naming dilemmas

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Are These Names Alive With the Sound of Music?

My fiancé and I are heading to India in two months to pick up our newly adopted daughter, and we still aren't sure what to name her! We both adore the name Birgitta and think it fits her perfectly. The only problem is our other daughter, who we adopted from Russia, is named Liesl…and both names happen to be two of the von Trapp girls in The Sound of Music! (Neither of us had ever seen the musical and had no idea they shared this connection.) To make matters worse, the other names we like Gretl and Marta.

We're both scared of the backlash our children might receive growing up just for having two Da's, let alone having two Da's who named them after a musical on top of it. What do you think we should do?

- Two Concerned Fathers

As Carrie Underwood's recent live tv version showed, The Sound of Music remains one of the world's "Favorite Things." But it's clearly not one of yours, at least where baby names are concerned. You've stumbled unknowingly into a theme; will it claim control of your daughters' names? 

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Can We Honor the Man Without Using His Name?

Suppose you love or admire someone very much, and would love to give him/her a namesake ... except that you can't STAND this person's name! My husband and I love Pope Francis but don't like the name Francis, and as we are not of the proper ethnicity we don't feel comfortable naming our son "Francisco" or "Franz" or some other variation. We would love advice on this name in particular and this problem in general.

--Not a Francis Fan

You've run into a classic problem of modern baby naming: when your heart and your fashion sense point in opposite directions. Many parents have run into this with a beloved Grandpa Herbert or Grandma Bernice, but Pope Francis has made his chosen name (the 2013 Name of the Year) one of the most debated in the land.

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How Can I Prove I'm Right?

My husband and I are expecting our first child in May. Unfortunately, we can't agree on a girl's name. I love the name Eleanor, but he thinks it's much too old fashioned. I did mention that there are nicknames that go along with this name that are modern and lovely (like Elle, Ella, etc.). He likes the nicknames, but would rather they be our child's actual name. I like these nicknames, but I would really like her full name to be Eleanor. Can you give me some information about the name so that I can convince my husband it won't have an "old lady" stigma??

-Hopeful mom-to-be

Your husband is trying to explain his negative reaction to Eleanor in logical terms. That's respectful of him; he knows that "No, because I say so" is a lousy approach to marital disagreements. Choosing a name, though, isn't like choosing a mutual fund or an infant car seat. It's not about facts and figures, it's about emotions.

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We Can't Stand Each Other's Baby Name Style!

We can't agree on our daughter's name. My husband likes Autumn, Brooke, River, and Rose. I can't picture my daughter with ANY of those names. He sort of can tolerate Mallory and Regan, which were on my original list, but they are not my top names anymore at all. I like Ione, Isla and Irie. He HATES all of them. I want something uncommon, but not wacky. Any suggestions?
- Stuck

No matter how much you have in common with your partner, there will always be places where your tastes diverge. Perhaps you're more of a sports fan; perhaps he's more of a meat eater. Most often, we learn to accept our differences -- sometimes even enjoy them. And we find ways to compromise (barbecue with the game, anyone?)

When it comes to naming a baby, though, consensus is required and compromise can seem impossible. You're choosing a single name to represent your child to the world. You either like it or you don't.

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Are Double Names Hot or Not?

What's the general consensus on double names? I've lived in Charlotte for over 10 years and they are growing on me. My baby girl is due in January and I'm contemplating Anna Grace or Anna Claire.
--North Carolina Mama

It’s true that two-for-one first names are still much more common in the South than elsewhere in the U.S. So if you think you’ll be staying in the region, a double name will not likely draw any double takes. Even outside the South, Americans are certainly familiar with these double names, thanks to celebrities like Mary-Kate Olsen and Sarah Michelle Gellar. Halle Berry even gave her son a hyphenated double name, in the French style.

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Can I Rhyme With My Daughter?

My partner and I both adore the name Tess. But my name is Jessica. I get called Jessie. Is it silly or annoying to have a daughter called Tess when it basically would rhyme with her mother's name? My partner doesn't think it matters.
- Jessie-Tessie

You've smartly asked two different questions about rhyming mother-daughter names:

Would it be silly?

Would it be annoying?

I don't think two names as classic as Jessie and Tess could be considered silly. They're not an obvious or cutesy matched pair, and they have different histories and styles. But annoying? You bet.

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Can I Recycle a Middle Name?

My older son's middle name is Everett--a family name. I am currently 7 months pregnant and the only name my husband and I agree upon as a first name for the new baby is, of course, Everett. We have both agreed that we would call the new baby Rhett as a nickname, but my husband does NOT like it as a proper name. I can't help wondering if it's too weird to use the name for both children. Advice please! - Mom of Everett(s)
Ah, the middle name trap! So many of us fall into it.
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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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