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

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Love the Name, Hate the Nickname

My husband I love the name Kate. Just Kate! We don't want to go with anything longer, like Katherine or Kaitlyn. The problem is, we don't like the nickname "Katie" at all. We worry that people calling her Katie is just inevitable, however. Is this a problem you foresee too? Or potentially no big deal?

–Awaiting Baby Kate?

I do suspect that a young Kate will be called Katie a lot. With no other obvious choice for a nickname, people will jump to the well-known Katie without even thinking about it.

As with other dilemmas like this one, the issue becomes: How much will this bother you? With family and friends—people who see your daughter a lot—you can politely insist on Kate-not-Katie. They'll eventually get the message and stick with Kate (unless they’re deliberately trying to be obstinate).

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Are Alyssa and Eliza Too Much Alike?

The only girl name my husband and I agree on is Eliza. The problem is, my name is Alyssa. They don't look similar, but they sound very similar. Are these names too alike, in your opinion?

–Alyssa

Yes, I'd definitely notice the similarity, and call these names too close for comfort. As you mention, they actually don't share many letters in common, which makes them look distinct when written down. But the similar sound is more than enough to trip everyone up and cause confusion, especially since you're not trying to name your daughter after her mom.

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Is This Name in Character?

I am an aspiring author with a character-naming problem. I originally chose Holly for the first name of my protagonist. But now that I am halfway through the manuscript, the character seems too serious and moody for the light and, well, flowery appellation. Are there any more down-to-earth suggestions that still maintain some of Holly's natural appeal?

–Author in a Crisis

As I've often said, style is in the eye of the beholder. So the Name Lady is not here to give you a thumbs-up or down on what name is right for your baby—real or literary.  But what I can do is help you zero in on that just-right name on your own. The first step is to dig deeper on your initial choice, Holly, to see what qualities in it appeal to you. Then, we can find other names that share those qualities.

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Is It Too Late for a New Name?

Naming my daughter was the hardest thing I've ever had to do! When she was born, we didn't have a name that we both agreed on. We decided to compromise by using my husband's first choice for her first name and mine for her middle. I wanted her to go by her middle name, which is Scout. But everyone said it was ugly, a boy's name, a dog's name, or a nickname.

So we ended up calling her by her first name—which I hate! It sounds horrible just saying it, but I don't like it. My daughter just turned one. Would it be okay to change her name now? We have a name we both like. I feel silly even considering it, but I'm so in love with this new name.

–Help!

Since your daughter is a year old, this is borderline territory for a name change. She is too old for you to just switch the name casually, but she is too young to be involved in the decision. However, since you have such a powerfully negative reaction to her current name, it might be healthier to go ahead and make the change.

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Does This Baby Name Break the Rules?

We are thinking of using Abel Charles Campbell for our baby boy. What do you think of the name? Is the 2-2-2 syllable pattern an issue?

–Able to Use Abel?

I'm not sure who started the idea that a pattern of three two-syllable names is a problem, but I don't think it is. Like so many "rules" of naming, it is a preference that somehow grew into a prohibition.

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Will Everyone Think Our Girl Is a Boy?

We are expecting a little girl, and I have fallen in love with the name McKade. We have only seen this name on boys, especially in the south. Can a girl pull this name off? Do you have any suggestions other than the more common McKenzie or McKenna?

–Southern Mama

Hundreds of girls every year are given names like Campbell and Elliott, and we've all heard of starbaby girls named Wyatt and James. So a girl could certainly "pull off" McKade. The "McK" lead-in may have started out as a surname-influenced masculine name style, but these days it's used almost exclusively for girls: McKenzie and McKenna, as you mentioned, but also McKayla and McKinley, plus spelling variations of these, are all girl today—and all quite popular.

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Does This Baby Name Still Belong to Our Firstborn?

My son is named Atlas, but thanks to an incorrect ultrasound, we thought he would be a girl for several months before he was born. During that time, we planned to use the name Iris. Now I am pregnant again and Iris has been grandfathered in as our girl's name for this baby. But the name still seems to belong to my son, who was called that by friends and family for two months before his birth. Is it wrong to stick to Iris when it feels associated with someone else?

–Surprised Boy Mama

When you thought your son was a daughter, you imagined an Iris and all the qualities that name conjured for you: Radiance, perhaps; or blooming purple flowers, or rainbows, or Greek myths. Or maybe no images in particular, but the sense of a daughter, a girl called Iris who would take her place in your home.

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Is This Baby Name Out of Tune?

I'm pregnant with our second child (we don't know whether it's a boy or girl). Our first child has a name with strong family connections. We'd like to do the same for this one. I like the family surname trend (Jackson, Cooper, etc.) and for us, Gibson would be the name. It's not really used as a first name, but I don't mind the nickname Gib and I like the connection to the famous guitar maker, since we are a family of musicians. Is this too odd of a name for a boy?

–Family Namer

While Gibson is a rare name, I wouldn't call it odd at all. It is used as a first name: It's ranked among the top 1,000 names for boys for the last several years. About 250 new baby boys in the U.S., per year, are named Gibson (and so are a handful of girls!).

Gibson is a fresh twist on a fashionable style, being a surname with a –son ending. That means it's a classic recipe for an attractive name. The fact that it has both a family connection, and a musical one, and you like the nickname? That’s a smash hit.

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Has Disney Doomed These Brother Names?

My oldest son is Flynn Elias. I'm having another boy soon and love the name Rider. But I see a problem because of the Disney character Flynn Rider. Should I be concerned? Would spelling it differently help? My children's names would be Flynn, Beckett and Rider. Does it work, or would people think it's strange?

–Soon-to-Be Mom-of-Three

First, let's forget about spelling the name differently. How many people even know for sure how Flynn Rider's name is spelled? More importantly, how often will people first encounter your sons as a pair on paper, vs. spoken aloud—where the spelling doesn’t matter? So unfortunately, you can't spell your way out of this dilemma.

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How Do I Get Grandma to Agree?

Help! My mother-in-law loves the name Raquel. I want to name my daughter Mia, after my best friend who died in a car crash. My mother-in-law understands the sentimental value of Mia, but is stuck on Raquel as the best name for our baby. My husband goes along with what she says because he doesn't want to make her angry. What should I do?

–Dutiful Daughter-in-Law

Oh, dear: This is more of a relationship dilemma than a naming dilemma. At least in the U.S., choosing a baby’s name is considered a joint decision—but of the baby's parents, not the mother and grandmother. Asking for a grandparent's opinion is one thing. A grandparent who feels like she has the last word on the pick is quite another.

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