Ask the Name Lady

Feb 22nd 2009

Names are a big topic. So big, in fact, that we're about to expand beyond the boundaries of

Meet "Ask The Name Lady," a new weekly column which will appear at AOL's ParentDish and at the upcoming site NameCandy (more details soon!)  The Name Lady is ready to answer every naming question under the sun, from namesake etiquette to the hunt for perfect triplet names to why your neighbor named her kids Miracle and Messiah.

Please help get the new column off to a great start!  If you have a naming question you'd like to share, send it in to Ask the Name Lady.


By barrett (not verified)
February 22, 2009 11:49 PM

good luck~

February 23, 2009 12:44 AM

Thanks exciting Laura! I can't wait to read all that goes on there.

February 23, 2009 10:33 AM

Let us know when the column officially kicks off. I want to bookmark it!

By Joni
February 23, 2009 1:08 PM

*is proud of Laura doing something I've always wanted to do*

February 23, 2009 3:18 PM

Great Laura!

Miriam, thanks for the great explanation on my name Tirzah. I was named after Song of Solomon 6:4 and the woman in Numbers. I believe they both use the tsadee, so I will take the "agreeable and pleasant" meaning as my own. :) Thanks!

February 23, 2009 5:55 PM

It has been forever since I posted any comments (kids sick & busy busy) but I saw the birth announcements in our little local paper and HAD to post them because I thought they were so interesting:

Older siblings are in parentheses.

Saydi Truth (Romeo, Ezekiel)
Seniyah Honestee (Seonnah)
Nolan Xavier (Jacob)
Emily Marie (Brandy)
Paul Rene, Jr. (Brian, Zachary, Jason, Elijah, Kyla, Isabella)
Gavin Ryan
John Patrick
Chase Gavin (Shawn, Adam, Ethan)
Luke Matthew (Michael)
Mackenzie Rae (Chloe Danielle)
Brady Paul (Gavin, Torilynn)

I find it fascinating that 2 girls born 3 days apart at the same smallish hospital have the middle names Truth and Honestee. Gavin certainly seems to be an up-and-coming name since it was a first name, middle name and sibling name.

Two other babies born to friends recently:

Gabriela Silvia (Alex, Emily, David, Grace, Mariana, Daniel)
Tarynn Marielle (Aemilia, Aoife)

February 24, 2009 9:53 AM

christinepearl-Interesting names. I have still been posting at the other thread along with some others. I just posted my analysis of my local announcements for the year so far-you might want to go back and take a look.

By Nina
February 24, 2009 10:57 AM

Honestee, that is just awful. I really don't understand these people. Do they not know how to spell, think it's creative or what? Honesty would have been bad enough, but Honestee???

February 24, 2009 4:00 PM

christinepearl- thanks for sharing!
I like the sibset
Gabriela Silvia (Alex, Emily, David, Grace, Mariana, Daniel)
very much!

Most of the other names don't do much for me. I'm really interested in what seem like really 'unmatchy' names for siblings, e.g. Chloe and Mackenzie, and Brandy and Emily- pairing a 'trendee' name with a classic one. On the other hand pairing Seonnah and Seniyah seems to be asking for trouble, they seem so similar.

I like John Patrick- very trad of me, I know, but I also could get behind Saydi Truth if it were spelled Sadie. It has a cool ring to it.

February 24, 2009 2:24 PM

Valerie, I know what you mean about the sibsets. Based on last names, I'm thinking that a few of them are blended families so say, Brandy and Emily may not share the same 2 parents. As for Chloe and Mackenzie, they do share the same ending sound and the "k" sound although different spellings. If you only went by sound, not look, origin, or style, they could work together.

FWIW, I endeavored not to have my kids names be too matchy lest I back myself into a corner. (Elijah, Corinne, Dominic, Lucy, Theodore)

I am not a fan of the spellings of Honestee and Saydi either although I think Sadie Truth is a bold choice. I wonder if the parents of S. Honestee thought that the spelling would make it more name-like?

Zoerhenne, thanks for the invite to the other thread. Let's see how long my little guy lets me read on the computer...

By Amy3
February 24, 2009 3:35 PM

Yay, Laura! I can't wait to read the new column.

christinepearl -- Your kids have lovely names and while they may not "match" per se, they work very well together. I think that's what most (NE's at least) mean when they think of "matching."

ITA about Saydi. If only it were Sadie Truth. That's pretty cool. Given Seniyah's mn, I'm curious about Seonnah's now.

By HMF (not verified)
February 24, 2009 4:03 PM

Just posted this in the other thread --

Names spotted in a recent New York Times article about parents in the Financial District (

Luke (4 mos.)
Henry (3 mos.)
Oliver (5 yrs.)
Cobi (presumably short for Jacob, 7 yrs.)
Quinn (boy, 1 yr.)
Caleb (7 mos.)

Yep, no surprises here!

February 24, 2009 5:26 PM

christinepearl- I love your kids' names too! Lucy and Dominic sound very English to me, which makes them even more endearing (homesick ex-pat here).

Yes, I agree- I think if parents are just focusing on sound, then why not Emily and Brandy, or Chloe and Mackenzie? But as an NE, it strikes me as unusual...

February 24, 2009 5:45 PM

Thanks for posting that list christinepearl!

For me, Saydi Truth brings to mind Sojourner Truth. It seems unlikely that the parents had the latter in mind as a namesake given how different the first names are, but this association makes me like Saydi Truth nevertheless.

It's interesting to me that Paul Rene, Jr. is joining a family with four older boys. Is that just the result of a blended family as discussed above (e.g., mom already had four boys, but little Paul is dad's first)? Does anyone know of other examples where the first-born child wasn't given the parent's name but a later child was? In my partner's family, it is the second-born son rather than the first-born son who shares a name with their father. I asked my mother-in-law about it once and she didn't offer much of an explanation. Maybe it's not as unusual as it seems to me.

By hyz
February 24, 2009 7:10 PM

Met a mom with 6 kids the other day, 3 girls and 3 boys. Unfortunately, I only caught the names of the oldest and the youngest for sure--Sh'precious (12) and Tapaniesha (4). I'm not sure of the spelling on these, but the mom said she made up the girls' names and the boys' names were "more normal". For their sake, I only hope that's true. (I think I heard her call one of the boys Jayvon or something to that effect, which is indeed more normal--I don't envy Sh'precious.)

February 24, 2009 6:50 PM

hyz- thanks for sharing- I'm speechless!

February 24, 2009 6:57 PM

I think Chloe and Mackenzie and Brandy and Emily could all be seen as kind of "fresh." They could all also be seen as not too out there, names that people will know... especially Brandy and Emily.

By Guest (not verified)
February 24, 2009 7:45 PM

What about siblings named Heaven and Hulk (obviously a girl and boy)?

By Elaine (not verified)
February 24, 2009 8:53 PM

Saydi Truth--Do you think they were going for "say the truth"?

By bill (not verified)
February 24, 2009 9:59 PM

re: paul rene jr

they already have 4 boys and ran out of names

February 25, 2009 1:19 AM

hyz-Those seem like the kind of names many black families around here bestow. Was this family black? Curiuosly, how come we all do not discuss the race thing on here. It seems to me that they have a different naming style than white folks do. Not that its a bad thing but just different like any other ethnic group.

February 25, 2009 1:22 AM

Also, don't know who's reading what posts lately so cross-posting this from last thread-

I think the -iah sound is a result of a few things at play. JMO of course. Here are my theories:
1)it's just a pleasing sound-nothing else
2)it's a common ending in biblical names and therefore fits some naming trends
3)it's a natural evolution
For instance take the popular name of a while back Kayla(pron KAY-lah) well you could of course spell it a few other ways to make it fresh or different for YOUR kid OR.. you could change the vowel sounds and get Kyla or Kaylie and I think that then morphed into Kyliah or Kayleah or whatever.
Morphing is what names do-I think its cool although there are certain rules to follow which of course leads right back to the original post by Laura. Is Hayaven too strange or is it just a morph?

By sarah smile (not verified)
February 25, 2009 6:28 AM

hyz, at least Sh'precious is spelled correctly. I have heard of a little girl named Preshes. I'm not a fan of those types of praise names in any case, but that one just seemed unfortunate.

February 25, 2009 10:33 AM

zoerhenne- Thanks for the -iah thoughts, number 3 is what I was wondering. I certainly understand the appeal, but I wasn't sure why it was popular now. I'm sure there are other reasons but the morphing sounds plus looking for "new" sounds makes a lot of sense.

Bets on what ending comes next anyone? maybe -ix! Ala Beatrix, Felix, I can't think of any others, but it would go with the popular letter x and be a new ending if you get creative... Haha I may be a little too out there, but it's fun to think about it.

Sh'precious? Preshes? Oy.

February 25, 2009 11:36 AM

Jenny L3igh-maybe we've seen a sneak peek with Sh'precious? Maybe ous/ius/ious is the new ending. I can think of a few others that might pop up:

LOL-there are some very kre8tiv people in this world!

By hyz
February 25, 2009 11:51 AM

Valerie, I was too! In fact, I wanted to ask the other kids' names, but I was afraid I had a mortified look on my face when I heard Sh'precious (I tried to look neutral, but I'm not sure how good my poker face is), and I didn't want the mom to think I was was asking out of morbid curiousity (which I would've been).

Zoerhenne--yes, they were black. Also, they were a low income family living in an urban area of a smallish southern city, for whatever that's worth. And actually, the first thing I thought of when I heard Sh'precious was the country music group Shedaisy, and I wondered if that had any influence on the name--I think the band would've been pretty new 12 years ago, so probably not, I guess, but maybe. Anyway, you're right, these names do in general sound like a certain subset of african american naming to me, and for that reason I probably wouldn't have flinched if she told me her daughter's name was Precious--it was the Sh' part that got me. The other two I included mostly for interest--that is, what does a woman who names her firstborn Sh'precious call her following children? I think we avoid talking about race on here sometimes because it's a sensitive topic, pure and simple. But also, it may just reflect the background of a lot of the posters--I mean, we don't hesitate to talk about race when it's affecting us personally (i.e. when we're looking for a name for a child of a certain race or background), so maybe we're left to conclude that there aren't a lot of posters here who are personally interested in that subset of african american naming?

sarah smile--we can only hope. I have no idea how she actually spells the names, those were just my guesses based upon pronunciation.

By hyz
February 25, 2009 11:55 AM

Oh, and I should say--for all my cringing at the names, and all the ses hurdles this family faced, the children were sweet, well-mannered, thougthful, and bright, and the mom ran a tight ship. So, again, you can't judge a kid (or a parent) by her name, not that anyone was....

February 25, 2009 12:04 PM

I think it is common for African American families to give more "colorful" names to girls than boys (as hyz says the woman she met said of her children's names). For example, in a class one year, one of the AA women was Stareece and one of the men was Anthony. (I know there were more but I can't remember their names right now... this was a few years ago.) In my most recent class, I had an AA male named Marcus.

And we've talked about that being a larger practice too right: being more adventurous with girls' names than boys'?

February 25, 2009 1:22 PM

Great article on the BBC website about unfortunate names:

It's worth reading the comments too!

By Eo (not verified)
February 25, 2009 4:10 PM

zoerhenne, I learned something a few threads back when we were discussing the viability of a name like Jemima.

I suggested that namers could adopt a defiant attitude toward names that have supposedly been stigmatized by the evil of slavery. My thought is that all of us, of all backgrounds, can rescue such names, particularly Biblical and classical Roman ones that have a variety of associations.

My underlying thought, which was inadequately expressed, was that consideration of such names can be not only intellectually and socially respectable, but even cathartic.

I didn't think I needed to produce bona fides as one who, long before some posters here were born, loathed all forms of racial bigotry. To me, that goes without saying.

I was also perturbed by a post that suggested that only a racist or an ignorant person could even consider such a name. On the contrary, I think a thoughtful person of any race could. (And so do several name authorities, as was mentioned at the time.)

Conclusion? Any discussion that even peripherally touches on race, can be difficult. I was proceeding from a position of good will, and good faith, but that was not perceived "through" the computer.

When you can't see the person you're talking to, hear their inflections, and "read" their attitude, it's possible to doubt their integrity. I don't in the least mind people disagreeing with the position I took, but I am distressed when motives are questioned...

I still think we can and should address any name-related topic, but I for one will try to make my rationale for thinking the way I do, less incoherent! Wish me luck...

February 25, 2009 4:27 PM

Recently spotted names of African American women:
Mahogany and Ebony (no relation). We've sometimes discussed names that various people regard as sounding too 'white' for their e.g. mixed-race child, so it's great to hear names which celebrate color.

African-American naming is a very interesting topic, which I'm hoping we can touch on from time to time.

And yes, Eo, I hear you. I tread with caution.

By hyz
February 25, 2009 4:59 PM

Yes, I agree on treading with caution. As sensitive as people sometimes seem to be when we discuss names in relation to socioeconomic status, politics, education levels, age, and the like (which I would generally perceive to be somewhat *less* loaded topics than race), it makes me a bit wary of commenting on race and names at all, expecting some sort of backlash. I don't tend to be all that chastened by backlash, though, so I generally go ahead and say what I was thinking, anyway. ;)

February 25, 2009 5:19 PM

Forgive me for being obtuse, but what's wrong with the name Jenny Taylor? It seems perfectly normal to me.

February 25, 2009 5:20 PM

Sorry, that last comment was in response to the BBC article that Valerie linked to. One of the commenters said her name was the worst ever, but I can't figure out why.

By hyz
February 25, 2009 5:23 PM

Yeah, I wondered about that, too.

February 25, 2009 5:39 PM

Jenny Taylor- guess you have to say it with an English accent.
Try imagining it spelt geni... and with the r silent, and then I think you'll have it!

February 25, 2009 5:48 PM

Me too. I can't figure out what's wrong with Dawn Hobbs either. We need a Brit to help us out.

February 25, 2009 6:08 PM

The names I most associate with blacks currently are Sasha and Malia, not necessarily the more outrageous, stereotypical ones some of you have listed.

I'm one who thinks we're all friends here, so I can be honest about something that I've noticed. Did anyone else catch how the word "ignorant" was bandied about by some of us in the discussion in the last thread about the inappropriate name Cohen, just as it was during our recent Jemima discussion? - But the reaction to the usage of "ignorant" in the Cohen discussion was a lot less vehement (most agreed it would be "ignorant" the purest sense of the word to use the name Cohen) than it was during the Jemima discussion - very few wanted to get on board with the idea that using Jemima would be ignorant (of Jim Crow era stereotypes still being used to market products today).

Why? I think people are more threatened by being labeled ignorant about black/white race matters than about Jewish culture. To me the arguments in favor of the putative "ignorance" of users of either the name Cohen or the name Jemima are just as strong, paricularly if we try to take the heated emotions out of it, and simply look at the definition of the word "ignorant."

February 25, 2009 6:08 PM

Tirzah, re Dawn Hobbs--

Remember that certain Brit English dialects are 'r'-less and drop initial 'h'. So daw=do' and n(-h)obbs = (k)nobs. Door-knobs!

Just so, Eeyore, the donkey in the Pooh stories= 'ee-'aw (or in American, hee-haw). And Andy Capp in the cartoon strip= Handicap (in American). Since he speaks Geordie he certainly is 'andicapped.

February 25, 2009 6:39 PM

Tirzah- Dawn Hobbs= Door Knobs (in certain regions like the London area, many people don't say their h's, as well as not pronouncing final r's).

I'll be your Brit! :)

February 25, 2009 6:41 PM

Oh hi, Miriam- guess we overlapped...

This conversation reminds me that someone told me recently that there IS a rhyme for orange. It's door hinge. Well, all I can say is, not in Britain!

February 25, 2009 7:54 PM

I love this group for the variety of life it represents. Not only in culture, educational background, residence, naming style, and of course personal experiences. I too, as Nicole S said, think of us as a group of friends discussing names and their various angles. So, I wasn't trying to offend (not that I saw any taken) but rather just approach the fact that AA names were of a unique style.

I am not judging anyone by any means. I classify those who are white, Asian, from the south, British, etc as the same. People who sometimes have a distinct naming style that is WAY different than mine. Again, it's not good or bad just different.

So I pose my followup question with caution and ask-Why do some people get so "creative" with a name like Sh'precious? It is a desire to want to stand out and be heard and purposefully different? Do the certain prefixes mean something culturally? Just questions because I have no background in this kind of naming.

February 25, 2009 8:38 PM

While we are trudging through messy cultural subject matter, is there some cultural reason why Mormons (esp. in Utah) have such unusual names?

I feel that maybe African Americans, Mormons and some other minority groups want distinguish themselves from the names of the majority. For African Americans, they may feel uncomfortable using "European" names. I know that as an Asian American, I felt uncomfortable using clearly British, Irish, German, Russian or Scandinavian names. Really, if you eliminate all of the non-Asian names (or non-African names) from consideration, your naming list shrinks very fast! That's why I am drawn to nature names and word names. These are names referring to things or virtues that rise above language or culture. Others likely seek refuge in created names.

(BTW, I'm definitely an exception in the Asian American community. Most name their kids to blend into the majority. It might have to do with the number of generations in the country. Recent immigrants try to blend in. Later generations try to get in touch with their cultural heritage. I'm 6th generation.)

February 25, 2009 8:46 PM

Congrats on the new site Laura! And thanks for the great list of new birthnames, christinepearl... there were definitely some curious ones on there.

February 25, 2009 8:58 PM

Tirzah-I am trying to walk around the muck delicately LOL.
I never noticed that about Mormons. I tend to think of their names as biblical, or kre8tiv mountain/frontier kind of names, but not that distinctly unusual. I can appreciate though that everyone would avoid names they feel uncomfortable with or rather don't feel a distinct connection to. I would certainly not knowingly choose an Asian name for the same reason. So I guess this is similar to the Cohen thing.

The dilemna of trying to fit in yet be different while also choosing a name that pays tribute to your heritage or upbringing or something you feel "connected" to like nature. While also, trying NOT to choose something your dh/mil/etc disapproves of for whatever reason, or is mistakenly a bad word, or the inititals make a bad word, etc. Quite the quandry!

By sarah smile (not verified)
February 25, 2009 8:58 PM

I think another thing that is tricky about 'African-American' names like Sh'precious is that they really only represent a subset of the community. As I understand it, the use of such names is quite controversial even among African-Americans, with some prominent figures speaking out against them. It is certainly a distinct naming trend that could be discussion-worthy, but I think we should be a little careful about how we label the trend.

In the case of Jewish names, I think most Jews would consider them part of our heritage even if we wouldn't give them to our own children. Since the kreative African-American names are more recent in origin, I think we should be a bit careful about assuming that they represent the entire race.

February 25, 2009 9:18 PM

"In the case of Jewish names, I think most Jews would consider them part of our heritage even if we wouldn't give them to our own children."

Sarah Smile, I am not entirely clear about what you are saying. Do we not, all but the most assimilated and secularized of us (and even some of them), give our children the names of their ancestors, whatever those names happened to be? We do give those names to our children, all of the limited number of names considered to be "legal" for ritual purposes. And then we also give them civil names which can be whatever. So I went to Hebrew school with a Yerachmiel who was Marvin in grade school and a Pincus who was Philip and so on. If you are saying that most American Jews would not call their sons Yerachmiel and Pincus without also bestowing a civil name from the general English name stock, I am sure that is true. But I am equally sure that Yerachmiel and Pincus are still in there and used for ritual purposes. Of course, the very Orthodox who live in enclaves where they rarely interact with general society do simply call their children Yerachmiel or Pincus or Chana and so forth. As far as I know, the chain of Jewish names which goes back several millennia continues unbroken to this day. Whatever Great-grandpa, may he rest in peace, was named will be what the newborn today will be named. Which doesn't prevent the little boy Yehoshua from being known as Jayden in daily life, although I rather wish it did.

By Eo (not verified)
February 25, 2009 9:34 PM

That's interesting, hyz-- I can't say that my reaction to some of the "Jemima" furor was to feel chastened either. My reaction is rather like, I do hate for people to feel hurt, or diminished somehow. And given the intensity of some of the response, I think "hurt" was possibly very much at play.

That said, I strongly identify with the point of view of dissident black intellectuals like Thomas Sowell and Shelby Steele, who believe that a culture of "victimhood", and ongoing racial grievance is highly damaging, and who therefore might, I would guess, defend with gusto the idea of rescuing a name like Jemima from would-be name censors. If they were NE's, which they probably aren't...

Speaking of social phenomena, after seeing the umpteenth news story on the octuplet situation, have noticed how the prefix "octo-" now seems to be everywhere, including in the bizarre locution, "octo-mom". Wonder if that will ultimately translate to future popularity of names with that "oc" sound-- "October", "Octavia", "Oksana", etc.? That often seems to happen when there is a continual seepage of a sound or word into the culture...