–Still Love Eva
Ava and Eva do overlap, as you mention, with similar letters and sounds. In some places and with some accents the two names could be confused, even though the first letter and its sound are different. But that connection between the two need not rule Eva out.
There are a couple of ways to approach this. First, consider that a big part of the taste difference between you and your mother is actually a generational difference. The names Monica and Toya were popular for African-American girls a generation ago (when your mom was naming babies). Today, more of those girl babies are actually named Abby or Abigail!
We don't always get the perspective of the guy caught in the middle of this kind of naming dilemma, so thanks for writing in. What you didn't mention, though, is how you feel about the M-name tradition. Do you want to continue it, or are you ready to move on?
–Don't Want Miles Getting Picked On
Your signature says you're worried about a son named Miles being picked on. Generally, name-teasing is a thing of the past, and a too-similar first- and last-name combination isn't something that kids would tease about. So if teasing is your biggest concern about the name, I think you can set that worry aside.
I think you should set your worries aside and use Melina. It's an attractive name that's familiar enough for people to hear it as a name—not a medical term. And most people outside the medical profession are unaware of the medical meaning.
- Not Marsha's Mom
You've done a great job of illustrating why baby naming can be such a huge challenge. The perfect name has to hit a lot of targets, and often those targets point in opposite directions.
Sebastian is actually a far more common name than Noble (top 50 vs. out of the top 1000), and there are also many more boys named Dominique than Noble. So if uniqueness is important, Noble may be a better choice! But putting aside opinions on your taste vs. your daughter's, you ask a good question. If you don't like a baby name that someone close to you is considering, can you tell her so? And how?
There are two questions here, so let's take them one at a time. First: Will it cause confusion to have cousins named Ellison and Emerson? It certainly could. I can easily picture elderly relatives, in particular, struggling to tell them apart, since both names are less familiar to older generations and share so many common sounds.
This is a tough one: "LSD" doesn't spell an unpleasant word, nor is it an abbreviation that the name-calling playground set would know about. And yet, most adults will recognize these letters as shorthand for a dangerous and illicit drug. Given that, many parents would hesitate to attach these initials to their sweet little girl.
You're right: To some ears, this is A-okay; the shared sounds tie the name together nicely. To others, it’s A-overload and doesn't work at all. How much of one vowel is just too much? And do interstitial consonants help at all? I think they do; compare Laylah Elaine James to Laylah Rae Ames to see what I mean.