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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.

Your daughter's name is one of many that have made the journey from masculine to unisex to mostly feminine (check out this graph of its popularity over time). So it's no wonder you're struggling for just the right name for a boy. You'd like something that is strong and masculine. Yet a classic choice such as Matthew or Michael could sound overly staid with a contemporarily named big sister. Oliver works for its more modern feel and its rhythm that matches Emerson's nicely. But as you note, it's popular—in the top 100 for boys and rising.

In your case, looking at what appeals to you about picks like Hudson, Jackson, Anderson, and Oliver might help. Could another surname name be a winner? Up-and-comers in this category include –er names, such as Archer, Baxter, Frazier, or Sawyer, and -man names, such as Coleman, Truman, or Whitman. (What's more masculine than "son"? "Man"!)

More groups that might appeal: Ends-in-s names, such as Ames, Briggs, Collins, Hayes, or Hughes; and –ing or –ings names, such as Fielding, Hollings, Keating, or Manning. There's that "Man" again!

If surnames don't seem right, go for a twist on Oliver and consider these classics that were given to 2,000 or fewer baby boys in the U.S. in 2013:



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October 28, 2014 12:42 PM
By Annee (not verified)

Although it starts with an "E," I think Elliott makes a nice fit with Emerson. You might also consider Lorenzo or Arturo (looking at three-syllable names), or (depending upon your last name) you might consider Reid/Reade or Rourke. I'm also particularly fond of Ramsey. Good luck!

October 28, 2014 8:19 PM
By E. (not verified)

Oliver doesn't seem disproportionately popular to Emerson to me, but that's probably because I know more little Emersons than Olivers!

October 28, 2014 8:23 PM
By Abigail (not verified)

I love Franklin, but no one else I now does. Still, that would be my suggestion for a "strong and classic" name. I just don't know well it goes with Emerson (as a girl's name). It sounds ok to me, but I still tend to think of Emerson as a masculine name.

October 28, 2014 11:28 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Anyone who's read the Amelia Peabody books possibly thinks of "Emerson" as masculine.

October 30, 2014 7:58 PM
By Debbie S. (not verified)

I like Whitman because it and Emerson would both then have author connections :) (as long as it wasn't pronounced "White Man"!)

November 4, 2014 1:07 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Felix, Graham, Milo, Myles-all names I love. I would shy away from Hudson, Jackson, Anderson-not because they are surnames-I just don't like them at all. If a surname is what you really want, I like Beckett, Oliver (which is also a surname), Wilson, or Thomas.

November 18, 2014 9:02 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

The only person I've ever met who wore the name Oliver was my grandfather and it was his middle. I don't think it's quite as popular as you're thinking. If your older children are in school, try asking them if they know any Oliver.

That should help you decide to use it or not. Of course, name styles will change in the span of five years.

However, I think Oliver is a winner. Not common, not weird.

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