Baby Name Advice Column: Ask the Name Lady Baby Name Blog

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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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Carrying Too Much Weight in the Middle (Name)

I'm a 14-year-old boy and I want to change my middle name. My parents gave me a Russian middle name and an American first name, because I was born in Russia (and then adopted). I want to change my middle name, but I don't know how to tell them the name I like. Any suggestions?

–All-American

I normally advise young would-be name-changers to be patient. You are still growing into the person that you are and will be, and sometimes wishing for a new name is a part of that—one that proves to be temporary.

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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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What Makes a Name Masculine?

Why is my name a boy name?

–Alexis

It's a fair question, Alexis: Why is any name a "boy name," or a "girl name"? With almost every traditional name, the answer is that we're following in the footsteps of past baby namers. John and David are boys' names because they've always been boys' names. The same goes for girls' names like Anna and Elizabeth.

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Do My Twins Sound Like a Married Couple?

My husband and I are expecting twins. For a boy, we really like the name James (my father's name), and for a girl, we're thinking about Lily (my favorite flower) or Lillian. We like the names individually, and we like how the names sound together, but I have two reservations.

First, does giving one child a family name and the other child a name we just happen to like feel unbalanced? Second, I grew up on the Harry Potter books. His parents are named James and Lily, and I think of that when I hear the pairing. I don't mind it, but how likely are other people to make that connection?

–Twins on the Way

Two babies, two questions! Let's take them one at a time. If you give one twin a family name, must the other twin have one too? With siblings, and especially twins, it's good to keep parity in mind. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to sacrifice your taste to it.

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How Can I Avoid Name-Change Regret?

I'm 17 and I've hated my name for as long as I can remember, for a few different reasons. First, I have a speech impediment which makes it almost impossible for me to say my name and have people understand me. This has made my dislike for my name grow over the years, as introducing myself has become intolerably frustrating. On top of that, I just feel like my name doesn't fit me as a person at all. My dad is supportive of me changing my first name, but I haven't told my mom yet because she can be very harsh.

My main issue in committing to this is wondering how I know this name is "the one." I'm afraid officially changing my name will hurt my mom's feelings, or end up with me regretting it down the road.

–Scared of Regret

Typically, I advise young would-be name changers to proceed with caution, and try on a new name unofficially before pursuing a legal change. But in my opinion, a speech impediment is a rock-solid reason to make a change, and do it now. Your own name should never feel like an enemy or a source of stress.

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How Do I Say No to Grandma?

My grandmother, I'll call her "Elizabeth," has always wanted a girl named after her, but she only had boys. She now has three female grandchildren (including me; there are also five boys). One granddaughter has the middle name Elizabeth, but my grandmother constantly complains that "the middle name doesn't count." She's started trying to make us promise to name our future children Elizabeth! She's my grandma and I love her, but I'm not sure if I want to associate my hypothetical kids with her. I feel so guilty about even writing this. Is there anything that I can do?

–Not Elizabeth!

Wow: Grandma is really putting you and all her grandkids in a tough spot. The guilt trip is unfair, and as you're noticing, it isn't working at all. It's making you and your cousins feel less inclined to honor your grandmother with a namesake.

For now, it sounds like you're young enough for the easy out: "Grandma, I love you and your name, but I can hardly make a baby name pledge on behalf of a partner I haven't even met yet!" Keep reinforcing this message: You love her, but you may not be able to show it by using her name. Who knows: You might have only sons as well!

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