Author Archives: Swistle

Baby Girl Br0wning, Sister to Georgia

Hi, Swistle!

I was hoping you and your lovely readers could help me name our second little girl, due the day before Thanksgiving. Our last name is Br0wning and we have a 2 year old daughter named Georgia Mae.

Our current list is down to about four names but each has an issue that one of us can’t seem to shake. I think our general problem is that we heard the name Georgia, fell in love, and never looked back. That certainly isn’t the case this time and keeps me searching for that one elusive name I’ve either never heard or need to hear in just the right moment. I know searching for a perfect name can be an exercise in futility but it seems my pregnant brain is up for the challenge.

Here is our working list and the issues with each. The middle name will either be Joy or Joan.

Ella- my husband loves this but it’s popular and will probably continue to gain popularity, especially with George Clooney giving the name to one of his twins

Ruby- my husband dislikes the fact that it rhymes with boobie and fears she will be mercilessly teased in school

Lydia- this is my favorite name but husband isn’t in love

Rose- our last name makes me think of a dying rose and I can’t get past that imagery. It’s also one syllable and doesn’t sound great with the middle name choices.

Other names we’ve vetoed for various reasons:


Thank you so much for your help!


From your list my favorite is Ruby, followed by Lydia. I don’t know if the rhyming thing with Ruby is an issue or not; I would not have thought of it, but perhaps someone who has a Ruby in the family could weigh in. I agree with you about the problem with Rose combined with your surname, and Ella does not seem to me like the right type of name here: it seems too light and insubstantial next to the name Georgia.

I’d add:


Baby Girl Faul, Sister to James, Vivienne, and Lillian

Dear Swistle,

We are having our fourth child and third baby girl in early November of this year! Our children are James Robert Faul (5yo), Vivienne Rose Faul “Vivi” (3yo), and Lillian Kate Faul “Lillie” (1yo). Girl names have always been more difficult for us…it was just hours before we left the hospital that we decided on Lillian.

I’ve always liked the name Scarlett, but have received mixed reviews from family and friends. I’d most likely use Marie/Maria or Christine/Christina for a middle name with Scarlett after my mother, however I am open to suggestions. One issue with Scarlett is that I don’t love the nicknames. I’ve thought of “SC” pronounced “Essie” but I don’t know if that is grasping too far…either from the first 2 letters of Scarlett or if I went with Scarlett Christina.

Other names we’ve considered are Caroline (my husband likes this), Madeleine (my mom likes this), Alice, Ellen, Alexandra, Marielle (I don’t know if this is too unusual?) I like nicknames like Elle, Ellie, Milly, etc. but don’t love some of the original names that go with those.

Maybe Scarlett as a middle name? Alice Scarlett, Ellen Scarlett??

This is so difficult the 3rd time around!! We would appreciate any suggestions that you might have.

Thank you!

Jessica and Bobby Faul


I like the idea of Scarlett as the middle name. It doesn’t quite fit with the style of the other names. If you were both absolutely set on using it, I’d say it doesn’t clash and it would be fine—but since you are already uncertain about the style and the nickname situation, then I’d put it on the middle-name list for now and see if you pine for it.

If you are pronouncing Caroline with a “lynn” ending (as opposed to a “lyne” ending), then I think it repeats too much about the first two girls’ names. Vivienne, Lillian, and Caroline almost rhyme, and they all have the same syllables and rhythm. The syllables and rhythm could make them a very compatible set, and in fact I like that; it’s the -lynn sound right after a Lillian that makes it feel Too Much to me. Madeleine has the same issue, if you’re pronouncing it with a -lynn sound instead of a -lyne sound. So does Ellen, except it has a different number of syllables; and in a list of the names, it seems almost like an echo of part of the name Lillian.

I like Marielle best from your list. Vivienne, Lillian, and Marielle. It changes the endings while keeping the length and the level of dressiness, and everyone gets nicknames. I even like the LOOK of the three names together. And I think it gives all three names a little French spin.

More to consider:

Annabelle Faul; James, Vivienne, Lillian, and Annabelle
Cecily Faul; James, Vivienne, Lillian, and Cecily
Cordelia Faul; James, Vivienne, Lillian, and Cordelia
Eloise Faul; James, Vivienne, Lillian, and Eloise
Emmeline Faul; James, Vivienne, Lillian, and Emmeline
Genevieve Faul; James, Vivienne, Lillian, and Genevieve
Josephine Faul; James, Vivienne, Lillian, and Josephine
Margaret Faul; James, Vivienne, Lillian, and Margaret
Marilla Faul; James, Vivienne, Lillian, and Marilla
Matilda Faul; James, Vivienne, Lillian, and Matilda
Rosalie Faul; James, Vivienne, Lillian, and Rosalie
Rosemary Faul; James, Vivienne, Lillian, and Rosemary
Sabrina Faul; James, Vivienne, Lillian, and Sabrina
Sylvia Faul; James, Vivienne, Lillian, and Sylvia

Baby Boy Schm@lz, Brother to June

Dear Swistle,

Send help! I’m suddenly in a panic about the name we have chosen for our son, due December 1. The name we have chosen (and told our families) is George, but I woke up this morning and suddenly I don’t feel like this is our baby’s name. I still really like the name, I just know if it is MY baby’s name. Our last name is Schm@lz and George feels like a tongue twister when said aloud with our German surname. George was my husband’s suggestion early in our pregnancy and when I approached him today with my second thoughts, he told me he suggested George as a joke! And then convinced me to like it because it is a family name. (WHAT?! Clearly another letter to another column.) George is a family name from my husband’s side and his parents are very pleased we’ve chosen George.

Our daughter’s name is June, chosen years before we ever started our family. I don’t feel like I could ever love a name as much as I love June. She is our beautiful, much anticipated & prayed for daughter who surprised us all by arriving on my birthday, which is June 1. Her name is too serendipitous and meant to be that I don’t know how / if I will ever find that again. This baby boy is a complete surprise and the super planner in me hasn’t had years to obsess over names this time around like I did with June. If June were a boy, her name would have been Teague. I now think maybe THIS baby’s name is Teague, instead of George. I like the name Teague because it is a town in Texas that holds fond memories for us. (We live in Texas.) When we were pregnant with our daughter, we moved into a house on Teague Road, which seemed like a sign that this was our house. I don’t know anyone else named Teague or George which makes both names appealing.

We may have 1 more child after our son and I feel like siblings named June and George have sealed our fate as a family of J/G names which I am not into. Our runner up for my daughter’s name was Ruby. But also, last time I was pregnant I suggested the name Plum at the 11th hour which in hindsight, was clearly pregnancy hormones talking. I’m grateful now that my husband talked me out of that one. Other boy names we’ve considered are Tate (too easily confused when said aloud with Kade… Tade? Kate?), Levi (another no go) and Holt (I still love it but can’t get my husband on board.) My husband is unsure of Teague, he said its easier for him to decide when he hears the name said aloud by other members of our family. I don’t want to announce another name for our baby to our family only to hear them say it aloud and let my husband decide he’s not into it.

My husband’s name is Kade and my name is Leah. Should I chalk up these second thoughts on a not yet arrived baby’s name to pregnancy hormones or trust my gut that tells me the son I’m carrying isn’t George? I can’t wait & go to the hospital with 2 names. I feel very unsettled carrying a person inside me without a name.

Please help! I will send a photo & update the moment he is earthside & named, I promise!




Is there any advice less helpful than advice it is too late to follow? Nevertheless, because this blog is read by many other people who are or will be in the same shoes, I’m going to lead with that: There are many good reasons not to announce a baby’s name before the baby is born, and this letter illustrates one of them. ESPECIALLY with a family name, where people can feel pleased and honored about the use of a name, and then feel hurt and disappointed when the name is changed.

Now to the advice that is, I hope, usable. I think you are giving yourself wayyyyyyyyyyy too hard a task here. First, you are looking for a name you love as much as your daughter’s name, but of course that is not possible at this stage of the game: her name now represents to you everything that she is, the whole beloved person. One day your son’s name will do the same, but at this point you haven’t yet met him, and a name on its own can’t live up to that goal.

Secondly, the fate/meant-to-be element. I can be no more sure than anyone else about the actual underlying workings of our universe. But I am about as sure as I am of anything in life that the universe does not pre-select one perfect meant-to-be name for each human being and then sadistically leave the parents to frantically scramble through every possible name looking for it OR ELSE. You had a remarkable and unusual string of coincidences surrounding your daughter’s name; you say you don’t know how/if you can ever find that again. What if it’s not your job to make cool things like that happen, and you didn’t do anything to make it happen the first time, either? What if it’s the universe’s job to do cool things like that, and your job to appreciate them when they happen? What if your one and only job here is to choose a name your child will find useful for introductions and homework papers, and let fate figure out if there’s going to be cool stuff involved too?

Names are sounds/letters we use to identify a particular human being. There are people who believe in mystical underpinnings and significances of names, but as I understand such things, if they exist you couldn’t avoid them if you tried. If it were true that there was One Destined Name for your son, and you scoffed and said “Fie on you, universe! We shall choose the name we like and not the one you have destined!,” we all know that story would end with you having inadvertently chosen the name the universe wanted you to choose. If fate exists, then there is no getting around it.

Your responsibility as parents is to choose him a good and useful name. Probably nothing is going to give you the same thrill as your daughter’s name, and that’s absolutely normal and okay at this point; later, when the name has welded to your son’s whole being, it may give you that same thrill—or it may never do so, and that’s also normal and okay. Probably nothing is going to measure up to the string of coincidences surrounding your daughter’s name, and that too is absolutely normal and okay. Did you MAKE all those cool things to happen with June’s name? Did you prevent her from being born until June, and then force her birth on your birthday? You don’t need to force/engineer events this time, either. Maybe you will get lucky and similar things will happen this time, or maybe the universe gave you a little fun treat last time and it’s one per customer.

Okay, it’s time to address the name itself. George is a great name, and a family name too. It’s a little hard to say with the surname, but not at deal-breaking levels. I recommend finding a bunch of names already given to actual people (a yearbook, or credits of a movie or TV show, or acknowledgements in the back of a book, etc.), and seeing how many of them don’t quite go with the surnames; it can be soothing to see how very unnoticeable it is and how very little it matters.

I don’t think siblings named June and George commits you to all J/G names. It helps that they start with different letters.

Teague is also a great name. Either name will give this child a good usable name to live with.

If you don’t want to use George, you don’t have to. You still have about four months to go, so there is plenty of time to think this through. I think part of your panic may be because you already announced it and you feel as if you have to tell people right away that things have changed. I do recommend telling everyone that the name is not in fact yet fully decided, and then don’t make any more absolute/final name-related announcements until the birth: the worst here would be to yank people back and forth about the name. Discussions, sure: go ahead and say you’re considering Teague, if your husband needs to hear other people say it (though be aware it opens the name up for feedback, which can make things more difficult). But even if you absolutely settle on a name and want to let everyone know, leave it loose: “We’re PRETTY settled on ______, but we’re going to wait until we see him to be sure!” That will take some pressure off of you, and I hope make you feel less trapped.

I understand the desire to get this baby named and feel settled about it, but there is no real hurry at this point, and the feeling that it is Important that he be named as soon as possible is going to put you under unnecessary pressure and stress—not great conditions for facilitating big decisions. It’s not weird for him not to have a name yet; many, maybe MOST babies aren’t named yet at this stage of pregnancy. Take your time; sit with both names (and others, too, if you like), and see which one rises to the top.

Baby Girl Howell, Sister to Bennett (Ben) and Weston (Wes)

Dear Swistle,

I have been following your blog since I was pregnant with my first child in 2012 and have been using you as a reference ever since. I really appreciate your thoughtfulness and logic when it comes to names and I’m hoping you might be able to help me on my last baby’s name. I’m feeling a bit desperate at my naming dilemma!

My name is Sarah and my husband’s name is Scott. I am 37 weeks pregnant with my 3rd and last child, a girl (SO EXCITED), after having two boys. My first son is named Bennett and my second son is named Weston. It took us awhile to agree on these names and we didn’t officially name them until a few days after they were born, but ultimately we are happy with them and like having less common full names with common nicknames (ie Ben and Wes). Bennett has my husband’s name as his middle name (Scott) and Weston has a meaningful middle name (Dallaire). Both boys have my maiden name as their second middle name and my daughter will have the same. Her first middle name will either be mine (Elizabeth) or a family name.

Unfortunately, I feel completely lost when naming this little girl. There are so many names that are lovely, but none that I love or feel like my daughter’s name. From reading your blog, I know that sometimes people put themselves in a corner with too many parameters, so I’m wondering if I might be at fault. This is what I’m looking for in a name:

1) Less common full name (bonus points for a cute nickname but not necessary)

2) Gender distinctive- I’d like people to know from the names that I have 2 boys and 1 girl and not think I have 3 boys with a boy-ish or gender neutral name

3) A name that people can recognize and easily spell, or at least not be too difficult to figure out

4) Not be too trendy or time-stamped within a certain decade

5) Sounds good with my husband’s last name, Howell, which I find to be difficult. I tend to prefer 2-3 syllable names and not 1 syllable names with his last name

6) Does not start with an H, B, W, or S. Also, I would prefer not to have repeating end sounds with our names like ton for Weston, ett for Bennett, or ah for Sarah, but this isn’t a deal breaker.

7) Has a good meaning, but not a deal breaker. I had to give that one up when we named Weston since his name means “western town.”

As a Sarah of the ’80’s, I’m a bit sensitive to having too common of a name since I was Sarah A. for my entire childhood. My husband, however, seems to primarily prefer extremely popular but pretty girl names. I like the names he likes, but am having a hard time getting over their popularity. This is what our lists looks like so far:

His List:
Norah (sounds close to Sarah)

My List:
Colette (same ending as Bennett)
Cora (sounds close to Sarah)

Names he has vetoed:
Feminine sounding surnames like Bellamy, Kendall, Remington, Emerson, Avery, Delaney, Everly, Arden, Campbell, Kensington, Morgan, Monroe, Ainsley and Ellis
Cleo (my great grandmother’s name)

I’ve gone through Baby Name Wizard and I don’t like any of the girl sibling names for Bennett and Weston. I repeatedly go through books and the Social Security website and no name has jumped out as “the one.” I’m not sure if I haven’t come across it yet or if I just have to settle on a nice name that I don’t mind that I will grow to love?

Currently, I really like Cora but would like a longer version and have suggested Corinne, Coraline, Coretta, Cordelia but he isn’t a fan. I love the nickname Liv, but it sounds too short with Howell and I can’t think of a longer version I like besides Olivia which is way too popular. I really like the way Elin sounds with our last name, but he dislikes it. Corinne has a similar cadence but he had a friend named Koreen and said he would be too confused between the two. I like Colette in theory, but maybe not as much in reality. I feel its main appeal is that its familiar but not common, but it sounds very French to me and I don’t love the nicknames. I like Charis but I don’t love it.

Do you see anything that I might be missing? Can you think of any names that might go with some of my wish list or find a good reason to use a name that is currently on a list or even the vetoed list that we should reconsider?
If you could spend any time on my naming dilemma, I would truly appreciate it! I would love to have at least 2 or 3 contenders before I meet her.

Many thanks!!


Especially for those of us who have been pining to name a girl/boy after having a couple boys/girls, I think it can be hard to finally be in the place where we ACTUALLY GET TO DO SO. I remember naming my first two kids, both boys, and thinking, “This would be so much easier if I were having a GIRL: I have THOUSANDS of girl names I like!”—but then, confronted with an impending girl, it was hard to pin down my style. Like you, I didn’t like the recommended sister names: it turns out I have a different style in girl names than in boy names. The pressure can be increased by the feeling that it’s your one shot.

You asked if your list of preferences is too strict. Before I start cutting, I’ll say that you already seem like you’re being flexible about all of them: you don’t have any that look like you’re being rigid about it. But, looking it over, the one I’d definitely remove is the preference for the name not to end in an -a/-ah. SO MANY girl names end that way, and I don’t think it matters enough to be worth trying for it. My mom and I have matching name-endings and I never thought about it or noticed it until this very minute. I’m mentally flipping through the names of my friends and the names of their kids, and there are a ton of matching endings. It seems like a non-issue to me.

And although I share your preference not to repeat initials within the sibling group, I would remove if possible the preference not to repeat parental initials. Because you both have S names, if this were your first baby I’d suggest avoiding an S name (to avoid backing yourselves into a cutesy-corner with the next baby), but at this point I think it’s fine.

I think you’re wise to recognize that your concern about common names is rooted in your own experience. If possible, that would be another preference to downplay if you can. In 1980, the names Sarah and Sara were given to 2.07% of all baby girls. Today, that’s a higher percentage than THE TOP TWO MOST POPULAR NAMES COMBINED: the name Emma was given to 1.01% of baby girls last year, and the name Olivia was given to 1.00%. You could name your daughter the #1 most popular girl name in the United States, and her name would only be half as popular as yours was.

Let’s do a little more work on this topic, because I think it could help. The name Claire was #40 last year, given to .27% of baby girls; that’s approximately 1/7th as popular as your name was. Just imagine all the Sarahs/Saras you went to school with—but divided by seven. Every time there were seven Sarah/Saras in a group, there would instead be only one; fourteen Saras/Sarahs would only be two. The name Juliet/Juliette was given to .16% of baby girls last year; that’s approximately 1/13th as popular as you name was. For every thirteen Saras/Sarahs in your graduating class, instead there’d be only one.

From your list, my favorite by far is Cora—and since your husband has Norah on his list, I see potential for agreement. I don’t think it’s too similar to Sarah. In 2016, it was used for .17% of baby girls, so there are about a dozen Saras/Sarahs in your age group for every Cora there’d be in hers.

Would you want to consider Flora? It’s similar to Norah and Cora, but much less common. Flora Howell; Bennett, Weston, and Flora.

I wonder if your husband would be willing to go back over that veto list. Did he give a lot of consideration to each name, or did he dismiss them quickly? There are quite a few good names there. Also, I notice just now that the name Claire is on his list and on the veto list, so one must be a typo.

Is Clara an option? Clara Howell; Bennett, Weston, and Clara.

Or Lydia. Lydia Howell has a particularly nice sound to me. Bennett, Weston, and Lydia.

From your husband’s list, I like Claire (if it’s supposed to be there) and Juliet. Juliet repeats the -et sound, but it doesn’t hit my ear that way, I think because of the different emphasis and different number of syllables; plus, Weston’s name serves as a separator; plus, the boys use nicknames. Bennett, Weston, and Juliet; Ben, Wes, and Jules.

Instead of Colette, I’d like to suggest Celeste—but that just takes the repeated -ett sound with Bennett and turns it into a repeated -est- sound with Weston.

Or Margot? Margot Howell; Bennett, Weston, and Margot.

Or actually: Margaret. That gives you an uncommon but timeless long form, and SO MANY nicknames, including Margo and Daisy and Maisie and Greta. Margaret Howell; Bennett, Weston, and Margaret; Ben, Wes, and SO MANY NICKNAME OPTIONS.

Josephine is along the same lines: uncommon/timeless long form and good nicknames. Josephine Howell; Bennett, Weston, and Josephine; Ben, Wes, and Josie.

Names I’d rescue from the veto list: Cleo (though I think it might be frustrating if it kept being mistaken for Chloe), Rosalie, Ivy, Eloise, Elodie, and Claire (if it’s supposed to be there). I particularly like Rosalie: Rosalie Howell; Bennett, Weston, and Rosalie; Ben, Wes, and Rose.

I will note that I’m not having much trouble with your surname. I’ve tried it with a bunch of names while writing this post, and very few have caused trouble. I wonder if there are any names you’re ruling out because of surname issues, but a survey of your peers would find everyone else saying there was no surname issue?

Baby Boy G____er, Brother to H@zel D0r0thy

Hi Swistle
LONG time reader, first time caller. I have long been obsessed with names and never thought I would need assistance, but here I am totally drawing a blank on what to name our second child.

My husband and I have a 2 year old daughter named H@zel D0r0thy. She’s named for my husbands great grandmother and my grandmother. We are expecting our son and last baby in November and can’t agree at all on a name. Our last name starts with a G, is two syllables and ends in an er sound.

This baby’s middle name will be my maiden name which sounds like Pennyworth but starts with a B.

There are three main thoughts/concerns I have with naming this boy

1)I’d like to honor my father who passed away 3 years ago this August. His name was Stephen Roy. My brother just named his son Stephen so that name is out. But I thought about incorporating my father’s names meaning which is Crowned King. My husbands name, Ry@n also means little king. So maybe a name that means some form of King?

2) The name Simon seems to check all the boxes for me. It honors a dear friend and starts with the same letter as my father’s name. The problem is that my husband doesn’t seem to be too excited about it or any names for that matter, as explained below.

3) So the greatest challenge/concern when it comes to naming our son is my lovely husband. His only contribution to the name list is Crash. This is the only name he’s suggested and seems to be considering (even if this baby had been a girl). I couldn’t be more opposed to this name. My brother’s name is Wilder and he’s definitely lived up to his name. Plus, and most importantly there’s nothing about this name that gives it roots like my daughter’s very family centric name. His exact reasons for liking Crash are that “it sounds cool, its onomatopoeia and it’s not a crazy name like Satchel” I’m not sure why he wants a name that’s has onomatopoeia but can understand wanting a name that is unique.

Names I’ve considered:
Simon- My top contender. It honors a close friend and has the same letter as my father’s name
Emerson – family name on both sides
Sam – I’ve loved this name since I was a little girl
Henry – means estate ruler – my father built houses
Walter – my grandfathers name
Otis – his grandfathers name. We both LOVE this name but found out at Christmas that his grandfather was not a nice man at all.

Names my husband likes
Crash – I hate this
Redmond – location of where we first met and probably our top contender, just doesn’t feel like the one.

Girl names we were considering

Help! Any strategies to help open up my husband into considering more names? I promise to send a prompt update and pictures!



When I get a new baby-name letter, I open up my baby-name-letter spreadsheet and I start filling out the cells as I get to those parts of the letter: name of letter-writer, due date, boy/girl—and then a brief description of the issue. As I was reading along, I was thinking it was unlikely I’d answer this one. I’ve done so many “husband fixates on one name and won’t consider others” letters that I figured I wouldn’t be able to tell you anything you hadn’t seen me telling dozens of others: tell him the name has to be off the table; tell him it’s not a matter of finding him a name he likes better than that one, but rather a matter of finding a name the two of you can agree on; tell him he has to do some of the work here rather than just waiting for you to bring him names to reject.

But then I got to the name in question. Crash. CRASH.

On this site we are name-friendly and open to every name within reason. If you were writing to me about finding a middle name for the name Crash, you would not see me flinch: I would make you a list and I would discuss the interesting issues involved and we would all have a marvelous time.

But this is not such a letter. This is a “one parent has fixated on one name” letter. While generally I think that if one parent is set on a particular name, the other parent should try hard to come around to it, in this case I see no reason not to go directly to ABSOLUTELY NOT. The Felony Fever Vice letter comes to mind: there are some words that are unpleasant and describe bad things, and I don’t think we should give those words as names to people.

The word “crash” has only negative connotations. A car crash. A crash down from a high. A hospital crash cart. It is a violent, negative word. I can’t think of a single good meaning. The kind of “cool” it sounds is the kind of cool that is violent and dangerous, which is not the kind of cool we want to inspire in our children.

Here is the strategy: you say to him, “Are you nuts? Have you lost your fool mind? We are not naming our baby an ugly, violent word. Now get real and help me make an ACTUAL list.” Or just say it with your eyes.

Then it’s the regular, familiar drill:

1. The name Crash is off the table.

2. This is not a matter of finding a name he likes better than Crash; this is a matter of finding a name the two of you can agree on.

3. This is a task that belongs to both of you.

4. The labor is not going to be divided as “You bring him names to consider”/”He vetoes them from on high”: that’s not a fair division. And if he thinks it is a fair decision, perhaps he’d like to swap roles for awhile.

5. He needs to make a nice longish list of reasonable names for the two of you to consider, or else choose some favorites from your list.


You would like to honor your father, but your brother has already used his name. I see what you’re trying to do with a name that matches your father’s name or profession, but it feels like such a watered-down honor compared to using the actual name. If your maiden name was also your father’s surname, then that seems like you already have a very good way to honor him.

If you do want an occupation name, I’d go with something more like Decker, which is apparently an old word for a roofer, carpenter, or builder. The job of ruling over an estate seems so different from the job of building houses, and not in a positive way: that is, building the houses seems more honorable.

If you do want a name with a king-type meaning, there are these:

Brendan – prince
Cyrus – king
Darius – king
Elroy – the king
Kendrick – powerful royal
Leroy – the king
Rex – king
Richard – rich, powerful ruler
Roald – famous ruler
Roderick – famous ruler
Royce – king’s son
Xerxes – king

For those definitions I used Baby Names Made Easy: The Complete Reverse Dictionary of Baby Names). You’ll want to double-check meanings in a couple of different baby name books, because they can vary considerably.

I want to give some support to the name Redmond: that’s a pretty great name. It has meaning for you two, and it satisfies the urge for something very unusual while still feeling like a name. Red is a cute nickname (any chance he’ll be a redhead?). It goes well with the sibling name: H@zel and Redmond.

I also like Royce. The -ce gives the name Roy a more modern feel. H@zel and Royce.

And I like Cyrus, which has some sounds in common with Simon. H@zel and Cyrus.

Baby Boy Heidendahl, Brother to Ruby

Hi Swistle

My husband and I are having a really hard time agreeing on a name for our new baby boy. Baby H as we call him now is due Aug 25, 2017 but I have a feeling he will make an entrance sooner.

Our last name is Heidendahl, so we need to work with that. Baby H has an older sister who will be 2 when he arrives. Her name is Ruby. My husband and I both love the name Ruby – classic, feminine, not overused, and who doesn’t want to be named after a gemstone.

But baby H is so much harder. My husband tends to like classic names. His top two are William (I def don’t want my son to be a Bill) and Austin (after some hockey player). I could live with Austin. But I want to love the name not just settle for it.

My fav names are Grayson or Gray. Hubby hates these options. Hayden is a backup but I just feel like it’s not right.

If we were to have a girl I have a long list of names I love. Poppy is one of my faves, although hubby isn’t keen on that either.

Any suggestions? I really want something unique like Ruby but ideally a classic so that hubby will be on board.

Mandi and Ryan Heidendahl


I am not familiar with usage outside of the U.S., but in the U.S. the current default nickname for William is Will, and the other really common choice is Liam. I think you could force the nickname Bill, but I don’t think it would happen without significant effort. Would that change your mind at all about the name William, or is it still not your thing?

A name like Wilson would be more the style of Grayson, and even less likely to become a Bill. I’m sort of hoping Wilson is the name you choose, because it’s such a fun example of the rare Perfect Compromise name: William + Greyson = Wilson. Wilson Heidendahl; Ruby and Wilson.

Your husband’s choice of Austin is right in line with the style of your choices Grayson and Hayden, so that’s where I’d think we’d be more likely to find agreement—but on the other hand, maybe he only likes it because of the hockey player, and wouldn’t like other names in the same style. I suggest surreptitiously scanning the first names and surnames of all the players on the team(s) he likes, and seeing if there are any names you love; if so, spin them to him as hockey names. (I did this with Paul and scientist names.)

I also suggest at this point saying, “Okay, so you hate Grayson and Hayden, and I’m really not feeling Austin, so let’s take all of those out of the running.” (I would take Hayden off the list anyway, because of the tangle it creates with the surname.) I like your idea of finding a more traditional name, but something more in line with the usage of Ruby rather than the usage of William; and I’ll include some in the style of Austin/Grayson in case he does like that style too:

Jasper (another stone-related name)

Baby Naming Issue: Using an Initials Nickname

Dear Swistle and name enthusiasts,

Our first child (our rainbow baby) was born at the end of January. After three miscarriages over two years of trying to start a family, we ended up deciding to go with two family names for his name so that we could honour many important men in our life all at once: James David is his name (the first name is my FIL and three of our four grandfathers’ name and the middle name is my father’s name).

With many men named James on both family trees nicknamed “Jim” or “Jimmy”, we knew that choosing this name meant we would be doomed to have another “Jim” unless we were proactive and chose a nickname ourselves from the get-go. We fell in love with using his initials as his nickname before he was even born. Especially since I wanted his middle name to feel as important as his first, being my own father’s name.

Now he is six months old, and I’m wondering if anyone has experience or stories to share about using initials as a nickname? I find myself tripping up when introducing him to new people — do I introduce him as James or JD? When he goes to school one day, will he write James at the top of his work or do we encourage JD as his everyday name? So far at the doctor’s office they have him down as James but there’s a place on the form to write “preferred name”, do we begin to have them call him JD also?

I’d appreciate stories of how an “initials name” has worked out for others, either as their own name or as a parent with a child who uses initials. I’m noticing that using initials feels less like a “nickname” and more like his everyday use name, compared to my experience as a Stephanie and being called Steph sometimes. No one else in our families have initials as their nickname/name. Just curious how others have handles this, or how the think they would handle it if they went a similar route.

I suppose I’m wondering, should we commit to JD all the time or should we use James and then JD will just happen when speaking to him/with family and friends as they get to know him (more casually)?

I was always name obsessed, so the fact I named my child with a nickname style I don’t have any experience with is throwing me off! Thank you in advance for hopefully publishing my letter! I’ve attached a photo of our lovebug as well.



It seems to me that an initials nickname would be the same as any other nickname in terms of introductions and so forth. If you had a baby William and you wanted him called Liam, then I would suggest saying “This is Liam” to casual acquaintances at the park, and “This is William; we call him Liam” to doctors and schools. Any time the nickname might cause confusion (such as when the receptionist might have the appointment down with the full legal name), I would say William and then Liam; any time there is no reason to share the full version (the other baby at the grocery store doesn’t need to know the story while exchanging waves), just say Liam. Any time there is a space on paperwork for nickname or preferred name, you’d write Liam. A child named William but always called Liam would write “Liam” on his school papers.

Same with an initials nickname such as JD: if you’re at baby sing-along and the group needs a name for the “Hello, ______!” song, say JD. When you bring him for class the first day, tell the teacher “This is James; we call him JD.” If she wants to make you a name tag with your name and your baby’s name on it, the name tag would say “Stephanie / JD.” When there is space on paperwork for a nickname or preferred name, you’d write JD.

My youngest went by a two-initial nickname up until kindergarten, when he said he wanted to use his given name instead. But before then, we put that nickname on his paperwork as his preferred name (after asking him what he wanted me to put there, since he used his given name and his nickname), and so his preschool teachers wrote his nickname on his cubby, his paperwork folder, and on the wall displays; he wrote his nickname on his papers, and that’s what his classmates called him.

My guess is that there are a couple of things tripping you up:

1. JD is not the kind of automatic nickname you’re accustomed to with Stephanie/Steph. People named Jennifer and Stephanie and David may find that people call them Jen and Steph and Dave whether they like it or not. With a name like JD, you have to tell people or they won’t know. I suspect the issue here isn’t so much with initials nicknames, but rather with nicknames that require a little announcement (Mia for Amelia, for example, or Nell for Penelope).

2. Even more, “Steph” is right on the edge of being a pet name rather than a nickname. I can picture a business card with “Jenny Miller” or “Dave Miller” or “J.D. Miller” on it, but “Steph Miller” would be more unexpected: the nickname Steph seems more casual.

Wait. I just thought of a third thing: Are you not using the nickname much yet? I was picturing you calling him JD at home and with family already, but are you calling him James right now and waiting to activate the nickname? If so, would you prefer to just call him James for now? You can absolutely do that. For one thing, I don’t think people go directly to Jim/Jimmy for kids named James anymore, just like they wouldn’t go straight to Billy for a William or Bobby for a Robert.

But if you’d like him to be known as JD, and you’re not calling him that at home yet, then my actual first suggestion is to start using it most of the time at home: I think that will help a LOT with the awkward feelings/introductions. And the rest of it doesn’t matter much, or can wait. If the doctor calls him James, that doesn’t throw anything off even if he’s JD to everyone else in his life; and what he writes on his school papers can wait a few more years.

I’m thinking this through as I’m writing, but I guess the real decision here is this (and this seems to be exactly what you’re asking, now that I’m looking at it this way): Do you want him called JD all the time and NOT called James? or do you want him called James, but when people reach for a nickname you want them to reach for JD?

If you want him called JD and not called James, then this is definitely the time to completely saturate his environment with JD: JD should be on his doctor forms, his daycare/preschool forms, his baby sing-along forms, and on your calendar when you write down his appointments. You’d refer to him as JD when discussing him with your husband or your families, and introduce him that way to all new acquaintances. If there’s no space on a form for a nickname, you’d write the nickname in parentheses.

But if you want him called James-and-JD (just not James-and-Jim), then you can play this whole thing much more casually. When you are making a new friend at the park, you might introduce him as James and then add “…or we also call him JD”—or you might just say “This is James” and then the new friend will hear you say, “JD, do you want a drink of water?” and pick up on that, just as you would if she introduced a William and then asked Liam if he wanted a drink. With the doctor, it wouldn’t matter much what the doctor calls him because the child will recognize both James and JD as his name; but it’s good to have JD in the file in case a daycare/school submits a request for paperwork and uses JD instead of James. In school, the teacher will understand that the child is called James and JD, and will probably ask you and/or him which he’d prefer; if he writes either one on the top of the paper, the teacher will know it’s him.