Baby Naming Issue: A Karl-Like Name that Isn’t Karl

Hi there!

I’ve been reading your blog for years, long before marriage and kids. My husband and I will be welcoming our first child in July. We will not be finding out the sex of our child prior to delivery.

My husband’s name is Karl, and his father is Carl. My name is Maribelle (pronounced like the Spanish Maribel or phonetically Ma-ree-bell in English.) Our child’s and my husband’s last name sounds like Tolland without the T.

If we have a girl we plan to name her one of the following names:


We firmed our girl names rather quickly as it is a family tradition to name girls with an M name in my family, and my husband was quick to jump on board. We feel the girls names we have selected work in English, Spanish, and Italian- the three languages spoken in our home.

Now, for boy names we can’t agree decide. We are struggling to come up with boys names we both like.

My husband wants a Karl-like name that isn’t Carl or Karl. I want to incorporate my dad’s very Hispanic name Jaime (Hi-me) into our potential son’s name but not necessarily as a first name. Ideally the name would also sound good in Italian and Spanish but at this point those requirements aren’t too high on my list.

My husband likes only the following names which I dislike for one reason or another but mostly because I already mentally associate someone in my life with them and/or find the name too Hispanic.


I like the following names and my husband strongly dislikes them.

Lucas (he has agreed to using it as a middle name)
James (similar to Jaime)
Carlson or Karlson
Gabriel (our niece is Aubrielle and he feels this would be too matchy)

I have searched exhaustedly for different variations of Carl or a name that sounds remotely similar to satisfy my husband to no avail.

Can you suggest some boys names that may satisfy his desire to have a son named Karl without being Karl, sound good with a last name similar to Tolland but without the T, and potentially is well suited with the middle name Lucas?

Thanks a million,



The only other options I can think of are Carlo and Carlton; I’m hoping commenters will have more ideas.

Oh, another possibility would be a double name, such as John-Carl or James-Carlos.

I wonder if there is any way you could come around to the name Charles. It depends, of course, on your particular association with the name. But sometimes associations can be weakened: one way is to dilute it by finding a whole bunch more people with the name:

Charles Babbage
Charles Barkley
Charles Darwin
Charles Dickins
Charles Lindbergh
Charles Schulz

And so on.

It’s one of the hardest things in baby-naming, I think, when a strong preference (in this case, for a Karl-like name) doesn’t result in any names the parents particularly like or can agree on. At this point, the search for The Name That Satisfies the Preference and Also We Both Love It is very likely a search that’s going to leave you stuck in a never-ending loop. Instead it comes down to weighing the merits of two incompatible preferences: do you want to go with the preference for a Karl-like name, or do you want to go with the preference for a name you both like? Hardest of all will be if the two of you disagree on which preference should take precedence.

One possibility for compromise is this: if your husband is getting his way on a Karl-like name, perhaps he could be more open to your suggestions of how to get there. It seems as if right now he wants the Karl-like name AND he wants it to be only a name from his two-name list. Carlson seems like the best possibility for a name that would please both parents: he gets a Karl-like name, and you get a name you like. If he really can’t tolerate Carlson, and you really can’t tolerate Charles or Carlos, it may be time to concede defeat. Perhaps Carl/Karl/Charles/Carlos could be used as a middle name instead.

Baby Boy $utherl@nd

Dear Swistle,

I’ve enjoyed your blogs for years, though I’d never pictured myself needing to write to you for baby-naming help until my husband and I started talking more seriously about names when we found out we were pregnant with our first (and probably only) this fall. He had plenty of girl names that he loved, but exactly ZERO boy names that he even liked (he briefly considered the name Vaughn when he saw it somewhere, but that passed, and I wasn’t a fan), and none of the many boy names that I suggested sounded any good to him either. So when we had the option of finding out our baby’s sex when we did one of the non-invasive cell-free fetal DNA blood tests at 10 weeks we agreed we wanted to know so that we could either give up on looking at boy’s names or buckle down and find some. And we learned that we’re expecting a boy!

After a couple months of looking for new names and lobbying for ones that my husband initially shot down that I still like and think work well with our last name (Henry, Calvin, Paul, Peter, Ian, Lloyd, Grant), asking friends and family for fresh ideas, etc, I’ve found ONE new name that has caught our eyes: Asher. When I first found it on a list of names from the Bible (we’re not religious, but I know there are lots of names in there) I had no idea it had made lists of “top” or “most-searched” baby names recently (yours is the only baby-naming blog I follow, and I was never looking for a most-popular-type name so those were not the sort of lists I’d been searching for). When we realized we should pay more attention to the SSA’s list, we were both shocked to find out some of the names that we thought of as uncommon that are actually top-10 names right now, like Liam. We have a few friends with kids but most are child-free, so we don’t know a ton of babies right now, and we’re reluctant to ask our friends about how much they’re seeing the name Asher around here (Chicago area), as we’d like to keep the baby’s name under wraps until he’s born. We don’t want to pick a name that will be very popular very briefly and then sound very dated, so we wouldn’t want to use Asher if we find out in May that it skyrocketed to the Top 10 last year, but our son is due in June and I don’t want to be falling in love with this name for him for the next few months and then have to switch gears and scramble for another option a few weeks before he’s born, so I’d really like to have at least one more name on our list soon. I know you are not interested in trying to predict the future popularity of a name, but you’re so aware of trends and have seen how names on these most-searched lists have gone before, so I hope you could consider this opportunity to 1. address the trendiness of the name Asher and 2. help us find at least one more name that we somehow haven’t found yet.

My husband is David/Dave, I’m R3n3 (yes, with only one e after the n, my parents had no idea they were giving me a masculine name, it was the early 70’s and they thought they were being creative by putting one e at the end instead of two; they actually also put an apostrophe after the e on my birth certificate/Social Security card and my family continues to use the apostrophe to this day, though I dropped it in my 20’s). Because he has a common name, he’s turned off by names like Henry/Peter/Paul because he thinks of them as too common (I’ve pointed out that a kid named Paul today would never encounter as many Pauls as Dave (born in the early 70’s) encounters Daves; he also has another reason to not want Paul so it’s definitely out, but he still uses the too-common reason against Henry). Because I’ve had to deal with an uncommon, wrong-gender name, with an apostrophe at the end of it (and I won’t even get into the pairing of that with my very unusual and difficult to spell/pronounce Polish maiden name), I’m drawn to names that are easily recognizable as (in this case boy) names and have only one expected spelling. Asher is actually an outlier for me, but there is something about it that I am really liking, and it is the only name my husband likes (though he is also now on the fence about Calvin).

Our only other rules are that names that end in an s sound unfortunately don’t work with $utherl@and (ie Curtis, Felix), and all B names are out because of the initials BS. Ideally we wouldn’t use a name that starts with D or R, since we do like to use our initials, but as hard as it is to find a name at this point, that would not be a deal-breaker. Something about Calvin doesn’t sound perfect with the last name (maybe the EN/IN sound at the end with the AN sound in the last name?), the names that sound best to me have one or two syllables and totally different sounds from what’s in our last name, but at this point I’m trying to make as few rules as possible. We have no family names we want to use. I like John but we have too many adults in our life with that name, friends have used Jude and Oscar so those are out, other friends have chosen such unusual names that I’m not even worried you’ll suggest them. We’ll choose a middle name after we have a first name, might go with Michael (for a dear friend of mine who passed), but finding our kid a first name is our primary concern.

Thanks for reading, we’d really appreciate your and your readers’ help, and we promise to send an update with a photo as soon as the baby is born!


Oh shoot, I just remembered one more rule is that the first name has to work with the last initial S. We ran into this with the name Levi, where the S forces you to think of the jeans– Levi S.


If I think to myself, “What are my impressions of the name Asher?,” here’s what I’ve got, in the order they come to mind:

1. A revived biblical name, along the lines of Ezra and Elias and Noah. Added benefit of not sounding particularly biblical, for those who would prefer to avoid that.

2. A “stealth popular” name: feels very unusual but there are a surprising number of them.

2b. But is #2 true, or is that something I read as a prediction? Because I don’t know any Ashers at all still. I asked the kids, and they don’t know any Ashers either. Maybe this was one of those names that created a lot of buzz but that’s all.

3. A next-generation name, as when we still like the sound of a name but it also feels dated or overused, so we try to find something that is similar yet different. Madison and Madelyn lead to Addison and Adalyn, for example; or, when Emma and Ella feel too popular, people look for other names starting with Em- and El-. I wonder if Asher came into fashion because we were not quite done with the name Ashley, combined with the celebrity of Ashton Kutcher, combined with the search for biblical revival names. It feels both fresh and familiar, a lovely combination; plus it has those long roots, so it isn’t an invented or overly modern name.

4. The -er ending makes it fit well with the surname style and the occupational-name style, both of which are in fashion now.


With a list like this, where I’d start is with 2b: IS Asher very popular? I feel like those “hottest search” lists can save parents from the mistaken impression that they are the only ones to think of the name, but they can also panic parents unnecessarily: the names people are interested in or want to talk about are not necessarily the names they use for their children. “Hotness” is difficult to translate into usage numbers. So, let’s look at the actual data for the name Asher:

(screen shot from

(screen shot from

The name was in very light, barely-Top-1000 use back in the 1880s and for one year in the 1890s (I haven’t included that part in the screen shot because that makes a lonnnng chart). The name then dropped out of the Top 1000 until it popped up again in 1983 and 1985; it came back and stayed back starting in 1992. Since then, you can see it has made significant progress up the chart—but not at a speed I’d describe as breakneck: it took more than two decades to go from virtually-unused to nicely-familiar.

I am always interested to see where a name STOPS. Many, many names come roaring into fashion, and that doesn’t scare me a bit: that’s how names WORK. We use one batch for awhile, and then a new batch becomes more appealing and we switch to those: I don’t even WANT to use a name that doesn’t sound nice to the current ear. But where the name STOPS is a very interesting and potentially important detail. A name might come into fashion and keep going until it gets to #1, as names such as Emma, Sophia, Isabella, Noah, and Jacob did, each at their own pace. Or a name might come into fashion and then hang around in the 100s or 200s ranks, where it is familiar but still unusual.

The name Asher has spent the last few years just sort of hovering: #113 in 2011, then #108 in 2012, then #104 in 2013. When the 2014 data comes out in May, I’ll be interested to see if it’s at, say, #106, or if it’s made the jump into the Top 100, or if it even ends up at, say, #128. I wouldn’t expect it to be in the Top 10.

One appealing feature of very old names is that it’s hard to apply the word “trendy” to them even if they become very popular, or even if they can be said to be part of a trend (such as the “hip biblical” trend). It’s similar to clothing fashions: even if navy blue blazers are considered particularly fresh and stylish one spring, and even if “nautical prep” is listed as a trend, it doesn’t feel quite right to use the word “trendy” for the blazer. For something to be trendy, there needs to be a flash-in-the-pan element, and that’s difficult to use when something has been in and out of the pan for thousands of years.

When parents have a too-long list and want to find ways to pare it down, I start looking harder at surname compatibility and the flow of the name. But when parents have a too-short list, I shift priorities. Calvin $utherl@nd sounds fine to me: I see what you mean about its possible imperfections, but I see the imperfections here as non-deal-breaking, and the name has so many things going for it that I’d keep it on the list.

Same with Felix and Curtis. I like names not to run together too much, but those don’t cross my “too much” line with $utherl@nd. One thing I look for is whether the run-together/blend matters at all. That is, are we talking the classic example of Ben Dover, where we really don’t want our child called Bend Over? Or is it more a case where two letters create a slight issue in the mouth when we transition from the one to the other, and it’s nothing embarrassing or upsetting? For me, Calvin, Felix, and Curtis all fall well within the second category with $utherl@nd: I’d be well willing to accept the minor imperfections (if they even ARE imperfections).

Here is an exercise I found exceedingly helpful. Do you have any yearbooks lying around? (I choose yearbooks rather than, say, the credits at the end of a movie, because I find the photos make things even clearer for me; but if you don’t have a yearbook, film credits or phone books or employee directories work well too.) If you do have a yearbook, page through one and look at the names. Notice how many of them are not perfect—and how little it matters in most cases. Once the name is attached to a person, most of them just seem like regular names, even if you can find things less than ideal about them. Jacob Butterfield kind of buh-buhs, I guess, but it just seems like a name. Evan Dylan is definitely one I could have advised against, and yet when it’s on a ninth grader it just doesn’t seem to matter very much. Calvin $utherl@nd and Felix $utherl@nd might not have even caught my eye with this exercise, let alone alarmed me or made me wonder what the parents were thinking.

I was already wondering if I should encourage your husband to reconsider Ian, and then I used the example of Evan Dylan in the previous paragraph; those two things together made me wonder if Evan might be a nice one to add to the list: it’s a little like Ian from your list, and a little like your husband’s former name-crush Vaughn, and a little like Calvin. Evan $utherl@nd.

Or Gavin. Gavin $utherl@nd.

I don’t suppose I could talk you into Harvey? I’ve loved it since Sabrina the Teenage Witch. Similar to Henry, but much less common. Harvey $utherl@nd.

I also suggest Karl. It’s a name I haven’t had much luck promoting, but I still think it’s worth a try. Karl $utherl@nd.

Baby Girl Burton, Sister to Emerson Grace

We are expecting baby girl #2 in July. Her big sister’s name was so easy for us to come up with. We both loved it immediately. She goes by Emerson, Emmy or Em. This time we are having more trouble agreeing. We want a name that isn’t too out there, but also isn’t extremely popular. Because Emerson is gender neutral I don’t want to go with anything super feminine, I don’t think they would go together. Some of the names on my short list are:


Those are the ones my husband and I agree on, but none of them really jump out at us as ‘the one’. He came up with one over the weekend that has me intrigued. Finley Margaret. Originally when he said it I thought it sounded a little too masculine, but it’s definitely growing on me. The middle name starts with an “M” for his mother who passed away last year. I could also use some help with girl middle names that start with an M! My favorite boy’s name has always been Finn, and since this will be our last child, I like the idea of incorporating Finn into a girls name.

Thanks for any help!


It sounds to me as if Finley is a perfect fit. Here’s how the name Emerson looked in 2013:

Emersen: 45 F, 10 M
Emerson: 1509 F, 973 M
Emersyn: 595 F, 16 M
Emmerson: 170 F, 22 M
Emmersyn: 71 F, – M

About 2,390 new baby girls and about 1,021 new baby boys: unisex, but currently used more often for girls.

Here’s how the name Finley looked in 2013:

Finlay: 18 F, 41 M
Finley: 1089 F, 562 M
Finnley: 113 F, 176 M

About 1,220 new baby girls and about 779 new baby boys: unisex, but currently used more often for girls.

Finley Margaret strikes me as a charming combination, and I like the way it lets you salvage your favorite boy name. I also like the way both girls have modern/unisex first names and traditional/feminine middle names. More M-name possibilities:

Finley Mae Burton; Emerson Grace and Finley Mae
Finley Maeve Burton; Emerson Grace and Finley Maeve
Finley Maria Burton; Emerson Grace and Finley Maria
Finley Matilda Burton; Emerson Grace and Finley Matilda
Finley Meredith Burton; Emerson Grace and Finley Meredith
Finley Michaela Burton; Emerson Grace and Finley Michaela
Finley Miranda Burton; Emerson Grace and Finley Miranda

But Finley Margaret is my favorite.

Baby Boy S_____, Brother to William August


We are expecting our second child, another son, who is due at the end of April. As with our first child, we are struggling with boy names. Our first son turned two in January. With him we didn’t know his sex until he was born. The girl name came easily, but we didn’t have our boy name until after he was born. His name is William August. Most people, including us, call him Will, but he has a Grandpa that has never called him anything but Gus, which I love.

This time we know we are having a boy but still we struggle. Obviously, I want a name that goes well with William, but William can go a few different ways. Royal, cowboy, American traditional…

Here are some things I love about Will’s name.

I love that it is timeless. It is common/popular now, but it has always been common/popular. I like that it doesn’t feel like we are trying to “bring back” an old Grandpa name. I love that it has a nice formal name with a cute but still manly short name. And I love that the short name is kind of trendy and modern while the long name is classic and traditional. I love how his middle name gives his full name a more modern feel too. August is trendier but still old, which I like.

I would love another name that I can love for all (or most) of the same reasons I love William August.

Here are some names we have considered, discarded, or won’t/can’t use. Did I mention my husband is very opinionated about names??

Names we both like: Malcolm (Mac), Arthur (Art?), Milo, Calvin (Cal)

Names I like (but hubby is against for one reason or another): Samuel (Sam), Louis (Lou?), Jack, Oliver, Nicholas (Cole), Lucas (Luke), Marshall

Names hubby likes (but I’m against for one reason or another): Charles (Charlie), Gordon (Gordy), Henry

Names you would think we would like but aren’t crazy about: Daniel, James (at least for a first name), Michael, Matthew, Jacob, David, Joseph, John, Christopher

Names close friends have used recently: Alexander, Benjamin, Thomas

We would like to avoid super Biblical names if possible. If it helps, our girl name has always been Alba Josephine. Our kids use my husband’s last name – a one syllable name that starts with an S.

Are there any names left? We are stuck. I will end with saying that a lot of the names I have discarded in my mind I could see myself falling in love with. When I was pregnant with my first, I never thought I would grow to love the names William and August as much as I do now. So maybe there’s hope!

If you are willing, we appreciate any advice you may have!




This is a letter that has occupied my mind. I’ve been trying to think of names that are like William, but William really does seem to be a special case. How is it that a name can sound fresh when it hasn’t left the Top 20 since the start of the Social Security Administration’s records in 1880? Well, it just does, and I don’t think other names can be held to that standard. I wrote a whole post with suggestions but kept getting bogged down: one name was great but didn’t have a good nickname; another name was great but definitely a little Grandpa-ish; yet another name had a great nickname and didn’t sound Grandpa-ish, but didn’t feel fresh to me either.

When I find myself going in circles like that, I stop and reevaluate: am I looking for something that exists, or am I spinning my wheels because what I want is something I can’t have? Right now, my theory is that you’re stuck because you’re looking for something that may not exist: a name you love, that you love for the same reasons you love the name William, that isn’t ruled out for any other reason. Considering how small the pool of timeless names to choose from is, and adding an opinionated partner to work with, and then ruling out names for various reasons—well, as I say, this is the point where I stop and reevaluate.

I think from here there are two paths:

1. Give up on one or more or ALL of the characteristics that make a name similar to the name William, and instead choose a name you like for different reasons. It can be fun to like names for different reasons, and makes for good naming stories. (“We liked YOUR name because it’s timeless yet fresh, and we liked YOUR name because of George Clooney. Mmmm, George Clooney. …I mean because it’s timeless yet fresh.”)

2. Go through the list of timeless names (your current candidates and others not on your list) again and again until you start to develop love feelings for one or more of the new or discarded candidates.

The first path would lead me to throw all my backing behind the name Henry, IF the reason you ruled it out was something such as a lack of nicknames you wanted to use, as opposed to something such as a horrible association. I just LOVE William and Henry together. I think it may be my absolute top favorite pairing with William. I don’t have too strong a Royal Princes association with it, in part because the names are so common, and in part because I always think of the younger prince as Prince Harry; many people don’t even realize his name is Henry. The nickname issue would probably be the biggest hurdle for me if I were you: I don’t think of Henry as HAVING nicknames. I know it DOES have nicknames (The Baby Name Wizard lists Hank, Hal, and Harry), but none of those feel natural to me: even if I picked one (I’m theoretically keen on the nickname Hank, since I have a dear relative named Henry/Hank), I don’t think I’d end up using it. I’d just call him Henry, and maybe hope another nickname would evolve naturally.

If Henry is out, that same first path would lead me to throw out everything and start over, as if this were your first baby and you were just making lists of names you liked, without putting any of them through the “Is it the same as the name William?” filters. I would even include on your list names that don’t go with William, since those might lead you in new and useful directions.

The second path, on the other hand, would lead me to suggest going through the list name by name, talking up each one that seemed like a good idea, giving yourself time and reasons and opportunities to fall in love. I’d suggest exercises such as imagining the name written in cute preschooler handwriting on a drawing (I’d go so far as to find a child-handwriting font and mess around with it), or imagining William calling the baby “Baby _____,” or looking at pictures of cute babies online and trying the names on them, or going over again how you never thought you’d love the name William as much as you do.

I am about to suggest my children’s pseudonyms, pretty much one right after another. They come to mind because William is also one of the pseudonyms.

I wonder if you would like Robert. That’s one that, like William, doesn’t seem to go away. One thing that makes it different than William, however, is that its popularity is currently in a slow and gradual decline. It was in the Top Eleven (darn you, 1881 and 1887, for preventing me from saying “Top Ten”) from the start of online Social Security records in 1880, until 1989. Even now, it has only fallen as low as #62. William and Robert; Will and Rob. One thing I like about it is all the other cute nicknames, like Robin and Bobbin and Bertie and so forth. (I’m imagining modifying the lyrics to “When the Red Red Robin Comes Bob Bob Bobbin’ Along.”) One thing that’s interesting to me about the name Robert is how much it grew on me: when I first used it as a pseudonym for my firstborn, I didn’t even like the name, but now I do. I like calling him Rob. It’s pleasing to me that I know Roberts my grandfather’s age, my dad’s age, my age, and my children’s age.

Next Swistle-kid-pseudonym to consider: Edward. This is another that I don’t think I would have considered as an actual name, but then I used it for a pseudonym and now sometimes I wish I HAD named the twins Elizabeth and Edward! What a great pairing! I don’t know if I would have used a nickname or not. Eddie, perhaps, or the more deliberate choices Ned and Ted(dy). William and Edward; Will and T…. oh wait. Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. Hm. I guess that would rule it out for me.

I see I am already out of pseudonyms to recommend.

I think it would be worth exploring the possibility of using Benjamin even though your friends used it. William and Benjamin; Will and Ben.

From the list of four names the two of you agree on, my favorite is Calvin. That is in fact my favorite for you of all the possibilities on your list or off it. I think it comes very close to duplicating what you like about William: the formal, non-Grampa-ish full name with the friendly boyish-but-great-for-a-man-too nickname; the timeless feeling with the modern freshness.

For a middle name, I might look for something more common, so that William has a common name followed by a less-common middle name, and Calvin has a less-common name followed by a common middle name. I would do this mostly for the satisfaction of it; that is, if I found a less-common middle name I liked better, I would certainly go with that. But William August and Calvin James has a very satisfying balance, and I enjoy that kind of thing.

Or, I would do my usual middle-name-finding exercise, which is to skim lightly through the baby name book (something like The Baby Name Wizard with a selection of names, rather than a name dictionary with tens of thousands of them) saying the names to myself very rapidly (“Calvin Aaron, Calvin Abel, Calvin Abraham…”) and pausing to make a list of anything that catches my ear.

Or, I would go through the list of names you have already, looking for one that can be salvaged. Sometimes a name has to be discarded as a first-name candidate because of something that is not its fault, such as that it sounds too close to a sibling’s name or creates undesirable initials or is a name someone else just used. It can be satisfying to salvage one of those for the middle name.

Baby Boy or Girl Walker, Sibling to Harrison and Emmett

Hi Swistle !

I’ve been a devout reader of your naming blog since we were pregnant with our first, who’s 3 now, and would love your advice ! We have two boys, Harrison John (3), who sometimes goes by Harry, and Emmett Matthew (1). We are due with our third, and probably last, in April. Our last name sounds like Walker. We decided not to find out the sex this time, but if it’s a girl she will likely be Hazel Lucille or Hazel Marguerite.

The problem is, we’re having trouble coming up with a third boy’s name we love just as much as Harrison and Emmett. The boy’s middle names are family names, so we will likely go with Paul (after my grandfather) for the middle name this time. The short list of names that both of us like includes, Augustus, Leonard nn Leo (family name), Ezra, and Maxwell nn Max. I find myself obsessing over which name sounds best with Harrison and Emmett, and worrying that none of them “feel right”. Augustus is good, but it just doesn’t feel like THE name. Leonard I like, but I worry it’s too out there and doesn’t fit a squishy little baby. Ezra I like a lot, but it doesn’t seem to flow with our naming style. Maxwell, I like, but worry it’s too popular compared to our other boy’s names. In general I tend to go for more “old fashioned” names.

Maybe you have a suggestion we haven’t thought of ? Some other names I love but we can’t use for various reasons include, Oliver, Thaddeus, Theodore, Bennett, Everett, and Henry. Please help ! Am I over-analyzing simply because naming three boys is hard ? Maybe no name will feel like “the name” as much as I think it will, but April is quickly approaching and there’s no name in sight !

We’re in desperate need of your wisdom :)


This may or may not apply to you, but if it DOES apply, it can be a comfort: When you were searching for your second child’s name, was it hard to find anything you liked as much as your first child’s name? And has that issue now been resolved, and you love both names? I think it is nearly impossible to find a name that measures up to the names of already-born-and-beloved children. The names Harrison and Emmett are no longer NAMES to you: they’re CHILDREN. No name can measure up to that, until it too is a child rather than a name. Instead of looking for a name you like as much as the first two, I suggest making this subtle shift: look for the name you like best of all the available options.

I would be interested in knowing which name is the frontrunner at this point. If I were trying to rank “good,” “like,” “like a lot,” and “like,” my guess would be that Ezra (“like a lot”) is currently your first choice. If I met a sibling group containing Harrison, Emmett, and Ezra, I wouldn’t find the style shift startling: it IS hard to name three boys, and the styles are compatible. I am slightly bothered by the repeated short-E-and-two-syllables of Emmett and Ezra, but not enough to cross Ezra off the list: the other sounds in the names are so different.

Leonard seems like the current second choice. If Leonard seems a little too grown-up for a squeezy little bundle, I’d suggest calling him Leo (as planned) or Lenny until he’s a bit older. Or perhaps another baby nickname will occur naturally. “Cub,” maybe, from leo = lion.

The style gap seems larger to me with Leonard than with Ezra. Ezra, like Harrison and Emmett, is a name currently in style (not high on the charts, but in favor sound- and style-wise), and so all three names feel current. They were also of very similar popularity in 2013: Harrison at #161, Emmett at #173, and Ezra at #143. Leonard is not quite back yet; at #687 and falling, it feels out of step with the others. The nickname Leo brings it back into step, however. Harry, Emmett, and Leo.

“Doesn’t feel like the name” seems to me to take Augustus out of the running. You have probably already considered August, but I’d want to mention it again: it feels more compatible to me than Augustus with the other children’s names. Harrison, Emmett, and August. Nickname Gus if you want it.

I agree that Maxwell feels more popular than Harrison and Emmett, and it IS more popular: Maxwell was at #108 in 2013 and Max was at #111. But they’re not as high as I’d thought.

I wonder if you might like Nathaniel. Perhaps it will be more common than you’d prefer, but I like it with Harrison and Emmett. Nathaniel Walker; Harrison, Emmett, and Nathaniel; Harry, Emmett, and Nate.

Or Sebastian. Sebastian Walker; Harrison, Emmett, and Sebastian.

This may be a bit further out than you’d like to go, but I thought of Shepard if your surname is not a word. Harrison, Emmett, and Shepard; Harry, Emmett, and Shep.

Or Gabriel, if that’s not too much L with the surname. Harrison, Emmett, and Gabriel.

We were talking on Twitter the other day about the name Russell: a few of us had been pleasantly surprised to encounter it on children. It hits that “familiar yet uncommon” mark nicely, and then all three boys have double letters in their names. But maybe too much L with the surname. Russell Walker; Harrison, Emmett, and Russell.

Or Clark, which may or may not be good with the surname. I like the descending syllables of Harrison, Emmett, and Clark.

Or Grant. Harrison, Emmett, and Grant.

Or Gage. Harrison, Emmett, and Gage.

Or Reid. Harrison, Emmett, and Reid.

Or Lincoln. Harrison, Emmett, and Lincoln.

Or Nolan. Harrison, Emmett, and Nolan.

Oliver, Everett, and Henry all tap right into my own name list. I wanted to suggest George (also on that list), but George Harrison may rule that out; I wanted to suggest Elliot, but that seems much too close to Emmett. I wanted to suggest Wesley, but it seems too alliterative with the surname.

Do you like Simon? Simon Walker; Harrison, Emmett, and Simon.

Or Louis? I like the pronunciation that sounds like Lewis, and it’s on my Sad I Can’t Use It list. Louis Walker; Harrison, Emmett, and Louis. Or maybe that merges too much with the surname.

We liked both Miles and Milo. Miles Walker; Harrison, Emmett, and Miles. Milo Walker; Harrison, Emmett, and Milo. Again, maybe too much L with the surname, depending on what it is.

Or Calvin? This was a favorite we had to rule out for other reasons. Calvin Walker; Harrison, Emmett, and Calvin; Harry, Emmett, and Cal.

Or Malcolm. Malcolm Walker; Harrison, Emmett, and Malcolm.

Or Gideon. Gideon Walker; Harrison, Emmett, and Gideon.

Or Franklin. Franklin Walker; Harrison, Emmett, and Franklin.

Or Frederick. Frederick Walker; Harrison, Emmett, and Frederick.