Desperate for real, specific advice

Hi All. Me again.

I'm at most 7 weeks from giving birth to my first child, a girl, and have been thinking about names for too many years. I've come to an absolute impasse and am feeling lost and disheartened. 

I've asked the advice of the regulars on here several times.

But I'm finding that, now that I'm down to the wire, I really wish I could get your responses to names without having to use pseudonyms for the child's last name. That is, I want to post on here with specific questions about specific name combos, but I don't want to post my last name or my husband's online--because I know first hand how annoying it can be to have personal data posted and googleable online in perpetuity.

Can anyone think of a good way for me to get real, specific advice from you guys that concerns our actual last names without posting those names on these forums? My feeling is that trying to render the names un-googleable by using $'s for s's, for example, isn't enough, because someone in responding to the post is bound to just spell out the name using the s. 

I am so, so desparate for really specific advice!  


March 11, 2015 5:57 PM

I've seen people use spaces in weird spots.  For example, your last name is Hawthorne, so you'd type it out as Ha w tho r ne or something.  

Over on Swistle, I've also seen people do almost their name, but with an examplantion as to what should be changed to get to the real name.  So, you could type Hawthorne as "sounds like Hawkthorn, but only without the K."  FWIW, Swistle will do private consultations, so your name would not be posted.  You can also tell her what the actual names are, but ask that she not post them online.  You'll get her opinion based on the real names, but you wouldn't be able to get a bunch of opions.

If either of the names in question are tradesman names or word names, you could give a definition without stating the actual name.  So, for a combination of Chandler and White, you could say "Candlemaker and Black (only the opposite)."  

Rhyming names are also very helpful.  So perhaps you could do something like "sounds like Bowling with an R" or "rhymes with Laker only with a B" or "sounds like Baker only is the name of a basketball team."

Honestly though, I think as long as you give us enough that we can get close to the last names, it doesn't really matter if we guess exactly right. 

March 12, 2015 10:18 AM

I was thinking about this again last night.  Assuming you are down to your top 3 or 4 names, perhaps you could post about them in different posts (over a handful of days) and give us your specific concerns about each full name.  The regulars around here will probably see all of the posts & could likely figure out the real surnames, but casual readers probably won't see them all.  Because your hints are broken up over several posts, the names won't be googleable.

For example, post one says I love the name Heidi Ophelia, but the first surname sounds a lot like a certain madam. At this point, all we know is the 1st last name probably rhymes with Fleiss. 

Your second post says you love Miriam Ophelia, but the initials will spell the word "mow", is that a problem?  At this point, people who have read both posts will figure out that the 1st surname is probably Weiss.  Everyone else will have no idea & you've not said anything in a single location that would make the full names easy to google.


March 12, 2015 12:17 AM

I think if you can give us the first initial and a soundalike or rhyme for the surname, and any unusual family names in contention, that would be enough to foil googling. Pretty much any first name in consideration is likely to be on this and other sites anyway, we are talking baby names here. It's just the full name combo you have to worry about.

For instance, when I ask for advice I will put that our last name is Wierd without the -d. That's not how it's actually spelled, but it is how it sounds, and it's different enough to prevent googling even when paired with my kids actual first names. Anyone reading this will be able to tell what our surname is without it being actually spelled out. Is there a way you could let us know the names without actually writing them?

Additionally, if you mask letters with other symbols and someone does spell it out without masking them, the mods can go in and change it for you on request. So it wouldn't be there permanently.

March 12, 2015 1:05 AM

I was popping in to say exactly this -- I am happy to sanitize the thread from any actual names that slip through in the discussion, dorit. I have had the same concern, only my kids' first names are unusual enough that putting the three of them together is already a uniquely googleable combination.

March 16, 2015 7:17 PM

OK, here's a specific question that still maintains my anonymity:

My last name starts with an M and ends in an -er.  My husband's starts with a B and ends in an -ie sound. Both two syllable. 

He's thinking that many of the first names we're considering sound better with B-- -ie M-- -er rather than M-- --er B-- --ie. 

We're thinking of separating the two names with a space, no hyphen.

My concern is that B- -ie M- -er introduces the initials B.M. (i.e. bowel movement). My husband doesnt' think that those initials would ever be used independently of her first initial. So it would be M.B.M. if we went with Miriam, for example. I think he's wrong, and that in a lot of cases she could be stuck with being referred to as Miriam B.M.. He thinks even if thsi were so, it's not a problem because people don't really use the term B.M. anymore. I'm thinking if we can avoid it, we should. Why saddle a kid with that kind of thing?


In the case of Miriam, the order B. M. would help alleviate the problem with pronunciation that happens when Miriam is followed by M- -er.


What do you all think?

March 16, 2015 7:23 PM

My name is Miriam, and the surname I use (not the one I was born with) starts with an M.  It is not a pronunciation problem, ever.  Not to worry on that account....

March 16, 2015 7:43 PM

Another option would be to add the hyphen.  In that case, her initials will most likely be listed as simply M.B.  I admit the hyphen isn't ideal, but it does address the specific issue you are concerned about.

And I know parents who choose to use both last names often don't want to hear this, but it's highly likely that without the hypen, her one surname will often be dropped, making her written initials M.M. or M.B.

I'll add that while I am not a huge fan of alliteration, I readily admit this is a matter of personal preference.  In most cases, alliteration does not make a name unusable.  When I sub 2 syllable M-er names, I don't see a huge problem with any of them.  FWIW, I tried M3yer, Mi1ler, Mue1ler, Min3r & M4yer.


March 16, 2015 8:08 PM

Even *with* the hyphen, one of the names will be omitted about half the time. (It's also about 50-50 which half gets dropped.) If the constituent names are familiar enough, then not even mushing it all together (Mahlerbowie or Bowiemahler) will guarantee that they'll stay that way, because some brilliant bureaucrat somewhere will decide that it's a typographical error, and separate the halves -- and then proceed to drop one of them.

I'm sorry if I'm coming across as unnecessarily cynical, but I'm speaking from nearly fifteen years of experience with a hyphen in my surname. (The kicker for me is that ours is not technically a hyphenated name: it's all one unit, it just happens to be spelled with a hyphen.)

March 17, 2015 10:25 AM

I agree.  While helping out at my son's school, I was once yelled at because I couldn't find child with a hyphenated name in the system.  The surname was something along the lines of Jennings-Lane, so I was searching under J.  Turns out, whoever enrolled her had put Jennings under the middle name, left our her middle name, and then entered Lane as her only surname. As a volunteer, I wasn't able to fix it.  Once mom calmed down, she was able to explain that this happened a lot, so I can understand her frustration (though not her yelling at some random volunteer).

I can see the appeal of double surnames, and seriously considered it myself.  But I think parents need to be aware that this is still not the norm and there will be mistakes.   Every family has to decide if the potential hassles are worth it.

March 17, 2015 10:54 AM

On the 50-50 stat--when we were discussing what to do with surnames, for a while we talked about doing husband's name-my name, which we thought would get alphabetized under husband's name (it's 12 letters earlier in the alphabet!) but his parents were appalled because to them the name that comes last is the "actual" last name.

March 17, 2015 11:50 AM

Yes, about half the name-manglers we encounter think the way your in-laws do, that the "true last name" is the last unit, regardless of the exact type of separating character. The other half of the manglers think that the hyphen and everything after it is just optional "name bling" (or something).

(Well, technically it's more like 45-45-10 rather than 50-50, because there's also a not-insignificant proportion who are willing to use both halves, but seem to think that the order is freely variable.)

It occurs to me to also point out that even if you opt for the hyphen, many computer systems don't allow for hyphens or apostrophes, and some others don't let you use _any_ non-letter characters in names, so you'll end up with a space on some records, and concatenated on others.

Standard librarian practice is that the "true last name" is the third part of an unconnected three-unit name, like Orson Scott Card or Lois McMaster Bujold (filed under C and B, respectively). Correct practice with hyphenated names treats the hyphen as just another non-space character, filing Albert Szent-Györgyi under S, but unfortunately many people think they're supposed to treat the hyphen like a space, and they erroneously file Uncle Albi under G instead.

March 17, 2015 3:36 PM

It's also important to remember that a lot of this is cuturally determined.  There is a large Hisapanic population where I live, and double names in that culture are often Dad'sSurname Mom'sSurname.  Mom's surname would traditionally be dropped when a girl marries.  My former boss was from the DR and he Americanized his name by dropping his second surname (mom's surname).  He did this mainly because he was tired of people who use library practice getting it "wrong." If a name was to be dropped, he did not want it to be his father's.

People used to this system (myself included) will likely file names under the first surname, not the 2nd.

March 17, 2015 3:49 PM

For my area, it seems like most Latino families have opted for Paternalsurname-Maternalsurname, with the hyphen, which is also what many other ethnic background families with different-surnamed parents are doing, too. (The non-hyphenating strategies used include "kid got mom's surname" as well as "kid got dad's surname".) I'm very pleased that it's very much running the gamut, so that no matter what you end up chosing for your kids' surname, it would end up being "not-weird" in the context that my kids are growing up in. Your mileage may vary, as I suspect this is a very regional situation... but here, I think the number of bad assumptions or misfilings or hyphen manglings would be pretty minimal, just because it's so typical for families to have a model other than "mom took dad's surname, and all the kids have that surname too".

March 17, 2015 4:10 PM

Regardless of order and hyphenation decisions, I suspect it's important for parents to come to grips with the idea that at least one of the names will likely be dropped eventually.

Double lasts are pretty common in the academic community, I think both because female academics don't want to drop a name they've been using professionally and because male academics are often amenable to gender-equity issues. At least among my friends, though, their kids aren't quite as enthusiastic about the longer names, and some are dropping one or the other as they grow up and establish their own identities separatae from the family.

As NAGA points out, cultures that regularly use both parental surnames also have regular rules for dropping names--otherwise you eventually end up with Jane and John ([{Doe Roe}-{Lowe-Bow}]-[{Ho-Poe}-{Crow Yo}])-([{Smith-Smythe}-{Li Lee}]-[{Patel-Hagy}-{Papadapoulous-Gonzalez}]).

Of course, parents using a single surname also now need to accept that their children may or may not keep that surname in the same form in adulthood--sons as well as daughters.

March 18, 2015 12:31 AM

I am loving your example name, nedibes.

I agree that it's important to realize that once a name is given to a child and that, first name and surname(s), it is theirs to do with what they choose... and that pruning has to happen with subsequent generations of surnames, or else you have exponential name growth.

March 17, 2015 3:04 AM

FWIW: I think unless you hyphenate, the first "surname" will be taken as a middle name and dropped most of the time.

Of people I know with two surnames or hyphenated surnames, those with hyphens never have trouble, but those with two unhyphenated surnames are always having to explain it, which is really much more annoying than the hyphen.

And I wouldn't worry too much about initials. Unless it spells something really awkward (BS, BDSM, PMS, etc) no-one will notice it.

April 9, 2015 3:23 PM

I think if it is a concern with the BM, it will likely be short-lived.

However, I do know that two last names, especially un-hypenated gives people problems. We ended up doing two middles for ours as a compromise. So his name is firstname (middlename momslast) dadslast and goes by firstname dadslast. 


I think initials aren't as big a deal as we fear and are only bad if they are something 'really' bad, like PP said. The big thing I'd think about is the potential confusion with the name issue from a paperwork perspective: bubbling in tests, files at the doctor's office and, perhaps most importantly, 'files' at everywhere you normally go--places like the drycleaner, etc that put you in their 'system' but may be a bit more haphazard about it. 

March 17, 2015 3:27 AM

In my experience the term bowel movement abbreviated to BM is still very much in use, at least among medical professionals and parents of young children. I would avoid using a name containing those initials if possible. Also I don't think that Miriam M- poses a difficulty at all.

I don't dispute the issues HNG has with a hyphenated name, but don't think it's always a problem. Many of the people I know with hyphenated names don't find it difficult and even like their names. They do mostly use both last initials though. It was important to me that my kids have my family name as well as my husbands, but my maiden name is really long so I didn't even consider hyphenating. Instead I gave the kids my maiden name as a second middle. They use all their names when introducing themselves and it's on official records (medical, academic) but for most purposes they just have hubby's shorter surname to deal with. It works well for us and the other family we know that does this. I also know some families with blended surnames, and that seems to work well too. I say this in case you want to consider other options in order to avoid the BM initials problem.

March 17, 2015 2:16 PM

In my experience no one uses the term B.M. as an abbreviation anymore, except for my mother-in-law. When my MIL asks the children if they need to have a BM, they look at her like she's crazy. ("No, I need to have a POO.") I often even have cause to talk about defecation and gut microbes in a variety of professional settings (e.g. experiments with human-waste-based fertilizers, or talking about gut microbes), and even there I use "poo" or "poop" for the most part, maaaaybe "solid waste" or "fecal matter" if I want to be really technical. I have never heard any of my adult students use the term B.M. either, or even talk about bowel movements. I even have reasons to be at a G.I. clinic on a yearly basis where the doctor also talks about poop/pooping and not bowel movements. I suspect this may be a regional thing.

I use initials quite a lot, but it's always F. M. Surname, for First Middle Surname.

I think if B___ie M____er sounds better, flow-wise, I'd use B___ie M____er. The hyphen or not doesn't really enter into it for me, as I am pretty sure that a hyphenated name still uses both in the initials, technically, so she'd be either Miriam B. M. or Miriam B.-M., but never Miriam B. However, if you're concerned, I don't think Miriam M___er B___ie sounds awkward to me, at least for any common names that I can think of to substitute for the surnames. (Miriam Mirror B___ie would be awkward, but because of the Mir part, not the M____er part.)

Also, for what it's worth, two surnames is no longer an unusual situation, particularly in areas with a high proportion of Latino families. A quarter of my son's classmates have two surnames - so while it's not quite the norm, it's getting close. (I don't live in an area with particularly large Latino population, but there are a lot of same-sex couples raising kids, where two surnames is also very standard.) As for the hyphenation or not question, can you ask your friends with kids, especially school-aged kids, what the most common way of presenting two surnames is in their classrooms? Where I live hyphenation seems by far the most common way of dealing with it, and the people I know who did the two surnames separated by a space are living in other areas of the country.

By mk
March 17, 2015 3:30 PM

I am in the health care field and the only time I ever seen BM used is here. Even then it's rare, and I think healthcare workers can handle someone with BM as part of his/her initials. I don't remember ever hearing it as a kid.

I think more likely she will be either Miriam B. or Miriam M. inb class.

March 25, 2015 10:16 PM

I know this was from last week, but I thought I'd mention -- my kids have a double surname of this sort, and although it's occasionally a hassle, it's usually not a problem.

HOWEVER.  The surname initials DO get used a lot.  There are "VLs" all over everything that has to be marked for school, for example.  My son writes his name on his school papers as "Raym0nd VL" frequently.  It turns up much more often than I anticipated, and my older kid isn't yet 6.


March 31, 2015 11:35 PM

Yeah, BM initials seem like a huge problem to me. I'm kind of surprised that some people dont think it is actually, I can't imagine going through the teenage years without this coming up. Miriam M_ seems like a non issue. I'd strongly suggest going with the MB order. 

April 2, 2015 10:43 PM

I totally agree. It's not something one should do to one's child. No BM initials! Miriam M----r B----ie sounds totally great to me and it avoids the problem. Regardless of whether you hyphenate or not, people are always going to be confused by folks bucking the patriarchal system of "dad's last name for all" but that doesn't mean you should give in. It's the only way things will shift! We had a separate issue, as husband's last name is a synonym for the male "member," and that wasn't going to happen for me or for my kid, so that was that - she has my name, I kept it, and he kept his (wish he'd changed it, but he wears it like a badge of honor after getting through childhood intact...)... Which brings me back to my original point, which is, you must prevail, no BM initials!