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

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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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What's Wrong with Being Popular?

Is it weird to only like popular names? I tend to love names that are in the top ten or 15 in my state. However, I always hear how they are "overused," "boring," or "he/she will be one of five in their class." On the flip side, I've never really liked any of the more unusual names that I have found. Is there really no more room for another Olivia or Jacob?

–Happy at the Top

You're not weird at all! The popular names are at the top of the charts because lots of people are using them. And yet so many parents put unnecessary pressure on themselves to choose a name that’s not popular (but yet, not odd or … too unpopular).

There are many things a name can and should do: Represent your child to the world; honor a special person or place; highlight a quality or virtue you value. Being wildly creative needn’t be on that list.

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Would a Name Switch Fix This Sibling Sitch?

Our first daughter's name is Leena (she is 5 years old) and our second is Dina (14 months old). Leena is quite jealous of her sister and we think that their names being too close might be a factor. Could that be right? Is it worth going through the name-changing process? (Dina's middle name is Linda, so we're thinking of dropping the first name and keeping only the middle one.)

–Mom of Rivals

Kids with that age difference frequently do feel resentful of their younger siblings. Your older daughter enjoyed the solo-kid life for four years before her sister came along. It's a big adjustment for her. And at 14 months, your younger daughter is likely starting to walk and talk, which could make her feel like even more of a challenge to her big sister.

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I'm Looking for a Baby Name that Pops!

We have a daughter named Poppy and are having another girl. We're looking for a name that's equally as spunky, young, and unique. I had Luna and Nova picked out, but found out that both are on track to become very popular. What other unique names might fit? The middle name will be June or Ruby, but I don't like those as firsts; they sound dated.

–Seeking a Sister Name

Trying to ride the line between "unique and fresh" and "too popular" is very difficult. Names are unpredictable, and can suddenly rise and fall without a lot of warning. Plus, what sounds young and spunky to you may also appeal to lots of other parents.

What we can do is look at trends and see what’s happening. You’re correct that both Luna and Nova have spiked upward recently, while June and Ruby (for comparison) peaked a century ago—although both are rising again today.

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Is This Baby Name Too Shady?

Hello! I love the name Grey for a boy. My husband's first name is Christian (which I love) and I love them together. I don't think Grey Christian sounds right, but after the books and movies do you think Christian Grey is a problem? I love the name, don't really care about the books.

–But Grey Is Great!

Pop culture associations often fade over time, but this one is 50 shades of problematic. You didn't even need to name the books and movies that concern you, because the connection is obvious (and uncomfortable).

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Should Twins Share an Initial and a Birthday?

I am expecting identical twin girls in my third pregnancy and am stuck on the names Isla and Ines. They are names we love individually and were second choices for our older children (Zac and Ava). They fit well with our family style. However, I'm worried about the girls sharing a first initial when they will also be identical and share a birthday.

I have studied baby name websites, twin forums, and books. We like some other names (Hazel, Ivy, Violet, Esme) but not as much as Isla and Ines. Am I setting them up for unnecessary conflicts as they grow up with confusion over their names along with other twin problems?

–Twin Mom-to-Be

Your hesitation makes sense. Both Isla and Ines are short, foreign-feeling, and breezy in addition to sharing that striking initial letter. There's a certain matched quality to the pairing that's reason for pause. You may be envisioning one elementary-school teacher after another struggling for nine months to tell your girls apart. Or worse, that you'll unwittingly communicate to the world and to your daughters that they are, first and foremost, a set, interchangeable and paired rather than individual.

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There Must Be a Better Name for This Baby!

My brother and his girlfriend are having their first baby and it's a girl. They've got a name in the works for her, but we don't believe that it suits the little girl. However, my family has Scottish and English heritage and I'm wondering what would be a good Scottish English name for a girl? Any ideas?

–Proud Auntie

"We" need to back way up here. When you say "we" don't believe the (chosen and shared) name "suits" the baby, who is "we"? It's not the baby’s parents, of course. Perhaps a group of relatives? Are you a committee designated by the parents to choose a name?

Also, how can a name "not suit" a baby who isn't even born yet? It sounds like you're trying to find a gentler way to say "we hate this name and they should pick something else."

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We’ve Already Used the Perfect Baby Name!

My husband and I are stumped on a girl name for our third baby. We both like Claire, but it is our oldest daughter's middle name. Is it weird to reuse a middle name as a first name? My husband suggested Clara. I love it, but think it is too close to our younger daughter's name, Nora. We also both like Stella, but our oldest's name is Adelle. What do you think?

–Mom in a Middle Muddle

This can be a tough call! Is it okay to reuse a middle name for a younger sibling's first name? There are strikingly strong feelings on both sides. In some families, every child has the same middle name (say, Dad's first or Mom's maiden name). In others, a middle name can return as a first name without a second thought. And in still others, parents feel it would never be fair to give a child a name that's "used." The older siblings, if old enough to have an opinion, might love the practice—or hate it.

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