Baby Boy Stall-key

Please help! My husband and I are having a terrible time agreeing on a name for our first baby, a boy. We spent three long years trying to conceive, but now we are two months from the due date and cannot agree on a name. My husband is Michael John and I am Kimberly Eileen. Our last name is German and sounds like “Stall key” My husband prefers older, more traditional names such as John, Charles, James, and Theodore. He also like some military inspired names such as Sherman and Truman. John is his favorite name and my least favorite (although I would be ok with John as a middle name). Of his list, I like Charles and Theodore the best. I mostly prefer more modern names (but would rather not name our son something too popular). I have suggested Miles, Grant, Hayes, and Elijah (nickname Eli). I would also be just fine with a Michael John Jr. We hope to have another baby in the future. I adore the names Emeline or Adeline as girl names while my husband prefers Abigail. Do you have any suggestions for boy names that will blend both our naming styles? Thank you so much.

Baby Name to Consider: Franklin for a Girl


First, I’ve been a lover of baby names since I was a little girl (I’m 26) and your blog has helped me see that I am not alone in this hobby. I say hobby because I have no plans to have a baby in the next couple years. Although I have helped a friend or two name their babies, so it has been helpful, at least.

Anyways, I was watching Marvel’s Daredevil last night and loved that Nelson is nicknamed Foggy, by way of Franklin. And I thought how fun to name your son Franklin and then come up with Foggy. It’s weird, but I’m kind of loving it!

So, I’m writing it down on paper to see what it’d look like and all that jazz… And instead of seeing Franklin, I saw Frank-lin. And that got me thinking, is Franklin useable for a girl’s name?? And once I got thinking, I had to send an email to see what you thought?!

I realize it’s probably a strong male name for most people, maybe even myself. But I wonder… it’s got the appeal of being a surname name (which is all the rage now), girls are already named and nicknamed Frankie, and it ends in Lin/Lynn (which could give her another option if she dislikes it which she’s older).

So I know this is not your typical Q/A but I really hope you post it. I’d love to hear what you and the readers think.

Thank you,


I’m split: half of me is saying, “Oh, yeah, I can see it: kind of like what happened with Lachlan/Locklyn, and the -lin ending could definitely sound more like a girl name (Madelyn, Katelyn, Carolyn, a million others), and I don’t see why not!” And the other half of me is saying, “Noooooooooooooooo!”

Let’s see what’s happening with the name’s current usage. The Social Security Administration reports that in 2013, there were 545 new baby boys named Franklin; it isn’t in the data base at all for girls. But let’s check spellings that use a Y, a common feminizing technique: in 2013, there were 20 new baby boys named Franklyn, but it still isn’t in the data base for girls. Even names such as Joshua and Robert are in the data base for SOME girls (13 and 8 respectively in 2013), so I think it is safe to say that the name Franklin is currently used nearly exclusively for boys in the United States.

I think it could be used for a girl, but that it would make a strong, strong statement, similar to naming a girl Joshua (soft sounds and an -a ending like so many girl names) or Robert (girls already named and nicknamed Bobbi and Robin). Unless the usage changed, she would spend her entire life dealing with paperwork errors and surprised/confused reactions at a much higher rate than average; not an enormous deal at all for someone who liked that, but a burden/bore for someone who didn’t (or for someone who enjoyed it the first thousand times but then wearied of it). If on the other hand, the usage DID change, and Franklin/Franklyn became a unisex name, it would be a different story and I’d have a different opinion.

For me, Franklin fails the “Would I want this name myself?” test, even though I love the name Franklin, love the nickname Frankie for Frances or Francesca, and don’t mind regularly needing to spell my name for people. Part of the appeal of boyish nicknames for feminine names, I think, is that it’s a individualizing choice: the feeling is that it’s a bit of a rebellion against a feminine name or traditional path. “My parents tried to name me something frilly and girly, but that’s not me!” Swapping that option, so that the rebellious choice is choosing a feminine, traditional nickname, feels less exciting.

It fits with a current trend for celebrity baby names: recent baby girls have been named Maxwell, Lincoln, Owen, Wyatt, and James.

I think it would make sibling names challenging. Sister names wouldn’t be too difficult (Maxwell, Lincoln, Owen, Wyatt, and James would all fit the style), but what would be a good brother name for a girl named Franklin?

I’d love to see the name Franklin get more popular for boys, and I’d also love to see Frances and Francesca get more popular for girls. So although half of me thinks Franklin for a girl is a justifiable decision, and a creative and interesting choice if shock value is one of your naming preferences (and that IS a familiar naming preference), the other half of me thinks there are other great established choices that are still pleasingly surprising without being so startling and potentially difficult. If you did use it, I would recommend spelling it Franklyn to assist the Lyn/Lynnie nickname.

Baby Naming Issue: The Pronunciation of Esme

Hi Swistle. I have a pronunciation question for you. Since having another girl recently, my husband and I are on the hunt for the next perfect name in case the next babe is a girl.

I love the look of Esme. And I always assumed it was pronounced Ehz-me but upon further research it looks like that is more the UK pronunciation where most in the USA go with Ehz-may. I was wondering if you and your readers have met anyone with this name and which pronunciation they went by. Also, I live in Canada… We tend to see similar trends as the USA but I find that sometimes our accents/pronunciations are slightly different so not sure if there are other fellow Canadians reading that could comment?



I have been pronouncing it EHZ-may.

The Oxford Dictionary of First Names doesn’t offer a pronunciation, but lists Esmie and Esmee as variants. Esmie looks to me like support for EHZ-mee, while Esmee could go either way: fiancé and fiancée are both pronounced with a -SAY, and Esmée is the original female version of the name; but -ee would usually be an -ie sound in the United States, almost never -ay.

The Baby Name Wizard lists the pronunciation as EHZ-may. There are some further (differing and agreeing) remarks by commenters here.

Inogolo lists the pronunciation as ehz-MAY, but notes: “In English this name is sometimes pronounced with the stress on the first syllable, and sometimes with the first syllable as -es-“—in other words, as EHZ-may or ESS-may.

Esmé Raji Codell, whose book Educating Esmé I really enjoyed (and I think that was my first encounter with the name), pronounces her name EHZ-may.

Howjsay offers three pronunciations, in this order: ess-MAY/MEE, ess-sm (what), and EHZ-may/mee. I listened to it again and again, but the way he pronounces the first one (and to a lesser extent the third one) continues to escape me: he says the vowel almost completely between long-A and long-E.

Forvo has one of each: a speaker from the United Kingdom pronounces it ESS-mee, and a speaker from Australia pronounces it EHZ-may—or really more like ehz-may, with almost equal emphasis.


The name is unusual in the United States (in 2013, it was given to 271 new baby girls), and of course we can’t know from the Social Security data base how parents are pronouncing it, but I wondered if alternate spellings might offer clues. There were 53 new baby girls given the spelling Esmae, which looks to me like an attempt to make the -may pronunciation clear. Another 14 were given the spelling Esmay. Another 38 new baby girls were given the spelling Esmee, which could be an attempt to emphasize a -mee pronunciation, or could be parents who know that Esmee was the original female version (at this point, and in the United States, Esme is the more common spelling, and is used almost exclusively for girls). Another 8 new baby girls were given the spelling Esmi, and another 8 were given Esmie, both of which look like the -mee pronunciation. Another 19 were Ezmae, which looks like -may; 9 were Ezme, which is unclear.

I wish the polls still worked, because I’ve noticed from past similar posts that the percentages indicated by comments are not necessarily representative of percentages indicated in the polls. But the polls DON’T work, and I haven’t yet found a new one I like, so we will just have to go by comments.

Do you know an Esme? What country is she from, and how does she pronounce her name?

Baby Girl G3dd3rt, Sister to Brier and Kinley


I’m pregnant with our third (and final!) baby girl at the end of August. We have 2 girls, sister Brier Rhys, almost 4, & sister Kinley Elyse, almost 2 (and no, we didn’t mean for their middle names to rhyme!).

As you can tell we like names that are unique but not “out there”. My name is Heather & I hated growing up with a plethora of other Heather’s in the 80’s. My husband’s name is Lowell (a great unique name that we have only heard a couple of times on other people) but he didn’t really think too much about being the only Lowell, except having to constantly re-pronounce his name (“you mean Joel?”).

Brier is an old name, over 100 years, that means Heather in French & the second I heard it (in a movie surprisingly enough!) & found out it meant my name, it was perfect! Rhys has no special meaning, we just liked it & since it was a toss up at birth between Brier or Rhys we used it as a middle name.

Kinley is the name of a female rock climber & Elyse we just liked too. My husband & I love climbing & being outdoors hiking, canoeing, camping, etc so I looked for inspiration from strong outdoor females for her name & we settled on this one.

The Dilemma: I feel SO much pressure to name this girl something unique as well. Upon finding out it’s a girl, the main comment I get is “I can’t wait to hear what you name her! I love your daughters’ names! They’re so unique!”. So begins the search for something unique, but not out there…For a middle name I think it’ll be Rose or Rosanna (my grandmother’s name, she went by Rose but Rosanna’s her full name) but again, we really haven’t thought about it, I’m stressing out enough about a first name!

Here are my contenders for our little bundle in order of favorite to least (a word about my husband: he has never really offered up his opinions on names with the girls, he either just rejects a name or says he’ll consider a name on my list :p )

Thea (or Theia) – LOVE this name. Since both our girls have an “i” and “e” in their name, I’m unsure if I should continue the trend & spell it Theia instead…kind of have a thing for Greek names that are feminine sounding like Elena, Helena, Katerina, etc but i love the flow of this one best & it seems less common
Bronte (Brawn-Tay) – LOVE, LOVE this name! It appears to be a common girls name in Australia, but all the forums in North America have a greater percentage of people who dislike this name and think it’s masculine. If only I lived in Australia :)
Ellis – I love this name too! Unfortunately my daughter has a girl in her preschool class with this name so not sure how that would come across. I’ve also noticed on forums that it’s considered a male name, but since I’ve only heard it on a girl it sounds feminine & pretty to me
Jordyn – remember the movie Cocktail with Tom Cruise?? That was the name of his love interest that I had chosen for a girl name since high school! Brier was supposed to be Jordyn, then Kinley was, but since we’ve started having kids it’s become so popular that I can’t bring myself to do it!

Names that haven’t really made the cut but are open for debate (hubby is indifferent and hasn’t seemed too enthused about any of these, some he hates so they’re off the list):

Bronwyn – I personally think bronte sounds more feminine than this & I like Bronte much better, but this seems to be the name people are recommending to those who are considering Bronte saying it’s more feminine, but i don’t agree
Sloane – loved it a few years ago, now not too sure, but keeping it on the list…was on the list for baby #1 & #2
Blake – like it but not sure if it’s too masculine and I don’t think it flows well with our last name
Felicity – not sure if it’s not unique enough (and feels like a mouthful when you say Brier, Kinley & Felicity together). Was on the list for baby #1 & #2
Quinn – becoming too popular
Maelle (My-Elle)
Alyx (Alex)
Darcy – husband hates it
Adrianna – prefer Adrienne but was told it sounds like a boy
Elena – husband didn’t like
Katerina – husband didn’t like
Grae (because I loved Graysen for a boy & thought for sure it was our time to use it!)

My husband offered up Vanessa with our last girl, but it’s too 80’s for me. The only Vanessa’s I know are ones I grew up with and it doesn’t flow with our girls’ names.

If this had been a boy he would have been Graysen Charles (Charles was my father & grandfather’s name), other names considered were Lincoln (nn. Linc), Dominic (nn. Dom), Hudson, Kesler, Dax, Beau.

What are your thoughts on the top 4 names (Thea – or Theia, Bronte, Ellis, Jordyn)? Or are there any names I haven’t considered? I can’t believe I’m having such a hard time this time around! Maybe because I know it’s our last! Any input is accepted openly & graciously!

Thanks in advance!



I can definitely see how it adds pressure to have people looking forward to finding out what wonderful name you will choose this time around. Try to dismiss that issue from your mind, as much as you’re able to. What they are really saying is that they love your naming style. So if you choose a name that is your style (which you will do automatically by choosing a name you love), then the people who love your style will be pleased with this name as well.

And this is a place too where I would apply the “What is the worst that could happen?” coping thought: if you “fail” to choose a name that makes the eager crowds as happy as they felt with the first two names, they will register that disappointment for perhaps two full seconds. Some people do get very excited to learn a baby’s name (I am in that group), but they don’t deep-down CARE very much. If you chose, say, Charlotte, even the biggest and most excited fan of your daughters’ names would think, “Huh. That’s not what I would have expected,” and that would be the end of it: no crushing disappointment, no lingering depression, no writing “WHY?? WHY??” in a diary late that night. Give your shoulders a little shimmy and let’s find a name that is Your Style.

You asked for our impressions of your top four finalists, so let’s start with those.

1. Thea/Theia. This fits your preferences very nicely: not in the Top 1000, yet definitely not too out-there; easy to spell and pronounce. I definitely wouldn’t change to the harder to pronounce/spell Theia just to get the same two vowels as in your first two daughters’ names: it’s not something that catches my attention or seems like a trend. If it had caught my attention, reversing the two vowels feels like a digression from the pattern.

2. Bronte. Currently very unusual in the United States: only 5 new baby girls were given the name in 2013 (it’s not in the data base at all for boys). It doesn’t seem overly masculine to me, I think because my association with the Brontë sisters is so strong. On the other hand, it reminds me of names such as Dante and Devonte and LeBron, which are more often used for boys. Interestingly, the Oxford Dictionary of First Names mentions that the use of Bronte as a first name seems to have originated with the 1990 movie Green Card. I didn’t remember that the female lead’s name was Brontë, but I did like that movie; I wonder if that adds to my feeling that it works perfectly well for a girl. One hesitation I have about the name is that it shares a Br- with Brier.

3. Ellis. In the United States, Ellis is currently a unisex name used more often for boys: the Social Security Administration reports 225 new baby girls and 496 new baby boys given the name in 2013. For perspective, the name Brier/Briar is similarly unisex: 119 new baby girls and 182 new baby boys named Brier/Briar in 2013. (Compare to the name Blake: 535 new baby girls and 5,601 new baby boys in 2013.) If you’re friendly with the mother of the Ellis in your daughter’s class, you could ask her if she’s had any trouble with that. Or Ellison/Ellisyn is another possibility: it’s currently used more often for girls.

4. Jordyn. The name Jordan/Jordyn feels past its peak to me: the more popular spelling Jordan was in the Top 100 for girls from 1989 (the year after the movie Cocktail came out) until 2007, and since then has been dropping steadily. I think I would add it to the list of middle name possibilities.


I wonder if you would like the name Laken/Lakin. It’s similar in sound to Blake, but used more often for girls (163 new baby girls and 95 new baby boys in 2013). It’s very unusual (not currently in the Top 1000), but doesn’t feel too out-there. Laken G3dd3rt; Brier, Kinley, and Laken.

Or Larkin. Larkin G3dd3rt; Brier, Kinley, and Larkin.

Or Gracen, the spelling of Graysen used more often for girls. Gracen G3dd3rt; Brier, Kinley, and Gracen.

Blake, Lincoln, Dominic, and Jordyn made me wonder if you’d like the sounds of Locklyn. Locklyn G3dd3rt; Brier, Kinley, and Locklyn.

Sloane and Beau make me wonder if you’d like names with similar sounds such as Rowan, Harlowe, Marlowe, Logan, Lola.

Maybe Emery. Emery G3dd3rt; Brier, Kinley, and Emery.

Would your husband like Darby any better than Darcy? Darby G3dd3rt; Brier, Kinley, and Darby.

Or Delancey? Delancey G3dd3rt; Brier, Kinley, and Delancey.

Hollis is similar to Ellis, but closer to fully unisex (98 new baby girls and 125 new baby boys in 2013). Hollis G3dd3rt; Brier, Kinley, and Hollis.

Or I wonder if you’d like Olive? Olive G3dd3rt; Brier, Kinley, and Olive.

Baby Boy E_____, Brother to August


My husband and I are completely stalled on a name for our second son. I am 6 months pregnant, and given that we had our first named even before we knew his gender, having no name this late in the game is causing some serious stress!

We have one child, a son named August. We are looking for a name for our second son that is uncommon (definitely not in the top 100 on the Social Security list), but not bizarre — one that won’t require him to spell or pronounce it for the rest of his life. I love the idea of a name that has sentimental value for us, is a traditionally English or Scandinavian name, or a name that has a nature feel. I despise the “modern” boys names: Jaden, Brayden, Jaxon, etc. I am not opposed to word names (I threw Author on the table at one point), but we are set on not using names that start with A or E so as not to double up on initials. We know the middle name will be Adam, after my brother.

Our last name starts with a true “E” sound, which I find really limits our options. For example, we loved the name Jude, but when said with the last name, it sounds like “Judy.” Same goes for “Louis” (French pronunciation) — it ends up “Louis-y.”

Here are some names we’re considering:

Lu (for my grandmother, Lucy, who was called “Lu” by my late grandfather) — I love it, but my husband thinks it looks Asian. Also a sweet nod to baby’s in-womb nickname, Moon. My husband suggested naming him Lune, the French word for moon, but I won’t do it because it sounds just like “loon.”

Wilder — This one evokes the image of the kind of boys I imagine having: free, happy, lovers of nature. Also a strong connection to literature, which is a positive for us. This was the first name that felt like the right fit to me, but my husband isn’t sold on it.

Theo/Theodore — This is my husband’s favorite name, but we fear it is becoming too common.

Holland — We thought we came up with this name out of nowhere, only to find out that it is becoming increasingly popular for girls. While I’m OK with being gender-neutral, I don’t want a name that is more commonly feminine.

Holden — This has been a lurker on our list and was originally bumped for Holland because we had stronger ties to Holland. I’m willing to consider bringing it back.

Lowen — This is the Cornish word for “happy.” It would be a nice way to bring in my heritage into play, since August is such a German name (my husband’s heritage and our strong German last name). I worry that it’s just too much like the common “Owen” but with an L.

Oscar vs. Otto — I like Oscar, my husband likes Otto. I’m concerned that Otto just pushes the German thing too far for us. I also have a distant family connection to Oscar, but fear it also may be gaining popularity.

Names we like but won’t use for one reason or another: Finn, Hugo, Linden, Truman, Atticus, Edison. If baby were a girl, she would have been Hazel, Lucy or June.

Please help!


Lu looks feminine to me: the short form of Lucy, Lucille, etc., sometimes doubled to make Lulu. Lou is the spelling more commonly used for boys, though can also be used for girls (short for Louise, Louisa, Marylou, etc.). Lu is not currently used as a given name in the United States, and it seems to me it goes beyond the level of unusual you’re looking for: with a brother named August, it’s a surprising and unfamiliar choice. With the surname, it is likely to be heard as Louie.

Wilder seems more what you’re looking for. My only hesitation is about names that seem to express a hope for a particular type of child. If your boys are instead indoorsy anxious introverts, the name August still works fine, but the name Wilder could feel like a misfit. This concern is a mild one (I use the word “hesitation” deliberately: only a pause, not necessarily a stop), but I do always feel it with a particular slim category of names I think of as “Expectation Names”: Maverick, Patience, Princess, Zeus, Serenity. Most parents have an idea or hope for the type of child they will have, and may put some of that idea/hope into the name when they choose Clarissa over Hayden or vice versa—but it isn’t particularly comical or startling if a Clarissa is athletic and hates pink, or if a Hayden is super-ultra girly. The name Wilder seems to me to be right on the edge: I think because of the literary association, it feels like it could still work on a skinny little guy in glasses who was the opposite of wild—but I feel just a little uneasy about it all the same.

The name Theodore is rising in popularity, but it’s my favorite from your list as a brother name for August. In 2013 (the 2014 data will be out in early May), the Social Security Administration shows the name August at #319 and Theodore at #170; but both names are rising.

Perhaps because of the nickname Holly, the name Holland is unisex-used-more-often-for-girls. In 2013, the name was given to 206 new baby girls and 44 new baby boys.

Holden is another nice literary choice, and good with August. It seems like a good alternative to Holland: all the same sounds, but currently used almost exclusively for boys. (Only 8 new baby girls named Holden in 2013; for comparison, there were 14 new baby girls named David.)

Lowen seems feminine to me, I think because of Lindsay Lohan—a mildly negative association for me, though one that will likely be an issue only for your peers and not for the child’s peers. The current usage is exclusively boy (17 new baby boys named Lowen in 2013; not in the data base for girls), probably because of the “Owen with an L” situation you mention. I might have suggested Lowell instead, but when I said it out loud I thought of LOL (said as one word to rhyme with “roll,” as opposed to saying each letter).

The name Oscar is currently dropping in popularity, and has been for the last decade. I find “August and Oscar” difficult to say together; they seem very similar in sound.

“August and Otto” is also a little difficult to say aloud, but less so—and of course, you won’t always be saying the names together. Otto is rising in popularity, but I think of that as a positive: it makes it easier to use.

From your list, my top three are Holden, Theodore, and Wilder.

Baby Naming Issue: Can the Baby Be a Jr./III/IV/V If the Middle Name Is Changed?

So a baby boy is about to be born. He will be Anthony Steven B_______ the fifth.

My daughter wants to change the middle name to Scott. Does that take away the ability for this little guy to carry on the tradition?


I’m afraid so: the suffixes Jr., III, IV, etc., are only used if the name is exactly the same. However, I will note that the name police will not leap out and prevent her from doing it. And I think it’s sweet of her to want to honor her side of the family as well as her husband’s (if I’m making the correct assumption here based on your email address). It might make for a nice compromise and/or a gentle way to break the tradition: give the baby his father’s first name and surname, but use his mother’s father’s name for the middle and drop the V suffix.

Another option is to use the exact name and the suffix, but call him Scott. I went to school with a boy whose name was something like Howard Duke Polman IV, and he went by Scott. And I know a child whose name is something like Richard Paul Sampson IV, and he goes by Jack. When there are a lot of people in a family with the exact same name, nicknames get scarce and everyone gets more understanding of workarounds.

Another option is to use the exact name and the suffix, and save Scott for a possible future child. Maybe _____ Scott B_______ (for a boy or a girl), or Scott [mother’s maiden name, or another significant name from the mother’s side] B_______. I’d love to see it become a tradition that if one parent gets to use a naming tradition for one child, the other parent gets nearly full naming rights for the next child.

Baby Naming Issue: How Do You Let Go of Your Favorite Name?

Dear Swistle,

I have been reading your blog for several years now and have been dreaming about the day when I could ask you for your advice about my own baby naming issue. I am not actually pregnant yet, but my husband and I are going to start trying to get pregnant in the next year, so I thought I could finally send in my question.

Happily enough we are set to go on a boy’s name. He will be Dev Avigdor. I know that’s a mouthful, and may be a cross cultural explosion, but it is bound to happen because my husband is from Nepal and my family is Jewish. Dev is an Indian/Nepali name that bears a strong similarity to a lot of Hebrew names for boys. We both love it. Avigdor is the Hebrew version of Victor, which is my father’s name. Jews don’t normally name their babies after living relatives but I feel strongly about honoring my father and I wanted to buck that particular tradition.

Anyway, I digress. The issue is with a name for a girl. I have loved one girl’s name for as long as I can remember. I think it all started when I read the book Great Expectations as a child, and just fell in love with the name Estella. My family is very into books and theater, especially British literature and theater, so I was raised with the heroines of Austen, the Brontes, and Shakespeare in my head. Needless to say the names I am most attracted to for girls are very feminine, romantic, and a little mysterious. Estella fit that perfectly because she was a stunningly beautiful woman in the book and slightly mysterious and untouchable. Also completely randomly, I have had a serious obsession with stars for my whole life. I’m sure it’s a pretty common affinity, but I have spent countless hours as a child and an adult staring up at the night sky in utter amazement. That the name Estella had the star connotation too was just icing on the cake. I have always planned on naming a baby girl Estella and hadn’t even considered other names. It also fits my popularity criteria, which is that I want a name that people have heard of and is easy to spell, but is also as far down as possible on the top 1000. I NEVER want a child to have to go by their first name and last initial in a classroom.

I brought up Estella as soon as my husband and I starting talking about names………and he doesn’t like it. He doesn’t hate it, but he says it reminds him of beer because his favorite beer is Stella Artois. I gradually started looking around and thinking of other possible girl names. I actually read on your blog about a woman considering the name Marina for her daughter and was very drawn to it. I like the water theme, I like the sound, and it seems to meet my popularity requirement as well. I mentioned it to my husband and he was completely on board. So we settled on it. I think it’s a lovely name, and I really have tried to get behind it 100%, but the truth is that every time I think about it, and do all the tests you suggest (imagine calling the doctor to make an appointment for her, or talking to her teachers about her, or even introducing her to friends) I keep thinking, but it’s not Estella. I don’t know how to let go. I am worried I will never have the same pride in saying Marina as I do when I think about the name Estella. I don’t want to regret such an important decision but I also don’t think I can force my husband into a name he doesn’t like.

Any suggestions from you or your readers on how to let this name go and be happy with our new choice would be endlessly appreciated. In case it’s helpful, my name is Tessa, my husband is Niraj, and our last name is Thapa (pronounced Tah-pa, just like the Spanish appetizer “tapa”).

Thank you so much for the help!


My first suggestion is to not give up yet. During my first pregnancy, Paul completely rejected a boy name I liked. During my second pregnancy, I put that name back on my boy name list—and when I showed Paul the list, he chose that name as his top favorite, and we used it. (I did not mention to him that he’d rejected it before.) Since you are not pregnant yet, and when/if you do get pregnant might not have a girl, it is not yet time to grieve over the name. If I were you, I would just keep that name in the air around your husband: don’t push it or he might set his mind more determinedly against it, but continue to keep it on your list and let his ear get used to the sound of it. (And maybe get him some new beers to try.)

It’s common for someone to reject a name initially and then have it grow on them. We’ve even had letters where the writer says her favorite name can’t be used because her husband hates it (HATES it), and then when we get the follow-up, they’ve used that name because he decided he loved it after all. Perhaps you will have your first child in two years, and it will be a boy, and then it will be another three years before you have a daughter, and then your husband will still reject your favorite name, and then three years after THAT you will have a SECOND daughter and by then he will have come around to it.

So there is hope. But let’s deal with the situation where there isn’t: where it turns out that your husband never agrees to use the name as the first name for a daughter.

My first suggestion is to push for it as a middle name. It can be tremendously comforting to get to use the name SOMEWHERE, even if it can’t be as the first name. Middle names can be as active as you want them to be: you can call her Marina Estella or even use Estella as a nickname; you can decorate her room in a sea-and-stars theme; all the meaning you attribute to the name can still be right there as part of her name. It may not be as good as having it as the first name, but it will be better than not having it at all. Perhaps it will happen that your husband’s first choice is your second choice, and you will be able to use it as a bargaining chip: “Well…all right. How about if we use your first choice as the first name, and my first choice as the middle name?”

My second suggestion is to see if you can find another name that you love in the same way you love the name Estella, but a name that your husband likes also. Celeste, for example. It sounds much less like his beer, but still has the celestial meaning. It loses the image of the Estella in the book, but stunning beauty and seductive untouchability may not be an expectation you want to set for your daughter anyway.

My third suggestion, if the first and second suggestions don’t work out, is to feel the comforting cloud of our full empathy. Everyone interested in baby names has a list of names they can’t use, either because the name doesn’t work with the surname, or because the baby’s other parent says NO WAY, or because coincidentally it’s the name of their husband’s ex-wife, or because they run out of children before they run out of names, or because they have all girls or all boys and never get to use their top choice for the other sex. It won’t fix the problem to know your misery has company, but it might be soothing.

It might also be soothing to hear other people’s experience of names clicking into place once the actual child is here. I can’t guarantee it, of course, but my strong prediction is that if you have a daughter and name her Marina (or whatever name you decide on between now and then), you will not permanently think “But it’s not Estella” every time you say her name. Soon, in fact, you might find it hard to believe that you considered any name other than Marina, even if you continue to love the name Estella. “Ah!,” you might think, “It’s not Estella because THIS IS NOT ESTELLA. This is Marina! Maybe Estella will come later, or maybe not, but this right here is MARINA.”