Baby Boy Keller

Dear Swistle,

I am a little ways out still, due in August, but don’t see us getting any closer to a name. It’s not that we are so in love with these top names, but just can commit, or omit any of them for some reason. Desperately looking for another opinion, and still open to adding more to our list. I love reading your suggestions and reasoning for why names work!

This is our first baby, boy. Our last name is Keller. That makes it’s a little difficult, since I want the first name to have a solid ending…and not to end in “ER.”

We are hoping to use a family name for the middle name, and will choose which one based upon how boring/traditional/common or off the wall the first name is. James, Petersen (some form of it; Pete, Peters, Peter), or Baldwin. My husband and I both have longer formal names, and then nicknames and I like that option, but not a must. I really like the trendy traditional names, but I feel like the ones I like are getting overused and aren’t as rare.

We can’t use; Charlie, John, Jack, Luke, Bo or Teddy.

Our current list includes;

William/ Liam: I was excited about a more unique name that comes from a very comfortable and traditional name.

Finnick/Finn: I am worried this is getting a little too popular, and Finley being used now for girls

Thomas: Too safe, and too popular?

Wyatt: Love it, no negatives, other than no nickname can come from it

Crawford/Ford: If he will always go by Ford, silly to have Crawford?



Graham: Too long, with nothing to shorten it to?

Thanks in advance for your help and assistance!


Let’s start with the Social Security Administration rankings. The name Liam is the second most popular boy name in the United States as of 2016, one notch higher than William at #3.

Finn, on the other hand, was the #175th most popular boy name in 2016. You’re right that it’s rising; here are the rankings for the five years before that:

2011: #302
2012: #291
2013: #251
2014: #234
2015: #209

And here are the rest of the name rankings (all for 2016):

Thomas: #48
Wyatt: #33
Crawford: (not in the Top 1000 for 2016)
Ford: #712
Brooks: #231
Owen: #23
Graham: #179

This is a pretty big spread, popularity-wise: from Crawford (56 new baby boys given the name in 2016) to Liam (18,138 new baby boys given the name in 2016). I don’t recommend making naming decisions based too strongly on popularity, but I think it’s a factor to take into account. On the other hand, all of the names on your list, despite the popularity spread, are familiar and not difficult to imagine pairing with other names from the list.

And in fact, imagining those pairings can be a good way to narrow things down a bit. I suggest making a list of brother pairs from your list, and seeing which ones stand out to your more or feel more like “your kids.” Do you find you’re more drawn to William and Owen, or more drawn to Ford and Brooks, or more drawn to Graham and Wyatt?

I see what you mean about the difficulty in choosing one or eliminating any: I find as I’m sitting here staring at the list, nothing is leaping out at me as one I’d cross off or as one I want to push you to use. I think it’s that you have a good solid list of names and can’t really go wrong here.

Paul and I had a similar situation when naming Henry: we got it down to 7 names and then we were having trouble cutting it down any further. The method we used was this: we each took the list and we ranked the names—but we could rank as many as we wanted at each ranking. That is not a very clear description; here is the kind of thing we ended up with after doing this exercise:

One parent’s list:
William 1
Wyatt 1
Owen 1
Graham 2
Thomas 2
Finn 2
Brooks 3
Crawford 3

The other parent’s list:
Owen 1
Wyatt 1
Finn 2
Crawford 2
Graham 2
Brooks 3
William 3
Thomas 3

So, comparing those lists, the parents can say to each other, “Well, it looks like Brooks is not going to win out: we love it, but it’s going to lose to other names no matter what” and “Well, we both have Owen and Wyatt as #1, so I think we should consider those more seriously.” Any name where both parents ranked it a #1, or where one parent ranked it a #1 and the other parent ranked it a #2: those should be moved up the list. Any name where both parents ranked it a #3, or where one parent ranked it a #2 and the other parent ranked it a #3: those can probably be safely removed from the list. If the parents’ lists are basically in reverse order from each other, I’d focus on the names that both parents ranked a #2.

I hesitate to add MORE names to your list—but since I’m not doing a good job eliminating any, let’s go the other direction!

You have likely already considered this, but I wondered if you might want to use Petersen as a first name. It’s pretty cute, and Petersen Keller reminds me favorably of the successful combination Anderson Cooper.

John is out so maybe Jonathan is also out—but if it isn’t, I really like it. Jonathan Keller. I would probably use James as the middle name. I find I’m reluctant to use Baldwin: it seems like guys can be a little sensitive about the word “bald”.

Or I wonder if you’d like the name Henry. Henry Petersen Keller is smashing.

Or Daniel? Dan is on my list of favorite nicknames: it feels so warm and friendly and approachable. Daniel James Keller, or Daniel Petersen Keller.


[Edited to add: A commenter who is having commenting problems has asked me to add this:

For what it’s worth, Thomas Keller is a famous chef (, which to me is a positive association but one I would have wanted to know about before committing. Best wishes!

You may wonder why I am putting it in the post, instead of as a comment. It is because I CAN’T COMMENT EITHER. I can only do it in the behind-the-scenes part of the blog, only as a reply to someone else’s comment. This commenting issue is going to drive me screaming into the sea.]

23 thoughts on “Baby Boy Keller

  1. Shaeby

    I think Swistle’s advice for narrowing down your list is spot on. I’m only here to comment about some of your nickname questions. While Wy might seem like a less than satisfying option for Wyatt, the use of Cy/Si (Cyrus/Silas), Kai, and Ty (Tyson) contribute to this being a pretty solid sound/nickname right now. I also knew a Graham with the nickname Gray in college. And though Finley is used for some girls, I think Finn is still firmly in boy territory.

    As for you Crawford/Ford question, are you only considering Crawford because you want a long name that can be shortened? If you love Ford, but don’t love Crawford, I think Ford is fine as a standalone name and I think Fordie is cute as a nickname (like Jordie or Geordie with an F).

    You have a great list of names! Good luck narrowing down!

    1. Elisabeth

      The title character of Super Why is a little boy who normally goes by Wyatt, except when he’s being a superhero. As popular as Wyatt is, I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of boys go by Wy or Why.

  2. FE

    I understand crossing off Baldwin, but it still makes me a little sad as the most adventurous of the middle name options. But if you get rid of the ‘Bald’, you’re left with Win … which made me think of an older name that I have a bit of a soft spot for – Edwin. With Edwin you can have Eddie, or Ed, or Winnie. An underused traditional name with a conservative or fun nickname as you see fit.

  3. Suzanne

    I love Swistle’s suggestion of using Peterson as the first name.

    And the other names on your list are so great! I find I am partial to Ford. Ford Peterson Keller sounds amazing to my ear.

  4. Renee

    I also have to agree that might want to lose your preference for a name that leads to a nickname. Use Ford or Wyatt – the nicknames will come if you’re a nickname type family. Nicknames these days are far more creative and unintuitive than they once were. Or choose Graham and yes, use Gray! Thomas is a wonderful classic – use Tommy! I also like the idea of Petersen for a first, and I like Penn as a nickname, though that might bring it too close to Penn & Teller. In any case, good luck!

  5. Kim C

    Petersen James Keller nn Pete would be awesome!

    Wyatt could have the nicknames Wy or Witt maybe?

    I prefer Gray, over Graham, as a stand alone name. Gray Peterson Keller perhaps?

    Love the name Finn! What about Fintan nn Finn? Finnick Keller does run together. Fintan James Keller?

    Tom Keller is great!

    What about Henry nn Harry, Daniel nn Dan, Edward nn Ned or Andrew nn Drew?

    For some reason Mitchell and Joseph come to mind. Mitch Keller or Joss Keller

    All the best!

  6. Sargjo

    You don’t need more good names but I did think of Malcolm. Malcolm Keller, Mack Keller. At first Mack Keller might seem to run together but I said it several times and I don’t think it does really. I also think Silas that a commenter used as illustration above is actually a great uncommon choice too-Silas Keller, Si Keller.

  7. Andrea

    I like the idea of grouping them by feel. Finn and Owen and Liam all fit together in my head into one category, whereas Wyatt, Crawford, and Brooks go together beautifully into another. All of them would sound like siblings, but that is where *I*would place them stylistically. I really love Peterson Keller for you because I love the nn Pete. It is so underused right now. My hubby is a Timothy and you’d think we’d hear it all over, but I’ve met one other since we got married. I think Peter would be the same. I think all the names you like are great! Good luck!

  8. Kay W.

    I actually know someone who goes by Wy. I’m not 100% sure that his full name is Wyatt (I think it could be Wiley, actually, or even William), but Wy as a nickname really does WORK. You’d think it would sound weird, or make his full name sound like a question, but it doesn’t. It’s short and a bit soft but also memorable.

    Finnick is the one name from your list I’d think about cutting; it’s close to finicky, and the -ick ending runs into Keller to my ear. There are other full name Finn options, besides Finley! What about Finnegan? Or Finbar?

    Jonathan with your surname sounded familiar, TOO familiar, so I googled it and there’s a bestselling mystery author named Jonathan Kellerman. That would be a deal breaker for me.

  9. Christi

    We have a Richard NN Ricky/Rick and I don’t know another child with a version of that name. We do know adult Richards and Ricks and even a Rich but he’s 13 and has been the only kid in his grade school and middle school with that first name. I like that it is a common enough name that everyone knows how to spell and say it but there aren’t 4 Rick’s in his class. Richard James, Richard Peter, I really like Richard Owen. Richard Owen Keller

  10. TheFirstA

    A couple of things stood out to me about your list. The first being that Crawford seems least like the other names. It’s not really incompatible style-wise, but just different enough that I noticed it.

    You mentioned feeling uncomfortable about Finnick/Finn because of popularity. However, you don’t seem to have this issue with William, which is and always has been, much more popular. I couldn’t help but wonder if what really bothers you is the trendiness of Finnick/Finn? I think there is a huge difference between trendy & timeless/always popular. Finnick/Finn is likely to feel date-stamped one day, while William won’t. Perhaps this would be a good way to eliminate some names from your list? Of all your names, I think Finnick/Finn is by far the trendiest. Perhaps also Crawford/Ford, but I think this is a bit different. It feels trendy as part of a whole class of names (surnames as first) and not because the specific name Crawford is likely to become date-stamped.

    Nicknames for Wyatt: I agree Wy would work. It actually reminds me of the boys name Ty. Perhaps Witt? Or maybe an initial nickname? For example, Wyatt James could be nicked to W.J. Of, if you don’t like any of these, and your preference for a longer name with a nickname is really important to you, lack of a good nickname could be a reason to eliminate Wyatt from your list.

    Graham: I don’t understand why you think it may be too long. It’s considerably shorten (# of letters) than other names on your list, and it’s also only 1 syllable in the U.S. Even the 2 syllable British pronunciation (Gray-um) isn’t any longer than Wyatt. I’ve seen Gray used as a more traditional nickname for Graham. My family also commonly calls my younger son G (his first initial) so perhaps you’d also like something like that?

    I like Swistle’s suggestion about ranking the names. I’ll also suggest eliminating some, even if the reason to take them off the list seems minor. Considering a name off limits, even for a while, might help you decide how attached you really are to the name. For example, if you eliminate Wyatt due to no nicknames, and find yourself feeling OK or even relieved by this decision, I think it’s fair to say that Wyatt isn’t The Name. If you eliminate Graham for the same reason, but then find yourself feeling regret or your mind keeps going back to it, this could be a sign that Graham is a serious contender, and you simply add it back later.

  11. Amanda

    I love the name Ford as a standalone. We have friends that have a son named Ford, nn Fordie, and I think he and his name are the cutest!

    I’m not really liking Wy as a nickname for Wyatt. Just sounds like “Why.”

  12. Shannon

    Ugh! I lost a lengthy comment to the posting ether. I’ll recap briefly:

    Brooks–love this!! Brooks Keller is smashing. Brooks is my godson’s name, and it wears well on a little tyke. People react very pleasantly to it.

    Graham–love this too, and am confused about the charge that it’s too long. It seems as though nicknames are a preference for you, rather than a must-have; and choosing something like Brooks or Graham doesn’t foreclose the possibility that a nickname would develop organically later.

    Crawford–if you like this, what about Ashford? That gives you to the ability to find out whether he’s more of an Ash or a Ford.

    Finnick–for me too, this runs together with your last name (Finnickeller). If you like it, though, what about Phineas/Phinnaeus, Finn for short?

    If you are trying to avoid names that feel trendy or overly popular, then William/Liam probably need to come off the list. Where I live, at least, Liam is not a unique name, but one someone might choose if they wanted something comfortably familiar. Also: Both names are beautiful, which is why they’re so beloved–but while William has been beloved for centuries, Liam pinpoints the wearer to one of two consecutive generations, and there will come a time when sons named William will start going by Biam or Illi or maybe even Bill again to differentiate themselves from their fathers. I may have misinterpreted your reason for choosing William/Liam, but if it is indeed to get to a unique nickname, then I think it supports NOT using William/Liam (and going with something like Crawford instead).


  13. Emarie

    I love Finn Keller or Ford Keller, no need for Finnick or Crawford, in my opinion. Both are all-boy to me, and great versatile names. If you want a longer name/nickname option I love August Keller, nn Gus.

  14. JMV

    I’m partial to Brooks. Peterson is appealing as a first name, esp with the nicknames of Pierce or Piers.

  15. Reagan

    I love Swistles process for moving forward in selecting a name from your list. Personally my number 1s from your list are Wyatt, Owen, and Graham and if you want Nicknames for these I like Wy, Owe, and Gray.

    That said I really like Ford but not Crawford. I would consider Fordham. With the nickname Ford.

  16. Elle

    There is a great older actor called G.W. Bailey (George William, but he goes exclusively by his first and middle initials). I would have imagined finding those letters difficult and long to say together like that, but they actually work really well in real life! I could see something like W.J. (Wyatt James Keller or William James Keller) working just as nicely. Or, J.W. (James Wyatt Keller). Or, G.J. (Graham James Keller). There was the kids’ show, Arthur, with the character D.W., which makes initial names that include a W, or that are just otherwise atypical, even more useable to me. Or, actually, what about Arthur nicknamed Art? Arthur James Keller, Arthur Petersen Keller. W.J. Keller. J.W. Keller. G.J. Keller. J.P. is like the more common J.D. James Petersen Keller. J.P. Keller. You would also have Jay, if you used James as the first name.


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