Choosing Between Common vs Uncommon

My husband and I are expecting our first child this summer. We do not plan to find out in advance if baby is a boy or girl and have decided to wait until we meet him/her to officially choose a name. That being said, we want to agree on a couple boy names and a couple girl names ahead of time and decide which feels right when we meet the baby.

For girl names, we have two names and I'm pretty confident that meeting her would give enough clarity as to which is the best fit.

For boy names, we have two names and for some reason I envision us being torn between the two even after meeting him. The first name that we've liked for awhile is Warner. We like that he'd be unlikely to encounter many other Warners but that the name still feels familiar, is easy to pronounce, and is easy to spell. It's different, but not too "out there." Downsides are that it doesn't have a good obvious nickname and our families are big nicknamers. And while I don't think it's too unusual, I question if others will. I don't want to saddle a child with a burdensome name.

The other name that we have been loving more and more is Henry (nickname Hank). I'm pretty sure we live in a Henry pocket and don't love the idea of my child having to go by his last initial in every class he's in. It's popular for a reason, it's a great name, but I think a name should be a way to distinguish a person from his/her peers and am wary of the extreme rise in popularity I've seen in my area and broader social circles. I'm wondering if going by Hank would help or if everyone else has the same idea. 

I'd love to hear any thoughts on these two names or if there are any others we should be considering. The more I weigh these two the more I question if either is right. Is Henry too common (where I live)? Is Warner too uncommon?



June 2, 2016 7:21 PM

FWIW I know an adult Warner who goes by...Jim.  I don't know if James is his middle name, or if he's just Jim out of the clear blue sky.

June 2, 2016 11:25 PM

Its funny how that happens. I know lots of people that go by their middle names but I even know a few that go by a seemingly random name that has nothing to do with any of their given names.

I have a question for you about the name Warner, if you don't mind. You have lots of knowledge on the history of names and I'm curious what you know about Warner. I have read a few things that indicate its history as a first name (German) separate from its history as a surname (English). Would love to hear what you know about this. To me, while Warner is a surname it's use as a first name doesn't feel super surname-y to me. It seems to have a history as a first name which I like but also fits in well enough to not sound unusual next to names with more modern popularity like Parker, Carter, Tyler, Hunter, etc.

June 3, 2016 12:27 AM

Insofar as I know Warner and Werner derive from the same source--a Germanic bithematic name made up of elements meaning guard and army.  Warner would be an English pronunciation of the German Werner as in clerk pronounced as clark and Derby pronounced as Darby.  Both Warner and Werner are used as both given names and surnames--I know people with all four variants.  I would expect someone with the surname Werner to have German heritage and Warner to have English.  I would also expect that a person with the given name Werner to have German or Dutch heritage.

There is also an English occupational surname Warriner which refers to a gamekeeper (cf. with rabbit warren).  The name (given or sur-) Warren is probably also derived from warren as in rabbit warren.

June 3, 2016 12:37 AM

Thanks so much!

June 2, 2016 8:16 PM

My hesitation about Warner is that without an obvious nickname, it could be shortened to War.  I suppose you could pick a non-name related nickname ahead of time, just so the nickname junkies in your family have something already selected.  Another option might be to use initials nicknames like W.J. for Warner James or somesuch.

Even in a Henry pocket, I wouldn't count on him being Henry Lastinitial.  Even if it happens, it's not the end of the world.  He could also decide to use Hank at school anyway, which would likely eliminate the issue.  I know several little Henry's and none go by Hank. 

June 3, 2016 12:48 AM

Thanks for the feedback! I share your concern with the nickname situation. Our families would be more inclined to have a pet name that ends in "ie" or "o" as opposed to shortening it to one syllable. But Warnie and Warno are no better than War. With a fairly "nickname proof" name they may resort to something unrelated (which they may do anyway). 

Most of the Henrys I know also go by Henry, not Hank or another nickname so it's encouraging that Hank could help be a differentiator in a potential sea of Henrys. I like the idea of a classic formal name with a short boyish nickname. Thanks again!

June 3, 2016 1:53 AM

Other traditional nicknames for Henry are Harry and Hal, both princely as it happens.

June 3, 2016 2:44 AM

Henry is really common in the circles I travel in, too. It was on our list when we were expecting child #1, but it just didn't feel like my kid, and I'm glad we didn't use it, because I now know quite a lot of them, to the point that it's not always a good identifier of a person by itself. I do not, however, know a single Henry who goes by Hank, so I am quite sure that would absolutely solve the problem!

Warner itself might be unusual but the style of name is very emphatically not unusual, so I think it would be refreshing and unexpected but not eyebrow-raising or weird. To me the lack of a nickname is absolutely the more difficult to overcome issue if you come from a family that will want a nickname... but sometimes nicknaming families are very creative, so perhaps this is a nonissue.

June 3, 2016 3:47 PM

Sounds like we have pretty similar views/experiences with both names. I have felt that Warner is a name that would fit right in while likely being distinct from other schoolmates, but wasn't sure if my perception is vastly different from the general population. And I also have felt like few Henrys go by Hank so I appreciate that validation as well. Thanks!

June 3, 2016 9:15 AM

I really like Warner! I think it's fine to have a name without a nickname. If that is your only concern with the name, I think you should go for it. And unrelated nicknames can be fun, I think, you could get something related to his personality that is cute. I don't think it's burdensome at all. 

I like the name Henry but I do feel like I know a million babies named Henry, so it would not be an option for me personally.

June 3, 2016 2:56 PM

I think you're probably right about the nickname situation. Come to think of it about half of my family has family nicknames not related to their actual names, but related to personality traits or complete randomness. I don't need a name that has a full time nickname. Warner is not a long name that would warrant an easier nickname for school. And whatever family pet names come up organically will work just fine I think.

And I know what you mean by all the Henrys! It's such a nice name so I get it. I typically wouldn't consider a name with such rapidly rising popularity as I'd prefer to avoid something too trendy, but Henry has been the exception because it feels like such a classic. 

June 3, 2016 11:38 AM

This post tickles me, because one of my nephews has these names, first and last.

I agree that Henry is a pocket-y name right now; I think it's also somewhat class or sub-culture-specific. Hank would be a fine disambiguator, and I also really like Hal (I had a friend Kevan who went by Hal, for another example of unrelated nicknames).

For Warner, Ward might make a good nickname. Sound is similar, source meaning is similar, and the common, non-name English meanings are related (one who warns~one who protects). Only down-side for your family is that Ward-o, while cute in the abstract, is perilously close to weirdo. Warno seems like it has potential, though; it would fit in well with names like Arlo.

A hugely positive association for our family with the name Warner (in addition to our wonderful Warner relatives) is the Warner Bros. cartoon Animaniacs which stars the Warner brothers, Yakko and Wakko, and the Warner sister, Dot (aka Princess Angelina Contessa Louisa Francesca Banana Fana Bo Besca the Third--clearly a name enthusiast!). Based on that association, Yakko might be a fun, unrelated-on-the-surface nickname.

June 3, 2016 2:49 PM

Glad you were delighted by the post, as I quite enjoyed your reply as well! :)

I'm glad to hear you and others think Hank would be a good distinguisher. I like Hal too, though I have a close friend Hal which might take that off the table.

As far as your comments on Warner, I love your suggestion of Ward as a nickname. Not sure why I hadn't considered it! Before we narrowed down out list we considered Edward, possible nn Ward. I also love the creative Warner Bros related nickname options. Thanks so much for the input!

While I'm not sure I'm any closer to being able to decide, this does make me remember that I really do love both of these names and that one of them is probably the right one despite some of my concerns.

June 3, 2016 3:04 PM

We have a Henry. We were somewhat ahead of the recent revival, as he is 11.

We know a preschool age Henry out here in the 'burbs, and I know of a boy who is about 10 who is exclusively Hank.

It is definitely a pocket-y name. It is a Top 10 in my state, but we only rarely hear it still. On the other hand, when we go about an hour north to my sister's upper crusty area, it is quite popular, indeed. 

We thought ours would go by Hank some, but it just didn't take.

This will shock posters on here, but there are an awful lot of people who have no idea that Hank is a nn for Henry. I think Hank is a great fallback, but don't be surprised if you have to explain it, or if you find it a bit of a challenge to toggle between the two. 

My older son is a Jack, which is a super popular name, and we really haven't found it to be a big deal, but only you can decide how much the prospect of having your son be one of two or three at some point would bother you.

Warner is also a cool name-very strong and dashing-a bit of a soap opera name, but in a good way. If it happens o be a family name, I could get behind it with more enthusiasm. I wouldn't worry about nns that much....those things tend o sort themsevles out. 



June 4, 2016 12:05 AM

My immediate associations with Warner were as follows:

1) Warner Bros. (Though that might be a tad more immediate for me than most others because my husband worked for the company's video game studio for years and that's how we refer to them."

2) The less than princely character in Legally Blonde. A neutral association, I'd say, despite the fact that the character is unlikable.

Then a distant third was Werner Herzog.

As for nicknames, really, don't worry about it! They have a way of working themselves out. I come from a family passionate about its nicknames and I selected my daughter's name partially because it contained another that I loved and that would make a perfect nickname for her 4-syllable name. Needless say, that nickname just never felt right and dropped it quickly. We used others for  a few months, then the perfect nickname presented itself when she attempted to say her own name but couldn't pronounce half the letters yet. Now, that's her nickname and it's not one that I could have planned.

If Henry feels more right for child, sure, use it! But don't *not* use Warner because it doesn't have an obvious nickname. Even picking a name with a great nickname doesn't guarantee that it's going to be the right one for that kid.