naming dilemmas

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Is This Name Just Too Old?

Name Lady, is Mildred too old of a name for a baby? My husband and I both love the name, and it has the added bonus of being his grandma's name and could match with my initials. However, according to BabyNameWizard.com, it hasn't been popular since the early 1900's, and our families haven't been overly excited by the prospect. Are there some names that just should not be revived?

-Granny Name Lover

Many of us love old-fashioned names, just as we love old-fashioned home cooking. That is to say, we love the versions that fit our romantic image of the past. “Mmm, mmm, fresh bread baking in the oven and a rich soup simmering on the stove, what could be better?” But when I flip through my yellowed 1930s Fanny Farmer Cookbook, it turns out to be full of recipes like hard-cooked eggs in cream sauce (“serve over pancakes”) and Chilled Shrimp Bisque, made with canned shrimp and condensed cream of mushroom soup.

The same selective nostalgia works on baby names. Most people today see sweet little Emma andLillie and romantic Olivia and Isabella as the bread and soup, and Mildred...well, you get the picture.

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I Don't Like His Family Tradition!

My partner's family has a name tradition for first-born sons that means a lot to him. I've made it clear that I am not a fan of the tradition (because I don't much like the name and because I don't like being told what I'll name my child!). Both of us feel strongly about this. How can we resolve this? - Ms. M

Ms. M, welcome to the no-compromise zone. This is the territory where all of our normal baby name decision-making techniques -- brainstorming, list making, discussion, compromise -- go out the window. In here, it's all or nothing.

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Will This Name Make My Daughter Jealous?

My husband and I both like the name Astoria for a girl. The problem is we have a daughter named Emily and I worry that she might be jealous that her sister got a unique name while hers is very common. Should we choose a more tradional name? - Hesitant

I'm glad you're considering sibling harmony as you choose a name. Siblings are super-sensitive to fairness, so it's smart to think about how their names compare. But it's easy to take that thinking too far. The harmonious-sibling-set rule is meant as a guideline, not a requirement for your children to match like a set of silverware. Personal style is personal, after all. You should feel free to loosen up and enjoy the naming process.

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Do I Have to Compromise on Names?

My husband and I can't agree on a girl's name. I suggested a name which means 'beautiful' in his native country. He hates it. We always said the rule should be that if either of us dislikes the name it's gone from the list, but I feel extremely strongly about this name. I feel I should have the final say as I've already made a huge concession to him in the naming department, which he doesn't fully understand. His family is Scandanavian and I have his surname. My family is Greek and Irish. With his surname and the laws governing names in his country, we can't choose a name from my side of the family. I accepted that without a fuss. I feel that I've already compromised more than enough, and besides, I'm the one who has to give birth! Despite what we've previously agreed, I'm ready to dig my heels in and insist on the name. Please help! - Hormonal

Oh dear, you really do feel strongly about this name, don't you. Strongly enough, perhaps to override your own good judgment? Take a deep breath, and let's look closely at what you've said.

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No, He's NOT Named For His Uncle!

I want to name my son Christopher. My boyfriend's brother's name is also Christopher. I don't want people to think he is named after my future brother-in-law. What do I tell people who assume that, and what do I tell my child? - Cuppy-cake

Cuppy-cake, close your eyes for a moment and…well no, you're reading, so keep your eyes open but imagine this scene as vividly as you can:

Your friend "Stephanie" has just become a grandmother. Her son and daughter-in-law have a brand new baby girl. You attend the christening, and learn that the little girl, too, has been named Stephanie. "Oh, how sweet," you remark to the new mom. "You named her after her grandma!"

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My Daughter's Name Matches Her Birthday!

Our favorite girl's name, the only one we can agree on, is June. We picked it before we got pregnant and now we are due in June! Is it too tacky to name your child after the month she is born in? - June Mom

I've received questions like this many times...in reverse. The usual refrain is "Can we name our daughter April even if she's born in September?" Parents worry that a mismatched month is confusing, or inappropriate, or even false advertising.

Yet here you sit with the happy coincidence of your baby's birth month matching the name you chose. And instead of high-fiving over your good luck, you're worrying that the month match is "tacky."

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Can I Avoid Nicknames?

I am due in December, and my husband and I like the name William. The problem is our last name, which ends in "ll" as well, rules out the nickname Will. We do not like any of the other popular nicknames for William. How reasonable is it to expect that little William will be called by his full name instead of having family and friends shortening it into a nickname that is either a tongue twister, or a name we don't care for? - No Will, No Way

If you aim for the full William, you won't be alone. More and more families are turning toward the formal today, filling playgrounds with the likes of James-not-Jim and Daniel-not-Dan. The standard nicknames just sound too ordinary for today's parents. After all, it was "every Tom, Dick and Harry" who stood for the everyman, not "every Thomas, Richard and Henry."

But as many Name Lady readers have told me, nicknames have a life of their own. Parental control only goes so far.

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Does My Baby Need a Whole Name?

I want to name my baby boy J.R. as his first name. My grandfather was nicknamed J.R. and I want to name my son in honor of him. Since my husband and I can't agree on what the J and R would stand for I'm thinking of just naming him with initials. Do you think it's okay to name a child with just initials? Or do you think we should pick a name and then call him J. R.? - Initial Decision

Well, that's a creative solution to a naming deadlock: not choosing a name at all!

I can understand the temptation. You'll call him J.R. regardless, so why go through the agony of hammering out a compromise? But you planned to give him a full name. And there was a reason for that, wasn't there? I don't think it's fair to your son to punt just because the choice is turning out to be tougher than you expected.

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Can I Give My Daughters the "Same" Name?

My two-year-old daughter's name is Elizabeth. Since Isabella is the Spanish version of the name Elizabeth, should I not name my new baby Isabella? The two names sound and look completely different to me, but will this create a lifelong problem for my two daughters? - Isabella Lover

Don't we all create lifelong problems for our children? Luckily, choosing the names Elizabeth and Isabella ranks low on the scale of Ways To Give Your Kids Complexes. I'd say it comes in just above making them wait until high school to get their ears pierced.

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Will This Name Doom My Baby?

After years of trying, we are thrilled to be expecting a baby girl. I didnt think the naming would be hard...I've always liked "Mallory" because it's cute, but not that common. But while looking up name meanings I was horrified to discover that it means "ill-fated young woman." Now I'm a little unsure. - Ill-Fated Mom

Let's talk for a minute about the meaning of meanings.

Of course, none of us want our kids' names to mean something awful. But where did this idea come from that a name's "meaning" is some obscure Latin root you track down via twists and turns through Middle English and French?

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