Baby Boy Bronson-with-a-J, Brother to Drew: Tatum?

Hi Swistle

I wrote to you over 4 years ago when we had trouble naming my son, who is now called Drew. I’m pregnant with a 2nd boy, and debating the name Tatum. It’s my maiden name, and it sums up all the happiness and love of my parents. But Tatum has been used with girls, and I’m concerned about having a boy named something that is assumed to now be female. I’m particular that my children have names that are clearly gender-specific when printed on their resume.

We would call him Tate, so does that change things?

Emma Bronson-with-a-J


If your goal is a clearly-gender-specific name, then Tatum does not meet that goal. According to the Social Security Administration, in 2014 the name Tatum was used for 828 new baby girls and 462 new baby boys: the name is currently unisex, used more often for girls.

That same year, the name Tate was used for 27 new baby girls and 796 new baby boys, so that ought to improve the boy-guess rate if you use it as his nickname—but it’s impossible to know how many of the Tatums are going by Tate, and generally full names are used on resumes and class lists.

Right now you have two conflicting preferences: one is to use a gender-specific name, and the other is to use your maiden name. You can only meet one of those two preferences. Which one weighs more, if you put them on a balance scale? Which one gives you more happiness to think about?

It may be that it will work better for your family to use Tatum as a middle name. You could even call him Tatum/Tate, but then on the resume it would be, for example, “Patrick Tatum Bronson”: completely gender-specific, and he can tell them later to call him Tate.

[Readers: note from the 4-years-ago post that Drew is a nickname, not the given name. The given name is gender-specific.]

Baby Boy or Girl, Poolick-with-a-D, Sibling to Marshall and Andrew

Okay, Swistle. I really need your help. We’ve made zero headway on our baby’s name and he/she is due in less than 3 weeks. I have two boys named Marshall David and Andrew Jefferson. We don’t know the gender of this baby.

Here are my only specifics:

1. No nicknames.
2. No names that start with “M” or “A.”
3. I like honor names.

For a boy, we have a few options: Conley Asher, Bennett Conley, or Bennett Eli. Conley is my mom’s maiden name. Asher is after my sister Ashley. Eli is after my mother-in-law. Bennett because I just love the name and meaning. What do you think sounds best with Marshall and Andrew? Brooks is family name too, but I am afraid that Brooks doesn’t sound good with our last name (rhymes with Poolick, but starts with a “D”).

For a girl, we are lost. Names we’ve considered:

1. Charlotte Elizabeth. When Duchess Kate used Charlotte Elizabeth for her daughter, I started to reconsider. Do you think it will become outrageously popular? Charlotte and Elizabeth are both honor names. Plus, a cousin who is due after me told me this is her name for a girl before I could say that it’s been our list since we had Marshall four years ago. So, I am not sure what to do with that.
2. Grace Elizabeth. Both honor names. It seems a bit boring/vanilla.
3. Eleanor Kate. My husband’s family is from New England so I am nervous she’ll be called “Elean-nah” and not “Eleanor.” I don’t like that.
4. Conley Elizabeth. I am not just sure if Conley can be used on a girl. Kind of leaning towards Conley right now.

Other honor names: Brooks, James, Conley, Carson, Charles, Footer, Kelly

Other names we considered: Lucy, Eliza, Jillian, Emma, Caroline, Sawyer, Eli, Jack

Any names we missed? Any suggestions? HELP!

Thanks in advance.


Baby Naming Issue: How Do You Pronounce the Name Jana?

Hi Swistle,

I’ve been reading your blog for several months now and I love it. My question is this.

I have a baby sister whose name is Jana. It took my parents ages to come up with a name. She was un-named for several days as my parents and my family tried to come up with one!

Anyway, I was wondering, what is the correct pronunciation for her first name, Jana?

We pronounce it like Janna (rhymes with Anna). We have, however, run into lots of people who try to call her Yana (I think this is the middle eastern pronunciation??), Jah-na, and even Jane-a!

So, how would you pronounce it? I don’t really mind what the ‘correct’ pronunciation is, I am just curious as to how you and your readers would say it.

Thanks awfully!


As with many names, the name Jana has more than one familiar pronunciation. The question “What is the correct pronunciation?” would be answered in this case with “It rhymes with Anna”—because that is the pronunciation the parents have decided to go with.

A similar name is Lucia. It can correctly be pronounced loo-SEE-ah, loo-CHEE-ah, or LOO-sha. Another is Helena: heh-LAY-na, HEH-leh-nah, heh-LEE-nah.

Part of the package deal of a name with multiple pronunciations is that the pronunciation will regularly need to be clarified and corrected. Names with multiple spellings are similar: parents who choose the name Annabel are signing on for the task of saying “two N’s, one L”—and for being patient when they need to correct it on class lists, forms, etc., or when they see it spelled wrong on party invitations, valentines, and letters.

One of my own preferences is to have a quick and easy way to clarify/correct. In your little sister’s case, you have a great one: “rhymes with Anna” is quick, easy, and clear for spoken clarifications. In writing, it would be unclear whether Anna was pronounced ANN-ah or AH-na, so I might go with something like “Like the name Jan, but with an -a on the end.” Or “Like the ‘a’ in ‘apple’.”

If I saw the name Jana on a class list, I would know right away that it could be pronounced several different ways. The first pronunciation that comes to mind is YAH-na (my ancestry is mostly Dutch and German, so Jan-pronounced-Yahn and Jana-pronounced YAH-na are familiar family-tree names), but my first actual guess would be the rhymes-with-Anna version. I would probably say, “JAN-ah, YAH-nah, JAH-nah?” to cover my bases when saying it for the first time. I don’t think I’d guess JAY-nah, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that turned out to be the answer. Worldwide, my guess is that YAH-nah is the most common (the Forvo listing is made up almost entirely of YAH-nahs); in the United States, my guess it that JAN-ah is the most common—but the Social Security name lists don’t deal with pronunciation at all, so that’s purely a guess.

Baby Boy Verbell


I am due September 5th with our first child. We are having a boy, and we are completely stumped on a name!

Some names we like are Luca, Sebastian, and Milan. My husband has suggested Luca Dean (which I like, but fear that it sounds too similar to Dean and Deluca). He also likes Sebastian Cruz, which I like but I’m not sure if it’s too much?? We can’t think of anything that goes with Milan, any suggestions? I haven’t been able to settle on a name because I feel like I’m missing something, or that I’m close to what I’m looking for but just not there yet….

Surname sounds like Ver-bell.

Some names we had on our list Rylan, Jaylen, Desmin, Royce and Remy.

I would most appreciate any and all feedback on what we have, as well as warmly welcome suggestions on names we might have missed, and name combinations/middle name suggestions, etc.

I look forward to hearing from you! I have truly enjoyed reading your blog posts! I can’t wait to hear what help you have to offer, and to happily report back a final name we settle on!

Best regards,



In some families, the middle name is in everyday usage; but in most families, it’s a special occasion name for birth announcements, discipline, and graduations. Luca Dean gave me a flash of recognition (I don’t know how long it would have taken me to think specifically of Dean and Deluca; it just felt very familiar for a reason I couldn’t put a finger on), but the daily-use name Luca Verbell doesn’t have that issue. Sebastian Cruz may seem like too much, but most people will only hear Sebastian Verbell.

I think I’d like to start by seeing if we can get a handle on your naming style. Rylan and Jaylen are both modern names. Sebastian and Royce feel vintage-revival and gentlemanly. Milan, Jaylen, Remy, Rylan, and Luca are unisex to various degrees. Luca, Milan, Sebastian, and Remy have international flair. Royce is an interesting pick: familiar, and yet quite unusual. I’m not familiar with the name Desmin, and might suggest Desmond unless you have a particular reason for using the unusual variation. It looks to me like for the most part you like suave, not-too-macho, not-too-common names. I see a lot of R and L sounds.

Do you think you’re likely to try for more children after this one? If so, I’d suggest thinking ahead to sibling names, and thinking about how much you’d like them to coordinate. If you’d prefer some coordination, this is a good time to pick between, say, the Jaylen path and the Sebastian path.

Every parent feels differently about unisex names: some people love them, some people avoid them, some people get angry about how our society tends to use “boy names” for girls but not “girl names” for boys. What I like to do is limit the discussion as much as possible to usage facts: not discussing whether names “should” be used for one sex or the other, but only showing how the names are currently used in the United States, and leaving it up to the parents after that. Here is the U.S. usage for 2014:

Luca: 67F, 2291M
Lucca: 40F, 319M
Luka: 16F, 489M

Milan: 424F, 748M

Rylan: 339F, 1726M
Rylen: 43F, 205M
Rylin: 67F, 7M
Rylinn: 228F, 11M
Rylynn: 183F, 8M

Remy: 278F, 424M
Remi: 429F, 88M

Jaylen: 156F, 1082M
Jaylyn: 165F, 36M
Jaylynn: 416F, 17M

(I gave up on Rylan and Jaylen variations: there were just too many, and I hadn’t even started on the Ril- and Jal- spellings yet! To summarize: unisex, used overall more often for boys, but the -lan/-len endings lend themselves to -lyn/-lynn variations.)

For something to go with Milan, I started by saying “Milan ____ Verbell” over and over, with a little pause between, to see if a rhythm would feel right. The first one I thought of was a dah-DAH-dah type of name. Milan Jacoby Verbell. Milan Elijah Verbell. Milan Tobias Verbell. Milan Augustus Verbell.

But then I realized I was saying ver-BELL. If the emphasis is more on the first syllable, I still like Jacoby and the rest of them, but I’d add some basic two-syllable, emphasis-on-the-first-syllable, traditional names: Milan Robert Verbell, Milan Joseph Verbell, Milan Henry Verbell.


With Milan, Rylan, and Jaylen on your list, I wonder if you’d like the name Nolan. It has that suave sound to me. Nolan Verbell.

Or Alan. I’m not sure I’ve mentioned that name in awhile, but it was in our top seven finalists for Henry. I think we’d just watched a documentary with Alan Alda, and I was admiring his calm, friendly personality. Alan Verbell.

Or Lance. That’s got the -lan/-len sound and also the -ce of Royce. Lance Verbell.

Or Bryce. Bryce Verbell.

Or Brooks. Brooks Verbell.

But I feel like these last few are getting a little preppier than what you’re looking for. Maybe more like:

Adrian Verbell
Dean Verbell
Elliot Verbell
Emmett Verbell
Everett Verbell
Flynn Verbell
Graham Verbell
Grant Verbell
Julian Verbell
Louis Verbell
Miles Verbell
Phineas Verbell
Reid Verbell
Rhys Verbell
Simon Verbell
Theodore Verbell

Baby Girl W., Sister to Kingston and Arizona

please help!

I am due with my third baby at the end of this month and my husband and I still cannot seem to settle on a name. Our last name is two syllables and starts with a W.

We have a son, Kingston, and a daughter, Arizona, and we are expecting another girl (yay!). We don’t want another place name, but would like something that goes with those names and their style.

Names we have considered:

Honor- we both like this name because of the “on” that it shares with the other two names, but struggle with feeling like it may give too soft of a personality image to give to a baby who may end up being completely opposite.

Quinn- already have a boy nephew with this name. Love the Q and that it has the “n” ending like Kingston.

Ember- we love the meaning and look of it but I can’t help feeling like everyone will think her name is Amber, which is a name I am really not fond of.

Penny- my husbands favorite. I like it as a nickname but don’t like it on its own or any of the longer forms that it could be used with (ie. Penelope, aspen, Persephone etc)

Sunday- another name my husband has said no to. I love sunny as a nickname and its bright, happy sound. He thinks it’s too far from a normal name, which I can understand.

Gray- we love this name but aren’t sure if we can use it since we already have a child who shares a name with someone from the show grey’s anatomy, and also don’t know how well we feel it goes with the names of the other kids.

Any feedback would be appreciated. We have scoured countless name sites and read too many name lists and are running out of time!



Baby Boy or Girl H!ll

Good Morning! My husband and I are in the process of starting our family soon and love talking baby names, but are struggling to set on a name! (Plus, we are the TWO most indecisive people I know…) To start, our last name is H!ll. A few things…
1. We don’t want a first name that can be nicknamed, and 2. we want the middle name (or first!) to be an honor name.
At this point, we think we will keep our family small with only one or two little babes :)

We have some boy names we LOVE but can’t decide. The following are our favorite combos:
-Jack Anderson (Anderson is an honor name)
-Judd Anderson OR Judd August (Our wedding month)
-Beau Anderson
-Hank Anderson

And as far as girl names… ugh. So many to choose! We love classic, older names. We were both raised in the midwest, but now live in the south and have fallen in love with older, southern sounding names.
Some names we love:
-Hattie or Haddie

Some girl names I love, but he isn’t crazy about:
-Seraphina ( I know, I know… this one could be nicknamed ;)

Honor names we like but don’t know what to do with:

Thanks so much! I love your blog :)


I am going to stay fairly general, since it’s early days. It can be so much easier to make a decision when there is a baby growing and a due date impending, and it helps considerably that you both love to discuss names. (I’m so envious of that last part. Paul was more the “Ug, do we HAVE to talk about baby names?? You’re only 8 months pregnant!” type.)

My first note is to make sure you’re trying your name candidates without the middle name, since that’s the way they’ll mostly be said and used. If you are saying aloud, “Beau Anderson H!ll,” that’s a very different sound than “Beau H!ll.”

My second note is that your surname is little tricky. First names ending in a hard C/K sound tend to make H!ll into Kill, and I noticed that a lot of combinations brought associations to mind. Jack H!ll, for example, makes me think of Jack and Jill going up the hill. Annie H!ll makes me think of Annie Hall. Hank H!ll makes me think of Hank H!ll from King of the Hill, even though I haven’t watched that show since the late ’90s. Are any of these Giant Serious Concerns? No, and a couple of those references get more dated by the day—but they’re the sorts of things I like to take into account when making a decision, rather than getting surprised by them as I start announcing the baby’s name.

My third note is to watch for style outliers. For example, looking over your list of girl names, Ramsey is a stand-out. If you have one child, or if you prefer sibling names not to coordinate, this isn’t an issue; if, however, sisters named Ramsey and Vivienne strike you as startling, it’s good to have thought of that ahead of time.

You’ve got some great honor names to work with. My suggestion there is to work first on the first name: add any honor names you might want to use as first names to the list, and narrow that list down. Once you’re down to your finalist first names, start bringing in the middle names. If, for example, you have your girl-name list down to Caroline or Hattie, then start pairing them up with honor middle names: Caroline Olivia H!ll, Hattie Anderson H!ll, Caroline August H!ll, Hattie Rose H!ll, etc. If, on the other hand, you decided on Annie or Rose or Anderson as a first name, you could then look for non-honor names for the middle names: perhaps names that weren’t quite right as first names but you still want to use them.

Baby Naming Issue: An Ex Used One of Our Finalist Names

Hi Swistle,

I have been a long time reader of your blog. Love it! I’m also a baby name fanatic.

I had written you previously about naming our second baby girl. Her name is Amelia. Today I see through some photos a friend posted on Facebook that an ex of mine is having a baby girl. He and his wife has chosen our second choice name. The name that we ultimately did not choose. But I can’t help this feeling of having been stolen from. It isn’t as if they knew this name was at the top of our list, a frontrunner, a favorite name. They have without knowing stolen this name from me.

I know this is not your typical baby naming issue but I am hoping you may have some advice for me. I think in the way way way back of my mind I was hoping to ‘save’ the name for a future daughter. Is this name off the table? Am I forbidden to use it? We have quite an overlap of friends and social circles.

Thanks for any advice you can offer.


The short answer is that you are not forbidden to use it, but that I would indeed say it is off the table.

There are times when I would emphasize to parents that names are multi-use items (there are many other people named Amelia, for example, but that didn’t mean you couldn’t use the name Amelia), and I would add that duplication can be fun.

This is not one of those times. THIS falls into a different category, where the use of a particular name is packed with so much symbolism and/or so many potential issues, it causes me to flip right over to the “There are so many other names to choose from; why choose THIS one?” side of the name-duplication argument. If you and your ex had each named a daughter the same name inadvertently and unknowingly, that would be awkward enough; I think it would be a very poor idea to do it knowingly. It might be a useful mental exercise to imagine how it would feel if your ex named his new baby Amelia, knowing you had used the name already.

I think what is needed at this point is Coping Thoughts: thoughts to make yourself feel better about the loss of the name. One is this part of your letter: “I think in the way way way back of my mind I was hoping to ‘save’ the name for a future daughter.” After my first read-through of the letter, I was feeling as if the name in question was your chosen first-choice name if you had another girl later on; after re-reading, it sounds more as if that idea to use the rejected name for a future daughter didn’t fully occur to you until after you saw that your ex was going to use it. I wonder if the issue is more that it was very startling to see your second-choice name on an ex’s child, combined with the natural human feeling of wanting something more when it is no longer available.

Another Coping Thought is that it’s very possible that, if your ex hadn’t used the name, you wouldn’t have used it either. Many parents find that by the time the next baby comes along, they’ve cooled on previous finalists or have discovered new favorites.

If I’ve correctly assumed that your ex’s baby is not yet born, there is also a slim possibility that they won’t use the name either. (This could be a False Hope Thought rather than a Coping Thought.)

It is also of course a possibility that you will not have a third daughter, and so the issue won’t come up at all. This is more a Coping Thought for the future: looking back, you may be able to say, “We wouldn’t have been able to use the name anyway.”

I’m finding it interesting to wonder about the other names on your ex’s list. Wouldn’t it be interesting if they had Amelia on their list, and had to scramble for a new favorite?

Baby Name to Consider: Ferris

Hi Swistle,

I have recently fell in love with the name Ferris. I think it’s fun and spunky and mischevious and that’s exactly the personality I’ve seen from our baby whilst in utero. It’s rare, unusual name without sounding too bizarre to our older relatives. I think Ferris John M@rino the perfect name for our child, if our child is a boy.

While my husband also loves the name Ferris, he’s concerned about the association with Ferris Bueller and that our child will get “Bueller? Bueller?” for his whole life and that people will think we named our baby after a movie character. I don’t think the Bueller connection is a bad one. I actually think it’s kind of fun! And we do love the character and the movie and the idea of slowing down and enjoying the world around you. I totally get that our child will hear about Ferris Bueller from my generation and older, I don’t see that as a bad thing.

My husband prefers the name Lindon John M@rino, which I also like but it doesn’t have the same sparkle and excitement to me. My heart is set on Ferris – How can I convince him??

For reference, if the baby is a girl, she will be Ruby Diane. My name is Meredith and my husband is Jay. Other names that we liked but eventually decided against for boys are: Shepard, Perry, Calvin, Cameron, Brooks, Ian, Darcy and Edwin.

Baby M@rino is due in 4 weeks. Please help Swistle!

Thank you!


I have an instant, strong, positive, nearly exclusive association with Ferris Bueller. I also think of Ferris wheels.

Although the association is positive, a quick field test at my house showed a nearly universal impulse to say “Bueller?… Bueller?” in that familiar flat Ben Stein voice. Paul also immediately said, “Save Ferris!” I do think those knee-jerk movie-quote reactions could get tiresome.

As an aside, re-reading this post, I realized it’s interesting the association is positive. It’s a tribute to the charm of the actor and character that a movie in which a person repeatedly ditches his obligations, lies to and manipulates his parents (so successfully and so long-term that they think they have a completely different kid), pressures and manipulates others to do things against their will, steals a car, takes over a parade in a successful yet behavior-worrisome way, etc., still ends up leaving an impression about slowing down and enjoying life. It’s that famous quote, I think, the one that so many people used (and probably still use) under their senior pictures.

I think if I were set on the name, I might consider it as a perfect fun middle name. John Ferris M@rino is handsome. You could even call him John Ferris: I think double names are fun, and can spruce up a name such as John.

Or you could just go with it, accepting the mentioned downsides as part of the package deal of the name. “YES, after the guy in the movie: we love him, and we love the whole message of that movie.” “Yes. Ha ha. Bueller. I see what you did there.”