To tell or not to tell?

Jan 29th 2010

As expectant parents, you have two big naming decisions. The first is the choice of name. The second is when to reveal it.

At one extreme you have parents who start referring to the fetus by name from the moment they see an ultrasound. Let's call them the "broadcasters." At the other, you have the parents who guard the name as a state secret, refusing to give their nearest and dearest so much as a clue: the "keepers."

Both of these extremes are on the rise. The broadcasters have gained momentum from early sex detection and the self-revelatory culture of the internet. As reader Jen wrote to me, "Facebook seems to be the main vehicle for this reveal: 'We had our 20 week ultrasound today, and Olivia Kate is on the way...,' 'We are on our way to the hospital to meet Matthew!'"

The keepers, meanwhile, have more and more to hide. Our modern culture of creative, distinctive names leads to a lot more wrinkled noses and outraged grandparents at name announcement time. The way keepers see it, if you know they'll complain and you know you won't change your mind, why have the argument? Just present them with an adorable newborn baby, the name a fait accompli.

As usual, extremes carry risks. For the keepers, if you suspect that your friends and family will all hate your child's name, shouldn't that set off alarm bells? Bouncing ideas off people can also help you avoid unwelcome surprises. I've heard from "keeper" parents who learned too late that, say, Amelia was the name of Grandpa's first wife whom nobody ever talks about.

Broadcasters risk locking themselves into premature decisions. Their public pre-announcements can also seem like tempting fate. The sad truth is that things can go wrong with pregnancies, and an early name broadcast to 1,000 Facebook friends can add an extra layer of complication to an already painful time. Even if all goes well, you've stolen the thunder from your birth announcement. If everybody already knows the ultrasound sex reading, the date of your scheduled c-section, and the name, what's left to announce?

Luckily, there's plenty of middle ground. For instance, you can choose a trusted circle to bounce your ideas off of. Ideally the group should include at least one parent of young kids who knows the name landscape, and one person who knows your family well enough to help you navigate around the "Grandma Amelia" problems. If you keep the circle small, you preserve some secrecy and get the extra bonus of flattering the people you've taken into your confidence.

If you're a broadcaster at heart, you can hold back a bit by sharing a list of finalists rather than a champion. (You may have already chosen the winner, but nobody has to know that.) Presenting a candidate list can also generate excitement about the name choice. After all, you can't root for a team without knowing who's playing.

Personally, I like the idea of combining both approaches. If you share a small group of names with a small group of confidantes you gather feedback, retain some air of mystery, and get the full oomph of the birth announcement.

How about you?


January 30, 2010 4:21 AM

I don't have any children yet and am currently very willing to discuss what names I do and don't like, but I think when an actual baby is involved, I will be a keeper. Part of that is because I enjoy secrets and surprises and have limited interest in what everybody else thinks, but I think I am also taking a cue from my parents, who up until birth referred to every one of us children as Herbert with no discussion of what they were really considering. Which I think is a pretty good method, actually. We had a name to call the baby, which I think helped in the bonding, but nobody expected it to be the actual name and didn't have a problem switching over to the actual name.

Which wasn't chosen until after we were born for five out of the six of us.

I have been toying with the idea of having a list of out-there names to mention if people press to find out our names- like Gaylord or Lucifer for a boy and Jezebel or Prunella for a girl, or Zelda and Link for twins.

Of course, exactly how I go about this will depend at least in part on the style of whoever I end up marrying.

January 30, 2010 4:41 AM

zoerhenne - I also find it hard not to comment on peoples names! So I too hope I come off as polite. In general there aren't too many names I hate or even generally dislike. Most names are at worst, just not my style. So, I can usually muster up something decent to say!

I also agree with those who have commented that revealing too early runs the risk of name stealing by others. This goes for names on a shortlist that aren't used, you may still want to use them later, so don't want them taken or dissed.

It is interesting to hear everyone's different opinions on the keeping vs broadcasting debate.

January 30, 2010 5:39 AM

ElizabethN: At one point, I thought Lyra and Orion would be great names for a girl and boy! I still think they would be, but since I'm now actually married and need to take my husband's opinion into consideration, plus have an actual last name to work with and various heritages to consider, these are pretty much out of the running for me. I was just very excited to hear that someone else had the same idea!

My husband and I are almost TTC (getting some insurance details settled first). I think that we'll probably go with "inner circle" at least to start with. Besides the key consultants Laura mentioned, I'm also planning to have a cultural consultant; DH's sister will vet Hawaiian names. Besides her cultural knowledge, she also tells it like it is and has kids. Between her and you all, I think we'll get the feedback we need. I think the only people in our lives who we'll really have to strategize with is our mothers: I think we'll have to announce the name(s) to them rather than allow any input.

January 30, 2010 9:38 AM

My opinion changes on whether or not I'll be a broadcaster or a keeper. I have a step-son, but my husband and I are close to TTC--same issue as RobynT. I currently think I'll be more of a keeper. The problem is, our girl-name (yes, we basically have both boy and girl names chosen) doesn't fit the best with our last name (among a few other concerns). I think I may have to reach out to a few people for their opinion on that one. The other issue is that the few times I have mentioned the name to others, I don't get a good reaction--mostly silence and a clear personal struggle to not say anything negative. I don't care about that because we both love the name and will most definitely use it if I can get over a few things (dh has no issue at all). So, the reactions I've gotten so far make me really want to keep it a secret, but I feel like I need to weigh some opinions on the fn/ln fit. We told my step-son (12 yrs. old) about our girl name and he loved it. When we mentioned the fn/ln he said, "Oh, wait. . .yeah, it's cool." :) I guess I'll be coming to you all for help on the issue

January 30, 2010 10:07 AM

'm not a broadcaster, mostly because we didn't find out the sex of our babies (or if we did, we still told people we didn't know). We have six children (age 3-14) and I liked giving people the short lists. Mostly just to get people's basic opinions. I like knowing what the general public will be thinking of my children's names. Usually I get advice that makes me rethink my opinions. When we were considering the name Hastings I had three people tell me it sounded like a butler's name. So that one got crossed off our list. Getting feedback is a good way to narrow down your choices. Do you really want to pick a name that everyone hates? This is especially important if you are having your first and aren't really hip on what's popular and what's not. Plus people can give you ideas about the teasing possibilities of any name. Good to be forewarned before your child comes home crying from second grade and you curse yourself for not thinking about that.

Also, it's a lot easier to deal with people disliking names before you have the baby than afterwards. When we named our last daughter Clementine (we decided at the hospital), my mother had a complete hissy fit. She went on for days about how all her friends made fun of the name, etc. In my exhausted, postpartum state I just didn't have the strength to see straight and do what I wanted. When my husband started in on the "I'm not sure how much I like Clementine either" I caved and changed it to Adelaide. Which is fine, but I still like Clementine way more. If we'd stuck to our guns and gotten it all over with before she was born, it probably would have been easier to tell my mom "tough luck".

It really, really bothers me when people have the entire name picked out ahead of time and announce it to everyone. Talk about spoiling the surprise! The name is what I notice on the baby announcements. Newborn babies all pretty much look the same!

By Guest (not verified)
January 30, 2010 11:22 AM

Ruby. It is just such a lush and interesting name and it makes your trio sound like little royals! as im sure they are your prince and princess! Love it!

January 30, 2010 11:46 AM

Pippi-Since you asked LOL...I like the name Linne@ Krist!n but my brain wants to lengthen it to Krist!ne. So my favs for #2 would be:
Kaya Annalise
Annika Maren
For me Malena is too close to Linnea.

Marcus doesn't really float my boat. Magnus seems better because it sounds more Scandinavian to me. Maybe you could find more names from this group that you would like. Nymbler offers:
Finn Alexander
Gunnar Daniel
Ethan Jasper
Aric Jacob
Gavin Marcus

By Betsy 2 (not verified)
January 30, 2010 11:54 AM

SilentOne - that's funny, I have a friend who also called the baby Herbert in utero to avoid the questions. However then when another friend in that same circle had a baby right around the same time and called baby "Franklin" at the baby shower, I thought they were doing the same thing as the Herbert crowd, but it turned out to really be Franklin. I have nothing against Franklin, this couple just seemed very much more like a "Jayden" or something type couple.

My husband and I are now trying to conceive, and I've been pestering him a lot about names for months. Two days ago he had a dream that I had had the baby (without him somehow) and chosen the name "Gretchen" and put it on the birth certificate without him even being present. So I think "Gretchen" is definitely going to be my "Herbert" when people I don't want to tell ask!

By Kristin W. (not verified)
January 30, 2010 1:15 PM

BN-obsessed, have you thought about Josephine? I think Josephine and Adelaide sound like perfect sister names! :)

Pippi, I love Annika with Linnea. But I may be biased because Annika was our No. 1 girl name possibility for a while.

January 30, 2010 2:39 PM

Lots of interesting perspectives!

On the issue of pregnancy loss, I didn't mean to suggest that choosing a name necessarily makes matters worse. In fact, many parents find that having a name for their unborn child helps with the grieving process. The issue is just the public broadcasting of the name.

Every family's situation is different, of course. Some parents take comfort in open community support during such a time, others crave privacy. In a case where the name carries on a family tradition that's important to you, there can be an extra layer of conflicted feelings about using that name for a future child if it was "officially" conferred on an earlier pregnancy.

January 30, 2010 2:50 PM

I've had my names picked out for years - J0hn Patr1ck for a boy, and Sus@nn@h Cla1re for a girl. And this is the first time I've told a soul.

J0hn is my father's first name (he goes by his middle), as well as his father's first name. Patr1ck was my great-grandfather & great-great-grandfather's middle names (great-g went by it though), as well as a variation of my mother's middle name (Patr1cia) and the name that her parents had picked out for the second son they never got to have. (Whew!)

My mother's name is Suz@nne. I just like Cla1re.

Because of the family history in these names, I want to see my relatives' faces when they meet my child who is named for them or for people they love. While my names are not unusual or exciting, they are very special to me, and I want to hold on to that secret for a while.

By Lara Jane (not verified)
January 30, 2010 3:29 PM

I'm a "broadcaster" in general so naturally I announced our choice once we found out we were having a boy.

I've told this story many, many times, but everyone loathed Henry (the name, not the baby!). Family, friends, strangers in the mall where I worked... they hated it, they laughed about it, they thought it sounded "nerdy" or "like a farmer." They couldn't believe we were going to give this name to our new baby, and they tried to talk us out of it. (My mom even put her foot down and said she would only call him by his middle name!) Lucky for me, or rather, for Henry, I don't give a flip-flying rip what anyone thinks about me, so I stuck to my guns.

Now I don't want to brag about being a "trendsetter" or "ahead of the curve," but I'm a broadcaster, so.... yeah, I do like to brag! :) Henry is going to be 10 soon and as all of you NEs know, his name is uber trendy these days. We picked the name specifically because nobody was using it, and although it annoys us that the name everyone hated 10/11 years ago is now not only acceptable, but downright cool, Henry will always know that he helped pave the way.

You're welcome. :)

By PunkPrincessPhd (NLI) (not verified)
January 30, 2010 3:36 PM

Hmmm. It may be surprizing, given how "public" my naming drama was on this forum, but by nature I would have been a "keeper". I'd actually chosen our daughter's name about 2 days after getting a positive test, and held it pretty close to my chest for 5 months. It was only when my husband back-tracked on the name that I went public -trying to seek out advice! At that, only I really only discussed the name in question here and with my immediate family.

It was a moot point in the end, because my daughter turned out to "be" someone else - and her name suits her perfectly. I don't know how I would have handled that if I'd been able to broadcast my original choice - the one I was 100% certain on - and then changed my mind. But it has created some fall-out now that our daughter is here and officially something else. My sister, in particular, is convinced that I "caved in" to my husband, rather than insisting on the name I originally wanted.

So...long story short: next time, we'll keep our choices and our naming process limited to this board ;p BTW,in my sleeplessness, I'm already thinking about future siblings' names ... didn't learn my lesson, did I?

January 30, 2010 3:50 PM

We are definitely keepers. I've been thinking of it from the "everyone already knows she's a girl, if we tell the name then there are no surprises left" point of view, plus my parents never told the names before me or my siblings were born. They told us other siblings their short list for each new baby, and maybe my grandparents, I'm not sure, but they definitely didn't tell many people.

After reading all the comments about family members who liked knowing the name of their future niece/grandson/etc ahead of time, I just for the first time was trying to imagine being my parents or in-laws, and I would TOTALLY be annoyed if my first grandchild was about to be born and I didn't know anything about the name! Granted they're not obsessed with names like I am, but now I'm conflicted...should we stick with our super-keeper status (literally no one knows our name but us) for the next 12 weeks, or should we drop hints or a shortlist to a few close family members?!

Actually what came to mind was saying "Her initials will be EKH" and letting everyone guess, because I think it would be kinda fun to see what people would guess we'd choose. Has anyone tried anything like that, and did it work?

January 30, 2010 3:56 PM

PPP-I'm glad everything worked out in the end for you. I secretly wished for an Aoibheann but also recognized that it was your decision to make.

Laura-You remind me of an interesting historical/genealogical observation. Back in the "old days", many children did not live as long as they do now due to disease and other misfortunes. Parents often "re-used" names when a child died in order to honor that child. And often they were born the following year after the first child had died. Very confusing when looking at censuses some times!

Anne with an E-That would be way too much fun for me if I didn't already know what it was :)

By PunkPrincessPhd (NLI) (not verified)
January 30, 2010 4:32 PM

@zoerhenne: Thanks! I did too, but it surprized me so much that it didn't "fit" her, because I'd been so certain of it. Of course, now my problem is whether or not I could use Aoibheann for a second daughter (assuming dh would relent): since most of the family knows that it was "meant" to be Sorcha's name, is it now "leftovers"? Sigh....

By Catherinetoo (not verified)
January 30, 2010 4:56 PM

We are definitely keepers. Mainly too prevent our families from trying to influence our names. With our 1st I did talk about a short list with my sister and a few friends before we were pregnant, we had settled on a girl name and were still struggling with a boy name when we found out the gender. Fortunately it was a girl so we were set at 12 weeks. My MIL told us that she would call the baby X (her mother's name) regardless of what the real name was. We ignored her and now she loves the name we used (my FIL's mother's name). Since then we've had 2 miscarriages in the 1st trimester and we have named both of them. I decided to use names I loved but my husband had vetoed for a real baby. For me it was important to give these babies a special identity (both are family names on my side). But we've never shared these names. We're now pregnant and anxiously waiting out the 1st trimester. Once again we have the perfect girl name (oddly both the 1st and middle name were not on our list 3 years ago). This time the names honor maternal relatives (and yes we are using my MIL's mother's name for the middle name) that we like and that go with our daughter. I have no clue what we will do if we have a boy. I fear we will then be a family deciding at the hospital. Regardless, we won't tell anyone until after the baby is born.

By knp
January 30, 2010 6:19 PM

This post is just too fun. I love hearing everyone's take.

Anne with an E: A friend's friend didn't want to share, but while they were pg the gave clues: like the name had a v in it-- but they wouldn't say if the v was an initial, in the first name or the second name. And, being a bad NE, I forgot the name exactly, but the v was in the last part of the fn, like Olivia. So, it was a way to keep still super secret, but people were interested.

I'm not sure what we'll do when the time comes. I already have a really hard time not mentioning "our" names ( the ones we've picked out) and there isn't even a baby in my tummy! I just like to talk about names too much!!! My husband wants to keep some stuff secret, though. So, maybe we'll keep the gender a secret so I can talk about names. Or I can learn to keep my mouth shut. I liked someone's idea-- I think I read it on this blog, not this post-- of responding to "Do you have any names picked out?" with the questioner's name every time. :)

One problem I have is that a REALLY good friend is a broadcaster like no other, and doesn't understand why anyone would keep anything quiet once it is known.

To keep family involved, I thought about letting my parents choose an in-utero name... I like having a nn to call it before it is here. One family I know called theirs Squishy. :)

By Lilliputian (not verified)
January 30, 2010 6:40 PM

After closely-guarding our naming choices for three boys until after they were born, we're now faced with naming Medical Miracle baby number four (girl, conceived two years after her father's vasectomy), and we seem to need a bit more help. Broadcasting is tempting! We picked very unconventional Gaelic names for her brothers which still frequently receive a telling pause upon introduction to someone new, so the whole sibling-set issue arises. (Doesn't have to be match-y, yet shouldn't sound out of place--she'll already be the odd (wo)man out, after all.) However, we're a bit weary of the endless explaining of the other names and would love to pick something familiar enough to most people to avoid that situation, but trendy/chic is just not appealing--so it's a hard line to walk.

Maud is on the short list, but my fear is that it's an up-and-comer and will be more common eventually than we like. (I do love the short and sassy, old-fashioned quality, and it's clunkier than many people prefer, so it might not be quite like Mabel, for example, which is on the rise.) What's the NE consensus about recent playground sightings of Mauds?

By Lilliputian (not verified)
January 30, 2010 6:54 PM

From previous post re: girl name after 3 boys with unusual Gaelic names, it might be useful to know what the sib set already is:

T@dhg, Ni@ll and Tu!!y

My husband and I together have a very mixed family background (Irish, English, Scottish, Czech and Lebanese), so the Gaelic thing was just a commonality we agreed upon, not something we're necessarily wedded-to.

Other than Maud, options my husband and I both agree upon (with a very different feel) include:


He likes Olive, but agrees it's too trendy.

I like Maura or Maren, but same hesitation.

Thanks so much for your help!

By Amy3
January 30, 2010 7:05 PM

@knp, it may have been me who posted about saying the name of the questioner when asked for names. My husband used to do that. He also, like SilentOne, wanted to have names we'd never use in IRL (as I recall it was Leathern for a boy and Silvern for a girl), but I'm not sure he ever actually used those in his responses.

Lots of people have said they were keepers because they didn't want someone else to "steal" the name before their baby was born. I have a friend who was a super broadcaster for the opposite reason. Then she'd "claimed" it and her assumption was no one in her family (or among her friends, presumably) would use it.

@Lilliputian, I *love, love, love* Maud, but haven't met one IRL (my daughter is 8 so I've put in my fair share of playground time). I hope you use it. I also love your older boys' names, especially Tadhg (this is pronounced Tige, right?).

By Guest (not verified)
January 30, 2010 7:18 PM

DH and I were keepers to an extreme degree. We decided on a boy and a girl name that we both loved early in our marriage, before we even began trying to concieve. We knew we wanted children some day, just not quite yet! As it turned out, when we were ready for kids we had some fertility issues and took over a yr to concieve. So by the time our DD was born we had kept her name a secret for 5 years.

We wanted to keep the name a secret because DH and i both love it and agreed on it as absolutely perfect immediately. No long discussions. No lists. No bartering with names that one of us liked and the other didn't. How often does that happen? If after finding the perfect name someone else in our circle had heard us mention it and used it or told us that they hated it we would have been both furious and devastated. No one is rude enough to comment negatively once the name has already been bestowed.

We also found out at the 20 wk ultrasound that we were having a girl, but kept that a secret from everyone too. Baby things are so expensive that we wanted everything that people gifted us to be gender neutral so that we could use it all again for any future children. But our families are both the kind that if we had announced, "girl" that absolutely everything would have been pink, even if we begged for yellow and green. Keeping the sex a secret saved us hundreds of dollars, because all of our baby items can be used again, no matter what sex we have the next time around.

By Guest (not verified)
January 30, 2010 7:34 PM

Another thought (I'm the poster of #72 as well)

If you had a short list of names and broadcast them I would worry about 2 things:

1) that the names you didn't use would seem like cast offs, so you would maybe be hesitant to use them for a future child even if you really loved them

2) Some broadcasters mentioned that they weren't worried about someone stealing their name because announcing you intend to use a name marks it as off limits to those closest to you. But i would worry that if you broadcast your short list that since you used name A, that names B and C off your list will now be considered fair game since you didn't use them. And what if you have another same sex child in the future?

Better to keep your cards close to your chest, IMO.

January 30, 2010 7:37 PM

Lilliputian-I too was wondering about the pronunciation of your names. Upon first glance to me I saw Tad/Ny-all/Tuhl-ly (hopefully the punctuation was enough of a deterrent for the googlers). Anyway, regardless of pronunciation of the above, I still find Maud a bit musty. I like Ailsa (ail-sa like Elsa a bit right?) and I also like Maura or Maren. I haven't heard any around my parts but I'm guessing there is not a big Celtic/Gaelic sect around here.
Nymbler's ideas in case you need more:
Keira; Brenna
Imogen; Deidre
Eileen; Sinead
Brynn; Maida
Fiona; Bridget/Brigitta

By Kerry (not verified)
January 30, 2010 7:38 PM


I do like Maud and I think you are right that it will not climb the charts as quickly as Mabel and the like.

What about Maeve (or Maebh)? I think it goes quite well with your sons' names.

As far as the subject of this post:

I don't have kids yet and will happily discuss my favorites with anyone who wants to hear about it. I think that when we actually start trying for kids, I will become a bit more guarded.

Right now, my plan is to share my long list (about 75 names for each sex) with anyone who wants to see it. I figure that only close family and a few friends will take me up on the offer. I want them to have a chance to share any opinions- good, bad, and ugly- at that point. That way, they get to put in their two cents, I get to decide if I want to take it into account for making a selection, and I get to keep the surprise in tact.

Once we have decided, I think I will tell people that we are not sharing until the kid is here. (Though I do kind of like the idea of dropping a few hints here and there.)

. . .and of course, this is all theoretical. As much as I would like to be a keeper, I have trouble keeping things about which I am excited a secret from those that are close to me. . .

By knp
January 30, 2010 7:58 PM

Lilliputian: I do like Maud for you, and don't see it becoming too popular. But, I not a huge fan of "granny chic" anyway, so I might not be the best judge.
I also like Ailsa (eyel-sa, right?)
For other ideas: What about Neve (Niamh original spelling)? I think it would be a good mix of fitting in, but easy to spell and say. (Plus 2 N names, 2 T names!)

January 30, 2010 8:06 PM

is olive trendy...? i kind of thought it was like...anti-trendy.

By Anna S (not verified)
January 30, 2010 8:09 PM

PPP - Don't worry so much about what your family might possibly perhaps maybe think. Aoibheann is a very nice name you considered for your first daughter, along with several other nice names, but you ended up choosing Sorcha because it was a better fit. Maybe next time Aoibheann is the better fit? And by the way, that sister of yours seems to have a lot of opinions about a lot of things... Lemme guess: she's a couple of years younger, not married and doesn't have children of her own - in other words me before I developed a more mature understanding of boundaries ;-)

By PunkPrincessPhd (NLI) (not verified)
January 30, 2010 8:28 PM


As someone who has also chosen complicated Gaelic names(although the one we eventually chose was *supposed* to be more straightforward, to no avail - today our beautiful Sorcha got called Zorka), can I second Maeve or Niamh? By coincidence, they both have 5 letters like your boys' names, and are reasonably familiar enough to avoid a lot of explanation, while remaining authentic. Or for a twist on Ailsa, how about Ailish? It can be spelled without the h to keep the 5-letter theme.

@Anna S:

I appreciate the support :) You're close about my sis: unmarried and no kids, but 3 years older. Opinions are her forte for sure!

It's unlikely dh will ever relent on Aoibheann (although he's warmed up to it since his parents said they liked it, albeit they thought it was "Aven", but whatever). Our sibling problem is that 95% of our top girls' names either start with an S or are a partial rhyme to Sorcha. Maybe I'll get an Aoibheann by default ... ?

January 30, 2010 8:44 PM

knp + PPP-Very nice catch of the 5 letter theme. I missed that. I was also trying to find an N name that would match but couldn't think of one. So I will second (or third) the choice of Neve/Niamh.

By SP (not verified)
January 30, 2010 9:13 PM

Friends of ours used Gaelic names for each of their daughters as a way to limit the supply of names to choose from. They wanted names that weren't super-popular but were easy for most people to understand. Their first daughter was named Isla and their second was named Brielle.

I really like Brielle - it's pretty and really easy to pronounce/remember. Some may think it is short for Gabrielle but it is also an Irish name meaning 'hill' (variant of Brina and Breanna).

I love the name Tadgh - my daughter was at kindergarten with one. His sister was called Maggie for what it's worth!

January 30, 2010 9:39 PM

I think I have only once seen Maud mentioned on this blog even in passing--and I've been a BNW addict for three or four years now! I have known one Maud in my life--she's in her early 40s. Given that BNW posters tend to be ahead of the trends, my guess is that Maud is not poised for popularity. Go for it!

My family would have fallen asleep after reading the first ten names on a 75-name list! But please post it here! That sounds like a dream come true to me. :), We live for those lists.

By Kanadiana (not verified)
January 30, 2010 10:26 PM

I am a people pleaser, and because of that I was a very strict keeper. I wanted to have one enjoyable decision without worrying about pleasing others. I didn't want to be swayed too much by others tastes.

I know that in naming choices I will never please my parents, not a hope, not a chance... so I don't even want to open up the conversation. Sure we had discussions with one of my brothers and his wife- but I enjoyed the conversation without giving anything away. I did open up a little to one of my dearest friends, because she asked specifically, and I said that one of our top contenders was Elijah. She then told me that someone she knew named their child Elijah but used a soft 'j" sound and she really liked that but with a hard 'j" - well she didn't really like it. At that moment I sort of regretted sharing the name- and I determined to not tell anyone else because it was just that kind of personal preference feed back that I did not want. (I have no problem hearing about people's likes and dislikes, but I'm so swayed by others that I just wanted to avoid it!)
So, we ended up choosing "Elijah" with a hard "J" sound- and I like it just fine, but that feedback did put a damper on it for awhile there.
And I also did figure if we announced it after the baby was born that my family and friends would just need to choose to like it if they didn't. I know that some of them probably think it's an antique Old Testament name but I don't care and waiting until the naming had already been decided spared me having to justify the use of the name or even having HEAR people's opinions, because no one has told me what they think except one Aunt. And I'm good with that.

Keeper.....happily so because it just has to be that way.

ps I did share my ideas on here and got feedback which was fun and non threatening!! (so I guess in some ways that is doing it a little bit of both ways)

January 30, 2010 10:51 PM

I'm a keeper - but I will float names that I'm considering past people who ask, just to get a feel for likely reactions.

We are currently looking for the name for Number Three, gender unknown, sibling to Ame1ia Ann and Stef@n W1lliam. Top girl picks are Linne@ Marie and Soph1a Marie.

Boy names are giving us fits. I teach school, so perfectly reasonable names like Erik and Timothy feel tremendously over used. (I have 3 Eriks, just this semester!) Right now, Philip D@vid and W1nston Scott are at the top of the list.

However, when I've floated W1nston past my unofficial panel, I've gotten a lot of strange looks. What does this group say? Can a little blond-haired boy be called W1nston? Any other suggestions for us?

By Mirnada (not verified)
January 30, 2010 10:56 PM

I used to engage anyone who would stand still long enough in name talk, especially since my husband has limited patience for the topic and I'm name obsessed. Now that we're really TTC I find I want to keep it to myself, and wish I hadn't been so open in the past. It turns out that I don't really want to know people's opinions (other than those on this site) about the names we love. It really helps that I have this community as a sounding board.

The thing about picking a name that's not uber popular is that it's just not going to be universally liked. Hardly anyone's going to seriously dislike Emma, Ava, Jacob, or Owen, but there are DEFINITELY people out there who won't like Simon and Ursula (and yes, my dh and I are kind of stubbornly fond of Ursula as of now, despite it's relative lack of popularity). Who knows, though, how I'll feel once I'm finally pregnant...

By Rjoy (not verified)
January 30, 2010 11:00 PM

I posted this at the end of the last thread after there was another post. I am not sure if you saw here it is again.

@Becky- I really like the suggestions you have been given, but there is one that has been left out. What about Tzeitel? It is the Yiddish diminutive of Sarah?

I have thought of it for my self. I am a huge Fiddler on the Roof fan. =)

By Amy3
January 30, 2010 11:22 PM

@Kerry, I second the request to see your list. I'd love that!

@julie, I love Linnea so that would be my choice for a girl's name. And I happen to think Winston is a great name; I'd choose it in an instant.

By Melanie Jewkes (not verified)
January 30, 2010 11:33 PM

We were definitely keepers, but we decided to do a combined approach, just as you mentioned. We talked about a few names we liked, while never letting others know which we had basically decided. We had some pretty head-strong that's-a-terrible-name opinions, too, on the one we liked, but we knew it was our decision and we went with it anyway. It was still a few hours after his birth before we told the world, though. The winner? Winston Jack (Winston because we liked it, Jack after my grandfather).

I think we will always use this approach. I personally get annoyed with the fetus-has-a-name approach.

January 30, 2010 11:52 PM

Lilliputian, I like Maud a lot. Like you said it's got that clunky feel to it (a lot like Astrid). I don't see it flying up the charts either, so it also has that going for it. Out of curiousity, where are you seeing Mabel on the rise? I live in the U.S., and Mabel is a name my husband and I are considering for the future, but we like our kids to have uncommon names, and I am a little afraid Mabel will become popular in the future.

January 31, 2010 12:25 AM

daisy_kay: I think Mabel will be more of a riser with the -el ending like Isabel and such but Maud does not have any popular sounds of the time right now. I think you are probably safe with either though.

kerry:I sure would love to see your list too but 75 names seems like a lot!

Rjoy:I don't mean to sound negative or rude but Tzeitel? #1 I am not sure how to pronounce it and #2 reminds me of Tze-tze fly.

mirnada-I rather like Simon over Owen.

julie-I like both of your combos. They sound very "British Distinguished". You therefore might like others like Alistair; Simon; Henry (if not too popular in your area); Mac_something. I prefer Linnea over Sophia. And btw did you realize that if you go with Winston that both boys initials will be reverse of each other?

By Rjoy (not verified)
January 31, 2010 12:32 AM

@zoerhenne- I see that you have not seen Fiddler on the Roof. You must see it. If only for the wonderful array of names it has! :)

Tzeitel is pronounced (let's see if I can do this accurately) & (where is Miriam when you need her? ) :) Tz-eye-tel Two syllables, accent is the Tz-eye but not has a soft sing-song feel to it. One of those names you really have to hear to get it "just" right.

I believe it is beautiful, but yes unique. It would require the right circle of people to use it with out it being a stumbling block.

It also helps that the women who play this role is absolutely beautiful in the natural sort of way and a great actress.

By Rjoy (not verified)
January 31, 2010 12:34 AM

My daughter has inherited my NE tendencies. She like to make up her own names. The funny thing is that she makes them up AS they are coming out of her mouth. Most of them are just....umm.....let's just say, not good. But, just now she named a doll and it was not that bad.

Annarina-friend to other doll Kala ( with a long a sound) =)

By Lilliputian (not verified)
January 31, 2010 1:53 AM

There is a reason I love this site. You all have an uncanny ability to zero in on the nuances of naming like no one else I have met IRL! I love that several commenters have noted the 5-letter theme of our names and the concept of 2 T-names + 2 N-names as an option. Plus, the alternative name suggestions have been exactly what we've been discussing. You'll note that none of our three boys' names are in the top 1000, yet lovely options like Maeve (we are acquainted with several here in N. Cal.) are #638 and trending up from zip before 2002. Or Neve, which is not on the chart but sure sounds a lot like Neva or uber-hot Nevaeh (#34). Even Olive (what Laura calls "an emblem of anti-style") is #813 and was nowhere to be found before 2006.

I know it's a tall order, but we're looking for a name that's not in the top 1000 but won't get the "where did you come up with THAT?" response.

(As for pronunciation, my two older boys' names, T@dhg and Ni@ll, sound like "Tyg" and "Nile", and we were prepared for the constant spelling required. However, even my youngest, Tu!!y, gets called "Telly" more often than not, and we thought that one was a no-brainer.)

More on the topic at hand, though: I'm a big fan of the in-utero nickname/proxy name as a way of connecting to the baby as a real person, as some other commenters have done. It's also a great diversion when people call you out on the claim that you haven't chosen any name yet.

January 31, 2010 2:19 AM

Rjoy, you did fine with the pronunciation of Tzeitel. Obviously the sound indicated by tz does not exist as an initial sound in English (it does in German though, of course), but if an English speaker can say tze-tze or can transfer the -ts in 'cats' from the end of a word to the beginning, then we're good to go.

Predictions of the demise of Yiddish have turned out to be premature. The rapidly growing Ashkenazic Ultra-Orthodox population in various parts of New York and New Jersey, Baltimore, Montreal, Antwerp, London, and Israel speaks Yiddish as the everyday language. Ultra-Orthodox families average 6-8 children, with 10-12 or more not unusual. So this rapidly burgeoning population is keeping Yiddish alive.

If you go to the NYC non-Hispanic white female names (, you will see Yiddish names like Faigy, Malky, Raizy, Shaindy, Gitty, Rivky, Hindy, Goldy, Pessy, Yitty, Baila, Blima, Mirel, Raizel, Zissy, Fraidy, Liba, Gittel, Shaina and so forth. Alas, Tzeitel didn't make the list. There are Hebrew names listed as well (Chaya, Chana, Rivka, Malka, Devorah, Chava, Shira, Dina, Noa, Talia, Nachama, Rochel, Bracha, Yocheved, Shoshanna, Yehudis, Yael, Ahuva, Avital, Shifra. Batsheva, Elisheva, Avigail, Tzipporah, Aviva, Hadassah. Tova, Tehilla, Zehava, and so forth).

Jewish males must be named from a "kosher' list of about 150 names, mostly Hebrew, but a few Aramaic, or from other languages (e.g., Mordechai, Alexander), the list of NYC non-Hispanic white male names contains a number of Hebrew or Aramaic names, rather than Yiddish, such as Moshe, Chaim, Menachem, Yehuda, Shimon, Yosef, Mordechai, Yisroel, Shmuel, Shlomo, Yitzchok, Tzvi, Yaakov, Meir, Avraham, Zev, Eliyahu, Yechiel, Ariel, Eliezar, Yehoshua, Dovid, Naftali. Ari, Aryeh, Elimelech, Noam, Akiva, Pinchas, Dov, Efraim, Eitan, Shaya, Simcha, Baruch, Binyamin, Ilan, Aharon, Yoel, Gavriel, Nachman, Benzion, Shimshon, Shraga. There are just a handful of male Yiddish names: Mendel, Hershel/Hersh/Hershy, Mayer, Cheskel, Zalman.

I don't know if it's still done, but back in the day in the old country, children's names were negotiated in the marriage contract--which children should be named from which side of the family. Since Ashkenazic children are named for departed family members, I doubt if the issue of whether or not to tell the name beforehand was of much concern. Everyone knew who had passed on, and therefore what the choices were. Today with many families having 10-12 children with low infant mortality and with generally long lifespans, the names of departed relatives may be exhausted before the family is complete. It is now customary to name children after rebbes and other sages when all the family names have been used.

By knp
January 31, 2010 2:35 AM

Lilliputian: We love a challenge!!
I still go for Neve (Which I think is Neev when traditional)-- I don't think that it is too similar to Nevaeh (Nehv-ay-uh). Plus, if Neve Campbell (who says it Nehv) didn't get it to get on the charts, I don't think it is going to go anywhere.
But, what about:
Saoirse (one of my faves from PPP's list, but doesn't fit the "where did you come up with THAT?" part, so are the ones without a *)
Eaven (as an anglicized Aoibheann).

I didn't check all of these for popularity though.

January 31, 2010 2:36 AM

@Lilliputian - I'm not a huge fan of Maud, but I can't see it becoming anywhere near popular anytime soon. So I think you are safe if you go with that. I also don't think Olive is at all popular/trendy, if you want to look at it again. Hmmm I like the Maeve or Neve suggestions but I'll think some more.

@ Julie - I also much prefer Linnea over Sophia. I think both Philip and Winston go well with your other names. Maybe a preference to Philip as it has a different ending sound to Stefan.

@ daisy_kay - I don't think Mabel is going to get that popular, so I wouldn't worry. Most peoples biggest association with the name is the Mad About You baby, and that was a long time ago now! I does have the trendy ending sound but I'm not sure that is enough to make it super popular. I've never heard of a real life Mabel if that makes you feel any better!

@Mirnada - You are right about most people not liking your names if you pick more unusual ones! That is part of the reason I don't share with people in real life. They all have Bens, Joshuas, Emmas etc so aren't really looking at the same things I am.

By Sarah S (not verified)
January 31, 2010 2:38 AM

Our reasons for "keeping" with both our children were different than the one Laura mentioned. We didn't worry people wouldn't like the names.

#1, I thought it was too odd calling an unborn baby by its name and knew even if we didn't, others might, and

#2,(here comes my silly and snobbish "name nerd" side) I felt we chose names that *could* catch on and wanted a head start on keeping them as unusual as they are. The sooner you tell people, the sooner they can spread them around and others can say, "ooh, I like that, I think I'll name *my* baby that too!" Like I said, I'm a snobbish name nerd.

By Kerry (not verified)
January 31, 2010 3:41 AM

Mirnada- I have a secret love of Ursula as well. Because I know that many people still associate it with the Little Mermaid, I have been trying to convince myself that I could like Ursa just as much.

Julie- I like Linnea more than Sophia, but both are beautiful names. Winston sounds very southern to my ear and also has an unfortunate association with cigarettes. I think, however, if I met a little Winston I could very easily get over that.

Lilliputian- I was going to suggest Nuala (Noo-la), but knp beat me to it. It is a nickname for Fionnuala (Fin-noo-la) but I think it stands on its own perfectly well.

By Kerry (not verified)
January 31, 2010 3:45 AM

As for my lists, you guys asked for it. . .Elizabeth, I think most of my family/friends would get tired after the first 10 names too, but that is kind of the point. I am happy to have help, but I only want help if that person is actually willing to help with the full list.

Again, my partner and I are a few years away from having kids and she refuses to discuss until we are actually expecting. I tend toward the holy grail of uncommon (in that there won't be 3 in my kid's class) but recognizable. Growing up I liked that my name (Kerry for a girl) was familiar but not common. We live in a city in the Northwest, so all the throwback granny/hipster names have come to stay.

I welcome any and all comments and do not get offended easily. At this moment, Eleanor and Tobias are my favorites.

Abigail, Adelaide, Adele, Alice, Ann, Audrey, Beatrice, Bronwyn, Catherine, Cecily, Charlotte, Claire, Éile, Eleanor, Elise, Ellen, Ellery, Erin, Faye, Fionnula, Frances, Freya, Grania/Grainne, Harriet, Hazel, Helen, Ilah/Isla, Ione, Isolde, Ivy, Jane, Julia, Juliette, Kate, Lenore, Linnea, Liv, Louise/Louisa, Lydia, Maeve/Méabh, Margaret, Margot, Martha, Matilda, Maude, Meredith, Millicent, Miranda, Miriam, Moira, Nancy, Nathalie, Nora, Olivia/Olive, Oona/Una, Paloma, Penelope, Pascale, Petra, Philippa, Phoebe, Pilar, Ramona, Romilly, Sadie, Salomé, Solveig, Thalia, Theodora, Thora, Tovah/Tovia, Ursa, Ursula, Willa, Zara, Ziva

Adrian, Alexander, Atticus, August, Avi, Basil, Beckett, Benjamin, Bennett, Calder, Cole, Cullen, Desmond, Dexter, Edmund, Edward, Elias, Elliot, Ellis, Ethan, Evan, Ewan, Ezekiel, Ezra, Felix, Fergus, Finnegan, Flynn, Gabriel, Galen, Graeme, Gregory, Griffin, Henry, Innes, Ira, Ivan, Jack, Jude, Julian, Levi, Liam, Leo, Lucien, Maximillian, Miles, Milo, Moses, Nathaniel, Nico, Nigel, Niles, Noam, Oliver, Owen, Pascal, Paulo, Phineas, Piers, Rafael, Rhys, Rowan, Samuel, Sebastian, Seth, Solomon, Soren, Thaddeus, Thatcher, Theodore, Tobias, Xavier, Zeke

January 31, 2010 4:42 AM

julie: i think winston could be hard to pull off. nymbler suggests: oliver, sebastian, miles, adrian, milo, julian. i love these names btw...