Hi Duana,

We're struggling with a name for our little guy due in March. When we started out, we were pretty set on Arlo or Wyatt, but we've had some difficulties and it's taken longer than we thought... and now those names seem super popular. Now we're thinking Jasper or Gilbert. I like Jasper, but is it as popular as the first two? And Gilbert obviously has great associations, but I don't know if I can get over the "bert"! Do you have any suggestions for boys' names with a little softness to them? Bonus if you can suggest any one-syllable names, which we can't seem to come up with! Thank you!


Yes, yes, yes, absolutely. I am so in love with this letter because so many questions ask the opposite. “How can we make this name even more Y-chromosome?” I recently got a tweet asking whether I ever got an update to Hulk Smash!, and while I haven’t, I love that people remember that one, and that you can have such a thing as a ‘soft’ male name.

I don’t know when you started out, but I’m willing to bet that at the time, Arlo and Wyatt were names you thought up on your own…or felt like you had. Though I haven’t met any Arlos in person yet, the o-at-the-end is a very popular name trend these days (see also Otto, Milo, Matteo, Bruno-someday-please-God), and there have been a few Wyatts of late. So I really applaud you taking this approach and looking outside for what the next thing is.

Now, as for Jasper. This is one of those names, a little like Alice, that threatened to be very popular, and was on everyone’s lips, and then everyone got a little scared at the potential popularity factor and backed off. I remember recommending Jasper to a friend, and getting a very enthusiastic response, somewhere around 2004 or 2005. (I also remember sketching a proposal for her wedding dress during the same conversation. Inexplicably, she didn’t run out and have my cocktail napkin turned into a garment on the spot!) I heard of a couple of people debating Jasper around that time, but not a lot since.

I bring this up because it means that if there are or were Jaspers, they’re going to be significantly older than your boy, and honestly, for popularity’s sake, that’s not going to affect your life at all. It doesn’t fit in with either the o-at-the-end trend or the double-t trend that Wyatt does (see also Beckett, Emmett, Truett), or another one we’ll get to in a minute—so you’re very safe, and it is a great name.

Along those lines though, you are sitting on a gold mine with Gilbert. That sound you just heard was 65 parents just emailing me to yell that I should stop giving away their secret name. It actually is right on trend, with the ‘t’ ending, without being too close to the aforementioned Everetts and Bennetts. I heard you with your ‘I maybe can’t on the ‘bert’ ending’, but I don’t think it’s a worry. Now, full disclosure, you’re taking advice from someone who agitated hard for Barnaby, so I’m not afraid of a slightly old-fashioned sounding syllable, but I think Gilbert, light, easy to say, and on trend without bathing in it, could be a great decision.

Other names that remind me of this, off-beat but still on trend, include the lovely and about-to-be-discovered Gavin. I’m not sure why this name isn’t bigger, maybe the homonym-y-ness with Kevin makes people think it’s more outdated than it is, but I love it very much and it deserves to live in more places than just the occasional novel. Speaking of names that are ripe to come back, watch for Martin to make an appearance again soon. I know it sounds like your Uncle Martin (hi, Uncle Martin, thanks for reading!) but it’s stylish and I think it’s poised to come back. If you want to really be ahead of the curve, choose Marvin instead. Nope, not joking. Yes, I think it’s an incredible choice. But if you need more…

I came across Apollo in my searches, and I know, but it’s got that o-ending, it’s unusual but say-able, and I’m kind of charmed. Yes, people will hear Paolo or Paulo, but maybe on the right kid it’s the right choice? I also see Gideon, which strikes me as a little long for you, and Wesley, which strikes me as just right—kind of the proto-Jasper. Where one syllable names are concerned, Cole is now very, very popular, but Shea or Knox or Rhys, which I really, really love, are still under the radar. Re the latter, yes I know the spelling is complicated, yes I think ‘Reese’ loses something in translation, but that’s where the beauty of Reeve comes in. Also, while rooting around I found the name Webster. I know what show many parents associate that name with still, but we’re all getting old so we should get over ourselves. There’s something about the ‘ster’ that doesn’t always sit right with me, it brings to mind fraternity nicknames, but it shouldn’t languish in the closet either.

One note – you’re ahead of the curve here. I estimate other parents will realize that Arlo and Wyatt are going to feel somewhat popular in about 8-11 months. So if you think some of my choices are deep cuts, fair enough—but staying two steps ahead will prevent you from being in an unexpected baby boom of Carlos in a few months time. (Carlo! Why not?)