Duana Names: Defying Categorization and 80s Soaps
I’m currently expecting baby #2 (due late April) and we are not finding out the sex. My husband and I truly love our daughter’s name – Ruby Kyoko. I know Ruby isn’t your favourite – too ‘pinteresty’ I think you said (haha!) but I just love it. It’s also uncommon where we live and people respond SO positively when we say her name. Kyoko is a shout out to my husband’s Japanese heritage. The lack of name regret with #1 is making me feel some serious pressure this time around. If it’s a girl we’re leaning towards Tessa or Piper. We both really like Piper, but it doesn’t seem like the best match to Ruby...and I haven’t decided how important that is to me yet. Also, in a totally random convo unrelated to name choices, a friend said Piper sounds like a stripper. So there’s that...Tessa is a recent winner for us, so we’ll see how it sounds in a few weeks.
As curious as I am to have your thoughts on girl names, the real trouble we’re having is with the boys! We don’t agree on anything and honestly, neither of us seems to like that much. After two years trying to make my husband fall in love with Miles, I’ve conceded defeat. And he keeps bringing up Gage, but every time I hear it, I think of the zombie baby in Steven King’s Pet Semetery. Other suggestions from me have been Spencer, Calvin, Felix, my husband likes Mitchell (Mitch), Robert (Bobby), John (Johnny), Russell. In case it wasn’t obvious, nicknames are a big deal for him (even though we both know our last name will be the nickname used by friends!) We landed on Cooper the first go round, but we never LOVED it and now we’re over it. Mackenzie has been on the maybe list, but it might be middle name territory. I don’t mind a traditional name with a nickname, like John/Johnny, but we know too many Johns our age. James is also a recent contender (too boring? I worry that Jim/Jimmy will be the nickname). Our last name is short, sweet and Japanese, ending with ‘o’. Oh, and I should mention, Russell is my father-in-law’s name, my brother-in-law’s middle name and my sister-in-law’s cat – please don’t encourage it!!! Can you help us?
Thanks in advance! L
Over the years of writing this column, I’ve come to realize that most letters slot themselves into some fairly robust categories, which include:
• I like lots of names, my partner likes zero names
• Boys’ names are hard!
• We’re actually totally fine but I need you to tell me that for sure.
• We’re not fine at all but I need you to tell me that for sure.
• This name question is bringing up heavy stuff about family, identity, race, culture, you name it
• I am being a brat about something and I know it but I need outside confirmation
• I have had only one name on the books since I was conscious of the possibility of future procreation, and I used it, so…?
Oh, and of course:
• I have too many associations to obscure pop culture I can’t let go of
Your letter, though, makes me want to start a new category, because there are so many tags in it that I haven’t run up against, especially not in conjunction with each other. For example, there’s…
• Remembering something I said and not being pissed about it
• Experiencing Unusual reaction to inoffensive name
• Unintentional reference to a letter I wrote years ago
• Alternate-direction gender-bending
• My partner likes names from Dallas’
So really, I’m impressed with this. This letter is amusing and it’s hitting all new buttons. Let’s dispatch with the girls’ names first, as we do. I agree with you that Tessa is great; I know one 5 year old Tessa who’s the only one I’ve ever heard of, and there’s no particular impression of it that everyone carries around (unless you’re Canadian/Australian, in which case, yes, yes, Tessa Campanelli – but you and I both know that’s not universal). I also really like how effortlessly it shortens to Tess, either for nickname potential or when she gets older.
Having said this, I feel the need to inform you that the person who said “Piper” was a stripper name is first of all, not shared with anyone else, and secondly, 100% based in the fact that Piper Perabo starred in Coyote Ugly. So that’s where that is coming from.
Next up, your boys’ names. Honestly, I’ve been asked about these names before, but never, never, never all in the same letter, and I’m going to point to evidence of that by referring to the line of the letter where you tell me the name that’s too offensive to pass muster in your house is Miles. God, I love today.
Okay, so long, long ago, in the earliest days of this column, I wrote a response to an aunt-to-be who was shuddering at the thought of the name Gage. I said I didn’t see anything to get all that excited over, and I was ROUNDLY schooled by readers who said Gage was, in their minds, either linked to Pet Semetary, or other associations, mainly from the American south, that make the above movie sound cuddly (think, like, the worst of the people in the news these days.) I didn’t know this, and maybe you don’t either. Furthermore, it may not apply if neither you nor anyone around you has this association. But for what it’s worth, it exists.
Now then. Tell me about the rest of these boys’ names. Mackenzie is one I haven’t heard for a boy in a long time, and if you were choosing it for a girl I’d say it was totally opposite in style to Ruby, but for a boy it speaks to a similar sensibility. Cooper does too, but that’s slipping away… and Felix, Calvin, sure I guess those go with Ruby, Spencer…the connection is much harder, and then suddenly we’re up against BOBBY and MITCH?
Ruby and MITCH?
You guys. Come on. These are from different eras! Mitch’s sister is Dawna. Or Cheryl. Names that have had a reservation on the PTA since birth. (Forgive me, Cheryl. But you know it’s true). Bobby? Bobby and Ruby sound like a couple in a YA book from the 80s, one of those ones on the rotating book carousel that you always considered, but put back in favour of that Sweet Valley High where Bruce Patman gets handsy with Elizabeth-as-Jessica.
In fact, most of the names you’re choosing are still in use today—it’s the old-timey nicknames that are giving me pause. Most Jameses today are Jamie, if they have a nickname, but full-on James instead. I don’t think any kid, or even any parent, would think to call James ‘Jim’ or ‘Jimmy’. Same with Johnny and Bobby. If you were going to use Robert today, I think the kid’s nickname would be Robby, or even Rory, or maybe Robo? Are there parents cool enough to nickname their kids ‘Robo’? Will you message me if you are them?
Couple all of this with the I-agree-with-your-overuse of Russell, and I think you’re in a time warp that’s also a style warp. But I get that you want a name that is as easily said and explained as Ruby is and that feels, I think, strong-ish without being over the top.
So what about something like Kent? It’s very down-to-earth, but it’s four letters, like Ruby, and a bit singular, so it might work. Similarly, what about something like Kiefer? Unusual, yes, but not like, ‘Prince Abingdon Beverly’… does it spark any interest? Dean is one of those names from a 60s/70s umbrella who might have known some Jimmys and Bobbys, but doesn’t feel quite so frozen in amber.
What about Connor instead of Cooper? What about Gabe rather than Gage? Or something like Logan, or Ewan, or Callum, or Dylan? Are we straying too far from the obviously nicknameable? How about Walt or Teddy or Benji, and their formal clothes, Walter or Edward or Benjamin? Or something like Dawson or Jude or Trent or Clay? Is anything ringing a bell?
One more thing that’s awesome, one more category to put on my list: I have absolutely no idea which way this is going to go.
Let us know!Photos:
iStock/ Getty Images