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

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Should I Stick With this Baby Name Tradition?

I have been debating whether or not to give my little girl the middle name Carol, which is a family name on my mom's side. Part of me wants to keep the tradition, but another part is not so sure. The first name that I have chosen is Ruby, but Ruby Carol sounds a little off. I'm a big believer in tradition, but should I give my daughter a middle name that I am unsure about? (I don't like Caroline or Carolyn.)

–Feeling Torn

You haven't said just what it is about Carol that's turning you off, aside from the way it sounds with Ruby. Perhaps it's the rhythm: Your ear craves another syllable after "Carol," but you've already said you don't care for Caroline or Carolyn.

Or maybe the pairing of two word names is causing your discomfort. In either of those cases, a second middle name, either before or after Carol, could help. How about a trio like Ruby Elizabeth Carol or Ruby Carol Jane?

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In Search of a Sibling Name with the Right Ending

We're having trouble coming up with a name that pairs well with our son's name, Easton. Names that end in the –on sound, such as Greyson, Ashton, Hudson, etc., are not what we're looking for. Our last name begins with R, so names ending with the –er sound are also out. Suggestions?

–Easton's Mom

Many parents who are drawn to this style of name run into this problem. Today's fashionable surnames for boys almost all end in –n and –r. That gets repetitive as your family grows. And then you have the added complication of a surname starting with R.

To preserve the style of Easton but break out of the ends-with-N pattern, there are a couple of other groups of surname-style names with different ending sounds to try.

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I’m Afraid to Ask for a New Name

I am 13 and want to ask my parents if they would change my name. I know the name isn't too personal, because it was from a TV or movie character. I am just scared of asking my mom. I know I am young, but I have thought about it for years and it would just feel right. I want to do it before I get a high school diploma or driver’s license. I have anxiety and don't speak to many people at school. Is there any possible way to bring this up to my parents without offending them? Is there a way to bring it up more casually? I just don't want them to get mad at me.

–Ready for a Change

I wish I could start by giving you a hug! I also wish I knew if you have a particular reason to believe your parents would get mad at this request. Are they prone to anger? Or is it possible that you are torturing yourself unnecessarily by imagining the worst? Could your anxiety be playing a role?

Many kids your age are hesitant to talk honestly with their parents. And yes, some parents fly off the handle easily, or are too controlling. But many would love to help if their kids would confide in them. They are well-meaning and want you to be happy.

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All the Nicknames Are Taken!

Can Laney be a nickname for Eleanor? I love the name, but both Ellie (in this case, short for Elizabeth) and Norah (as a full name) are taken by other kids in my family, and Nellie was a beloved dog.

–Still Love Eleanor

Sure, you could use Laney as a nickname for Eleanor! Parents have lots of leeway when it comes to pairing up names and nicknames. I think a lot of people will really like the combination of old-fashioned Eleanor with more contemporary Laney.

You could consider Elle or Ella as nicknames for Eleanor, but those might be too close to Ellie. Or you could use the full Eleanor and skip the nicknames altogether.

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Will Vikings Ransack My Daughters' Names?

My husband and I fell in love with the name Thora. We like that it's feminine, unique, traditional, and from his family tree. My only hesitation is that our first daughter is named Freya, which is the name of the Norse goddess of love and beauty—and Thora is the derived from the masculine Norse god Thor. I don't want people to think my husband and I are Norse mythology fanatics! Or think my daughter has a masculine name. Are those too many strikes? We had reservations about Freya too, but we're so happy we decided to choose it for our first daughter after all.

–Freya's Mom

It makes perfect sense that parents who love Freya would also be drawn to Thora—and not, as you point out, just because they face the twilight of the gods together. Both names are short and impactful, clearly feminine but full of brisk, strong sounds, and contain a mix of soft and harsh elements. They fit together beautifully without rhyming or obvious repetition. Their shared Scandinavian heritage is a point of obvious union, but no more remarkable than a pair of sisters named Francesca and Gabriella or Bernadette and Jacqueline.

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What's the Right Way to Pronounce This Baby Name?

My husband and I like name Lena. He says "Layna," however, and I say "Leena." Either way, we still like the name, but I was wondering if you could provide some insight as to which way is more widely accepted. Thank you!

–Tomato, Tomahto

While it's tricky to pin down, "Leena" (as in Lena Horne or Lena Dunham) is much more frequently used in the U.S. and Canada, while "Layna" is standard in Europe and Australia. So if you live in North America, you could use the "more common here" argument to break the tie in your favor.

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Is This Sibling Name Pair Unbearable?

My son is named Amos, and I am now pregnant with a daughter. My husband and I both love the name Annie, and would be ready to commit to it except for one problem. When you say "Amos and Annie" together, it sounds an awful lot like the old radio show "Amos 'n' Andy." That show was blatantly racist and is now considered outrageous and offensive. Would it be in bad taste to name our kids something so reminiscent of the show's title? Or are we overthinking it and it's really no big deal?

–Claire

I do think it's a problem. A cultural connotation that links a pair of names is hard to shake, even decades after the fact. "Amos 'n' Andy" went off the air in 1960—likely well before you were born—yet you know about it, and it comes to mind right away when you hear the similar-sounding combo of Amos and Annie. Each name is just fine on its own, but put them together and you have an issue.

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Will Everyone Hate This Baby Name?

We are having a baby boy and my husband wants to call him Fox (middle name will be Nicholas). We like names that are a bit uncommon, but I'm worried that this name is a bit too unusual and that he will get the nickname "Foxy." I also think my family will hate it, give that foxes are pest animals here in Australia. I prefer the name Lex, but my husband hates it! What are your thoughts on the name Fox? Is it a bit too out there? Or am I overthinking it?

–X-hausted Mom-to-Be

In the United States today, Fox would be a bold choice. It would come across as a bit uncommon, as you prefer, but also as appealing to many with its confident sound and origin in a nature word. Short, brisk word names are on the rise, and Fox fits right in with them.

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Can We Leave One Grandma Out of the Baby Name Game?

I have always loved the idea of honoring a family member by giving a child a meaningful, family middle name. My husband and I both like my mom's name (think "Jane") as a middle name, and had agreed on that if we were to have a girl. Turns out we are having twin girls! Neither of us loves his mom's very '50s name (think "Cheryl"), but we can't exactly name one child for my mom and not name the other for his … can we?

For me, the symbolism of naming our girls after our mothers is more important than loving the name itself, but my husband feels the opposite: Why give your child a name that you don't like, even if it is your mom's name? Do I try to convince him, or do we start over and give up using my mom's name?

–Mom in a Middle-Name Muddle

Your question made me think of President George W. Bush’s twin daughters Jenna and Barbara, each named after a grandmother (they even got the grandmothers' surnames, Welch and Pierce, as middle names). Stylistically, the names are quite different, but as you point out, their symbolism can outweigh the style difference and make them a cohesive set.

But your husband has a point too. He doesn't want to feel locked into a name choice because of the symbolism. I don't believe either of you should try to badger the other into making a choice you don't feel good about.

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I Need a Girl’s Name with European Flair!

I am expecting my second child. My firstborn is a son named Enzo. I'm looking for a similar, two-vowel, girl's name with the same international feel. Any suggestions?

–Mama Needs Advice

By "two-vowel," do you mean starts and ends with a vowel, like Enzo does? If so, that's a fun challenge for us to take on. Enzo is an Italian name (a shortening of Lorenzo) that has actually topped the charts in France, giving it a strong European vibe.

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