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

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Is This Nickname a No-No?

My beautiful 8-year-old daughter is named Ilana. Though we both love her name, she more closely identifies with the nickname we have called her since she could speak, Nani (nah-nee). She wants to start going by her nickname not only at home but at school. Looking into the name Nani, it may actually be a Hawaiian name; but we are not Hawaiian. Is it acceptable to have everyone start calling her Nani even though it is not commonly known as a "real" name? Is it a nickname that should only be used in the family or is it something that could be used all around?

–Nani's Mom

I'm going to start this column off with a little test. Quick, Nani's Mom, which of the following celebrities are familiar to you: Mary Elizabeth Gore, Josephine Lauder, Rafael Cruz, or Elizabeth Jean Philipps?

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Right Name, Wrong Letter!

I really love the name Ryker, but want to stick with M names for all my kids. I decided on Myker after seeing Ryker, but I am nervous about how it really sounds to others and if it has a meaning I can't catch (I am French Canadian and don't know all English words or expressions yet). How does it sound to you?

–M-loving Maman

To my ear, and mind, Ryker and Myker are worlds apart. Ryker is a super-charged surname in the "men of action" style. It turns up in high-energy, macho settings from Star Trek to Marvel Comics to professional wrestling. It’s a fast-rising hit and a crowd-pleaser.

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Is a New Spelling the Answer?

I am Italian and want to give my daughter an Italian name. I love the name Lucia (pronounced "loo-chi-a" in Italian), but I know people will pronounce it "loo-sha." I don't want to be the crazy lady correcting everyone—or stick my daughter with correcting everyone her whole life! I have thought about naming her Luchia, but it's not Italian and looks weird. Any ideas for different spellings, or other names that are like this that I have overlooked?

–Italian Mama

You might be surprised to find that the Spanish pronunciation, "loo-SEE-a," is the most common guess, at least in the United States. Lucia is a classic name that happens to have more than one accepted pronunciation (it has three!). But a traditional pronunciation of a traditional name doesn't need to be a burden for a child.

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Can I Go Back on a Namesake Promise?

My husband and I are expecting our first child. If we have a girl, we had planned on giving her my grandmother's name as a second middle name. My grandmother was always there for me while I was growing up. Recently, though, my grandmother has been treating my mother (her daughter) badly and saying cruel things about her. I don't think I could use the name of someone who acts like that. But I already told my grandmother we were thinking of giving a daughter her name as a middle name. Would it be rude of me to back out?

–Having Second Thoughts

You're in a tough situation, and I sympathize. You made a namesake plan at a time when you wanted to honor the grandmother who meant a lot to you. Now that circumstances are different, can you renege on this offer? That could cause a further rift between you and your grandmother (and maybe make things worse for your mom too). And yet sticking with your plan feels wrong too, since a namesake is meant to pay tribute to someone you love and admire—not resent.

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Looks Like a Boy, Sounds Like a Girl?

My husband and I had a difficult time coming to an agreement on a name for our daughter. We narrowed it down to two names: a safe pick and a less safe one, which we prefer but also worry about. The safe name is Eliza. The less typical one is Ira. I love it, but will everyone hate it? I know it's typically an old man, but it feels similar enough to Ida to maybe work? We would give her a common, feminine middle name as a backup.

–Unsure About Ira

I recently came up with a name if we are having a boy, but my husband said that he only liked it for a girl. What do you think about naming a baby girl Arlo? Is it too boyish? It is growing on me and I'm considering calling her "Lo." What do you think?

–Loving Lo

As you know, it's not unusual for boys' names to turn up on girls (while the reverse is less likely). Making that choice is a style preference and the Name Lady typically doesn't hand down rulings on style. Both of these names contain elements that could help them read feminine: The -a ending on Ira; the liquid Rs, Ls, and vowel sounds in both. Those make them sound contemporary, rather than "old man."

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Help Me Connect These Random Names!

Is it possible for names with obvious backgrounds and histories to pair well with names outside of the same genre? I have a son named Elijah (Eli) and am now pregnant with my second son. My husband and I are in love with the name August, but we're afraid the pairing screams "random." A good-sounding sibling set is extremely important to us. Are we limited to biblical names, or are there other options for us to create a harmonious sib-set?

–No Clashing Please

Ah, naming children—the only activity that doesn't get easier with practice! I've helped sib-set stumped parents before and it's abundantly clear that the addition of an extra variable (namely, your existing child) exponentially increases fears of failure.

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Will This Name Haunt My Baby?

Is Kasper still too associated with the ghost to use as a baby name? It's been decades since the TV show. No child under six that I have asked knows the connection. We love this name, with this spelling, and it is a name in our family tree. But would we be setting our child up for ridicule from adults if we used it?

– Not Afraid of Ghosts

Casper may be one of the most famous pop-culture ghosts around, but he was a friendly ghost! I’m with you in thinking the fear of Casper is a little overblown. Even Oscar gets a lot more baby-name love, and he's best known as a grouchy, ill-mannered monster who makes his home in a trash can.

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Is This Name Okay for an Atheist?

My partner and I are lucky enough to have similar tastes in naming styles. Our top contender for a girl's name is Remy Evangeline. We absolutely love the rhythm and sound of it. The problem? We are both atheists, and while we obviously have no way of knowing if our daughter might someday choose a theistic lifestyle for herself, we have no intention of raising her in a religious context. To further complicate matters, our last name contains the word "Saint." I'm concerned that two overtly religiously affiliated names for one child might make us conspicuous for comment among friends and family who are aware of our irreligious persuasion, and that strangers hearing the name might make erroneous assumptions about our family. So what do you think: Can style trump meaning, or should we look for another name we can love as much as this one?

–Secular Mama

The irony is that Remy won't come across as religious at all, even though it's a saints name, while Evangeline sounds spectacularly saintly when in fact it comes from a poem (Longfellow's Evangeline: a Tale of Acadie) and isn't a traditional religious name. And yet, style can indeed trump meaning. I don't think any parents of Claudias intended to call their daughters "lame." Nor must boys named Calvin inevitably grow up to be bald.

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Is This Baby Name Really a Name?

I am pregnant with number 3. Our boy name is rock solid, easy, no questions. However, the girl name is hard. Recently the name Covie came to me. The problem is that I don't know if it's even really a name. I love it, though. Thoughts?

–Uncertain Mom

No, Covie is not traditional as a given name, surname, place name, or any other kind of established name. But is it "really" a name? It will be, if you give it to your daughter! After all, what makes a name a name is use. Writers have been inventing names for centuries, including now-familiar names like Amanda, Evangeline, Jessica, and Wendy. And parents have often chosen surnames and words to become first names, or adapted traditional names with nicknames or variants.

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Did Romeo Have a Brother?

My daughter is due with her second baby boy soon. Her first son is named Romeo Louis. Romeo was his daddy's nickname when he was little. At first, not too many people liked the name, but when he was born, he looked every bit his name. It's perfect for him, and now everyone likes it!

My daughter would like to keep up with the same theme, kind of, and has been thinking about Valentino or maybe even Casanova. Most everyone can't stand those names, and she isn't sure of them either. I have suggested Royce, Rhett, and Ryker—going with "R" names. I even like Lorenzo, keeping up with the "O" at the end. Any input, advice, or name suggestions would be much appreciated!

–Romeo's Grandma

You've made some smart suggestions, Grandma. Romeo is a tough act to follow! Steering your daughter toward complimentary names that don't fall into the category of "notorious romantic fictional characters" seems wise. And Romeo has much more familiarity, and usage, as a contemporary first name than Casanova does (according to the U.S. Social Security Administration, it's given to fewer than 10 baby boys a year).

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