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?


By Amy3
February 1, 2010 8:37 PM

@Dittalitta, I'll add another vote for Patrick or Edward with George in the middle. Good luck with your new little one!

@Betsy 2, I absolutely understand suddenly feeling like no name is *the* name, even though you may have loved many in the past. I suffered this problem until very near the end of my pregnancy when we finally found names we liked and could agree on.

Of the names you listed, I think Annabel may be your best bet. Interestingly, I have a friend Penelope (a name I also like) who has a daughter Anabelle. :)

By PunkPrincessPhd (NLI) (not verified)
February 1, 2010 8:48 PM


Regarding Sharalyn's suggestions above (some great ones working within the guidelines!) of Napla: it may help to know that this, and Nabla, are actually Irish forms of Annabella - i.e. Anne-Naw-bla. Hence "Nawpla" or "Nawbla" I personally prefer the "b" version. Sometimes the background can help form an association with an unfamiliar name.

Anything hitting the naming "sweet spot" for you?

February 1, 2010 9:01 PM

Lilliputian: I like the suggestion of Nerys for you.

Betsy2: I can't say that I've had a similar experience with names. However, sometimes when I am typing/writing a word, I KNOW it is spelled right yet it just doesn't LOOK correct. So I can sense your frustration and the feeling that it is futile right now. Maybe you just need to put things on hold for a bit. If you do want more ideas though ;) my dd is Natalie so other names I was considering:

February 1, 2010 9:27 PM

Tirzah, I just gotta know--is your friend's son Xander the product of her Vegas marriage? Are they still together? Thanks!!! :),

By Betsy 2 (not verified)
February 1, 2010 9:34 PM

Thanks so much guys. hyz- funny you were rooting for Roslind with your's, I was bargaining for Rosaline with mine! But I thought maybe I could get him on board more with Rosalie since he liked Natalie so much. Anyway, I appreciate your support and advice. Hopefully I'll feel better about this naming thing soon.

By Betsy 2 (not verified)
February 1, 2010 9:58 PM

*oops RosAlind

By Qwen (nli) (not verified)
February 1, 2010 10:04 PM

Ack, Finally caught up!

@Anne with an E – I think you SHOULD tell people the initials and let them start guessing. I have to tell you that if I was related to you it would DRIVE ME CRAZY. But in a good way. :). I can picture me calling often to run my guesses by you though, so if you have any NEs in your family you might want to be wary.

@Catherinetoo – I just wanted to let you know that my thoughts are with you as you wait to make it to that “safe” point at the end of the first trimester. I understand that wait and how nerve wracking it can be. I hope everything turns out fabulously this time.

@Lilliputian – Congrats on your miracle baby! I LOVE the name Maud. I was really hoping to use it but my husband vetoed it. I haven’t heard anyone IRL with it yet. I also checked my birthing center’s online announcement board and my baby center board for you. None there either! If you’re hoping to keep the five letter theme perhaps adding the E to Maude makes your brood complete?

@Julie – I like Winston. It’s so old-fashion chic and adorable! I think it fits with Stefan and Amelia very nicely too.

@Kerry – Thanks for sharing your list. I like lots of the ones you mentioned but my favorites are: Bronwyn, Isolde, Ivy, Penelope, Romona and Ursula for girls, Atticus, August, Edmund, Elliot, Ira, Jude, Sebastian and Tobias for boys. As for cross-cultural naming, I’ve noticed a HUGE trend of it in my area (which is Southern Oregon, btw). And I love it. My theory on it is that the PNW is still such a huge melting pot that we can get away with more than other places. My Taiwanese immigrant friends have named their children Steffan, Meilin, Jose and Oliver and no one blinks, similarly no one seems to care that my white-bread friends have children named Aria, Moses, Freya and Esperenza.

@Mirnanda – I still love Ursula. Stay strong!

By Qwen (nli) (not verified)
February 1, 2010 10:10 PM

Speaking of broadcasters I wanted to share the names that have cropped up in my birth board on Babycenter:

Margo Helena OR Samuel/Owen/Nolan Arthur
Sarah Eileen
Marcail Echo
Jesse James OR Jesse Joseph
Kennedy Rose
Afton Sherie
Olivia Anne
Dakota Blake (b)
James Walker OR James Cooper
Violet Jayne
Liam Charles
Caden Samuel
Liam Porter
Olivia Faith
Emma Grace
Miles David
Jayden Thomas OR Jaylen Thomas
Aowyn Joy
Makenzie Summer
Myles Alexander
Sebastian & Serenity (twins)
Levi David

February 1, 2010 10:19 PM

@Dittalitta--Congrats on the new addition! I have a soft spot for children with special needs, and especially children with Down syndrome. I hope to adopt a baby with special needs as well:) I am a speech-language pathologist, and if you are concerned with pronunciation, I would avoid /l/ and /r/ unless a nickname will be used that doesn't include them (e.g. 'Teddy' for 'Theodore' as suggested). There are other difficult sounds of course, but those are the typically the most distorted when in error. I like Daniel from the suggestions of others. If pronounced in error, it's most likely to be 'dan-oh' or something similar, but the nn 'Danny' is typically easy to pronounce. That being said, I wouldn't worry too much about pronunciation if you find a name you love. Most therapists will work hard to get a child to be able to say his/her name intelligibly (if not perfect). And he can always have a name sign or other ways of communicating his name should speech be difficult. Good luck with your decision!

By Moreover (not verified)
February 1, 2010 10:28 PM

Well, I'd be a keeper if only due to cultural and religious traditions. Babies aren't officially named until after birth, often not until the ceremony. We'll probably talk about some finalists, but we won't share what we've decided on until after the birth. One of the other reasons is that we're considering family names, and worry we might end up hurting someone's feelings if we talk of naming a baby after one person, then change our minds at the last minute.

And speaking of that, I know of one case in which broadcasting backfired. The mother-to-be had told everyone she was having a girl and naming her Aubrey from the second trimester on. Before and right after the birth, they received a lot of gifts that bore that name and planned initials, engraved, embroidered or painted on. When the baby was born, the parents decided she was too sweet to be an Aubrey, and changed over to Grace - and then had a lot of toys, clothes, accessories, etc. that now had the wrong name.

I do think it's a good idea to seek some input, at least run some favorites by friends, relatives and name nerds online. They can point out that the initials spell something awful, that there's a family or cultural reason not to use the name, demonstrate that the chosen spelling makes the name unnecessarily difficult (how would you say Ceiylee?), that most Delaneys are girls, that Jaden is not the name to use for a boy or girl if you're trying for something uncommon, or in the case of my cousin, that your intended first name, combined with the family name, produces a name almost identical to an infamous serial killer (the equivalent of Charles Manston.)

February 1, 2010 11:31 PM

Thanks for the input regarding Winston. Right now it will stay on the list. We have always gone into the delivery room with short lists, and the baby has always had a name within the first 24 hours! (The "Did I pick the wrong name?" nightmare comes a day or two later - gotta love those post-partum hormones!)

Of the other names suggested, we've kicked around Alistair and Sebastian, and Julian would be a contender, if it weren't so similar to my name. Names that end in S are out, due to surname issues.

By Beth the original (not verified)
February 2, 2010 12:54 AM

Dittalitta, I guess I am an outlier for loving Samuel George, but I do. Is there a nickname cuter than Sammy?

If there is, it's Annie, Betsy 2 (congrats to you!). Now that that musical has faded into distant memory, it's one of my favorite nicknames. Annabel has always sounded prettier to me than Isabel, too.

Qwen(li), I found Sarah Eileen such a breath of fresh air on that list of baby names!

February 2, 2010 12:57 AM

beth the original, dittalitta,
no, i will cast a vote for samuel george as well. samuel is a great name and sam/sammy is adorable.

February 2, 2010 2:46 AM

Kerry: About cultural appropriation, I think we should ask ourselves why names from different cultures appeal to us. If it's something along the lines of "it sounds so exotic," that gives me the sense that we're using the name based on our own view (based on our culture) of what that culture is, which may have nothing to do with the culture itself. And then this makes the name and the related culture (e.g. Jewish, Japanese, etc.) seem more exotic, which again means it is appreciated for what we think it is and not what it actually is--and that can end up affecting all people of that background. Yeah one name doesn't do it, but it's part of that problem. And I think "it's so beautiful" is very close to "it's so exotic."

By sarah smile (not verified)
February 2, 2010 3:36 AM

Re: names from other cultures, I think it depends in part on how far removed they are from current naming patterns. It's really quite common for names to migrate across cultures - no one would think twice about an American girl named Anya, Claire, or Isabella, yet at one point they too were 'borrowed'. Even within the last 20 years or so I can think of several names that have migrated from 'strong cultural association' to 'cultural background but common across those boundaries'- names like Nadia, Ariel, Gianna. So if you like names from other cultures but don't want people to make incorrect assumptions, I think you would be pretty safe choosing names that haven't yet crossed over but that sound as though they might. So Soren and Freya would be easier than Solveig, and Tova easier than Tzeitel. That might be a compromise to consider, if you are struggling with this question.

By Lilliputian (not verified)
February 2, 2010 3:48 AM

So, my apologies for the long radio silence. I'm not sure why, but my
last post was queued for moderator approval and has yet to appear.

In brief, let me just say how amazingly responsive you all have been.
It's so great to get a range of opinions and also some fresh ideas to
throw into the mix.

One thing the responses above have clarified for me and DH is that
what we want is a name which fits with our whole family, but not to
the degree that it makes the family into a matched set. I think we're
more aware of this for our fourth (did I just write fourth?!?) child
than we were for previous ones. Somehow it doesn't seem right for the main criteria of her name to be that it makes the pattern, if that
makes any sense.

So my question for you brilliant posters, assuming you are not already throwing your hands up, is this:

Assuming you were NOT choosing an Irish name, NOT a name starting with N (or T), but you were trying to make the name fit all the same....
what would you choose then?

By Kerry (not verified)
February 2, 2010 4:41 AM

Dittalitta- I like Edward George (with either Teddy or Eddie as a nickname) the best. I also like Samuel, Thomas, Liam, and Timothy. I like the name Patrick (not so much the nickname Pat) but I think that anything with an “r” could present problems for a kid with DS.

EVie- I think you hit it head on for me. I think I may be less concerned with people being offended than I am with people being disappointed that the name I chose is different and not culturally significant for me. I think I also fear (coming from a place where “trendy” is Freya, Vera, Nigel [I know of at least one or more of these in my city] as opposed to Mackenzie, Nevaeh, Aayden) that I will come off as “trying too hard.”

ElizabethN- I love your doubly subtle theme (1. because they are stars that many people haven’t heard of and 2. as a middle name theme.) In my view, themes are best done subtly and you have done a bang up job!

Betsy 2- I think I will have a similar problem once I am actually expecting. I have a huge list (not vetted by my partner, of course) but I fear that once I actually have a human being to name, none of them will sound just right. I have no advice for you unfortunately, but I definitely sympathize!

Sharalyn- *sigh* As much as I try to ignore that Eleanor is taking off here, I have seen it as well.

Qwen- Thanks for the vote of confidence as to multicultural naming in OR. Sometimes I feel like the “pioneer spirit” of this area allows us to do things that are more on the fringe (naming thankfully included!) Of your Babycenter names, I am pleasantly surprised by Margo, Nolan, Afton, and Marcail. (Is Marcail one from this board? That combo sounds oddly familiar.)

RobynT- Your comment about names from other cultures is quite spot on. I hadn’t thought about it like that before.

Lilliputian- Oh goody! More brainstorming to do. I will have to get back later with my thoughts on your new criteria. . .

By Kerry (not verified)
February 2, 2010 4:52 AM

-As for my long list, I have gone back and *deleted* every name that was chosen as any of your favorites. So here is the revised, not as popular on Baby Name Wizard, list. Anyone willing to defend these names?

Alexandra, Alice, Ann, Éile, Elise, Ellen, Faye, Fionnula, Frances, Grania/Grainne, Ione, Jane, Julia, Kate, Lenore, Liv, Maeve/Méabh, Margot, Martha, Millicent, Miriam, Moira, Nancy, Nathalie, Olivia/Olive, Oona/Una, Pascale, Philippa, Pilar, Romilly, Salomé, Theodora, Thora, Tovah/Tovia, Ursa, Willa, Zara, Ziva

Adrian, Avi, Basil, Cullen, Desmond, Edward, Elias, Ellis, Ethan, Evan, Ezekiel, Ezra, Felix, Fergus, Finnegan, Flynn, Galen, Graeme, Innes, Jack, Levi, Liam, Leo, Lucien, Nigel, Niles, Owen, Pascal, Rhys, Rowan, Samuel, Seth, Thatcher, Xavier, Zeke

-Or conversely, anyone wanting to tell me why I should absolutely not name a child something on this list or the previous list? Bad pop culture associations, ugly sounds, horrible nicknames? I want to hear it all.

-Possible considerations to take in mind (as I know you all love a challenge!):
1) last name is one syllable, starts with "L" and is similar to "Lore"
2) Cullen, Nancy, Gregory, and Edward are close family names (parents and grandparents)
3) First/middle name combos are not really in play as the middle names will be strictly family names (with the exception that the family names above could be used as middle names.)

By Dittalitta (not verified)
February 2, 2010 6:45 AM

I LOVE Alice, and my DD was going to be either Matilda or Alice (we went with Matilda after she was born, because we prefered that for a dark haired girl!) Alice Loven I think sounds wonderful, and I love the alliteration.
I also really like Kate, Frances, Julia and Philippa (would you call her Pippa, or keep it whole?) And I like martha too, but slightly less than the rest.

From the boys list I really like Desmond, Finnegan and Seth, and I think all of these go with your last name.

You said non-N and non-Irish names, do you still want to keep the 5 letters though?

If not, I do really like Maud and Bridget.

To me, if you overlook the Irish style, what stands out about your names is that they have relatively un-fussy sounds (despite the confusing gaelic spelling!) You could try Catholic Saints name to keep in "style" with your current names without making it too obvious.

Mona (not on the top 1000)
Elsa (in the top 1000 but not very high)
Flora (not in the top 1000)
Gwen (not in top 1000)
There is a St Lelia (which is not in the top 1000 but *sounds* popular... not sure if that would bnother you?)


Current runners for our boy:

Edward George (nn Teddy)
Nicholas George
Samuel George (not too crazy about it personally, but DH likes it and it has a strong significance for this baby...)
Bernard George (nn Bernie)

Will have to ask DH about Patric and Eric runs into our last name... Ericgood so not crazy about it (although I do like the name.)

Grrr, when we named our first son Philip I LOVED the name so much, I just really want to be in love with this one's name too...

By Amy3
February 2, 2010 7:40 AM

@Lilliputian, I still love Maud for you. I think it fits in nicely with your boys' names without being too theme-y.

@Kerry, I'll have to spend some time thinking about your revised list and post later.

By PunkPrincessPhd (NLI) (not verified)
February 2, 2010 9:18 AM


I'll stand up for Grainne and Eile: both were on my long list for Sorcha, and will be if a little sister should come along. Also a fan of Fionnuala, Romilly, Graeme, Cullen (as a family name rather than expression of Twi-hard-ness). Of the rest, I wouldn't object to any, though they don't hit my personal "love it" style.

By Amy3
February 2, 2010 9:29 AM

How is Eile pronounced?

February 2, 2010 10:03 AM

Lilliputian: Hmm, keeping to fitting in the set but not really purposely (by being Irish or being an N name) is that right? Ideas:
Ugg, most of them have an Irish flair. I guess an Irish/Celtic name fits "best". But I also feel like a Scandinavian name like Astrid or Bridget would fit well too.

February 2, 2010 10:22 AM

Dittalitta: Of your remaining choices, I like Nicholas George the best. I think Nick is a great nn and perfectly non-challenging to say. I do like Samuel but I sense it's just not 100% for some reason. Edward seems too Kennedy for me and Bernie is just a name I dislike for many reasons.

Kerry: By stand up, I'm guessing that the name will then be "crossed off" as you are not looking for anything anyone else LOVES and is bound to responsively get popular-correct?
If so, these are my comments--
Alice is becoming very popular on naming boards as a throw-back name.
Alexandra is on my "I like it but" list. It's pretty but long. I think it's a great name that right now is not too popular. However, with Alexis and others being a big thing is it far behind? Nathalie (although not that sp is popular too).
I would also knock off Elise, Julia, Olivia/Olive and maybe Philippa.
For boys, Cullen and Edward for the previously noted Twilight-head revolution. However, if they are family names that gives them a reason to stay. Jack, Levi, and Liam are popular in central PA where I am. Leo is board-popular. Rowan is too bi-gender. Rhys is up and coming.
Zeke reminds me of a farmer from Charlotte's Web.
Also, with a LN beginning with L I would not do a FN with L to avoid a singsong lilt.

February 2, 2010 11:07 AM

I'm behind, but to catch up quickly! Laura, love the newsletter although mine came through all in caps which made it hard to read, is that how it was for everyone?

Miriam, welcome back! I've so missed your input!

dittalitta- Love Teddy, I think that would be adorable (makes me think of Little Women even though he was Theodore not Edward). You're in the UK right? Bernie won't be as popular with American ne's so don't let that sway you if you love it over there!

Lilliputian- You had originally also mentioned Ailsa, Pippa, Maura or Maren. I like Ailsa a lot with your boys names altho you may still have to spell it for people. Pippa and Maren may be a little popular for you, but I do like them, especially Maren. Maura has a similar feeling to Maud for me but a bit less clunky.

Kerry- I'm going back to your full list bc that's what I'd copied down but it still has some that you had on your second list, on my super long list I also have:
Abigail, Adelaide, Adele, Alice, Audrey, Beatrice, Bronwyn, Catherine, Cecily, Charlotte, Claire, Frances, Helena (not Helen, but thought I'd put it), Isla, Ione, Isolde, Jane, Julia, Juliette, Kate, Lydia, Margaret, Margot, Miriam, Natalie (I'd use this spelling), Nora, Olivia, Petra, Sadie, Theodora, Willa

Beckett, Benjamin, Bennett, Calder, Cole, Cullen, Dexter, Edward, Ewan, Felix, Flynn, Galen, Graeme, Gregory, Henry, Jack, Liam, Miles, Milo, Nathaniel, Nico, Oliver, Owen, Rhys, Rowan, Sebastian, Seth, Solomon, Soren, Theodore, Tobias, Xavier

February 2, 2010 11:46 AM

My mom kept my name a secret until I was born, so I will probably do the same. I actually kind of yearn for the bygone days of women not talking about their pregnancies and staying home after about the fifth month - not because I want to sequester myself indoors, but because it also meant that other people didn't talk about the pregnancy and ask prying questions. A lot of folks think they have a right to know as many details as possible about a person's pregnancy and I just don't think that's appropriate. A name is a special and sacred thing, and I would never want to hear any criticism of it from my loved ones without them having a chance to meet the little person attached to it.

By Amy3 (nli) (not verified)
February 2, 2010 11:50 AM

@Kerry, I wouldn't worry overmuch about names that people here like becoming very popular. A lot of us favor names that are slightly outside the mainstream. That said, here are my faves from your revised list:

Alice, Ann, Jane, Miriam, Oona/Una, Philippa, Willa

Cullen, Edward, Elias, Finnegan, Galen, Graeme, Leo, Lucien, Niles, Pascal, Rowan, Xavier

As for your earlier question about "appropriating" a name from another culture (one that presumably you have no tie to) ... I generally think this is OK. While I'm not sure I would choose a name that was far afield from my and my husband's Anglo-Saxon/Northern European ancestry, I don't mind if others do. But I think we all agree that there needs to be a level of sensitivity employed (you mentioned Cohen earlier and that's the perfect example).

I'm wondering, too, how much of the skittishness about using names outside our own cultures may arise when those in the "dominant" group use names from "non-dominant" groups. (Please excuse these labels; I want to be clear but don't mean to offend anyone.) So if I chose the name Pilar or Reiko, names I clearly don't have a cultural "claim" to, that could seem like an uncomfortable choice.

But as an example of the reverse, Cleveland Kent Evans mentions in his baby name book that Astrid is a name that is growing in popularity among Hispanics (or hispanics, I never know which is correct!). However, it's a Scandinavian name. I'm a quarter Swedish so I guess I have a "right" to use this name. Should Hispanics feel uncomfortable using it? I don't think so. I think it expands the reach of a name and changes its feel when it's adopted by other groups, making the name and others' experience of it richer in the process.

By Mirnada (not verified)
February 2, 2010 12:00 PM

Betsy 2: I really like Penelope. To me, it has a similar feel to Annabel -- pretty, sweet, not too serious or heavy, a little whimsical.

Dittalitta: There's something nice about the definitiveness of Nick or Eric for your boy. I stumble over the hard K going into the G of the last name a little, though. I think Samuel George is a really handsome name. There is a Sam Goody music store in the US, and that came to mind, but that's really no big deal. I wonder if other considerations should preempt worries about popularity in this case. Would David cause pronunciation issues?

By hyz
February 2, 2010 12:20 PM

Kerry, I didn't get to weigh in on the first list, but many of my favorites were already mentioned by others, so I'll work with the new (shorter) list.

From it, I very much like and/or love: Maeve, Pascale, Philippa, Theodora, Thora, Willa AND Galen, Graham (moreso than Graeme), Owen, Pascal, Rowan, and Thatcher. These are all names I would/have considered myself.

I think most of the others are very nice, even if they're not quite my style--like the very Irish ones, since I tend to worry about spelling/pronunciation problems a lot.

The only ones I don't really care for are Elise (this is like Jennifer to me--I grew up surrounded by them, so it doesn't seem fresh), Ellen (although I do really like Helen), Nancy (this is a very baby boomer name, and just doesn't appeal to me), Olivia (too common now). For boys, I'd probably nix Basil (I love the idea, but I wouldn't have the guts to use it), Elias (it seems like this is on every baby name list lately, I worry about popularity), Jack and Liam (again, popularity), Nigel and Niles (I can't get past a milquetoast association with these).

By hyz
February 2, 2010 12:37 PM

On the cultural appropriation, I'll chime in to second RobynT's comment, which is something I think I've also tried to say here before. And I'll also second Amy3's point--I think the relationships between the appropriator/appropriated cultures has a lot to do with the discomfort created by the appropriation.

On a slightly different note, choosing a name outside one's culture also does just seem a little odd to me, sometimes. Names are such an intensely personal thing, it seems most natural to me to pick a name that has some personal meaning. While this doesn't necessarily exclude a name outside your culture (there could be plenty of great reasons to feel very genuinely connected to a culture that's not your own), I think it frequently will. So, what I mean is that (to come full circle to RobynT's point), if a white person with no ties to Japan picks a name like Reiko because they think it sounds cute and exotic, that would make me cringe a bit. On the other hand, if they named their child Reiko after their dearest friend or something, I think that would be a lovely tribute.

I'm currently having a similar internal debate about Solomon. I love the way it sounds, esp. with DH's last name, and I love the well-known story behind it and the association with wisdom, and I love the actual meaning of the name (peace, according to the internets). On the other hand, it sounds very religious, and has a very well-known biblical origin. We're not religious. Would it be inappropriate or weird in some way for us to use it? I'm torn.

February 2, 2010 12:53 PM

@Kerry- My son's name is Levi and though I've heard it is popular in some areas I've only come across one other little Levi in my area. Elias is my older son's middle name and we had been considering it as a fn for him, we liked that it is less common that Eli or Elijah but has the same sentiment. I also LOVED Avi when I was pregnant with Levi but there are a lot of little Avi's in the jewish community of recent as it can be a nickname for so many longer names (Avraham, Avinoam, and girls names- Avigail, Aviva, Avira, Avital, etc.). As for Ezekiel and Ezra, I like Ezra a lot and my brothers name is Ezekiel though he goes by "Ezi", its one of the more unused old testament names though it's not too unfamiliar. I have a soft spot for the name Zara. I think it's very sweet and absolutely lovely. My grandmother's name was Zara so that's probably why. If we name our dd Zipporah it will be after her.

February 2, 2010 1:06 PM

@hyz- I think a name like Solomon is okay to use even if you aren't religious. I categorize it with names like Jacob and Leah and Michael that have lost some of their religious connotations. Even though it is well known for it's biblical background it sounds very modern and is well known across cultures, just like Jacob or Leah (and I know many non-jewish Jacobs and Leahs). If, for example, I met a little boy named Solomon or Jacob, I wouldn't assume right away that he was Jewish or even religious at all. However when someone meets my son, Judah, I think they would assume he's jewish.

On name appropriation, it's interesting to think about it being from a culture that strongly associates with names. My older brother and his wife have almost completely moved away from the jewish community and are not really religious at all. When they were expecting their first son my SIL mentioned the names Aidan and Jackson and my mother was so opposed to those name because they sounded so "un-jewish", they ended up choosing Adam, but i know my SIL has always harbored some greif about that situation.

February 2, 2010 1:23 PM

hyz- I don't think there would be anything wrong with naming your son Solomon for the reasons you stated (I am not very religious either just so you know where I'm coming from), however you may have people assume that you are more religious. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but it is something you should be prepared for...

February 2, 2010 1:27 PM

Dittalitta: Have you considered Steven? I think that would meet your criteria also.

By Sharalyn (not verified)
February 2, 2010 1:35 PM

Sorry for the mixup--I was just having fun with the Irish/"N"/5 letter thing. Of your other choices, I do like Maud and how it fits in, and doubt it will be up and coming. Ailsa is pretty also, and seems to fit well. Maura/Maren is becoming popular (I know 3 Maura's under age 2 and 3 Maren/Marins). Haven't hear any Olive's, but lots of Olivia's. I also know several Maeve's (which is unfortunate, because I love it!)
What about Bryn (#914 - don't know if that's low enough for you), Dayna, Iona, Keela, Moira, Moya, Meara, Meryl, Myrna, Orla, or Rowena. The others aren't on the top 1000. If you like Maeve, Maura, and Maren, perhaps Moira, Meara, or Myrna will work?


As someone who married into a sing-song name (Sha-Sha), I'd tend to avoid "L" names with an "L" last name, which would also eliminate "El" and "Al" and "-la/-el", leaving you with:

Ann, Faye, Frances, Grania/Grainne, Ione, Jane, Julia, Kate, Maeve/Méabh, Margot, Martha, Millicent, Miriam, Moira, Nancy, Olivia/Olive, Oona/Una, Philippa, Salomé, Theodora, Thora, Tovah/Tovia, Ursa, Zara, Ziva

Adrian, Avi, Cullen, Desmond, Edward, Ethan, Evan, Ezra, Felix, Fergus, Finnegan, Flynn, Graeme, Innes, Jack, Niles, Owen, Rhys, Rowan, Seth, Thatcher, Xavier, Zeke

Of those, eliminating the ones I know of multiple babies in the last 2-3 years in the area (I'm in the PNW also) leaves you with:

Ann, Faye, Frances, Grania/Grainne, Ione, Jane, Margot, Martha, Millicent, Miriam, Moira, Nancy, Oona/Una, Philippa, Salomé, Theodora, Thora, Tovah/Tovia, Ursa, Ziva

Adrian, Avi, Desmond, Ezra, Felix, Fergus, Flynn, Graeme, Innes, Niles, Rowan, Xavier

for myself, I couldn't use Margot (Punky Brewster!), Martha (I know too many old lady Martha's who are cranky old women), Millicent (Sleeping Beauty - Millicent is the witch), Philippa (Philippa Carr is an author I loved in my teen years - association is too strong for me), Ursa (sorry, I just think of the constellations and can't get past them), or Ziva (I instantly think Ziva Diva or Zima). Of the boys, I knew too many Adrian's who were girls or I think of Adrian Monk (Monk, the tv show), Fergus (annoying little brother on Clarissa Explains it All), Niles (reminds me of Frasier, but I actually like the name--not sure if it works with the "L" last name though), and Rowan makes me want to sing "Rollin', Rollin', Rollin', Keep those doggies Rollin'...Rawhide!" with a lisp. Sorry!

Which then leaves you with:
Ann, Faye, Frances, Grania/Grainne, Ione, Jane, Miriam, Moira, Nancy, Oona/Una, Salomé, Theodora, Thora, Tovah/Tovia

Avi, Desmond, Ezra, Felix, Flynn, Graeme, Innes, Niles, Xavier

Personally, I like Faye, Ione, Moira, and Theodora for girls, and Ezra, Graeme, Niles, and Xavier for boys from what is left!


By Marigold (not verified)
February 2, 2010 1:42 PM

For our fist son we told about three or four people the name before he was born (Henry Huckleberry, nicknamed Huck). We knew it would be a bit controversial within our family and friends, but we both loved the name and didn't want to hear it.
For our second son we were broadcasters and told everyone we would name him Orson. I thought it was a great name-uncommon but still had elements of very popular boy names (last name-ish, two-syllable ends in "n") and so people would love it, right? The reactions ranged from lukewarm to downright rude. My husband told a co-worker we'd name the baby Orson and she said, "Why?"
In the end, we ditched Orson and went with our runner-up name for our first son--Milo. And nobody knew until he was born :)

February 2, 2010 1:48 PM

i know it might be a bit weird that i know this, but the villain's name in sleeping beauty is actually Maleficent (playing off of malevolent and malicious), not Millicent.

February 2, 2010 2:05 PM

@emilyrae--HA! I was just wondering if I should 'fess up to knowing the same thing? I always thought that Maleficent was such a great name though.

The only Millicent association I have is from a series of kids' books, I believe the girl's name was Millicent Mary Amanda, and she went by Milly Molly Mandy.

February 2, 2010 2:08 PM

Just googled it, and her name was Millicent Margaret Amanda...the books were written in the 1920s-40s. And it was "Milly-Molly-Mandy" (with hyphens) -- still quite a mouthful!

February 2, 2010 2:08 PM

anne with an e,
ha! that's pretty funny. you're right, maleficent is a great villain name, and it was absolutely perfect for her character.

also, "milly molly mandy" cracks me up! i havne't heard of these books, but that's really amusing.

February 2, 2010 2:23 PM

My daughter loves Milly-Molly-Mandy - I practically have them all memorized. I am amused that her best friend is always referred to as "little friend Susan". Other names include Billy Blunt, Jilly who lives by the store, and Toby the dog.

February 2, 2010 2:40 PM

Milly-Molly-Mandy, love it on a character!

By smichelle (not verified)
February 2, 2010 3:13 PM


February 2, 2010 3:43 PM

emilyrae and Anne with an E-I knew that too! Milly-Molly-Mandy is great!

On topic, local list names I would NOT steal (for one reason or another):
Boys-Athan; Drewett; Romolo; Dekan
Leonel; Nychael; Akol; Saber

Girls-Jayera; Eriayshia; Alaysia; Tanzanya; Sonoma; Aniyla; Jeyliana; Lamees (how would you pronounce this anyway?); Aalayshia; Ja'Layzhia; Sereniti; Lai'yanna; Vainika

Add one more Alexa and 2 Alexis to the current count from last month btw. And what's up with this trend-
Prince Todd
St Kassian
Sir Charles?

February 2, 2010 3:46 PM

smichelle- First thing that came to mind is Poppy Margot, I have no idea why. Can you give us any information on the kinds of names you like?

February 2, 2010 6:01 PM

This is going to be very short b/c my son is waking up, but I just now thought of what I wanted to ask you all. What are your thoughts on the name Eveline? I think it's pronounced ev-uh-LEEN. I heard it for my first time last week, and it's growing on me.

By Anna S (not verified)
February 2, 2010 6:05 PM

Cultural appropriation:

From hyz: "...if a white person with no ties to Japan picks a name like Reiko because they think it sounds cute and exotic, that would make me cringe a bit."

(Hyz, I know we have different views on this, and I'm not out "to get you", just debating the topic).

The notion that only people of X culture should be allowed to use names from X culture is something I don't agree with. I can't see it as anything but an ideology of cultural purity. How does it differ from saying that black people are not allowed to use "white" names? Or to continue with the white/Japanese example: Can you use a Japanese name for a child who is "only" half Japanese? For a white child born in Japan? What about a Japanese child adopted by white parents? Or a white child adopted by Japanese parents, for that matter?

I guess I see "because I like it" as a perfectly legitimate reason to choose any name, from your own culture or not. Not everybody cares about 1000 year old original meanings and ancient history. For example, the Vikings didn't exactly behave admirably when they went to conquer Britain and Ireland. So if you choose an old Scandinavian name, where ever you're from, does that mean you condone rape and slavery? I don't think there is a conflict between liking a name from a certain culture and not approving of everything ever said, done and associated with that specific culture.

February 2, 2010 6:30 PM

daisy_kay: I like Eveline. I believe your pronunciation is correct. It sounds like a shortened Evangeline.

Anna S: I rather do agree with hyz. To answer your questions, for me, I would not use a name like Jameel or Ja'Leeza because to me they seem like black names based on my (correct or not) impression. It would seem off to me unless I was using it on a black baby I had adopted say, since I am white. However, if I had a special connection to Japan (like if I honeymooned there or such) then even if I wasn't Japanese I might use it in a mn spot. If the situation were reversed and I was non-white and adopting a white child then I would have to decide for myself which ethnicity/heritage I wanted to give a nod to-maybe both. I have no problem with others using any name they want. I just find it odd sometimes. A bit in the same way we talk about "creative and unique re-spellings".

By hyz
February 2, 2010 7:00 PM

Anna S--quick reply here. I really don't see it as a "cultural purity" thing. I think it differs from your black/white example because, for instance, I consider all standard/traditional Anglo names to be 100% fair game for anyone who is from or lives in an English speaking country--English is their native (or adopted) tongue, and/or may well be their children's native tongue, no matter what their cultural/racial background may be. For that reason, I'd expect them to likely feel close ties to what you might be calling "white names". And I wouldn't have the least problem with a Japanese name for any of the children you mentioned--each of them has some personal/emotional bond to Japan.

What I have an uncomfortable reaction to is somebody who picks a name from a culture to which they have no personal ties (especially if that culture is one which was historically discriminated against by the person's own culture), without giving much thought to why they "just like" the name. Sometimes, like with the "exotic" justification RobynT raised, the reasoning is based (at least in part) on a stereotype which the namer may find appealing, but which has been the source of real historical or ongoing problems for the people of that culture.

My comment doesn't really have to do with whether the namer condones everything the culture of the chosen name ever did--in fact, I'd prefer if the namer had some real sense of the place and its people, rather than a fictionalized/idealized image.

I would never say that choosing a name outside one's culture is inherently problematic, perhaps just that it tends to warrant heightened scrutiny.

February 2, 2010 7:13 PM

re: names from other cultures

i think maybe we're talking about two different things. there's a difference between thinking the use of another culture's names is offensive/inappropriate and thinking that it is odd/surprising. would i be surprised to meet a white child named michiko? of course i would. it's a japanese name. it might be initially odd. but that's not the same as finding it offensive or wrong in some way. and i don't see how it is bad or offensive (except in cohen type situations) to blend/mix cultures, particularly in a case like this where it is clearly in an appreciative way.

would i name my daughter michiko? probably not. but it's because i simply don't prefer it, not because i'd be worried about offending.

in addition, it just seems like such a blurry line...earlier someone said that they thought using paloma or freya would be okay but pilar or tovah might be strange. i'm not saying they're *wrong* (i think it was EVie) or trying to pick on them; it just seems like an awful lot to try to sift through. to me it's easier to just say, "name you're child whatever you want. if it's something from another culture, be prepared to possibly surprise a few people when they first meet your child. and do please make sure it isn't the equivalent of cohen."

despite that, i do really like what hyz said:
"Sometimes, like with the "exotic" justification RobynT raised, the reasoning is based (at least in part) on a stereotype which the namer may find appealing, but which has been the source of real historical or ongoing problems for the people of that culture."

that's a good point. i guess my thought is that someone choosing such a name would have a little bit better mindset than that. surely if you are using the name from another culture, you would wish to be respectful? but perhaps not. but of course, i'm sure no one here would approve of the situation you are suggesting. just out of curiosity, do you have an example? i understand your remark, i'm just having a hard time coming up with an example of a name chosen out of a stereotype in the way you're suggesting.