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Sunday, September 30, 2012

Baby Naming Issue: A Family Naming Tradition Breaks a Household's Naming Traditions

Liv writes:
I love your blog, and thank you so much for being such a voice of reason in the baby naming madness!

My husband and I are hoping you can help us find a name for our son, who is due in about three weeks. There are a WHOLE bunch of issues. Let me try to unpack them....

So to begin at the beginning, my name is Olivia and my husband is Charlton. We go by Liv and Charlie.

We are super hippie dippy ish, as my 12 year old would say (she came back from some sort of drug awareness day at school and asked us how much weed we had smoked) and that's part of the issue, kind of. Our kids have my last name (Hawke) in part because of the hippie-ness, in part because his last name rhymes with an insult (f-er) and in part because I'm an only child and he has two brothers. the kids do have his last name as a second middle name.

We have four spectacular daughters: Adelaide Miriam, Samantha Irene, Georgia Isabel, Eleanor Miranda. they sometimes go by Addy, Sammy, Georgie, and Ellie but its not how they are introduced or anything, more like family/friends. We love that they have long formal names plus fun nicknames.

So here's the real problem: my parents are dead, so the problem is really my husband's family. They are super traditional and they are all SO EXCITED that we are having a boy. I think that they think that we just kept having girls until we finally got a boy, which is so not even a tiny bit true. We love having girls. We think it will be fun to have a boy because it will be interesting to get to parent both, but its not like we KEPT getting pregnant so we could "finally get our boy" as my FIL says. We just wanted a big family! (and this will be our last child because we agreed on five, NOT because we are "finally getting our boy."

so anyway. in Charlie's family the longstanding tradition is to give the firstborn boy (which this is) is to name is Charlton-Absurd Middle Name That Is The WASPiest Name You Can Imagine-Last Name That Rhymes With A Playground Insult. (Charlie is a fourth). the trouble is we don't like any of those names. Charlton is all NRA-y (see hippie dippie) the middle name is absurd, and this baby's last name will be Hawke, like the other kids. His parent aren't happy about that either.
but there is a LOT of pressure to Do It The Right Way, which means giving the baby this name we don't like. and the other thing is, both of us kind of feel like we don't want our girls to think for even a second that they aren't valued, or that The Boy is somehow better than them beacuse he has a penis, or WHATEVER. and although they all have middle names that have meaning to us--special friends, or influential people--none of them have family names. and I love my husband and would love to honor him with our son's name--but I don't exactly want to honor his father/grandfather etc, and also I HATE the name, and he isn't fond of it either...but it would mean so much to his parents. Ugh. No idea what to do.

So....what on earth do we do here?

(you can probably get a sense of our style from the girls names but some boys names we both like are  William, James, Henry, Isaac, Edward, and Sebastian--though a couple of those are out so we dont repeat initials).

wow, i wrote you a lot. feel free to edit and delete parts!

and THANK YOU!!!!
I have one point! The baby is due next week (eeeeeeeek) and my husband and I are just not sure what to do. My MIL called me last night weeping because she says that the idea of not having a grandson named after her husband makes her too sad. Which...what? On the one hand, wtf. On the other hand, I actually LIKE my MIL most of the time, and even though there are lots of things about us she doesn't approve of she has been really kind to me, especially as I don't have a mom anymore, and she is a really great grandma to my girls. So...what on earth do I do? We are kind of thinking about using Charlton as this baby's middle name but we don't LIKE it that much and also then we again have the issue of not wanting the girls to feel like they were undervalued because they ddin't get a family name.
I asked Addy (12) what she thinks yesterday and she says that it would bother her some not to be named after either parent if her brother was but that she'd get over it....
Thanks for any help!

I really see the pressure here.  I see why it will be difficult not to name your son after his father. I can see why your in-laws are so invested in it, and so upset about it. It's a painful situation all around, especially since no one wants to hurt anyone else.

But neither you nor your husband wants to use the name. The pressure does not trump that. You may CHOOSE to allow the pressure to trump that, if you wish, and some families do make that decision. But it comes down to this: there is no way for everyone in this situation to be happy, and the job of naming the baby is yours and your husband's.

Furthermore, you've already decided to give your children your husband's surname as a second middle name and your surname as their surname. Changing now would only make sense if you'd had a prior plan---something like "All the girls will have my surname and all the boys will have yours." Changing for the fifth child in order to meet your in-law's preferences seems wrong, and confusing.

Wait---re-reading the letter, it sounds like you'd give the baby your surname regardless. If your son is going to be a Hawke, then it doesn't matter what his other names are, he won't be a Fifth, and the tradition is broken regardless; I don't see any reason at all to use a first and middle name you don't like just to please your in-laws, when it won't even satisfy their naming tradition.

In fact, I'm ready to make a call here: if the baby is going to be Hawke, then no, don't name him the family names. Your mother-in-law doesn't get to name the baby, even if you love her and even if she cries. She named her own babies, and this is a "put the foot down" situation, similar to if she was insisting you buy a house she liked instead of one you liked, or insisting you wear clothes she liked instead of ones you liked, or insisting on another first/middle name not connected to the family. Perhaps one of her other sons will name a son after her husband. And if not, that is sad for her but that's the way it is: we do not go around pressuring other people to honor our family members with namesakes, just because it makes us sad if they don't.

If you decide not to use the name, and to continue with your household's tradition of the children getting their mother's surname, two things need to happen immediately: first, your husband needs to talk to his parents and tell them that their family name will not be used (I assume he doesn't need to be instructed to emphasize that this is what HE wants, since their inclination might be to assume otherwise); and second, all discussion with the in-laws on the topic needs to stop. If your mother-in-law calls you in tears, she needs to be told very kindly and understandingly that you're very sorry she's unhappy, that you wish this decision wasn't making her so unhappy---but that the decision has been made.

One thing that can make me quite upset about family naming traditions is that they can cause this kind of pressure---and the pressure builds with every generation. And the pressure is unwarranted and unfair: each set of parents gets to name their OWN babies---not the babies of their descendents. Naming traditions allow previous generations to name their own babies AND other people's babies. Furthermore, it makes the decision without the consent of people who will marry into the family in the future---traditionally speaking, the women. If everyone likes this idea, it's fine; but more often, people do it because no one can stand to be the one to break it. It's unfair, and I believe the concept that it is perfectly within the parents' rights to break such traditions should be more widespread.

Your idea of giving him the name Charlton _ucker as middle names might be a way to please your in-laws partway, without it being a capitulation: they're still losing their Fifth, and they lose the first name. It's common for a boy to be given his father's first name as a middle name, and a name you dislike wouldn't be as big a deal in the middle name position; and yet it may help to comfort and please your in-laws who have also gotten caught up in the pressure caused by this naming tradition.

Name update! Liv writes:
Hi again! We want to thank you for all of your help. We SO appreciate it, and the comments were wonderful!
The baby was born yesterday and he's beautiful. In the end we decided NOT to go with the tradition (we would have used my surname anyway, but he would have had the rest of the name--and I think my MIL hoped that he'd drop the Hawke part eventually...) but we kind of sort of compromised on the middle name. Kind of.

 In the end, just a couple days ago, we decided that we just felt too weird giving our son the name of one of his parents while NONE of the girls had my name anywhere. maybe we were overthinking it, but maybe not! So Charlie called my MIL and told her that we were not using the name and we didn't want to hear another thing about it, but that *I* wanted advice on what to use as the middle name, My MIL was pretty upset at first, but she called back the next day and told me that she understood (awww!) and asked if we'd consider using the name of someone special to their family. She explained that they had a good family friend, now deceased, who really helped my in laws to raise their boys.  He sounded like a great guy and my husband certainly remembers him that way, so I agreed--the name is not QUITE my style, but it's not bad, and it meant a lot to my in-laws and felt like a good compromise--a name that's important to them but doesn't carry on the whole patriarchy thing, and like the girls is named for a nonfamily member who is very important. and then for the first name, we just chose the name from our list we liked best (well, we kind of liked Sebastian best, but REALLY didnt want to repeat initials!)

So our son is Isaac Malachi. We love his name. I like that purely by chance he has I and M as initials, and the girls all have middle names that start with I or M. Not intentional but nice! Addy started calling him Baby Ike and now we are all doing it....

Thank you again SO MUCH. you really, really made us feel like it was OK to do what we wanted to do!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Baby Girl Wilson, Sister to Micah and Madelyn; Does It Have to be Another M Name?

Linsey writes:
Our baby girl (third and last child) is due in just a few months and we need your help! My first question is: Does it have to be an "M" name?? Our four year old son is named Micah James and our two year old daughter is named Madelyn Kate (husband and I are James and Linsey, FYI). Family and friends are insisting that we have to stick with the "M" theme we have going or this baby will be "left out". I understand what they mean as most of the names that I like that don't start with an "M" just don't seem to go with Micah and Madelyn. I really don't have a problem using an "M" name except that the girl's names we like at all are extremely popular. With the last name Wilson we don't want anything too very popular. Micah and Madelyn are actually pushing it. Can you suggest some "M" girl's names that compliment Micah and Madelyn without being too common? 

One name that my husband and I both love is Evelyn. It's my grandmother's middle name and sounds similar to Madelyn. Does that make it seem like a name that fits in with our family or is it too similar to Madelyn? We've talked about using my mother's middle name so that would make Micah James, Madelyn Kate, and Evelyn Kit. Are the girl's names just too similar? Or does Evelyn stick out like a sore thumb? And is Evelyn gaining popularity too quickly to go with a common name like Wilson

Another thought is that both my mother and my husband's mother passed away before we got married. We of course would love to honor them in our naming, but didn't end up doing so with our first daughter because we just don't necessarily care for either the name Mary or the name Lezlie. One name that I've recently run across is Marilee. This kind of sounds like a combination of Mary and Lezlie and of course starts with an "M" like our other two children. What do you think of it? What middle name to you think would work well with it?

Any other name suggestions you have would be much appreciated!

Thanks So Much!

It doesn't have to be an M name, but I see the pressure for it to be one. I think if you don't use an M name, there may be a little whining about it at first from friends and family, but that it isn't likely to be a big deal in the long run: hardly anyone cares very deeply what other people name their children, even if they enjoy making a bit of a fuss about it in the anticipation stage. If the third child doesn't have any reason to believe that he or she was deliberately not given an M name in order to exclude him or her, and if you answer any questions with, "For each child, we just chose the name we liked best," then two M names in a row doesn't seem like enough names to establish an unbreakable theme. If, however, you LIKE another M name, then I think it is a fun theme to have.

Normally I might avoid matching endings for two names, but Evelyn seems like a great way to tie the names together without using another M name, and the front halves of the names have such different sounds. However, I don't think I'd then use such similar middle names on top of that. If you wanted to please the people clamoring for a matched set, you could do Evelyn Jane: she'd tie in to her sister's first name and both siblings' middle names.

Evelyn is quite popular (#24 in 2011, according to the Social Security Administration, and continuing to rise), but the name Madelyn/Madeline/Madilyn/Madeleine is so popular (combining spellings puts it into the Top Ten), the similar popularity of Evelyn is a selling point for me.

Katelyn would also work, but is perhaps too strong a sister-name tie since it connects to both the first name and the middle name.

Jocelyn would work well.

Marilee seems like it honors neither grandmother (it's particularly hard to imagine the family of a Lezlie feeling any honor from it), while also leading to spelling issues and Merrily puns. On the other hand, I do think people would be touched by the effort to combine the grandmothers' names, and Merrily is a very cheerful sort of pun. If you use it, I think Marilee Jane would be pretty, or Marilee June, or Marilee Rose, or Marilee Celeste.

I'd like to segue into recommending Meredith, but I think the repeating M and D sounds probably make it too similar to Madelyn.

Mallory might be better. It's uncommon but familiar. It does repeat the L and Y of Madelyn, but in a very different way. Micah, Madelyn, and Mallory.

More M possibilities:


Molly is the traditional nickname for Mary, if that would be a slight and pleasing connection to one of the grandmothers. Perhaps the other grandmother's middle name could be used. Or I see that the name Lezlie/Leslie/Lesley is derived from the surname Lesslyn, which might make a good middle name with a parallel slight connection. Micah James, Madelyn Kate, and Molly Lesslyn. If that's too rhymey with Wilson, maybe Lynn would be better---though by now we're so far removed from the honor name, I think I'd just choose something you like: Molly Jane, maybe, or Molly Kit, or Molly Joy.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Baby Naming Issue: Okay to Use the Same Sibling Names as Another Family?

Deborah writes:
I love your blog and your insightful feedback into all the naming challenges your readers have.  I'd love your two cents with mine.

We had an easy time naming our first daughter, Amelie Lorenne, and have never looked back.  At the time, Audrey was a strong contender, but we preferred the lovely, less common Amelie in the end.  My mother's side has some french, and we sort of mashed up our own special meaning based on the name's pronunciation and our daughter's Portuguese-Jewish heritage (Alma is soul in Portuguese, Li is mine in Hebrew). Our surname is Vieira (Vee-air-uh).

With number two, hubby and I have yet to find a true love, but have some contestants such far.  Elise was the front-runner (no ideas on a middle for that one), until I recently began carpooling with a family 2 blocks away, who already have an Amelie my daughter's age (almost 3), and a second daughter (5) named - you guessed it -- Elise.  I think it would be too weird naming our daughters the same names, knowing these girls would be in the same schools their whole childhood, and we'll likely become family friends, but my husband begs to differ.  Your thoughts?

Other potential contenders:
-Audrey (but too similar to Amelie, I think)  
-Dana (but too hard-sounding beside the french Amelie)
-Danae (deh-Nay, a french variant of Dana, that sounds softer, but concerned about mispronunciation)
-Lisbeth (don't want 'Girl w Dragon Tattoo' association, even though character in book rocked)
-Giselle (don't want supermodel association, though that is our generation, not our kids...)
-Hayden (but have been warned that a cross-over name might indicate our wish for a son, which isn't the case at all) 

We also are considering Nadia, Sonia, Marise, Marine, Lisette, and Josette.

The only middle name thus far is Estelle, my (deceased) grandmother's name.  Our other daughter doesn't have a family name, but I wouldn't mind changing it with our second daughter. 
Many thanks on any and all suggestions

This is difficult. I am usually wayyyy over on the "Names are not one-time-use items" end of the spectrum, but even I would balk at duplicating a sibling group. It doesn't bother me to think of the two sibling groups in the same school system, and it doesn't seem worth changing naming plans based on the idea that the two families might become friends---and yet it still bothers me, for a reason I can't put a finger on. I think for me it's more that I'd be imagining what the other family would think of it: it's not the same as if you met after the children were all named, in which case it would be a fun coincidence. I LIKE the idea of a friend using the name of one of my kids for her child---but I think I'd start feeling funny about it if she used TWO of my kids' names. Because the two Amelies were named before the families met, this situation falls somewhere in between. But because you describe Elise as a frontrunner and not a true love, in this case I think I would drop the name from the list.

If you do decide to use the name Elise, or even if it continues to be a contender, I'd figure out something to say about it. The subject of your pregnancy is likely to come up repeatedly, and I would wait for a good moment. Perhaps the other mother will ask if you've thought about names, and you can say, "You're not going to believe this: our frontrunner has been the name Elise! Those names must be particularly good together, for both of us to come up with that combination!"

In the meantime, let's look at the other contenders. I would not pair a unisex and surnamey name like Hayden with a very feminine and French name like Amelie, but it might end up working well as a middle name. Dana, too, seems like style clash. Lisbeth and Giselle both seem great, though I see the issue with the associations. (Elsbeth might work as an alternative to Lisbeth.)

I particularly like Lisette and Josette and Nadia. If you plan on having more children later, I like the way Nadia keeps you from being backed into an all-French corner.

My favorite French name right now is Celeste. Celeste Vieira; Amelie and Celeste.

Another favorite is Corinne. Amelie and Corinne.

Another is Noelle. Amelie and Noelle.

Another is Simone. Amelie and Simone.

Another is Eloise. Amelie and Eloise.

I also think Estelle would make a wonderful first name.

Name update! Deborah writes:

thank you for all your wonderful advice on naming our daughter!  She arrived 11/16 in the early am (her due date!), 20", 7:11, and we were at the hospital with the same name contenders from your response and those of your community -- no further along on a decision.  Within a few tries, we settled firmly on Danae Estelle Vieira, and haven't looked back.  :)  We are honoring my grandmother with 'Estelle', and I like the historical Greek-Hebrew associations of Danae, and that while it's not French, it sounds perfect with Amelie and has a soft, lovely sound.

Warmest wishes these holidays,

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Baby Girl or Boy Kenya-with-a-B, Sibling to Blaze

Kellie writes:
I LOVE your blog!  Have been reading daily for months and months now and wrote to you for help with my first baby 14 months ago (without an answer), so I'm writing this time in desperation!!  I'm Kellie, my husband is Craig and our surname is like Kenya with with a 'B'

My husband and I have recently found out we're expecting our second bub due end of March, so while we have quite some time to pick a name, it's already causing so much angst for both of us!  We had a name picked out for our first baby before he was even conceived, then a short while before he was born it got used by someone we knew so we lost interest and were at a complete loss for names!  That name was Jett, and as much as I love the name, I just know I couldn't use it - there's a total loss of connection with it.  We named our son Blaze as per my husbands suggestion right before he was born and I love how qwerky, different and unique it is.  It suits our son perfectly!  (I also LOVE that SO many people say 'wow, that's a great/cool name!'

We won't be finding out the sex of this baby, but we're pretty certain we have a girls name picked and that's Harper.  Do you think the two 'er' endings are ok together?

I also like Harlow and a few of the other girls names I liked but am not 100% on are:

Lexi (not Alexis - just Lexi, which I think would prompt every one to ask if it's short for something, so might be an issue)
Piper (but was used by a relative, so it's definitely out - but I LOVE it).

And finally Poppy.  This name is actually used as a nickname for the baby while in utero as this baby is due on his/her Poppys birthday (and I like that the baby is the size of a poppy seed at the very beginning!).  I am becoming very, very fond of this name as it has a bonding capacity for me and the baby so as much as I love this baby in my belly, I'm loving the name that that baby has.  I am pretty certain we will use this name as a middle name (if it's a girl) as it has such a special feeling to it and the connection with his/her Poppy is so lovely to me.

In general I quite like girls names that are unisex (but am not in love with them/or game enough to use them!) like:


Boys names are a lot more tricky (and I'm sure I'm having a boy!)

I love Cruz (or Cruse), (but hubby doesn't)
I like Levi (but hubby doesn't)
I like Balen (but hubby doesn't)
I like Pax or Paxton (but hubby doesn't)
I don't mind Knox - but not sold on it
Love Beau and considered it for our first baby, but again hubby isn't sold!
I like Maddox but am worried about nicknames like 'Mad' or 'Ox' and the pronunciation might get exhausting when used regularly - what do you think?

I'd really like a boys name with a 'v' or 'x' or 'z' to go with Blaze which has the 'z'.

Hubby likes single syllable names so it can't be shortened or have a nickname, but as it appears from my lists above, I'm indifferent to this.  I definitely want something that is different although if it's popular I don't mind so much.

One last thing - we used both our grandfathers names for Blazes middle names (Brian and Douglas) but haven't got a clue what we'll do for this one (for a boy).  I'm pretty sure we'll use our second favourite name, so perhaps I'll get one from my list that husband has vetoed!

Any suggestions for the name that is perfect but we're missing?!  Would love your help PLEASE?

I think I would avoid a first name and surname that both ended with -er, but that doesn't mean it's not okay to use it if you want to. Because the name Harper is so much more common for girls than Blaze is for boys, and because it ends in -er like your surname, and because your husband likes single-syllable names, I suggest Harp.

Because you like Braelyn and Caelyn, I also suggest Maelyn and Layle (rhymes with Gail) and Vayla and Maeve and Callan.

Because you like Lexi, I suggest Bex and Beck and Laney and Delaney.

Because you like Piper and Harper, I suggest Juniper.

A name like Blaze seems like it needs a pretty cool/tough brother name. Some possibilities:


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Name Updates!

Update (and photo!) on Baby Naming Issue: A Name Like Jane, But Not Jane!
Update (and photo!) on Baby Naming Issue: A Sibling Group Containing Loss
Update on Baby Boy T____t!
Update on Baby Girl Jenkins!

Baby Girl Mikle, Sister to Daniel, Amelia, Samuel, and William

L. writes:
We are ready for baby number 5, our second daughter, in a few weeks. Her older sibling names are all traditional: Daniel, Amelia (Mia), Samuel (Sam), William. Our last name is Mikle (rhymes with nickle). We really like easy traditional names, but with all of the darling girl options, plus the added pressure of naming our LAST child we are feeling rather stuck. We have a middle name which will be Rae after my Grandmother, but our “perfect” first name still eludes us. Our top names are: Madeleine (pronounced “Line” not “Lyn”), Isla, Tabitha, Harper, and Emeline. Madeleine (Ellie as a nickname), would be our top pick, but I am concerned the spelling with the extra “e” and the pronunciation issue will be tedious for her. I also adore Tabitha, but only seem to get a lukewarm response from mu hubby on this name. We have also loved, but ruled out Louisa, Beatrice, Adele, and Annabelle for various family conflict reasons. Advice????

I notice that all four of the baby's siblings have a strong L sound in their name, tying in with the L sound in your surname. I think that since this is your final child, I would make it a goal (not a trumps-all goal, but a preference) to find a strong L sound for her as well.

Three of the four names also contain an M sound to tie into the surname, and Daniel has an N sound which is very close to that. This makes Madeleine seem like a great choice: both an L sound and an M sound. I do think you'd find it challenging to get Ellie used as a nickname; Maddy is used so commonly. And we discovered when we briefly had a cat named Madeline that the spelling/pronunciation issues are surprisingly constant: everyone seems to know there are two options, so it was "Madda lin, line?" anytime anyone saw her name. If that's the name you love best, however, the good news is that everyone seems to know already that it's an issue---so it'll probably be similar to all of us who have to specify a K instead of a C, an -en instead of an -in, two L's instead of one, etc.

Emeline is another good option for the L and the M, but I think it's much too close to Amelia. And Isla, Tabitha, and Harper don't have the easy traditional feeling you'd prefer. Let's see if we can find some more options.

If Louisa is out, perhaps Eloise is also out. If not, I like that it introduces a new consonant sound to the group, while still including an L sound. And if you like the nickname Ellie, I think you could get it here. Eloise Mikle.

Eliza is another possibility, and one of my own favorites. Again, the L sound to tie the name in with the others, but a new consonant sound to lessen confusion. And I think it's particularly nice with the sibling group: Daniel, Amelia, Samuel, William, and Eliza. It sounds like a family right out of a Laura Ingalls Wilder book!

Or Eleanor, which would be another way to get Ellie. (Or you could go with Nora.)

Or Elizabeth, which would give her even more nickname options.

I also suggest Lucy. It fits well in style with the sibling names, and putting the L sound first may help keep the names from sounding too similar. I also considered suggesting Lillian, but I think that might go overboard on the L.

Or Laura, speaking of Laura Ingalls Wilder.

Annabelle makes me think of Abigail. Mia and Abby are cute sister nicknames.

Or Hannah. No L sound---but that's just ME who's looking for an L sound! Hannah Mikle. Daniel, Amelia, Samuel, William, and Hannah. Very nice.

Isla makes me think of Lila. Again, maybe a little overboard on the L---but maybe not. Lila Mikle sounds nice to me; I think it might be the L's AND short-I of Lillian that made it seem like too much.

I think Clara would go beautifully with the sibling set. Clara Mikle.

Or Charlotte. Daniel, Amelia, Samuel, William, and Charlotte.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Baby Girl Zebraitis, Sister to Hudson and Miles

Abbey writes:
My husband and I never see eye-to-eye on baby names. I always knew I wanted Hudson, so that one was a given from our first date. We picked his middle name, Dean, as an homage to Dean Martin, a favorite singer of both my husband and his father. My husband also initially suggested Miles, but then he moved on to other favorite names, and I wanted Miles, so it was "my pick" again. His middle name, Taylor, is in honor of Taylor, Michigan, where my husband grew up.
So now, we are finally having a baby girl, and this may very well be our last baby! We are completely gridlocked, since we both feel like we have The Perfect Name. I'm desperate for some input, and maybe, more suggestions, since we're stuck and this is getting really stressful and emotional. We've been working our way down the Social Security list and trying to add names, but it's hard.

My husband suggested years ago that if we had a girl, we should name her Nico, and at first, I must say, I adored it. We both love The Velvet Underground, and it seemed like such a cool, unique, strong name. I mentioned it to a friend recently, and she said it was a "total rock star" name. Her middle name would be June, in honor of my maternal grandmother, who passed away 2 years before I was born. I thought that gave it a nice feminine touch, and would allow her to use the more feminine June as a first name if she decided that Nico was too much to deal with it.

Sadly, I am now really concerned about using Nico. It has started to sound more like a weird name than a strong, cool name to me: Nico Zebraitis. I mean, how much are people really going to call her Nico June? I don't want her to be a Nicky or a Nic, either. I already have to spell my surname for strangers all the time, and I think she'd be constantly spelling and explaining Nico, too. It also reminds me of nicotine and rhymes with geek-o, get the picture. Another friend remarked that it made her picture a vacationing with a swarthy man named Nico on a Greek island. I am just having a hard time even liking it anymore, much less loving it, but hubs is so smitten with it, I feel like it will be so hard for him not to use it.

A few weeks ago, I loved Juniper, and I still do, but hubs doesn't. And I have to admit, Juniper Zebraitis is also a pretty tough name, weird even. I began to think that what I want for my daughter is a name that's simple but unusual, that everyone will immediately recognize and know how to spell, but that isn't currently in popular use as a first name, something uber-feminine, soft, and classic. Suddenly, I realized that she was trying to tell me what her name was all along, (see, I'm obviously emotional and smitten with my name choice, gah!), ever since I came home from taking the pregnancy test at the doctor's on my birthday, and played The Decemberists' "June Hymn" over and over on the way home. We should name her June. And we could give her the first names of the 3 of our grandmothers who meant the most to us: June Estelle Liudvika Zebraitis. June is a popular middle name choice, but not for first names at all.  

Liudvika was my husband's grandmother, who raised him, and he would have used this as a first name choice. His name is Vitas, and he has no problem using the "Boy Named Sue" approach to a challenging name makes you stronger. I looked into variants: Lulu (too babyish to use for a lifetime?), Louisa, but couldn't see anything great. Frankly, I think it's a harsh-sounding name, and would be fine with just doing June Estelle Zebraitis, but that doesn't seem fair to my husband. We could do June Liudvika Estelle, but the syllable pattern of 1-2-3-3 sounds much better to me than 1-3-2-3. Or, we could do, June Liudvika Zebraitis, but then I feel like all she's really got to work with is June, and all the other names are just harsh and not very pretty.

Other names on our list:
Brooksley (after economist Brooksley Born, but since no one would likely get this, it then sounds like Kaylee or something to me, so I don't like it for that reason)
Ava (too popular, though, so no)
Arden (i kind of don't like that it sounds like "harden", though)
Stella (my grandmother went by Stella, we could do Stella June Liudvika, but I like my first choice far better)

Please help us!

Currently the name Nico is used much more often for boys than for girls in the United States: the Social Security Administration reports 522 new baby boys and 35 new baby girls named Nico in 2011. It seems like a cute choice for a girl if I say it again and again, a name like Mia or Nicki. But if I saw it on a piece of paper, or in a sibling group with a Hudson and a Miles, I'd assume Nico was a boy---not like, "I wonder if that's a boy or a girl? More likely a boy," but rather in the same way I'd assume Hudson and Miles were boys. There is nothing inherently wrong with choosing a more-often-used-for-boys name for a girl or vice versa, but I think of it as the kind of choice that needs extra thought.

It's hard to know what to advise here. I can throw my full support behind the idea of June with grandmother middle names, which seems perfect to me---but I can't picture that endorsement making your husband think, "Oh! Well, okay then, I'm happy with the name June!" Even if we had a poll and we ALL voted for June (and of course not all of us would), you two are the only real voters.

It would be best if we could find a way to make a better offer, more like a compromise that lets your husband keep his choice without forcing you to use it as the first name---something like using Nico as the middle name, or using Nico as a nickname: June to Junie to Nico? It's not traditional or intuitive, but these are desperate times.

I'm afraid that what usually happens in cases where each parent has committed to a favorite the other parent can't agree to is that both parents have to drop their choices and find something new: for most of us, it's too hard to go through the heartbreak of giving up a favorite name AND then agree to the other parent's favorite. If it does come down to starting from scratch, you'll need to both make sure you're not thinking of the task as "Finding a name I like better than Nico/June," but instead as "Finding a name we can agree on from all the names that remain."

One possibility for compromise is the name Annika. It lacks the simplicity of June, but it's more feminine and flexible than Nico, and A.Z. are very cute initials. And it certainly has room for the nickname Niko or Nika; your husband could call her that exclusively, if he liked. Annika June is lovely.

Veronica and Danica could work the same way.

Or Cleo has some of the sound of Nico, while being more feminine.

Juno may be too associated with movies and goddesses, but it's like a hybrid of June and Nico.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Baby Name to Consider: Hooper

Bea writes:
I have been mulling over the name Hooper for the last little while and wondering if it is a name people would consider.  It has so many things that are trending for it right now.  It is a surname, which is ever popular right now.  It also comes from the big book of medieval professions and matches names like Tanner and Cooper.  It has also got the "er" ending.  It has so many things going for it, but could it really catch on?  I have a feeling that "Hooper Pooper" would taunt the child too much to make anyone consider it.  I can't decide if I like it or if I would even consider it for one my own boys.  What do you think?

I was very surprised to go to the Social Security Administration data base and not find the name Hooper AT ALL in the 2011 stats. (Names are only in the data base if they're given to at least 5 girls or at least 5 boys, so this means Hooper was used 0-4 times.) Cooper, for comparison, was given to 5,140 new baby boys and 106 new baby girls in 2011.

In 2010, there were 5 new baby boys named Hooper. In 2009, it's not in the data base. In 2008, there were 6 new baby boys named Hooper. Why so low?

I could see people being turned away by the Hooper/pooper rhyme---but the name Cooper has the exact same issue and is nevertheless fairly common: #82 in 2011.

Could it be that Hooper has too strong an association hoops? Or with Hoosiers? But it seems like those could just as easily be positive as negative, and Cooper has a similar association with chicken coops.

Or is it that it sounds too much like the word whoop? Maybe it's Cooper's strong leading consonant sound that makes it more useable.

My primary association with Hooper is Mr. Hooper's store on Sesame Street. For me, it's a strong positive association.

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

Poll results for "What do you think of the name Hooper?" (423 votes total):

I love it! I'd want to use it! - 3 votes (1%)
I like it! I'd want to consider it! - 16 votes (4%)
I like it for someone else's baby - 82 votes (19%)
No particular opinion - 28 votes (7%)
Slight dislike - 150 votes (35%)
Strong dislike - 144 votes (34%)

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Baby Girl Mild-with-a-W, Sister to Lincoln, Grant, and Eli

S. writes:
I came across your blog a couple of months ago and have loved reading your ideas and opinions on baby names. We are due to have our first baby girl the end of October! We currently have 3 boys which we love and adore, but are thrilled to be adding some PINK to our bunch. We are having one crazy time with choosing a name that will be just right.

Our boys' names are Lincoln Judd, Grant Perry, and Eli Daren. Their first names are names we liked and their middle names are family names. Our last name sounds like mild, but starts with a W. We would like this baby's name to "go with" her brothers.

Had this baby been another boy we would have likely named him Jude Jacobs, Jonah Jacobs, or Noah Jacobs. But since we've found out that this baby is a girl, we have not been able to settle on names that we both love.

We like very gender specific names that are recognizable, but not too commonly used. We're not too much into the nicknames and generally like the given name to be what they are called, although that's not a deal breaker. With this baby my husband and I seem to have very different likes! I would love to have an outside neutral opinion to help sort my thoughts of what sounds good and are some of the names one or both of us are considering...

- Gwen - I like it, but not sure if I want to repeat an initial...would it be too different of a sound with Grant and we'd end up calling him Gwant?! Does Gwen sound right with our last name?

- Claire - I like it, but worry that it's getting too popular

- Kate - I like it as a name by itself...I don't like the possibility of her being called Katie

- Evie (Ee-vee)...possibly Evelyn as the given name - This is my husband's favorite. I worry that Evie can't be a given name and that Evie is too similar sounding to Eli.

- Celeste - I like it but don't know that it really goes with the boys' names

- Phoebe - I love this! My husband does not.

- Naomi - I love this! My husband does not. There's a negative association with this name for him.

- Olivia - I like it but don't like that there is a famous actor/model with the same name (first and last)

The rest of these names one or both of us like...we're just not so sure...
- Charlotte
- Adalyn
- Marlee
- Lilah
- Layla
- Lydia

Most likely the middle name, if there were one, would be Lyn or Elizabeth...again family names.

Please share your thoughts and advise. Baby Girl is due in just a few weeks and I feel like we're ready, except for a name! I'd love to hear what you think...or any other names that you think might "go with" our other children's names.

Many, many thanks!!!

It looks to me as if your list is nearly wiped out: there's a good reason not to use every name on the list except Celeste. It can be easy in a situation like this to keep going around in circles.

What I'd do in your shoes is brainstorm a fresh list based on your current list. For example, you like Olivia and Naomi, so you could look for other names with strong O sounds such as Sophia, Fiona, Chloe, Carolina, Rose. Or Naomi might make me think of Miriam, because they're both biblical and have similar sounds, or it might make me think of Ruth.

The new list might or might not be of names for actual consideration (if Claire is too popular, Chloe and Sophia likely are too; if you worry about avoiding Katie, you might worry about avoiding Rosie too), but more to freshen things up and maybe lead to new ideas and a new list ("Hm, I don't much like Bronwyn or Wynne with the surname, but those remind me of Bridget and Brenna!").

Gwen and Evie make me think of Genevieve. It still repeats an initial, but I don't think you'll confuse the two names.

Or if you want the nickname Evie, I might go straight to Eve---though Eve and Eli do seem too similar to me, as Evie and Eli do. (Lilah and Layla, too.)

Claire makes me think of Clara, Cora, Carys, Laurel, Meredith, Nora, Rose.

Gwen makes me think of Wren, Wynne, Rowan, Winifred, Bronwyn, Elowen, Brynn, Zoe, Gwyneth.

Kate makes me think of Lane, Jane, June, Faith, Hazel, Jade, Maeve, Paige, Tate, Faye, Grey.

Evie makes me think of Neve, Vivienne, Liana, Eleni.

Phoebe makes me think of Penelope, Chloe, Cleo, Fiona, Sophia, Beatrix, Philippa, Josephine, Daphne.

Naomi makes me think of Noelle, Miriam, Ruth, Nadia, Esther, Leah, Claudia, Delaney, Rose, Fiona, Romilly, Romy, Mina, Mira.

Olivia makes me think Livianna, Fiona, Sophia, Chloe, Felicity, Victoria, Violet, Vivienne, Genevieve, Silvia, Orianna, Evelina.

Or else I'd go with Celeste. I think it's great with your surname and with the sibling names.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Baby Girl Perry-with-a-T; Some Double-Letter Names

Katie writes:
I came across your blog in my seemingly never-ending search for the perfect name for our baby girl due in November.  This is our first baby and we are so excited, but can't seem to come up with a name that we both love.  About us: his name is Daxx k (yes, middle name is just the letter, lower case); mine is Katherine Elaine (I go by Katie) - needless to say, his parents were a bit more adventurous than mine!  Our last name rhymes with Perry, and starts with T.  If we have a son in the future his name is likely to be Daxx Turner - Turner is my dad's middle name, and that is what we will probably call him, to avoid confusion and because we both love the name Turner for a little boy.

We want Baby Girl to have a name that is a little different, not too common, and we don't want her to share it with a lot of girls her age.  My husband would love it if her name had a double letter in it (like Daxx, Kenn - his dad, and Lleyton - our nephew.)  Names we've come up with:

Elizabeth Kate (we would want to call her Eli Kate, but I worry that Eli is too boyish), love Kate as a middle name since my mom and I are both Katherine, I'm not sold on Elizabeth as it is SO popular, but I also love the nickname options and that she would still have a classic name
Paisley Grace - we worry that Paisley is becoming too popular/don't love the idea of naming our baby after a fabric
Ellodie Claire -  I loved the name Ellodie, but after referring to her as that for a few weeks, it doesn't feel right, and I hate that every time I tell someone "Ellodie" they say "Like Melody without the M?"
Reagan - like it, but worry about it with our last name, seeming like she has 2 last names/people being confused about which is her first name vs. last name
Riley - he loves this, but I'm not sold
Hadley - I love Hadley, or even Hadlee (to incorporate a double letter), but worry it's getting popular
Vivienne - I like Vivienne a lot, but I'm just not sure about it
Everly - i love, but every time I say it, he says "Like Beverly?"

Any help or direction would be greatly appreciated :)

Thanks so much!

Let's start by looking at the current commonness of each name on the list, according to the Social Security Administration:

Elizabeth: #11 in 2011, and has been hovering right around there for decades

Paisley: #195 in 2011, coming up rapidly from its first appearance in the Top 1000 in 2006

Ellodie/Elodie: not in the Top 1000

Reagan: #122 in 2011, rising slowly now after some rapid rising in the 1990s

Riley/Rylee/Rylie/Ryleigh: hard to figure out the popularity because of many spellings; the spelling Riley was #47 in 2011 for girls, and #111 for boys. Because it's popular for both girls and boys, this increases the possibility of another Riley (girl or boy) in her class.

Hadley/Hadlee/Hadleigh: rising fairly quickly; the most popular spelling is Hadley at #178

Vivienne: #383 in 2011; it's only been in the Top 1000 for three years

Everly: not in the Top 1000, but likely to get there next year; the #1000 name for girls was used 250 times, and Everly was used 222 times, and Everleigh was used 147 times

I think Eli would be a hard sell as a nickname for Elizabeth: it isn't a familiar nickname for it, and the letters are the same but the emphasis and sounds are not---"EE-lie" vs. "eh-LIH." It might work if you used Eliza, nickname Eli---though it would still be an unexpected nickname.

If you like Elizabeth, Ellodie, and Everly, I suggest Ellis. It has a double letter, it works with Kate and with Daxx. (I'd also mention Ellery, but I'm not sure it works with the surname.)

A similar suggestion is Hollis.

Similar in sound to Paisley is Hazel.

Similar to Riley: Kiley and Briley---or you could spell them Kylee and Brylee to get the double letter.

Similar to Reagan: Morgan, Teagan/Teegan.

Similar to Vivienne: Vienna.

More double-letter possibilities:

Padgett (might be too much T with surname)
Scarlett (might be too much T with suname)

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Baby Boy _____son

C. writes:
Our baby boy is due next week and we are starting to panic as we don't have any names we are certain on.  If he had been a girl, we would have had a lot to choose from that we both loved including: Lilliana, Eloise, Charlotte (Lottie), Blythe, and Josephine.

Our surname is a two syllable name that ends in 'son', and unfortunately this cuts out a lot of great boys names.  For example, my husband's second favourite boys name is Harrison.  We would prefer to steer away from any names that end in 'son' or 'vowel-n'

My husband's favourite boys name is Jack however we know a couple, and our friends just named their baby boy Jackson.  We have been calling the 'bump' Jack just for fun from very early on, thinking that we couldn't really use the name officially, but there is a very slim chance that we may end up feeling that it just has to stick, however we would have to have a difficult conversation with our friends.

My favourite boys name is Tate, however my husband isn't thrilled with it.  Other names I would consider are Maxwell and Rafferty, but once again, my husband isn't enamoured with them.  Ezekiel is another consideration, but not sure if it sounds too unique and Biblical (we are Christian though).

There is a Clyde in the family tree and although we don't particularly love the name, we are looking for something similar that is strong, traditional, but not overly common.  I have been a kindergarten teacher for 14 years and this experience has tended to limit some of the great names we also may have considered.

Would love to hear your advice!

If Harrison is out because of the -son, would the name Harris work? A similar name is Davis.

If you end up feeling you must call him Jack, I wonder if it would work more smoothly with your friends if you named him John with the nicknam Jack?

More like Tate and Jack:


There's been a bit of a trend for biblical names, and that's helped bring a number of names into much easier use: instead of sounding like Bible Extreme, a name like Ezekiel just sounds pleasingly and quirkily biblical---more like a name with ancient roots. To tone it down, you could use Ezra---but then you lose the nickname Zeke. Or you could use Isaac with the nicknames Zac or Ike.

Some boy names similar to the girl names on your list (which may in some cases rule out the later use of the girl names): Joseph, Charlie, Elliot, Louis.

Because you have some very different styles on your list, it may help narrow things down to consider future sibling names, if you think you might have more children. A Jack and an Ezekiel don't coordinate as well as, say, a Jack and a Finn, or a Malachi and an Ezekiel. Consider, too, how the names from your girl list coordinate with your finalists.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Baby Name to Consider: Even

Jenna writes:
A few weeks ago, our family went to check-out day of a summer camp. The kids were all signing autograph books. One teenager, Evan, asked my daughter to sign his book. My husband happened to peek over her shoulder and asked, "Ah, does everyone know that your name isn't spelled that way?" The boy looked at his book and shrugged. "Probably not, but it's a cool name anyway!"

What the other campers had been writing: Even.

So I offer it up to you, Swistle. Is this a name possibility waiting to be sprung on the world?

1. It's like Evan (obviously) and Steven/Stephen and Ruben. But it's also like Eden and Eve and Eva. Is it a boy's name or a girl's name? Would comments like, "Get Even!" sound extra funny on the playground? Maybe it's a good androgynous name that goes well as a middle name (like True or Blue)?

Thanks, as always, for the insight!

This name SHOULD work. It's a nice sound and, as you say, similar to Steven and Eva and Eden. And it's similar in meaning-style to the name Ever, which is catching on.

The reason I think it doesn't work and is unlikely to catch on is that it looks too much like a misspelling/respelling of the name Evan. I think it would be not impossible but challenging to get people to pronounce it a different way. And the word "even" doesn't have quite the dreamy/significant sound of a word like "ever" or "Eden."

What does everyone else think? Let's have a poll over to the right. [Poll closed; see results below.]

Poll results for "What do you think of the name Even?" (428 votes total):

I love it! I'd want to use it! - 4 votes (1%)
I like it! I'd want to consider it! - 12 votes (3%)
I like it for someone else's baby - 63 votes (15%)
No particular opinion - 26 votes (6%)
Slight dislike - 137 votes (32%)
Strong dislike - 186 votes (43%)

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Baby Naming Issue: How Soon is Too Soon to Use an Honor Name?

K. writes:
Our first daughter, Julia, was a name I had always loved when I was younger and I liked that my husband's grandfather's name was Julius, as well. She was the first great-grandchild on his side so it's kind of special.  
My original dilemma was that we wanted to use her middle name as a name for our second child, but I know you recommend against this.  We had been tossing around other names, but none of them felt quite right for us.

Then, last week, my Aunt Charlotte passed away suddenly.  She was my mom's only sister and Charlotte was also their mother's name.  I had briefly considered this name beforehand, but wasn't sure if it was too formal for us or if it had become too trendy recently. Now I feel very strongly about incorporating Charlotte into the name if we have a girl. It's almost as if it were meant to be.  Also, this might sound strange, but my Aunt Charlotte's birthday was the day after my grandmother's.  It just so happens that my c-section is scheduled for the day after my birthday as well. (Coincidence or a sign?) That being said, the date is quickly approaching and we still haven't finalized anything.  I know that my mom would be honored if we used Charlotte as a middle name, but is it too soon to use it as a first name?  When I indirectly asked my mom about it, she said that it was a very strong name and that her mother and sister were the only two Charlottes she'd ever known... She assumed I might use it as a middle name and suggested Reese Charlotte.  

My question is, what are some other first names that would go well with Charlotte and would also sound nice with big sister Julia? 

Or should we just take a chance and try to use Charlotte as the first name?  I'm guessing it would sound best with something short, but need some ideas. 

Just for reference, our boy name would be Cole Matthew-  My father and grandfather are Nicholas and my husband is Matthew.  Also, our last name is Winkler.

Some of the other names we discussed in the past, but don't necessarily go with Charlotte are:
Madeline (My husband only liked as a middle name, but he doesn't like that Maddy sounds too close to his name.)
Grace (Although this is a beautiful name, it has a negative association with someone in his family so I'd rather not use it if we could find something better.)

Thanks so much for your help, Swistle.

I don't think it is ever too soon to use an honor name. ...Well, as soon as I write something like that, I start thinking of examples where it might be. But in general, I think it is very touching to use the name of someone who died during your pregnancy, and I don't get any "too soon" feelings at all. The opposite, in fact---like it's MORE wonderful to use the name sooner.

It sounds from your letter as if your mom might be reacting not to the soonness/appropriateness but to her perception of the name as unusual. It's common for the grandparent generation to feel that that current parent generation is choosing names that are kind of weird or old-fashioned: my own mom confessed to having mixed feelings about the name Henry, since it seems old-mannish to her (though she said she was sure she'd love it on an actual grandchild). For them, it's probably close to the way we feel about names like Carol and Judy.

But if your mom's impression of the name comes from only knowing two Charlottes (both older ladies), that's likely to change soon: the name was the 27th most popular name for baby girls in 2011, according to the Social Security Administration, and I wouldn't be surprised to see it in the Top 10. The current perception is of vintage sweetness as well as strength.

And it sounds as if the timing is wonderful for this baby: not only does it give you a new name for your list, it's a name with the same sort of family meaning as your first child's name. And it's lovely and perfect with the name Julia: Julia and Charlotte! Wonderful.

You're right: I do generally advise against using one child's middle name as another child's first name. (More discussion on this topic in this post.) I also think the name Reese is a bit of a style mismatch with a sister named Julia. Julia is classic, ancient; Reese is unisex, modern, surnamey. But if you wouldn't mind continuing the theme for any future girls, Charlotte could have the same middle name as Julia: Charlotte Reese is very nice.

If you'd rather use Charlotte as the middle name, we could look for a first name that SOUNDS a little like Reese. Elise, for example. Elise Charlotte; Julia and Elise.

Or Rose. It has some of the feeling of the name Grace, but less common and without the negative family association. Rose Charlotte is so pretty, and Julia and Rose are so nice together.

Aubrey and Audrey are both nice with Charlotte and with Julia: Aubrey Charlotte, Audrey Charlotte. Aubrey has the additional upside of having the nickname Bree, which may remind you of the way you feel about the name Reese---while still giving her a longer form that goes well in style with the name Julia.

Delaney and Reese make me think of Sadie. Sadie Charlotte; Julia and Sadie.

Stella Charlotte is nice, or Ella Charlotte lightens it a bit.

Oh, or Anna Charlotte! So pretty! Julia and Anna.

Or Lydia Charlotte, Julia and Lydia.

Or Noelle Charlotte, Julia and Noelle.

Charlotte is visually long, but is only two syllables. I think you could go long on a first name: a name like Delaney Charlotte has only one more syllable than the name Julia Reese. Or Annalise Charlotte has the "ees" sound of Reese.

If you would like to go more with the style of Reese, I suggest the name Lane. Lane Charlotte; Julia and Lane.

Name Updates!

Update on Baby Naming Issue: Cohen!
Update on Baby Naming Issue: An Important Honor Name is Not the Parents' Style!
Update (and photo!) on Baby Boy Wylie, Brother to Violet and Scott!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Baby Naming Issue: Are Elijah and Elliot Too Similar For Cousins?

R. writes:
My husband and I are having our second baby boy and Elliot is one of our top names.  The problem is that our nephew's name is Elijah and he goes by Eli.  We do not plan to use Eli as a nickname for our child but, we are concerned that our family will think they are too similar because of their spelling.  Any input would be appreciated :)

My opinion is that they're not too similar. The spelling does trick the eye a bit, but the vowel sounds are completely different: ee-lye vs. eh-lee. And the emphasis is on different syllables, which further separates the sounds: ee-LYE-jah vs. ELL-lee-ot.

The styles of the names are so different, too. Elijah: ancient, prophety, biblical, with an ending used mostly for girl names in the United States. Elliot: light, surnamey, intellectual. I can't think of a situation in which I'd ever recommend both names to the same family---but because they're too DIFFERENT, not because they're too similar.

And especially for cousins, I think a slight similarity is completely fine: an Eleanor and an Elizabeth, an Addison and an Adelaide, an Emerson and an Emmett.

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

Name update! R. writes:
Thank you Swistle and readers for weighing in on our name dilemma. Though we considered a few other names as well, Elliot remained our favorite. Because of the overwhelming majority of people who responded to the poll saying Elliot and Elijah were NOT too close for cousins and the wonderful comments we felt confident in our choice. Elliot Miles was born last week - mom, dad, and big brother are so in love :)

Friday, September 14, 2012

Baby Girl or Boy Nawcan, Sibling to Josi@h and Audrey

Jocelyn writes:
I recently found your wonderful blog and need your help! We always keep our baby names a secret until baby arrives so it would be great to get some unbiased opinions.

We are expecting baby #3  (probably our last) at the end of September (27th).  We don’t know the gender but are pretty happy with the name Katherine Olivia if it is a girl.  (We’d call her Kate.)  I’ve always liked the name Kate and it works out that my husband’s mom and her mom are both named Catherine so it would be kind of an homage to them.  The boy name has been harder for us to settle on though.  Our last name is Cajun with a funny spelling and pronounced like Naw-can.  Our oldest son is Josi@h Kenneth.  We liked the name Josi@h and also the biblical story behind it and his middle name is after my husband who is a Jr.  Our daughter is Audrey J@cquelyn.  I’ve loved the name Audrey forever and her middle name is my mom’s name.

We’ve always had issues coming up with boy names.  Part of it is that we’ve tried to avoid having a name that ends with N since our last name starts and ends with N but it seems a lot of the boy names I like end with an N.  Also, both of our first kids had a middle name in honor of family but there really aren’t any male names in our family that we like.  So, if we have a boy would he and the rest of the family wonder why he doesn’t have a family connection?

The top name we have picked out right now for a boy is William Hudson.  Here are some of my issues with it.

My first two kids’ names don’t really “go together” but would this be another type of name that doesn’t go with the others?  Is there some name out there that would bridge the two sibling names?  I also worry that William is too common or maybe too serious.

We like Hudson and also have read about a missionary to China from the 1800’s named Hudson Taylor that we’d be happy to have him named after.  So, maybe there is a very loose biblical theme there to go with Josi@h? (of course people would only know if we told them)

Some other names that I like but have issues like ending in N etc. are:

Jude – don’t know if having two of the three names being very biblical and also starting with J would be weird.  Also my name starts with a J.
Jack (the problem with this one is our cat is named Jack)
Benjamin (My husband is Ken so Ben and Ken would rhyme)
As you can see I’m all over the place.  Do you have any suggestions?  I’d love all of your insights.

Thanks so much!

Families vary considerably in how noticey they are about baby names. I have five children, three of whom have family middle names and two of whom don't, and I would bet cash money that not a single one of my relatives (other than my parents, who had to hear all about the choices) even knows what the kids' middle names ARE, let alone has given any concerned thought to whether one child's name matches the significance of another child's. Yet we also do hear stories of families who tally up the family names and get wounded and huffy if more are used from one side than the other, so you'll have to look at your own families and consider whether they would be more the type to talk at length behind your back about your children's middle names, or whether they'd be more the type to hear the name and give it almost no thought at all beyond whether they liked it or not.

Children will also vary considerably in how sensitive they are to their names. In my own family, I've found all four boy children almost completely bored by talk of how they got their names or what the significance is. The girl child enjoys discussing it, but has not been at all peeved so far that her middle name isn't a family name. Perhaps all this will change as they get older and there will be giant fights about how obviously mom and dad preferred the three who have family names---but I don't think it's likely. Yet we also hear stories of grown adults claiming to still have hurt feelings from their parents' name choices, so it may completely depend on the child and his/her personality.

I think much of it is spin: if there's no reason for the child without a family name to feel unwanted or otherwise out of favor or not a part of the family, not having a family middle name doesn't mean anything except that you ran out of family names you wanted to us. If he expresses interest, or if you're telling them the story of their names, his story is that by the time he was born there were no family names left you loved enough to give him, so you chose Name X, which you loved because of this/that reason.

Of my two children who don't have family middle names, one of them has a name that is nevertheless of sentimental significance; when I force them to listen to their naming stories, I feel like that story holds up very well next to the "Well, your middle name was my grandpa's name" story. The final child's middle name has no real significance other than that it was her daddy's favorite name before we came up with a name we both liked better; he couldn't stand not to use his favorite, so we used it as her middle name. That story gets a favorable reaction too, as it turns out; the important thing, I think, is to show enthusiasm for the choice, and have an approximately equal amount of it for each child's name. "Well, YOUR name was because X! And YOUR name was because Y!," as opposed to "Well, YOUR name was because X and Y and Z! And YOUR, we just liked it, I guess."

Another possibility for a middle name is to look at family surnames: this lets you look at the women in the family as well as the men, and surnames can make very dashing middle names.

I think the name you've picked out is great. William avoids the N-ending, and both boys have a good nickname if they want it, and Joe and Will go great together which I think helps form the bridge you're looking for. And Hudson is a name that can be worked into a very nice story of significance.

The rest of the names on the list don't seem as good with the sibling names, or else have the N-ending, or else I agree with the other reasons you mention for not using them.

Because it's fairly common for a family to have a different style preference for girl names than for boy names, I think you could continue with biblical boy names without worrying about leaving Audrey out. But I would avoid the J names, to avoid confusion and also to avoid a second theme Audrey wouldn't fit into.

Paul Nawcan; Josi@h, Audrey, and Paul
Ezra Nawcan; Josi@h, Audrey, and Ezra
Micah Nawcan; Josi@h, Audrey, and Micah
David Nawcan; Josi@h, Audrey, and David
Thomas Nawcan; Josi@h, Audrey, and Thomas
Samuel Nawcan; Josi@h, Audrey, and Samuel
Isaac Nawcan; Josi@h, Audrey, and Isaac
Caleb Nawcan; Josi@h, Audrey, and Caleb
Daniel Nawcan; Josi@h, Audrey, and Daniel
Philip Nawcan; Josi@h, Audrey, and Philip

My favorites, I think, are the names we barely even think of as biblical anymore: those are the ones that make good bridge names, because they seem timeless like Audrey, while still being biblical like Josi@h. I also favor the ones that, like Josi@h, have a good nickname: Joe and Sam, Joe and Dan, etc.

Name update! Jocelyn writes:
Well, as I suspected we ended up having a boy!  Thanks to the great advice and encouragement from you and your readers we decided to go ahead and name him William Hudson.  You all helped me not feel bad about the name not having a family connection like his siblings and feel like the sibling names weren't too terribly mismatched.  I do wish it weren't so high on the popularity list but at least it is a classic name and not trendy so it won't feel out of date in a few years.  I did love the suggestions of using a biblical name that didn't sound too biblical as a bridge between Josiah and Audrey but many of the names were already used in the family so they were out.  Thank you to everyone for your encouragement and input!  We still weren't 100 percent sure we would name him that when he was born but he was a very punctual little boy by showing up on his due date so I figured a name like William would fit him well.  He was born on Sept. 27th at 8 lbs 14 oz.  He was 20 3/4 inches long.  Here's a picture of him when he was almost 4 months old.


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Baby Naming Issue: Are the Initals PMS a Dealbreaker?

G. writes:
My husband, Austin and I were advised to visit your website for some advice and we hope you can help us out!
In 2009 we had our first and very beautiful little girl, Clara Evelyn. Since having Clara we have discussed the names of her siblings and we ecstatic to find, that we were expecting our 2nd little girl, due in December. 
Clara's name wasn't decided until a week before my due date, so our family didn't know until birth. This time around we were so prepared and had the name on the day of the gender reveal. We had decided on the name Phoebe Matilda. We just love the sound of Clara & Phoebe and couldn't wait to tell everyone. 
We decided to tell them all at a family BBQ this week. We had found this cute way of revealing it, when my sister bursts out in laughter. She quickly stopped, when she saw our serious faces and eventually told us how weird it was, that our daughter had the initial PMS, Phoebe Matilda Sharpe.
Now, my husband and I have talked about this quite a bit and aren't sure what to think. How big of a deal is this? Should we really avoid naming our daughter Phoebe Matilda? We aren't really sure and the entire family seemed to think of this as a big deal.
An alternative could be to do Matilda Phoebe Sharpe, but since this isn't our favorite option we wanted some outside opinions on how big of a problem this seems to be.
Would you ever name your daughter or son with something that gave them some odd initials?

There is a nice wide spectrum of opinion on this subject. On one end are people who even prefer for initials to spell things, and then it goes into the area of "Who cares? No one will ever notice or care," and then into "Well, I'd rather not, but I wouldn't sacrifice a name I loved just because of that," and then to the far end of definitely being willing to sacrifice a name to avoid initials.

To most of us, it depends on the initials: something like JAB or ANT is not in the same league as something like ASS or FUK. I consider the initials PMS to be toward the less acceptable end---in the BRA and PIG and B.O. neighborhood, perhaps. I would not want those initials myself, and would rather sacrifice part of the name than use them.

To me, it seems like the middle name is the clear area for sacrifice: the first name is presumably your favorite name of all options, and the surname is set, and you haven't mentioned any pressing reason to use that middle name (for example, a family naming tradition or important honor name). So if I were you, I'd keep your happy combination of Clara and Phoebe, and I would find another wonderful middle name. Phoebe Estelle? Phoebe Cordelia? Phoebe Lydia? Phoebe Eliza? Phoebe Celeste? The quest would not be for a name you liked better than Matilda, but rather for the name you liked best of all the remaining names.

Let's have a poll over to the right, to flesh out the rest of the opinion spectrum. [Poll closed; see results below.]

Poll results for "The initials PMS" (604 votes total):

I wouldn't mind - 96 votes (16%)
I'd change the name - 466 votes (77%)
I can't decide - 42 votes (7%)

Name update! G. writes:
We got wonderful advice from both you and your posters. We quickly decided that letting go of this name was necessary despite of our love for it. Big sister Clara was still going to have baby sister, Phoebe but we went on a hunt for a new middle name.
Not many names were as loved as Matilda but we dug up our old list of names and found Juliette. Phoebe Juliette Sharpe sounded alright but being so focused on initials, my husband kept saying PJs. Moving on!
Vivienne, an old family name from my French side of the family, came to mind. Phoebe Vivienne Sharpe! That sounded so cute in my ears with that French touch but everyone around us pronounced it like Vivian, which wasn't really to our liking. Moving on!
Well, someone mentioned that giving Phoebe the middle name initial E would be a cute little thing to share with big sister, Clara Evelyn. Bingo! Phoebe Eleanor Sharpe. And there it was and just 4 days later, our baby girl, Phoebe Eleanor joined us.
We want to thank you all for helping us out, and we now know what to name a potenial third daughter, so Matilda is saved for later.
Thank you,

Monday, September 10, 2012

Baby Name to Consider: Nicaya

N. writes:
I have read your blog for quite some time now. I am not expecting, nor will be for a few years at least! However, I have a question for you. I am one of those that watches Dance Moms. Earlier this week a girl appeared on the show with, what I thought to be, an interesting name. Her name is Nicaya (pronounced Nick-Kai-Uh). I kind of love it. It combines two names I really like - Nicole and Kaia, without seeming too out there and also giving cute nickname options. What do you think of it? Does it sound too made up? I'm curious about what you and your readers think!

I think it's a pretty smart combination. I looked in the Social Security Administrations data base to see what other spellings I could find:

Nakiyah 59
Nakiya 42
Nakia 41
Nakiah 20
Nakyah 15
Nikiya 15
Nikiyah 12
Nakya 11
Nikia 11
Nakeya 8
Nakaya 7
Nikiah 7
Nikya 6
Nikaiyah 5
Nikyah 5

Some of those might be more like nicky-ah or nick-KEE-ah.

There were also several spellings of Nikayla, which seems similar.

Let's have a poll over to the right [poll closed; see results below]; it'll be a little tricky, because the particular spelling might greatly influence how we'd vote---so just pretend the poll mentions whatever spelling you like best.  And in the comments section we can discuss what those favorite spellings are. It's a little tricky to find a spelling that makes the pronunciation clear.

Poll results for "What do you think of the name Nicaya?" (503 votes total):

I love it! I'd want to use it! - 4 votes (1%)
I like it! I'd want to consider it! - 13 votes (3%)
I like it for someone else's baby - 85 votes (17%)
No particular opinion - 32 votes (6%)
Slight dislike - 184 votes (37%)
Strong dislike - 184 votes (37%)

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Baby Girl or Boy Czajkowski: A Sister Name for Stanton; A Middle Name Challenge for Reid

Jessica writes:
My husband and I are expecting a baby girl in less than 3 months, and we are having a very difficult time in deciding on an appropriate name for future brother Stanton (who is 3 years old). Stanton is a family name, and we believe it to be an old English name rich in tradition and strength. What girl's name would be a suitable match for such a strong name?

Our last name is Czajkowski (pronounced Cha-cow-ski) and I wonder if I should just ignore the flow of a name with this long last name. We have gone through so many girl's names at this point such as...


The following names are on our current list, but we welcome more ideas...

The middle name will be London, which is another family name. My husband's favorite is Catherine London but is this name too popular? I don't want our child to be one of many in a classroom.

I welcome any advice and direction please. I look forward to reading all comments!

Her husband writes:
My wife emailed you concerning the birth of our child in November. I wanted to email you via her email account so that you would know that we are emailing you concerning the same issue. However this email, this is from the male perspective.
My son's name is Stanton Czajkowski (pronounced Cha-cow-ski) and we are expecting a sibling of unknown sex this November. We love traditional yet uncommon names yet are having a difficult time with this baby's name. If it is a boy we have decided on Reid. We love the strength and tradition with this name, yet it almost feels slightly preppy which is fine. Unfortunately coming up with a middle name has been difficult. We have discussed the following names but rejected them as we just couldn't agree:

Rejected names:
Alexander (already taken)

Potential middle names:

I would think we would need a 3-4 syllable middle name to work with Stanton Benedict Czajkowski's name. Am I correct on this.? Should the names flow? What truly flows with Reid Czajkowsk?

As for girls, this decision has been the absolute worst for us. What names would be a suitable match for Stanton yet not very common. We love how unique yet traditional the name Stanton is but we can't seem to find this with a girl's name. We have discussed the following names (plus many more , I must admit):

Rejected names:
Charlotte (too common)
Alexandra(too common)
Constance ( hate the nickname Connie)
Jacqueline (difficult to say with our last name)
Victoria (nice but common)
Arden ( only my wife likes this one)
Sloane (two s names might be difficult)
Elizabeth (name has been taken)

Accepted names:
Ann London

If we didn't go with Ann London as a first name, the child's middle name would be London. My wife is hesitant to use Catherine (nickname could be Kit) because she thinks it is too common. Is this true? I realize that it is timeless, but I don't want our daughter to be one of many in a classroom. What other suggestions might you have that would be a good sibling match for Stanton? No one seems to have heard of the name Stanton ( a family name) so I get blank stares when I ask this question.
Thank you for listening to the male perspective in our situation. I look forward to your response, as we could certainly use your help!

My wife just informed me that she wrote in her email that we were having a girl. I should clarify this, as we do not know the sex of the baby. She feels that it will be a girl and continues to focus on the girls name as it continues to be a debate between us. As for the baby being a boy, this is completely possible so we continue to discuss a middle name for Reid.
I apologize for any confusion, but she truly feels this baby will be a girl. I , however, strongly feel we should be prepared either way.

Constance is my favorite. You don't need to use the nickname Connie: there is a Constance in my family who goes by Consie. The name Constance has enough backbone to stand with Stanton, and it meets your preference for traditional yet unusual. My one hesitation is whether it is too tongue-tangley with the surname. Constance Cha-cow-ski.

The name Catherine is not currently at "many in a classroom" levels of popularity. According to the Social Security Administration, in 2011 there were 7,397 new baby girls named Katherine, Catherine, and Kathryn. That translates to .3852% of baby girls born that year---or about 1 baby girl with that name out of every 260 baby girls. If a classroom has an average of 15 girls, there will be an average of 1 girl named Katharine/Catherine/Kathryn per 17 classrooms. Statistics can't tell us the whole story (name popularity varies by region, and flukes happen constantly), but they can help us assess the risk. The risk of two Catherines in a classroom is very low. Catherine London Czajkowski seems like a great choice to me, and works well with both Stanton and with a possible future Reid.

Many of the other names on your lists also seem like good choices. Adelaide, Bronwen, Sloane, and Ann London stand out to me. But if your only concern with Catherine is its popularity, that's my first choice of all the possibilities.

I don't think you need to match Reid's entire first/middle to Stanton's, though I agree it's nice if it works out that way, and that I too would be aiming for something similar in overall weight and length.

What was it that led you to the middle name Benedict? Was it a family name, or were you looking for a saint name, or was it something else? Here are some possibilities to consider:


If nothing seems right, I suggest tearing up the family tree looking for a good family name/surname (especially from Jessica's side, if the children already have their father's surname), so that each boy has one.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Baby Girl Grindelwald, Sister to Jackson

Courtney writes:
I recently found your website and love all the naming advice (I went back and read all the updates where moms wrote back in with that they finally chose--love those. Except when they didn't choose the name I liked).

Anyway, here's my naming dilemma:

Our last name sounds a lot like Grindelwald*. My husband's name is Thomas (Tom) and I'm Courtney. We have one son, Jackson, who is three. He's named after my uncle Jack and my husband's great uncle.

I'm 18 weeks pregnant and just found out I'm having a girl. Yayyy!!! Even before we had kids, we had talked about names and decided we wanted to try to honor both of our heritages (husband's is Dutch, mine is Irish). So our son's middle name is a Dutch family name (sounds like J├Ągermeister, but with a Z and without the meister). And for a girl, we wanted to have an Irish bent. We really like the name Grace, but Grace Grindelwald is a little too much "gr" sound. We really want to rule G out entirely. But we did some research, and found that the name Hannah means "grace," and the Irish form of Hannah is "Aine" (pronounced like awn-yeh).

So question one is: Do you think this name is too out there? I think it sounds pretty, but I know people are going to have a hard time pronouncing it (and they already have a hard time with our last name). Will she get teased for the weird spelling? Are people going to call her Anne? Is it mean to give her two names she'll have to spell out and pronounce every time?

Question two is: If you do like the name Aine, what do you think about a middle name? For some reason, I have it stuck in my head that it should start with an L. Originally we had thrown around the idea of Laurel, but that's not really grabbing me any more. I really like the name Lucy, but is that too weird to have two four-letter names? Aine Lucy? My husband likes it too but wants to spell it Lucie, which I think looks even weirder (Aine Lucie--too many e's).

For reference, we had our boys names all picked out, and it was either going to be
Asher Willem (Dutch again)
Miles Emerson
Declan (not sure of middle name, maybe Emmett)

For girls we've also talked about
Sadie (not sure about middle names for that either, but considered Aislinn for the Irish aspect) 
Sydney (used by another friend)
Sophie (husband doesn't like it)

So we tend to go pretty classic but not super popular (um, except Jackson, but I swear it wasn't so popular when we named him that!), and names that have some meaning behind them--even if they're just meaningful as family names. I don't have any real restrictions in terms of names "matching" or anything, aside from no G names, and there are no family considerations at play.

Sorry this is so lengthy . . . I realize this is not a real life-or-death situation but I would really love some objective input :-)

Thanks so much!


* Hoping the HP reference gets me moved to the top of the list?
Just wanted to add, if you decide to post, my husband and I brainstormed a few more names that we would at least consider.

My pick:
Mirabelle (really starting to love this one--it means "lovely, wonderful")





Amelie (I love this one as well)


Shelby (I do not like this)


Isabel/Isabella (I used to like this a lot but I think it's becoming too popular)

Thanks again!

I think Aine would be difficult to get people to pronounce correctly in the United States, but that the spelling Anya would be lovely and perfect. Anya Gridelwald; Jackson and Anya. ...Oh, wait, now we're away from Irish again.

Well, but here is the thing: most of the loveliest Irish names are not pronounceable here without translation. I have finally learned to pronounce Niamh and Aoife, for example, and my brain STILL says them "Nee-am-huh, I mean Neeve" and "Ay-oiff, I mean Eva," respectively. And I have PRACTICED. In general, I recommend translating the more challenging Irish names into the U.S. English alphabet, or using them as middle names.

For a middle name for Anya, I think one with the emphasis on the second syllable would work well: Anya Louise, or Anya Lucille. One-syllable names would also be nice; this might be a great place to put the name Grace. Or Anya Joy, or Anya Jade, or Anya Faye, or Anya Paige. Or a name that ends up being rejected as the first name choice might work well for the middle.

Isabella was the #2 most popular baby girl name in the United States in 2011, after two years at #1. I do think it's too popular, if you're trying to avoid popular. Annabel and Mirabel are great alternatives. I'd also put Isabelle on the list of middle name candidates. Anya Isabel?

I'm not familiar with the name Sezanah, and I couldn't find it in the Social Security Administration's data base or on other baby name sites. I wondered at first if it were a backwards spelling such as Nevaeh. I suggest the underused Susanna instead.

I think Sadie Aislinn is great. The initials are a little dicey but not terrible. I especially like the idea of using a favorite first name, and then a very Irish middle name with the original spelling.

More possible combinations:

Nora Maeve
Sadie Isabel
Mirabelle Sian
Sadie Maeve
Annabel Kaatje
Annabel Sian
Annabel Maeve
Amelie Niamh
Amelie Maeve
Miranda Siobhan
Beatrix Aine
Beatrix Saoirse
Susanna Maeve
Katya Faye
Katya Jane
Katya Louise
Amelie Kaatje
Amelie Siobhan
Mirabelle Niamh
Miranda Sian

I think my favorite is Nora Maeve. Nora Grindelwald; Jackson and Nora. I also love Annabel Maeve and Anya Maeve. Well, and Sadie Aislinn, and Katya Louise. I guess I like a lot of them.

I'm partially limited here by a low familiarity with Irish names (I mostly know the ones I've looked up while reading Maeve Binchy novels). I wonder if there are some good choices in your family tree?

Thursday, September 6, 2012

What are Your Favorite Names Too Unusual for Your Family to Use?

I realize that is not a very snappy title I've got going on up there. BUT I AM STICKING TO IT.

This is the second in our new series of posts designed to be a brainstorming/idea-getting place for people looking for a particular kind of name. Our first post focused on unisex names. This time, I'd like us to make lists of names we really love, but that are too uncommon for our own naming style. Like, where you'd think "Oh I WISH this name would be used more, so that I could use it!," and where, if you knew a friend who was more daring, you'd wish SO HARD that SHE'D use the name for HER child. Or maybe you'd use it as a middle name. Or they can be names that you don't personally feel are too unusual, but that your family or spouse consider too unusual, so you're frustrated and wish someone else could use them. It's not that we think the names are UNUSABLY unusual---just too unusual for our own particular circumstances, or more unusual than they should be considering how awesome they are.

Remember that we are not being real STRICT around here with these category posts. Picture someone looking around the internet, thinking, "What I want is some more UNUSUAL names. I wonder what OTHER people like? I'd love to just BROWSE a LIST." We won't worry about whether our own standard of "unusual" matches theirs or not; we'll just say what names we consider to be in that category, and let them browse to their own standards.

We also won't worry about being COMPLETE. I find that as soon as I set my mind to this task, I think I need to list EVERY SINGLE unusual name I like---or that if I only list a few, they must be my VERY TOP few, and also I must have an equal number of boy and girl names. But no! That is not necessary! We can just...toss a few out, all casual-like! And we may come back whenever we want to add another one! And duplicates are fine---even desirable, to show consensus.

Here are mine:



Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Baby Naming Issue: Is Harriet Harri$ Usable?

Lucy writes:
My husband (Brian) and I (Lucy) are expecting our second child in March. We will wait to find out the gender until the day he/she is born. Even though it's quite a ways before the baby is due we are already discussing names and trying to figure out the perfect one. We love family/honor names and plan to use a family name for both the first and middle name. Our first child, Eln@ F@e, is named directly after both of her maternal grandmas.

If this next child is a boy, naming him will be easy. We will use George Austin. George is an important and personal name from both sides of the family. Austin is my Grandma's maiden name and mom's middle name.

If this child is a girl we are deciding between Virginia Greer (middle name not definite yet) and Harriet. If we use Virginia we will mostly use the nicknames Ginger or Gigi. If we use Harriet we would call her both Harriet and Hattie.  I like the sound of Hattie Harri$, but obviously Harriet Harri$ has some definite problems.  (The family member we would be naming her after was also named Harriet Harri$).  We know that a middle name could possibly soften the problem here, but don't want to have to always say her first and middle together since Harriet is already three syllables.  We realize that if we use Harriet we are just embracing the fact that she will have the "John Johnson" or "Jack Jackson" issue her whole life or until she gets married, but I'm wondering how bad that is?  The middle names we are currently considering, but aren't sure we like yet, are Christine, Joanne, & Luella.  Do these help, or can nothing help the situation?  

Any advice would be super appreciated!  Thank you!

One of my favorite books to read to younger kids is Harriet, You'll Drive Me Wild!, by Mem Fox.

(photo from

This book made me love, love, love the name Harriet Harri$. It is so fun to say. When dealing with my own 5-year-old Henry, who is currently in a "difficult stage" (where "difficult stage" is said with clenched teeth and audible air quotes), I find this section of the book goes frequently through my mind: "Harriet, my darling child. Harriet, you'll drive me wild. Harriet, sweetheart, what are we to do? Harriet Harri$, I'm talking to you!"

So because of that, the name sounds right and good to me, and in fact particularly appealing. It doesn't seem like the equivalent of John Johnson or Jack Jackson; it seems more like Maribeth Marek or Abigail Abner.

Here is the main issue I would be concerned about: SO MANY opportunities for the nickname Hairy. But perhaps with the surname Harris, there is no avoiding it anyway?

I think you're wise not to rely on the middle name to fix the situation: middle names are so rarely used, or even known. But in my opinion, there's no situation to fix anyway: it's a striking and distinctive and appealing honor name. If anyone DOES act funny about it, saying "Harriet Harris is a family name" seems like it would nip that in the bud.

What does everyone else think?