problematic names

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Is This Name Camera-Ready?

My husband and I have been thinking about names for our unborn son. We both like the name Flash, but my friend told me that she knew a pair of brothers named Flash and Canon. I can't get that out of my head. Will people associate this name with the flash on a camera, or will they see it as a strong, yet cute, boys name?
-Concerned Mom

Cameras? Not likely. Without context, the name Flash alone doesn't automatically connote photography.

Frankly, I was surprised to read that the photography association was what worried you. There's nothing negative about a camera flash, after all. If anything, it suggests split-second action and paparazzi, which fit the name's undeniably "flashy" style. I was more expecting to hear concerns about associations like:

- A "flash in the pan"

- "All flash, no substance" and "all flash, no cash"

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Can the Right Spelling Fix this Baby Name?

What do you think of the name Anneli or Annelie? I initially had Annali in mind, but then changed the spelling to distance it from potential teasing. Please advise.

–Looking for Letter-Perfect

Every imaginable spelling of the name pronounced "ann-a-lee" has been used in recent years: Anali, Analeigh, Annali, Annaley. There have even been dozens of baby girls given the name "Anally." The telenovela El Rostro de Analía, which ran on Telemundo from 2008-2009, helped spark a trend.

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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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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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Why Can't I Read This Man's Name?

Every time I see the name Reince Priebus in the news my mind reads it as Prince Rebus. Every. Single. Time. Why is this happening???

- Rebused

Reinhold "Reince" Priebus is the chairman of the Republican party. Prince Rebus sounds more like the champion of a word-puzzle party. What makes you see one as the other? Maybe it's that the name Reince Priebus itself is a word puzzle.

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Will a Billy Be Bullied?

My wife and I are considering the name William Eliot. However, I'm worried about the connection to the film Billy Elliot. I think it's a lovely movie, but I'm afraid my son will get teased for it.

–Concerned Father

Dad, I think we can put your fears to rest—especially if Eliot would be your son's middle name, not his surname. It’s a huge stretch to think that 8 or 10 years for now, some classmate will learn William’s middle name, consider that Billy is a traditional nickname for William, and then make a connection to an old movie (it came out in 2000) or Broadway musical (which debuted in 2005). After all, the Billy Elliot character is far, far removed from the Marvel or Star Wars universes.

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Do I Dare Use This Name for My Daughter?

I have my first daughter's name all planned out. The only problem is it's a boy’s name, and a kind of rare one at that. Her full name would be Draco Rose Marceline. I really like it but I'm not sure if I should. Would she get picked on?

–Doubting Mama

Draco isn't everyone's style, but no name is! Still, even setting taste aside, I do think Draco is a problematic choice, especially for a little girl. Lots of boys' names are given to girls today, but they usually have some characteristics that make the crossover easier.

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My Name Doesn't Match My Politics

My Republican parents named me Reagan in 1990 after their beloved president. Now I'm a solid Democrat, and I hate having to explain my namesake. I'm thinking about legally changing my name to Regan, but I want to keep the same pronunciation. Will I become "Ree-gun" without the "a"?

–Too Blue for Reagan

Names can send messages about everything from your age and sex to your religion and ethnic background. But your political party? Not usually. Most baby names transcend politics. Your name, though, is the exception.

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Was This Baby Name a Bad Dream?

The other night my husband had a dream about our baby in which he was named Benjamin. Upon hearing about the dream, I absolutely fell in love with the name. I find it classy and dignified and like that it can be shortened many ways. The only problem is that our last name is Pender. I worry the rhyming aspect will lead to teasing. My husband feels it would help our child defend and stand up for himself. What do you think?

–Once Upon a Dream

Trusting dream logic to choose your baby's name may sound kooky, but your husband is in good company. Many religious traditions treat dreams as moments of divine inspiration. Psychologists like Freud and Jung claimed our dreams are a direct line to the subconscious. And as every fairy-tale aficionado knows, dreams can also manifest as prophecies, predicting black or golden hair, sorrow or joy, and powerful or important destinies.

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Don't Judge My Baby's Name!

I have two children: Adaline is 9 months old and Kristof would be four and a half, but he passed before Adaline was born. I just found out I am expecting again. If we have a boy, I'd like to name him Adolf. To me, it's in memory of Kristof and I also love it coupled with my daughter's name. My husband won't go for it. The obvious reason is he's too afraid of the name's history. I personally don't hold the name as a reminder of Adolf Hitler. Will other people really judge my son if his name is Adolf?

–Destiny

I'm so sorry for your loss. I understand your impulse to want to honor your first son, but this isn't the way to do it. Will people judge? Well, yes. Think of it this way. If you met a boy named Elvis, could you imagine that his parents never even considered Elvis Presley when choosing the name? That would be preposterous. So you can't expect people not to think that the name Adolf references Adolf Hitler. Your child will spend his life refuting rumors that he’s a neo-Nazi—or that you are.

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