Baby Girl or Boy Miles-with-a-W, Sibling to Ruby

Hi Swistle, we have about 6 weeks until we meet our little one and we can’t seem to settle on a middle name. Here are some specifics.

We don’t know if it’s a boy or girl. We do have a girl name selected that we love – Mabry Elizabeth.
We have selected a first name – Franklin but can’t quite settle on a middle name. We would call him Frank or Frankie.
We already have a 16 mos old girl named Ruby Sue.
Our last name rhymes with Miles but starts with a W.

Here’s the problem with middle names for Franklin – traditional names like George, David, Michael, etc all seem too presidential. So we played around with more “trendy” names like Ames, Adler, Finn, etc but they feel like we’re trying too hard, if that makes sense. There must be something in the middle but we can’t quite come up with anything.

To give you background on how we picked our daughter Ruby’s middle name, it is my mother in law’s middle name. And we absolutely love the name Ruby Sue but we don’t have any other family members’ names that seem to sound right with Franklin.

Any advice you have would be so helpful.



Hm. I see what you mean. I think, though, that some of your examples already successfully avoid the issues. Michael doesn’t feel presidential to me at all, even though George does. And even George, which because of two recent presidents and the famous first president SHOULD be UTTERLY presidential, also makes me think of Prince George, George Michael, Boy George, George Clooney, George Takai, etc.

Franklin Michael seems like a very nice choice. I think you could get a similar effect with any traditional name that doesn’t immediately evoke a president. I had Franklin James in mind, for example, without even realizing that we’ve had SIX presidents named James. The name James is so diluted by many associations, it doesn’t smack of presidency the way, say, Clinton or Lincoln might. But there are also a whole bunch of other traditional names not used by a president at all:

Franklin Alex
Franklin Alexander
Franklin Caleb
Franklin Charles
Franklin Daniel
Franklin Edward
Franklin Isaac
Franklin Jacob
Franklin Joel
Franklin Joseph
Franklin Joshua
Franklin Lucas
Franklin Mark
Franklin Matthew
Franklin Nathaniel
Franklin Nicholas
Franklin Patrick
Franklin Paul
Franklin Peter
Franklin Philip
Franklin Robert
Franklin Samuel
Franklin Stephen
Franklin Timothy

Baby Girl Archer, Sister to Sophie

I’m having a baby girl in Febuary. We are having difficulty deciding on a name. The truth is I’m having difficulty being completly sold on a name. My husband and I decided on Scarlett Elizabeth Archer as of yesterday. It sounds so cool to me one second then the next I think it’s too risky and I want to name her Charlotte instead.

So here is some background information. My husband has a daughter who is six and we get her part-time. Her name is Sophie Lorene Archer. My husband’s name is Kyle Joseph Archer. I’m Mary Elizabeth Archer.

I want to pass on my middle name. I also thought it would be neat if both girls had a name that began with S. Althought, the two names seem so different. Just wanted to see what your throughts were?… Thanks, Mary


Stylistically, I vote for Charlotte: Sophie and Charlotte sound more compatible to me than Sophie and Scarlett—though I think Sophie and Scarlett are fine together, if you prefer Scarlett.

One thing that might be helpful is your reaction to my vote: Do you feel disappointed that I sided with Charlotte? That may help you feel more sure about Scarlett. Do you find instead you’re relieved? That may help you feel more sure about Charlotte.

Based on the number of distressed letters we get from parents saying “We gave our first two kids the same initial; do we have to continue with that? We don’t like any more names that start with that letter!,” I might lean toward using different initials—though I do like the way the shared S helps bridge the small style gap.

If I say only the first and last names without the middle name as a buffer, Scarlett sounds like an adjective and Archer sounds like a noun. The Scarlet Archer. This also keeps me from suggesting Ruby or Violet as additional candidates, especially with how similar the sound of Violet is to the sound of the word violent.

I wonder if you would like the name Lucy? It has the style and sweetness of Sophie and Charlotte. Lucy Archer; Sophie and Lucy.

For another S name, I might suggest Sadie. Sadie Archer; Sophie and Sadie. Or maybe the matching endings make them TOO similar.

Or perhaps a soft C would give the SOUND of matching, without actually sharing the initial. Cecily Archer; Sophie and Cecily.

Or Celeste. Celeste Archer; Sophie and Celeste.

Your middle name would make a lovely first name with lots of nicknames. Elizabeth Archer; Sophie and Elizabeth/Libby/Ellie/Betsy.

Annabel Archer is sweet and distinctive and gives several nickname choices. Sophie and Annabel/Annie/Bella/Anna.

It might be fun to use both parents’ middle names: Josephine Elizabeth Archer. Josephine Archer; Sophie and Josephine/Josie/Jo.

Baby Boy Richards, Brother to Piper and Milo: Judah?

Hi Swistle,

We are in a baby naming predicament. I currently have 2 kids (a girl named Piper Jade and a boy named Milo Boyd and our last name is Richards). I am 22 weeks pregnant, Due December 18th, with my third baby (boy) and the name that my husband (Dan) and I can’t get out of our heads is Judah. Now if the first thought that comes to your mind when you read this is “Hey, isn’t that the guy that betrayed the savior?” Then you would be on the same page as 99% of our friends and family. My husband and I know that Judah is NOT Judas but because of this negative association I am hoping to find a backup name or at least some reassurance that our son will not forever be known as the betrayer of the Savor if we go with Judah. I would love your insight. What are your thoughts?




It’s tricky. The name of the Savior-Betrayer is Judas, as you mention, and so Judah ought to be fine. But if a name strongly reminds us of another name, it can be difficult to use it, however unfair that is.

It’s interesting to me that your friends and family aren’t instead objecting to the association with the biblical Judah. Now there’s a guy with some scandal.

I think there are two routes you could go here. One is to stand your ground. The name Judah is rising quite quickly in popularity: according to the Social Security Administration, it hit the Top 1000 in 1997, and by 2014 had risen to #243. As a name becomes more common, it gets less surprising to hear it, and even strong associations begin to dim. I think it’s following Noah and Elijah and Ezra: those names used to be very unusual and super-biblical, but now they’ve been mainstreamed. While it’s still possible to use them in honor of their biblical characters, it’s even easier to use them without taking it into consideration.

Plus, the name you are considering is Judah, which IS IN FACT different than Judas. Your friends/family: “Like OUR SAVIOR’S BETRAYER??” You, with look of mild surprise: “No, no: JuDAH.” (Bonus points if you add “You know: the patrilinear ancestor of Jesus.”) (Cash money for a video of you saying conversationally to them: “I mean, he’s only the ancestor because his daughter-in-law dressed as a hooker so he’d have sex with her. But still! Ancestor high-five! Thank goodness he didn’t follow through with his plan to murder her while she was pregnant, amirite?”)

Will your child be forever associated with Judas the betrayer of Jesus? Short answer: no, of course not. IS your child Judas-the-betrayer? No. Would he even share a name with Judas? No. Will your family cling to this concept so vigorously that even decades down the line they will still be upset about it? Well, you know your family better than we do: WILL they? Is there any similar situation in the family you can look at—maybe another time there was an uproar over a baby’s name and the uproar either died down or it didn’t?

The other route is to accept it. To think of it as one of those situations many of us have, where there is a name we really want to use, and we can’t use it because it’s the name of someone we used to date and our spouse is still jealous, or the name of our new step-mother and using that name would hurt our mother, or the name of someone who became notorious after we fell for the name. Sometimes there’s theoretically no reason the name can’t be used anyway (“I liked that name LONG before I dated him! I don’t even THINK of him when I say that name!!”), but it just isn’t going to work. We and you may all agree that the name SHOULD BE fine, but that doesn’t mean it IS fine in the context of your particular circle. If you think friends and family will shudder every time they hear your child’s name, it may be in his own best interests as well as yours to choose something else.

For example, how about another stylish biblical name?


I especially like Simon: I think it’s great with Milo and Piper, and I like that all three first names would have long-I sounds. Perhaps you could use Jude as the middle name, and then all three would have four-letter middle names with a strong D sound!

You might not like any other name as much as you like the name Judah—but if you decide the name Judah is not usable for your family, the best choice may be your second-choice name.

Baby Boy Pippert; Narrowing Down a List

Hello Swistle,

I am entering week 32 of pregnancy and this is our first child. We found out over fathers day we are having a BOY!! I have had a list of names in the running for awhile now, but we are just not 100% and I was hoping for a little help. It has been a little bit of a challenge because my husband is a teacher/coach and knows a lot of kids. That has ruled out a few names we like. We want something that is unique and not overly popular, but still a solid strong name that when you see this on paper, you know how to say it! No names that start with P due to our last name starting with P. Pippert is pronounced (Peepert) .The list we have started for the boys is this and has been pretty consistent for months now.

Jackson (I know is popular)
Graham (My husbands name is Grant so may be too similar)

Isaac (for a middle name)
Isaiah (for a middle name)
James (for a middle name)
Bankes (pronounced Banks, for a middle name)

The girl names we liked were:

Thank you!!


I notice you have unisex names on both the boy-name and the girl-name lists. Unisex names can be a little tricky to work with, so if you are planning to have more than one child, this is the perfect time to think about such things.

There are a few ways to go with it. One is to give all the children unisex names: a sibling group of, for example, Emerson, Grayson, Blake, and Finley. You could even do the fun thing one of my cousins did: she and her husband agreed on a particular unisex name for each child before they knew the sex, using that name either way.

Another is to use unisex names for all the girls OR for all the boys, and non-unisex names for the others. A sibling group of, for example, boys named Vincent and Maddox, and girls named Finley and Gracen; or boys named Emerson and Finley, and girls named Grace and Laney.

Another is to choose your favorite name each time and not worry about it too much: a sibling group of, for example, boys named Emerson and Maddox, girls named Finley and Grace.

My own preference is for HINTS. That is, if I used unisex names for my sons, I’d want to use specifically girl-only names for my daughters to help people remember who was who. I also like to use specific middle names with unisex first names: Emerson James, for example, or Finley Grace.

To help you narrow down your list, I suggest playing games. One game I particularly like is Name the Sibling Group. Imagine how many children you think you’re likely to have; let’s say that number is three. Imagine yourselves gathered around the table for dinner, or imagine the children hanging around in the living room, or imagine introducing your whole family at an event. Pick some sibling name groups, and see which ones seem like Your Family. If you imagine Kendrick, Finley, and Vance arguing about Monopoly, does that feel RIGHT? Does it feel more or less right to imagine them as Jackson, Grace, and Ethan? More or less right to imagine them as Emerson, Blake, and Finley? More or less right to imagine them as Gannon, Grayson, and Graham?

Not only can that game help you find your naming style, it can help you find issues that might not have come up until you were naming a second child. For example, you might find you don’t want to repeat any initials, in which case with this very first child you may want to decide which G name (or which E name, or which V name) you like best of all the names for both sexes. Or perhaps you don’t want to duplicate endings, in which case this would be the moment to pick your favorite among Emerson, Jackson, Nelson, and Grayson.

Another exercise I find helpful is to start pairing up firsts and middles. Sometimes a particular first-and-middle combination will rise above the crowd, even if the names individually didn’t stand out. Also, I find it shows me which names I feel most drawn to: if I find myself WANTING to make a name work, or reaching for it again and again, or AVOIDING a particular name, that’s all useful information.

It can also alert you to issues with initials: if, like me, you prefer initials not to spell anything, you’d know to avoid Vincent Isaac Pippert; or perhaps you have the opposite preference and the fun initials will help you make the decision.

Another exercise is for each of you to assign rankings to all the names in the list. Names can share the same rankings, so that for example you could have Ethan, Jackson, and Vance all marked 1, and Maddox marked 2, and Gannon and Nelson both marked 3, and so on. When you and your husband compare your lists, perhaps you will see that both of you have the same couple of names marked very low on the list, too low to have any chance of being used over names higher on the list, and so it’s safe to take those out of the running. Or maybe both of you will have the same couple of names marked very high on the list. Or maybe your lists will be absolutely opposite, and you’ll know the choice might need to be from the overlap in the middle.

When Paul and I were naming Henry, I remember us finding it useful to say, “Is there any chance we’d use THIS name over these other names?” There were a ton of names we liked and COULD have used, but it helped to realize the name Alan wasn’t going to win over the names Henry and Charlie, and the name Daniel wasn’t going to win over the names Oliver and Milo. Before then, we kept getting caught up in thinking we didn’t want to remove any names from the list because we LIKED those names and there was no REASON to remove them; this let us take names off the list without feeling like it had to be because we didn’t like them anymore.

Another exercise is to start striking names off the list for various non-deal-breaker reasons, and then see what’s left at the end and how you feel about it. If it were my list, I think I would take Ethan off. Not only is it very popular (Top 10 since 2002, according to the Social Security Administration), but the repeating long-E sound draws attention to the “pee” sound in your surname. Then I might take off Kendrick because Kendrick Pippert is difficult for me to say—something about the repeating K’s and then the repeating P’s, I think. Then I might take off Jackson for being too popular, Graham for being too similar to your husband’s name, and Emerson and Finley for being currently more popular for girls.

Again, none of these are ACTUAL reasons a name SHOULD be removed from the list: the idea of the exercise is to see what’s left on the list, and how you feel about what’s left, and how you feel about losing some of the names. You might find, for example, that as soon as you remove Ethan and Jackson for popularity, you realize you don’t care about popularity as much as you care about those names. Or maybe you find you’re disappointed there’s no reason to cross off a particular name, and that will tell you it’s not a name you still want on the list.

A similar game is to pretend you have decided on each name in turn. Say to each other, “Okay: his name is Kendrick.” Measure your reactions. Do you feel glad? Does your heart rise up happily? Or do you feel disappointed, or unsettled? Try it again with the next name: “Okay: his name is Maddox.” Measure your reactions again; compare them to your husband’s reactions. Are any reactions matching? Those might be good names to bump up the list, or to remove.

It’s a good sign, I think, that your name list has stayed stable for quite awhile. This tells me that it’s likely you’d be happy with ANY of the names on the list, and the difficulty is picking your favorite out of many excellent choices.

Baby Girl Ranney, Sister to Mason and Brooklyn

I am 23 weeks pregnant with our third (and last) child. Our oldest is a boy named Mason Anthony Ranney (rhymes with Fannie) and we have a daughter named Brooklyn Renae Ranney. Our third child is also a little girl due November 18. We are having a hard time finding just the right name. Currently our strongest contender is Reagan, but we’re not completely sold. We’ve also liked Kaitlyn and Madisyn. If the baby was a boy I loved the name Nolan.

I appreciate your suggestions! Thank you.

Meagan & Dale Ranney


I notice two things about the name Reagan. Neither is necessarily a big deal, and both may in fact be pluses rather than minuses. The first is that it is only one letter different from your name. The second is that it is very alliterative with the surname: Reagan Ranney. Particularly because the name Ronald Reagan was also alliterative, this catches my ear and eye.

What I notice about the contender Kaitlyn is that it has the same -lyn ending as Brooklyn. What I notice about the contender Madisyn is that it shares the Ma- and the -son/-syn with Mason.

So for my list of suggestions, I’m going to do a mix: some will be suggestions that work with the assumption that you like alliteration, and similarities between sibling names; and some will be suggestions that offer alternatives in case those alliterations/similarities are why none of the contenders feel quite right. I found I was inclined to avoid names that repeated the -ee/-ey/-ie ending of the surname.