Baby Girl Kielstra, Sister to Rylah

Good Evening,
So recently my cousin mentioned your blog and how you help with coming up with names. I am at a total loss as to even where to begin. I have looked through countless names and well there are many names I like either my husband veto’s them or I feel they don’t go well with our other daughter’s name. We have a daughter already and her name is Rylah Mae Kielstra. It was a name that my 95 year old grandma gave me and I immediately fell in love with the name. It is unique but not yet so different that its hard to pronounce. I am finding it very hard to come up with another unique name that works with Rylah’s name. I can’t even give you one name that my husband and I both agree on. Our baby girl will be born this January so I still have time. I am thinking her middle name will be Kathryn as that is my mother’s middle name. The problem is a need a simpler first name as Kathryn Kielstra is already a mouth full. Would love some advice and help with a few names that you might think would work for our new addition.

Heidi Kielstra


The name Rylah makes me think of two groups of names: the Ryan/Ryleigh/Kyle/Kylie group, and the Isla/Lila/Layla/Lyla/Mila/Ella group. It reminds me most of names such as Kayla and Kyla, which combine a strong long-vowel first syllable with a gentler feminine ending.

I would suggest doing that again: taking two sounds that are not normally paired but COULD be. Some of the combinations will be names that already exist and are common (Ev + lyn = Evelyn), some will be amusing mismatches or the wrong style, and some can be added to the Maybe list.

Or it might be easier to find a name that already exists, and change part of it, the way you could have started with Riley or Lilah or Kyla to get Rylah. Are there any names you already like, but feel are the wrong style or too common? For example, if you said you loved the name Emily but it didn’t coordinate with the style of Rylah, I might suggest Emlyn or Emryn or Ellery. Or if you loved Avery but it was too common, I might suggest Ayven or Averly or Avaleigh.

But check the Social Security Administration’s data base for name popularity: sometimes a combination of two appealing sounds can be exactly the sort of thing everyone else is also noticing and using. And check alternate spellings: for example, for the name Rylah I’d look for Rilah, Ryla, Rila, etc.

You could also poke around in that data base for seldom-used names. If you follow the link in the previous paragraph and then click on “Background Information” and then click on “Beyond the Top 1000,” you can download a list of all the names used at least five times each year. Starting at the rare end of the list, I found possibilities such as Zaryn, Tamlyn, Nolyn, Mavery, Graylynn, Emrie, Cambrey, Britlyn. (Again, check alternate spellings: sometimes I’d see a name and think, “Oh! That’s different!”—and then realize it was just a different way to spell a popular name.)

If you can, I’d wait to choose the middle name. That is, are there other candidates you could use (your mother’s first name, another relative’s name), if you finally find a name the two of you agree on and doesn’t work with Kathryn? When it is very challenging for two parents to find a name they agree on, I suggest removing as many limitations as possible.

Middle Name Challenge: Shepard _______ Strattman

Hi Swistle,
My husband and I are expecting our baby boy in December. My first name is Alleigh and my husbands name is Cole and our last name is Strattman. We have planned on using my husbands middle name Shepard since before we got pregnant but now that we’re nearing our due date were both second guessing our choice. I think mostly because we can’t find a middle name that doesn’t sound biblical next to Shepard. Not that there’s anything wrong with that but not for us. We plan on using Shep as a nickname.
We don’t really have many other names since we thought Shep was our name but some middle names we have tossed around are Oliver, Wolfe,or Occy. The O names are throwing us because of the initials being S.O.S. Weird? We came up with Wolf because it’s the Gaelic translation for my pasted brothers name Whalen.
I need some reassurance that were making the right choice with first name and some suggestions for middle names. Please help!


One of the issues I run into with occupational names is that they do seem to make middle names tricky. For example, I like the name Miller. But many of the middle names I pair it with make it sound as if Miller is the occupation and the middle name is the first name: e.g., Miller John sounds like he should be friends with Farmer James and Baker Joseph. The spelling Shepard should seem more like a surname than an occupation, and it does help, but I still get the Farmer James effect.

I think older, traditional names tend to have more of this effect (and also more of the biblical effect), and modern names tend to have less. For example, Shepard Braden Strattman seems neither biblical nor “Farmer James” to me. Shepard Luke sounds biblical; Shepard Bryce does not.

Another possibility is to use a surname as the middle name. Some people don’t like three surnames in a row, but I don’t mind it, especially if the surnames are also sometimes used as first names. Do you have any nice surnames in the family? Perhaps your maiden name, or your mother’s maiden name? I’m picturing something like Shepard Harris Strattman, or Shepard Phillips Strattman.

Another possibility is to reverse your husband’s first and middle: Shepard Cole Strattman doesn’t give me either a biblical or Farmer James issue. But perhaps that would end up being confusing, or perhaps that is just a little too much of the dad’s name.

I do think I’d avoid the O. initial for the middle. I don’t think it would be impossible to have the initials S.O.S., but if you don’t have a strong reason to use an O. name, I think it would be better to start by seeing if you can find a non-O. name you like.

I would avoid Wolfe with Shepard. The sheep/shepherd/wolf thing starts to seem like a theme.

I assume we have an autocorrect issue going on with “pasted brothers,” but I think the name Whalen has great potential. I wouldn’t translate it into Gaelic; I’d just use Whalen. Shepard Whalen Strattman.

If you’re both having doubts about the first-name choice, I don’t see anything wrong with spending some time exploring other possibilities: saying, “Okay, Shepard is still our frontrunner, but let’s see if we can find other candidates to consider.” Maybe you’ll find other names you like just as much, and Shepard can be the middle name. Or maybe when you look for other options, you will find yourselves increasingly certain that the name Shepard is your definite first choice.

I wouldn’t discard it only because of the trouble finding a middle name; if worst came to worst, you could even skip a middle name altogether. Even if you ended up choosing something biblical or Farmer-Jamesy, the middle name is not likely to come up very often; mostly he will just be Shepard/Shep Strattman.

Baby Naming Issue: Husband Agreed to Use His Mother’s Name, Without Asking His Wife

I know that you have been asked questions about middle names before, however, I am at a loss about this one. My husband and I are expecting baby #2. We have agreed upon a first name, Layla and even a middle name, which is my middle name as well as my mom’s middle name. My mom is a beautiful, loving person who takes care of our first child during the week, so naming our child after her was never an issue at all. My husband’s mother however, just asked him to name our daughter’s second middle name after her, which he agreed to without asking me! Let’s put aside the fact that 2 middle names seems a bit much. This woman is not a nice woman by any stretch of the imagination. She has always been verbally abusive to my husband and never agreed about our marriage for no other reason than the fact that my husband had a bad first marriage experience. She has never met me, never spoken to me and never even called me to congratulate me on our first child. My husband is a forgiving man and chalks it up to this is how she is and has let it go and moved on and since this will make her happy, why not?

I, on the other hand, find it hard to accept. I consider myself a very spiritual person and do believe in positive energies, and although it may sound odd, I do not want to associate such a negative person to our innocent child. I want a beautiful clean slate for her and not have her name associated with someone who has been chronically negative all her life.

I explained this to my husband, and he said if he can let the past go, why can’t I? And if this is going to make her happy, why not do it and that I am being selfish especially since our son’s middle name is my father’s middle name, which he wasn’t a big fan of. I explained, that my father is a loving man who has embraced him and our family and of course watches over our son with my mom during the week as well. There is no comparison! He said that if she was here, she would help as well. She is not the type of person who I would even want influencing our children.

Is it wrong to say no?

I told him I would tell his mom, no, if he doesn’t want to tell her. Which means our first conversation would be me explaining why I don’t want our child to be named after her. But I feel that I rather do that, then subject my daughter to a horrible name!

Am I being close minded???



There is an enormous and immediate problem here, and it is all your husband’s fault. Let’s see if we can find a way to make that clear to him.

Here are the things that do matter, but are not the primary issue:

1. That your mother-in-law is a piece of work.
2. That her name would have a very negative association for you.
3. That you’d prefer not to use two middle names.
4. That your husband has forgiven his mother.
5. That he thinks his mother WOULD help with the kids if she were nearby.
6. That you would not want her to do so.
7. That the middle name he agreed to for the first child is your father’s middle name.
8. That your parents are good choices for honor names.

Here is what hugely matters:

1. That your husband made a decision about your baby’s name, with someone other than you, and without your agreement or consent.

That is such a violation, it makes me a little dizzy. Step one, and this must be done, is for him to call or write or email his mother and say, in whatever words work for him and for his relationship with her: “Mom, I made a terrible mistake. When you asked the other day if we’d give our daughter your name, I was an idiot and said yes without even thinking about it, or consulting my wife. Obviously I should have said that I would talk it over with her. And the thing is, Mom, we’ve already agreed on this baby’s name; it’s already settled. So we won’t be using your name for this baby.”

That last sentence is to save face and soften the blow: she can be left with the idea that it might very well happen with a future baby. He may say this ONLY if he can pull it off WITHOUT saying her name WILL be used for a future baby. He must FULLY UNDERSTAND this BEFORE having the conversation, or I believe he WILL end up promising. If he is talking with her in real-time, he needs a script that prepares him for what she is likely to say/ask, and he should practice. Something like, if she says “Well, the NEXT baby then for sure,” he can say lightly, “Ha ha! We’re just taking it one baby at a time, Mom!” Or if she says, “It’s not fair, the first two babies BOTH have HER parents’ names!,” he can say, “And they both have our family’s last name, Mom,” or “Well, really we just liked the names,” or “Well, Layla’s middle name is actually J.’s middle name—it just happens to also be her mom’s middle name,” or WHATEVER he can say that does NOT involve making ANY promises or making YOU look bad again in the future.

Your husband’s behavior has, unfortunately, put you in a terrible position. When he says yes to his mother, and then comes back and says no, the absolutely clear conclusion drawn by all parties will be that YOU said no. He looks like the good guy; you look like the bad guy. This is why this must never, never, never happen again. It is an enormous violation of the marital bond, and he needs to realize it: if he continues to fail to understand that point, I might go so far as to recommend professional counseling to help him understand it. He must never, ever, ever again make you look bad in order to make his mother happy. Never. He clearly has a tricky relationship with her, and he may have reasons for finding it hard to say no to her, but he must understand that he can’t use his marriage or your reputation as currency to buy approval from his mother, and he can’t make you into the bad guy when he does the wrong thing. It worries me that he would rather call you selfish and imply that you have a hard time letting go of the past, than take responsibility for his major error in judgment.

I am reminded of my first husband. We agreed that we wanted our first Christmas together to be just the two of us. We let both families know, way ahead of time. Then, several days before Christmas, my husband’s dad called. I listened in increasing horror as my husband first said, “No, we’re having our first Christmas just the two of us,” then after a little while said that HE wanted to go home for Christmas but I was the one who wanted it just the two of us, and then, finally, fatefully, agreed that we would indeed go spend Christmas with his parents. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what made that marriage end, but when I think back on it, that moment, and his failure to understand how serious a violation his behavior was (“But my dad said my mom was REALLY UPSET we weren’t coming”), was certainly a serious, serious crack.

You will have to take the fall for your husband’s mistake, I’m sorry to say. There is no getting away from it, which is why this can only happen once. His mother WILL end up thinking that her son wanted to name his daughter after her, but that his wife refused. I suggest breathing slowly in through the nose, out through the mouth. The situation at this time is the equivalent of your husband saying that HE wants to go home for Christmas, but YOU don’t. He has been a colossal idiot, but your daughter has not yet in fact been given his mother’s name, and so there is time to at least save that—and that is well worth saving.

I suggest, when you discuss this with your husband, staying on track. When he tries to divert the discussion to whether or not his mother would help with the children if she were nearby, to whether or not his mother was a good person, to whether or not he or you should forgive her, to whether or not it makes you selfish to not want to use his mother’s name, to what the two of you agreed to name your first child, you may need to again and again bring it back to this point: he is not allowed to make a decision on THIS child’s name without YOUR agreement.

The two of you AGREED to use your father’s middle name as your first child’s middle name; the two of you have NOT agreed to use his mother’s first name as this child’s middle name. The two of you may also agree that it’s best to let go of the past and for him to forgive his mother; that does not mean the two of you agreed to use his mother’s name as this child’s middle name. The two of you might or might not agree that his mother would/should help with the children if she were nearby; that does not mean the two of you agreed to use his mother’s name as this child’s middle name. The two of you may even at some point agree to use his mother’s name as a child’s middle name; that does not mean he can make that decision without you.

You and your husband are treating this as if it is an argument about the pros and cons of using his mother’s name. But it is not: it is an argument about whether he may or may not name the baby without your consent. He and his mother are not in charge of naming this baby; you and he are in charge of naming this baby. You and he together decided on Layla as her first name, and on your middle name as her middle name. He absolutely may say that he wants to revisit that decision; he absolutely may not make a new decision without you.

Baby Naming Issue: Are Otto and Margot Too Much -o for One Family?

Dear Swistle,

I’m newly pregnant with my first baby and my husband and I are discussing names and would love your feedback. My husband is fond of vetoing names, but rarely offers any suggestions. He LOVES the name Otto for a boy. always has. I’m fine with Otto. I preferr other names, but given my husband’s enthusiasm, I can accept it.

In terms of girls’ names that go with Otto (assuming we have a boy/girl sib set), we’ve reached an impasse. I have always loved the name Margot. My aunt had a friend with the name and I remember thinking how unique and chic it sounded. My mother-in-law’s name is Margaret, so there’s a bit of a nod there. Also, a good friend of mine is named Maura with nickname Mo and I would love to use that nickname for Margot. My husband likes the name but not with Otto.

Do you think Otto and Margot are too much “o” for one family? Stylistically do they mesh? Do you have other suggestions for girl names that go with Otto?

The baby’s surname is Swedish, starts with an E and is pronounced “ayng-strom”. We live in the San Francisco bay area where anything goes and we prefer names that are old, and unique but familiar.

My husband likes Clara (I like but Claire is popular and it kind of reminds me of Jenna to Jennifer in terms of being a take off of a popular name) and Alice (will be too popular, I think). I like Vivian (we have friends and family with the name so can’t use it), Josephine, Violet, Francis, Iris and Adele (none of which my husband likes). We absolutely can’t have an E name since we both have E names and with the surname do not want or need any more.

Your thought on Margot and Otto and any other suggestions is greatly appreciated.



My first thought is that the scale seems very evenly balanced here: your husband has long loved the name Otto, and you like it well enough; you have long loved the name Margot, and he likes it well enough. If the two of you decide that you don’t want to use both names, I suggest using the first baby as the tie-breaker: if you have a girl, you use Margot and forgo Otto; if you have a boy, you use Otto and forgo Margot. The worst, I think, would be to give up the name Margot because of wanting to use Otto later—and then have only girls.

But I would like to urge you to consider using both names and not worrying about the matched endings. If the two names sound definitely BAD together to your husband, all the urging in the world isn’t going to change that. But perhaps it’s more of a feeling that OTHER people will think it’s not a good idea, or a feeling that it breaks a rule to have matched endings. The matched endings DO catch my attention, but not in a negative way. And I think the two names are very well coordinated, stylistically.

Another possibility, depending on how you feel about your mother-in-law, is to name a daughter Margaret but call her Margo and Mo as nicknames. I think Otto and Margaret are a smashing pair of sibling names, and I find nickname issues far less concerning than given-name issues.

Are you hoping to have more than two children? If so, another possibility is to take a bit of a gamble: use Otto or Margot for the first baby, then use the second baby as a spacer, and then use the remaining name for the next eligible baby. That is, if you have Otto, Alice, and Margot, the matched sounds of -o and -ot are less obvious. Otto, Alice, Quentin, and Margot is even less obvious.

If the decision is to use only Otto OR Margot, perhaps the other name can be used for another child’s middle name.

For another girl name to go with Otto, I suggest Celeste. It has some of the sound of names such as Alice, Frances, and Iris, and I think it falls into the category of “chic”: a different sort of chic than Margot, but still chic.

I’d also suggest Meredith. Stylish, and underused but familiar.

Or Fiona, which has the -fi- and the long-O of Josephine.

Instead of Clara, I’d suggest Cora.

I’d put strong support behind Alice from your husband’s list: Otto and Alice is so charming to me.

I’d suggest also thinking ahead to brother names for Otto and sister names for Margot. This too may help decide between the two names, if you find one task more difficult than the other.

Baby Girl Moorhouse: Charlie Rose, Ella Rose, or Ruby Rose


We are due to have our first baby, a little girl on 9th October.

We have decided on Rose as her middle name after husband’s mother, Rosemary.
Last name is Moorhouse.

We have narrowed down first name to:

We want a 2 syllable name preferably and it’s hard cos there are lots of girls names in the family taken!!

My sister has 3 girls already:
Lydia Anne (great-grandmother / mum names) age 4
Evie May (May from other great-grandmother) age 2.5
Macy Ella, also age 2.5 (twins)

Plus in the family there is:
Willow Kate (6mths)
Sienna May (2)
Ivy Lyn (6)
Stella (born stillborn a year ago)

We also liked Emme & Audrey (but not with Moorhouse) and used to like Isabella and Charlotte (but now too popular)

Hubby favors Charlie and I am torn as I don’t want her to always be mistaken for a boy. Hubby doesn’t like Ruby Rose as its the Australian actor/model who isn’t a great role model…

So we are thinking Charlie or Ella but I’m so confused!!!


I do think of the actor Ruby Rose, though the first thing I notice is the two shades of red.

My immediate association with Charlie Rose is the TV show Charlie Rose and its host Charlie Rose. I’ve never seen the show, and might not be able to pick the host out of a line-up, yet the association sprang to my mind.

I don’t think the associations need to rule out the names, since many middle names go unused—but it’s so fun to say Ruby Rose and Charlie Rose and Ella Rose, I could see this middle name being used more than some. Also, since it’s an honor name, it would be pleasing to draw attention to it. Also, it sounds as if you’d rather not use Charlie Rose and your husband would rather not use Ruby Rose, but both of you like Ella Rose. So from your list of finalists, the option that seems most pleasing to me is Ella Rose.

Another possibility is to go back to Charlotte, and use Charlie as the nickname. This solves two problems: the Charlie Rose association, and your concern that she will be always mistaken for a boy. It increases the popularity of the name somewhat, but I’m not sure using Charlie to decrease popularity is a worthwhile trade: naming a girl Jenny 40 years ago wouldn’t have kept her separate from the popularity of the name Jennifer. And using Charlotte gives her more possibilities: she can use Charlie, or Lottie, or Charlotte.

Another possibility is to use the original name Rosemary, instead of Rose: Charlie Rosemary, Ruby Rosemary, Ella Rosemary. This has three benefits: one, it significantly reduces the associations with Charlie Rose and Ruby Rose; two, it increases the honor to your husband’s mother; and three, Rose is a very popular middle name choice right now, and one of your preferences is for a less popular name. All three options feel fresher to me with Rosemary.

Baby Girl ________ Sophia

Hi Swistle!

My boyfriend and I are expecting a baby girl at the very end of November. We have *a* name picked out that we would/could use as either first or middle name, but my best friend’s daughter shares the same name, so I feel like we have to use it as a middle name, which is proving very difficult to find a smooth first name. Anyways, the name we have settled on is Sophia. It’s his grandmother’s name, so that’s the only reason I considered it (not because I don’t like it… I love it, but due to my bff’s daughter’s name).

My grandmothers’ names are Natalie Grace and Elizabeth (something, apparently she has kind of a goofy middle name and won’t share it…) and I’d like to try and come up with some combination of using grandmothers’ names for our little nugget.
I like Natalie Sophia Grace (having 2 middle names) but I feel like it’s a mouthful, and I’m not super sold on Natalie as a first name (and my 2nd cousin’s 1st name is Natalie).

I *really* like the name Nora Sophia, but it’s a mouthful of vowels especially with the surname, and I’m not sure I like that, either…

My original pick for a name (before my boyfriend decided to pitch in) was Quorra (like from the movie Tron… It’s pronounced like “Cora”) and a middle name Madeline (Maddelynn pronunciation) but he’s not sold on that name, either. Quorra Madeline.

I don’t like all the trendy names, and I definitely want a girly sort of spunk. I don’t want her to have the same name as 20 other kids in her class, I want something a little more original, without being too “out there.” We are both of German heritage, and I also Irish.

Please help!!
Thank you!


I don’t think Natalie Sophia Grace is too much of a mouthful. It would be a long name if you were planning to say the whole thing each time, but with few exceptions middle names tend to gracefully disappear after the birth announcements are sent out. On the first day of class, the teacher won’t call out “Natalie Sophia Grace Surname?,” she’ll just say “Natalie Surname?”

My only hesitation with the name is that it uses the first AND middle of one of your grandmothers, and nothing from the other. I don’t think there’s any reason honor names have to be evenly distributed, but if this is your first child, and if you’d like to have more children later, I wonder if this name problem could be solved by saving some of the grandmother names for possible future daughters, instead of using Natalie, Sophia, and Grace on the very first child. It’s rare to have such a fashionable assortment to work with.

I think Nora Sophia also works beautifully. It’s a matter of personal preference, but I do like the “two names ending in -a” sound; it sounds pleasingly Italian to me.

Quorra catches my attention with two possible concerns. The first is that in U.S. English, “qu” is almost always pronounced “kw”; the most likely pronunciation of Quorra would be Kwora. It seems like it would get tiresome to keep making that correction.

The second possible concern is future sibling names: that name is a difficult act to follow. It probably seems hard enough right now to name ONE child, but I highly recommend sketching out a casual list of names you might want to use in the future, and seeing if they go well with your current options. If you use Quorra for a first child, can you think of sibling names you’d like to use with that? If not, the spelling Cora may capture some of what you like about the name Quorra, while still coordinating well with names such as Natalie, Sophia, Nora, and Grace.

Another similar possibility is Clara.

I wonder if you’d like the name Madigan. It’s similar in sound to Natalie and Madelynn, but is currently very unusual. And it ends in a consonant sound, which would help to break up the vowels of Sophia Surname.

Nora and Quorra make me wonder if you’d like Flora or Maura or Georgia or Rory. Or Morgan. Or Corinne. Or Laurel.

Baby Boy, Brother to Andrew and Claire

We just found out that we are having a baby boy in January. I’m having such a hard time with a name. We have a 3 1/2 year old named Andrew John and a 2 year old named Claire Elizabeth so we like traditional names. Our girl name was Grace Marguerite (mm is my paternal grandmothers name). I like that all 3 of those first names share the letters A, R and E. Our dogs name is Reagan and he shares those letters too and they are all 6 letters (Gracie would have been her nn). But at our 20 week ultrasound today we found out we are having a boy. This will bet last pregnancy given my age and how difficult pregnancies are on me. Please help with boy name suggestions! Thank you in advance.



It strikes me as a fun game to see if we can find a 6-letter traditional boy name that shares letters with Andrew and Claire. (I draw the line at coordinating with the dog, but the names that share letters with Andrew and Claire will also share letters with Reagan.)

Calvin (only shares A with both, but also shares N with Andrew and C, L, and I with Claire)
Daniel (shares A and E with both; also D and N with Andrew, I and L with Claire)
Edmund (shares E with both; also N and D with Andrew)
Edward (shares A, E, and R with both; also D and W with Andrew)
Elliot (shares E with both; also L and I with Claire)
Emmett (shares only E with both, but I like it with this sibling group)
George (shares E and R with both)
Jeremy (shares E and R with both)
Joseph (shares only E with both, but I like it with this sibling group)
Joshua (shares only A with both, but I like it with this sibling group)
Julian (shares A with both; also N with Andrew, L and I with Claire)
Nathan (shares A with both; also N with Andrew)
Oliver (shares E and R with both; also L and I with Claire)
Philip (shares nothing with Andrew, but I think it’s great in this sibling group)
Samuel (shares A and E with both; also L with Claire)
Thomas (shares only A with both, but I like it with this sibling group)
Tobias (shares A with both; also I with Claire)
Wesley (shares E with both, also W with Andrew, L with Claire)

I might have missed a shared letter here and there; it’s surprisingly mind-challenging at this hour of the morning.

But of course I also want to root for the idea of looking for names that don’t meet these fun preferences, if those preferences are starting to make you feel backed into a corner. When we were looking for names for our twins, I really wanted names that matched in SOME way: same number of letters, same initial, same number of syllables, SOMETHING. But after working at that without success, we finally had to choose two names that had nothing in common except that we loved both of them better than all the other choices.

It’s hard to make suggestions without a surname to work with, but names such as William and Charles for that traditional/royal flavor, names such as Matthew and Michael and Jonathan for a classic/familiar feel, and names such as Simon and Ian for a bit of a British feel without as much royalty.