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

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Should I Choose Sass or Substance?

I am pregnant with my second baby, and looking at closely at girl names for the first time. The names I loved when pregnant with my son (Piper and Zoe) are both in the top 100 and increasing or holding steady in popularity. That eliminates them as options for me.

I've thought carefully about what I love about those names and it's the image of a fun and feisty little girl. I found two other names I love that I feel share a similar vibe but are less popular: Pepper and Cricket. In other words, I've discovered that what I love are peppy nicknames. I don't want to saddle my daughter with a nickname that might not translate to adulthood on her birth certificate but I can't find any real names that I like as much, much less names that match the nicknames I like!

There are a ton of names that are pretty and all, but I can't work up any enthusiasm for them because they aren't really my style. Please help!

–Looking for Spunk

I love the way you've thought this through. You get a gold star from the Name Lady for zeroing in on the name style that's right for you (which isn’t always easy!) and considering your daughter’s lifelong needs as well.

The problem you're having—you can’t muster much excitement over options other than Pepper or Cricket—is easily explained. Those non-nickname options just don't float your boat because they aren’t nicknames! 

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Can I Break the Syllable Rule?

I have a question concerning the "syllable rule" (i.e., no 2-2-2 pattern). My partner's last name ends with "O." The first name I love is Margaux, and the middle name I'm obsessed with is Kahlo. I'm a history teacher and I want my daughter's middle name to be history-based and/or awesome-based (other names considered: Hypatia, Clio, Sojourner, Abina).

I love Frida Kahlo for many reasons, but her gift for being completely unapologetic is what I love most. My daughter will be half Mexican, so I love that this name belongs to one of the most amazing women in history who also happens to be of Mexican descent. The issue is that the names don't follow the syllable rule—which isn't that huge of a deal, but also that all three names end in the "O" sound. I did consider using "Frida" instead of Kahlo, but I just love Kahlo as a name/statement much more.

-O Dear

Let's dispense with the syllable rule first. There's nothing inherently wrong with a 2-2-2 syllable pattern! It's the specific combination of sounds and rhythms that matters. So a name like Anna Marie Kepler sounds perfectly natural. Even a repeated stress pattern, like Anna Morgan Taylor, works fine because the sounds don't repeat or trip the tongue. But Anna Emma Lima is too much of the same.

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What's the Secret of Silar?

I like the name Silar, but cannot find any meaning or anything else about it. "Silas" always comes up instead. Is it a last name? Am I spelling it wrong?

–Bridget

I can see why you're convinced that this is an established name, even when you haven't found any evidence for it. It has a familiar, fashionable sound, thanks to list-toppers and up-and-comers like Silas, Cyrus, Skyler, and Tyler, or even the Spanish name Pilar (pronounced pee-LAR and used for girls).

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How Common Is Too Common?

I'm having a baby soon, a girl. I love a lot of popular names, like Emmy and Avery. But if I use one of them, I'm thinking of spelling it differently (like Emie or Avri or Abbi) because I have a very common last name. Also, I really like "i" at the end of girls' names to replace "y" or "ie," but I don't know if that will work.

–Worried Mother

Will it work? That depends on what you're trying to achieve. If you simply like the ends-with-I spelling, then using it works for you—no problem.

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Was This Baby Name a Bad Dream?

The other night my husband had a dream about our baby in which he was named Benjamin. Upon hearing about the dream, I absolutely fell in love with the name. I find it classy and dignified and like that it can be shortened many ways. The only problem is that our last name is Pender. I worry the rhyming aspect will lead to teasing. My husband feels it would help our child defend and stand up for himself. What do you think?

–Once Upon a Dream

Trusting dream logic to choose your baby's name may sound kooky, but your husband is in good company. Many religious traditions treat dreams as moments of divine inspiration. Psychologists like Freud and Jung claimed our dreams are a direct line to the subconscious. And as every fairy-tale aficionado knows, dreams can also manifest as prophecies, predicting black or golden hair, sorrow or joy, and powerful or important destinies.

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Don't Judge My Baby's Name!

I have two children: Adaline is 9 months old and Kristof would be four and a half, but he passed before Adaline was born. I just found out I am expecting again. If we have a boy, I'd like to name him Adolf. To me, it's in memory of Kristof and I also love it coupled with my daughter's name. My husband won't go for it. The obvious reason is he's too afraid of the name's history. I personally don't hold the name as a reminder of Adolf Hitler. Will other people really judge my son if his name is Adolf?

–Destiny

I'm so sorry for your loss. I understand your impulse to want to honor your first son, but this isn't the way to do it. Will people judge? Well, yes. Think of it this way. If you met a boy named Elvis, could you imagine that his parents never even considered Elvis Presley when choosing the name? That would be preposterous. So you can't expect people not to think that the name Adolf references Adolf Hitler. Your child will spend his life refuting rumors that he’s a neo-Nazi—or that you are.

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Is Indigo a No-Go?

I'm expecting our second daughter. I stumbled across the name Indigo and am surprised by how much I like it. I also think the nickname Indie is great. My husband likes it even more after discovering what a "rainbow baby" is; we have had several losses prior to this pregnancy. My concerns: Is it too masculine? Does is scream "my parents are hippies"? (We aren't). Our first daughter is Roxie. The other name in the running for this baby is Zora.

–No Hippies Here

This true-blue name does ring a little bit boy, with its –o ending, and a little bit hippie, with its origin in the worlds of color and nature. And yet Indigo has been considered an option for girls ever since the Indigo Girls hit the music scene in the 1990s. The only celebrity baby Indigo in our database is a girl (the daughter of actor Lou Diamond Phillips, born in 2007).

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Will I Ever Fall in Love With a Name?

My husband and I are at a stalemate when it comes to choosing a name for our baby girl. I don't like his favorite name, Laila, and he doesn't like my favorite name, Ivy, nor any of my second favorites. We finally agreed on Lila. But I have yet to fall in love with it; it just doesn't feel right.

I haven't been considering names starting with M because our last name starts with F and I don't want to give my poor baby initials that will cause teasing. But I'm beginning to wonder if the perfect name that both of us would love is out there in those Ms. Am I being ridiculous or should I keep M names off the list?

–Mama F.

You're not being ridiculous, but you are being tempted by forbidden fruit. The letter M just looks special because it's not available. So don't let it distract you. Put it aside, and consider your remaining options.

Lila is a lovely choice that combines some of the sounds and syllables from both your favorite name and your husband's. It might be just the compromise that you need. You may fall in love with it yet, either before or after your little girl is born.

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My Miracle Baby Needs a Perfect Name!

I was told I had no viable eggs after going through chemotherapy for cancer, but now I am pregnant with a little girl. I have always loved the name Claire and my husband loves it as well, which is great, but we are stuck on a middle name. Ann is both my mother's middle name and mine. Its meaning in Hebrew is "God has favored me," which I love. But "Claire Ann" doesn't flow and we have a short last name, too, that goes with NOTHING. What should I do?

– In the No-Flow Zone

First of all, allow me to congratulate you on your amazing, unexpected pregnancy! Whatever one's religious beliefs, it's impossible to hear a story like yours, with this immense joy coming out of suffering and despair, and not feel grateful. Not only are you pregnant after doubting you ever could be, but you also have a chance to give your daughter the name you've cherished for years, without husbandly vetoes or uncooperative baby genders: a truly rare event!

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We Have the Last-Name Blues!

My fiancé and I are torn between two names we really love: Flynn and Gavin. We have the difficult last name Dix and I'm worried our son will have his fair share of teasing regardless of what first name we pick. Which name would you choose?

– Need a Teflon Name

Schoolyard teasing can leave a deep mark on a child's developing sense of self. Understandably, then, future parents expend generous mental energy analyzing potential names from the vantage point of the class bully. Reasonable people don't want their kids to face ridicule and hardship for choices their parents made.

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