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May 30, 2017 03:50 PM
In Response to Wallace or Woodrow

...especially as Woodrow Wilson's racial legacy has been discussed a lot lately and he's become a rather controversial figure. (Racial controversy hasn't stopped tons of parents from naming their sons Jackson, though, so make of that what you will).

Jackson, though, reaches to all sorts of places in terms of history, racial or otherwise. Are we talking about Stonewall Jackon? Jessie Jackson? Michael Jackson? Andrew Jackson? Shoeless Joe Jackson? There's so many Jacksons, it'd be hard to know exactly who a kid was named for. 

Woodrow, though, really belongs to Wilson. The nickname Woody recalls maybe Woody Guthrie, Woody Allen, or Woody Woodpecker - not sure who else. If I heard "Woodrow", I'd think "Woodrow Wilson", and then I'd think of his legacy, both as an advocate for the League of Nations, and the public record of Wilson's overtly racist policies and political appointments.

February 26, 2017 08:11 AM

When I did genealogy, I found my grandmother as. Etta, Yetta, and Ida in varying documents. I had only known her as Edith in my lifetime. 

November 22, 2016 01:58 PM

Brexit? Has one person actually been named "Brexit", before or after it happened?

July 13, 2016 04:22 PM

More than 20 years ago, when we were looking at baby names, we had a list based on Seattle neighborhoods and surrounding towns. They included:

Girls, Seattle:

  • Genesee
  • Ravenna
  • Madrona
  • Magnolia
  • Leschi

Boys, Seattle:

  • Roanoke
  • Fremont
  • Ballard
  • Bryant
  • Roosevelt
  • Denny
  • Judkins

Surrounding cities, girls:

  • Tukwila

Surrounding cities, boys:

  • Renton
  • Renton
  • Edmonds
  • Kent
  • Auburn



March 19, 2015 09:57 AM

"The Big Bang Theory's" Leonard, Sheldon and Howard are classic examples.

Leonard, Sheldon, and Howard are also typical names given to Jews in a previous generation. The children of immigrants would be given American names, but consistent with Ashkenazi practice, the first letter/sound would be honoring a dead relative. Typical would have been: Leonard for Levi; Sheldon for Shlomo, the Yiddish form of Solomon - on the list of brainy names above!;  and Howard for Chaim. This is why these sound like nerdy and brainy names - it's not just their old-fashioned quality, but the association with the stereotype of brainy Jews.

March 12, 2015 11:15 AM

One thing to consider when contemplating a floral name - once you give a floral name to one kid, on the next kid, you can't use another one, unless you want a real matchy-matchy set.

Further, if you name one kid Violet (a delicate flower) and name the next one Heather (a tough plant that survives some pretty harsh conditions), you may be setting the two of them up for different sets of expectations in life. 

October 9, 2014 11:20 AM

I was blown away that Kaylee is still so popular for girls! I would have thought it was Kate or Katie, but maybe that was 20 years ago.

September 6, 2014 08:14 PM

My daughter has a Dominican friend who was born Mercedes, but she goes by Mercy so people don't think "German luxury car" when they meet her.


Joe Schmoe? I always thought shmoe was a euphemism for the vulgar word schmuck. I would have no hesitation saying Joe Blow (even though "blow" also has vulgar connotations in English), but I'd feel a slight twinge at Joe Schmoe. 

As for Yiddish-related generic names, at my job, where we worked with the elderly, my standard term for a generic client was Mrs. Schmierkase (Mrs. Creamcheese). I learned Schmierkase as a generic name from my parents, but I have no idea if this standard in Yiddish. To refer to her standard family caregiver - typically a daughter or daughter in law? Kathy Krantz-Cake. This is mainly because my grandmother always called me and my cousin Susan, "my little krantz cake". Kathy is such a typical name of our generation - women born in the 1950s and 1960s, taking care of their elderly parents - and it just makes a lovely alliteration with krantz cake, don't you think?

April 22, 2014 12:12 PM

A couple of ideas for you - hope these are not too obvious:

Murray Kenneth/Kenji (or Kento) Washington

Murray Ren Washington - Ren is such a popular name right now in Japan for boys - but maybe Ren isn't traditional enough for you as a boy's name in English. Rene is more common, and really, it's French.

Marei Naomi Washington

Marei Mae/Mai Washington

Marei Ria Washington - Ria (with characters Jasmine Love) is one of those "kirakira" names, and maybe you don't want to go that direction if you're looking for traditional. On the English side of things, Riya as a girl's name is just starting to crack the top 1000 in the US. Riya/Ria is in the family of Leah, Mia, Tia, etc. that have been around for a long time, so even if it isn't a classic like, say, "Margaret", it's still sounds like a real name.

April 8, 2014 06:50 PM
In Response to Thoughts on Charlotte?

Clearly, our family is a no-frills style family. My mother was Ruth, my aunt indeed, Charlotte. I named my daughters Rose and Emma (when it was still an old lady's name), and I'm a Claire.

I strongly considered Charlotte, as it is a family name. My aunt was a fearless adventurer. For us, it might have been too much expectations for a daughter, to follow in our Charlotte's footsteps. Not every girl wants to grow up to hitchhike across the Sahara to Timbuktu. You don't have this baggage. It's a classic, not over-used (yet) -- I'd go for it.

October 9, 2013 02:45 PM

Naomi is both traditionally Jewish and Japanese at the same time.

Bo, 成 is both Chinese and Southern US.

Deven is Indian, but is close enough to all those -en names for boys (and very close to Devin), so works for mainstream US

Ren is both Japanese and Welsh (means "Ruler")

Laila is both Nordic ("holy") and used all over the Middle East ("dark haired beauty")


June 19, 2013 08:36 PM

I personally love the name Moses, and we considered it before we knew we were going to have a girl. It would have been a pretty brave choice. With my husband's last name of Levine, a name like Moses Levine sounds like the kid would be born with a long beard and side curls. I think you can get away with Moses much more with a contrasting last name, like Campbell or Kawasaki.

May 21, 2013 01:24 PM

Per Elizabeth T's post above, there are also names that may not be dated (or downright retro) for a particular cultural group. Tiffany sounds a little dated to my ears, but the syllables of Tee - Fan - Ee work well for Chinese speakers. Also Jennifer (Jen - Lei - Fa) is another in this group.

Then, there's names like Edna that sound like someone's great grandmother to my ears, but still sound fresh to an immigrant from Honduras.

February 12, 2013 12:17 PM

A friend of my daughters is an Israeli named Daphna. This is an alternative to Daphne. Still has the "Daffy" connotation, but the -a ending softens it up a little.

October 23, 2012 11:36 AM

@ arbolton

I am thinking that, if you are not fond of Godson, that you should consider a similar -son name. How about Dawson, Jackson, Bryson, Grayson, Judson, or Coleson?

October 9, 2012 12:32 PM

Taking the cowboys'/saints' names challenge:

Zack or Zach / various saints - Zackary, Zacharias, Zacchaeus

Zeb / Zebinus

Ike / Isaac

Silas / Silas

Hank / Henry

Cy / Cyrus, Cyprian

Mo or Mose / Moses

Cash / Cassius, Cassian

Jem / Jeremy, Jerome

Lou / Louis

Sly / Sylvester

Amos / Amos

Jake / Jacob

Clem / Clement

Abe / Abraham, Abel, actually a lot of saints begin with Ab-

Bryce / Brice

Linus / Linus

Zeke / Ezekiel

Ace / Asaph

Bo / Boadin, Benno


OK, OK, back to work!


September 19, 2012 11:13 AM
In Response to Fear of Short Names?

"I know that personally, I'm going to stay clear of one-syllable and very short first names because with a four letter, one-syllable last name, it simply sounds too clipped and looks too short. I like a name to have *some* flow. "

We have the problem of too much flow. We gave our kids four names: Given first name, given middle name, spouse last name, spouse last name. My last name is three syllables and my husband's two. So that's quite a mouthful all on its own. Then, the kids have both a Hebrew and a Yiddish name on top of that, not on their birth certificate, but they're still their additional names. So my eldest is Rose Sarah Shoshana Bluma [two-syllable] [three syllable]. You can see why we went with the "clipped" Rose, rather than, say, Tatiana.



July 3, 2012 02:03 PM

Funny how many think that Louise ia a no-go because of the "wheeze" sound.

I used to think that sort of thing about the name Violet, which either sounded like Violent or Violate to me. Plus, the expression, "Shrinking Violet" isn't positive, either. But look where Violet is today - 128th most popular, or something?

Heck, I used to think that Madelyn, or anything related, would never return to popularity because it had the word "Mad" in it. Yes, go ahead and laugh at me now.

So, is the wheeze of Louise this enormous insuperable barrier to popularity? I don't think so.

May 29, 2012 11:43 AM


"Yuppie"? I think all those who used to be termed "yuppies" are long past their child-bearing years. Their kids are now in their teens and twenties.