about any of them, and this list is definitely open to additions.  Here's the list so far:
I'm caucasian, my boyfriend is Hispanic, and he doesn't want a name that's "too white"... which takes away most of the "surnames as first names" list I tend to love!  We'd like to avoid a first name starting with K, as both of our names start with K and I'm not a fan of that much matchy-matchy.  Somehow though, hard C's are fine :)
My boyfriend really likes Samuel, which I don't have a problem with except I love Samantha, nn Sam, for a girl, and I'm not sure I want to take away that option— even though we may or may not have any more kids (this one is a miracle baby, and high risk), and even if we had a girl there are plenty of other names I love too.
I love the way you can look at some names and come up wtih more of the same style, so I'm really hoping you can help us out!

I think "name that would rule out another name" decisions are some of the most difficult to make. There are so many gambles and unknowns involved. I'd start by deciding which name you'd prefer to use if you knew for a fact that you would have a boy and also a girl. You may decide you like Samuel better anyway, in which case problem solved. But if you prefer Samantha, it's a matter of putting things on a scale: on one side, how much you love the name Samantha; on the other side, things like maybe not having a girl to use it on, having other girl names you also like, how much you like the name Samuel, and how much you think you'd regret not using Samuel if you never had a Samantha.

Looking at your list, I wonder if you'd like:

Joseph Marcus

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Baby Boy Loewen, Brother to Reuben Harm

Ashley writes:
I would love your (and readers help) naming our second son, who is due August 25th.  Our first son is named Reuben Harm.  I love the softness of the name Reuben, but that it's still a masculine name.  His middle name is after my father (it's the Dutch form of Harry).  We'd like the second to have the middle name Alfred, after my husbands father.

The problems we're having naming our second son is:
1.  A lot of the names we like rhyme with Loewen.  Because if the rhyming factor, we would prefer not to have a name with a strong "u" sound or "en" ending.
2.  For flow, an "L" at the end of a name doesn't really work either.
3.  We have a lot of nephews with great names:  Nathanael, Isaac, Toby, Levi, Eli, Benjamin, Jonas, Asher, Callum, Ronan, and Aaro.
4.  I'm not a nickname person.  It just doesn't come naturally to me.

Names like and could work:
1.  James Alfred (my favourite so far, my only qualm is that it's quite more common than Reuben, and "Reuben James" is a song).
2.  Josiah Alfred (it's okay, maybe a little too Biblical for me).

Names we like that don't work:  Hugh, Samuel, Simon, and Owen (the worst!)

Vetoed names my husband likes:  Carson and Calvin (I just don't like the hard "C").

Vetoed names I like:  Edmund and Henry

Please help us find a nice, soft, yet masculine name.  :)

Thank you!

Name Update!

Update on Baby Girl Brannan!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Baby Girl Renyold, Sister to Jones, Dallaway, Foster, Maguire, and Lanham

Amy writes:
My name is Amy, and my husband's name is Dallaway, but he goes by his middle name, Jacob. We have 5 sons (!). Twins: Jones Milo and Dallaway Miller who are 8, Foster Henry, 6, Maguire Thomas, 4, and Lanham Grant, 3. We've gotten pretty good at naming boys, and assumed we'd probably be having a 6th boy and decided on Harrison Jonah. But to our surprise, we're having a girl! And we're completely lost! We are due in June, so we have some time, but it is really stressing me out that we have no where to begin! My husband's family naming tradition kind of started our own thing. The Renyold tradition is that the first born son (who is my husband) name his first child his mother's maiden name. Many people in his family go  by middle names, such as my husband. So when we discovered we were pregnant the first time, we knew our child would be Jones Milo or Jones (Joannie) Katherine. At the discovery of twin boys, we had some issues. Baby A would be Jones...but what do we do with Baby B? We decided to continue the maiden name theme so the names were similar. It just kind of kept going through the 5 boys.. We've used Jacob's mother's and both grandmother's middle names (Jones, Dallaway, and Foster). Then moved to my mother and paternal grandmother for Maguire and Lanham.
Now, we can't decide if we should try to continue the last name theme with our little girl or just pick a name we like. She is likely to be our last (but we said that with the last 2. ; ) ) I would want her to have a family name in there somewhere.

Useable family (not last names) names:
Last names that could be used:
Harrison (not for my daughter, ever)
Baily (our best bet for a girl with last name. This is my great grandmother's maiden name).

Names I like: (husband hates the first 3, but is open to use as a middle name. He isn't particularly fond of any)
Rose/Rosie (not with Renyold, though)

Names he likes:
Sterling (I'm afraid it's a bit too masculine seeing as we do have 5 boys. I don't want her to get lost in the testosterone. But I like it.)
Ella (too popular for me, but would consider Eleanor)
(he's kind of all over the place)

We can't seem to agree on anything! Right now, we have considered:
Clara Allison (my favorite)
Hazel Felicity
Amaryllis Katherine
Susannah Eleanor
Clara Jane
Baily Sterling
Amaryllis Keeton (husband's favorite)
Please help us!!

Name update! Amy writes:
Our little girl surprised us all by making an early appearance 2 weeks early. Our beautiful red headed blue eyed little gal came into the world May 18th at 6:43 p.m. weighing in at 6 lbs 3 ounces, 19 inches long. We had a few naming choices in hand at the hospital, and after seeing her, we knew she was our Felicity Keeton "Renyold". We love her and her name, and her brothers are all smitten with their "Lissie". Thank you and your readers for your help!!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Baby Naming Issue: Using the Same Name Twice; Honoring the Same Person Twice

Laura writes:
I have a question and i was wondering if you can help me answer it. Here it goes i have a son John(after his father) but he only go by Jack and his middle name is michael. My father died 1 month before jack was born so at the last minute we decided to honor my father and give him the middle name michael. well i am pregant again and i am due anyday and we have been having a hard time agreeing on names so we were thinking about calling him Michael Raymond but we are not sure if we can do this since my other son middle name is already michael. I dont want their to be issue down the line. i do have some family that did it years ago but i just dont know what to do. My father was a wonderful man and that is why i wanted to honor him with the name michael and it such a beautiful name and there are many people on my father side that is name michael it goes back 5 generations . i have had mixed reaction on this. Some people say that it is cool that the boys would both share their grandfather name and some people say that the boys will not like it when they get older so i just want to make the right decision. And some people say it fine because nobody really goes by their middle names. And then some people think that its a horrible idea. I dont want to do the wrong thing as i only want the best for my boys. Also my other question would be if i have more kids down the line would i have to do something to keep them all connected. We might only have one more after this. So in your opinion is this something that should be done or not??
Thank you for your time and help with this matter

I was remembering that we'd answered a similar question awhile back, but when I looked it up I found it was quite different: last time, we were answering a question where the parents had already used both their two favorite names on a child, and wanted to reuse one of those names for a second child; but your question contains a second element about whether you should honor the same person with more than one child's name. Still, the first post and comments section may be useful for general reactions to the concept: Baby Naming Issue: We Already Used the Best Names.

In your situation, my vote is no, don't do it. This is a difficult vote for me to place, because I think John/Jack and Michael/Mike make such excellent brother names. And if you DO use Michael, I don't think it will be disastrous, and it's true that most people's middle names aren't even known. (However, if you want to tell the story of your first son's name, that cancels out the "no one knows middle names" advantage.) Was there any fall-out when the other family members did something similar, or did it go fine?

You have already honored your father with your first son's name, and it was wonderful sentimental timing. Doing it again now (especially putting the name this time in a place of higher honor) is a little puzzling, and does seem like it would be an issue if you had a third boy. Are there any other men in your family you'd like to honor? Would your father-in-law feel it was a bit pointed that you'd honor one grandfather twice?

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

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Baby Girl Oliver, Sister to William (Liam)

C. writes:
A Facebook friend has been watching my struggle in naming our baby girl. I'm due in 4 weeks, so she decided to put me out of my misery and recommended your site. I perused through your site to see if anyone had a similar struggle, and I didn't come across one. So I thought I would see if you could point me in the right direction or perhaps post about it.

Here is my perceived problem. Our last name is Oliver. 3 syllables. Begins with a vowel. Ends in a strong R. It seems, in our quest for a girl's name, that every girl's name begins in a vowel or ends in one. For example, Carina or Emmaline (which we like.) And names like with an R don't work because of the two strong Rs. For example, Riley or Jennifer (which we don't like anyway.) To throw a wrench in the mix, I'm also wedded to the idea of a name with nickname possibilities. So even though I like the name Coraline, the nickname Cora puts me back in the "girls names that end in a vowel" category.

This is all rather frustrating since we have a son whose name we love and found pretty easily. We went with William and his nickname is Liam (Irish nickname vs. the common Will or Bill in the U.S.) It seems to be a strong first name with a cute nickname. Yet, if he wants, he can go by Bill or Will in the future. Plenty of options. The name is only two syllables, which makes the point about syllables seem valid. His middle name is Rockwell - a family twist on my husband's name that means 'rocky ledge' and my father's name.

The one name that I really like is Gwendolyn. Elegant. Classy. Not too popular. With great nickname options like Gwen or Wendy or Lyn. And I think Lyn and Liam may be cute sibling names, and both would have a variety of nickname options to choose from in the future. Plus, the nicknames are different from their actual first names, though both using the last letters of their given name, making the use of their names similar, if you follow me on that logic and potential coolness factor. Until someone told me that Gwendolyn Oliver is a mouthful since it is a dual three syllable name. 

I've also been considering the middle name Annabeth, which combines my Mom's middle name of Elizabeth with my grandmother's name of Ann. Again, since my son's middle name is a family twist, I thought it should carry through to her too. But Gwendolyn Annabeth Oliver may be syllable overkill.  

All in all, hoping you can help. Because what is currently making me hyperventilate, I'm hoping is either a fun challenge for you or something you think is a piece of cake. Neither, of which, I'm currently thinking or may be overthinking.

I think it would be useful to start by separating preferences from requirements. Right now you want the name to:
  • not contain a strong R sound
  • not end with a vowel
  • not start with a vowel
  • not have too many syllables
  • have a nickname
  • have the nickname not end in a vowel
  • have the nickname not start with a vowel
  • have a middle name that is a mash-up of relative names
  • line up with your son's name at each comparison point

And all those are in addition to having a somewhat difficult surname to work with. (If it would be helpful, we've done a couple of posts with the same surname: Baby Boy-Girl Twins Oliver and Baby Girl Oliver.)

I think the first preferences I'd suggest eliminating are the ones about vowels and syllables. Those are matters purely of taste and not of name law, and can instead be taken on a case-by-case basis. Some names that start or end with vowels might sound bumpy, but some will not---and some consonant sounds will run together with Oliver. Some longer names may sound, as Laura Wattenberg puts it, "like falling down stairs"; others will sound great. And names that sound great to you may sound like a mouthful to someone else and vice versa, but this just means it's a nice thing we all name our own children.

So my first question is: Do YOU think Gwendolyn Oliver sounds like a mouthful? My own tastes run toward longer names for girls, and I'm not put off by lots of syllables. Syllable-wise, I would use Gwendolyn Annabeth Oliver without blinking; in fact, my daughter's name has more syllables than that. If the 3-3-3 pattern is not to your own tastes, I'd be equally likely to suggest going longer as to suggest going shorter: Gwendolyn Elizabeth Oliver is nice, and is more of an honor to your mother than using the fourth syllable of her middle name.

As you can see from the Elizabeth suggestion, the next preference I'd suggest letting go of is the one where your daughter's name has to line up with your son's in every element. Not only is success in this area unnecessary, it will make things exponentially more difficult if you have more children later. I do enjoy it when sibling names coordinate, and it does please me when things line up nicely (everyone having a family middle name, for example, or everyone having a similar type of nickname), but you can drive yourself crazy requiring it for every single element of the name. I suggest choosing the part or parts where it's most important to you that it match, but then seeing if you can keep it loose: for example, giving both children family names in the middle-name slot, but not requiring that both family names be clever mash-ups. Or giving both children names with good nicknames that go well together, but not trying to match the end-of-name source.

If nicknames are important, most of the candidates will be longer names. One possibility is to use a name like Margaret: it has tons of adorable nicknames (Greta, Daisy, Meg, Maggie, Maisie), but is commonly pronounced with two syllables (MAR-gret). Margaret Annabeth Oliver; William and Margaret; Liam and Greta.

Or Charlotte has Charlie or Lottie. Charlotte Annabeth Oliver; William and Charlotte; Liam and Lottie.

Or Violet has Vi and Lettie. Violet Annabeth Oliver; William and Violet; Liam and Lettie.

Or, Elizabeth has four syllables to break up the 3-3 pattern, and also has tons of nicknames (Bess, Betsy, Libby, Lizzie, Beth). Elizabeth Ann Oliver; William and Elizabeth; Liam and Beth, or Liam and Lizzy, or Liam and Libby.

But if you agree on Gwendolyn and it meets all your preferences, I'd ignore the "mouthful" objection: one tiny (and subjective) downfall like that doesn't seem like much when balanced against all the preferences it meets.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Baby Naming Issue: A Nickname for Bert

Lena writes:
Swistle, I am due with a boy in 9 days, and having last minute doubts about our name choice!
My name is Elena Maeve (EH-LEEN-AH), always called Lena, and my husband is Bert Adam. The baby’s last name will be Reiser (REE-SIR). My husband has been pushing so hard for a junior, and after being skeptical at first, I am now in love with the idea. Our son will most likely be Bert Adam Reiser Junior. The problem is what to call him on a day-to-day basis. We have vetoed Bert, because it is just too confusing, and I dislike the idea of calling him two names, like Bert Adam. To make things more complicated, my father, brother, and 2 year old nephew are also named Adam. My father is Adam Nolan E_______ who goes by Adam, my brother is Adam Nolan E________ II who goes by AJ (Adam Junior), and my nephew is Adam Nolan E__________ III who goes by Tripp. So my son cannot be called Bert, Bert Adam, or Adam. We thought about BJ (Bert Junior), but I refuse to give my son those initials. So then Bert came up with just calling him Junior, and surprisingly, I LOVE it. It sounds so cute to me, perfect when he’s a child, and as he grows older we will let him decide if he wants to be Bert, Bert Adam, or some other nickname. So, we were all set to name our son Bert Adam Reiser, and call him Junior, when my mother visited and I made the mistake of telling her his name. She told me that she thinks Junior is a hideous name for a dog, and while it is our decision, we should definitely NOT use it. UGH!!! Then I started to ask some of my friends, and they all told me the same thing (much politer of course!!). So now we are totally rethinking this with only 9 days left, and have no clue what to do. The other option is to name him Tobias Bert, called Toby, which is our runner up name (We both love this too, just not as much). We don’t think that we want more than one child, although you never know. If this baby was a girl she would have been Lucille Greta, called Lucy, or Louise Greta, called Louie.

Some names that we loved but eliminated for various reasons were: (to give you a sense of our taste):


(We’ve been told we like Grandpa names☺)

Our final questions are, should we just go with Junior if we love it, or does it sound too doggy, is Tobias Bert a better choice, what are some other nickname options for Bert Adam Reiser Junior???


Nicknames come into and go out of style, just like names do. For awhile, most of the Elizabeths are called Bess or Betsy; then most of them are called Liz; then most of them are called Beth. Then Libby, then Elizabeth-no-nickname-just-Elizabeth, then Ellie---and then Betsy and Bess come around and start sounding fresh and pleasing again.

I think what is done when a father and son share the same name is similarly a matter of current styles. For awhile it was Junior/Chip/Trip, but that gave way to using Bob and Bobby, or Big Bob and Little Bob. Then that seemed to cause problems as well, so we started calling the child by his middle name, or even by a nickname of the middle name. And now I think we're coming back to Junior and Trip.

It's always an issue when two people in the same house have the same name---but then it's different when the child grows up and has a home of his own. When the child is older, he can help choose his own nickname if he doesn't like the one you've chosen; and when he grows up, it'll no longer be an issue: he can continue to use his nickname, or he can use his given names. So all that is needed here is a Temporary Childhood Solution (Junior, Bobby, Little Bob, going by a middle name, etc.).

In my opinion, you've found it. Junior is a little startling because it's gone out of usage, but I found that after a moment or so it struck me as very pleasingly retro. As with names such as Sally and Hank (and Archie and Bert!), I think it's ready for reuse.

Because you'll be on the cutting edge, I suspect you'll encounter a little resistance---but I also suspect the resistance will fade quickly. It will be harder for the older generations: just as we're more resistant than current teens to the re-emergence of shag haircuts and leg warmers, so the older generations are not quite as ready to hear Junior brought back. I'd be gentle and jokey about it: "It's hip, mom! It's like orange and owls and daisies: it's HAPPENIN'!" (And maybe let her use her own nickname for him, if you're willing and if she really can't get used to it.)

The dog-name aspect, however, does not seem like an issue; I'm not familiar with Junior as a common dog name, and even if it IS common as a dog name, it is much better-established as a nickname for your exact situation. And you love it: you love the idea of a junior, and you love the idea of a Junior---so it seems like you should go with both, instead of changing things around because of an initially unfavorable or tepid reception (which, again, I think is likely to improve with time). And it's just a nickname, so it can easily be changed if you're not happy with it. Perhaps after he is born, a different nickname will naturally emerge.

If you decide against Junior, though, I suggest Barry. It's a bit of a reach (it comes from the initials BAR; it could also come from the first three letters of Bert, but I think Berry may look too feminine), but I think it would work. Or Bertie, of course, which I'm fond of because of the P. G. Wodehouse books (that Bertie is a bit dim, but also good-natured and likeable and kind and generous). Or you could call him B: this is a nickname style I've been seeing more and more, and I like it.

Or you could call him B.A. for his first and middle initials, or B.R. for his first and last. Over the years I've known a few people who went by unusual initials (i.e., not the more common ones such as T.J. or R.J.), and what I've found is that it seems a little awkward at first but soon becomes natural. (B.A. sounds natural to me already, because I used to babysit for one.)

He could go by Reis, as a short form of your surname. Or, was your husband named Bert after another Bert, maybe a Bert whose legal name was something longer, like Robert or Herbert? That might be another place to look for nicknames.

Name update! Lena writes:
I'd just like to thank you and your readers so much for helping me and Bert find a name we love for our son! Bert Adam Reiser Junior was born May 23, and is gorgeous and healthy! We decided that we really did love the name Bert, and the idea of having a junior, especially since we don't think we want any more children. After reading what you and your readers said, I decided that I wasn't so sure about calling him Junior anymore. We loved the suggestion of Berry and Bear, and had planned to call him Junior just inside the family, and Berry on a day-to-day basis. However, from the day he was born the name, Bo just fit, and we've been calling him Bo ever since. When he gets a bit older we might call him Junior or Berry, but for now we love Bo, and it fits him perfectly!

Thanks for everything,
Lena, Bert and Bo!

Monday, May 7, 2012

How to Find Baby Name Data: Rankings, Number of Births, State-Specific Data, and Information on Names Outside the Top 1000

Lindsay writes:
I'm very interested in researching the popularity of the two names we've paired it down to. In your postings, I keep seeing "in 2010, there were X babies born with that name" and "X were in your state." Where can I get this precise info? All I find is rankings. Also, I saw you mention to someone that 2011 name statistics would be available in May 2012 -- are they out yet? And if so, where can I find them??

[Sigh: ONE WEEK after I posted this, the Social Security website completely changed its format. I may or may not have the heart to re-write this after I get used to all the changes!]

I use The Social Security Administration for all baby name data of this sort. (Some baby name sites publish their own lists, but those are based only on information collected from visitors to that site---and only on what those visitors SAY they named their children.)

I'll give links where possible (it's one of those sites where not every page has its own link), but also give instructions so you can find things without the links.

Current top-ten name rankings are on the first page you come to.

To get information on a specific name's rank over the years, look to the lower right under "Popularity of a Name." To see ranking lists from other years, look to the lower left under "Popular Names By Birth Year."

For limited state-specific information, click that link I just made, or else look in the lefthand margin of the main page, under the category Baby Name Data.

To get information on names outside the Top 1000:

1. Go to the lefthand margin of the main page, under Baby Name Data. Click on "Background Information."
2. Look again in the lefthand margin and click on "Beyond the top 1000 names."
3. Click on either National Data or State-Specific Data to download those documents.

To get the number of babies born with a certain name in a certain year, you can look in those downloaded documents. OR, you can go to the main page, on the lower left under "Popular Names by Birth Year," and select "Number of births" before hitting the "Go" button. Each name listed will be followed by the number of females/males given that name in that year.

The 2011 data has not yet been released. When it is (usually in the first two weeks of May), it will update automatically on the Social Security Administration's site.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Baby Naming Issue: Is Maxwell Still Usable?

M. writes:
Hi Swistle... I'm due with our first child, a boy, on June 1 (although it's looking like he may make an early appearance).  We've been through a long list of names deciding "that's the one" until one of us changes their minds:

Henry (the dad finally admitted he didn't like the name)
Roarke (Worried about teasing - Roarke the Dork)
Finn from Phineas/Finlay (I hate Finn with the last name which has a long N in it)
August nn Gus (the dad has bad images of a child named Gus)
Ezra (I love, dad hates)

There are others. But now the dad is stuck on Max/Maxwell.  My issue with Max is how many people respond with "I had a dog named that".  We're stuck.  This kid needs a name and nothing seems right.  I'd love thoughts on Maxwell and will gladly take any suggestions you have.  I love classic and biblical names that aren't too trendy. The dad likes names that are more "out there" and would name the poor child Briar (his all time favorite name for a boy) if I'd give him 30 seconds with the birth certificate. 

If it helps, a girl would have been Millicent Claire (that was set about 10 days after we found out I was expecting)

Hi Swistle! My issue with Maxwell is growing!  I've now had 3 people tell me "so did you hear that Jessica Simpson is supposed to name her DAUGHTER Maxwell!"... Dad says it's not a problem but I'm not really thrilled with a celebu-tante naming her daughter what I want to name my son within a few weeks, so is it a problem or am I overthinking it? 


These things aren't easy to predict, but my gut feeling is that Jessica Simpson's daughter's name isn't going to change much: the number of people put off by her choice (i.e., they were planning a similar name for a girl, but now feel like they'd look like they were copying her) will probably balance the number of people inspired by it.

There were 5 baby girls named Maxwell in 2010, according to the Social Security Administration, and I saw in a magazine that some other celebrity named a baby girl Maxwell within the last few months as well. Another 8 girls were named Max in 2010, and another 5 were named Maxx. For comparison, 15 girls were named Matthew, 37 girls were named Michael, 14 girls were named Andrew, and 9 girls were named John. There will always be a few people looking for something along these lines, but I don't think that means any of these names will "go girl," as the saying goes. If you wanted to distance yourself a bit because of the poor timing, you could use another long-form of Max: Maximilian, Maximus, Maxon/Maxton/Maxson. Or go straight to Max.

The dog issue, I'd disregard completely. Many people give pets "people names," but it doesn't make those names "dog names"---any more than Jessica Simpson's baby Maxwell makes Maxwell a "girl name." I notice too that names start being used for pets right before they start coming back into style for people: I think it's because a name sounds a little too quirky right before it starts sounding awesomely different---which means first it's perfect for a dog/cat, and then you have a baby and can't use the name you love because you already used it for a pet (this happened to Paul and me with the name Oliver). So it makes sense that there are a lot of dogs named Max, but Max/Maxwell are nevertheless well established as names for human boys, and if people also used that name for their dogs I think you can just say "Oh really?"

If Maxwell still isn't quite right and the dad likes Briar, would Meyer work?

Or Felix? It's a name with long roots, but it sounds now the way I remember Max sounding a decade or two ago.

George is another name I'd think of as belonging to "the next Max" category.

Or Milo.

Whenever I see names like Max and Gus and Finn, I think of Sam and Jack and Joe. Some similar stuff from the biblical section: Abe (from Abel/Able or Abram), Ash (from Asher), Ben, Ike/Zac (from Isaac), Zeke (from Ezekiel), Gabe, Jake, Levi, Saul/Sol, Jude.

Name update! M. writes:
Hi Swistle!  I wanted to thank everyone and update you all on the June 7th arrival of my little boy.  About a week before he was born I went back to all the lists of names I'd made to that point and found that one name appeared on every list, and it had never once been marked off by dad.  A quick conversation later and we were both thrilled with our choice.  The middle name was decided in the delivery room about an hour before his birth (and is a family name).  I'm very pleased and proud to introduce you to Nicholas Edgar.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Baby Boy T____t

C. writes:
We are desperately seeking guidance in our first baby naming venture and were really hoping for some input.  We are due in about 10 weeks with our first baby (a little boy!) and are at a complete loss for names.  Although there are a few names we like and can agree on, we can't use them for various reasons (names of a pet, names of a family member or friend's baby, etc):  Nathan, Landon, Ben.

A little background on us:
Our last name is 2 syllables and begins and ends with a "T" - we wanted to stay away from names that start and end in a "T" because we think it sounds to sing-songy and matchy. For some reason we think names that end in "N" seem to sound good with our last name but are open to anything. We don't really have a strong cultural heritage but we have many family names and surnames that are unique and we will probably use one of them as our son's middle name - Foster, Fabian, Conyers, Truman, Gill. We found that choosing girls names was a breeze and there were many that we loved - Piper, Hadley, Adalynn, Morgan, Sawyer.  Choosing a boy name just seems so much more difficult!

We want to pick something that sounds masculine yet maybe a little preppy at the same time and is older/classic but not commonly used (if that makes sense).  At the same time, we don't want something that is so uncommon that it sounds strange or is something that people have never heard of.  We want a name that is less commonly used then something like the traditional Adam, James, Thomas, John, Michael, etc.  We do have two names we are considering but are hesitant to use at this point:

Harrison (worried that people will call him Harry; we do like Harris as a nickname and maybe if we implement that we can avoid the Harry altogether?; we like Harrison Foster.)
Leighton (feel like that is becoming really popular as a girls name and with that spelling seems feminine; maybe Leyton Foster? but don't want a strange or made-up spelling either).

Please help!  Maybe there is a fabulous name out there that we are simply overlooking?  Maybe we just need reassurance that our little boy won't be teased with a name like Harry?  Looking forward to hearing your input.  Thanks in advance!

I suggest Sawyer. I see it on your girl-name list, and it seems to me it suits your boy-name preferences too. In the United States the name Sawyer is currently used more often for boys (the Social Security Administration reports 348 girls in 2010, versus 2,198 boys); because the rest of your girl-name list are all names used much more often for girls, I think Sawyer would fit better in your family as a boy name.

Harrison seems like a very good choice, too. I think you can probably avoid Harry by using Harris as a nickname; but if not, I think Harry Potter has made the name Harry significantly more usable than it used to be. Along the same lines as Harrison, but with no Harry:


You're right about Leighton: the Social Security Administration reports 449 new baby girls named Leighton in 2010, versus 216 boys. The spelling Leyton was given to 25 girls and 144 boys, so it looks like that spelling is indeed considered more masculine---but the larger number of girls with the spelling Leighton gives me pause about using the name for boys at all: some names survive such a tip (Cameron, for example, which is still used for both boys and girls), but many don't (some famous examples are Ashley, Evelyn, and Lesley). The similar name Payton/Peyton, which came before Leyton/Leighton, has gone even further and is now given mostly to girls by a wide margin. Perhaps Leighton could go on your list for possible future daughters, and for boys I'd suggest instead:


Name update! C. writes:
So we are happy to report that our son was born (a week late) on July 13th.  We waited until we saw him to decide on his name but ended up deciding on Harrison Foster.  Thanks to all for reassuring us that Harrison was as great of a name as we thought it was.  I was worried that people would call him Harry - a nickname that I was desperate to avoid.  So far, everyone has been very receptive to his name and nobody has even attempted to call him Harry.  At this point I can't imagine him with any other name.  Thanks for all your help!