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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Baby Girl Jenkins

Katie writes:
My name is Katie and my husband Paul and I are expecting our first baby. We are having a girl and she is due on the 28th of August. Our surname is Jenkins, and the middle name will be a family name which we will most likely decide after we choose the first name. If it helps we like names such as Max, Callum and Finn for boys.

The name we like the most is Lyric. Is that too weird though? Can you imagine a lawyer named Lyric? Also if we name the baby Lyric does that mean we have cornered ourselves into a certain naming style for future siblings? We would like to have at least two more babies, although that could change once our daughter arrives ;-)

Other names we like are:
Selah (probably our second favorite, we like it pronounced as SAY-luh, but is that how it is normally pronounced?)
Amelia 'Mila'
Astoria 'Story'

We also really like Glory, but feel as though it should be a nickname for Gloria which neither of us really like.

So I guess you could say we like names of all different styles. We are pretty much open to any suggestions, we would love to find a less common name but overall we aren't too fussed.

Thanks a heap!

I was mentally composing my reply while getting breakfast for the kids, and what I was planning to say is that Lyric is not too weird, that there were nearly a thousand new baby girls named Lyric born in 2011, and that although I do think it would rule out names such as Amelia and Eleanor for future girls, it looks like you have plenty of good sister names in Selah, Luna, and Astoria.

But then I got to my computer and re-read the part about a lawyer named Lyric, and it's true it's hard to imagine. Part of this, though, is just my generation: I'm having trouble picturing lawyers named Caden and Madison, too, but that's because I think of those as "kid names." Just as Jennifer and Jessica don't seem like old lady names but soon will, the current kid names will soon seem natural as grown-up names---including lawyers.

On the other hand, Lyric does have a certain nounish style that may always sound a little funny with certain professions. Crystal and Brandy were popular names that have had a chance to fully grow up now, and yet they still don't have as serious a sound as peers like Amanda and Kimberly. It's very hard to know which names will grow up to have which connotations, though: Heather and April and Brooke are also noun names, but grew up to easily fit lawyers.

Luckily, there is a common naming solution to this: different styles for first and middle names, to hedge your bets. This solution is particularly applicable in your case, since your list is split right down the middle between riskier and more conservative choices. If you choose your favorite style for the first name, you can use the other style as a middle name. A woman named Lyric Eleanor or Eleanor Lyric can go by whichever name seems more appropriate for her personality and job choice.

Another possible solution is to find names that have similar sounds to the ones you like, but are of a different style. Instead of Lyric: Lyra, Mira, or Lyla. If you like Story and Glory and Eleanor, maybe you would like Aurora, Cora, Corinne, Dorothy (Dory), Ellery, Emory, Flora, Florence (Florrie), Jory, Georgia, Lorelei, Maura, Morgan, Mallory, Nora, Orianna, Rory, Victoria. If you like Callum for a boy, maybe you'd like Calla for a girl.

Yet another possible solution is to choose a name with flexible nicknames. An Eleanor can be an Ellie, a Nora, a Linny, or of course an Eleanor. An Astoria can go by Story or Ree or Ria, and also has the full Astoria to fall back on. Luna and Lyric have fewer options.

Yes, according to The Baby Name Wizard, Selah is pronounced SAY-lah and Sela is SEE-lah. It's hard to know, though, what actual usage is. If I encountered a Selah, I'd be prepared to find that her name could be pronounced SEE-lah.

Name update! Katie writes:
My husband and I ended up narrowing the names down to Lyric and Eleanor and decided to wait until she was born to decide. As soon as we saw her we both knew she was a Lyric. Our little Lyric Helena was born on the 1st of September, and we both love her name! Thanks to all who gave input, it definitely helped :-)

Monday, July 30, 2012

Baby Girl or Boy Milbank, Sibling to Scarlett

Rebecca writes:
With less than two weeks until our second child is due we are still struggling with names (go figure, we had this same issue with our first :-) Hoping that between you and your readers we might be able to get this last item on our "to do" list complete.

Below is some background information...

My name: Rebecca Lee Milbank
Husband's name: Samuel Thomas Milbank (goes by Toma)
2 year old daughter: Scarlett Grace Milbank (Scarlett was my maiden name)

And this is what we have come up with so far...

Girls names:

- Katherine Detay Milbank (nickname Kate or Kat, Detay is a family name)
- Isabel Reese Milbank
- Noelle Elizabeth Milbank
- Isla Reese Milbank
- Haven Milbank (not sure on a middle name)

(Family tradition dictates that the first name be Samuel. Like my husband he would go by his middle name.)

- Samuel Lucas Milbank (possibly "Luca" as a nickname)
- Samuel Carter Milbank (Carter is a family name)
- Samuel Aiden Milbank (perhaps Aiden is too popular?)

By no means are we set on any of these names. Any guidance, advice or suggestions would be greatly appreciated (and lead to a better nights sleep!).

The name Scarlett is now in the top 100 (#80 in 2011, according to the Social Security Administration), but it retains its strong and unusual sound. A classic/traditional name like Katherine startles me with contrast: an author might use the two names to communicate one fiery/sassy character and one sweet/conservative. Isabel would have had the right sort of sound (good strong consonants) before Isabel/Isabella got so popular that the sound of it barely registers. But I also don't think I like the way it sounds with the surname: the bel-mil of Isabel Milbank doesn't feel nice in my mouth.

Of course such things are mostly based on subjective experience/opinion: someone else could right now be thinking of Katherine as in Katharine Hepburn, and feeling it with a big dose of strength and sass---and of course nicknames like Kate and Kat boost that. Perhaps someone else has encountered fewer Isabels/Isabellas, and still hears it with the strong, distinctive, and regal sounds that drew so many parents to it. And of course there will be different opinions on sounds: the double L sound that's bothering me could tie the names together perfectly for someone else. And meanwhile, I'm about to speak in favor of Noelle, while someone else thinks, "What? But that's such a soft, sweet name!"

And Noelle definitely can be a soft, sweet name. But I think it also has the unusual sound I'd be looking for with a sister named Scarlett, and the one Noelle I know has the sort of personality commonly described as "firecracker," so that has influenced me considerably. I also like how it gives you the -elle ending from Isabel, while being considerably less common. But as with Isabel, I don't think I like the way it sounds with the surname: Noelle Milbank, elle-mil.

The name Isla, too, I can see someone else thinking of as sounding too soft and sweet with the hard consonants of Scarlett. But I associate Isla with redheads, and redheads with spirit. And I associate both Scarlett and Isla with actresses; I think that subtly ties them together in my mind. And again, the name has the distinctive/unusual sound I'd be looking for. I also like the way it LOOKS with Scarlett: Scarlett and Isla. But again the L-sounds give me trouble: Isla Milbank, la-mil.

Haven is probably my favorite of your list. It has strength, consonants, an unusual and distinctive sound. Scarlett and Haven are both surnames, which ties them together. Neither one is frilly or girly-sweet, despite Scarlett O'Hara's hoop skirts.

I'd like Haven with the middle name Detay, to give both girls a family name. But I also like the idea of using a more traditional/feminine middle name, as you did with Scarlett. Haven Violet. Haven Katherine. Haven Elise. Haven Elizabeth. Haven Rose. Haven Noelle brings out the soft/sweet side of Noelle; you'd think I'd want to avoid the n-N of the two names, but this is what I mean about how subjective these things are: it sounds good to me (and neither Hava nor Oelle are names, so there's no blend-based confusion). Or I like Haven Rebecca to honor the mother's side again; perhaps the girls in the family could have mother's-side names while the boys have father's-side names.

Hazel would also work with Scarlett. It has the nice Z-sound and -el ending of Isabel, and it's been coming into style nearly hand-in-hand with the name Scarlett. I'm not crazy about the zel-mil, as you'd expect from previous paragraphs, but (1) subjective and (2) I don't dislike it to the point of considering it a reason to rule out the name.

For boys, I'd say Aiden has probably reached the "too popular" point for anyone taking that into consideration: it was #9 in 2011, but combining spellings Aidan and Aden and Ayden makes it even more popular than that. More importantly (since I continue in my belief that the Top Ten is not the kiss of death), it's a name that belongs to a group: the rhyming Aidens/Bradens/Cadens/Haydens/Jadens/etc. are now well-known enough that many letters to us specifically mention wanting to avoid them.

I like the idea of using another A name: the initials spelling SAM is fun with the first name Samuel.

Samuel Aidric; Aidric Milbank; Scarlett and Aidric
Samuel Alden; Alden Milbank; Scarlett and Alden
Samuel Anderson; Anderson Milbank; Scarlett and Anderson
Samuel Archer; Archer Milbank; Scarlett and Archer
Samuel August; August Milbank; Scarlett and August
Samuel Asher; Asher Milbank; Scarlett and Asher

I think Samuel Carter is very handsome. I hesitate only because Scarlett and Carter seem very similar in sound: repeating "car" segment in the first syllable, followed by a T-sound in the second syllable.

If I look at boy names to go with a sister named Scarlett, I think of Grant. Samuel Grant; Grant Milbank; Scarlett and Grant.

Or Hudson. Samuel Hudson; Hudson Milbank; Scarlett and Hudson.

Or Harrison. Samuel Harrison; Harrison Milbank; Scarlett and Harrison.

Or Davis. Samuel Davis; Davis Milbank; Scarlett and Davis.

Or Flynn. Samuel Flynn; Flynn Milbank; Scarlett and Flynn.

But Samuel Lucas seems perfect to me.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Baby Girl or Boy, Sibling to Bradley, Molly, Lily, and Karly; A Name Ending in -ly or -ley or -lay

Deanne writes:
I am currently almost 10 weeks pregnant with sweet baby number 5.  We will not find out the gender of the baby until D-day sometime in February.  When our last child was born, she was nameless for almost 24 hours because we couldn't decide on a name that sounded good with our other kiddos' names.  We now have one boy (Bradley Allen) and three girls (Molly Joy, Lily Faith and Karly Grace).  We would like to stick with the "lee" sound ending and a "y" at the end so our kids all have that common theme in their names.

We have discussed these girl first names (middle name is set on Hope):


Hubby has his heart set on Riley Allen for a boy name, but I am open to suggestions. :)

Any help or ideas would be much appreciated!

In larger sibling groups, I find it can be a helpful exercise to divide the boys from the girls. So, for example, I'd look for a brother name for Bradley, and then double-check to see how well it would go with the sister names; and then I'd look for a sister name for Molly, Lily, and Karly, and then double-check to see how well it would go with the brother name.

I think Riley makes a very nice brother name for Bradley, and also goes well with Molly, Lily, and Karly. Other possibilities:


Now I hold those candidates up to Molly, Lily, and Karly. Rawley rhymes or almost rhymes with Molly. Charley rhymes with Karly. Finley is a little tricky because it's being used for girls more than boys (given to 502 boys and 874 girls in 2011, according to the Social Security Administration). There's a similar issue with the name Riley; there are a ton of spellings, but looking just at the Riley spelling, it was given to 3427 boys and 5002 girls in 2011, according to the Social Security Association. Adding up the thousands of girls named Rileigh, Rilee, Rylee, Ryleigh, Rylie, Ryley, Reilly, etc., puts it even more tipped toward the girls. And Presley has this issue too, given to 1384 girls and only 123 boys in 2011.

Ridley might be too close to Bradley.

I like how Wesley and Westley would give him a nickname comparable to Brad: Brad and Wes, Brad and West.

Girl names are easier, because so many girl names end in the -ly sound. The challenge with girl names is finding a name that works well in style with but doesn't sound too similar to her sister's names; I'd be looking for something with a distinctly different set of sounds---a different starting sound, ideally, and/or a different primary vowel sound, and/or some different consonant sounds. From your list of girl names, Elly seems too similar to Lily, and Kelly may be too similar to Karly. Other possibilities:


Brinley, Briley, and Briarley might be too similar to Bradley.

Because Molly, Lily, and Karly are all familiar names, I'd be inclined to stick to another familiar name for a fourth girl. And since they're all strictly feminine names, I'd be inclined to stick to another feminine name. Names that meet those two preferences: Cecily, Hailey, Lesley, and Nataly. Ashley and Emily from your list would also meet those preferences.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Middle Name Challenge: Phoebe ____ Hirsh, Sister to Jackson Kelley

Morgan writes:
I'm hoping you and your readers can help us. I'm 28 weeks along with baby number two and we're seriously stuck on a middle name. Here's a bit of background info: I'm Morgan, my husband is Jeremy, our son is Jackson Kelley (nn Jack) and our last name is Hirsh (with a different spelling). Jackson's name came easily. His first name is a place that has a special significance for us and his middle name is an honor name (Kelley was my great grandmother's maiden name and also happens to be my middle name as well as that of an uncle and a cousin). We love his name.

After narrowing our list of girl names down we have decided on Phoebe for this baby's first name. We are both in love with the name and plan to use Bee as a nickname. The problem we're having now is the middle name. We'd like to continue the tradition we began with our son of using an honor name for a middle name. The LONG list of potential middle honor name contenders has been whittled down to three. They are all from my husband's mother's side of the family. The contestants are:

Phoebe Lefebvre (pronounced Le FEV) Hirsh
Phoebe Adele Hirsh
Phoebe Pascale Hirsh

My mother-in-law is French and Lefebvre was her maiden name. Pascale was my husband's great grandmother's first name. Adele was his great great aunt's first name. Both were wonderful women and both lived to be over 100. I am somewhat partial to Phoebe Adele, while my husband is favoring Phoebe Lefebvre. My concern with Phoebe Lefebvre is the double "f" sound. Does that make it awkward to say? Does the "v" sound at the end blend into the "H" at the beginning of our last name? At this point we've said all three of these names so many times that they are starting to sound the same.

Any advice you and your readers can provide would be so greatly appreciated. Oh and I PROMISE to send a name update in October with a photo.

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

I think all three are great choices. The up side: it doesn't really matter which one you choose, because any of the three will give her a very good name. The down side: that makes it hard to choose. We had a similar issue when naming our youngest child: three excellent, family-honoring middle names to choose from, and all of them seemed equally good. We finally just...picked one. I like the one we chose, and I think I would have liked either of the others, too.

I would lean toward Lefebvre, because the other two seem like more distant honors: your husband's mother is a much stronger connection than a great-great-aunt or a great-grandmother. Also, I love when it's possible to preserve maternal family names as well as paternal ones. Also-also, part of the joy in using an honor name is surprising/pleasing the person being honored, and your mother-in-law is the only one of the three who is alive. The repeating F sound doesn't bother me unless in your family you frequently use the first and middle names---and actually, if you DO, I like how that sounds: it's fun to say! And I don't find it blends with the surname: I find I naturally pause between them. But most people find their middle names all but disappear and are rarely said aloud, so in general I don't worry much about that.

This is a minor thing, but I like to think about the minor things: Pascale would give her P.P. initials which, along with I.P., I like to avoid for Pee-Related Teasing. But since it's first and middle instead of first and last, it's unlikely that other children would even know about it. And Pascale gives the cutest monogram, if you like monograms: a central H, bookended with two P's.

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

Name update! Morgan writes:
Just a quick note to thank you and your readers for the wonderful baby naming advice. Our daughter Phoebe Lefebvre H!rsh arrived on October 19th weighing 8lbs 2 oz and measuring 22 inches long. We were stuck on the middle name, but ultimately ended up going with my mother-in-law's maiden name of Lefebvre (as opposed to the other front runner Adele, which was the name of a great great aunt). Ultimately it felt more special to honor a close living relative as opposed to a more distant relative who has passed away. Mommy, Daddy and big brother Jackson are all completely in love with our little Phoebe and have taken to calling her Baby Bea.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Baby Naming Issue: If the Ultrasound Says Girl, Do You Need a Boy Name?

Austin writes:
I am 35 weeks pregnant (due 8/31) with our first child and we found out we are having a girl at 16 weeks (it's nice to have an ultrasound tech friend!). This was a blessing because while my husband and I had agreed on a girl's name, Norah, in one of our first baby name conversations five years ago, we were nowhere close to agreement on a boy's name. In fact, talking about potential boy names had become quite a chore. The news that we were having a girl ended that struggle until very recently.

Three events have broken the naming peace:

A few weeks ago, my mother-in-law suggested that we should have a boy's name just in case. Ultrasound techs have been wrong before. This got my husband thinking about boy's names all over again. Then about a week ago, my husband found out that his 22-year-old cousin was thought to be a girl all the way until birth, leaving his aunt and uncle to flail for a boy's name moments after his arrival. And yesterday our good friend's cousin gave birth to a baby boy...AFTER they had already spent several thousand dollars on pink baby gear, thinking they were having a girl. These stories make my blood pressure rise!

We think the odds of our baby being a boy are very slim and most of our expensive baby gear is gender-neutral, including nursery decor. We've had several ultrasounds and have been told by four different doctors and techs to expect a girl.  But are we tempting fate if we allow our boy's name feud to linger?  Do we need to have a boy name in our back pocket? I know we are probably way overthinking this, but it would make my hormone-addled brain and my planning-obsessed husband feel better to have a backup plan in case a boy appears at delivery!
Assuming we do need a boy's name, we could really use your help. Our last name is $tephen$on (pronounced like Stevenson) and the baby's middle name will be Lee regardless of sex, which is my husband's and his father's middle name. We plan to use honor names as middle names for all of our children.

Our top choice for a boy was Lucas until a close friend named his son Luca in December. Now it's off the table, sadly.

Potential compromise names that neither of us love or hate:
Elliott (nn. Leo)

Names I like and he has vetoed:

Names he likes and I have vetoed:
William (nn. Liam)
Charles (nn. Charlie)

I tend to be all over the map with respect to naming style preferences for boys; I like the surname-as-first name style, some traditional names, and some trendier names. He tends to be more firmly settled in the traditional name camp. There are names we both like but feel like we can't use because of alliteration with our last name (which makes me nuts!) like Silas and anything ending in -son/sen. We have many other names we agree upon for future lady babies; favorites include Charlotte, Alice, and Gwendolyn, in case that helps generate more ideas.

We've both scoured your blog and the Baby Name Wizard for new ideas but nothing seems to be The Boy Name for both of us! And we find ourselves falling in and out of love with boy names, which is weird since we've had Norah picked out for years and never wavered. Any advice and suggestions you or your readers have would be so appreciated. Thank you!

Here are some reasons to have a boy name AND a girl name ready, even if you're pretty sure you know which one you need:

1. It can be quite fun to say things like, "If I'd been a boy, my name would have been Christopher!"

2. It does very occasionally happen that an ultrasound is wrong, and so it's nice to be prepared.

3. Baby-naming is fun.

Here are some reasons not to:

1. If you do have a boy when you're expecting a girl, that story is SO THRILLING to everyone, you'll have all the excuse and time you need to come up with an alternate name. There would be no need to decide immediately; you'd have days or even weeks. It even becomes part of the fun: "Daddy and I didn't even know you were a boy! We had to go through a baby name book right there in the hospital!"

2. Baby-naming can stop being fun, and start being stressful and difficult---and the odds are strongly in favor of all that stress and difficulty being for nothing. You're describing it as "quite a chore" and "a struggle," and you've had several ultrasounds all with predictions of girl, so it sounds to me that this is where you are right now.

3. Many people find that the name they'd chosen for the opposite sex is no longer one they want to consider when expecting subsequent babies. Deciding on a name now may save you time if you have a boy later---or it might waste a name.

As you might expect, I was VERY KEEN on naming my own babies, and started lists the day the pregnancy test was positive. And yet I waited until I knew if the baby was a boy or a girl before getting serious about choosing a name, and considered that one of the huge benefits of finding out the baby's sex before the birth. For the fun of it, I would draw up little lists of names I might consider if the baby surprised us by being the opposite sex---but I never got into the more difficult and stressful work of making a final decision. It didn't feel worth it, and I soothed myself with the "It will make the story even better" idea.

If you do have a boy, the work you have done so far is plenty: you will still have some deciding to do, but you've given it thought, and you've drawn up some rough lists, and you've become familiar with the other parent's opinions and with the boy name sections of the baby name books. At this point, when it has become a stressful and upsetting chore, it doesn't seem worth the effort of narrowing it down further. If choosing only one name were enough to bring down punishment from Fate, there would be many more stories of birth day surprises than there are.

Name update! Austin writes:
Hi Swistle & Readers!

Thanks for all your help and suggestions for a name in case we had a baby boy. As it turns out (and as we figured), we fretted in vain. Our beautiful daughter arrived nine days late on 9-9-12, healthy and huge (9lbs. 10oz.!). After some last-minute angst over whether to name her Norah-with-an-H or Nora-without-the-H, we settled on Nora Brooke when we saw her (my middle name is Brooke so we kept up the family middle name tradition). You'll be hearing from us again if we have a boy in the future!

Many thanks again,

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Baby Girl Br@y; Nothing Stands Out as The Name

Alexandra writes:
I'm a long time blog reader and am pregnant with my first baby, a little girl. My husband and I are thrilled and cannot wait to meet her in early November but are having trouble thinking about names. I actually had a nightmare that our poor baby girl was nameless for several months after her birth. We can't have this happen!

Since I've been reading your blog for a long time one of the first things I did once we started to think about names was to go out and buy the "Baby Name Wizard" book and re-read your post, "Baby Naming Advice for First Time Parents." We took your advice and started to think about our naming style and future sibling names. Pretty much right away it was clear to us that our naming style was antique charm. I like almost every name on the list! However, here is the issue, while I seem to like all these names, none of them are standing out to me and none are entering into the love category. If this baby were a boy we would have named him Leo or Everett (love these both). Our last name is Br@y which doesn't pose too many limitations.

We don't have many name restrictions in mind so are not sure why this is so difficult! We are also both Canadians with a French Canadian background so prefer the French spellings of the names in the antique charm style. The only thing I will say is that we don't want a name that is too popular (i.e. top 10). The top 10 in Canada and the US are actually very similar so we've been consulting the SSA website.

Here are a few of the names that we like from the antique charm style:

-    Nora
-    Evelyne
-    Vivienne
-    Lucie
-    Leila

For middle names we would like to use a family name. Some options (but we really haven't even gotten this far yet):

-    Catherine
-    Marie
-    Cynthia
-    Barbara
-    Rose
-    Irene
Please help us get out of our rut! None of these names seem like our baby and I can't seem to think of any new possibilities outside of this naming style. Thanks so much!

P.S - We promise to send an update with an adorable baby photo. :-)

When The Baby Name Wizard's Antique Charm category is not quite the thing, I often find success in the Exotic Traditionals and Ladies and Gentlemen categories: they feel to me like more extreme versions of the names in Antique Charm.

I would also play the game I like to play with that book: I look up each name on my list, and then I look at the sibling names suggested by the author for that name, and I pick one brother or sister name and go look up THAT name and look at THOSE sibling names---and so on. It's Choose-Your-Own-Adventure baby naming! Sometimes I find myself in a loop of names I love, which tells me I've got a good consistent list; sometimes I find new candidates to consider; sometimes I find that I'm disappointed/glad to see certain names mentioned, which tells me more about my preferences; sometimes I dead-end in an area where none of the names appeal, so I start over with a new name.

Another game I play is to brainstorm names similar to the ones on my list---either off the top of my head, or by looking in a baby name dictionary, or by searching the name database for name segments (ora, lyn, enne, cie, lei, etc.). So for example, your list of five might turn into something like this:


Partly this is to get new ideas, but partly this is because I've found that the more I play around with the names I'm considering, the more likely it is a favorite will begin to emerge. This is why I also recommend other games such as Future Sibling Names, name ranking, Imagined Scenarios, examining movie/television credits---and also, taking breaks from it to let the names simmer.

To play the Future Sibling Names game, let's look at Leo and Everett. If you used Evelyne, would that rule out Everett? Would using Leila rule out Leo? If so, which of each pair of names do you prefer? You probably wouldn't want to give up a girl name you love for a maybe-never-existing chance to use a boy name---but if you greatly prefer the boy name and are equally torn between several girl names, deciding to save the possible future brother name could help you choose between the girl-name candidates.

Playing with first/middle combinations can also be a helpful game. Maybe all five candidates feel about the same, but when you pair one of them with a certain middle name, that combination seems perfect. Nora Catherine. Vivienne Rose. Lucie Irene. Clara Catherine. Cecily Rose.

Or perhaps while playing with the family names for the middle name position, one of THOSE will rise to the top. Catherine Br@y or Rose Br@y would be lovely.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Baby Naming Issue: Should They Change Their Baby's Name Now That a Celebrity Has Used It?

C. writes:
Ok, here is one for you. We debated for a long time between Penelope and Calliope. [Note from Swistle: And chose Penelope: see post and update.] Given the recent name choice of the kardashian baby, we are seriously considering changing the name to Calliope. We are afraid of the follow on effect with kardashian followers... Are we overreacting?

I would not change it. I had a brief feeling of "Oh no!" when I heard the name of the Kardashian/Disick baby (I'm not expecting any more children, but Penelope is still on my favorites list and I prefer that list to stay safe)---and I found that feeling dissipated within days. If I'd answered this when you sent it, I would have been very conflicted about an answer---but even a week and a half later, I feel clear on it: no need to change. The name still belongs to the world.

It helps even more than you used the name before they did: while no doubt many expectant parents are right this minute reconsidering the name Penelope (either suddenly interested in it or suddenly scrambling for a new name), no one could expect you to change a 6-week-old's name (or, if it happens again with another celebrity, a 2-year-old's, a 6-year-old's, or a 10-year-old's name) just because a celebrity coincidentally used the name.

What does everyone else think? Remember, this is not about whether you'd prefer the name Calliope---the name they'd be changing it to is irrelevant. (If it helps, imagine the other name to be one you like equally as well as Penelope.) The question is only about whether Kourtney Kardashian's baby Penelope should cause an already-born-and-named baby to be renamed the parents' second choice. Let's have a poll over to the right. [Poll closed; see results below.]

Monday, July 23, 2012

Name Updates!

Update (and photo!) on Baby Boy Pearce, Brother to Molly Rose!
Update on Baby Girl Heintz, Sister to Parker Griffin!

Baby Girl Williams, Sister to Silas and Judah

Lauren writes:
Oh I would be most appreciative of some naming advice! We're coming down to the last few weeks (due date is August 10) and having trouble landing on a name for our baby girl. I really need a sounding board especially because my husband wants to keep all naming ideas on the down low among our circles because, as we all know, everyone has an opinion and most of them are not very helpful! : )

This is our third child (I'm pretty sure last) and coming into a home of two brothers, Silas Jay and Judah Dennis. Our last name is the ever-common, Williams, which despite it being familiar, I've found to be rather difficult to pair names with (it's a mouthful and a lot of vowel and consonant sounds).

So far, our naming style has been vintage/Biblical for the first name (and I really prefer it if the names are more unique--if I know anyone with the name it's pretty much out) and the middle names honored my husband's side of the family (as well as our second son has the JD initials because of a family tradition). I don't love the flow of either of their names--and had similar freak out points with both of their namings--but opted for significance over perfect flow).

With this little girl, it's been understood that we would honor my side of the family with the middle name (I really love Kaye for my mother's and maternal grandmother's middle name) but during my pregnancy, my mother-in-law was diagnosed with terminal cancer and so we've strongly considered a nod to her as well (her name is Marlys Anne and I've been thinking of giving this baby a second middle name of Anne, which would be purely for significance and not so much for style).

Please weigh in on how best to formulate a middle name from Kaye and Anne (do I just have two middles? A Franken-name hybrid? A hyphen? Something else entirely?).

We also haven't landed on a first name. The name we both have liked (my husband Loves!) is


but even though we don't personally know anyone named Lydia, I am concerned that it's a little high on the popularity scale. Also not entirely pleased with the mouthful that is "Lydia Williams."

Others I've suggested that he likes: Bethel / Bethany (although this is less popular, it feels less unique for some reason, perhaps a little dated at the moment?)

Ones I've liked but are off the table at this time:
Elizabeth (love the name and it's my middle name but too common)
Honorah (nn Norah)
Also, we both liked Jane but with a last name like Williams feels too, uh, "plain"

Finally, as part of my late-pregnancy nerves (and despite rather conclusive ultrasound evidence), the boy names we have in our back pocket are:
Ezekiel "Zeke" Marek (Marek being a Polish form of Mark to honor my dad's mn and my uncle)
Nile Marek

Thank you so much for your time and consideration.

Oh, this is very difficult! The last child, and time to use an honor name from your side---but of course it would be very touching and special to use your mother-in-law's name right now. I don't think I could give up either honor name.

Would you want to consider using Kaye as the first name? I think of it as classy, pleasingly retro name, similar to Jane, and I love it with your surname: Kaye Williams. I would want that name for myself. I would then consider using your mother-in-law's first name to increase the honor: Marlys is a name that is currently out of fashion, but the sounds themselves are pretty, and I find the repeating Y visually pleasing. Kaye Marlys Williams.

But if Marlys is not in the running, Kaye Anne Williams would also work.

Are there any other names from your side that could be used as the first name? I know the original plan was to use a family name as the middle name, but it seems as if a third honor for your husband's side (in addition to his family being honored each time with the surname, if Williams is his family name) justifies a first-name upgrade for your side---which would also make things significantly smoother and easier for using your mother-in-law's name in the middle.

If you want to use both honor names as middle names, I suggest using both rather than combining. Already the honor names are the middle names of the people being honored, which is a step away, honor-wise; and then being used in the middle name position, which is a second step away. Combining them into one name (such as Kayeanne) is a third step away, and at that point it feels like there's almost no honor left in it. Kaye Anne or Anne Kaye are both a little choppy in the middle, but you and I are in agreement about significance trumping flow.

On reconsideration, I think a hyphen would also work. I guess if Anne were my middle name, I really would think of Kaye-Anne as quite a bit better than Kayeanne. I still prefer having the names separate, however, to avoid seeming to combine the two honors---and also to avoid having the hassle of a hyphen.

I've also heard the idea of giving the child the same initials as the person of honor. I tried to picture this with my own initials, and I do think I'd feel slightly honored by that: I probably identify with my initials more even than with my middle name. It would mean finding a different honor name from your family, however, to match your mother-in-law's initials.

Lydia is a lovely first name choice, and biblical/vintage just like your sons' names. Its upward progress is slow and steady---the kind of progress that means a classic coming into favor once again, rather than the rapid, leaping progress that can indicate trendiness:

(screenshot from the Social Security Administration)

It's taken twenty years for the name to move just a hundred rank points; a name heading worryingly up the charts frequently jumps more than that in a single year. And I know these things are subjective, but I like the sound of it with your surname. Lydia Williams! Very pretty. And then I'd pop both honor names in the middle: Lydia Kaye Anne Williams. I really like that. I like the repeating Y in the first two names, and the repeating double-letter in the second two, and the repeating -ia- in the first and last, and the repeating 4-letters/E-ending in the middle two. (I realize these are small things, but they are pleasing.)

I see Elizabeth on your off-the-table list: your middle name, but too popular. Eliza is one of my own favorite names, familiar but underused; I wonder if that would work well? Eliza Williams; Eliza Kaye Anne Williams; Silas, Judah, and Eliza. I like the way Eliza shares a long-I sound with Silas and an -ah ending with Judah, but then breaks free with three syllables instead of two.

To go back to biblical, I suggest Naomi. Naomi Williams; Silas, Judah, and Naomi.

I think Ruth Williams would also be wonderful, but with two 1-syllable middle names I'm inclined to go with a longer first name.

I would expect Claudia to be more common than it is, with the popularity of names like Chloe and Sophia. Perhaps as Lydia and Nadia become more fashionable, it will as well. Claudia Williams; Silas, Judah, and Claudia.

Which brings me naturally to Nadia. I heard this for the first time on the baby sister of one of my children's classmates. Nadia Williams; Silas, Judah, and Nadia.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Should a Girl Named Sloane Have a More Feminine Middle Name?

N. writes:
In an effort to get some honest feedback without having to tell family and friends our short list of names, I'm coming to the expert (and loyal readers!) for advice.

We're expecting a girl this fall and have a few names that we like, but our definite frontrunner is Sloane Wesleigh. Both my husband and I adore Sloane and think it's fits with our personalities and naming style and it goes well with our last name. My only concern is that because Sloane is unisex, Wesleigh is too masculine to go along with it. My husband sees no problem with it (but he only recently discovered that Sloan is used a boy name also...apparently only one of us is "research mode"). That said, I really like the way the two names flow and think Wesleigh has that "cool" (but not too trendy) vibe that we like too. Perhaps we need something similar but a little more girly? My fear is that when the little lady arrives, we announce her name and people still have no idea if we had a girl or boy.

Do you think we need a more feminine middle name to balance out the androgyny of Sloane? Or the opposite, do the two unisex names match one another?

To give you a sense of our taste, here are some of the other names that made our "maybe" list:


*my picks, hubs is not a fan of these

Family names include: Lindsay, Mason, Mary
Boy names that we like: Finn, Sullivan, Abel

Thanks in advance for any suggestions or tips!

With first names that can be used for either boys or girls, my own personal preference is to use the middle name to clarify things. So, for example, if the child's first name is Cameron, I like the middle name to be Jacob or Olivia, not Riley or Jordan.

But there are arguments for not bothering with this. For one thing, your friends and family will have ways other than the name for determining if you've had a boy or a girl. And some people make the deliberate decision to use a name that doesn't instantly communicate the sex (for resumes and college applications, mostly).

But in any case, because Sloane is used much more often for girls in the United States (there were 861 girls and 87 boys named Sloane/Sloan in 2011, according to the Social Security Administration), and because you've feminized the spelling of Wesleigh, the name reads girl to me. I would feel an urge to double-check, just as I would with a Camryn Ryleigh, but I'd feel pretty confident.

In fact, my main issue with Wesleigh is that the spelling looks to me as if it might be pronounced Wes-SLAY, because of the word sleigh; I'm familiar with -leigh as -lee from Ashleigh and Ryleigh and of course Leigh, but after a plain S it threw me. Still, it took all of a second or two for me to realize it must be pronounced like Wesley, and in the middle name position it's not going to cause trouble or confusion. Plus, spelling it Wesley would tip me the other way, to being more sure the baby was a boy.

If you did decide you wanted to go more feminine, Sloane Lesleigh would be pretty. Lesley used to be a unisex name but has now gone almost completely girl in the United States.

Or Sloane Kelsey.

Or Sloane Paisley.

Or Sloane Cecily. It has a lot of S sounds, but I find I like it.

Or Sloane Vanessa.

Or Sloane Hayleigh.

Or Sloane Briony.

Or Sloane Waverly.

Or Sloane Eliza. I realize that one takes a sharp style turn, but I think it has a cool sound with Sloane.

I also think Sloane Lindsay sounds wonderful, and it appeals to me to use a family name.

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

Poll results for "Should Sloane have a more feminine middle name than Wesleigh?" (410 votes total):

No, Wesleigh is feminine enough - 50 votes (12%)
No, I like the idea of it being unisex - 27 votes (7%)
Yes, it needs a more feminine middle name - 316 votes (78%)
I can't decide - 17 votes (4%)

Name update! N. writes:
We welcomed Sloane Everly on October 11 and are in love with her and her name! Thanks for the advice and suggestions!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Baby Name to Discuss: Scout (but for a boy)

A. writes:
Why aren't more people using the name Scout, for boys? According to the Social Security Administration data, there were only 59 boys (and 148 girls) named Scout in 2010. I have heard it used, in real life, as a girl's middle name (which her parents also used as a pet name for her), in homage to the character in To Kill a Mocking Bird. And I do like it for a girl, but I kind of love it for a boy.
I think it has a very adventurous/rugged masculine feel, like Hunter, Ranger, Colt and Sawyer, and the Boy Scout association makes it sound capable and good citizen like (although, I actually have some issues with the Boy Scouts of America's stance on certain issues, the idea of boy scouting remains positive in my mind) .
I do see the possible downsides of it sounding too much like and being confused for Scott (a name I find utterly lackluster due to personal associations and it being out of fashion) and it sounding like a dog's name, but I still kind of love it and imagine it being adorable on a little boy and handsome on a man. What do you and your readers think of Scout? I love your blog(s) and a would love to know what you think about Scout!

I have four associations with the name Scout:

1. Jean Louise Finch's nickname in To Kill a Mockingbird (female)

2. The daughter of Bruce Willis and Demi Moore (female)

3. Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts (either male or female)

4. A talent/sports/military scout (either male or female)

Considering that I think the To Kill a Mockingbird association is likely the strongest one in the U.S. (and re-emphasized by so many parents citing the book as the reason they chose the name), a 59m/148f split is more boys than I would have expected. I see the gap widened in 2011: according to the Social Security Administration, there were 51 male babies and 182 female babies named Scout.

It's an interesting question, because I think if the name had entered our culture without the book, it would very likely have been as a boy's name. As you've mentioned, it sounds like Scott, and it works well with names like Hunter and Ranger.

But instead it's considered a boyISH name for a scrappy girl---and meanwhile, the book To Kill a Mockingbird is commonly taught in high school year after year, which doesn't allow the association to fade. And the name remains unusual, which doesn't allow the association to dilute.

What does everyone else think about why Scout isn't used more for boys? Do you think it could be tipped by, say, another famous Scout, but this one male? Maybe a handsome, winking, rugged type?

And let's have a poll over to the right to see what we think of the name for a boy at this point. [Poll closed; see results below.]

Poll results for "Scout, but for a boy" (380 votes total):

I love it! I'd want to use it! - 16 votes (4%)
I like it! I'd want to consider it! - 32 votes (8%)
I like it for someone else's baby - 124 votes (33%)
No particular opinion - 39 votes (10%)
Slight dislike - 96 votes (25%)
Strong dislike - 73 votes (19%)

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Baby Boy Oldman: Should They Use an Outlier Name for a Firstborn?

A. writes:
I debated whether to write to you because I REALLY wanted my husband and I to figure this out ourselves, and we mostly have, but it has gotten to the point where I need an unbiased second (or fiftieth?) opinion. After having the PERFECT girl's name picked out (Rose) and lovely visions of ruffles and sparkles and unicorns, we found out we are having a BOY. Surprise! He is due early November, right around my birthday, and we are ecstatic- and really want a full name to start calling him!

My question to you today is about whether we should take into consideration any future sibsets in naming this baby, when the rest of the names we would be inclined to choose are so drastically different than the one we have currently chosen.

My first name is super-common (#3 in the year I was born- '84) while my husband's name is the unpopular Justin-with-a-D. We both have family middle names that we like much better than our firsts, and my husband actually calls me by my middle name instead. That's not really helpful information to this question, but I felt I should mention it anyway. :)

We narrowed down our list about five million times and finally got it down to our top two: Gavin and Magnus. My husband's last name (which will be the baby's surname as well) is Swedish and sounds like Oldman, but without the D in the middle. We have found that we both typically prefer Scandinavian and Germanic names for boys, which is why Gavin as our frontrunner surprised us! We've mostly decided to go with Gavin as his first name, and give him two middle names, one of which will be Scott, in honour of my father. Here is where we need help, though.

We were thinking about using Magnus as a middle for him, because it really is one of our favourites. Gavin Magnus Scott Ol(d)man. HOWEVER...we do hope to have more children, and would like for siblings' names to not clash. If we go with Gavin now, will that be narrowing our choices too much for future boys? Our other favourites are Magnus, Hafþor, Asbjörn, Axel, Ulrik, and Gunnar. (My husband also likes Atlas, on which I'm not sold.) Should we go with Magnus Gavin Scott instead? Magnus fits with the rest of the bunch. But a Gavin and a Hafþor are just way too different! We just don't care as much for other styles of names, the closest in coordination with Gavin that we like is Lincoln, and maybe Westley, but those were more middle name choices than firsts. We kind of feel like Gavin and Magnus and Gunnar are the more usable and the closest coordinating of our bunch, and while I'd love to save Magnus for a future son, there's no telling if we'll have another boy and I'd rather use our current favourites on this baby instead of regretting not using them in the future.

Also, as I stated earlier, our girl's choice is Rose, with a middle or first of either Caroline or Delilah (we would call her Rose whether it were her first or middle). That fits with Gavin, and while it doesn't go with Magnus or the others, it doesn't seem as important for the girl and boy names to match for some reason. But if we have a Gavin now, and a Rose next, would a future Asbjörn just feel left out?? Augh, so much to think about! Am I over-thinking it all? I probably am.

SO, to try to wrap this up (feel free to edit this email around to make sense): Should we stick with Gavin and just hope for the best for a future son's name coordinating enough to not stick out? Or should we maybe use Magnus in the first name spot so that a future son will have a name similar to his brother? Does that make sense? I hope so. :) Thank you for your help!

It WARMS MY HEART to see someone considering the Sibling Name Problem ahead of time! It's one of my more fervent suggestions in Advice for First-Time Parents, because if coordinated sibling names is something you'd prefer to have, it can help so much to think things out ahead of time.

It does sound as if Gavin is one of your outlier names, as Emerson was mine: a name that you love, but that doesn't belong to your preferred naming style. In which case, since Gavin and Magnus are both in your top two but Magnus does belong to your preferred style, I like your solution of naming him Magnus but using Gavin as the middle name so you still get to use it.

On the other hand, naming style can change a bit once an actual baby is on the scene. And I do think Gavin and Magnus and Gunnar are compatible enough to be brother names, as long as you don't want to use Hafþor and Asbjörn. And I'm looking at your girl name, Rose, which also goes acceptably with Magnus and Gunnar (I agree with you that the boy/girl sibling name divide can be quite wide) but not so well with Hafþor and Asbjörn. I am starting to think that Hafþor and Asbjörn may also be outliers, but in another direction.

So this is where I suggest a gamble: if you prefer to use Gavin as the first name, I suggest NOT using Magnus as the middle name. I know this will be upsetting if you don't have another son, and it definitely IS a matter of choosing which way you think you'd regret LESS, and you specifically say you think you'd regret it more if you didn't get to use the name, so all this is to say I understand if you don't go this way---but what I suggest is taking one of the names you consider less usable as a first name, and using it as a middle name instead. Gavin Asbjörn Scott Oldman, for example. A second son could be Magnus Ulrick ___ Oldman. A third son could be Gunnar Hafþor ____ Oldman. (I saved Hafþor for last, because I did the "Would I want this name?" test and decided that for myself I would rather not have the hassle of a letter that isn't in my language's alphabet. If you ARE living where it's in your language's alphabet, it would be my first or second choice for middle name.)

But I can also see the wisdom of not saving a name for a future sibling, especially since parents often find that their first batch of name candidates goes out the window when the second child needs a name. I suggest the idea here mainly because we're dealing with the tricky business of using an outlier name, which calls for extra-careful tactics. If I'd used Emerson for my first child, I would have been up a bit of a creek for future children---so if I'd also loved, say, Paisley, I suspect I'd be glad later to have it still in the wings, rather than having used it as Emerson's middle name.

So in that case I go back to thinking Magnus Gavin is the perfect solution: you get to use both of your top two names without gambling on the loss of either, but also without using in the first-name position an outlier that might paint you into a corner for future siblings (Gunnar Lincoln! Axel Westley!).

Let's have a poll over to the right to see what everyone else thinks. ...Well, wait. That's a tough poll, because to me the three options are: (1) use Magnus Gavin, (2) use Gavin Magnus, or (3) use Gavin but not with the middle name Magnus. But that will split the Gavin vote, making it look less than it is. No, we're smart people, we can figure that out. Poll to the right! [Poll closed; see results below.]

Monday, July 16, 2012

Baby Girl or Boy Cartons, Sibling to Carys and Hollis

C. writes:
I have read every last drop of your site and still can't find a name that grabs me for our third baby due in October. I am obsessed with finding a name. I've run many a cell phone battery dead during my search!!!

My main issues are trouble with a sibling set, desire to have a different but not weird name, and finding a name with some semblance of meaning.

I have a daughter named Carys Campbell. We chose her name based on the fact that I am Welsh and that the name means "love". Campbell is my maiden name.  Perfect fit, had it in mind for ten years and never wavered.  My son's name is Hollis Lincoln. Chose his name from a book and it stuck.  No real attachment to the meaning ( in the holly bushes). We thought it sounded Celtic and strong, it is perfect for our rough and tumble, red haired boy!

The sibling set issue....Not sure if we should stick to a name that ends in an "s" sounds to match the sibling set already established. We are pulling our hair out trying to find a girl name that would work.  Our last name sounds like "Cartons".
There are several names we've experimented with and tried from Caybree to Landry, Harlow to Dallas. We just can't seem to come up with a name we love like we did with the other two.

Other names we have considered for a girl are:

If the baby is a boy we like the name Royce,  but we aren't stuck on that name in particular. We also like:
Lachlan (I love, but hubs isn't sold)
Samson Davis ( a nod to my grandpa Samuel and my husband's grandpa David)
Damian will be the middle name in honor of a loved one who passed away recently.

My hubby and I would love to hear your opinions/suggestions of a name for our new little snuglette!

Thanks Swistle!!

Because the name Carys is used in the U.S. exclusively for girls but the name Hollis is unisex (according to the Social Security Administration, 60 girls and 101 boys were named Hollis in 2011), I would strongly suggest removing unisex and boyish names from the girl list. A two-girl-one-boy sibling group with a Carys, a Hollis, and, for example, a Sawyer, is going to make things difficult: Sawyer, with 2168 boy babies and 383 girl babies born in 2011, is going to seem like the boy name of the group.

This cull would leave you with only four names on your girl list:


And maybe Wren, too: it was given to 32 boys and 206 girls in 2011, and maybe that's enough of a girl lead.

If you want the matching S-endings, Arlis is your girl. Carys, Hollis, and Arlis. I might consider spelling it with a Y to make it look more like Carys: Carys, Hollis, and Arlys.

My own preference would be to avoid a third S: with only two siblings, it's not a pattern that needs to continue; and when I say three S-ending names aloud together, it feels sibilant and matchy. I also find I start accidentally swapping syllables: Harlis and Carlis and Harris and so forth.

A mid-name S or initial S might give you a similar coordinating sound. Coincidentally, we just did a post last week on a very similar group: two children with S endings and what to name the third. Their second daughter's name is Elise; perhaps that would work for you: Carys, Hollis, and Elise. By breaking up the syllable-emphasis pattern, it knocks out most of the syllable-swap and matchiness issues for me. Other possibilities that came up for that other post:


I'm uncertain if I should pillage the comments section and put all the names I wish I'd suggested, or if I should let those commenters make their suggestions again on this post! I will say that I particularly liked Kaela's suggestions of Bronwyn, Isla, and Gwyneth, and Katita's suggestion of Tamsin.

From your list, I like Wynne and Aubrey. I love the name Jorja/Georgia, but it seems too sassy with the gentler Carys.

Arlis and Wynne make me think of Arwen. Carys, Hollis, and Arwen. But maybe that's rhymey with the surname.

For a boy, I think your idea of Royce is pretty genius. It has the S sound, but the one-syllable and actually-a-C aspects keep it from seeming too repetitive. Carys, Hollis, and Royce. Bryce has a similar effect.

I also like the idea of the two H names, since the matching initials seem to help clarify that Hollis is a boy. I like Hudson for being another place/surname name, and Heath for having a gentler sound that coordinates well with Hollis. Heath comes out as the winner for me: Carys, Hollis, and Heath.

Would you like Hayes? Carys, Hollis, and Hayes.

I think Davis would make a great first name. Carys, Hollis, and Davis.

For a mid-name S, I suggest Jasper. Carys, Hollis, and Jasper.

I wonder if we're far enough away from the TV show Dawson's Creek to use Dawson? Carys, Hollis, and Dawson.

If not, Lawson is one of my favorites. Carys, Hollis, and Lawson.

Or Ellison. Carys, Hollis, and Ellison.

Or Jenson. Carys, Hollis, and Jenson.

Or Wilson. Carys, Hollis, and Wilson.

Sullivan would repeat the double-L of Hollis. Carys, Hollis, and Sullivan. But if you'd want to call him Sully, I might be nervous that that would lead to Hollis being called Holly.

I love Wesley, in part because I think of Wes as one of the best boy nicknames ever. Carys, Hollis, and Wesley.

Elias might be too different in style from Hollis, but it keeps coming to mind anyway. I think it's that it would result in one of the "lovely assortment" name sets I find appealing: each name is a different style, but there's no one name that stands out as different---and in this case, the S-endings tie them together. Carys, Hollis, and Elias.

I like Lachlan, too. Would your husband prefer Declan? Carys, Hollis, and Declan.

Not looking for S-sounds but just thinking "Carys, Hollis, and ____?," I thought of Brennan and Callum and Quinn and Rowan and Finn and Finlay.

Name update! C. writes:
We welcomed a sweet baby boy on October 19th, 2012.  We named him Royce Damian, a name that had stuck for a few years. We are very happy with our name choice and have gotten a lot of positive feedback. Thank-you for all of your suggestions and thanks as well to all of the readers who took the time to comment.  Happy Naming!!!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Name to Discuss: Sloane

In just the first 6.5 months of 2012, we've done five questions where the letter-writer has mentioned the name Sloane---either as a candidate for the upcoming baby, or as a name of a sibling. In my spreadsheet I have three more letters that include the name Sloane as a candidate.

This is in sharp contrast to last year: in ALL of 2011, only one letter mentioned the name Sloane.

It made me curious enough to go look it up at the Social Security Administration website:

(screenshot from

That's the entire Top-1000 history of the name Sloane from 1879 to 2011. That is, it hasn't been in the Top 1000 AT ALL, until 2009. And since then it's made a big jump, from the high 800s to the low 500s---that's huge. In numbers, that's 310 baby girls named Sloane in 2009 (and another 147 named Sloan, for a total of 457 girls named Sloan/Sloane), and 570 baby girls named Sloane just two years later in 2011 (and another 291 named Sloan, for a total of 861 girls named Sloan/Sloane)---nearly doubled.

Here is the question: WHY? I see the appeal of the name: it's growing on me just like it's growing on everyone else (a quick check shows my "suggesting the name Sloane" rate has gone up at about the same rate as the "letters mentioning the name Sloane" rate). But why IS it?

My primary association is with pretty, relaxed, rich, cool Sloane in the 1986 movie Ferris Bueller's Day Off. When I put the name Sloane into a search engine, I was reminded that I also know of the Sloane who wrote I Was Told There'd Be Cake---which, incidentally, was published in 2008, a year before the name showed up on the charts.

So it's a surname name, which fits into current styles, and I think it has some of the rich sound of names like Ava and Lila and Sophia and Chloe. It has a preppy, rich, smooth, cool, boyish style---and yet it's used mostly for girls (87 boys named Sloane/Sloan in 2011, most without the E) so it doesn't cause much confusion or make people feel like they're using "a boy name" for a daughter.

What do you think? Is Sloane just meeting the perfect moment for it to come into style? Are there other ways the name Sloane is bringing itself to parents' minds?

Friday, July 13, 2012

Baby Girl, Sister to Carys and Elise

Jen writes:
We’re expecting our third baby girl in October and we’re having a terribly hard time finding a name we LOVE. Our first daughter’s name is Carys Anne. I fell in love with the name Carys many years ago because it’s unique without being too far out there, and the meaning is “love.” Anne is a family name (my middle name, my mom’s middle name and my great grandmother’s first name). Our second daughter’s name is Elise. Again, pretty, but not super popular. Elise’s middle name is Margaret after my husband’s grandmother.

Growing up as a “Jennifer” in the 80s was really crappy (for me). There were 5 Jennifer’s in my kindergarten class and we all were referred to by first name last initial. I hated being a Jenny F. and I wanted to avoid that at all costs for my kids by not picking super popular names.

We thought we were all set with the name Hadley for our baby, with Haddie as a nickname, but now I’m having second thoughts. I like it because it’s really pretty, unique, but not super out there. Plus, my grandmother’s name was Hattie and we thought there was a nice family tie. However, my original goal was to find a name that had an “s” sound at the end, so that it was similar to Carys and Elise, and now I’m bummed that I haven’t been able to find anything. My husband and I really like Emerson, but our big reasons for not “loving” it are that we wanted to avoid another name that started with C or E, and technically it’s a boys’ name. I’m more hung up on the fact that it starts with E though. My husband’s name also starts with an E, so that’s just a lot of E names!

We tend to like the English/Welsh/French type names like Olivia, Harper, Avery, etc. Those names are all on our list, but for various reasons are not “the” name, but are in the style of names we like.

Maybe you can help us by suggesting something we haven’t already thought of?? I would be SO appreciative!

Proof that we are living in a superior time is that when I Googled "baby girl names ending with s" I immediately got a good list on Nameberry. With Carys and Elise I particularly like Iris.

But I think if it were me, I might try to break the S-ending theme, especially if you think you might have more children later on. Two children with something similar about their names (same starting letter, for example) puts on a little pressure to continue it; three makes the pressure almost irresistible---and notice that the list of S-names isn't all that long. And although Iris is my favorite, the repeated -ris sound is probably too much with Carys.

What I might do instead is look for a name with a strong S sound in the middle instead of at the end, to make the names sound right together without backing you into a corner. It's hard to come up with suggestions without a surname to try them out with, but names like Marissa and Josephine and Lissandra and Isis and Cecily and Lucia (the loo-SEE-ah pronunciation) and Elspeth and Millicent and Astrid and Celeste.

Or maybe a starting S. Something like Sadie or Stella or Sabrina or Selena or Silvie or Simone.

Out of left field, I suggest Rose. It came to my mind when I was thinking "Carys, Elise, and ___?"

Another name that came to mind was Merrin. Carys, Elise, and Merrin.

Or Audrey: Carys, Elise, and Audrey.

Because your first two daughters have family names as middle names, the middle name might be a great place for your grandmother's name. Was Hattie short for another name, such as Harriet or Henrietta? That would increase our options, though the name is still a little tricky to work with.

If you're trying to avoid classroom duplication, things are better now than they were back when we were growing up: the absolute most common girl name in the United States is only about a quarter as popular as Jennifer was at its peak. The thing to avoid now may be names that sound similar to a bunch of other names: Kylie, for example, in a classroom with a Kyle, a Kaylie, a Kyla, a Kayla, a Mikayla. Hadley may only be moderately popular (though rising fast: from #921 in 2000 to #178 in 2011), but in a classroom with a Madison, an Addison, a Madelyn, an Adelyn, and a Hailey, she may feel more like a member of a Jennifer pack even if she doesn't have to use her surname initial---and a Haddie may feel like she belongs to a group of a million girls going by Maddy and Addy.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Baby Boy David$on, Brother to Miles Ru$$ell

Melissa writes:
Hello Swistle.  Thanks for taking the time to read this!  We are a two-mom family expecting our second child, another boy, in October.  I carried our first son, whom we named Miles Ru$$ell MySurname David$on, and my wife is carrying our second son. He will also have four names, First Middle MySurname David$on.  We had a long, complex process for naming our first child, involving a huge poster on the wall, pulling different combinations out of a hat, and ultimately making a list of six finalist first names and naming him a day after he was born.  We both love the name Miles.  Other things to know: Ru$$ell is an honor name from my wife's side of the family.  Also, we have abandoned nearly all of the alternate names we considered for Miles -- Quinn, Owen, Preston, and Langston.
What we're looking for now feels impossible: a boy name we like as much as Miles that sounds good with Miles and that satisfies her more traditional taste and my slightly more unusual taste.  I'm a name maniac, but my initial list of about 30 names was quickly pared down when my wife found most of my suggestions way too wildly unfamiliar.  To give you a sense of her style, I will say that she strongly objected to Haskell, which I liked, and Dashiell, which I presented as a variaton on my father's name, which is Darryl. 
I would like to use a name from my side of the family somewhere in there, although we are not making that a requirement.  We also prefer that it not be another M name (my name also starts with an M), but we are not firm on that. Finally we have pretty much ruled out any name ending in "son," to avoid repetition with the last name David$on.
Qualities we like a name to evoke are kindness and intelligence.  For me, creativity would be a plus, but I don't necessarily need an artist name.  We're less into names that come across as macho, if that helps, but we also are not looking for an androgynous name. 
If we'd had a girl, top names would have been Delia Claire and Hazel Magdalena.
Here's what's left of our list.  Family names from  my side include Charles, Glenn, George, and Sever.  I strongly prefer to use Glenn somewhere because it honors both my dad and grandfather, but my wife is so-so on it.  She likes Sever (rhymes with Weaver) but thinks that everyone would pronounce it SEH-ver and that he'd have to constantly correct people.  She suggests adding an A to make it Seaver, but to me that seems like an entirely different sort of name.  Sever is a Norweigan first name from my great-great grandfather, and I just can't handle how the letter A changes the feel of the name for me.  I would consider Seever, but maybe that is too weird?  We are on the verge of abandoning Sever altogether.
Edgar and James are family names from my wife's side that we both like.  If we used one, though, I'd want to use it with one of my family names for balance, especially because we have chosen to use her surname for the kids.
Here are the other names we both somewhat like.  You can see they are all over the place because we have such different styles.  Otis, Luke, Clark, Vaughn, Leo, Sawyer, Amos, Graham, Grant, Hugh, and Silas.  Leo and Luke are the ones she is most comfortable with, but I think she is warming up to Otis too.    
We are considering using the name Falkner as a first or middle.  It is a reference to a place that is meaningful to us, and it was almost Miles's middle name until we decided to use an honor name in its place.
We have been calling the baby Chet in utero (long story).  We could use Chet as a nickname for Charles.  I think it sounds good with Miles: Miles and Chet.  This brings up the issue of a possible musician theme.  When people see the name Miles David$on, they assume our son was named after Miles Davis.  He was not, but we don't mind the association because it is a pleasant one to us.  However, if we name our second child Chet or Otis, will the musical theme seem intentional?  And would that matter?  It doesn't really bother me, but should it?
Oh, and my surname starts with an O, for the purposes of inital cross-checking for weird words.  Like, Otis Glenn would have the initials OGOD, and would that be okay? Hee hee.
Oh, yeah -- are Miles and Charles too similar sounding?  We'd probably call a Charles by Chet or Charlie, but still...
We'd love any additional name ideas, as well as feedback on our current ideas.  We'd be grateful for the help!

The extensive naming process and 6-name finalist list for your first son can be a comfort when naming your second: the name that now seems perfect didn't stand out as perfect from the start. The next name you choose may very well follow the same path: not standing out as obviously perfect before it's chosen, but growing into a name just as perfect as Miles grew to be.

Miles and Charles do sound a little matched-ending to me, but not to the point of ruling out the name---and I love the tie-in to the baby's in-tum nickname.

I do think people will pronounce Sever like the words sever and seven, but that in the middle name slot it wouldn't be an issue. I too would be resisting changing the spelling, since it's a family name. I like something like Elliot Sever OSurname David$on. But it seems like the name of a great-great grandfather is much less of an honor name than the name of your dad and grandfather, so I'd be under-motivated to use it.

I would sell Glenn as a sort of nature name: "a forest glen" has a much prettier spin. Or I might mention Glenn Close. Or I might say, "It's not my style either, but it's an important honor name for me."

The musical theme is only slightly noticeable to me with Miles David$on (I thought "...Hey, that is ringing a bell...") (I did figure out why after a moment), and a brother named Chet or Otis wouldn't have raised any connection for me at all. But I'm almost completely unmusical, so I think we need feedback from people who would immediately have wondered if it were intentional. As to whether it should bother you (when it doesn't naturally), I don't think so. When the connections aren't negative, I think it's mainly a problem when the parents are bothered by other people questioning/assuming the connection ("I don't want them to think we used Jack and Rose because of Titanic!")---and if that hasn't bothered you with Miles David$on, I don't think it's an issue.

I did notice Miles and Otis sounding like Milo and Otis---even though I've never seen the movie and it's over twenty years old. I think I noticed it because long long ago when I was considering Milo for the child who turned out to be Henry, a bunch of people mentioned the movie; and, since then, on our many cat-acquiring quests to animal shelters, I've noticed a large number of orange cats named Milo. (Not as many as black-and-white cats named Oreo, but close.)

I am trying to hold myself back from OVER-PUSHING you to use George. I love that name and I think it's the perfect companion name for other revival names like Max and Jack and Sam and Henry and Oliver. It sits right on the line of "completely traditional" and "whimsical/interesting/unusual." It has long roots and it has George Clooney, and I'm just not sure I can stand the wonderfulness of George Falkner OSurname David$on. Miles and George! I love it.

For kindness and intelligence (while still trying to find something between traditional and unusual), I like:


...Okay, so that's pretty much my own boy name list. But I think "kindness and intelligence and not overly macho" is a very good way to describe what I too look for in a boy name. And since George and Milo/Miles and Charles and Leo have ALL been on my list TOO, the others from the list sprang to my mind.

The one I keep coming back to (other than George) is Elliot. Elliot David$on; Miles and Elliot.

With Hugh and Leo both on the your list, I also suggest Hugo. Hugo Charles OSurname David$on; Miles and Hugo.

Name update! Melissa writes:
We are happy to announce the arrival of Hugo Carl On$tad David$on on Tuesday, October 23 after 37 hours of labor!  We went to the hospital with a list of first names, and it didn't take long to determine he looked like a Hugo. We considered the middle name Atticus for its literary and historical connections, but my desire for an honor name was strong and we ultimately chose the middle name Carl after my great-grandfather.  The suggestions and input provided by you and your readers were helpful -- when you recommended Hugo, you gave me the courage to add it to the list.  Thanks again for your thoughtful help.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Name to Consider: Jemima

E. writes:
I would like your impartial advice on this, as a baby name advice blogger. Most people think "syrup" and I'm aware of the slavery connotations - however my daughter will be Caucasian/Italian. We live in California, and both have college/graduate degrees. Is Jemima a quirky biblical name or still too loaded to use?

Interesting! I'm not sure! For me it definitely has an immediate syrup/slavery association (no biblical association even for this pastor's daughter---Jemima had such a tiny/brief mention), but that kind of association dims so quickly with increased usage of a name. One year it's "NOAH?? As in, THE ARK??," and then suddenly it's in the Top 10.

So let's check to see what the Social Security Administration says the usage is doing:

1996 - 27 baby girls named Jemima
1997 - 13
1998 - 14
1999 - 26
2000 - 22
2001 - 24
2002 - 18
2003 - 34
2004 - 32
2005 - 28
2006 - 35
2007 - 43
2008 - 33
2009 - 50
2010 - 32
2011 - 39

Not much, huh? Somewhat of an increase over time, but not exactly leaping up the charts.

Here's something of possible interest, however: the very similar name Jemma hadn't been in the Top 1000 since 1879 (that's how far the online records go back)---but it suddenly appeared in 2010 and 2011 at #854 and #832, respectively. The spelling Gemma has a similar story: nothing from 1879 through 2007---but then it appeared in 2008 at #889, and then for the next three years it LEAPED: #562 in 2009, #449 in 2010, and #356 in 2011.

This suggests to me that the SOUND of the name Jemima may be ready to come into style. The associations may still be too strong---or perhaps Jemima just needs a few more years and will then suddenly leap after Gemma.

What does everyone else think? Is Jemima usable now? Usable soon? Not usable in the foreseeable future? Let's have a poll over to the right, but put the reasons for the responses in the comments section. [Poll closed; see results below.]

Poll results for "The name Jemima:" (411 votes total):

I think it's usable now! - 132 votes (32%)
I think it'll be usable soon! - 58 votes (14%)
I don't think it'll be usable for a long time - 123 votes (30%)
I don't think it'll ever be usable - 80 votes (19%)
I can't decide - 18 votes (4%)

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Baby Girl or Boy Polanco: Finding the Perfect Name; Is Emerson a Boy Name?

Bonnie writes:
As I searched the internet today, in tears, mind you, (probably thanks to all of these insane pregnancy hormones my doctor keeps talking about), I came across your blog. I felt a wave of relief reading questions from parents-to-be about the dilemmas of naming their children. I always thought I'd pick the perfect name for my child, girl or boy, but now that I am 21 weeks pregnant and have been thinking about names since my husband and I started talking about children.. I'm not sure there IS a perfect name for us. I have always had trouble making decisions, however, this may be one of the hardest. I feel as though I am back in the dress boutique in Manhattan almost three years ago where I was standing in a white dress, in tears, not because I had found the perfect wedding dress, but because NONE of the dresses brought me that "ohmygoodness, this is the one!" feeling, as they are "supposed to". After countless hours of dress shopping I could not make a decision and my mother and bridesmaids were more frustrated than me. The worst part of this anecdote is that, although I did find a dress that I loved, I still, to this day, question if I should have waited, looked around more, spent more time....

Will that happen to me with our child's name? 

My husband and I are not going to find out the sex of the baby so, even better, I need to find TWO perfect names. I'm focusing on girl's names right now only because I can't handle thinking of both! If we have a boy we are considering the name Hudson Gray but it's very up in the air... in case that helps. Our last name is Polanco.

I love the name Emersyn or Emerson for a girl and we almost had settled on Emersyn Grace until someone in my family mentioned that it is horrible and too masculine and my daughter would always resent me for giving her a "boy's name". I have a very short name and no middle name which I have always hated so I want my child to have something longer that comes with a variety of adorable nicknames. 

I love Grace as a first name and read many of your posts about possible middle names for it. One of your readers ended up naming her baby Grace McKinley, which I absolutely love. I think calling the baby "Gracie - something" using her middle name would be too cute. However, I am Jewish and by tradition we name according to the first letter of a relation who passed away. I have an E and a B. The E is really the one I wanted to use though, as my grandmother's name was Elayne and we were very close. Unfortunately, I was never fond of the name Elayne, otherwise that would have been one problem solved. I love names like Adeline, Adelaide, and Hannah. I am also partial to Averie although my husband is not. In our families we also have the names Emmaline and Isadore (my great-grandfather). I love Isadora but I am afraid that children will be mean and call her "Dora the Explorer". I also have a niece named Isabella, is Isadora too close to her name?

Perhaps I am too all over the place to even ask for help at this point. I've spent so much time online and read so many baby name books.. I'm worried the baby will be born and there will be no name to be had. 

If you can help, it would be most appreciated!

Thank you!

Let's start with whether or not Emerson/Emersyn is "a boy name." Short answer: no.

Long answer: while the suffix "-son" does indicate "son of" in some languages (as do the prefixes Mc- and Mac- and B-), it doesn't do so in United States English: we instead use the suffix "Junior" to indicate a son named for his father. The name Alison/Allison is not "a boy name," and neither is the name Madison, even though the ending of the names happen to include an S, an O, and an N, in that order. And now that the -en/-an/-on/-in ending is so popular, many new names have a -son ending--- not because they mean "son of," but because an -en/-an/-on was added to another segment that happened to end in an S, such as Case + -on = Cason.

Other names did come from another language's father-to-son naming system, but that origin is as relevant as knowing that a name means "oak tree": interesting, but doesn't mean the name can't be used for a child who isn't a boy named for his father (can the name Jackson only be used for sons of men named Jack, or can others use it as well?), or for a child who isn't an oak tree.

Even if we wanted to claim that in United States English the ending -son still meant male/"son of," and even if we were going to try to say that that extended to endings such as -sen and -syn and -synn, we'd need to work with the reality of actual usage. In 2011, according to the Social Security Administration, the name Emerson was given to 730 male babies and 1142 female babies. The name Emersyn was given to 6 male babies and 390 female babies. The name Emmerson was given to 21 male babies and 106 female babies. The name Emersen was given to 57 female babies. The name Emmersyn was given to 51 female babies. The name Emmersen was given to 12 female babies. The name Emersynn was given to 10 female babies.

It becomes increasingly difficult to call a name "a boy name" when it is given to more female babies than male babies. Clearly names are not black and white in that way, and insisting that they SHOULD BE or ARE that way doesn't change anything. We could also claim that Ashley and Evelyn and Lesley are "BOY names!!"---but where would that get us, now that they are used mostly for girls? Names, like colors and toys, are given to male/female babies according to fashion, not according to stone tablets.

There. That's the end of the long answer.

You could consider Emerson (with that spelling) as your boy name: it IS still used for boys as well as for girls. Or you could consider Ellison, or Edison, or Emmett, or Elliot, or Everett.

There may indeed not be a perfect name for your baby. The concept of a perfect name existing out there somewhere, FATED specifically for a particular baby but ONLY IF YOU CAN FIND IT, as if the universe itself has selected a name that you must now frantically quest for before time runs out, is a damaging and stressful and upsetting concept for most parents---especially when you're trying to find it for someone you've never even met. Would it have changed the course of your marriage to have found The Perfect Dress? Would you now be happier, more in love, more compatible with your husband? Will finding The Perfect Name change the course of your parenting experience, or change your mother-child relationship?

I find it's happier and more relaxing to think of the goal as finding a name you like just fine, a name that fits and serves your baby just fine. If you like, you can add the idea that it's nice to find a name that makes the naming of future siblings easier, by being a name that goes well with other names you usually like. And then, if you DO find a name you think of as perfect after all, what a happy bonus!

One hard lesson of baby-naming is this: No matter what name you choose, someone else is going to hate it. REALLY hate it. And a whole lot of people are going to think it's lame or boring or weird. You will not find a name that will make every single person, upon hearing it, think, "Wow! That is THE perfect name!" We all have different tastes in baby names---and there tend to be particularly large rifts between generations. Discussing names with a few trusted friends or relatives can be helpful; discussing them with someone who would call a name "horrible" is unhelpful, and I think it would be safe to exclude that family member from future discussions.

I would take comfort in this: if I had any concerns that my child might actually, literally, seriously have his or her life changed by her or his hatred of her or his name, I would decide ahead of time to make my attitude one that welcomed and encouraged the child to change her or his name if he or she wanted to. I'd keep this reaction ready: "Oh, you hate your name? I always hated mine, too! Well, if you ever want to change it when you were an adult, it's no big deal---probably a matter of a $100 court fee or something like that. What do you think you might like to go by instead? I used to wish my name were Megan!"

And in the meantime, look for a nice name to give the baby as a placeholder. If you'd like to use an E initial, and if you like names like Emersyn and Adeline and Adelaide, I recommend Emmeline/Emmaline. Emmeline Grace is lovely, and you have Emmaline in your family tree! How wonderful!

If you like Averie and Emersyn, I suggest Emery and Everly.

Elayne does have a bit of a dated sound, but I think Elena is beautiful and current. Elena Grace.

I don't think Isadora will lead to "Dora the Exporer"---and if it does, it's difficult to stretch that to a negative association. "Nyah, nyah, you're adventurous and successful!" (Though I guess I might get tired of hearing them sing "D-d-d-d-d-Dora!") I think Isabella and Isadora are fine for cousins---even better if Isabella goes by Bella and Isadora goes by Izzy. If Isabella goes by Izzy, however, I might look for a different name. Or I might use Isadora as a middle name, where it wouldn't be an issue. Everly Isadora, Emery Isadora, Elena Isadora.

Beatrice has some sounds and style in common with Grace. Beatrice Isadora is elegant.

More similar to Emersyn, I'd suggest Brinley. Brinley Grace, Brinley Isadora.

Name update! Bonnie writes:
I wanted to update you and your awesome readers on the birth of our new baby! We had a little girl on November 2nd and we decided to name her Emmerson Grace. We were able to come to this decision because of your help and the thoughtful and sincere comments from everyone who read about our naming troubles. I love Emmerson's name and we have taken to calling her Emmie Grace which I also love.
I will admit, though, it wasn't one of those "oh she's here and I KNOW her name is Emmerson". She didn't have a name until we were alone with her for a few hours in the hospital, we were deciding between Violet and Emmerson and in the end and it was really a tough call.

In the end I do love her name and I'm glad we went with Emmerson. We get a ton of compliments and she looks like an Emmerson to me! :) Thank you again for all of your help.