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

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How Can I Support My Wife's Baby Name Choice?

My wife is African-American and I'm white. My family had a hard time with our marriage and now that my wife is pregnant, they can't agree on anything. My wife wants to name our daughter after her late mother, Lillian, but my mother hates it and says it's too old. How should we handle this?

–Stuck in the Middle

You ask how to handle your mother's disapproval of your wife's preferred name. I can reassure you that your mother is far from the only grandparent I've encountered in this column to complain about the name of her grandchild. The vast majority of them (eventually) learn to keep their complaints to themselves.

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Is Harlee Hardly a Boys' Name?

Is Harlee a boy or girl name? I like it spelled Harlee for a boy, rather than Harley. It sounds more masculine to me.

–Boy Mom-to-Be

I'm afraid you are an outlier on this. The majority doesn't share your instinct: The spelling Harlee is overwhelmingly female. There were 300 baby girl Harlees in 2014, for example, and just 10 boys. In the same year, 407 boys were called Harley (along with 940 girls).

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I Can't Name My Baby After a Spider ... Or Can I?

I found a name that I loved as soon as I saw it: Aranea. Since I learned of it from a video game ad, I looked it up and found out it's the name of a villain. That part doesn’t bother me, but it does bother me that Aranea is a genus of orb-weaving spider. It's such a pretty name, and with so many nature-inspired names out there (I've met a Bear, a Cove, and a River), does it matter much that my daughter might secretly be named after a spider?

–Spider-girl's Mom?

Loving the sound of a name, but not its meaning, is a tough spot to be in. After all, name meanings are tricky to pin down and can be misunderstood. And the sound is what you hear every day when you speak your child's name. Thousands of parents every year choose names based on sound, without giving meaning much thought—otherwise, would anyone choose a name that's said to mean "crippled" (Claudia) or "unlucky" (Mallory)?

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This Nickname Needs an Even Better Nickname!

Can you please give me a nickname for my friend Maggie?

–Friend in Need

Not really—for starters, Maggie is already a nickname—but the good news is that you're well positioned to give your friend a nickname yourself. This is just what friends are for! Does she need a nickname because she doesn’t care for Maggie? Or just for fun, as a symbol of your close relationship? Let's look at each possibility in turn.

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When Good Names Feel Bad

I think I rushed the decision to name my daughter and now I regret it. My husband and I waited until the birth to find out our child's sex and never agreed on a girl's name beforehand. When she was born, he wanted to name her quickly, so we worked through a long list to settle on Evelyn. I've always loved the name and the current popularity doesn't bother me. But now I can think of many other names I'd rather my daughter had. It's been five months and I cringe every time I hear her name. I don't want to change it, I just want to learn to love the name Evelyn again. What went wrong?

–I’ve Lost That Loving Feeling

As I've noted before, Parental Name Regret is a phenomenon on the rise in America. In a culture in which the old traditions for naming have waned in importance—with fewer namesakes, less religious observance in naming, and a sense that anything goes—parents feel pressure to pick the "perfect" name all on their own. Anything less than complete and total satisfaction can seem like a failure and cause for a do-over. Many parents seek just that—a legal name change for their child.

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Can I Give My Baby the Same Name as My Friend's Baby?

Last year, a lifelong friend of mind used a name I really wanted to use. I was just getting married at the time, but now I am pregnant, and I still love the name. I don't want to upset her by copying, but I have always loved the name and didn't know she liked it too. What do I do? Find a new name? Ask permission? I don't want to make it awkward, but my husband and I really have a hard time agreeing on any names, and this is the only one we absolutely love. Help!

–Potential Copycat

You had it in two: Ask for permission. If you do it carefully, it won't be awkward. Most people appreciate being asked and are happy to give their blessing. And it's certainly worth trying before you skip right to finding a new name.

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Where Did This Name Come From?

While trying to find original names for my daughter, I looked back through my family tree. My great-grandmother's name was the only one that really stood out to me. Her name was Ailyion (pronounced Ail-yun). I think it's very pretty, but my family convinced me not to include it on my list because they thought it could be mispronounced as "alien." I'm wondering where this name might have originated. I've searched "Ailyion, name" many times, but I only come up with references to my great-grandmother! That's kind of crazy when you consider that she was born in 1905 and lived in the smallest of small towns. Where do you think her name came from? Did they just make it up? I didn't think people did that in 1905.

–Curious Descendant

Here's a little sampling of some names given to at least 5 (and sometimes over 100) female babies in the U.S. in 1905: Ocie, Velva, Jettie, Emmer, Grayce, Wava, Malissia, Lempi, and Macel. Oh, and Aili.

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Is This Nickname Fine, or Far Removed?

We are trying to decide on a name for our fourth child, a girl. I love the name Philomena (family name on my side, plus my husband's name is Phillip), with the nickname Mena. My husband doesn't love Philomena and really isn't into Mena. He suggested Philippa with the nickname Pippa. I do not like Philippa, so I thought we might compromise: Philomena, with the nickname Pippa. Is that too much of a stretch?

–Give-and-Take

Yes, it's kind of a stretch. Philomena and Pippa have little to do with each other. But that doesn't much matter. There are plenty of nicknames out there that have taken a long journey from the original given name (like Polly for Mary or Peggy for Margaret). And regardless of tradition, you can use whatever nickname you like.

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Is This Finnish Name Too Feminine?

Does the baby boy name Kaarle sound too much like Carly? Would everyone think our boy is a girl?

–Call Me Kaarle, Maybe?

Kaarle is the Finnish form of the familiar boys' name Charles, and it's pronounced as two syllables: Karl with a slight "uh" at the end. So my guess is it would be taken for Carla, rather than Carly. But that doesn't resolve any "Is he a she" doubts. Seeing it in writing might help—but then again, the girl's name Carly can be spelled in dozens of ways, so why not "Kaarle"?

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Help! Great-Grandma Hates Our Baby Names!

I am 20 weeks pregnant with our first child. Like many women, I've dreamed of being a mother since I was little. I made the mistake of telling my husband's grandmother some of my ideas for names. She shot down every girl's name by saying "You can't use that name, because my ex cheated on me with someone of that name." My baby is not that person and my husband and I are not involved with her past. But my husband listens to everything his family says. So if they are offended by a name, he will be, too.

–Nameless Mom-to-Be

Every girl’s name? Wow, that must have been a very unpleasant (or illuminating?) conversation! I'm sorry that Grandpa's checkered history seems to have tanked some of your favorite names. That has to hurt, and you're right that your baby has nothing to do with these past scandals.

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