Duana Names: In Which You Say ‘Really, Duana?’

May 29, 2015 19:50:37 Posted at May 29, 2015 19:50:37
Duana Posted by Duana

So a couple of things in relation to the past few days.  

Several of you wrote in to tell me that I had neglected to point out (in this post – click here) the third spelling of Margo/Margot – which is of course Margaux. You have a point.  I’m not sure it will prevent the problem of the name being spelled improperly but it’s beautiful, anyway.

And then, a letter:

Hi Duana,

I'm expecting my second baby in July and I need some direction on naming siblings. We have a daughter and are struggling to choose girls names.

I really enjoy your name advice but I was thrown off by a recent post where you encouraged the letter writer to avoid Charlotte due to its similarity to Margaret. I mean, I guess...Neither of these names are my personal favourites, but are they really that bad together?

What makes a sibling set work well and what's a recipe for disaster? Similar style or phrasing = good? Repeated syllables, common initial = bad?

Some examples that I've encountered recently - a few that I like as a pair and a couple that are a little obnoxious:

Giselle and Raquel
Aria and Annalise
Olivia and Sophie
Annie and Lyla
Elle and Harper
Oceana and Skylie

Finding a name that both you and your spouse love is HARD. Turns out that doing this twice while also considering the name/names of other children is even harder.



Okay, let me clarify here. I was once told (by someone who does not read this column) that I must be the kind of person who likes sibling names to ‘match’. Obviously, I found this very offensive but smiled through my teeth. It’s not that I think names have to match, and of your examples, I’d say Giselle and Raquel fall under this umbrella, as do Oceana and Skylie (are these real siblings? Because, um…). It just seems as though you’re getting an exactly matching set, and while this may be me noting that my sister’s name and mine are on the close side (Duana and Sheena), it’s often something that happens for girls, because people think it’s cute. Whereas they name a girl and boy Annalise and Phillip, or two boys Phillip and Owen. 

So I don’t think names should, or have to, match. When it’s too close, they sound as though they’re meant to be part of a set and only announced as such. “Aria and Lyla”, “Melanie and Stephanie” ,“Amy and Adrienne”.

Instead, you can have two names that ‘go’, in that they’re either a similar style, or similar vintage or popularity level. A friend has daughters with uncommon names that are recognizable, but both of French origin. So they ‘go’, but you don’t need to hear them both together to get it. Another friend’s two sons are named for her family’s Russian background, and the key there is both. If you’re naming one Mischa, you don’t get to name the other one Randall. In fact, the best thing I can say with sibling names is that they should have something, other than sound, in common.

For example, Olivia and Sophie go very well together. Even though they’re of different origins, they are both ultimately classical names, and they’re of the same popularity right now. Olivia and Zelda works less well, because they’re not in similar usage right now.

Conversely, your example of Elle and Harper doesn’t work as well. Even though they’re both the same level of popular right now, they’re fundamentally different. One is French, very simple, and intrinsically feminine, and the other is a modern surname-as-first-name that feels gender-neutral, even though it’s only really used for girls.

Also, I don’t actually think the same initial is always a dealbreaker. Andrew and Alexandra don’t automatically signal to me that there’s a ‘thing’ going on, but Marco and Marguerite might. It’s slightly more art than science, you know?

So, to make your older daughter’s name work with your new baby’s, write down several qualities about it. Is it classical? Popular now? Relatively rare? Feminine, Masculine, short and sweet or embellished? Then when finding a name (that, yes, you and your partner both like!), try to match a couple of the characteristics, not all of them. Is your daughter named Mirabelle? Then a similarly uncommon yet ‘friendly to the ear’ name that has a French influence might be Elodie, or Gilbert, but not Estelle, or Etienne, which would be too rhymey or too overtly French, respectively.

I hope this helps. I love this question (and defending my outlandish positions). Keep them coming, and let me know how it goes!

A note to name-nerd letter writers,

I love getting your letters. In order to give them the best chance of being answered in a timely fashion, could I please trouble you to include the due date in the subject line of your email? Also, please send only one email – duplicates are deleted and may result in your email not being answered. Thanks!

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