Baby Naming Issue: Does Max C. sound like Maxi (as in Maxi Pad)?

Hi Swistle,

I’m due with a boy in July. We have a name ready for him already, but I’ve recently realized a potential problem and I was wondering, now that they’re working again, if it might be possible to use your trusty polling to help figure out if this potential problem is something I should worry about or not.

I’m actually surprised I hadn’t needed to write to you sooner because my husband and I were pretty far apart when it came to naming styles. Like many husbands, mine was partial to the names he grew up with in the 1970s and 1980s (particularly the girls he had crushes on – what is up with that?!). For a girl, he would be very happy to use the name Jennifer. (Me? Not so much.) We were able to find a name for this child in the end but literally only one. (This is not a “take options to the hospital” situation.) The only name we’ve agreed on is Maxwell (nn Max). I think it’s great. My husband thinks it’s great. We’re both happy. So what’s the problem?

I know Max is on the more popular side these days, though I’m not aware of any in my group of friends with kids. Still, I know there is a potential for him to not be the only Max in class. And our last name begins with C. So he may be Max C. I was in the shower the other day when I suddenly realized that Max C sounds like “maxi”. So now I’m concerned about “maxi pad” teasing. So my question is this: Does the potential for “maxi pad” teasing make the name unusable? Or, rather, would it stop you or your readers from using the name? I don’t want to saddle my child with something he’ll hate. Of course, being pregnant and hormonal means I could be blowing this out of proportion, so I’d love the feedback. If we need to go back to the drawing board, we need all the time we can get!



If there is literally only one name you and your husband can agree on, then our task is to see if we can eliminate/avoid any problems with it, not to rule it out for something that may or may not be a problem.

For it to be a problem, ALL of these things would have to happen:

1. He would have to be in a classroom with more than one Max.
2. There would have to be only one possible solution: to call him Max C.
3. “Max C.” would have to sound like “maxi” to other people.
4. “Maxi” would have to make those people think of “maxi pad.”
5. Those people would have to choose to use that as a taunting nickname.

ALL OF THOSE THINGS would have to happen together. When even the first thing on the list is something that may never happen—and if it did, the second thing on the list is not true.

My kids have periodically been in classrooms where more than one kid has the same name. There have been VARIOUS solutions to this, and I believe it is always determined via discussion. That is, so far I don’t believe any of the teachers have said, “Right. So I will call YOU this, and YOU that.” Instead it is “How shall we handle this?” Sometimes the solution is Madison L. and Madison H. Sometimes the solution is Madison and Maddy. Sometimes the solution is Maddy Jane and Maddy Rose. Sometimes the solution is Madison Elridge and Madison Arthur. Sometimes the solution is Maddy and MJ.

Even if your Max is in a classroom with another Max, AND even if Max C. would lead everyone immediately to call him Maxi Pad, ruining his childhood—EVEN SO, there are so many options that avoid this path. He could go by Maxwell while the other Max goes by Max, or he could go by Maxwell C., or by M.C., or by Wells, or by his first and middle names, or by his first and middle initials, or by his first name and middle initial.

I will put up a poll. I am concerned, however, that this will bring us to the phenomenon where a hundred people can say a name is great, but it’s hard to ignore the one person who says “Bleah.” Or where an author/actor/screenwriter can get a hundred glowing reviews, but it’s the one negative one that sticks with them. I could put up a poll for ANY ISSUE IN THE WORLD, even an issue where you would think NO ONE would vote that it was a problem (“Does the name Emily make you think of strippers?”) and SOMEONE would vote that it was a problem. Still, if a poll would help, I will put up a poll:

Is this a deal-breaking problem?

Baby Girl Rhymes-with-Hide, Sister to Ava: Evelyn or Olivia?

I have a baby girl named Ava and just found out I’m having another girl in August! The 2 girl names I didn’t end up going with the first time around are Evelyn and Olivia and I really wish I would have chosen either of those over Ava for my first daughter’s name. If I chose one of these runner ups for daughter #2, do you think it pairs well with Ava?
Ava and Evelyn
Ava and Olivia
The 2 main reasons I like Evelyn and Olivia better than Ava are 1) they’re longer names and I like how they LOOK written better than the 3-letter “Ava”. 2) I love the nicknames they offer “Ev/Evie” or “Liv/Livi”. It’s difficult to shorten “Ava.”
We ended up going w Ava bc it was the only name we both could agree on at the time, now husband has warmed up to these 2 names.
What are your thoughts if I choose one and which do you prefer paired w Ava?
Last name rhymes with Hide.



I think both names work equally well with Ava. Both names repeat some of the sounds of Ava, which may or may not bother you. The name Evelyn gives me just a little bit of a feeling of adding a -lyn to Ava. The name Olivia gives me just a little bit of a feeling of adding an Oli- to Ava.

The feeling is even stronger with the proposed nicknames. Ava and Evie, Ava and Livi. You would need to be on board with this similarity, I think, and not be upset if other people got the names tangled or confused. But plenty of parents really love pairings with similar sounds: Emmy and Abby, Braden and Grady, Lucy and Lottie, Braden and Brinley.

I have a slight preference for Evelyn, I think because it has a different ending than Ava. But I like the way Olivia has a different emphasis, and a more-different first syllable. Well, it’s hard to decide.

You might also like the names Vivian and Genevieve.

Let’s have a poll:

Which sister-name pairing do you prefer?

Baby Naming Issue: Does it Honor Someone to Choose that Person’s Favorite Name?

Hello! I know you are probably inundated with requests, but… I have been twirling this issue around in my own mind until I’m about going crazy, and I wondered if a another perspective or two would be helpful. Your recent post about how to honor an Adolf and what naming practices are actually honorific made me think of writing to you.

I’m due with a baby girl in July. I have always liked the name Charlotte, but when it zoomed up the charts I totally crossed it off my personal list. Logically I know that popularity isn’t what it used to be, and that no name (even the #1 name) is going to be like Jennifer in its heyday. But still, I admit to feeling a bit superior to people who use names in the top ten, as though they were lacking in imagination or something.

Until. I was talking to my grandmother the other day about names and casually mentioned Charlotte (actually more as a red herring than anything, since I didn’t feel like sharing names I was seriously considering). She responded that it had been the favorite name of my great-grandfather as it had been his own mother’s name. I guess he loved it enough that he even used to offer each of his children/grandchildren $50 to name their daughters Charlotte! (There were no takers; there are no Charlottes even in my very large extended family.) Now, this great-grandpa was very important to me and lived with our family from when I was 14 until 17. I loved him dearly and have wanted to honor him in my one of my children’s name in some way (although his name of Loy Frank left me puzzled of the best way to do that, since “Loy” and “Frank” were not my favorite options).

So, now I’m feeling much more torn. I feel like giving my baby the name Charlotte might honor a man whom I loved very much by giving her his favorite name, plus it’s a family name since it belonged to his mother. It’s a name I like anyway (probably because it’s the great-great-grandmother’s name, rather than anything less distant!). And I kind of love the story that he offered to give his posterity $50 to use it. However, I’m not sure how much of an honor name that it would actually be – it’s his favorite name, not his own name after all.

So I suppose my question is this – do you feel like using a favorite name is enough of an honor that it would override popularity concerns? Does the fact that he essentially campaigned for the name to be used by his posterity make it more honorific? I feel like if the situation had been that it was my beloved great-grandmother named Charlotte herself, rather than my beloved great-grandfather whose favorite name was Charlotte, there would be no question that popularity would be over-riden. However, is the “honor” of a favorite name great enough to override the consideration of popularity? I am especially curious since Charlotte, while a classic, has certainly been “spikey” (for lack of a better term) recently and could easily head to #1. I am unsure if that name will tie her to a time period in a way that another classic, but less “spikey,” name would do. I know I could move it to the middle spot and that would solve the popularity problem, but that feels to me like it removes the honor in this situation since his wish was clearly to have one of his own posterity use that name as the first name, not the middle.

I would love to hear any ideas you may have. My husband doesn’t get interested in thinking about names until a few weeks before birth, so he’s not really any help and I’m kind of going crazy trying to consider it all on my own. For what it’s worth, her older brothers are Colton David and Graham Jacob; their firsts are names we loved, their middles are after my husband Dave and my maiden name of Jacobs (I ditched the “s” to avoid having him sound like a law firm with three surname-names). I’d love any thoughts you have! Thanks!


My usual test is to ask “Does this name make you think of the honoree?” My guess, just reading your letter, is that from now on, every time you hear the name Charlotte, you are going to think of that story about your great-grandfather, whether or not you use the name yourself. So my short answer is yes, in this case I think it works as an honor name, and since you liked it ANYWAY, I think this could give you that last little shove.

I think the story of your great-grandfather offering money to his descendants makes a great naming story. Many of us are not close to our great-grandparents, but you were, and this seems like a fun way to remember him, especially since you are not keen on his actual names. Plus, it was his mother’s name. I think I would tell the story roughly as it happened: “We loved the name Charlotte but felt it might be too popular to use. Then I found out this family story, and that was enough to push us into using it.”

But you may find as you think about it over the next few months that it’s NOT enough to give you that last little shove. You’re right about the name’s recent popularity (it was #10 in 2014; within the next few days we should be finding out from the Social Security Administration how the name was ranked in 2015), and that may continue to bother you even with this added reason to overlook it. Or you may find you like the other names on your list more, and that they meet more of your preferences.

As you know, I am not especially keen on messing too much with honor names for my own use. But I don’t mind playing around a bit with other people’s options. For example, Francesca Loy would be a pretty cute name: uncommon, great nicknames including Frank and Frankie. Colton, Graham, and Francesca.

I think Loy in general makes a workable middle name. Possibly not one we might choose out of a baby name book on its own merits, but a definite honor name, and one that appeals to me as a middle name with many girl names. Margaret Loy. Carrigan Loy. Fiona Loy. Audra Loy. Piper Loy. Delaney Loy. Ruby Loy. Miranda Loy. Harriet Loy. Eleanor Loy.

Baby Girl Stuart, Sister to Annabel and Lucy

Dear Swistle,

We are expecting our third (and last) child, a girl, in early July. We have two other girls who are older (there will be a 4 and 5 year gap) and about a year apart. They are Annabel Quinn and Lucy Colleen. Last name is Stuart spelled the other way.

With our first we quickly agreed on Annabel during pregnancy, and with #2 I was so sure that we were having a boy that I didn’t worry about girl names (baby boy would have been Asher, my husband’s pick, all three times). When #2 came I didn’t have time to stress and obsess over a name but I remember looking at her and being so certain that she was not a “Lila” (our top girl pick) but 100% a Lucy. The name suits her so perfectly it feels like a miracle that I was able to pick it out just minutes after giving birth. No name on our list feels like “the one” and I’m afraid #3 and whatever miracle happened with Lucy will not happen and I won’t know what her name should be.

This pregnancy also represents the first time we’ve found out the sex ahead of time. With this being our last baby I only wanted to imagine what he or she was and not imagine both possibilities for 9 months. However, coming up with another girl name has been a lot harder than I thought it would be. I also think my anxiety about the natural imbalance of having three children is coming out in our naming process. I don’t want 2 names to have one trait that the other doesn’t have and thus someone is “left out”. (As if I can fix all future sibling problems by just picking the right name.) While I understand this is (a bit) irrational I’m afraid my crazy pregnant brain is making this choice carry way more weight than it should but I can’t seem to make myself stop overanalyzing. (Note, my husband has zero of these concerns and is mostly saying yes or no to my name ideas while letting me spin my wheels on all the implications of each name).

With all of that said, I am trying not to have too many “rules” about this name. The two most important are:

1) Can’t end with “s” sound because the sound gets lost with our last name.

2) Must be a new initial. No “A” or “L” names.

This is not a rule but I would prefer that the name also have a distinct sound from the two we’ve already named (especially the ending). This is hardest with Lucy as a lot of names I like end in Y.

To make things even more difficult we want the middle name to be Emily or Lee (All the middles are honor names and while I prefer Emily because that was her name, she was called Lee by everyone and my husband doesn’t care between the two). This middle has been somewhat difficult to work with. One name I love, Ivy, sounds awkward with Emily and Lee (Ivy Lee makes me think of Ivy League).


Names I love that husband has vetoed:

Violet – My favorite. This would be THE name but my husband hates it.
Cora (Nora is also off the table as it is the name of a close cousin of the girls)


Names my husband loves that I have vetoed:



Names on our list:

Rosemary (Lee) – I worry that this is too old or too much of a name. (And Lucy’s name would seem so short in comparison to the other two names). We would use Rose but it sounds like Ro Stuart. This name is my husband’s favorite. She would probably be called Rosie.

Eliza (Emily/Lee) – Sometimes I love this name and sometimes I’m not sure because with the long E it feels a little hard to say. I love the spunkyness and the character history (Eliza Bennett, Eliza Doolittle).

Hazel (Emily) – I love the sound and that it goes well with Emily. I am not afraid of popularity but I don’t want something trendy and I think that comes with quick rises and falls of names. I am afraid this name is rising too fast (apparently due to a popular book).

Poppy – not sure if this works with Emily or Lee. Don’t love that it ends in Y like Lucy. Love that it reminds me of my home state of California. It’s very rare in the US and that worries me a little. Although my husband likes the name a lot he jokes that it sounds like “Papi”.

Emily as a first name – Again, I am not afraid of popularity but it seems like if there was going to be something close to a “Jennifer” of the last few decades this would be it. I am not sure if that would drive me (or this child) crazy. We know a lot of Emily’s.

Names ending in “A” seem to work best and it seems like there should be a lot of them and yet I swear I have looked at them all and nothing stands out. Perhaps I need to be pointed in the direction of names I’ve already seen but have overlooked or perhaps I just need reassurance that the list we already have is full of great names and my concerns are silly. This process is making me neurotic and I really want an objective third party opinion. Please help a crazy pregnant lady out.



I know just what you mean about pregnancy-based over-analyzing, as I am/was a similar type. And so I don’t expect my words to carry much weight here, because I remember how words such as these bounced off of me when I was in your shoes. But I will say them anyway: most of the “two names share a trait, so the third name would be left out” concerns just VANISH after the baby is named. For example, three of my boys have the same number of syllables in their names; the fourth has a different number of syllables. This made me feel batty during pregnancy, but thinking about it at this point I had to think carefully about which name it was that was different, and why was it different: it hasn’t crossed my mind since, except as an example of how things that matter very much during the naming process can turn out to matter very little later on. Nor has this child come to me and said, “Mother, the number of syllables in my name makes me feel different from my brothers. Did you…love me less?”

I do think it’s nice, when possible, to avoid STARTLING differences. For example, if you went for Annabel and Lucy for your first two daughters and then wanted to name your third daughter Christopher, I would caution you to take sibling-name coordination into consideration for the sake of everyone involved. But if we are talking about two names ending in the same letter or starting with the same letter or having the same number of syllables, my experience (and current lack of pregnancy) has left me mercifully relaxed.

One exercise I’ve found useful is to think about other sibling groups I know, and consider whether I’ve ever noticed similar issues. For example, let’s say a friend of yours has kids named Aidan, Emerson, and Alex, and you’ve never noticed until now that two are A names and one is not, or that two are -n names and one is not, or that two are 2-syllable names and one is not. If you HAVE noticed, and always DO notice, then I take back what I said about pregnancy hormones and I think we should really work hard to find a name that is equally different from the other two.

Well. In any case, you will find me more than willing to play name-puzzle games: I may be in favor of letting such things go, but they’re still FUN. That is, as long as they ARE still fun: when they start getting stressful, let’s stop. For now, we are looking for a name that does not start with A or L, does not end in -s or -l or -y, does not seem a lot longer or shorter than Annabel or Lucy, does not share dominant sounds with Annabel or Lucy, and goes well with the middle name Emily or Lee. First let’s consider the names on your list.

1. Rosemary. Annabel, Lucy, and Rosemary. I think these go together just fine, and that the name Rosemary is neither too old nor too much. I am not worried about Lucy having a shorter name, particularly if Rosemary will go by Rosie. One thing you could say is that Annabel and Rosemary are both longer names, and Lucy and Rosemary both end in -y. Play UP the similarities, instead of playing them down.

2. Eliza. Annabel, Lucy, and Eliza. One of my own top favorite names, so I am rooting for this one. I love it with the sister names; I love it with your surname. It meets every single preference. If you said, “Swistle, please choose the name for the baby,” this is the name I would choose.

3. Hazel. Annabel, Lucy, and Hazel. I think this another good grouping, but I am still dazzled by Eliza. Also, this would give you two -el names (I don’t think this matters, but it does if we are solving this like a puzzle).

4. Poppy. Annabel, Lucy, and Poppy.  Poppy feels lightweight to me. I wish it were the nickname for something weightier. Maybe Philippa?

5. Emily. Annabel, Lucy, and Emily. I love the name Emily, but/and I see the issue you mention of it being quite popular for quite a long time. It doesn’t feel dated to me, but it does feel like it has lost some freshness.

6. Ivy. Annabel, Lucy, and Ivy. It’s not officially on the list, but I’m putting it there in case it belongs there. I think Ivy Emily is pretty fun to say. I agree it wouldn’t be my first pick on sound/rhythm alone, but considering how important it is to use Emily/Lee, I think it works perfectly well enough to use, and not in a displeasing way at all. And I love Ivy with Annabel and Lucy.


Now let’s add to the list.

1. Eloise. I think of this name when I see the name Eliza, because the sounds are so similar. Eloise Stuart; Annabel, Lucy, and Eloise.

2. Daisy. This came to mind after seeing Rosemary, Hazel, Eliza, Violet, and Poppy: the Z sound of the first three, the nature sound of all but Eliza. It does end in -Y, but I don’t think of that as a problem except for the purposes of playing this like a game. Daisy Stuart; Annabel, Lucy, and Daisy.

3. Flora. Another nature-theme possibility, similar to Cora. Flora Stuart; Annabel, Lucy, and Flora.

4. Clara. I just love it with the surname and the sibling names, and it meets all the preferences. Clara Stuart; Annabel, Lucy, and Clara.

5. Fiona. Another I love with the surname and sibling names, and it meets all the preferences. Fiona Stuart; Annabel, Lucy, and Fiona.

6. Pearl. Pearl Stuart; Annabel, Lucy, and Pearl. Ends in -l, but the -rl blend makes it seem quite different than Annabel’s -el. I like the descending number of syllables: 3, 2, 1.

7. Georgia. Georgia Stuart; Annabel, Lucy, and Georgia. I heard this name on a little girl at the mall and was practically knocked over by how adorable it was.

8. Simone. Simone Stuart; Annabel, Lucy, and Simone. I don’t know why; I just thought of it and liked it.

Baby Naming Issue: What if the Name You Chose Acquired a Terrible Association? (Example: Isis)

Hi Swistle,

This is all purely hypothetical, but I have a question that I thought might be interesting to discuss.

Your post about whether the name Dash is too similar to DAESH has me thinking about a little girl in my son’s class named Isis. They are 9/10 year olds, in 4th grade, and surely 10 years ago ISIS wasn’t on our national radar.

Do you think that the name Isis is enough of a burden that it would be worth changing a child’s name? Obviously not without their buy in, but what do you think? I might make a serious lobby with my kid to start calling them by their middle, or to legally rearrange the name order so that Isis was the middle name/nickname that they could easily drop. And if my child was young enough, heck, maybe her name is Iris now, no buy in required.

But then, it’s your baby’s name, and you were probably thinking about the Egyptian goddess of the sky when you named her. I dunno. It’s the sort of thing that would distress me TREMENDOUSLY, so I’ve been puzzling over it. What would you do if your child’s name became very, very negatively associated with something, after you had already named them?

Miss Grace


I am very interested in this, too. My feelings and thoughts on the whole thing are so similar to yours, I’m finding it hard to write anything that isn’t a complete duplicate of what you just said. If my 10-year-old daughter were named Isis, I believe by now we would have taken some sort of action: I like the Iris idea, I like the middle name idea, etc. It would comfort me to know that people would KNOW we hadn’t named her after ISIS, but I think I would still want to do something about it.

Also, I am at least in theory okay with changing names. When William was in preschool with two other Williams, we talked with him about whether he’d like to instead go by a variant of his name, or by a nickname, or by his middle name. And when people grow up with a name they don’t feel comfortable with and they want to change it, I think that’s a fine idea. I don’t have a “NEVERRRRRRRR!!” feeling about it.

I think this is a great place for a poll. Everyone keep in mind that we are not talking only about the name Isis, but about any name that acquires a terrible and specific association after it has already been given to the child. Maybe you’re not really hearing anything about ISIS and so it’s hard to see what the problem is; in that case, think of a situation where the association WOULD be a huge problem—an association that would cause tremendous distress.

Let’s see if we can simplify things by NOT considering names in heavy usage, such as Charles or David or Matthew: perhaps someone with that name is in the news for doing something terrible, but the name is so diluted, it’s hard for the new association to stick. The comments section is going to dissolve into zero helpfulness/interest if we introduce “Well, ANY name can be association with SOMETHING bad.” No, let’s stick to cases such as Isis, where the name is unusual enough for the association to be strong and distressing, and something that is likely to endure beyond two weeks in the news. Adolf would be another good example of the sort of thing we are thinking of here.

Now let’s discuss the poll options. We’re talking about something that could happen when the child was an infant (in which case you would probably feel free to make name choices without consulting them) OR when the child was an older child (in which case you would need to include them in the decision), so the poll choices will ASSUME that range of consulting or not consulting, depending on circumstances. That is, the poll option “Oh, I’d change that sucker” includes the idea that you might be working with an older child who did NOT want to change; we’re only talking about what YOU would WANT to do. The child might not want to, and you’d do your thing about that, but your DESIRE would be to change it.

So! Are we all clear? This is about a name that would cause you to feel tremendous distress. And then it’s about what YOU would want to do about it. (If it’s easier, you can think of it as asking about whether you’d change your own name.) The poll options attempt to achieve a matter of degree of feeling: some people feel names can be changed, and others feel more as if once a name is given It Is GIVEN, no matter what.

As always with polls, there is no way to have an answer that matches exactly what each voter would choose: we are only trying to sort answers into broad categories, so that we don’t have a 1000-option poll with one vote for each option. More detail can be given in the comments section.

[When I voted it asked me if I wanted to vote as a WordPress user or an Anonymous user. I have no idea what that is about. I tried to change it so it wouldn’t ask that anymore (it shouldn’t be asking voters for ANY info except vote)—but if I was not successful, just choose “Anonymous.”]

Would you change it?