Hi Duana,

My husband and I would like to consider incorporating some family names for our future children ... but we're stuck.

My grandparents names are Erna and Wilfred, Geneva and Gordon but we were hoping you may be able to give us a modern spin on the names that we could consider?

We like modern and trendy, but not crazy popular, we would like to avoid having to spell out the names (as my husband's 4-syllable last name usually requires spelling).

Any suggestions!?   Thank you!!!


Here’s the good news – you’re halfway there. If you like modern and trendy, well, everything old is new again. With every second baby on the playground being Will,  or Liam, Wilfred is the perfect “new” concoction to fit in yet stand out. Think about calling baby Wilf, or little Freddie. He’s totally right in there, and I wouldn’t hesitate to use Wilfred, nor would I think any modern parent should. It won’t feel like your grandfather’s name, it’ll feel like you’re ahead of the curve.

Similiarly, Geneva is so in the pocket in terms of the next wave of names that you don’t have to do a thing to it. Think of all the little girls called Ella and Eva and Evelyn right now, and you can see how Geneva is right on the wave of the next evolution. Not only does it end in the modern, trendy syllable Eva, and it has a “v” near the end like the ubiquitous Olivia, but like Annabel or Emily, it has the whiff of a compound name about it which is very right now. Plus, if you want it, you can have the nickname “Gen”, which is probably unheard of these days in the preschool set.   

Plus, if you had a boy and a girl, you’d be honouring one grandparent from each side.  QED.  

Gordon and Erna are a little more antiquated, I’m not going to lie. I’m not sure there’s any updating to do with Gordon, and nothing says “middle-aged” more than Gord. You can lean toward names like “Griffin” but there’s nothing there that truly makes you remember Gordon. Similarly, if you change it to “Morton” or something, well, that’s really not the same name, is it?

Erna is where things live a little more in the middle. It reminds me of two things.   The first is Elna Baker, who wrote the hilarious “The New York Regional Mormon Singles Hallowe’en Dance”, which you should really read. It’s not exactly a name that rolls off the tongue, but she uses it to reference herself so much in her memoir that I really got into it. Elna. Of course.    

Erna is a little more difficult, but as I look at it, I actually starting thinking about one of those 80s names that might juuuust be ready to be heard on the occasional girl – Erin. It’s never remembered how big Erin was, but there were a lot of them and I think most were pretty happy with their names. It’s not such a big step from Erna to Erin (please don’t do Erin-a) and it might feel fresh again by the time she gets here.   If not, think about Elna itself – it’s only one letter away from the constant that is “Ella” – or Ernestine, from which you could easily get ‘Tina”,  or just plain “Earnest” as a virtue name but I would most certainly keep that for the middle, because my rule about how kids don’t get beat up for their names doesn’t extend to sanctimonious virtues.