choosing a name

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When Is a Baby Name a Political Statement?

Are Sasha and Malia political statement names? What about Melania? When does a name switch from trendy to controversial?

–Pregnant and Political

Political homages used to be a routine part of American baby naming. Today, though, parents across the political spectrum avoid politically tinged names. We didn't see a surge of babies named after Clinton, Bush or Obama, and we shouldn't expect a wave of baby Donalds, either. 

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Is This Baby Name Too Extreme?

My wife and I are considering the name Champion for our third son. We didn't use traditional names for our other sons, Adonis and Legend, but my wife is really not sold on Champion. She thinks that it is too unique and could make him big-headed. I like the name and thinks it flows nicely with our last name, Lynn. Is it too much?

–Proud Dad

Your first two sons have bold, confident names; should your third one follow suit? Yes and no. I can see your perspective: That the exalted word name Champion is right in sync with big brothers Adonis and Legend. It makes sense! But the fact is that "too extreme" is a matter of personal preference. Champion does cross a line—because your wife thinks it does.

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We're Starstruck By This Baby Name!

My husband and I are in love with the name Stark (yes, we are Game of Thrones and Marvel comic nerds) for our son, due next month. I can't imagine his name as anything else. The issue I am having is our last name: Stichler, pronounced "Stickler." Stark Stichler, or we could choose Stark Elijah Stickler. Can we get away with this? Or is it too much?

–Stuck on Stark

You're right: Stark Stichler is pretty hard to say, and the clump of consonants can merge together and make people hear the first name as Star or Starks. A few months ago, I advised against the name "Clark Markley" because of the rhymey, tongue-twisting nature of the combination.

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Is a Rose by Any Other Name the Right Choice?

I love the name Rosalie, but I already have a daughter named Everly Rose. Are there any other names with the same ring? Maybe Daisilie? I'm just not sure. I like unique names that are appealing to many people and not difficult to pronounce.

–Need a Sister Name

First of all, let me answer the question you didn’t ask: Are the names Everly and Rosalie too similar to give to sisters?

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Suddenly Feeling the Baby-Name Pinch

My husband and I feel in love with the Hebrew name Pinchas (pronounced "Pinkus") for our third son, due to arrive in a few weeks. It's an old family name, and we like that it is uncommon. It also fits well with the names of his brothers. However, a friend pointed out that phonetically, the name is "pinch-ass." My friend meant well; she has an odd name and had a very difficult time with it at school. But now "pinch-ass" is what immediately comes to mind when I see the name. What do you think? Would we be inflicting an unfair future on our son if we go with it?

–Grateful for Your Help

Pinchas is a classic Biblical name, but even in this era when a name like Ezekiel can be a popular hit, you almost never hear Pinchas outside of religious Jewish communities (and famous violinists); it has never been in the US top 1000 names. Not only does it start with the negative word "pinch," that word's sound is "pink," which has issues of its own. The –as ending is less problematic when it's not paired with a word-y opening syllable; think Silas, Elias, Tobias, and so on.

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Is This Syllable a Non-Starter for My Baby's Name?

I hate super-popular or trendy names. However, I have found myself in love with a name that starts with "Em." The name itself is not popular, but with all the Emmas and Emilys out there, I'm scared I will regret it later. I should also note that I have cousins named Emma and an Emily (both in their 20s). Help me figure this out!

–Not Enamored of All Ems

"Em" doesn’t need to be a syllable to fear. Not all Em- names are created equal: Unlike the Lat- or Kr- names of the 70s and 80s, or the –ayden names of the 2000s, Em- isn't a pure sound-based trend that parents are running wild with. Rather, a handful of smooth, classic names—like your cousins, Emma and Emily—have been revived.

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Has This Name Gone to the Dogs?

My husband loves the name Winston. He wants to give it to our fourth son. I'm not sold yet. I have never met anyone named Winston, although I know it is a classic British name. I also know it's a popular dog name, which bugs me. Is it too canine for a baby (or toddler, or teen, or grown man)?

–Not Won Over by Winston

Surprise: Winston is a fast-rising name for boys in the U.S. It's ranked in the top 500, and is probably more likely to make people think of Winston Churchill or stock-car racing than dogs. (The top NASCAR series was called the Winston Cup for decades, after sponsor Winston cigarettes.)

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Is This Baby Name Too Tongue-Twisting?

My husband and I are stuck on boy names. I love the name Clark. But my husband is worried because of our last name, Markley. I think it sounds great, but I love the name so much I may not be thinking clearly. Do you think it's too rhyme-y? Does it sound like another Marky Mark? Or would it work?

–Crazy for Clark

I hate to break it to you, but in my opinion Clark Markley is a non-starter. It's often pleasing to the ear when names share some sounds, like a first initial: Think Jessica Jones or Vince Vaughn. Even repeating internal sounds can work, as in Jay Delaney or Megan Gallagher or even Oscar Markley. These repetitions tie the first and last names together in a positive, satisfying way.

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Are These Baby Names Hip, or Hippie?

What do you think of names like Rose Dorinda, Fox Alexandria, and Raven Thalia? They are all girls' names I am considering. I wonder how far I can go with my name themes, because none of the boy names I like go in that direction (Killian Alexander, Ezra Raphael, Aedan Ezekiel). Are my favorite names too hippie/tree-hugger?

–Nature Lover

Trees deserve a hug now and then, don't they? So "tree-hugger" doesn’t have to be a negative. Not all nature names automatically fall into the "hippie" category (that is, too weird for mainstream), anyway. If you love nature, it's only natural that you're drawn to baby names that celebrate flora, fauna, and the outdoors.

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When a Baby Name Is Not a Namesake

My husband and I are having a very hard time coming up with a name for our second son. We both like a specific name for its sound and meaning, but when combined with our last name it is the name of a celebrity. (Think along the lines of "George Lucas"). It's a fairly common first name, but this celebrity is definitely the first, if not the only, search-engine result for the name in full. Is that a deal-breaker? How awful is it to give your kid the same name as a celebrity, and does it make it more acceptable if the given celebrity is older and might not be around for much of the child's life?

–Not a Celebrity's Mom

It's difficult to weigh in on your dilemma without knowing the actual celebrity name you're considering. "Harrison Ford" has a much different connotation than "Dustin Hoffman"—or than "Bill Gates." Both the celebrity's image and the prevalence of his last name will affect how your son might be perceived in light of this semi-namesake.

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