naming dilemmas

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What If a Pretty Name Has an Ugly Meaning?

We are expecting our second daughter soon. Our first is called Sophia. I am of Greek descent and my husband is from South Africa. Our common language is English, and we live in London. We are thinking of naming our new baby Melina. We love the name, but since reading about it more on the Internet, we've discovered that, spelt "melena," it refers to black stool that contains blood from gastrointestinal bleeding. It's a term used in medicine and nursing, and is pronounced the same way as the name. We still like the name, but we are worried about its medical meaning and can't stop thinking about the implications. However, we can't agree on another name we all love.

–Confused Mama

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.

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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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My Husband Won't Name Our Baby!

My husband and I are expecting our first child this year and he doesn't like any names! No matter how traditional or unusual the name, he always turns his nose up. How can I help him discover names that he likes? I've asked him to look up names himself, but he is still incredibly picky. He doesn't have to like the names I do, I just want him to like something!

–Not as Picky About Names

Perhaps it will help to know, my not-so picky pal, that you're in good company. Over the years, I've responded to scores of questions from women like you, frustrated that their naming partners seem to be both full of criticisms and utterly short on ideas. I'll suggest some strategies for helping your husband tone down his name-negativity below.

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My Miracle Baby Needs a Perfect Name!

I was told I had no viable eggs after going through chemotherapy for cancer, but now I am pregnant with a little girl. I have always loved the name Claire and my husband loves it as well, which is great, but we are stuck on a middle name. Ann is both my mother's middle name and mine. Its meaning in Hebrew is "God has favored me," which I love. But "Claire Ann" doesn't flow and we have a short last name, too, that goes with NOTHING. What should I do?

– In the No-Flow Zone

First of all, allow me to congratulate you on your amazing, unexpected pregnancy! Whatever one's religious beliefs, it's impossible to hear a story like yours, with this immense joy coming out of suffering and despair, and not feel grateful. Not only are you pregnant after doubting you ever could be, but you also have a chance to give your daughter the name you've cherished for years, without husbandly vetoes or uncooperative baby genders: a truly rare event!

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We Have the Last-Name Blues!

My fiancé and I are torn between two names we really love: Flynn and Gavin. We have the difficult last name Dix and I'm worried our son will have his fair share of teasing regardless of what first name we pick. Which name would you choose?

– Need a Teflon Name

Schoolyard teasing can leave a deep mark on a child's developing sense of self. Understandably, then, future parents expend generous mental energy analyzing potential names from the vantage point of the class bully. Reasonable people don't want their kids to face ridicule and hardship for choices their parents made.

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I Love a Terrifying Name!

I'm a hopeless Egypt lover and have dreamed of naming a future daughter Isis ever since I was ten. Now I am expecting boy/girl twins (and most likely giving the middle name Alexandra to my daughter in honor of my ill father). What do you think? Is Isis useable or not? No other name appeals to me more than Isis. Is a terrorist group really worth giving up my dream name? I must add that my entire family is Hispanic and the whole terrorist drama seems so foreign to us at times.

--Egypt Lover

I can picture you now, a little girl reading about the marvels of the pyramids, the incredible beauty of the hieroglyphics, the wonders of King Tut’s tomb, and the gods and goddesses and legendary kings and queens that inspired Egyptian culture. It probably seemed so fascinatingly beautiful, so far-off and thrilling. The name Isis—which refers to the ancient Egyptian goddess of marriage, motherhood, and fertility—represents all of that to you: the beauty, the enchantment, the wonder of a dream come true.

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To Junior, Or Not to Junior?

My wonderful husband has apparently wanted a Junior his entire life. Although I respect his passion, I have been completely against naming a child Junior my entire life. We currently have compromised with deciding to name our baby when we meet him (12 weeks away). I have a name, and my husband has Junior. He's not crazy about the name I've chosen. So basically, one of us will be unhappy with the name that's picked. Advice, please?

- Nameless for Now

You are in a tough spot, aren't you? You say you've compromised, but what you've really done is put off your decision—and you've rescheduled it for a time when you'll be under more pressure to make a choice, and have far less energy to think rationally. The time to solve this quandary is now.

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Can You Cure Our Baby Name Anxiety?

Our baby boy is due in two weeks and we don't have a name. I'm starting to feel like we won't ever decide on one. This has honestly stopped being fun! I'm not sure if it's because it's a boy, because it's our last, or because he's coming so soon after our last baby—a girl, Emerson. Her name eliminates most of my favorite boy names (Hudson, Jackson, Anderson). We want our son's name to be strong and classic, but still feel fresh. My husband likes Oliver, but I worry it's too popular. Please help!

–Paralyzed Namer

Sometimes it's harder to name that second (or third, or fourth) baby. When we make such a big decision, parameters or restrictions can be helpful, since they narrow down our options. But as you've seen, they also lock us out of some our favorites. If your firstborn is Abraham, you probably can’t use Lincoln for your second, no matter how much you love it. Ditto for Sara and Clara or Jack and Jill.

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Are These Names Too Silly For Siblings?

My husband and I are desperately trying to decide on a name for our second child. Our daughter is Mollie, a name that we decided on rather quickly and never had second thoughts about. We both like the name Oliver for a boy, but are concerned it is too similar to Mollie, with the "oll" sound. Also, we really don't want people calling him "Ollie" which sounds even more like Mollie. In your opinion, are these names too much alike and silly together?

--Non-rhyming Mom

A few years back, I offered some thoughts on too-close-for-comfort names: "Are other people likely to get the two names mixed up? If you holler upstairs to one child, will your kids be able to tell who you're asking for? Does it feel like you gave each child a distinct identity?" In that same post, I advised against rhyming names, which puts Ollie right out of the running for your family. Oliver, though, is trickier.

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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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