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Baby Girl Owens, Sister to Eli and Vivian

Hi Swistle!
You and your readers helped us name our Vivian (Vivi) Marie, little sister to Eli Dane, back in 2015. We are now in the third trimester with another little girl and are hoping for some help, as we are struggling with this one! We’ve agreed to use “June” as a middle name, to honor my grandma, who we lost last year.

Overall, like many people, we like names that are classic…or at least easily recognized and pronounced, but NOT top 50 (or even 100) names. We didn’t completely realize this until after we named our son, who now goes by “Eli O.” in several circles.

So, for this sweet girl, bonus points for a less-popular name with a spunky vibe, or maybe just a fun (but not too cutesy) nickname. Vivian checked all the boxes for us, and we love her name. We’d like to possibly have one more child, and we love the names Jasper or Isaiah for a boy.

Names I like and husband hasn’t entirely vetoed:

Coretta. This was top on my list last time too. I love the nickname “Etta” and I love “Coretta June.” Somehow this feels right to me and I keep coming back to it. It’s not popular at all, but is it way-out there in a weird way? We’ve toyed with Arietta as another way to get to “Etta,” which I also think is pretty.
Liza. My absolute favorite girl name is Eliza, but with Eli, it’s obviously too close. I think Liza can stand alone, but it still seems a little too close to Eli for me to be sold.

Louisa. My hang-up on this name is the Lou-weez-a/Lou-ees-a pronunciation issue. I don’t have a huge problem with either, but I do think it would bother me to not have a consistent pronunciation. Even my husband and I say it differently, without even trying. Am I nuts? Also not hooked on Louey/Lulu nicknames, but not a deal-breaker.

Other names I like but DH says no:

Names we like style-wise, but are either too popular or can’t use (friends, etc):

The ONLY names my husband has offered this go-round:
Ruby (I don’t hate it, but I’m not in love).
Lucia/Lucy (I don’t like the “I Love Lucy” connection of Lucy/Vivian…not sure how many people would catch that, and I really don’t like the pronunciation “Loo-sha” that some people use.)
Zoe (Doesn’t seem to fit, I don’t like).

What do you think of any of this? Or other name suggestions that go well with the middle name and siblings? We have two months to go. J

Many thanks again,


I feel as if you and your husband are so close to agreeing on a name. Look at the similarity of these options: Louisa, Juliet, Ruby, Lucy. All those “oo” and “ee” and “L” sounds! I want to make sure your husband is evaluating/considering your suggestions as thoroughly as you are evaluating/considering his.

Here are the things I think are not issues unless they start to deeply bother you:

1. Lou-weez-a/Lou-ees-a
2. Lucy/Vivian

I agree with you that Zoe doesn’t fit well, and that Liza is too close, and that not liking the LOO-sha pronunciation may rule out Lucia.

My definite favorites from the lists are Ruby and Juliet. Last time we talked about how a name can “spin” a previous sibling’s name; I think Ruby emphasizes the vintage sass of Vivian, and Juliet emphasizes the vintage romance. I think Ruby Owens and Juliet Owens both work very well. I like Ruby June better than Juliet June, but I think both work fine, and that an honor name doesn’t have to go perfectly.

I wonder if you’d like Georgia? It has the sass of Ruby, with some of the sound of Juliet and Norah. Georgia Owens; Eli, Vivian, and Georgia.

What do you think of Genevieve? Too much V with Vivian, or a nice tie-in? Genevieve Owens; Eli, Vivian, and Genevieve. I thought of it because you and I share a fondness for Josephine and Fiona and Penelope, and Genevieve is another on my list.

Margaret is another of my favorites. ONE MILLION EXCELLENT NICKNAMES. Margaret Owens; Eli, Vivian, and Margaret.

You and I also share a fondness for the names Eliza and Louise/Louisa, so I wonder if you would be with me on Eloise? I am not sure, but I THINK that is different enough from Eli for me to use it. I don’t love that they both start with El-, but I think I could deal with it, especially since the E is pronounced differently, and the L is in a different syllable in the two names (EE-lye and ELL-oh-weez), and there’s another child in between—but I don’t know if you’ll feel the same. Eloise Owens; Eli, Vivian, and Eloise. Urrrrg, maybe it’s too close, I can’t tell. I guess I’d prefer to use something else unless my heart was absolutely set on Eloise, in which case I’d go ahead.

Ooo, how about Cecily? Fresh, sweet, not too common. Cecily Owens; Eli, Vivian, and Cecily.

Or Celeste: also fresh, sweet, not too common. Celeste Owens; Eli, Vivian, and Celeste.

Or Rosalie: another fresh, sweet, not too common. Rosalie Owens; Eli, Vivian, and Rosalie.

Or Felicity: again with the fresh, sweet, not too common. Felicity Owens. Eli, Vivian, and Felicity.

Or Clara. It doesn’t have a good nickname, but I am suggesting it anyway. Clara Owens; Eli, Vivian, and Clara.

Or Clarissa, which makes it even less common and is better for nicknames. Clarissa Owens; Eli, Vivian, and Clarissa.

Or Melody. I ran into a Melody the other day, and it practically slapped me across the face with its familiar unusualness. Melody Owens; Eli, Vivian, and Melody.

Or Matilda. Matilda Owens; Eli, Vivian, and Matilda.

Or Sabrina. Why don’t I know ANY Sabrinas? Sabrina Owens; Eli, Vivian, and Sabrina.

Or Bianca. I know only one Bianca, and I love her name every time I hear it. It reminds me of Fiona. Bianca Owens; Eli, Vivian, and Bianca.

[Edited to add: AFTER I wrote up to this point, I went back to the post from 2014 to make sure I wasn’t suggesting all the same names—and I see I am suggesting four of the same names: Cecily, Felicity, Genevieve, and Georgia. Well, I am consistent!]

Wait, you wouldn’t want to use June as a first name, would you? I love it and hardly ever encounter it. June Owens; Eli, Vivian, and June. It has the sounds of Lucy, Ruby, Juliet. This is my top choice for you. The middle name could perhaps be a name you would have loved to use as a first name if it weren’t so popular, or a name already used by family/friends.

Baby Boy Ch@nn, Brother to Riley

Hi Swistle,

I wrote to you back in January 2015. I was worried that our name choice for our daughter (Riley) would not age well. Thankfully, you and others assuaged my fears and Riley Ch@nn was born in February 2015.

We’re expecting a baby boy in April 2018 and we’re stuck on a name for him. My husband really likes the name “Ryder” because he thinks it would match Riley very well. I am hesitant because Riley and Ryder seem to match too much! Would you and others consider the names too similar and cutesy for siblings?

Other names that we’ve liked but have somewhat dismissed:
Dylan – it sounds like something bad in Cantonese (we are Chinese)
Casey – brings to mind Casey Anthony, and we have a Caylee in our family
Names we like but can’t use because close friends have used them: Tyler, Logan, Zachary, Avery

Any other suggestions?

Thank you!
Mom to Riley and TBD


The names Riley and Ryder are so similar, using them for siblings would be a dramatic and highly noticeable thing to do. And if you have any chance at all of having a third child someday, I absolutely would not give yourselves that future naming problem—though I suppose there’s still Rylan available.

I wonder if thinking about other matchy pairings would help your husband see the issue? Like Casey and Caylee from your example above: if it’s too close for cousins and other relatives, it’s even closer for siblings. Or Madison and Madilyn. Brady and Braden. Carter and Carson. Emerson and Emory. Finley and Finian. Harley and Harper. McKinley and Mackenzie. Or maybe those will all sound good to him: some parents like sibling groups such as Emma and Ella or Jayden and Caden, and some parents like names such as John Johnson or William Williamson, so it really is a matter of personal preference and he might just like very matched sibling sets. My own opinion is that it makes it very, very difficult for other people to keep the names straight; helping other people tell the kids apart is not the number-one priority of baby-naming, but it’s something to consider.

The situation is made even more complicated by Riley being a unisex name. In fact, I’d need to remove my examples such as Madison and Madilyn: that pairing is confusing, but it’s not as confusing as Casey and Caylee, or Carter and Carson, or Emerson and Emory, or Harley and Harper.

I started to look for more options to consider, and realized we could take a few right from the list of sample pairings. Plus I’ll add a few more.


Ranger is my Compromise Option: it’s similar in style/mood/sound to Ryder, but I don’t think the pairing with Riley is startling or confusing. Finley and Wesley are also potential compromises: they match the endings of the names rather than the beginnings.

Baby Naming Issue: The Pronunciation of Giselle

Hi, I hope you can help us with a baby name dilemma having to do with pronunciation!

I am from the U.S.A. and my husband is from South America. He suggested the name “Giselle” for our coming baby girl. I had become familiar with this name from time living in South America and also loved it. In South America it is pronounced “Ji Sel” which I think is beautiful and to me is the most intuitive pronunciation of the way the name is spelled. Here is the dilemma: After researching a bit about the name, I found that the most common pronunciation in the U.S.A. is “Jiz Zel” which I find really unattractive being that it reminds lots of people of the African animal and even worse the association of the first syllable of the name to the vulgar slang word “jizz”. So there is a sector of the U.S. population who would pronounce Giselle “Ji Sel” (Hispanics and I understand French Canadians also pronounce it this way) but most Americans pronounce it Jiz Zel. Could I dare to hope that our daughter could be called “Ji Sel” by others or would she be known and called “Jiz Zel” by most people in the U.S.? This would be so disappointing but should I forget Giselle and look for another name?


I pronounce it somewhere in between: I say it with a Z sound instead of a soft S, but more like jih-ZELL, with the Z attached to the second syllable, so that I never made a connection to the vulgar slang until reading this letter. I do associate the name with gazelles, but it’s a positive association: beauty, grace, cute ears, etc.

Wikipedia mentions only the Ji-zell pronunciation, but doesn’t even have it with emphasis or phonetic marks so I’m not sure if that counts as a complete entry. Forvo gives two different versions, one French and one English, both pronounced with the Z-sound. Inogolo also includes two: jih-ZELL and zhee-SELL. The Baby Name Bible says it is either GEE-zah-lah or jiz-ELLE. The Baby Name Wizard says it is ji-ZEHL. It is looking to me as if the correct pronunciation in the U.S. uses the Z sound.

I knew a Lesley in high school who wanted her name pronounced with a soft S instead of a Z, and she had at best mixed success. Her struggle was complicated by people not really hearing/noticing the difference. I do think you could get the people closest to you to use the soft S—but if you’ll be living in the U.S., and if you hate the Z pronunciation and it’s going to drive you crazy to hear it, I think you’d be happier choosing another name. I wonder if you’d like Giselle in the middle-name position, so you can still have the name but without hearing it pronounced very often?

Baby Naming Issue: Can Two Children Both Have Their Mother’s Surname as a Middle Name?

Dear Swistle,

This is a hypothetical question as there is no baby on the way, but hopefully someday soon. My husband and I have one son. His middle name is my maiden name (which I still go by) and his last name is my husband’s last name. His first name is a name we liked that honors no one. I’ve liked his full name because my name was 1/3rd of it. But now my question is for our next child. Can he/she have the same middle name? Is that common or is it weird? I know you advocate for two middle names, which we obviously didn’t do for the first child but I’m considering it for our second. However, I feel like it diminishes the role/importance of my name. I also kind of wonder if we have a girl does that change things? Is it too masculine sounding to have a last name as a middle name? Part of me is just bummed out that my kids and I have/will have different last names and there is just no perfect solution.

I will try to remember to update if the time comes. Thanks for reading, love your blog!


Absolutely the next child can have the same middle name, particularly when the reason for doing that in this case is so clear: no one is going to say, “Wait, you used your surname as the middle name for…BOTH children???”

And I don’t think anything changes if the next baby is a girl. Many girls and women have surnames as middle names, and I don’t think the practice has a masculine vibe—particularly since the surname would be her mother’s.

Middle Name Challenge: Baby Boy Elliot ______ Sh@w

Hi Swistle!!

I am so excited to finally be writing to you with an actual baby to name!! We are expecting our first (IVF!!) baby due in June, not finding out the gender. My name is Lindsay (spelled a different way), DH is Greg0ry, surname Sh@w. So here is my question… For a boy, we are 100% decided on Elliott for a first name. This is DH’s middle name and a family name on his side and we have been talking about this name for so long that it really has grown on me and now I just think of our future son as this name. But because this name is so heavily influenced by DH’s side of the family (the first name and the surname are all him), I want more say with the middle. I don’t have family names that work.. the men in my family have Spanish names that I don’t think fit with our naming style at all (same goes for my maiden name). So I am starting from scratch here. My naming style is “preppy-sounding” if that’s even a style.. And I want something definitively male to balance out Elliott which I know is becoming more unisex. I LOVE the way Alexander sounds… Elliott Alexander Sh@w just sounds meant to be. But I have a very close male friend with the first name Alexander/Alex and do not want this to be perceived as me naming my child after him. Not that he isn’t a great person but I feel like this would be inappropriate. I may be able to overlook it but for now I am searching for an alternative. So my question is… do you or your readers have middle name suggestions that flow as well as Alexander to go with Elliott? And that still carries that preppy sounding style? I don’t want to inverse my husband’s name and names I cannot use are Nathaniel, Benjamin, Michael, and anything with too much of an S sound because of the flow with Sh@w. Other names I’m considering are Elliott Spencer Sh@w (but this has the S sound issue), or Elliott Oliver Shaw (DH not totally on board). Any suggestions??

I might be writing back later with a girl name question but I’ll stick with the one question for now! :) Thank you and I love reading your blog!



Here is a thing about honor names: it’s the exception and not the rule for them to match the parents’ naming style. The names of our relatives were chosen mostly by people with different naming styles than ours—and even the ones with a similar naming style chose names that are now out of date by a generation or more. This is why we recently had a whole huge crop of baby girls named after Great-Grandma Emma, but not a similar number named for all the Great-Grandma Ednas—even though there were approximately the same number of Great-Grandma Ednas as Great-Grandma Emmas. It isn’t that all the Great-Grandma Emmas were lovely and deserving of an honor-name tribute and the Great-Grandma Ednas were terrible and undeserving, it’s that the name Emma came into style and the name Edna didn’t. Parents accustomed to thinking, “Ug, I want to use honor names but all the people we love have such terrible names!” suddenly had a family name they actually wanted to use. It ought to be that the best way to have a lot of descendants named after you is to be a loving, kind, generous person, but the actual best way is to have a name that regularly comes back into style.

All of this is to say that if you want an honor/family name from your side of the family, and I agree that this situation fairly screams out for that, I think it would help tremendously to change the search from “family names that are my style” to “family members I love and want to honor in this way.” Especially since we are talking about a MIDDLE name. The middle name is the perfect place for names that represent our families and heritage rather than our personal naming style.

But all naming choices are weighed on a scale, and it may be that when you put “honor/family name” on one side and “naming style” on the other side, a name you really like is more important to you. In which case my favorite from your list is Spencer: I think the flow is great, I think it’s a great style match, and I don’t think that particular pair of S-sounds creates an issue.

For something with some of the sound of Alexander, I suggest Elliott Anderson Sh@w.

For more possibilities to consider, I leaned heavily on the Last Names First category of The Baby Name Wizard: surname names often have that nice prep-school sound, and a lot of them have the -er ending of Alexander:

Elliott Baker Sh@w
Elliott Barton Sh@w
Elliott Baxter Sh@w
Elliott Bradley Sh@w
Elliott Broderick Sh@w
Elliott Carter Sh@w
Elliott Chapman Sh@w
Elliott Cooper Sh@w
Elliott Deacon Sh@w
Elliott Fletcher Sh@w
Elliott Frederick Sh@w
Elliott Gardner Sh@w
Elliott Harrison Sh@w
Elliott Hudson Sh@w
Elliott Keaton Sh@w
Elliott Kipling Sh@w
Elliott Mercer Sh@w
Elliott Morrison Sh@w
Elliott Nicholson Sh@w
Elliott Parker Sh@w
Elliott Porter Sh@w
Elliott Redmond Sh@w
Elliott Robinson Sh@w
Elliott Sullivan Sh@w
Elliott Theodore Sh@w
Elliott Turner Sh@w
Elliott Whitman Sh@w
Elliott Wilson Sh@w

In fact, one way to get a meaningful name that is also your own naming style would be to poke around in the surnames of people you admire. Favorite authors, actors, poets, politicians, activists, scientists, journalists, artists—do any of them have a surname with the right sound?

One downside of surnames is that they are often unisex, and you’re looking for something definitively boy. The Social Security baby name site is a good place to double-check usage. For example, the name Wilson is currently used exclusively for boys in the U.S., while the name Parker is currently unisex but used more often for boys (1470 new baby girls and 4685 new baby boys in 2016).

Baby Boy R., Brother to John/Jack and Edward/Ned

Hi Swistle,

You know how sometimes you read something and you say I would never do that? Well, I’m having one of those moments.

I have two little boys that go by their nicknames, Jack and Ned. Their given names are John and Edward, respectively. Having two boys were traditional names with short spunky nicknames, I now have the feeling that I *must* find a third name that fits that trend. It is also making finding a name challenging because a name that goes with Jack and Ned doesn’t necessarily go with John and Edward or vice versa.

The only true requirement is I would really prefer not to repeat an initial. Because Ned has two depending on your point of view, I am willing to bend for an E or an N, but if I can find a distinct initial that would be preferred.

Names hubby and I have talked about:

Christopher nn Kit-not too fond of Kit. Ned and Jack sound like they could be childhood to old man nn, but Kit sounds very juvenile. I pointed out Kit Harrington from Game of Thrones, to which he responded so now it’ll be popular. Neither one of us is feeling Toph as a nn.

Winston nn Wynn-I am really liking Wynn but not sure how I feel about Winston. Are there any other names that Wynn could be a nickname for?

Donovan nn Van or Don-meh

Nicholas nn Cole-Does it seem like we’re reaching?

Gage-I just discovered this name last night and I’ve latched onto it for some reason. I don’t like it with the given names for the boys though. Plus my husband has a negative memory associated with it, and it’s now on the un-usable list.


I like the names Rhett and Reed, but our last name begins with R so that seems like a lot of R.

Names that we cannot use for one reason or another:

Jack was such as obvious choice for me that I never considered any other name (he was named after my grandfather). Ned took a little while longer, because I find choosing boys names very challenging!

I’m not too worried about naming style matching any girls that we hopefully have.



Because I generally think it’s less important for nicknames to coordinate, I would start with the given names. With John and Edward, I wouldn’t have gone to any of the names on your list except for maybe Peter—which may mean I’m barking up the wrong tree, but let’s go with it for the moment. I would be looking at names more like Thomas, James, and Robert from your Can’t Use list, and also:

Charles; John, Edward, and Charles; Jack, Ned, and Charlie
George; John, Edward, and George; Jack, Ned, and Georgie
Henry; John, Edward, and Henry; Jack, Ned, and Hank
Louis; John, Edward, and Louis; Jack, Ned, and Lou
William; John, Edward, and William; Jack, Ned, and Will

And maybe Andrew/Andy/Drew and Daniel/Dan and Philip/Phil and David/Dave, I’m not sure. I had Frederick on the list, but then realized Fred rhymes with Ned.

The nickname for George is not really what you’re looking for, but I think the beauty of George is that it goes both with the given names and the nicknames: John, Edward, and George; Jack, Ned, and George. Henry could serve the same purpose: John, Edward, and Henry; Jack, Ned, and Henry. If you’re planning more children, you may find yourself grateful for a name that gracefully breaks the pattern like that, leaving you open to a much wider list next time.

And in fact, unless you have a couple of name/nickname combinations you love enough to use, I would advise deliberately breaking the pattern at this point, while it’s still relatively easy. Two names with something in common is not a pattern, but three names in a row is, and the pressure increases exponentially with each additional name. My first two boys have names with the same number of letters and syllables and same country of origin, followed by middle names after matching relatives on the two sides of the family; I’m so extremely grateful to my past self for giving up on that (after a considerable struggle) for the third boy. At this point, no one would notice that the first two “match.” It felt during the pregnancy as if it mattered tremendously, but now it feels as if it doesn’t matter at all—and it meant I chose names I really wanted for the third and fourth boys.

What would you choose if you weren’t looking for a coordinated name/nickname to add to the sibling set? I suggest looking through the name book again, but this time make a list with no thought for how the names go with the brothers’ names, just to see what kind of names you come up with.