Baby Boy Vargas

Hi Swistle,

We recently found out that our baby is a boy and while I’m so happy for a baby boy, I had lots of baby girl names that I loved, but very few boy names on my list. I’m feeling a little stuck.

This is our first and due in January. Our last name is Vargas (sounds Hispanic, but the roots of our name comes from husband’s great-grandfather being from Portugal, FYI). My very fave girl name is Poppy. I’m looking for a cute and fun name that doesn’t sound totally made up but also isn’t heard very often. My top boy name was Milo, until recently when my husband told his coworkers and they convinced him it sounded like a dog’s name, now he doesn’t like it anymore, so sad. I also had Luca on my list but husband thinks it sounds feminine- whatever! So now my favorite is probably Theo, though I’m not sure if I love the name Theodore. Def not Teddy.

For middle names, I want something with meaning, such as a family member’s name. I’m considering either my husband’s brother: Adam, my dad’s middle name: August, or my grandfather’s name: James.

Also as an FYI, my husband’s name is David, but he goes by Joey (his middle name is Joseph). We do plan on having one or two more kiddos in the coming years. Hopefully one will be a Poppy!

Thanks a million Swistle!!!!



Sigh. What on earth possesses otherwise pleasant people to declare that a name is “a dog name” or “a stripper name”? If the name were Fido, or Spot, or Mittens, I could see why even a kind and polite person might accidentally blurt out an animal-related remark before having time to think. But Milo? A name that has been used for people since the Middle Ages, and was given to over a thousand new baby boys in the U.S. in 2013 alone? No. Milo is not “a dog name.” Certainly there are many people using it as a name for dogs and cats and other animals, because many people like to use person names for animals, especially names that are cute and fun and not very common. I myself had a cat named George—which does not mean Kate and Will’s little prince has “a cat name,” it only means I used a person name for a cat. Or perhaps it means that names can be used for many things such as people, animals, cars, storms, etc., without usage in one category necessarily ruling out usage in other categories.

My hope is that your husband can be talked around to considering your opinion (and his own former opinion) more highly than the opinions of his co-workers. Milo seems like the perfect cheerful yet solid choice for your family, and it’s a shame to throw it out over this.

Sometimes other people can indeed spoil a name, however, and if this has happened, we will look for something else. (And perhaps your husband could agree not to share the finalists with his co-workers anymore.) Some possibilities to consider, looking for cute/fun and not yet worrying about surname compatibility:


Another possibility is to use a name with a cute/fun nickname: Christopher/Kit, for example, or Philip/Pip, or Moses/Moe, or Charles/Chip.

Baby Boy Gray

Hello! I have been following your blog for a few years, and so I’m sort of excited to now find myself in a baby naming rut.

I just found out (yesterday!) that our first baby will be a boy! He is due to arrive at the end of January. My husband and I had a boy name and a girl name picked out. I absolutely loved our girl name: Lucy Elizabeth, and I still hope to use the name if we have a girl in the future. Our boy name we had picked was Jesse Matthew (Matthew after my husband).

The problem is now that we know we’re having a boy, I’m not thrilled with the name Jesse. Maybe I am just sort of disappointed I have to table Lucy for awhile, but my husband feels equally lackluster. We still like the name, but we don’t love it. I know, I know–you don’t need to love the name. But we still want to explore other options. Plus, I have a hard time picturing a baby Jesse. I picture Uncle Jesse from Full House or some other long-haired musician/ motorcycle rider/ hipster. Maybe this is just because I don’t know any child named Jesse?

I tend to like old fashioned names that are not super common. I teach, so I want to avoid names that I hear all the time (and have many student associations for). I have never taught a Lucy or a Jesse. My husband, however, likes more traditional and common names and finds my names weird/ odd, but he can’t give me any concrete names that he does like.

Boy names that I like that he’s rejected are:
Abraham (Abe)
Theodore (Theo)
Gabriel (Gabe)

Other girl names I like as a pairing with Lucy if we end up with two girls in the future (we plan on having 3 children) are:
Theresa (Reese)
Penelope (Nell)
Beverly (Bee)

I do like names that are 2+ syllables since our last name (Gray) is only one syllable, and the middle name will definitely be Matthew, after my husband.

Any other boy options you could suggest would be greatly appreciated. Are there Lucy/Theresa style boy names that are “normal” enough for my husband and unique enough for me?!

Thanks so much,


Lucy and Theresa/Reese seem quite different in style to me. Lucy is a vintage revival with a British feel to it (Penelope, Violet, and Annabel fall into this category as well). Theresa peaked in the 1950s-60s, belonging more to the Linda/Cynthia/Sharon era. Reese is a modern unisex nickname; Lucy is also a nickname name, but the styles of Lucy and Reese are as different as the styles of Lucy and Theresa.

There’s no reason those two names can’t be used for sisters: many parents choose names of different styles for their children. But the reason I mention it is that it makes it difficult to find boy names in the Lucy/Theresa style: I could find you names that are like Lucy, and I could find you names that are like Theresa, but far fewer names are compatible with both styles. This may be why you’re finding yourselves stuck, as well.

The bulk of the names on your girl-name list and on your boy-name list are of the Lucy style, so I think I would start by looking for more boy names of that sort:

Edmund (perhaps too Narnia with Lucy)
Philip (Pip)

If your husband prefers more “normal” names, I’d lean toward the William/Owen end of the list—but then of course we’re probably getting into your classroom lists. This may be an area where one of you will have to give way: either he will have to understand about encountering the name in the classroom, or you will have to understand that the names you never hear in class are by definition going to be too unusual for him.

It’s possible, too, that your husband needs a refresher course in naming styles. This issue seems especially common with men: they think of the names of their peers as “normal names,” without realizing those are now the Dad Names and there is a new normal. If this is one of his issues, it can help to mention the names of HIS parents’ generation and ask him to imagine if his peers had had those names as children. Or it can help to have him browse some class lists or the Social Security name list, just to see what names are most common now.

It also sounds as if it’s time for him to make a list of his own. If he’s insisting on a “normal” name but can’t come up with any he likes, a trip through a baby name book may help in one direction or another: either he’ll realize the sort of name he’s looking for is not actually his style, or he’ll find some names to suggest and you can work from there. (This will also show you if he is thinking of his own peers’ names as the normal ones.) I think too that a parent who has been doing nothing but vetoing can become more reasonable to work with after he/she sees how much effort it takes to come up with possibilities and how it feels to have them vetoed.

I wonder if you would like the name John. In some areas of the country it’s quite common, but where I live it’s a surprising choice on a child—like Mary for a girl, where the name seems so familiar you’d think there’d be one in every classroom, but actually there are two Noahs, two Aidens, two Williams, two Connors, a Kyle and a Kylie and a Kaylie, and no one named either John or Mary in the whole grade. John Gray is a very handsome name, I think, and wonderful with Lucy. It may hit that sweet spot of familiar enough for your husband, but scarce enough in the classroom for you.

Baby Boy or Girl Aley, Sibling to Moses

Hi There!
I am pregnant with my second, due in February. My first is a son, Moses Gabriel Aley. We call him Moses, or Moze (was taken from the film Paper Moon with Ryan O’neil). The middle name Gabriel is after my brother Gabriel, Gabe, who is deceased. My husband is James Donley Aley the Fourth. The agreement when we named Moses was if we had another boy he would be called James Donley Aley and he would be the Fifth. UNLESS a dear brother of my husband were to conceive a child before we did again, he was stuck on the name and we said that would be fine. I understand this is all very unconventional but James the Third named James the Fourth after he’d already had three boys before so it seems fitting to family tradition.

Now, seven weeks after the birth of Moses, his grandmother died suddenly. Mother of James the Fourth. She was Judith. If this baby is a girl, and we wont be finding out until birth, we would like Judith in her name. We have mentioned keeping the girls name we had all set for Moses were he a girl, Iona. Iona is an island in Scotland near where I have family and my deceased brother, Gabriel, and I always both independently wanted the name for a girl. We went as kids. So, Iona Judith Aley? Maybe. But now Judith is really growing on me as a first name. My only qualm is the nickname Judy (much like the obvious yet unforeseen irritation in others insistence that Moses should be Moe, HATE.) And also that it was so popular in the fifties she would have the same name as a lot of retirement aged but not old quite yet women. like, has it been long enough that its cute yet?

My other thought is this. If this baby is a boy, and we do use James Donley Aley the Fifth, I have the crackpot idea of calling him Judd. A shout out to Judith but also a name i just kinda like better. James I like, Jamie I don’t, Jimmie might be a criminal, or awesome, J.D. no way in hell. Oh! and the thing is, the brother is also expecting a baby a few weeks after ours. So if they use the Fifth I am actually at a total loss. Except I still like Judd. Except my fella doesn’t. Jude does not work for me for a male, but absolutely for a female.

I think that is all. Thanks!


It sounds as if a second discussion with your husband’s brother may be needed. If I’m following this, your husband is JDA IV, but your husband’s brother has asked if he may use JDA V for his own son, and you and your husband have said yes. But also, you and your husband have decided between yourselves that if you had a second son, you would name him JDA V. Does your brother-in-law know that this was your arrangement, and so it’s a clear-cut situation of “Whoever has the next boy will use JDA V”? If not, it needs to be clarified in case they’ve decided on the name for sure and now both couples are about to have boys.

If that’s all been made clear already, then the situation as I understand it is that if you have a boy, you will use JDA V; and that if you have a girl and your brother-in-law has a boy, THEY will use JDA V. This leaves your brother-in-law and his wife in a bit of a tense situation as they wait to see whether you will have a boy or a girl, but we will not worry about them until they write to us. (“Dear Swistle, We have decided on a boy name for our baby, but we won’t know if we can use it or not until shortly before the baby is born. Let me explain….”)

On the other hand, you say that your brother-in-law is expecting a baby a few weeks after you, and that if he uses JDA V, you’re at a total loss for a name for your boy. This makes me think the discussion is still needed to clarify who is doing what. If you deliver first as expected, and if you have a boy, you will need to know if the name JDA V is available to you or not—and whether your brother-in-law would feel the same way about its availability to you. It would also be a good idea to see if your brother-in-law is planning to use the name for a future boy even if he has a girl this time. All these things have huge potential for misunderstanding, so I think if I were you I would start by making sure everyone knows what the plan is.

When a child is the fifth holder of a family name, I think nearly any everyday-usage name can be justified. I know two families who are only up to IV, and both have abandoned all pretense of actually USING any of the given names: both children go by names completely unconnected to their proud family naming traditions. I think Judd would work very well, and don’t see any reason you shouldn’t use it—well, any reason except that your husband doesn’t like it. Perhaps he could try to come around to the nickname you like, since he is getting a full namesake?

If he continues not to like it, though, I do think you can pick just about anything you want to use, connected to the name or not. If I hear of a James called, say, Ezra, I blink and wonder what on earth is going on; if I hear of a James V called Ezra, I understand immediately (and feel some empathy for the mother, combined with a fresh dislike of the concept of previous generations taking naming fun away from later generations). I used Ezra just as an example, but actually that would be a very nice fit with Moses.

If none of the other Jameses are being called Donley, I think that might be a very cute option. The name Don is a bit out of style at the moment, but Donley has a surname sound that brings it into fashion.

Does your mother-in-law’s maiden name work as a first name? If it did, that would be another option for an everyday name that would honor her.

Or do you like Judah? It sounds very similar to Judith, has similar biblical / Old Testament connections, and makes a very good brother name for Moses. It has the additional benefit of seeming to come from the initials JDA. You could use Judah as the given name (if it turns out the plan is for your brother-in-law to use JDA V), or as the everyday name for your own JDA V.

For a girl, it’s true that Judith has not quite worked its way around to being fashionable again. It hit its peak in the early 1940s, which means we might start looking for it again in the next generation. This is soon enough in the future that we could think of current usage as being ahead of the times rather than behind them.

I think, too, that the biblical story of Judith is so striking, it gives the name a timelessness it doesn’t have on its own—similar to Esther, or Ruth.

I’m not sure how much trouble you would encounter with people calling her Judy. Certainly the Judiths I know (one my age, the rest my parents’ age or older) all go by Judy—but the use of nicknames has changed since then. All the Jameses I know who are my age or older go by Jim, but if I meet a little boy named James I don’t default to Jim/Jimmy at all, and would in fact avoid it unless specifically told to call him that. It may be the same with Judith.

On the other hand, many people are not tuned into naming trends/practices, or are inconsiderate/scornful about other people preferring a certain version of their own names. There are plenty of stories of people acting fake-joking indignant that a child is not to be called Billy, or Beth, or Kathy—or worse, insisting on doing it anyway. I suspect it is part of the package deal of all such names, but that for the most part you will find your peers and your child’s peers cooperative with clearly-stated preferences.

And certainly Jude seems to me like the appropriate contemporary nickname for Judith, just as Will seems more appropriate than Billy for young Williams. In fact, the ability to update the nickname in that way makes the name significantly more usable. I would even go beyond “usable” and say that thinking of Jude as a nickname for Judith puts the name Judith back on my radar.

I also think Iona Judith is a wonderful choice. Both Iona and Judith work with Moses as sister names; each gives a different spin to the feel of the name Moses.

Baby Girl J@rg@ns@n; No Middle Names for Girls

Hi Swistle,
My husband and I are struggling to agree on a name for our first daughter. We both have a few guidelines that we don’t want to compromise on.

First, his: he wants to name her what we will call her (he has a sister named Katie, not Kathryn or Kaitlin), and he doesn’t like middle names for girls (in his family, girls take their maiden name as a middle name, which is a fine tradition but I don’t think our name (J@rg@ns@n) lends itself to that as nicely as something like, say, Emery or Lee).

Mine: I want a name that will look grown up on a resume, diploma or wedding invitation (I personally think Katie looks silly on formal documents), I love the trendy vintage names but I don’t want something too trendy, and I want a name that is easily pronounced and spelled (my name, Janessa, was constantly written and pronounced as everything from Janice to Jessica. I love having a unique name, but wish the spelling/pronunciation was more intuitive). I’d also like to stay away with names starting with J to avoid last name alliteration, but that’s not a deal breaker.

I want to use Rose as a middle name, after my grandmother. It’s also my middle name. I don’t know whether we’ll use a middle name or not, but just in case I want a first name that sounds good with Rose (which means one of my favorites, Emily, is out, unless we want a horror movie reference in our baby’s name).

Here are some first name options we’ve considered:
Olivia (after his grandmother; I love it but wish it wasn’t so popular. I’ve toyed with “Rose Olivia”, but it’s hard for me to see Rose as anyone except my grandmother)
Abby/Abigail (I prefer the long, he prefers the short)
Hannah (after my great-grandmother. This is what I “wanted to name my daughter” since i was about 12)
Hallie (his sister is having a girl in September and this is her favorite name so we probably can’t use it)
Eliza (he doesn’t like it)
Lydia (I’m not sure if I like it)
Alexis or Alexandra (he doesn’t want to call her Alex and I’m not a fan of Lexi)

Do you or the readers have any suggestions? Thank you so much!



I find myself quite bothered by your husband’s family’s naming tradition for girls. It seems to me it makes somewhat gross assumptions/presumptions about women and their future plans. I suggest that tradition be stopped right now. Either give middle names to all of your children or none of them, leaving out the assumptions about their future marriage plans and future naming choices. I am finding myself almost too irritated to turn my mind to the rest of the question, as I contemplate your husband’s family deciding this extremely personal thing on behalf of all family women. “Oh, they’ll all get married, and they’ll all choose to take their spouse’s surname, and they’ll all choose to keep their maiden names as middle names, because that’s what WOMEN do in OUR family.” No. Assure your husband that your daughters will still be perfectly free to do the First Maiden Married format he prefers, if they choose to, even if they are given a middle name like their brothers—but this decision belongs to your daughters and not to him. We do not name boys as if they are fully complete at birth, but girls as if they won’t be complete until they are married.


All right, I went and had a cup of tea and a few cookies, and am now ready to face the rest of the question. So I’d say the first decision is whether you will give your children middle names or not. Because you have a middle name (which tells me your husband has personal experience already with the concept that women make their own name choices at marriage, and also makes me wonder why your husband would assume your daughters would follow their father’s naming tradition rather than their mother’s) (I guess I am not QUITE over this topic yet), and because you would like to pass this middle name on to your daughter, and because your husband would like to use middle names for sons, I suggest the middle name decision be “yes,” and I’ll proceed that way for now.

Because your husband doesn’t want to use nicknames but you’d like something non-nicknamey for paperwork, I like Nora, Emma, Rose, and Hannah from your list. All of them COULD be nicknamed by someone determined to do so (Norrie/Nora-dora, Emmie/Em, Rosie/Ro, Hannah-banana), but it’s not the same as, say, Abigail/Abby or Kathryn/Katie. If Hannah is your long-term favorite and your husband loves it too, then Hannah Rose seems like a wonderful choice.

I also think Olivia is great. Again, potentially nicknameable (Liv, Livvie), but not like naming someone Margaret only to get the name Meg. It’s fairly common, yes, but it’s such a pretty name, and the family connection feels well worth it to me. I love how either Olivia Rose or Rose Olivia gives her the names of great-grandmothers from both sides of the family. Both are wonderful choices.

I love Nora for its low nickname potential (I had to stretch to even come up with possible nicknames), and for its vintage charm. I’m not as fond of it with Rose, or with your surname if there is an “or” sound in the first syllable: NOR-a-JOR.

Emma is much better with Rose and with your surname, but it’s even more common than Olivia, and with no family connection.

So my favorites here are Hannah Rose, Rose Olivia, and Olivia Rose—in that order, I think, although so close it was hard to even choose an order. I feel the inclination to stop right there: three great choices, any would be wonderful. But let’s look a little more, just for fun.

If the repeating “or” sound doesn’t bother you (many of these things are purely personal preference), Cora would be a pretty choice.

Cora makes me think of Clara. Clara Rose is beautiful, I think.

Or Sarah. Sarah Rose.

Hallie makes me think of Alice, and yet the two names don’t seem too similar for cousins. Alice Rose.

Or Mallory. Mallory Rose.

Or Ella. Ella Rose.

Hannah makes me think of Anna. Anna Rose.

Willa, maybe. Willa Rose.

Oh, Stella! Stella Rose! I like that a lot.

Or Greta. Greta Rose.

Or Eva, though it may be confused with Ava. Eva Rose. I particularly like that one with your surname.

If Eliza is not quite right, Eloise has similar sounds. I don’t like it as much with Rose, though.

Lydia makes me think of Sylvia/Silvia. Sylvia Rose, Silvia Rose.

Baby Girl, Sister to Violet; A Name to Honor Grandpa Nathan

Hi Swistle

We need help! We are expecting our 2nd girl on Sept 22.
Our first daughter is Violet Aviva. Violet was a name that both my husband and I loved and his grandmother was an avid gardener and always grew African Violets, she recently passed away and so this was very meaningful to name after her. Aviva means spring which is my mother’s maiden name. We fell in love with all the meaning to her name.

For our next daughter, we are stuck! We want to name after my grandfather who I was very close to and passed away in November. His name was Nathan.
We are either looking for a name that starts with N or has a similar meaning or sound to Nathan. We are Jewish and I called him Zaidie so we even threw around the idea of naming her Sadie after him.

Anyways, we are stuck! Names we are toying with include Neve,
Nava, Nina, Sadie and then the name that I love the most is Beatrix but unfortunately doesn’t fit really to name after him.

Any N name suggestions would be most appreciated!!!

Thank you!


The first N name that comes to mind is Natalie, for its similarity to Nathan. The look of Nathan and Sadie and Zaidie makes me think of Nadia. Or there’s Noelle and Nora (particularly good with Violet, I think) and Nola, but presumably you’ve already been through the N section of the name book.

The connection between your first daughter’s names and the people those names honor is broad enough to work in your favor when choosing your second daughter’s name. Your husband’s grandmother liked gardening in general, and violets were one of the things she grew; you found a word that means the same thing as your mother’s maiden name. I’d suggest applying these same methods to finding more names. What were your grandfather’s hobbies and interests? What was his job? What was he good at? What was he known for? Did he have any nicknames? Did he have any collections? What was his favorite color? animal? sport? flower? How/where did he grow up? What are some anecdotes he liked to tell about his childhood? Did he have a favorite sister? Did he name any of his children after someone important to him? What were his favorite places to go? Did he travel? Who were his favorite authors, actors, politicians, historical figures, role models, artists, musicians? Did he have any strong views? What virtues did he value? What street did he live on? Where was he born? Was he born in a familiar-girl-name month (April, May, June)? What’s the birthstone of his birth month? Where were his ancestors from? Would his mother’s maiden name work? Is there a feminine version of his middle name? Do you know what his name would have been if he’d been born a girl? Would an anagramming tool find any names within his full name? What is the meaning of his surname? What is the meaning of his middle name? The name Nathan means “he/God has given”; perhaps you could find girl names with the same (or similar) meaning: Dorothea, Theodora, Thea, etc.

Sadie works along these lines, and is a nice style match with Violet. Perhaps you could use Beatrix as the middle name.

Or perhaps you could use Beatrix as the first name, and use Nathan as the middle name. You could feminize it, if you like: Nathania (nah-THAN-ya), for example.

The name Hannah shares many of the letters of Nathan, and has a somewhat similar sound.

Athena, too, though that doesn’t go as well with Violet, I don’t think.

Did he go by Nate? If so, perhaps Kate?

Or it may be that it just won’t work. It happens fairly often that someone really, really, really wants to honor a particular person with a baby’s name, but there just isn’t a good way to do it. If you’re stuck, you might find you get unstuck by looking for different family members to honor, and honoring your grandfather with your memories and stories of him instead. And if you’re planning more children, perhaps the name Nathan could be tucked away for a possible future boy.

Baby Girl Salvati, Sister to Aliyah

Hi Swistle,

Help us please! My husband and I are unable to choose a name for our second daughter who is due October 6, 2014! We had front runners but then they got excluded for one reason or another. Our last name is Salvati (sal_vati), very Italian. I am of Hispanic origin and he is Italian and we live the Southwest so we wanted something ending in a vowel sound and off the beaten path but not so much so that you look at it and wonder who this person is. Our first child is Aliyah Marie. We have chosen Rose for the middle name because all of the names we like so far are kinda a mouthful.

The liked but dismissed names are
Selena Rose( I like but two daughters after dead singers?)
Zarina Rose( but she is currently a Disney fairy)
Alexa Rose( but then he decided it was too much like Axel Rose)

So we here we are with half a name and no place to go. Do you have any suggestions for our baby girl, sister to Aliyah? We may have another child but as of right now this one is most likely our last.

Thank you for considering our request


Alexa Rose has been eliminated for sounding like Axl Rose—but the name Rose seems to have been chosen only for its shortness/simplicity. Could Alexa be back on the list if you chose a different short/simple middle name? Alexa Joy, or Alexa Jane, or Alexa Kay, or Alexa Hope, or Alexa Grace? But Aliyah and Alexa are quite close in sound, so perhaps the name has too many strikes against it already to be salvaged through a changed middle name.

If you like Selena and Zarina, I wonder if you’d like Sabrina or Serena. They give a similar sound without the singer/fairy connections. Or perhaps Karina or Melina?

More possibilities:

Bianca (initials B.S.)
Briella (initials B.S.)
Mariella (a little difficult to say with the surname)

Baby Girl Trucker, Sister to Lydi@ and Eliz@

Dear Swistle,

We have two girls — Lydi@ Jean (almost 5) and Eliz@ Anne (almost 2.5). Our last name is Trucker (without the first “r”). We’re expecting baby girl #3 the first week of November.

With our first, we came up with a list that we liked just from our brains. With our second, we looked through a baby name book and listed all of the names we liked (about 50!) and then we narrowed down from there. We went through several rounds, including one in which we picked our top 15 from a list of 30. We had exactly zero names in common. ZERO! We were down to about 5 when she was born. I think my husband was slightly traumatized by the whole natural birth experience (my first was a c-section). His defenses were low, so he just let me pick whatever I wanted. I did!

Both of our girls share the middle names of their grandmothers. Since this is our last baby, I wanted to include my husband’s (A@ron) name since we probably would have named a boy for him. We will likely go with “Erin.” I’m not too concerned with how the first name flows with the second since we call our kids just by their first name and random affectionate nicknames.

There are a lot of similarities of my older girls’ names:
— five letters
— three syllables
— ends in “a”
— I didn’t realize this until someone pointed it out, but they have the names of sisters in Pride and Prejudice (Lydia, Elizabeth) so there is always Mary, Kitty or Jane!

I am not stuck on any of these similarities as requirements for the third — and definitely not attached to the literary connection — but I do like the end in “a.” My husband, on the other hand, is not entirely sold on that. I’d also like to avoid the same first initial, but it isn’t a deal breaker.

My husband prefers names that don’t have natural nicknames — like Becca for Rebecca. Not sure why… Maybe he is jealous that his name doesn’t lend itself to a nickname? ;) Nicknames don’t bother me. Our daughters have traditionally feminine names, so a unisex name would probably not work.

Just for added interest, we have three nieces (Clar@, Ameli@ and Juli@).

We clearly have differing views on names. For example, my husband likes Keylee, Chloe, Cynthia and Natalie. I prefer names like Cordelia, Greta, Adalaide and Sylvia.

We started out this baby naming with a list of 40 names, mostly the ones from the 2nd baby list. We’ve gone through three elimination rounds.

Round 1: We said each name and each person decided yes, no or maybe. Two negatives meant it got crossed off. If it was no and maybe, the maybe person got to decide whether to keep it on the list.

Round 2: Each person listed his/her top ten. Any not making the cut were eliminated.

Round 3: Each person listed seven names they would like to remove from the list.

We’re down to the following, but I fear it might take us until labor and delivery to go through enough rounds to settle on a name we both like!


Any advice? Are we missing a great option? Or do you have suggestions for Round 4 elimination?!?!

Lis@ (figured I’d end with an ampersand for the “a” just for continuity — haha)


I love your elimination rounds. I think you’ve come up with a very nice list, and I think you could choose any of the names and be happy.

If I were narrowing it down myself and LOOKING for reasons to remove names, I might first take off Alaina: when I say it aloud, it seems very similar to Eliz@ (spelling it Elena makes what I’m hearing more visual).

I might take off Chloe for being a somewhat different style than the other two, and for being much more common. I might take off Natalie for similar reasons.

I might take off Emmeline because it repeats an initial.

This would leave me with:


Perhaps next I would remove Moira for being tricky to pronounce/spell, and Sara for the continual hassle of -a vs. -ah. It’s not that these are big deals (the continual hassle of Kristen/Kristin hasn’t made me wish I had a different name), just that I’d be looking for ways to pare down the list. This would leave me with:


Your husband doesn’t like easy nicknames, so I would probably take Rebecca off at this point. Maybe Camilla, too: Cam, Cammie, and Millie all come easily to mind when I picture using that name on a daily basis.

This leaves me with Celia. I admit being drawn to it for symmetry in addition to the other reasons, such as going well with your style and not going against any of your preferences. I love that then all three girls would have five letters, three syllables, and end in -a; that just seems fun to me. Plus, I love the name Celia and I think it fits very well with the other two, and I think it’s great with your surname. I just like it best overall: although I did this post in elimination style to match the theme, my actual process was to read the list and say “Oooh, Celia! That’s my definite favorite!”

Another 5-letter, 3-syllable name ending in -a is Fiona. I love that one, too.

If you wanted to deliberately break the theme, I might suggest Cecily and Cora and Alice.

Let’s see the commenters’ elimination rounds!

Baby Boy Romlin-with-a-T, Brother to Jewel Bird

Dear Swistle,

We are expecting a baby boy early in 2015. He will be our second and last child. Our daughter is named Jewel, after my grandmother. Her middle name is Bird. I love her name! It’s a family name, unusual but not made up, it’s classic, it’s ideal for us. Boy names, MEH! I just do not love boy names the way I love girl names. If we were having a girl we would probably name her Rose with some kind of family honor name for the middle name.

For a boy, my husband is REALLY stuck on the name Noel (pronounced Knoll or NOH-ell). I like the name, but I see some problems, e.g. being called Noelle all the time and people calling him Joel or Noah or something just because Noel is a little unusual. I love the way it looks on the page but it’s not a pretty word to say. Also, we live in a mix of Spanish and English speakers, and I feel like the Spanish pronunciation will be Noelle no matter what I do, and that will drive me (and the kid) crazy. My first name is a little tricky and I have really hated dealing with it in my life, and I hate to burden a kid with that! The Mr. has an easy name and has no idea how annoying it is to always be called by other names and have people misspell your name (except it took months to get his parents to say my name right! He kind of got it then).

A name that we both like is my late father’s name, which is Brendan. It’s just a LOT to have two kids named after recent generations of my family, so I’d rather not use his name in the first name spot–maybe as a middle name. But it’s a rare example of a name we agree on!

Some of the names that we both like but have been rejected for various reasons are Henry, Oliver, and Felix.

Names on our “maybe” list that I love but husband is lukewarm on are Ian and Malcolm.

The names I like that the Mr. has vetoed are Leland, Oscar, Alec, Larkin, Edmund, Ewan, George.

The names the Mr. has liked that I have vetoed are Roy and Nolan.

So, should I learn to love Noel? Keep lobbying for something else? The baby’s last name will be Romlin with a T.

Thank you!


It sounds to me as if you have a lot of reasons you don’t feel comfortable using the name Noel. I would add a reason: it’s very similar to the name Jewel. They’re spelled differently, but the endings sound the same.

Could you learn to like Nolan? It sounds very similar to Noel, while eliminating most of your objections. It also reminds me of Leland, Ewan, and Ian from your list. Although, when I say it with your surname, my tongue does get a little tangled; and I’m not crazy about the repeating -lan/-lin sounds.

If you two agree on Brendan, I wouldn’t cross it off the list just because it’s another family name; in fact, for me that’s a point in its favor. Perhaps you could find a name from your husband’s side (his dad’s name?) to use as the middle name—or perhaps Noel would work there, since then your husband can have the name he loves without any of the everyday hassles of using it as a first name. Brendan Noel Romlin; Jewel and Brendan.

I was planning to suggest Leo: it’s similar in sound to Noel and Leland, and similar in style to Henry and Oliver. But when I paired it with your surname, it instantly sounded very familiar; it took me a few moments, but I realized it was reminding me of the actress Lily with your surname. I don’t THINK that would bother me, but I’d want to consider it ahead of time.

This may be a long shot, but I was thinking about names that sound like Noel, and then I saw Roy on your husband’s list, and that made me think of the name Loyal. (I also thought of Royal, but Royal and Jewel seem like an amusing combination.)

Ewan on your list made me think of Owen: it has the N, the O, and the W-sound of Noel.

Or Rowan or Rohan or Ronan or Roman or Bowen if you want something less popular.

(All these -an/-en endings bother me just a little with the ending of your surname, but that’s only a matter of personal preference, and you have Nolan and Ewan and Larkin and Ian on your lists, so I’m including them anyway.)

I feel like the two of you are dancing right around the same sounds. He likes Noel and Nolan, you like Ewan and Malcolm. Would you like something like Logan or Landon or Hudson or Holden or Wilson? Lincoln or Roland or Conrad or Lionel or Moses or Leroy? Carlo or Nico or Bo or Otto or Mateo or Hugo or Milo or Arlo or Theo? Brody or Colby or Oakley or Jacoby or Crosby? Elliot or Louis or Tobias or Hayes? Orion? Troy or Royce or Bryce?

Twin Baby Boys C0nlin

Hello! I could really use some naming help!

My husband and I are expecting twin boys on Thanksgiving and are really struggling with names. These are our first babies, and their last name will be C0nlin, which I feel goes with most things. I haven’t found a name yet that I struck out just because of how it sounded with the last name.

So far, we’ve been able to pick one name. We’ve decided on Silas for one of the boys, but are drawing a complete blank on the name for the other boy. We don’t really want matching names, though I want something that at least sounds like it would come from the same family.

We haven’t decided on Silas’ middle name, but we have picked the middle name for the other boy – Prentice, after my grandfather. So, we need a name that doesn’t end in a “s” sound. For example, Silas Prentice does not work in my mind, which is why Prentice is reserved for the other boy. I suggested William for Silas’ middle name (after my husband’s father – I like the idea of both boys having family names for middle names). But my husband is conflicted because he kind of wants to stick with his family’s tradition of assigning animals as middle names (his middle name is (seriously) Raging Buffalo; and his brothers’ middle names are: Spouting Whale, Bear, and Wolf…). I think the animals are a bit random – I have never met anyone less like a Raging Buffalo than my husband. Plus, I think it would be weird to give one boy an animal middle name while the other has a family middle name (my heart is set on naming the other one Prentice, and husband has agreed to that already because it’s so important to me). What do you think? Is that weird to name them so differently?

Anyway, as for the other boy’s first name, the name I like the best is Dugan, followed closely by Jude. However, my husband won’t agree to those. He thinks Dugan is cute, but isn’t sure it’d be a good name for an adult male. And he just doesn’t really like Jude at all. He suggested Max, but I’m not on board with that one (and I don’t think it sounds good with Prentice).

Other names we’ve considered and both liked okay, though not enough to necessarily pick them are: Blake, Luke, Gavin and Dylan.

We also really like Brody, Bryce and Cody, but already have cousins with those names. We really like Jackson (or Jack) too, but it’s too close to my name (which is pronounced Jackie, though spelled differently).

Coming up with Silas was hard enough, so I don’t know how we’re going to find another boy’s name! Any suggestions you can provide would be greatly appreciated!

Thanks for your help!!



When I entered this question into my spreadsheet, I put “Raging Buffalo” in the description field just so I could enjoy it again and again.

I do enjoy sibling names to coordinate, and I especially enjoy twin names to coordinate. However, I also think twins are an excellent opportunity to handle a situation where each parent wants something different, AND I don’t think middle names matter very much for coordination: that is, I ENJOY it when it works out for them to coordinate, but I think middle names tend to disappear after the birth announcements are sent out, so coordinating them is a low priority even for me.

In your situation, I think twins are an excellent opportunity to handle two different parental preferences, and I would go with using your grandfather’s name for one twin and your husband’s family’s naming tradition for the other. Those seem like nice balanced honors. I do think I’d lean more toward the Bear/Wolf type of name, rather than the Raging Buffalo / Spouting Whale kind of name. Fox, perhaps. Robin. Falcon. Or maybe Peregrine, to sound a little more like Prentice. I do think I’d be careful not to make the animal name too cool, if possible.

You know, the more I think about this, the less certain I am. I’m picturing one boy having a Cool Awesome Animal middle name, and the other saying, “Yes, Prentice was my great-grandfather’s name.” They feel like equivalent levels of honor in theory, since each represents an honor for one side of the family, but will the BOYS see it that way? I wonder if you would like to do double middle names? Each boy could have a great-grandfather’s name (perhaps your other grandfather, since the animal names are from your husband’s side, or another male honor name from your side) AND an animal name. This might also give you more flexibility pairing Prentice with Silas: Silas Peregrine Prentice, for example.

I was intrigued by the challenge of finding a good animal middle name. Some animals seem too vicious, like the name of the toughie in an over-the-top action movie: Viper, Tarantula, Snake, Spider, Piranha, Cobra, Scorpion. Other animal names seem too comical: Penguin, Squirrel, Meerkat, Gopher, Wombat, Frog, Hippopotamus, Chicken, Chipmunk, Cow. Names that seem name-like are harder to find. Badger, maybe. Buck. The big-cat names: Panther, Lion, Cheetah, Tiger, Jaguar, Leopard. Possibly Antelope. Koala. Cardinal would be nice, though then I’d probably want a songbird for the other name as well: not Cardinal paired with something really tough like Jaguar, for example. Maybe Cardinal and Oriole, or Cardinal and Sparrow. There’s Wolf and Bear, if you don’t mind repeating, and Fox, which is my favorite, and Coyote. Crane and Peregrine and Falcon and Hawk and Eagle. Dolphin, maybe. Otter.

For first names, my first suggestion is Grady. It reminds me of Brody and Cody from your can’t-use list, and I can picture handsome old-time farming brothers named Silas and Grady.

My second suggestion is Jared. Again, I can picture the brothers, working their farm. Also, I knew a couple who could not find ANY name they could agree on for a boy, and then they found the name Jared and both loved it, so I think of it as a problem-solving name.

Ditto for the name Derek: another couple I knew couldn’t settle on anything, and then they found Derek. Silas and Derek.

More possibilities:


I see a lot of long-U sounds (Luke, Dugan, Jude) and D-sounds (Jude, Dugan, Cody, Brody, Dylan) in your lists. I might look around for other names with those sounds.

D sounds:

Davis (maybe too matchy with Silas)

(I would also have suggested Gideon, Landon, Declan, Hudson, Holden, etc., but I wasn’t sure those worked well with your surname.)

Long-U sounds:

Louis (maybe too matchy with Silas)

(I would also have suggested Ruben, Houston, Truman, and Lucien, but again wasn’t sure about those with the surname.)

Baby Girl Brant-with-a-G, Sister to William

Dear Swistle,
I am 37.5 weeks pregnant with our second child, a baby girl. My due date is 8/31. Our last name is Brant with a G.
Our son is named William McIntosh, nickname Will. Both names are family names on my husband’s side, with the middle name being my husband’s middle name, his dad’s middle name and his grandmother’s maiden name. We like the idea of giving this baby at least one family name, but are not absolutely wed to the idea. We are having trouble deciding on any name, much less a family name, as the date draws closer. If this baby had been a boy, his name would likely have been Henry Benton (nickname Hank), named after our grandfathers. We may have another child after this one, not sure at this point.

Family names we both like:
Emerson (nickname Emmy)
Rose (as a middle name)
Victoria (as a middle name)

Other names I like:
Catherine/ Kate (feel like this is too “royal couple” when paired with Will)

Other names my husband likes:
Gretchen (absolute no for me)

Names we like but cannot use for various reasons:

For a good part of this pregnancy, we have discussed naming her either Emerson Lucille or Lucille/Lucy Emerson. My husband is concerned that Emerson isn’t a traditionally female name and that it’s very trendy right now. He has also observed that many of the little girls we know have “E” names – lots of Ellie, Elle, Eleanor, Emma, Evie… My issue with Lucy Emerson is that her initials would spell LEG. Probably not a big deal, I could certainly think of worse three letter words. Other combinations we like: Lucy Rose, Lucy Victoria, Emerson Victoria, Audrey Lucille. We both like names that have nicknames for what it’s worth. We would appreciate your thoughts on Emerson as a girl’s name, middle names that sound good with Lucy/Lucille and any other thoughts you may have based on our lists above.
Thanks for your help!


I agree that Emerson seems to be an outlier on your list: a modern unisex surname name among the non-unisex traditionals and classics (including William and Henry). If you love it and it’s a family name, I think the middle name is an excellent place for it: I like when it works out to use a middle name of a different style than the first name. I also like the way both children would then have a surname middle name. William (Will) McIntosh and Lucille (Lucy) Emerson is a very pleasing combination, and my favorite from the possibilities—unless those two choices are SO parallel, it would make you feel pressured to find something that matched for the possible next child.

It does bother me just a little that this would cause the initials to spell a word, but I agree with you that this one isn’t a big deal: I wouldn’t use Emerson in the first-name position just to avoid the initials LEG. If, however, you like other middle name options just as much or nearly as much, it might tip me toward using one of those. (It would depend too on the source of the family names: if Emerson were your maiden name, for example, versus a great-grandmother’s maiden name on your husband’s side.) I also like Lucy Victoria, Lucy Rose, and Lucy Jane.

If you like Catherine/Kate but don’t plan to use it as a first name, the middle name would be a good place for that: Lucy Catherine Brant, Lucy Kate Brant. I especially like the look and sound of Lucy Catherine.

I also love Lucille as the middle name. The second-syllable emphasis makes it a delight to work with: it sounds good with almost everything! Audrey Lucille is wonderful.

But because your son’s name is so full of family names, and you like the idea of family names, I think that’s what I’d lean toward for your daughter, too. Lucy or Lucille seems to me like the first name that works best from the list, and then I would pair it with another family name if possible. I’d lean toward a name from your side this time, since your son’s names are all from your husband’s side.