name rules

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The Trouble with Two First Names

I want to give my son two first names, James Michael. Both names are significant because they are the names of my fiancé's and my older brothers that have both passed away. So we think it's sweet to name our son after our brothers. I was just wondering how two first names work. Do I need a middle name as well or can you drop a middle name all together?

–It Takes Two

The Name Lady sees a lot of confusion about Juniors, and that's with a fairly well established tradition to follow. When it comes to the double first name, the waters are even murkier, especially for boys. The good news is that almost anything goes. The bad news is that, well, almost anything goes, so how are you supposed to decide?

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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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Are There Rules for Double-Barreled Names?

I'm seriously considering a double-barrel first name for a daughter. I have been poring over the internet for the best way to write it: hyphen, just a space, no space but two capital letters? I have read that French names use a hyphen, but Southern U.S. names do not. But I live in Pennsylvania! Is there a rule I can follow so I know I am doing it properly?
- Double-Barreled Mom

Dear Mom,

I'm happy to tell you that propriety isn’t an issue. When it comes to punctuating double-barrel names, the U.S. is an anything goes kind of place. Every approach to doubling is used and approved, so you can’t get it wrong. This is great news for creativity and flexibility, but bad news for decision making.  Never fear, though. With attention to the practical over the proper, you can work out some rough guidelines.

 First, let’s talk about why hyphens are so handy.