Hi Duana,

Per the midwife this baby has one foot out the door and I’m panicking because we still don’t have a name. We are expecting a boy and he has two older sisters – Gwen and Virginia. Last name is two syllables, starts with a D and is a first name but pluralized.

We were sold on Theodore for months but when our daughters started school this year there was a Theo in both of their classes. They go to a French school so perhaps it’s more common in that circle but STILL. The fact that it’s becoming more common has sent us back to the drawing board and we’re not feeling all the feelings with any of our top picks. I like names that are recognizable but mostly out of circulation and it’s important to me that a nickname is established because ultimately everybody goes there. Names we’re considering:

1. Woodrow (nickname Woody). We keep going back to this name but can’t seem to pull the trigger. Will he be Woody for life? Will he be taken seriously when he wants to be? Will he live in my basement until he’s 30?
2. Fergus (nickname Gus). This would result in 3 G’s because Virginia often goes by Ginny…too cheesy? Our last name ends with an “s” so is that awkward?
3. Hugh (nickname Huey). Too soft? Nickname not awesome? Hugh sounds great with our last name.
4. Martin (nickname Marty). I have no complaints with this one so maybe too boring?
5. Frederick (nickname Fred). I can’t find anything wrong with this except that our last name starts with D…too many Ds?

Please help us narrow down this list and/or provide us with some alternatives if possible. It’s crunch time.

Thanks in advance!


So listen. I do my best to be impartial in this column, but having said that, we know it’s just one person’s opinion, right? Specifically, my opinion. Biases abound, you can get mad if I hate the names you love, but that’s why you love me, right?

All this to say, (self-promotion STRAIGHT AHEAD), that if you’ve read my book, The Name Therapist, well, then you know how I feel about the name Theodore. I, too, worry about popularity, and I brace myself every day for the inevitable – so far, just a lot of near misses with Leos – but I think it’s a pretty great name. 

But I totally, totally get where you’re coming from, and more importantly, I have walked some of the same roads, namewise, that you have. So, knowing that I am not trying to steer you away from a name that I think is empirically wonderful, let’s dig in.

The Fergus thing jumped out at me right away because – how often will he be Gus? How often is she Ginny? If the answer is ‘greater than 70%’, and you think Fergus will be the same because that’s who you guys are, nickname people, then yes, I think it’s too cute to have Ginny and Gwen and Gus…even though technically you get a pass because of the two different G sounds. If I’m overestimating it, though, and it’s more like calling a guy named Mike ‘Mikey’ when he’s being cute, then sure, go ahead.

Don’t go ahead with Woody, though. Honestly. You know my whole thing about how kids don’t get made fun of for their names? I’m talking about rare names, or unusual names – I’m catching up on Insecure as I write this and thinking about the gorgeous simplicity of it, and how I hope it catches on a little. 

But Woody…and Woodrow, well…if you are classy and sophisticated enough not to know why that could pose a problem for a kid in the schoolyard, your kids probably need fancier names anyway. Much fancier. Like Fauntleroy. I have known a couple of Woodys, but they’re both playing on their last names, so there’s an ‘out’ there, you know?

Hugh IS awesome, and kind of rare, which adds to the excellence quotient. Huey as a nickname, though…is harder. I say this as someone who is sometimes called ‘Duey’, so it’s not the sounds that are the problem but the lack of consonants. I would cheat it if I were you and call him Howie, but really I don’t actually think you need a nickname. The name is short enough, and also, it sounds cool. You’ve seen me recommend Hugo in this space, and I do like it, but I don’t actually think you should choose it over Hugh. Instead, maybe use it as a nickname? Hugo, Gogo? I am also obligated to tell you that a Hugh I know leaned enthusiastically into the inevitable misspelling/nickname ‘Huge’.

I also have nothing bad to say about Frederick, but only you can say if it’s too many Ds, because to me, Frederick is automatically, adorably, wonderfully, Freddie.  Again, note the bias because of what my own name is – I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it, even with your surname, but I think it’s a personal tolerance issue, so up to you.

As for Martin, or Marty – you know how we all think our parents’ names are, well, parents’ names, while our grandparents’ names have started to become attractive? I feel like Martin is the younger sibling of all of our grandparents. Hopelessly stranded between the cool names and the never-will-be-cool (to us). I wish there were examples to the contrary in the zeitgeist, but these days the only one I can think of is Gilmore Girls’ Marty, who’s being discussed because the Netflix revival is MERE DAYS AWAY…

I know I usually make more suggestions, and I could – Julian, Ronan, Benedict – but I think you’re on the right track, and you need to boil down more rather than diversify your options.

Definitely let us know!