I am hoping that you can help me with a naming problem. How do you name a second baby when the first baby’s name was very much a compromise name and not at all in the style that you wanted?
When we were naming our daughter 6 years ago, my husband suffered from the belief that we could only use names that were common when we were children. Since we were both born in the 1970s, that means he was thinking along the lines of Heather or Michelle. Those are very nice names, but not what I had in mind. After much debate we finally settled on Shannon Elizabeth “Denny”. I don’t love the name, but it is my daughter’s name and I can’t imagine her with a different one. At the time we were only planning on one child so the issue of sibling names never came up.
Now we are expecting again. I am not due until the end of February, but I really want to start looking at names. After 6 years of seeing names like Sofia and Olivia in my daughter’s classes, my husband has admitted that he had the wrong idea and this time is willing to basically let me choose the name. If it is a boy, I don’t think we will have much trouble as boys names haven’t changed as much over time. However, I am really stumped on girl names and don’t even know where to start looking.
I can’t really think of a naming category for Shannon except for “names that were popular in the 1970s” or possibly “sort of Irish names”. It seems like I would need to avoid anything ultra-feminine since Shannon used to be a unisex name and when talking about my children it might sound like I have a girl and a boy instead of two girls. Other than that, I really don’t know where to start and I was hoping you might be able to help. This will definitely be our last child, so I won’t need to try and co-ordinate a third name. Thank you so much!
I think one idea is to just choose the second girl name without taking the first name very much into consideration. This might not be the advice you’d expect to hear, considering how keen I am on sibling-name coordination. But I think if this time you choose a name YOU love, and the naming story became “Dad chose Shannon’s name, and I chose yours,” that that makes a very nice story and goes a long way to patch two quite different names together.
On the other hand, I always feel a little unhappy about the names of the Bush twins Barbara and Jenna: both names are good names, but the name Barbara is from the 1930s-1950s and so is not yet due for revival, while the name Jenna got popular right around the time the twins were born. Because the name Shannon is currently more often found on mothers than children (though it IS still being used for children, as is the name Barbara), I do think I’d look first for names that bridged the gap: there are girls my age and my daughter’s age named Elizabeth, Katherine, Anna, and Emily. That route appeals to me more than going with, say, Shannon and Isabella.
The name Shannon last peaked in the United States at #17 in 1976, so I would go to the Social Security website, scroll through 1976, and see what still sounds right for a little girl born today. Here are the ones I’d pick from the Top 100 of 1976:
Some of those work better with Shannon than others: I like Shannon and Leslie, and I like Shannon and Holly, but Shannon and Anna are too similar in sound, and Shannon and Victoria might be too different in mood.
The 1976 list could also make a good starting place for more current versions of those names. Laura could lead us to Lauren, for example, or Amy to Amelia, or Julie to Julia. Or some of the names might remind us of other names: when I saw Jill, I thought Jillian might be great with Shannon, and Laura made me think of Maura and Nora and Morgan, and Leslie makes me think of Lindsay, and when I saw Holly I wondered if Molly might be perfect—and Molly made me think of Bridget, which made me think of Bethany. Etc.
My favorites are Jillian, Bethany, Bridget, Molly, Emily, Leslie, and Holly. It’s too bad so many of those are two syllables ending in a Y sound—I suspect they might not work at all well with your surname.
Do you remember which names you were campaigning for when you were expecting Shannon? That’s where I’d start, if I were you. Next, I’d look through name books and make a list of everything you like now, and add it to that older list. THEN, hold each name up to Shannon and see if it creates a Bush Twin Feeling or if it’s fine. I think this is a situation where I wouldn’t agitate too much about the names going well together, as long as neither child seems to have a “better” name. The age gap is on your side as well: it’s easy to see how the parents’ naming style could have shifted a bit in that time, and of course six years is long enough for the overall naming style to shift a bit as well.
It might also work to have Shannon help name the baby. The whole situation falls in a new light if she’s the one who chose the modern and ultra-feminine name.
Name update! Linda writes:
I wrote to you last summer asking for help coming up with another girl name that would go with my daughter’s name of Shannon (you posted it on July 12). I greatly appreciated your suggestions, and those of your readers. It made me feel a lot better to not have to try and restrict possible names to those that would match her name. Of course, this meant that we had a boy. Colin Thomas “Denny” was born on March 2. We let his sister make the final decision on his name, and we love it and think that it matches his sister’s name quite well. Thank you again for your help!