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

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I Have the Same-Name Blues

I'm sure you've gotten questions about this before, but what is the etiquette for same or similar baby names with friends and family? I've loved a specific name since childhood. My husband and I haven't been able to have children yet, but my cousin just used that name for her fifth child. And my second favorite name was used by a friend from high school. I have a HUGE family, too. There are going to be no names left that I love!

–Worried About Stealing

Wading into the waters of name "stealing" is always tricky. While it's true that no one owns a name, and theoretically you should be able to use any name you like, you specifically asked about "etiquette." Etiquette means caring about other people and trying to be considerate of them. It means not making the (arbitrary) decision that your claim to a name is more legitimate than someone else's, and that therefore you have the right to hurt their feelings.

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When Does Old Become New Again?

Why is it that old-fashioned names have come back so strongly? I've always loved them because I love classic books (in 1992, I named my cat Martha after a minor character in The Secret Garden), but I figure this can't be everyone's reason. Is this about collective nostalgia?

–Frustrated Old-Lady Namer

In a way, it is about nostalgia—or at least the effort to marry nostalgia with distinctiveness. In an age where everyone wants fresh-sounding names that are known, but not too popular, parents with a traditional bent tend to turn back three or four generations to find names that feel fresh again.

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The Trouble with Two First Names

I want to give my son two first names, James Michael. Both names are significant because they are the names of my fiancé's and my older brothers that have both passed away. So we think it's sweet to name our son after our brothers. I was just wondering how two first names work. Do I need a middle name as well or can you drop a middle name all together?

–It Takes Two

The Name Lady sees a lot of confusion about Juniors, and that's with a fairly well established tradition to follow. When it comes to the double first name, the waters are even murkier, especially for boys. The good news is that almost anything goes. The bad news is that, well, almost anything goes, so how are you supposed to decide?

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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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What Goes with Guinevere?

I am having a hard time finding a name that sounds good with our first daughter's name, Guinevere. I absolutely love her name and I keep hoping I will find a name I love as much as hers, but nothing has come up yet. Do you have any suggestions?

–Still Searching

Parents put a lot of pressure on themselves to find the perfect name, and the stakes only seem to get higher with subsequent children. If you've already used the best name out there, how can you follow that up?

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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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Does Popularity Rule This Name Out?

My husband and I fell in love with the name Jackson, only to realize it is becoming extremely popular, especially with all the spellings (Jaxon, Jaxson, Jax, etc.). We live in California and it seems a little less popular out on the West coast, but we are afraid the trend is going to reach out here too. Do we give up the name we love and choose something more popular? Help please!

–Trend-spotter

You've bumped square into a problem that many baby-namers face: The name you love is so good, lots of other people love it too. Jackson—just that spelling—is a top 50 name in most U.S. states, and it's in the top 20 in the West coast states of Washington and Oregon. So there's no question that the name is popular. But the more pertinent question in my view, is "Does that matter?"

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Is This Pair Too Perfect?

I'm pregnant with my second child, a boy, and my husband and I are facing a dilemma with respect to our favourite name. Our daughter's name is Ava. My husband and I both love the name Adam as a strong, short, masculine name.

However, we are worried about the sibling name pairing. My sister and mother have both commented that their first thought was that the children would be saddled with "Adam and Eve" references. I didn't see this association until it was pointed out, and now it's causing me and my husband some concern. We don't want our children to be the butt of jokes, but we're not sure whether it will come up that much. Is this really a big problem? Do we need to consider a different name for our son?

–Ava's Mom

This is a tough one! The pairing of Adam and Eve is a definite non-starter for siblings, on a par with Jack and Jill, or Barbie and Ken, or Romeo and Juliet. And yet, Eve and Ava are different. The question is, are they different enough?

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Is This Nickname a No-No?

My beautiful 8-year-old daughter is named Ilana. Though we both love her name, she more closely identifies with the nickname we have called her since she could speak, Nani (nah-nee). She wants to start going by her nickname not only at home but at school. Looking into the name Nani, it may actually be a Hawaiian name; but we are not Hawaiian. Is it acceptable to have everyone start calling her Nani even though it is not commonly known as a "real" name? Is it a nickname that should only be used in the family or is it something that could be used all around?

–Nani's Mom

I'm going to start this column off with a little test. Quick, Nani's Mom, which of the following celebrities are familiar to you: Mary Elizabeth Gore, Josephine Lauder, Rafael Cruz, or Elizabeth Jean Philipps?

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Right Name, Wrong Letter!

I really love the name Ryker, but want to stick with M names for all my kids. I decided on Myker after seeing Ryker, but I am nervous about how it really sounds to others and if it has a meaning I can't catch (I am French Canadian and don't know all English words or expressions yet). How does it sound to you?

–M-loving Maman

To my ear, and mind, Ryker and Myker are worlds apart. Ryker is a super-charged surname in the "men of action" style. It turns up in high-energy, macho settings from Star Trek to Marvel Comics to professional wrestling. It’s a fast-rising hit and a crowd-pleaser.

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