Death by androgyny? The old name rules meet the new generation

Oct 21st 2009

It's one of the classic maxims of the baby name business: most parents who like "androgynous" names really like masculine-sounding names for both sexes. Parents of boys carefully avoid anything feminine. When a boy's name starts to show up on the girl's chart, the male version's days are usually numbered. Take a look at the NameVoyager graph of Leslie for a classic example.

In the past decades we've seen an explosion of new androgynous names. In addition to the 65 names that make both top 1000 lists, countless more names are surnames that could go either way (Jensen), new inventions you'd have to guess at (Braelyn), or spelling variations on androgynous names (Kamren and Camren make the top 1000 for boys only, Kamryn only for girls, Camryn both). It's not just individual names used for both sexes, it's a broad androgynous style that's defining a generation of names.

Does that mean an entire generation of names is destined to turn feminine? Will boys eventually find themselves stranded on a tiny name island with nothing but kingly classics and absurdly macho inventions to choose from? Don't panic yet, parents of boys. There are reasons to think that this crop may be different

Remember that the common wisdom on androgynous names comes from a history of long-time male names being adopted by females. Many of today's favorite emerged simultaneously as names for both sexes. What happens when a name starts out gender-neutral? Is one sex destined to "win" the name, or can it maintain a balanced sex ratio over time? And if there is a winner, who wins?

In many cases, these questions end up moot because the trendy names fade away before any resolution. Yet examples are mounting to suggest that the old rules may not apply, and all bets are off.

Take a look at the name Devin, in all its many spellings. 50 years ago it was essentially unknown, then it started climbing for boys and girls alike. The boys eventually took the lead, and in 2006 every spelling (Devin, Devon, Devyn) dropped off the girls' chart simultaneously, leaving the name suddenly, authoritatively masculine. The girls, meanwhile, are "winning" Addison. And still other names are showing staying power on both sides of the charts. As in the case of Kamren/Camren/Kamryn/Camryn, many of these splinter into multiple variants, each with its own sex ratio. For instance, Jalen is masculine, Jaelyn feminine, and Jaylin a tossup. What that means, in practice, is that you can't assume anything when you hear the name.

So it seems that unlike established names, new androgynous names don't inevitably tip toward the feminine. The trick is, they don't inevitably do anything. What crystal ball could have told you 15 years ago that Ashton would end up masculine and Addison feminine? In each case, the name's fluid gender identity made it easy for a celebrity example to shape public perception. (Check out this past post on Ashton to watch the forces of celebrity in action.) You can weigh risk factors, like whether the name contracts to a girlish or boyish sounding nickname. But in the end, if you choose a new androgynous name today you have to be prepared that 10 or 20 years down the line it may come across very differently.


By Liz & Louka (not verified)
October 26, 2009 5:27 PM

Anne with an E: My daughter had three Nannas (until her two great grandmothers died). She differentiated them by using their first names - Nanna Joyce, Nanna Linda and Nanna Pat. Now Nanna Pat is just Nanna.

October 26, 2009 5:48 PM

One of my great-grandfather's came from a Quaker background, so we didn't use many titles. We called him Roy. His wife was Mom...even to the grandkids (who called their own mother: Momma.) Their son was Granddad and his wife was Granny.

Granny's parents were Grandmother Black and Ding-Dang (after the sound their doorbell made). Later after the kids were older, they tried to get the kids to call him Grandfather Black (which was more "respectable") but my mother to this day says, "Ding-Dang."

Because of the Quaker thing, I never used titles with any of my aunts or uncles, just first names. Even on my father's side I didn't because my mom (who wasn't used to the titles) never encouraged us to do so. Now, with my own kids, this really drives my southern sils crazy. "Please have your kids call me Aunt Renee or Aunt Nae!" (I've tried to explain the Quaker thing but they don't get it at all, so I try my best and am getting better at it.)

My mother, Laurel, hates her name for the following reasons: 1. Small children struggle to pronounce it. 2. When she was a child, kids knew about Laurel and Hardy. 3. Many people hear Laura when she says her name. When her first nephew was born, he bungled her name quite atrociously: Bee-LAR-ghee-low and to her chagrin, it stuck for quite a while. Finally a friend’s child called her: Lala, which she liked. So when her great-nephew came along she asked that Lala be used. He called her: YaYa, which she like equally and so that’s what her grandkids now call her. (Which works because YaYa is Greek for grandmother.)

Similarly, my aunt is Nine because I couldn’t say Diane and my sister is Biscuit because a cousin couldn’t say Elisabeth. I am (sometimes) called Bessie Mae because another cousin couldn’t say Bethany. So, I personally think that some of the best nn’s for relatives come organically instead of them being decided on ahead of time, and I personally don’t think that titles are all they are cracked up to be. To me, titles often come off as formal, stuffy and a bit distant. Nicknames, on the other hand, often conjure up feelings of warmth and familiarity…which you should have with your family, right?

That being said, here’s a site that has a list of grandmother and grandfather names:

And another site that has you answer questions to help you find the perfect grandparent name for you… if you believe in those sorts of quizzes, or just think they’re fun:

By sarah smile (not verified)
October 26, 2009 6:16 PM

knp, you got it exactly right. All four were born in the mid to late 70s, so I suppose their parents were ahead of the times.

October 26, 2009 6:23 PM

Bethany--LOL about that list of grandparents names! I'm trying to envision my child calling my mother "Big Mama" and I get the giggles every time!

I grew up calling my grandparents "Grandma and Grandpa X" and "Grandma and Grandpa Y" so that doesn't seem so bad to me. It's just that my parents and my dad's parents both have the same last name, and I was worried that two sets of "X" grandparents would be too much, but they can probably use "Great-Grandpa" and "Great-Grandma" for my grandparents, it's not a big deal, just a little wordy.

Unless of course I refer to them as Big Grandpa and Big Grandma! Ha! Oh wait, I actually just scrolled further down the list, and saw GeeGee as a name for a great-grandparent. That's pretty cute, especially since my grandparents' last name starts with a "G"!

October 26, 2009 6:35 PM

I used to do Grandma and Grandpa Lastname also. Never was a problem for me. Also did the higher ups with Greats as well. Now my kids do Grammy Firstname. It didn't start out that way but thats what they (the kids) were comfortable with and it just stuck. In PA here, Grandpa's are also called PapPap which is weird for me. I've heard of Me-maw for Grandma also. Off to look at the link now, I'm sure I've just stated many of them already on the list :)

October 26, 2009 6:35 PM

@ EVie: Oh, just wondering, I go to one of those specialized science/TECHnology schools in Brooklyn. A lot of kids from Queens and Brooklyn... obviously. I do get to hear a lot of Russian names though. Many of which I really like.

By moll (not verified)
October 26, 2009 7:50 PM

There's also the possibility of names morphing as kids start to speak. My dad was going to be Grandpa - even though there were other Grandpas - except my Ch@rley-nephew started pronouncing it Ump@, and it stuck. And I agree with kmp, the last name, or first name, can attach to clarify, because usually all sides of grandparents aren't present at once.

October 26, 2009 7:51 PM

for what it's worth, i always called my grandparents were generally grandmom gerry and granddad richard or grandmom sally and granddad john (when we needed to differentiate--in general, they were just grandmom and granddad). my great grandparents were grandma edith and grandpa woody (no, that was not his real name :] ) or just grandma and grandpa. it's interesting that it seems my family is in the minority in using first names as opposed to last names to differentiate.

your perspective on titles is interesting. i think if i had grown up not using them, i would probably feel that way too (about them being formal and stuffy), but as someone who has grown up using them, i don't agree at all. to me the titles ARE terms of endearment and ARE (or at least can be) a sign of warmth and familiarity.

By PunkPrincessPhd (NLI) (not verified)
October 26, 2009 8:09 PM

re: grandparents. grandparent titles in Irish connote both age and wisdom: the prefix "sean" which means both "elderly" and "wise".

So Grandfather is "seanathair" ("SHAN-a-heer")
and Grandmother is "seanmhathair" ("SHAN-wah-heer").

It reminds me of the different connotations for "grand" as well: large, but also splendid!

FWIW, my own mother has decided (decreed) that she would like to be called "Grandmama" (pron. "Grahn-ma-MAH", as in very grand, I suppose). I think it's to avoid the inevitable "Granny Janny" (her name is Janet) once our DD is born. Of course, it will be DH and I who encourage that ;p

October 26, 2009 8:25 PM

Thanks for all the suggestions and discussion! And thanks Bethany for the links -- the quiz told me I should be GLAMMA. (which is kind of hilarious and fitting!)

I have a Mawmaw and a Nana and two PawPaws. And growing up, they were PawPaw Barney and PawPaw Kenny to differentiate.

My great-grandparents were Granny Jackson, Mommy Deed and Daddy Bud. (not their real names on the last two).

Right now, my mom likes Nonna (although that could get confusing if I ever have kids, as my husband's mom is Nonny). She also likes Gigi. I think part of it is that, being an NE herself, she wants a unique name -- and one she gets to choose to boot!

Apart from getting to choose what to do about your last name when you get married -- for women at least, mostly, although I know some guys change their names as well -- becoming a grandparent is really the only other time most people choose a name for themselves, I guess. (Even though, as shown, they don't always stick ;) )

October 26, 2009 8:27 PM

Quickie double post @PPP -- love hearing about grandparent names from other places! I love that those incorporate a sense of wisdom and respect as well as a familial relationship. V. interesting.

October 26, 2009 8:39 PM

@ Anne with an E and Rhanda: My grandparents go by Nana and Poppop and Grandma and Peepop (I learned my dad's parents' names first and when my mom's parents wanted to be Grandma and Grandpa I got Grandma right away, but Grandpa didn't work for me so I decided that if one was Poppop, the other was going to be Peepop) Other suggestions: Nannie, Grandma/Grandpa ______ as my mom did, she had Grandma Gladys and Grandma Rose and Grandpa Zuk (zhook, Yiddish nn from their ln) and Grandpa Srulik. So if fn's could be used.

October 26, 2009 8:41 PM

My daughter couldn't pronounce Grandpa when she was really little and her attempt came out "Crappa." Both my dad and my father-in-law were known as Crappa for years! I think that both kids finally dropped it last winter. My brothers, of course, all thought that was the most hilarious thing they ever heard, and encouraged it mightily. One of my brothers is about to have his first child, and I bet that he's going to encourage my niece to use that name. My poor dad!

October 26, 2009 8:51 PM

I also have a friend who has Grandma and Grandpa and then her other grandparents have the Hebrew for Grandma and Grandpa (which are escaping me now, all I can remember is Aba and Ema, which are Dad and Mom) also, when referring to my great-grandparents I use what my parents called them, so Grandma Rose and Grandpa Srulik and for my dad's side Nannie (my Nana's mom) and for the others I specify, "your Poppop" talking to my dad, or "my dad's Grandma" because he had Grandma and Poppop and Nannie and Grandpa.

For aunts and uncles and cousins (removed, as in my parents generation) it's always fn. When referring to them it's Aunt fn or Uncle fn (although my uncle Stephen is Unca Teven (TEE-ven) from when I was little and couldn't pronounce Stephen. Although Aunt/Uncle fn is diminishing as I get older and they become just fn more often.

By Anna (not verified)
October 26, 2009 9:01 PM

Titles - I've always found it interesting that the Danish language is very specific about relatives.

For example, there are different words for maternal and paternal grandparents: mormor (mom's mom), morfar (mom's dad), farmor (dad's mom) and farfar (dad's dad). There are also the "unisex" words bedstemor (any grandmother) and bedstefar (any grandfather), but in my part of the country they aren't used as titles.

Aunts and uncles are complicated. There is a distinction between blood relatives and those you are related to by marriage: moster (mom's sister), morbror (mom's brother), faster (dad's sister) and farbror (dad's brother) and then tante (wife of mom's or dad's brother) and onkel (husband of mom's or dad's sister).

Cousins also need to be specified: Kusine (girl, only used for 1st cousins) and fætter (boy, only used for 1st cousins). Second cousins (not removed) are grandkusine (girls) and grandfætter (boys) but not everybody use these titles.

An interestingly, even though the Danes have all these fancy titles, they don't seem to use them very much. Except parents and grandparents, other relatives are usually just addressed with their names.

By Guest Allyn (not verified)
October 26, 2009 9:06 PM

Coming to this conversation a little late, but I just wanted to add my two cents as a woman who grew up with a boy-ish name: Allyn (pronounced like Allen/Alan). I've always loved my name, and it's never bothered me one bit that it's a traditional boy's name. I was never teased as a child, and I never felt pressure to be tomboyish or overly girly as a result of my name. People sometimes seem confused when they first hear it, but most people compliment me on it and adjust to it very quickly. Androgynous names and creatively spelled names are not my thing when it comes to naming my own children, but it's never bothered me that my name is both of those things. I've always liked having a name that not too many people have heard of (as a girl's name), and it's not a name that was common for boys when I was born (the 80s). By the way, my parents were in their mid thirties when I was born, and my brother's name is David, so I don't think they fit into the typical demographic of parents who use androgynous or creative names.

Now, just because I'm curious, I have to ask: is my name something that you would consider completely out there and inappropriate on a girl, or is it somehow less boy-ish than Ryan, Elliot, etc? Because of the spelling and the similarity to Lynn and Allison/Allyson, it's always felt pretty feminine to me, but I have no idea how other people perceive it. I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Oh, and since the topic of having an "edge" in applying for a job with a boy-ish name has come up, I just wanted to put it out there that as a woman with an androgynous name, I always include my more feminine middle name on resumes and applications so that it's clear that I'm a woman. I wouldn't want to be given an edge by someone who expects that I'm a man, only for my employer to then be shocked and possibly disappointed when I turn out to be a woman!

By EVie
October 26, 2009 9:22 PM

A Rose: cool - I remember playing your school in volleyball a few times back when I was in high school (8-12 years ago - jeez that seems like a long time).

Count me as another one who finds it uncomfortably formal to have to use Aunt and Uncle before the name all the time, and especially to use the last name for grandparents - I always found it weird and very stiff to hear my cousins refer to my paternal grandmother as "Grandma LN." (I always called her just Grandma to her face, and used her first name when speaking about her in the third person). I would have a hard time feeling close to someone whom I'm afraid of offending by being too familiar - aren't you supposed to feel at ease with people you're close to? On the other side of my family, my aunts and uncles are called by just their first names, my grandmother is called by a childhood nickname that everyone in the family has always called her (even her kids never called her Mom) and my grandfather by a typical baby-talk mangling of Grandpapa.

October 26, 2009 9:52 PM

@ EVie: Lol, that's funny. We just debated you guys on Saturday. I didn't personally, but it was weird because a lot of my friends go there and I felt weird cheering for them when they won awards.

I agree that I think using ln's for family is formal and awkward. I know someone who did that, and both ln's were also fn's, which I found confusing. Think Grandpa and Grandma Howard and Grandma and Grandpa Sidney (names changed, but that's the point) and I always thought it was weird.

By Cathie (not verified)
October 26, 2009 10:03 PM

For my friends with kids that have androgynous names it was more a case of finding a name that they loved, then deciding to give it to their child regardless of gender. That's how I know a 4-year old boy Kayla :)

By Eo (not verified)
October 26, 2009 11:11 PM

Guest Allyn-- Your very old, illustrious name is also a surname, along with versions Allen, Allan, Alleyn, Alun, and on and on...

I like "Alan" and its many variants. According to my Penguin Dictionary of Surnames by Basil Cottle, all of them derive from a Welsh-Breton saint, the Bishop of Quimper.

I wouldn't call your name "kreatively" spelled, at least in the modern sense. The "yn" spelling was widespread as far back as medieval times in many names, and I'm almost sure that Allyn is no exception, especially as a surname.

I was always taken with famous fictional detective, "Roderick Alleyn", partly because of his name! (Was his creator Ngiao Marsh-- I'm blanking on that...) And Alleyn is of course pronounced just like Allen and Allyn.

The only down side I can think of, (which isn't really a problem), is that the uninitiated will often assume the name is just a modern attempt to feminize a standard male name, and not realize that Allyn is a long-standing man's name that has, in this case, been used for a woman! Again, my experience is that people are often thrown by that renegade "y"! (They also don't realize that the man's name "Denys" has an equally rich, centuries-old history.)

One last bit of trivia-- there was a lovely character actress (from the Forties or Fifties maybe?) by the name of Allyn Ann McLerie. I suspect she included her middle name to avoid confusion about her sex... The male bearer of the name that my poor memory is trying to dredge up is Allyn Jenkins, or Allyn Joslyn, or Allyn Jones?

Anyway, I think your name is very distinctive, and will stand out among members of your generation, on a resume, or anywhere else!

October 26, 2009 11:16 PM

Elizabeth T-Hysterical! Thanks for the laugh :)

Allyn-I would assume, if just seeing your name, that you were a girl because of the Y spelling. I would think that your parents had liked the nn Ally and didn't for some reason prefer Allyson. Its interesting to hear your point of view.

EVie-Re formality of last names of grandparents- I didn't think of it as being formal and I don't believe that was the intention of my parents either. I think it was more of a custom and upbringing as this was the way it was always done. It just seemed like the easiest way to do it. I always called my aunts and uncles by Aunt Firstname. I still do. My parents friends were whatever I was introduced to them as. Some were just first names and others were Mr/Mrs Lastname. This was not necessarily a formal thing either. The only place where it really was for formality reasons was in school, or for doctors and such. My children follow many of the same rules and I've never had anyone make a comment as to the formality or lack thereof. It's interesting to hear others opinions and differences in upbringing.

By knp (not verified)
October 26, 2009 11:23 PM

I agree with zoerhenne: my use of 'titles' with Aunts and Uncles especially aren't really out of respect (maybe a little) or formality (definitely not)-- instead, I use them as a way of possessing the relationship-- this is MY Aunt Ruth. It makes us closer. (Also why I call my best friends' mothers Mom LN)

By Eo (not verified)
October 26, 2009 11:24 PM

Just checked-- Allyn Ann McLerie was also a big-time dancer on Broadway, and even appeared with a ballet company, quite apart from her many acting credits...

Allyn Joslyn, also a well-known Broadway performer, was the son of a mining engineer and from Pennsylvania, so those facts, coupled with his name make me think he came from a very Welsh background...

By PenelopeB (not verified)
October 26, 2009 11:49 PM

I was the first grandkid in my family. I called my grandmother "Nina" which is Spanish for Godmother and I called my grandfather "Papa", I don't know why I didn't call him "Nino".

The rest of the grandkids used those names for our grandparents and they were entirely known as Nina and Papa and even their kids too to calling them that in front of us kids.

Is this common that grandkids can rename their grandparents and it sticks like glue?

By Bianca (nli) (not verified)
October 27, 2009 5:15 AM

Allyn - I went to school with a guy named Allyn, so I read it as male. But I suspect that if I hadn't I might find it feminine because of the 'yn' ending, although it does fit fine thinking of male names like Bryan. I would put it in the camp of 'I would assume male, but accept the female usage easily.'

I had an Oma and Opa, so that left English grandparent names wide open for the other set. Actually, I know that my mother wants to be Grammie, and I would want my father to be Opa, but it irritates me a bit that they don't match.

By Kim in Philly (not verified)
October 27, 2009 8:35 AM

A Rose- The Hebrew words you were looking for are Bubbe and Zayde (Pronounced Bubby and Zaydah). Technically, they are Yiddish.

In my family, we always called our mother's parents Mom-Mom and Pop-Pop. My father's parents lived in Israel my whole life and I used to refer to them as Mom-Mom and Pop-Pop also, but when I was in my teens I resented the fact that they were not in my life like my mom's parents so I switched their names to Grandmom and Grandpop.

My nephew originally had two grandmothers who both wanted to be Mom-Mom, so they became Mom-Mom Bonnie and Mom-Mom Phyllis. Unfortunately, Phyllis died just before my nephew turned one, so my mom is now just called Mom-Mom. So sad, I cry every time I think about that.

For my daughter, she will call my parents Mom-Mom and Pop-Pop. My in-laws would have liked to be the same, but they graciously gave up the names and are just Grandmom and Grandpop. I hope Izzy changes that for them to something cuter.

By Amy3
October 27, 2009 10:40 AM

I called my grandparents Grandma and Grandpa LN (for both maternal and paternal sets). All aunts and uncles were called Aunt (or Uncle) FN. This didn't feel overly formal, just expected.

My daughter, however, calls her grandparents Grandma FN or Grandpa FN (except in the case of my MIL who is called by her initials by both granddaughters as well as by me and my SIL's husband). My husband really *hates* that his mom goes by her initials rather than some version of Grandma. For great-grandparents, my daughter also calls them Grandma/Grandpa FN. Her aunts and uncles are typically called by their FNs only.

I've wondered about the use of adults' FNs by children and feel it's more prevalent now than when I was a kid. As an example, I didn't call any of my friends' parents by their FNs until I was in high school. They were always Mr or Mrs LN, but my daughter calls all her friends' parents by their FNs (as her friends do me).

I think we've just become a more casual, familiar society, even if we don't know people as well as we act like we do in all cases. I don't think this is either good or bad, just a natural evolution.

FWIW, my little cousins call my aunt Mimi for her grandma name. I think that's cute.

October 27, 2009 10:52 AM

Catching up quickly- Eo, thanks for the name of the book!

I know we've kind of moved on from it, but with the laws against showing anything too stereotypical on kids in Denmark, I just wonder how do they draw the line? Is it ok if a girl is in a princessy room with her crown but also a soccer ball is it ok then?

Alr, congratulations!!!

Re: Grandparents. I actually think my family is pretty interesting. My paternal grandparents were Mamaji and Pop. Mamaji comes from Maji (I'm really not sure on the spelling but the word is 'grandmother' in some language from India and pronounced Ma-jee). My great-grandmother had lived in India with her missionary parents so she was Maji and my grandmother decided to play with that and be Mamaji.

On the maternal side my cousins called my gparents Mamama and Dadadee which I think is pretty cute, but my Aunt decided that for them, and when my mom asked if they liked those names she was told they didn't. My gpa then decided on Grandpa Wheelie (a play on their last name) and my gma decided to go be Dear just as her mother had done. When she and my mom were discussing it my mom said, "Are you sure you want to be called Dear, Ma?" and they decided that Dearma was even better than just Dear.

I never met any of my greatgrandparents but I did love my mother's grandparents names: Dear and Granddaddy and then Gram on the other side.

October 27, 2009 10:57 AM

Also, this got me thinking, what do people call their own parents? My mom refers to her parents as Mother and Daddy. I refer to her and my Dad as Mom and Dad but also Mommy/Mummy and Daddy often when I'm talking to them or ABOUT them to each other. I have been told by friends that Mommy and Daddy are terms that should only be used by children (which I am not), but old habits die hard! I have never once called them Mother or Father, nor have I used Papa or Pa (or Ma). Nothing against any of those, but it's interesting to me the habits we form with these terms...

By Fish (not verified)
October 27, 2009 11:13 AM

Emergency name help: My sister's baby was just born 8 weeks early. She was convinced her entire pregnancy that it was a girl (no medical reason, just a feeling).... but it was a boy! She has no boys' names picked out.

She had picked out a girl's name: Helena J3an
Her son's name is: Am@deus James

I have a hard time getting a handle on their taste! I know another name they like a bit, but aren't totally sure about is Donovan. They also like Jackson, but are worried about the Michael Jackson connection (which I said was not my first association with the name). The few suggestions that I tried so far (Rowan, Beckett, Julian, Gabriel, Finnegan, Dominic) were all shot down :( I don't think I even came close!

Any ideas?

October 27, 2009 11:14 AM

jenny l3igh,
i use just mom and dad. though one of my sisters is in college and still says daddy sometimes.

i have a friend who usually refers to his mother as momma (at least when speaking to her), which i always kind of liked. it didn't come across as childish...maybe a bit country-esque though.

By Kim in Philly (not verified)
October 27, 2009 11:31 AM

Fish- how exciting for your sister. I hope Baby Boy is doing okay. Here is what Nymbler suggested when I put in Helena and Amadeus:


Amadeus is late Roman in origin and obviously linked to Mozart (Austrian). Helena is multinational, but I associate it as a Greek name. Amadeus is an unusual name. I think your sister would like something not on trend.

October 27, 2009 11:57 AM


From the Nymbler list, I like Marcellus. If Amadeus, kinda Donovan, kinda Jackson is liked, they'll probably like broader vowel sounds (more ah, ay, aa, oh; less ee, ih, igh, oo) They seem to want a name with some authority behind it.

So here's my list:

And, for the way-out there... October

October 27, 2009 11:59 AM

Grandparent names- when I was a nanny for a while, fresh out of college, the people I worked for were German-American and Welsh, so one set of grandparents was Oma and Opa and the other were Nain and Taid (not sure of the speliing- pronounced nine and tide). That solved everything very easily!

Growing up, I called my Mum's Mum Granny (my mother's father died when she was a child, so I never knew him) and my Dad's parents Grandma and Grandpa. Granny was English and the others were American. I never knew there were so many other options! In England, where I grew up, it's normally Granny or Nanna, and Grandpa or Gramps.

My Aunty Moyra is known as Grandmoy by her grandchildren!

Oh, I'm in a froth of excitement this morning and I know you will understand! My sister, who is due at Christmas with her first, a boy, has become a real NE during pregnancy. I mentioned here a while back that she and her husband were looking for a Scottish or Celtic name that would fit with their Mc...... last name and you kindly gave some suggestions. Well, now she says they have found a name, but are keeping it a secret until the birth.

What's intriguing is that she said she googled it and there was one person with that name on Facebook, so she emailed him and asked him what he thought of his name, possible drawbacks, nns etc. and he was very positive about it. Now, bearing in mind that FB currently has 300 million members and their surname is a fairly common Scottish one, that leads me to believe they've chosen something pretty unusual. And of course I'm dying to know what it is. I tried a few combos, and have one possible guess, but it's a name I thought she said they had rejected- Cormac- simply because it didn't fit too well with the last name. So, I guess I shall have to be patient! Aargh!!!

Fish- how about Marius? I know I keep trotting it out, but I think it has a similar feel to Amadeus.

October 27, 2009 12:36 PM

Valerie, Oh that is tough! I wish I were good at guessing, but I'm SO not. Cormac Mc___ does seem somewhat unlikely if the repeating sounds bothered them.

I also forgot for gma's, my aunt spent awhile choosing her own name and ended up with Muzzy, short for "Granmuzzer" if you will:). She loves it and had a great time coming up with it. Which reminds me that when I was a kid she pretended to know a mouse who lived in her house whose name was H3rbie H!ckenlooper and he and I would send messages back and forth. It JUST occurred to me though what a great fanciful name that is:). Clearly she's an NE too.

October 27, 2009 1:09 PM

Jenny L3igh-I call my parents Mom + Dad. Sometimes when I talking about them to the other parent I still say Mommy/Daddy as I did when I was young. My children call us Mommy/
Daddy too. Sometimes when my ds is feeling extremely affectionate he resorts to Momma.

Fish-Hope things are going well for baby and mom. Here are my suggestions if you still need some. I also used Nymbler for a bit of help.
Daniel Jacob
Alexander Jude
Felix Joseph
Simon Jasper
Byron Joel
Phineas John
Warren Jacob
Dexter Jackson
Lucian Joseph
Preston Jude
Spencer Justin

By Ash (not verified)
October 27, 2009 1:16 PM

My grandparents: Gramma (written and pronounced that way) & Gramps and Nanny & Bumpy (which was a distortion of something else that stuck well before I came along). My sister never really knew our Gramma and has always refered to her as Gramma FN. Everyone calls my Nanny "Nanny." Her kids, her grandkids, her great-grandkids, our friends. For years, many people never even stopped to think what her actual first name might be.

My aunt and uncle go by Nana and Gramps (or D@ps thanks to an adorable mispronunciation).

I recently asked my dad what he would like to be called when he is a grandfather. After reassuring him that the question was purely hypothetical, he said he thought he might like "Pop," which is what he called one of his grandfathers.

On one side of the family, all of the aunts are called "Auntie." We use "Auntie FN" when it is necessary to distinguish among the many Aunties running around. I think titles are signs of respect. Familial titles serve roles of both respect and closeness. For example, I am very close to my cousins' kids, and they all call me "Auntie" to signify the close relationship, even if that is not exactly accurate. In fact, I once tried to call an Auntie by only her first name. Let's just say I never made that mistake again!

October 27, 2009 1:46 PM

@Anna--I think English needs words to distinguish boy and girl cousins! I also like the differentiation between blood-relative aunts and uncles and aunts and uncles by marriage. Not that those are maybe necessary, but they're kind of cool.

My husband called his one set of grandparents Nan and Pops and the others just Grandma and Grandpa. I always wished that we had cooler names for our grandparents, since we called them all Grandpa and Grandma.

@Jenny L3igh--I think "Mother and Daddy" is typically a southern thing. When I lived in Texas I heard lots of people refer to parents that way, but I've never heard it elsewhere.

October 27, 2009 1:52 PM

How about Amadeus and Dante? I think that would be a great match!

By namedaftermygrandmother (not verified)
October 27, 2009 1:59 PM

This is something I, too, am quite interested in. It seems to be much more difficult to find unusual-but-not-weird-or-just-spelled-creatively-and-beautiful names for boys than it is for girls, perhaps precisely because names switch more easily male-female than the reverse. (As you can tell, I am on the side of being able to tell the gender by the name.) I wonder if there is a connection between this and the many names derived from male names--which in Roman times was the only way girls were named (i.e. Julia from father Julius); and perhaps it is a marker of Modern (since the French Revolution) times that women can be given names previously reserved in plentitude for men. This post covers just one fad within Modern names, it seems to me, from at least the time of Bronte's Shirley.

By Erin H. (not verified)
October 27, 2009 2:50 PM

De-lurking after several years (!) to hopefully add to the discussion regarding grandparent names. When our son was born my mother, after much deliberation, decided on Grandm@ri---her name is M@rianne. Our baby daughter recently began to call her Mimi (Grandm@ri is a bit of a mouthful), so with the associated Gr@ndmimi my mom has three grandmother names. I like them all very much---personal, while still indicating relationship. We also have a Grandad, Grandpa, Grandma, Granny, and Nana.

I never know how to introduce oneself online, but the posts and comments on this blog are some of the finest. Thanks! :)

October 27, 2009 3:09 PM

I'm coming in late, but this is in response to the distinction between -ie & -y as masculine and feminine:

My kids are Frederick & Malkah. We call my son Freddy -- and I have a distinct preference for the -y spelling. We call my daughter Malkie (although i don't really like it!), and I have a preference for the -ie spelling. I guess this is rooted in the distinction you draw here...

October 27, 2009 3:14 PM

Fish- Congratulations on the new nephew! Prayers are being sent his way... 32 weeks is pretty early and I hope he is doing well.

FN Ideas:
I'll also second: Felix and Phineas

For a MN: Why not use Jackson, if they like it? (Michael isn't my first association with the name and I think especially if it's not used for a fn, it won't be an issue. Jude, John and Joel are also good in the MN slot with many of the lenghthy FNs.

October 27, 2009 3:17 PM

Anne with an E- That's interesting. My mom is actually from upstate NY, but I think it could generally be a "genteel" thing. My mom was raised by a nanny and I can see "Mother and Daddy" showing up in that context as well as part of Southern manners. Hope that makes sense, I'm having trouble phrasing what I'm trying to say!

October 27, 2009 4:13 PM

Welcome, Erin H!

I like the suggestion of Dante for Fish's nephew (congratulations, by the way!). I know someone with a son named Am@deo, and her second son is named Durante. So Dante seems like a natural fit to me.

My mom and her siblings all used Mother and Daddy. Their parents were both from upstate New York.

By hyz
October 27, 2009 5:28 PM

Hmm, it is challenging to know where to go from Amadeus. I like the suggestions of Dante, August, Sebastian, Ivan, Lucian, Felix, and Adrian, and I would add:

I can see Helena fitting with Amadeus, but Jackson seems out of place to me. I threw some normal ones and some more unusual ones in there--Amadeus is pretty interesting, and Jackson is much more pedestrian, so I'm not sure which way they're going. It would be great to hear how they picked Amadeus and Helene, and what they like about those names.

ETA: I didn't see Bethany's post before I posted--I also really like Isadore and Constantine!

By hyz
October 27, 2009 4:29 PM

I called my mom's parents Grammy/Gram and Pappy/Pap. My dad's parents were Granddad and GrandJean (her name was Jean). Now that my parents are grandparents, they want to be called Pippy and Pops, and DH's mom will probably be Halmoni, which is the korean term. I wish my mom would go by Grammy, Granny, Grandma, though--every child should have at least one of those--I think it's sweet!

I called my parents mommy/daddy when I was really little, and mom/dad ever since--that's normal among people I grew up with, but I do think it can be kind of charming when people from other places continue to use mommy/momma and daddy as adults. It would sound very weird coming from me and my peers, though.

October 27, 2009 4:43 PM

Jackson is very popular in my area. If you add it to Jack, it's probably the most popular boys name (although none of the Jacksons I know use Jack as a nickname).

October 27, 2009 5:46 PM

Elizabeth T- Ah HA, something in the water upstate in NY I guess:)

I love all of the suggestions for siblings to Amadeus, that is a tough one. I agree that Helena works well and that Jackson surprised me. I certainly don't think of Michael Jackson first, but I do think that is much more popular than the rest of their style... I'd love to hear some feedback on if any of the names suggested seem like good options to the family. In case they are wondering though I know a Dante (he's in college) and in case anyone was worried that it could be a tough name to pull off, he does it beautifully. He has a very Italian LN so I've heard him made fun of for that, but always in a friendly way. The funny thing about him is that his siblings are something like Mike and Megan and he's the middle child. Don't know why they decided to honor the heritage just with him...

October 27, 2009 8:08 PM

Tirzah-I like the Dante suggestion too! Fish you definitely will have to let us know what they decided.

Erin H-Welcome!