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

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Is My Baby’s Name a Crime?

When my son was born, I loved his simple and original name. But a close friend responded to our announcement with shock that I had used her name, the name she had picked out for a future child. She's not pregnant, married, or in a serious relationship right now, so I never ran my name options past her. I was completely unaware of her plans for the name, and I let her know that at the time. She's still hurt, though, and (months after the fact) is telling everyone that I betrayed her. This recently led to a confrontation between us over the phone that grew so heated, with so much yelling on her end, that I've stopped communicating with her. I just don't think she can be reasonable about this issue.

Now my son is a year old and I have a negative association with his name. I can't stop thinking about how I should have called him something else to avoid this drama. I want to love his name, but I'm having a very hard time forgetting about the negative end to my friendship. How can I make myself love it again?

–Guilty by Association

I have long maintained that name thievery is not a prosecutable offense. Names are not scarce commodities that we need to hoard and preserve for future use. They lose nothing by sharing—as the parents of any Noah or Sophia will tell you!—even within the same family, let alone a wider social group.

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We’re Stumped by a Single-Sex Baby Name Style!

We have two boys, Grant and Clark. We are now having a baby girl and cannot agree on a name. We like older names, obviously, but not so outdated they're only for the elderly. Can you help? Our last name is two syllables and starts with W.

–Need a Name for Baby Sister

"Older but not outdated" is at the top of many parents' baby name wish lists, and unfortunately it doesn't do much to narrow down the field of options. There are hundreds of names that might fit the bill, and many ways to define both "older" and "outdated." If you then turn to your boys’ names for inspiration, you're up against a single-sex style: The sturdy, manly "thunk" of Grant and Clark doesn't correspond in any obvious way to a particular strain of girls' names. So you're once again stuck.

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Which Baby Name Is Better for a Blonde?

Do you prefer Maeve or Norah? I like Norah, but it's very girly and super popular right now. Maeve sounds tougher and is more unique. I like it better, but my husband prefers Norah. So the deciding factor will be her hair color: If it's dark, her name will be Maeve. If it's light, her name will be Norah. What do you think?

–Mad About Maeve

If all things were exactly even—you loved both names equally, and so did your husband; and you loved them both so much you just couldn't choose between them—then I'd call your hair-color tie-breaker a clever solution.

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Does a New Home State Mean a New Style of Baby Name?

We are looking for a name for our third son, but are feeling stuck due to our other two boys' names. They were both born in Hawaii and have Hawaiian names: Kai (meaning "ocean") and Koa ("warrior"). This baby will be born in Kansas, which is obviously not a language! We like short names with a nice meaning, but never intended to stick with "K" names, necessarily. Any ideas on a third boy name that is unique and short, and works with Koa and Kai? Thank you!

–My Three Sons

How about Kan or Kas for Kansas? Okay, just kidding. But you do have a unique dilemma: How do you maintain sibling name equity, given the big cultural switch between sibs two and three? In my opinion, you should avoid a massive style switch based just on birthplace.

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We Need a Baby Name That’s Not Too Old, Not Too New

We are having a hard time naming our baby girl. We have three boys, Dillon, Jacob, and Ryan. I want our daughter's name to flow with them. But I like more modern names (like Lylah and Mia), and my husband likes older names (like Olivia and Emily). Please help!

–It's a Girl!

It sounds as if you and your husband might be closer to agreement than you think. Set aside, for a moment, the idea of modern vs. old-fashioned names, and listen to the sounds of the names you mentioned. Now they have a lot more in common: the vowel sounds "ee" and "ah," and the consonants L and M.

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Do These Baby Names Go with the Flow?

My sons are Hunter and Tanner. I am having a third son soon and would like the baby's name to flow with theirs and not be very popular (in the top 100). What do you suggest I choose?

–My Three Sons

The idea of sibling name "flow" is a new one for me. Name flow typically applies to a single name's different components—to the smooth sound pattern of first-middle-last name combinations rather than to an easy verbal transition between three sibling names. But whether you're worried about the three brothers' names falling trippingly on your tongue or have the more common concern of wanting your kids' names to "go together"—to sound like a matched set—you've got the same major issue at stake: To –er or not to –er?

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Does My Baby Need Her Own Special Name?

I've had a first name chosen for a girl for years: Elliana. I'm struggling with her middle name. My mom's name is Kathryn, and I would like to honor her. Should I go with Elliana Kathryn? Or use Elliana Kate as a way to honor my mom, but still give my baby her "own" name?

–Like Mother, Like Daughter

It seems to me that your baby would already have her own name: Elliana. But let's look at the question of what constitutes an homage: What's the best way to honor your mom in her granddaughter's name? Generally, the standard is: Will the honoree (or if she is deceased, the people who loved and remember her) feel suitably honored by the name you choose?

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When Is a Baby Name Out of Bounds?

I have one son named Felix, and a million girl names that I like. I have such a difficult time with boy names. I like Reuben, Sawyer, Isaac, and Spencer—but I knew someone named Spencer in high school, so I can't use this one. What is the thinking on giving your child the name of someone you knew but weren't really friends with?

–Felix's Mommy

We should distinguish here between honor names and name associations. An honor name, of course, is one you give to your child as a way to show admiration, respect, and love for the honoree. It's a deliberate choice to have your child share his name with someone who is important to you.

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Can I Irish-ize This Baby Name?

Is there an Irish equivalent for Henrietta? This is my first and only choice for my soon-to-be-born daughter, but I would consider an Irish version.

–Mam-to-Be

The real question here might be "What is an 'Irish version' of a name?" That’s because American or English names are linked to Irish names in varying (and inconsistent) ways. For example, the Irish name Aoife is often called the Irish version of Eve or Eva—but only because the two names sound similar. They don't share an etymology. But the Irish name Séamus and its English counterpart, James, actually derive from the same source and refer to the same Biblical name.

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Please Help My Friends Use My New Name!

Hi! I'm a transgender boy and have started going by the name Kellin. My friends have said they support me, but they keep on referring to me by my old name. I don't know how to correct them without seeming rude. How can I be more assertive with my name?

–Kellin, Please!

Sometimes, a change like this just takes a lot of gentle, but persistent reminders, as when a teenager or adult wants to shed a childhood nickname. It’s not rude to say "It's Kellin now, thanks!" when friends forget. Just keep your tone cheerful and polite.

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