Middle Name Challenge: Harrison ________ Killarney

Hi Swistle,
I’ve been reading your blog all the way from Australia for a couple of years and now I need your help! My husband and I are expecting our first child – a boy – on August 29. We’ve had a solid list of names picked out that we both like for months. My husband has vetoed a lot of names that I love, including Harrison. But just the other day, he said he’s changed his mind and now he really likes Harrison and wants it on the list! Only problem is, I can’t think of a middle name to go with it. Ideally, we’d like a family name from my side. The options include:

Ian – my favourite as it’s my dad’s name. I’m worried about how it flows with Harrison though as they both end in the letter N. Am I overthinking this?!




Patrick – this is on our list of first names too, and could be an honour name for my grandmother, Patricia.

Our last name is pronounced Killarney but spelt differently.

Other first names on our list include:


Names we’ve considered but have decided not to use:


If this baby were a girl, she would have been called Eliza, Nina, Layla or Tessa.

We are planning to have one more child after this one.

Any reassurance or feedback would be greatly appreciated!

I promise to send an update with a photo once he’s born.

Many thanks,



This makes for a shortish post, but I vote for Ian. It doesn’t bother me at all that Harrison and Ian both end in N. And it’s your top choice too. And it honors your dad. Winning all around.

John also ends in N and is also a nice choice.

In fact, ALL the names on your list are nice choices. For me it depends a lot on who’s being honored, and how much you want to honor that person. I think that’s how I’d narrow it down, if I were you: since all the names are good choices, rank them in order of how much it makes your heart pound with happiness to think of honoring the people the names represent. Who would you rather honor, your dad or your grandmother?—and so on.

Baby Boy Globe-without-the-G, Brother to Elijah (Eli) and William (Will)

We are expecting our third boy in less than two months and we are not even close to choosing a name.

Our last name is pronounced like Globe without the G and our first two boys are Elijah Edward (nickname Eli) and William Louis (nickname Will). The name Elijah came to us kind of randomly but we liked that it was Hebrew in origin since we are Jewish and Edward was one of my grandpas’ names. William (not Hebrew in origin, I realize) fell into our lap because our tradition is to name after the most recently deceased relative and my grandpa Bill passed away a few weeks before William was born.

With that tradition in mind, we are likely going with Andrew as the baby’s middle name to honor my MIL’s mom (Ann), but we’re nowhere on the first name (we would also prefer a name that is Hebrew in origin this time, and that is why we’re not just going with Andrew and being done). The only real requirements are that the name works well with our other boys’ names and that it’s reasonably easy to spell and say. We are clearly okay with popular names since both our boys are in the top ten, but it doesn’t have to be overly common either.

Off the table family names include: Asher, Alexander, Ari, Zachary, Evan, Isaac, Jacob and Joshua.



When I was naming my own babies, I found I got very excited about girl names, but boy names were more of this kind of choosing process:

1. Make a list of names we’re fine with.
2. Pick one; it doesn’t really matter.

I mean, not REALLY: I did still fret and have fun and so forth. But I remember it felt like the pressure was off because all we really had to do was pick one of the perfectly fine names from our perfectly fine list. I thought of it as an upside AND a downside of naming a boy: less fun but also less stress.

I wonder if you’d like the name Benjamin. I think of that as such a warm, friendly name. Elijah, William, and Benjamin; Eli, Will, and Ben. I like that everyone gets a long form and a nickname. I like that the name Benjamin splits the difference between the biblical Elijah and the traditional William.

I have Jonathan in the same mental category as Benjamin. Elijah, William, and Jonathan; Eli, Will, and Jon.

Or Judah: it’s biblical, but it’s in current popular usage so it’s familiar. And it has the great nickname Jude. Elijah, William, and Judah; Eli, Will, and Jude.

One from my own list is Simon. Elijah, William, and Simon. I like that it’s biblical but not TOO biblical, so it doesn’t leave William out.

Another from my list is Daniel: I particularly like the nickname Dan. Elijah, William, and Daniel; Eli, Will, and Dan. I like that everyone gets an L, not that it matters at all; it just appeals to me.

If you used a name starting with A, would that count as naming the baby for your mother-in-law? Aaron and Adam are both good Old Testament A-names, and my guess is that if this WOULD satisfy the honor-name issue then you have already thoroughly considered them, but sometimes having someone else suggest something can freshen things up. Elijah, William, and Aaron. Elijah, William, and Adam.

I’m hoping commenters can help me with more Hebrew name suggestions: I was sort of floundering around in the Old Testament without knowing what I was doing.

Baby Girl, Sister to Jacob: Alana or Clara?

Dear Swistle,

My sister introduced me to your blog when I was pregnant for the first time about 2.5 years ago and I’ve been following ever since. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve reconsidered my approval for a name after hearing you suggest it. You have a way of making me think twice about names I would have otherwise bypassed – which is why I’m writing to you now.

My husband and I are due with our second in October. We already have a sweet and funny toddler named Jacob (usually call him Jake or Jakey) and we found out we’re having a girl this time!

We have two front-runner names that we love: Clara and Alana. Clara is a loose nod to my maiden name, Sincl@ir. We like both names because they aren’t overly popular right now – unlike Jacob – and they are names that have existed for years. We also clearly have an affinity for names that end in “A”.

Here is where our issues begin. We are struggling to choose between the two, and we are really struggling with a middle name for Clara. If we pick Alana she will be Alana Claire. If we pick Clara we have considered Clara Rose (both of our paternal grandmothers are Rose) but that feels like I’m leaving out my maternal grandmother (Ruth) who passed just a few years ago. I would love to honor my sister Stephanie who does not have children, but I’m not loving the flow of “Clara Stephanie.” My other sister, Courtney, honored my mother, Gayl, by giving her daughter the middle name “Abigail”. I’ll save you the pain of listing all of my extended family members.

I’m less focused on my husband’s side only because Jacob’s middle name is a family name on his side so I’d love to honor my side this time. If I were having another boy, we’d have probably used Stephen (my dad) as the middle.

Do you have any tips for finding a honor/meaningful middle-name when there isn’t an obvious choice? And how do we choose between two names we love!!? Do you support coin-flipping? Should we let our elderly social security volunteer at the hospital choose? ;) Help!

Thank you!!!


Clara Rose seems perfect to me: both of you having paternal grandmothers named Rose is such a fun coincidence and makes it nearly irresistible to me, as well as qualifying it for the title of The Obvious Choice. Not including your other grandmother doesn’t seem like an argument against the name, since it applies to every name except Ruth—and if you went with Clara Ruth, you’d be leaving out your grandmother Rose. Unless you’re open to using Clara Stephanie Rose Courtney Ruth, you’re not going to pack everyone in there and that’s perfectly normal and okay.

I do also like Clara Ruth, very much.

And I like the sound of Clara Stephanie, too. I find the more I say it, the more I like to say it. I also like that it is more clearly an honor name: Rose is a common middle name right now, so I wouldn’t necessarily guess that it was in honor of anyone; but if I heard a Clara Stephanie, I’d think, “I’ll bet she’s named for an aunt!,” and I’d find a casual way to ask if you had any sisters. You could count it as a double honor name if your sister was named for your dad (or even if she wasn’t).

Are you planning to have more children? I am asking not only to be nosy, but also to wonder if using Alana Claire would rule out using Clara for a possible future daughter. It is very hard to make this kind of decision: I agonized over whether we should give Henry our two favorite boy names—we were pretty sure he was our last baby, but what if we had another boy later and were sorry to have used both names up? It’s especially tricky because if we DID have another boy at this point, I’m not sure we’d still want to use that name we were worried about “wasting.” (To be fair to Past Swistle, it’s ten years later now: at the two-year point I still would have wanted the name.)

If you’re not planning any more children, though, Clara Alana is another option. I don’t always like an -a/A- combination, but I do in this case—and I rarely mind it with a first/middle anyway.

If you’re not planning more children and you decide on Alana as the first name, I like Alana Sincl@ir. I am heart-eyed over mothers being able to use their maiden names in their children’s names, and yours is such a pretty one.

I also support coin-flipping, or putting a poll on Facebook for your family/friends to take, or asking strangers at the grocery store (or on a name blog!) what they think, or any other fun games you might think of. If nothing else, this sort of thing can help you see where your actual preferences lie: are you rooting for one name over the other in a poll, or are you saying “…how about best two out of three” when the coin falls? These things can provide such useful information. Or, if you find you really don’t have a preference, then you know you can use either one; perhaps you’ll want to take both names to the hospital and decide once you see her.

Baby Boy Knight, Brother to Graham

Hello Swistle!

I am desperately seeking some guidance and creativity in naming our second born son, which we are due with on 8/2/17. We haven’t received the most positive feedback on our top contenders (see below) which isn’t a deal breaker if we were truly sold on any of the names but also both me and my husband have a slight suspicion that we maybe haven’t found THE name yet. I also feel like I already ran the well dry on male names we like when we named our first born. For some reason, I feel very inspired by girl names, if we were ever to have one and have ideas in droves but always come up short with another male name.

My name is Maggie and my husband is Brett. Our surname is Knight. We have a son, Graham Townes. We are seeking a boy name with a complimentary feel to our first’s- meaning a classic sounding but not common name that we will then pair with a more unique, less common middle name for some individuality. I like that all three of our names now have different sounds/endings and are heavy on the consonants- we are hoping to continue this with son #2.

A few things we don’t want:
A name that ends in N due to blending of that sound with the beginning of our last name if that makes sense
Anything super common or top 100
A name that tries to sound like a classic name but isn’t (i.e. Grayson, Jayden, Jace, Brinley)
Anything long enough to require a nickname- would rather just use the shorter name that I like. I’m a Maggie and not a Margaret for that reason per my parents :)

A few we do:
Something perhaps more gender neutral
Different initials than we already have (not set in stone, just a general sentiment)

Contenders (feedback appreciated):
Noel (male pronunciation)- love how this sounds but we hear from everyone that he would be constantly confused with the female pronunciation of this name.
Morgan- breaks our “ends in N” rule so might not work?

Female names we love (in case we were to have a girl, a third child is something we will likely try for):

I have only thought of one potential middle name at this rate and it is Madden (my dad’s middle name and his mother’s maiden name). What else is in the same vein as Townes?

Hoping you can help us think of something that hasn’t been brought up yet or validate any of the contenders we have. We would love any ideas and are open to considering! I had a nightmare last night that we brought the baby home and months in were still staring at him wide-eyed with no name. Obviously, those are the hormones talking but am getting desperate to fall in love and it feels like my time is borrowed.

Thanks for any help you can provide! Happy Summer!
xoxo Maggie Knight


Let’s begin with a moment of silence in which we clench our teeth at the way our society loves “boyish”/unisex names for girls but not so much “girlish”/unisex names for boys. Then let’s see what we can do with the reality we’ve got.

Part of the package deals of the names Cary and Noel would be their periodic confusion with the more familiar names Carrie and Noelle. Some parents would mind this very much and for the sake of their blood pressure should not use those names for boys; other parents would be able to do a genuinely casual and friendly “Actually, it’s Cary—like Cary Grant” or “Actually, it’s Noel—the male version of Noelle” or whatever, and move on with their lives without thinking much about it.

Another issue with Noel, I think, is that the number one most popular boy name in the United States right now is Noah; with Noel at #380, people’s ears are sometimes going to hear Noah instead. Again, some parents would be tearing their hair out over this, and others would say “Oh—no, it’s Noel” and it would be zero big deal.

Another tiny issue with Cary is that with Graham I think of Cary Grant. Which is a positive association, and which is very unlikely to come up or be an issue, but I am in the mood to be thorough.

Leland is a fresh one to consider; I sat here with my coffee for several minutes, staring into space. I don’t think I’ve encountered a Leland in real life, so I was visualizing the name on various of my kids’ friends. It sure SHOULD work: the similarity to the very popular Liam and Landon, just for starters. I think you might be able to avoid the nickname Lee, but the child himself might choose to go by it later. I have a little trouble saying Leland with the surname Knight: the d/n transition is tricky.

Fletcher seems good. It feels like a different style than Graham, but a compatible one.

Rudy seems a little casual with Graham, but not startlingly so. It would rule out Trudy for a possible future girl.

Spencer is my favorite from this list: Spencer Tracy gives this name the vintage Hollywood appeal of Cary Grant. And it feels just right with Graham. Spencer is my favorite from the list. Spencer Madden Knight; Graham and Spencer. Yes.

Part of the package deal of the name Morgan is its unisex nature, so let’s take a closer look at that. In 2016, the name Morgan was #643 for boys and #133 for girls; it was used for 407 new baby boys and 2,319 new baby girls. At those usage levels, I would expect the typical person to be aware of the unisex usage but to be more likely to err on the side of guessing girl—though Morgan Freeman helps us out here. I think the combination of Morgan and Knight is fine: I think it would come naturally to leave a tiny pause between the names to keep them from running together. The running-together issue bothers me mostly when it leads to a misunderstanding of what the name is: for example, Nolan Knight could sound like Nola Knight.

My favorites from your list are Spencer, Fletcher, and Rudy. More possibilities to consider:

Alistair. Alistair Knight; Graham and Alistair.
August. August Knight; Graham and August.
Brooks. Brooks Knight; Graham and Brooks.
Ellis. Ellis Knight; Graham and Ellis.
Elliot. Elliot Knight; Graham and Elliot.
Harvey. Harvey Knight; Graham and Harvey.
Jasper. Jasper Knight; Graham and Jasper.
Miles. Miles Knight; Graham and Miles.
Quincy. Quincy Knight; Graham and Quincy.
Reid. Reid Knight; Graham and Reid.
Rhys. Rhys Knight; Graham and Rhys.
Wesley. Wesley Knight; Graham and Wesley.

I am not sure about some of these with the surname; some of them seem a little hard to say.

I searched with unisex names in mind, but I didn’t find many that were the right style. Cary and Noel feel right with Graham; Jaden and Riley don’t have that same fit. Jules, maybe? Jules Knight; Graham and Jules.

I think Madden is a great family middle name. Is Townes also a family name? If so, and if Madden doesn’t work with the chosen first name, I’d look for another family name. If not, I’d browse other similar surname names: Hayes, Ames, Brooks, Bryce, etc. Or, if you decide against Cary/Noel/Jules for the first name, they might work as middle names.

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 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Keller), 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.]

Baby Names: High School Graduation Edition

I loved when the kids were in preschool and the school would send home a directory so I could see everyone’s names. In elementary school, one of the best times of the school year is February: the kids come home with lists of names for addressing valentines. When the kids are in middle and high school, I like when the yearbooks come out and I can look at all the names.

I will tell you what tops all of those experiences: high school graduation. Finally, the MIDDLE names!

My eldest child graduated from high school recently, and I am ready to make a report:

1. I was so happy that we’d given him my maiden name as his second middle name. So happy. I loved hearing it read aloud. In fact, it made me wish we’d hyphenated his surname so I could have heard my maiden name more often. There have been years and years of my husband’s family name getting all the reading-aloud at events and all the writing-down in the yearbooks and programs, and that seems very wrong and unfair.

2. Occasionally someone naming a baby will express concern about a name they’re considering, thinking ahead to how it will sound being read aloud at graduation. I had forgotten an aspect of the situation, but Rob reminded me: during rehearsal, the person who will be reading aloud the names asks each graduate how they would like their name read aloud. If you are fretful because of sound or rhythm or length or whatever, the name can be read differently than it is on the birth certificate. (I don’t mean like saying Louise Thoroughgood if the name is Emma Thompson. But if you went with Emma Rose Bella Louisa Parker Thompson, you can have them read it as Emma Rose Thompson.)

2b. But also: it mattered not one single fig. The reader read each full name with big spaces between the parts of the name so there were no issues of running-together; for example, “Robert. Elliot. Whistle. Thistle.” There was vast variety in length and type of name, and everyone was listening too hard for familiar names to worry about other people’s names. One kid had FIVE names, and who cared? No one. Well, Swistle cared, but in a thrilled way: five names! Good stuff!


Even better, the graduation program has all the names printed in it, so I could really pore over it. Heck yes I made a spreadsheet so I could sort them.

There were a lot of the middle names you would expect: Anne, Lynn, Jane, Rose, Elizabeth, Marie. I realized when trying to make the boy half of that list that I don’t think of there being standard middle names for boys. Maybe James? But not the way I think of Grace/Rose/etc. Now, that’s interesting. Why aren’t there? Or why ARE there for girls? For boys there were a bunch of middle-name repeats, but not ones that I’d list off the top of my head as Middle Name Names the way I would with Lynn and Jane.

The most common middle name for girls in this graduating class was Elizabeth: approximately 13% of girls had that middle name. The second most common middle name for girls was Marie: nearly 12% of girls. Third place was Rose with nearly 6%. More with a significant number of repeats: Ann/Anne, Lynn.

The most common middle name for boys in this graduating class was James: approximately 9% of the boys had that middle name. Close on the heels were Joseph and William with nearly 7% each; then Michael and Robert with nearly 6% each. More with a significant number of repeats: David, Edward, John, Matthew, Patrick.

One student had MY name (Kristen) as a middle name. I was pleased and interested. I think of my name as having the wrong rhythm for a middle name—but WHY, when Robert and William and David and Thomas and Joseph all have the same rhythm and all make perfectly terrific middle names? In fact, I notice a large percentage of boys have middle names that are in that DAH-dah rhythm, but girls tend to have one syllable (Jane, Grace, Rose, Lynn, Ann), or emphasis on the second syllable (Nicole, Marie, Noelle, Elizabeth).

There were several middle names that seemed like they could be honor names or names that the parents loved but didn’t quite want to use as first names: Edna, Dorothy, Eugene, Melvin, Saoirse, Vasilis, Meadow.

There were not very many that seemed likely to be the mother’s maiden name, but there were some, and there were several hyphenated surnames. There were approximately as many double middle names as there were hyphenated surnames.

There were three pairs of near-duplicate names. One was just the same first moderately-common first name and then the same first two letters of the last, like if it were Sean Cowan and Sean Cobalt. The other two were the same first, the same middle, and the same first one or two letters of the surname. One of those remaining two pairings had a Top Ten name but then a less common middle name, like if it were Ashley Sage Mooney and Ashley Sage McNeil. The other was a first name in the 200s followed by a more familiar middle name, more like Grant Charles Bolton and Grant Charles Boyd.

The most popular girl name in 1999 (the year Rob was born, so it’s the year I used for this graduating class) was Emily, used for 1.36% of baby girls nationwide; it was used for less than .5% of this particular graduating class. The name Catherine, which was #98 in 1999 and used for .17% of baby girls nationwide, was used three times as often as Emily in this graduating class.

The most popular boy name in 1999 was Jacob; it was used for 1.73% of baby boys nationwide, and for 2% of this particular graduating class. The name Kyle was #28 in 1999 and used for .68% of baby boys nationwide; it was also used for 2% of this graduating class.

What mostly surprised me was how few repeats there were, even of Top Ten names you might have expected to have repeats of. Hannah was the #2 most common name in 1999, but there aren’t any in this class. Only one Samantha, only one Ashley, only one Jessica, only one Elizabeth, only one Michael, only one Matthew. Most students were the only one with their name in their entire graduating class—and we are not in a very name-adventurous area of the country.

Baby Boy or Girl Donson-with-a-J

Hi Swistle,

Long time reader, first time writer! My husband and I recently found out we are due with our first baby this February, although we have been debating baby names for years. We will not be finding out the sex of the baby beforehand. Our surname is Donson but with a J. I would love your help with boy names, as we are in a bit of a pickle.

So my hubby’s great grandfathers name was Axl and he is obsessed. If it were solely up to him, this would be the name of our baby no questions asked. Only problem- I am not a fan. Yes, if we have a super athletic, strong Viking of a boy I can see it, but what if he is more of a gentle soul? I just can’t. The compromise he has proposed is to move Axl to the middle name spot, and basically give me free reign with the first name. I’m leaning towards agreeing, even though I would prefer not to use the name at all. Should I reconsider to make the full name more mutually agreeable? Or should I take this compromise and go wild with the first name?

Names at the top of my list:

Noah (too soft with Axl? Was my all-time favorite for a while)
Calvin (My favorite with Axl, issue with football player?)
Jack (too sharp? Issue with singer?)
Charles (nickname Charlie, which was also the name of my beloved childhood dog, family name)

Names that he loves:

If we are to have a girl, our top names are Penelope, Gabriella and Savannah. We are trying to avoid using names that start with B, V and E.

What do you think of this arrangement? Can you please offer any suggestions for boys?

I promise to update!! Also, do you have an update on the name debate where the husband only wanted Steven?



With so long to go before the due date, my advice is to commit to nothing, but definitely to add this proposed compromise to the list of possibilities. That is, don’t say, “Yes, it’s a deal: if we have a boy, we will use Axl as the middle name and I will have free reign over the first name,” because I think we have all learned an important lesson from the fairly large number of letters from people who made deals they later no longer want to keep. But it’s a great offer, and if I were you I would probably end up taking it—unless you end up both agreeing on the first name, in which case I might want the flexibility to say, “Okay, since we agree on the first name and you get Axl as the middle name, I’d like more say in the next child’s name.”

Here are the reasons it’s a great compromise:

1. For most people, the middle name disappears into The Land of Paperwork shortly after the birth announcements go out. It’s a terrific place for names you theoretically want to use but don’t actually like very much.

2. The first name is the classically most-desirable real estate here. Getting final say on that can be a powerful thing.

3. Your husband, by offering the first name in exchange for his choice of middle name, is showing unusually excellent perspective: he realizes he can’t demand something just because he really wants it, so in exchange for what he fervently wants he is offering to give up something larger.

4. I think you’re very wise to take into account that the child might not be the Axl type—but a far larger percentage of people can carry an unusual middle name. It appeals to me to think of it tucked there secretly: the thin, sensitive little intellectual with the kick-ass middle name.

Even without his offer of the first name, I’d be suggesting you strongly consider it unless you deep-down hate it. An alternative compromise could be that he gets a name from his family for the first boy, and you get a fun family name from your side for the first girl or second baby.

From your list of first names, my own favorites are Calvin, Charles, and Henry. I hesitate over Noah not because of how it sounds with Axl (I have more of an issue with the ack-ax/jackal sound of Jack Axl), but because 2016 was its fourth consecutive year as the most popular boy name in the United States. Normally name-popularity doesn’t bother me much, but with a very common surname it does give me pause.

I wonder if you’d like Nolan? It has a similar sound but is less common.

Or Owen? That’s the same sounds as Noah, but rearranged.

Or Theo? That has the gentle sound of Noah, plus the same long-O sound.

Or Milo? The gentleness and the long-O sound again.

Or Leo?

Or Joel? The pleasing alliteration of Jack Johnson, but without the ack-ax sound.

Or George.

Or I like Jasper with your surname. It is a little challenging to say the full name, but it is so rare to need to do that.


More possibilities:


If E weren’t out, I’d suggest Elliot and Everett.


Is this the post you mean about the father who only wanted Steven: Already-Born Baby Boy Papadopoulos? No update yet.

Baby Girl or Boy Airs, Sibling to Jacob, Avery, and Carter

Dear Swistle,
We could really use your help! I am three weeks away from having our fourth (and last) child, and we do not know if it’s a boy or a girl. Our older kids are Jacob Daniel, Avery (called both Avery and Avery Jane) and Carter William. Our last name sounds like Airs.

If it is a girl, we are somewhat settled on Cameron Grace or Cameron Rose, but I have a hesitation with Cameron for a girl, which is that it was given to 6,807 boys in 2016 but only 583 girls. Would she always be mistaken for a boy? If not Cameron, my husband likes Charlotte and Harper but I think they are too popular. I like Emily (maybe too dated), Josie, Sadie and Macy but am afraid that Sadie and Macy are common dog names. I am also not sure about Josie as a standalone name.

If it is a boy, we have another issue that has come up on this blog before. We really like the name Logan but it was the name of our family’s cat that died about 2 years ago. I have heard people say that it’s fine to use it since the cat is no longer with us, and other people who just think it’s weird. We don’t want to create confusion/weirdness but we are annoyed with ourselves for using Logan on a cat 13 years ago. Our oldest (11) doesn’t think there is a problem with it. Is Logan still usable? I like Benjamin, Ethan, Evan, Jeremiah, Wesley and Nolan. My husband really likes the name Chase (I think it might be too short), is warming up to Benjamin and doesn’t like Ethan or Evan. He is thinking about Jeremiah, Nolan and Wesley. Middle name options are open but I am thinking about Michael after my brother.

Names we can’t use: Emma, Marley, Morgan, Lucas, Grayson

Your help is appreciated!!



The difficulty with a name like Cameron is tallying up all the spellings. Here are just the ones that were used for at least 50 boy babies or 50 girl babies in 2016:

Kamryn: 861 F, 279 M
Camryn: 815 F, 186 M
Cameron: 583 F, 6807 M
Cameryn: 64 F, 33 M
Kameron: 59 F, 1436 M
Kameryn: 58 F, 34 M
Kamron: – F, 196 M
Kamren: 17 F, 179 M
Kamran: – F, 51 M
Camron: – F, 241 M
Camren: 10 F, 162 M

Even so, we can see without doing the math that the name is used more often for boys—but still hanging in there for girls.

Part of the package deal of a unisex name is that people may sometimes mistake it as belonging to someone of the opposite sex, but this seems fairly easy to correct when it happens. And most of the time when there’s doubt (on paperwork when the child is not present, for example), there will be other information available such as the middle name or an M/F entry. Also, Cameron is a well-known unisex name: many people encountering it will know they need more information before automatically adding the name to the boys’ team or the girls’ team.

One possible solution is to use a spelling more associated with girls: Camryn, for example. There will still be occasional mistakes, but it will reduce them. I would do this only if you don’t really care about the spelling: I think there will be occasional mistakes no matter what spelling you use—unless you go with ♀️Kamrynne♀️.

If Harper is too common (and to me, it also sounds too much like Carter), I wonder if you’d like Harlow or Harlowe.

I wonder if you’d like the name Riley? It’s another one that needs some spelling-tallying:

Riley: 7110 F, 1706 M
Rylee: 2947 F, 165 M
Ryleigh: 1877 F, 10 M
Rylie: 1003 F, 31 M
Rilee: 127 F, 17 M
Rileigh: 127 F, – M
Ryley: 97 F, 73 M

Still unisex but, like the name Avery, it’s used more often for girls.

On the subject of Logan and the cat who is no longer with us: I think you should go ahead and use the name. I think the handful of people who find it weird will get over it, as well they should, and that none of them are likely to care very deeply about it even during the stage when they still find it a little weird. For anyone you haven’t yet asked, I wouldn’t mention the connection: I’m trying to think of the names of my friends’ pets, and I’m having some trouble. If a friend used a name that I remembered was the name of a former pet, I might remark on it but only because I would want to hear more of the naming story, not because I thought it was weird.

On the other hand, Paul and I didn’t use the name Oliver, not because we’d had a cat named Oliver but because Paul said he was certain his mother would never, ever stop saying “Oliver: the boy named after a cat!,” and then Paul so perfectly imitated the little laugh she’d do every time she said it, it immediately killed the name for me. But if you don’t have anyone like that in your life, I say use the name and shrug it off.

Otherwise, my favorites are Wesley and Nolan: I think they both do a nice job of uniting the styles of Jacob and Carter.




Name update:

Hi Swistle,
We had a baby boy on Monday and his name is Malcolm Everett.  He weighed in at 9lbs 12 oz! Thanks for the naming advice!