Hi Duana,

Long time reader, first time emailer here. I've been writing this email in my head for so long I hope I can cover everything now that I'm actually sitting down to write it!

I'm pregnant with our third, due in August. We are not finding out the gender and didn't with our first two, Anna Grace and Etta (Elizabeth) Jane. Both girls' names are family names - Anna goes back many generations and Elizabeth is my MIL's name. We chose Etta as the short form when we saw it on a Nameberry list as a nickname for Elizabeth. We loved both names and thought it was a perfect solution for us, even if most people aren't familiar with Etta as a nickname for Elizabeth. I should note we ADORE both girls' names and couldn't be happier. If we hadn't used Grace and Jane for middle names they would top our list this time around.

We are pretty set on a boy's name this time around - Henrik. It's an ode to my maiden name and Scandinavian which is (part of) our background. Firstly, while I am pretty set on Henrik I wonder if it works well enough with Anna & Etta.

However, we have nothing for a girl this time. There are dozens of names we like but that just won't work for one reason or another (cousins or too-close friends with the names) or that just haven't quite landed yet. And like everyone else, my husband and I don't have the exact same taste although we aren't light years apart. I tend to more old fashioned names while he tends a little trendier.

Etta was almost named Alice, a name that I loved but had to sell my husband on. I still like the name but some of the charm has worn off and I worry that it's thought to be a hipster name. We refuse to do 'hipster' or trendy 2016 popular. I am fine if the name is common (just look at our girls names!) as long as they aren't specifically popular right NOW if that makes sense. There will always be a lot of Annas and I'm OK with that.

Here are some of the girls names I like:

Josephine (husband is not a fan)
Louisa (husband is not a fan)
Thea (family name - I love it but do not care for the Tae-ya pronunciation most would default to)
Kirsten/Kerstin (no one else seems to like this name other than me and I fear the pronunciation here as well)
Linnea (same pronunciation issue)
Malin (again with the pronunciation)
Isla (too popular)
Emme (we both love this name but I think it's too twee with our girls' names and I like it as a nickname but Emerson is out)
Elin (friend would kill us if we used this name)
Lina (same friend issue)
Astrid (I actually don't know that I like this name specifically, but I like the 'd' ending which gives us a break from the similarity of Anna and Etta).

Giving our girls names that are relatively timeless, pass the Supreme Court Test and allow them to be whomever they want to be are important to us. We obviously also prefer names that end in 'a' (especially as opposed to the 'ee' sound) but are leery of having three names that are too similar (all ending in A, same structure, etc).

So... any help you could give would be greatly appreciated!

Thanks! You're the best!


Well, you’re totally in luck but also a bit in a hard place, and that’s because you’re living in a little catch 22. The names you love are undoubtedly classic, but they’re also somewhat in vogue right now. That is, the slightly old-lady could-belong-to-my-grandmother choices of Anna and Etta (which I really love, please don’t misunderstand my statement) are in fact a bit in fashion right now. Note that I didn’t say ‘popular’ or ‘common’, because I don’t think either are true, but if you think about styles, Olivia isn’t so far from Elsa which isn’t so far from Etta. For that matter, Anna and Elizabeth and Jane and Grace might well have been classmates together a few generations ago (and Anna would have been ‘exotic’ at the time). So don’t throw the stylish names you love out because of a perception of what’s ‘trendy’ – go with what you love, just as you did with Henrik.

The only name that doesn’t seem to fit to me from your list, style-wise, is Sarah. Even though it’s always been a popular name for girls, I think it hit maximum stylishness in the 1970s and 80s, and all the Sarahs are now the ones having babies.  It’s one thing to go with a name that’s not super-popular, but one that is actively a mom name might create some resentment.

Okay, so Elin and Lina are out, but given that they’re virtually palindromes it’s interesting to give us ideas of where you might want to go. Emme is also out, because I agree that it’s a little cutesy relative to the other two, and you can’t both get behind it, so that’s done.

I don’t agree that the pronunciation issues would be there with Malin and Linnea or Thea, and especially don’t think that Thea would be pronounced any way but “THEE-a”. However, with the rise of Dorothy and Theodore you might find that it falls into the category you’re talking about, of ‘names associated with 2016’.

If your husband doesn’t like Josephine or Louisa they’re out, Claire and Clara are both OK but the fact that you followed them up with no further note but aren’t pitching for them in particular is interesting. I agree that Isla’s too popular and that Kirsten (another mom name, if I’m being honest) won’t be as intuitive pronunciation-wise, and I’m interested in your assessment of Astrid, because I think the same thing…you don’t like it as much as you think you do.

Whew. Is that all of them?

You like two-syllable names with a little charm but not too much challenge, and you are really attracted to endings that don’t end in ‘a’. Furthermore, you’re not here for a cutesy nickname at all, there were no suggestions of Josie for Josephine or Lulu for Louisa. Bless you for having clearly defined preferences and goals!

Here’s a list for you:

Nina. Short, stylish, not popular. Similar sounds to Anna and Etta, but not identical. Maybe it feels too close?

Ailsa. There may indeed be a pronunciation issue with this mostly Scottish-used name, which is unfortunate because it’s so good. The multiple sounds in the short name are so much more interesting even than the legitimately good (but not for you) Elsa.

Delphine? Sure, French-influenced, but still in the world your girls’ names inhabit.  Delia? Magda? Gwen, via Gwendolyn or Guinevere or Gwyneth, as is your preference? Looking back on the Scandinavian names post from the other day, how about Freya or Tyra? Agnes, even? I know Agnes is a hard sell, but aren’t we getting past that now? Try focusing on the ‘nes’ and less on the front syllable and see if you can make it start to sound appealing to you, kind of the inverse of the way the word ‘spoon’ ceases to have any meaning if you read it too many times.

What about Iona (also Scottish) or something like Raina or Simone? Regina or Lelaina or Camille? Oooh, Camille with Anna and Etta is quite nice, actually. Finally, and this is a limb, but we might be getting to this limb, what about Denise?

As for Alice, I like the name very much. I always have. It feels a bit timeless more than it does trendy – we’ve always talked about Alice in Wonderland and ‘Alison’ was never far from our lips—so the fact that the occasional bibliophile has mused that it might be a good name may give the impression that it’s more popular than it is. Remember what you said, you don’t mind that there will always be Annas – similarly, Alice is the kind of name that’s always been in the mix, even if slightly more people choose it (or, in my experience, talk about choosing it) today.

Let me know where you wind up!