Author Archives: Swistle

Baby Girl or Boy @lexander, Sibling to Echo

Hi Swistle,

I am due on Oct 23, and we don’t know the gender of the baby. We are dead set on a girl name, but nothing feels quite right for a boy! Our last name is @lexander, and we have a daughter- Echo Marie.

If we have another little girl she will be Lorelai Catherine. Lorelai seems unique, feminine, and tied to Echo in maybe a mythylogical sense (that theme isn’t important) and Catherine is a very special family name (like Marie).

For a boy, originally our choices were Harrison or Henry, but now these choices seem way way to popular and basic? I didn’t name my daughter Echo to be weird, I just liked the name! But I’d like to stay out of the top 100. I also want to avoid my children sounding like a group of military call signs! Echo Foxtrot Alpha! We heavily considered Adler which feels like a good fit, but I keep thinking Adler @lexander sounds like a total tongue twister. Another boy name we really liked but now seems too out there is Indiana. I would also like to use the middle name Manning (my maiden name), with Bayer as a secondary option.

Please help!

 

You may already know about my extreme soft spot for maiden names used as children’s names, and so perhaps you anticipate my immediate, eager question: Would you consider using Manning as the first name? Manning @lexander. Echo and Manning. Well, if not, I love it as the middle.

Henry feels common to me with Echo, but I think Harrison is great. I don’t know a single kid named Harrison—though of course that will vary tremendously by area of the country. It’s a more common name than Echo, but it isn’t so common as to be a surprise. I like it, and I think Harrison @lexander sounds very nice.

Harris is even less common—more along the lines of Echo’s popularity. Harris @lexander; Echo and Harris.

Or Davis. Davis @lexander; Echo and Davis.

Or Rufus. Rufus @lexander; Echo and Rufus.

Or Gus. Gus @lexander; Echo and Gus.

I agree about Adler @lexander. I wonder if you’d like the name Aidric? Aidric @lexander; Echo and Aidric.

One of my favorites of the -son names is Lawson, certainly not influenced by a cute lanky funny boy in high school. Lawson @lexander; Echo and Lawson.

Every so often, usually when Paul is re-reading the Narnia books to the littler kids, I wonder if the name Caspian will ever come into common usage. I see it was given to 158 new baby boys in 2016, so it’s in the range of the usage of the name Echo. Caspian @lexander; Echo and Caspian.

Poking around in the Social Security database in that same area, I see Boaz. This is a name I’m surprised hasn’t joined the popularity of Noah and Isaiah and Ezra and Elijah. Boaz @lexander; Echo and Boaz. Bo for short.

And Smith! That’s a fun one. Smith @lexander; Echo and Smith.

And Murphy! I would love to see a Murphy on a class list. Murphy @lexander; Echo and Murphy.

And Garrison! Similar to Harrison, but definitely less common. Garrison @lexander; Echo and Garrison.

Baby Naming Issue: How To Make People Stop Using a Nickname / Pet Name

Hello – I have a question that I need your help with as it’s driving me nuts. My daughter was born a few months ago and we’ve had a steady stream of friends and family come over to meet her. I always introduce her as her proper name, but inevitably someone starts talking to her calling her a nickname. How do I politely dissuade people from calling her a nickname that I hate? If I wanted you to call her something, I would have said so (for example, “her name is Violet but we call her Vi”).

PS – her name is not something that people commonly shorten, (such as Katelynn, nickname Kate). Her name is similar to Lydia and the nicknames would be like Ly or LyLy.

Thanks for your help,
M

 

I suspect it would be helpful to start by discussing the difference between a nickname and a pet name.

Examples of nicknames:

Elizabeth: Liz, Libby, Bessie, Beth
William: Will, Bill, Liam
Charlotte: Charlie, Lottie
Madison: Maddie
Nicholas: Nick, Cole
Isabella: Izzy, Bella
Joshua: Josh
James: Jim, Jimmy, Jamie
Lydia: Liddy

Nicknames are part of the parents’ name choice until the child is old enough to take control of that decision. Parents are well within their rights to announce: “Her name is Elizabeth; we’ll be calling her Bess”—and then to kindly, politely enforce that. “Actually we’re calling her Bess, not Beth.”

Examples of pet names:

Jacob: Jay-jay
Josiah: Jojo
Anna: Anna-Banana
Jared: Jare-Bear
Naomi: Nay-nay
Julia: Jujubee
Riley: Ry-Ry

Some short forms are on the line between nickname and pet name, and some can go either way depending on intent (Wills, for example, as a nickname for William, or Lulu for Lucy). The rule of thumb I use is this: Is anyone going to write it on a school paper? A child might very well write Liddy, Beth, Liam, Maddie, or Cole, but they would not write Ry-Ry, Jare-Bear, or Jujubee.

Pet names are like baby talk. They’re silly affectionate wordplay with the baby’s name, usually done by people who are dazzled by the baby’s cuteness to the point of losing some of their ability to form normal words. Pet names are a verbal form of love not intended as a parent-overriding attempt to create an official nickname. They’re a useful way to take a respectable given name and make it fit the temporary Tiny Squoodger stage. Later, pet names are still affectionate but generally less baby-talky, like using Soph for Sophia or Em for Emily. (Though I understand Anna-Banana and Hannah-Banana tend to be permanent.) They’re still not likely to be written on an inter-office memo the way Will or Liz could be.

If the parents truly, truly hate a pet name, they can attempt to stop it, though it may take more effort and energy than new parents want to spend. Ideally, the parent would be ready with a back-up pet name: “Oh, Dad, I just hate the nickname Jelly-Belly for some reason. How about Bella-boo instead?”

Of course if we are talking about something more like a nickname (Coco for Cora, for example), then I think you can nip it in the bud the usual way: “Oh, we’re not using the nickname—it’s just Cora.” But if we’re talking about pet names, I would advise letting people do it, just as I’d advise allowing them to squeeze cheeks and make kissy noises and ask WHO is the best baby in the world, WHO is?

Baby Boy Wooder, Brother to Brynn

Hi Swistle,
My husband and I are excited to be expecting our second (and final) child due in early March, 2018. We have a daughter already named Brynn Marley Wooder and her name was so easy for us to decide on. For some reason I was absolutely certain that this baby would be a girl as well and we had already chosen her name before we even knew the gender, Blair Leo. Then a wrinkle in the naming plan happened when I found out we were having a boy…
The problem with boy names is this: my husband likes somewhat traditional, masculine names for a boy while I like somewhat unique names. We have come up with a few names but none of them feel 100% right.

The names are:
Drew
Nate
Owen

We ruled out Alexander because of the nickname Al and Benjamin based on the nicknames Benji and Big Ben. My husband has also ruled out names like Hudson, Emerson and Reese because he thinks they sound pretentious.

We have settled on Leonard as the middle name as it is the name of the residence where we met in university. Our last name is Wooder. We are not set on this baby’s name matching our daughter’s name in any way. We like one syllable names but aren’t 100% set on that.

I think I am having trouble being truly decisive about names because of the emotional state that I have been in for the last month. My mother tragically passed away after a very difficult battle with cancer and it has left my whole family emotionally raw.
If you could help us decide on a name that would be so appreciated.
Thank you for your help,
Whitney

 

 

Would you be interested in looking for a name to honor your mother? Perhaps her maiden name, or a name with the same initials, or perhaps her first or middle names have versions that would work for a boy.

We need more data points than just mine, but I will say that I have not run into the nickname Al used for Alexander; the only nicknames I’ve encountered are Alex and Xander and Xan. I don’t think you need to rule out Alexander over the possibility of Al. On the other hand, you’re looking for something more unusual, and according to the Social Security Administration, Alexander only dropped out of the Top Ten in 2016 after an eight-year stay, and was in the tens and twenties rankings for decades before that.

It looks to me as if each name on the list of finalists fails to meet either your husband’s traditional/masculine preference or else your preference for something unusual. Drew is unisex: 216 new baby girls and 793 new baby boys were given the name in 2016. Owen was #23 in 2016, and is a rearrangement of the sounds of Noah, which has been #1 for four years in a row. The name Nathan has been in the Top 50 since 1975; Nathaniel was in the Top 100 from 1978 until 2015; Nate is such a familiar nickname at this point.

I wonder if any of these would work:

Ames
Clark
Cole
Dane
Dean
Ezra
Felix
Gavin
George
Graham
Grant
Ian
Ivan
Isaac
Joel
Karl
Mack
Miles
Milo
Niels
Nolan
Rufus
Simon
Zane
Zeke

Baby Name Advice: Comments Section Edition

I am uninspired today. I feel like I say the same things over and over: “Two names with something in common doesn’t mean you’ve established an unbreakable theme.” “No, I don’t think that’s too much of a mouthful.” “I know you don’t want five in every class, but that won’t happen even if you choose the number-one most popular name.” “The goal is not to find a name you like better than the one you can’t use; the goal is to choose your favorite from all the remaining options.” “No one has dibs on a name.” “These little things are the things that feel super important right now but you’ll barely remember them later.” “There are no naming rules.” “That doesn’t need to be decided ahead of time.” “Consider the future sibling names.” “People may give opinions but hardly anyone deep-down cares what name you choose.” “It is not the parents’ responsibility to find The Perfect Name Preordained by The Universe as The Only Right Name for This Baby.” “Unhelpful Vetoing Husband Who Only Likes One Name needs to KNOCK THAT RIGHT OFF.”

Let’s talk about what advice you would give to people naming a baby. You can say one single thing or ten—whatever comes to your mind. It doesn’t have to be The Most Important Thing, or something that would apply in all situations: just pick anything. And don’t worry about repeating something someone else has said: I think it’s very helpful to see if many people would say the same thing.

Naming Issue: Changing a Surname

Hi ,

So I hate my last name. My last name is Landon with an extra letter. Lately I’ve been debating on whether I should change it when I turn 18 next year.

Reasons why I don’t like it –
– It gets confused super regularly. I get London , Lamden , Lanton and I’ve even gotten Lambert a couple of times. This is not helped by the fact that my name Maddison is often confused for Madeline , Madelyn or Maggie/Mattie when people call me Maddie.
– It is the last name of my only living grandparent who I have a very complicated relationship with.
– I don’t think it sounds great with my first name.

I wouldn’t change my first name or my middle name because I like them and they have significant value to me due to the fact my mother and her mother chose them together before I was born (her mother is no longer alive and I sadly never met her).

There is two reasons why I would not change it. The first is my mother is not a fan of the idea. My dad (whose last name it is) doesn’t seem bothered but I’d have to chat with him about it again before I made a decision. The second is that I am an only child and my dad only has one other sibling who her and her children have different names. That means the last name would die with my dad if I didn’t use it. So even though I don’t like it there is that weird pressure. Is that crazy?

With a new last I would prefer something easier to wear and can’t be confused for anything else. My ideas so far are Brooks , Baxter (which is the maiden name of the grandmother I never met) or Sorenson (which breaks all my rules but a similar style would be nice).

So what do you think should I change it when I turn 18 next year , wait a few years then change it , wait until I get married or not change it at all?

Thank you for your time.

Maddison

 

Last names are so often problematic: hard to spell, hard to pronounce, unfamiliar, easily mistaken for each other. Pretty much everyone is accustomed to spelling their surname every time they give it, and none of the options you’re considering seem immune from that. I am reminded of a family friend with a difficult surname who, as she was dialing a pizza place, told us that she was going to give her surname as Smith to avoid all the usual spelling/pronunciation complications. At this point the pizza place answered the phone, and all we heard was our friend’s side of the conversation: “Yes, I’d like to order a large pepperoni pizza for carry-out. Uh huh. Smith.” Then a pause and a huge heavy sigh, followed by a clenched-teeth “S…M…I…T…H.”

I think if I were you I would wait a bit. It sounds as if you’re not sure yet what kind of change you’d like to make, so deliberately choosing a holding pattern for now might reduce the stress: knowing that you CAN change it and probably WILL change it, but that there’s no reason to rush it and make a change before you feel pretty comfortable with what you want.

While waiting, I recommend the combination of enunciation + automatic spelling. Really work your lips wide around the letters: it feels foolish at first, but I swear I’ve reduced by 95% the number of times I get called Christine instead of Kristen, just by saying my name with slightly overdone lip movements. You: “My name is Maddison LAANNDDONN, that’s L-A-N, D-O-N.” If you notice one particular error being made more often than others, you can clarify that section with additional clues: “That’s L, A, N-as-in-November, D-as-in-dog, O, N.” It’s possible the whole thing would bug you less if we could reduce the error rate—or if that doesn’t help at all, that’s good information to have, too.

Around here we often suggest “the Starbucks test”: this is a test in which a parent considering a baby name goes to Starbucks (or anywhere they ask your name) and gives the potential baby name as their own. It’s a good way to check for issues and reactions: maybe “Pebbles” seems like an adorable name when you’re picturing a sweet baby girl, but it suddenly seems like a terrible idea when you have to say it to the barista. When Paul and I were engaged and considering choosing a new surname for both of us, we tried out various options at restaurants with waiting lists: we’d have to say it to the hostess, and also hear it called out when it was our turn. This test is probably obsolete now that most restaurants give out vibrating pagers. But you could try out the various names on friends: tell them the name as if you were introducing yourself (“Hi, I’m Maddison Brooks”), and see if they hear it properly and can spell it properly. Try it over the phone, particularly.

Turning 18 is a nice natural transition point if you were certain about the name you wanted, but on the other hand it comes with a flavor of parental disapproval, as if you had to wait for legal adulthood to have the right to go against your parents’ wishes (even if that is not at all what is going on).

Speaking of family, a name change has the potential to make the complicated grandparent relationship more complicated. You and your family would know best on this, and I’d suggest consulting your dad on that when you’re having a chat about how he feels about the surname. Check with your mom, too.

If you are pretty certain you’d want to take your spouse’s surname, then marriage is a nice time to make the change—and easier too, because it can be done as part of the marriage and you don’t have to go separately through the name-changing process. Plus, it’s an easy change to explain. But perhaps you would not want to take your spouse’s name, either for philosophical reasons or because the new spouse’s surname didn’t appeal or was just as problematic as your own. Or perhaps you’re not sure at this point, or you don’t want to have to wait that long. I don’t think you should feel you OUGHT to wait for marriage to make the change, when there are so many unpredictable variables involved.

If you become sure you want to change it, it would be ideal to change it before getting any professional degree certificates. On the other hand, it happens all the time that a person gets a degree and then changes their surname at a later time, so again I’d prioritize “being sure of what you want about the surname” over convenience/timing issues.

On the topic of the family name possibly dying out, are you considering keeping the name and also giving it to your children? Or are you thinking you wouldn’t use it for your children, but that it would be better to let it die one generation later, with you instead of with your dad? If you don’t think you’d want to give it to your children, then I don’t think it matters if it ends with your dad or with you. If you would want to give it to your children, then there are a lot of future unknown variables and I am not sure what to advise; I think I’d advise the same holding pattern but with a longer-term feel to it. Or I might want to know if there are other family names in your family tree that are on the verge of extinction and could be saved instead. I definitely don’t think you should feel obligated to personally continue the surname.

Baby Girl or Boy Ke@ting, Sibling to Aurelia (Goldie): Coordinate with Sister’s Name or Sister’s Nickname?

Hello Swistle!

I am very excited to be able to write to you with my baby name conundrum! We are expecting our second baby in early March — the sex will be a surprise. We have one daughter, her name is Aurelia Mae but we exclusively call her Goldie, and she is a Goldie through and through. Our surname is Ke@ting.

I’d love for the siblings’ names to match but not TOO much, if that makes sense. For instance, I really like names like Ruby, Pearl, and Opal but gemstone names might be a little too much with Goldie. I also love the idea of saint names, but have a hard time finding actual saint names that I like — it turns out that there was a Saint Aurelia, but that was accidental and I only figured it out after Goldie was named. The other issue with matching siblings names is, which name do we try to match the style of, the given name or the nickname? I feel like Aurelia and Goldie are pretty different in style.

I would love suggestions for names of both sexes, but boy names are particularly difficult for me. If Goldie had been a boy, her name would have been Jasper, and that is still definitely a front-runner for a boy for me. However, I would like some other candidates since I keep hearing about dogs named Jasper and it’s starting to sound like a dog name to me.

I would love you and your readers’ input!

Thanks!

 

The nickname/name coordination issue is an interesting one. In GENERAL, I like to coordinate the given names and let the nicknames land where they may. When nicknames are rhyming, clashing, or cutesy, it doesn’t matter nearly as much to me as it does when it’s the given names. I might still personally prefer to avoid a rhyming/clashing/cutesy nickname pairing, and I’d hope to think of any issues ahead of time rather than run into them later by surprise, but it’s a much milder preference.

Did you intend all along to call Aurelia by the nickname Goldie, or did it just happen? If you always intended to call her Goldie, or if it just happened but you feel that’s more your real style, then I would aim for similar names for future siblings: either Aurelia/Goldie combinations for all, or coordinating all the names with the name Goldie. If you intended to call her Aurelia and the nickname just happened, but you still feel Aurelia is more your style, then I’d start with names more like Aurelia and see if a Goldie-type nickname works/happens.

All right, let’s find some possibilities to consider. I think you are absolutely on track with options such as Ruby and Pearl and Opal: those have the same pleasingly antique sound as Goldie, plus the sass. More:

Ada
Bessie
Bonnie
Daisy
Dolly
Elsie
Faye
Flora
Hazel
Lois
Lottie
Louise
Mabel
Maeve
Maisie/Maisy
Marilla
Millie/Milly
Minnie/Minny
Olive
Polly
Rosie
Roxie
Sadie (repeats ending of Goldie)
Sallie/Sally
Stella
Tillie/Tilly
Trudy (repeats ending of Goldie)

I feel particularly fond of the name Sally. I would so love to meet a little Sally. And with your surname: Sally Ke@ting! I feel a little faint with love.

I am less certain about names to coordinate with Aurelia. I looked it up in The Baby Name Wizard to see where the author puts it, and she says it’s “a romantic relic of ancient Rome” and that it had “a Victorian-era revival.” Ohhhhhhh, and she notes it comes from a Latin word for golden! Ah ha! I see what you did there! So let’s add another naming path possibility for you, which I am not going to try to follow but maybe you would want to: finding another longer name with a Latin-word-base-related nickname!

Back to the Baby Name Wizard. The author suggests sister names such as Lavinia, Aurora, Adelaide, Eleanora, Emmeline, Theodora, Beatrix, and Viola; and brother names such as Lucius, Sebastian, Rupert, Hugh, Edison, Augustus, Conrad, and Elias. I am all-in on Lavinia: it’s another name from ancient Rome, and it’s great with your surname and with the name Aurelia. You could go with a nickname such as Liv or Livvy or Vinnie. Lavinia Ke@ting; Aurelia and Lavinia; Goldie and Livvy.

For boy names, I’m less sure of your style. The names I think of when I think of Jasper are names such as:

Adrian
Alistair
Arthur
Charles
Edmund
Elliot
Everett
Frederick
George
Julian
Louis
Malcolm
Miles
Nolan
Oliver
Russell
Simon
Wesley

Or you wouldn’t want to go for something like Alfred or Albert, would you? I have a soft spot for those names and I’m hoping they’ll come back soon.

When I hear that people have given “dog name”/”stripper name” feedback on other people’s name choices, I wonder what on earth the feedbackers were thinking. I reluctantly agree that there are certain names I might privately feel that way about (Fido, for example, would ring a “dog name” bell in my mind whether I wanted it to or not, even though I’m not sure anyone IS naming dogs Fido anymore), but in general I think what happens is that people tend to give their pets names that they like, and so a certain percentage of those pets end up with names that are currently in style for people. Sometimes the trend in pet names is a little ahead of the trend in people names, because a name that is just about to come back into style has a certain sound that feels pleasingly whimsical/unusual/amusing/formal/silly: I named two cats George and Oliver because I thought I’d never want to use those names for actual children; a decade later I had an entirely different feeling on the topic, and wished I’d gone for names I’d ACTUALLY never want to use for actual children, such as Mittens.

Anyway. There are dogs named Jasper and Max and Jake and Sophie and Charlie and Bella and Sam, and there are people who enjoy telling people about their pets’ names (look at me with my George/Oliver story), but those two things don’t make the name Jasper any less usable for a human baby. I can picture meeting a baby named George and saying, without it first going fully through the brain-to-mouth filter, “Oh! I had a cat named George!”—but without AT ALL thinking George was “a cat name” or that it was weird on a person. Just blurting out the connection with recognition and delight, and without considering that perhaps a better reaction would be “Oh! I love that name!,” and maybe save the cat-name story for another time. Or I can picture anyone, when asked to consider a name candidate, doing so by going through a list of associations that included movie/TV characters, book characters, examples of the name being used in their social circle, and ALSO mentioning that they’ve heard it on two dogs and a cat; I personally would leave out the dog/cat detail, but I can picture someone including it in the research data. I think people who instead raise one nostril and say, “[Name]? That’s a DOG name,” about a name that is known to be used for humans, should no longer have the privilege of hearing other people’s baby name candidates.

…Oh. Wait. On re-reading, I see it’s not so much that people have been doing this to you, but more that you’ve been encountering dogs named Jasper. Well. Ahem. My rant is perhaps misapplied in this exact case, but if people WERE telling you it was a dog name, THEN I WOULD HAVE YOUR BACK.

Jasper is a semi-precious stone, but I’m not sure that is common knowledge. I do know it, and would probably not think anything of siblings named Goldie and Jasper; or I might think, “Ah, what a pleasing and subtle tie-in!” I think it’s great with your surname, and a very good choice.