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

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We Have The Same Name!

I'm soon to be engaged to a wonderful man who has two children from a previous relationship. It's a second marriage for both of us, but I have no previous children. I am nervous about becoming a stepmother, but adding to that is that my first name is the same name as his daughter.

We plan to have more children together, and it's always been important to me to change my name to my husband's so that everyone in the family has the same last name. But I'm really torn here. I don't want his 8-year-old daughter to feel like I'm "stealing" her name, or to resent me for it now or later in life. I also expect that it may cause some confusion with mail, official documents, etc.Unfortunately our name is so short that going by a nickname isn't a possibility.

Am I dooming her (and us both) to a lifetime of confusion: "Nooo, thats my Stepmother, Marie B Clark, I'm Marie A Clark." Or am I overthinking this?

- Evil Stepmother, the Name Thief

Rest assured, you're no Name Thief. You and your soon-to-be stepdaughter are just the victims of bad name luck. But as in so many family naming dilemmas, the right path will depend on relationships as much as names.

You've mentioned that you're nervous about becoming a stepmother, which is natural. How well have you gotten to know the kids? Do they know yet about their dad's upcoming marriage, and if so, how do they feel about it? And critically, how does Dad himself feel about the name conflict?

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Is Love For This Name All I Need?

What do you think of the name Lennon for a girl? I really love it, but I'm getting more negative feedback then positive and it's killing my dreams.

-- Lennon Lover

It seems like you're asking two different questions here, Lennon Lover. The first: Do I, the annointed Name Lady, think your favorite name is okay for girls? And the second: Should you let a name dream die when it meets with overwhelming disapproval?

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Is This Name Too Young For Me?

Is the name Charlotte just way too popular now to be used by a would-be name changer, born in the 1980s? I really don't want to date myself to the wrong era, or be thought to have chosen it BECAUSE it's popular now. (Charlotte has had a good run as a top-10 name in my home state of New South Wales, Australia.)

- Time Warper

Charlotte isn't a typical name for a 30-ishwoman, but why should it be? One of the joys of changing your name is that you get to choose a new identity that fits you and your taste today, not whatever your parents liked a generation ago. There's nothing wrong with being fashionable, or sharing your name with a younger set.

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I'm Getting Married, Do I Need To Change My FIRST Name?

I've always looked forward to ditching my unwieldy last name for something short and sweet. I'm getting married next summer, and my fiancé has an awesome last name that I happen to love. Yay!

The problem is, it basically rhymes with my first name. I don't want the actual name printed, but think, "Ashley Blimey."

My middle name is Laura, which could sufficiently break up the rhyming. Should I change my first name to Ashley Laura, and introduce myself as such -- even though it's a mouthful and risks annoying people or coming across as pretentious -- or just include Laura whenever I say my full name, and risk people leaving it out and calling me "Ashley Blimey?" Are there other solutions I'm not thinking of?

- The Future Mrs. Blimey

When we name babies, we custom-select first names to pair attractively with our surnames. Marital names, though, are pot luck. The wheel of romantic fate spins, and the new name candidate may be lovely, ridiculous, or anywhere in-between.

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Is This Name Too Dark For My Daughter?

All my life I've known I wanted to name my daughter Leila. My husband is totally on board with the name, too! But I just recently looked up the meaning of Leila, "dark-haired beauty," and now I'm second-guessing myself. With our genetics, it's highly unlikely our daughter will have dark hair. How important is it that the name's meaning match the child?

-- Too Pale for Leila?

Would it reassure you if I told you that Leila doesn't really mean "dark-haired beauty"?

Baby name dictionaries aren't like the dictionaries we're used to, that describe what a word signifies and how it's used. Instead, they burrow into history to find the name's linguistic roots. Imagine looking up the word "spoon" in Webster's and getting the definition "splinter of wood (Proto-Germanic)." That's the baby name dictionary experience.

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Why Can't I Make a Decision?

We picked out a girl's name months ago and were just struggling on a boy's name. But now that we decided on a boy's name, I keep going back and changing my mind on the girl's. I thought it was because we decided so quickly and really didn't look at other names, but now I seem to be coming up with another name I love every few weeks. I feel like I am confusing myself and my husband seems to be getting frustrated with me. Why can't I make up my mind?

--Nameless Mom

If it's any comfort, many parents-to-be share your struggle. Naming a baby is a challenge, especially today. Just a generation or two ago, most expectant moms and dads chose from much shorter lists: perhaps family names, saints' names, or commonly-heard-in-our-neighborhood names. Now that names are so diverse you have a wealth of options, which makes your decision much more difficult. 

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Are These Initials a Tease?

I love the name Lillian Adele E. for my daughter, but her initials would be LAE. Do you think kids would tease her and pronounce it "lay"? Teasing could get worse in high school, I presume.

- Cautious Dad

I spend my days obsessing over baby names from every angle. So when I say this, please take it to heart: you are seriously overthinking this name.

Yes, the wrong set of initials can be a problem. In the past I've advised parents to reconsider name choices that resulted in monograms like PIG. But your choice is far from that level. LAE doesn't even spell a word, and the "ae" combo is unusual enough to keep most people from reading it as one. Your daughter's initials just look like...initials.

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Aren't These Old Lady Names?

I've recently encountered two baby girls in the 4-6 month age range named Beverly and Nancy. Are these babies out-of-sync-with-their-generation anomalies, or the bleeding edge of a new revival of old (but not too old) lady names? Or are "Beverly" and "Nancy" not even in the same category with each other?

- SF Trend Watcher

You're right that a new round of "old ladies" is about to find the baby name fountain of youth. As a rule of thumb, it takes about four generations after a popularity peak before a name is ready to return. By that time, the name has passed beyond "old" into "antique."

Today's schoolyards are packed with girls' names from the late 1800s (like Grace and Amelia) through the 1910s (Ruby, Evelyn). The names of the 1920s and '30s, then, should be right around the corner. That's the generation of Dorothy, Shirley, Betty, Marjorie, Norma, Joan, and yes, Beverly and Nancy.

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Is It Bad Luck To Change Your Name?

Is it bad luck to change a first name? My name is Emma Grace, but I wish it were Mary Grace.

-- Emma, For Now

I'm glad you phrased your question the way you did. It's a simple, honest statement of a very common feeling.

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How Can This Name Have No Nicknames?

Q: What's a good nickname for Jeremy?


Jeremy is kind of a stumper, isn’t it? When you see a long, traditional boy's name, you assume it will trim down neatly. Christopher becomes Chris, Benjamin goes by Ben, Nathaniel shortens to Nate, and so on.

But that’s not typically the case with Jeremy. In theory, the name does offer some nickname options. Jem is a potentially fashionable choice; Jerry is a natural but a bit out of style today; Remy is a possibility, though seldom heard. A Jeremy could also go by Jay, or add his middle initial and be called J.T. or J.D.