Hi Duana!

I'm having a huge naming crisis. We have a 2 1/2 year old girl named Olivia Rose (I know it's popular but we loved it and we haven't met any others, so I wasn't too concerned) and now we are having a boy due June 8th and I'm having a horrible time with names. When we briefly talked about it before we knew the sex, we had picked Cora Jane for a girl, but then it all came crashing down when they told us we were having a boy and now I have no name. Cora Jane was after our grandmothers, so now my husband wants to use Vance David after our grandfathers (and I guess our dads too). The problem is I just don't know if I love it, and does it go with Olivia which is more well known? And will Olivia care if she's not named after anyone (stupid thought, I know). Another problem is nothing I see, I love. I read your column every time you have a new post and none of the boy names ever make me say "Oh, that's the one!" you know? I sort of like Duncan or Donovan, and I saw Sullivan and it was alright. One name I'm kind of leaning towards is Wesley, and I think it sounds nice with Olivia, but my husband remembers this one couple we knew (he did not like this couple, FYI) whose son was Wesley, so he's not on board. You see the issues I'm having?

As a side note, my nephew’s middle name is David after my brother (who's after my dad, who's after my grandfather, blah blah blah) so can they share a middle name, or it that too many? And any suggestions for middle names with Wesley?

Please, please help!


You know, sometimes – more often than you think, actually – the letter writers are the ones who define their problems much more accurately than they realize. In your case, you’ve highlighted it about halfway through your letter. “Nothing I see, I love.”
You know what that means, right? You’re not realizing that you’re not looking in the right places. For example, all the names you listed as ‘all right’, like Duncan, Donovan, and Sullivan, are really pretty similar. Wesley is different than all three of them, which is why it seems fresher to you. But let yourself a little further out of the box…

First of all, strip away the rules. Olivia Rose was named for nobody, so don’t feel like this little boy needs to be named for someone. That is, the Cora Jane thing was going to work out, but the Vance David thing doesn’t seem to speak to you, and you already have another David in the family (though I don’t have as much problem with cousins sharing a middle name, it’s a neat link that’s not forcing them to conform to the same type of life or anything, just acknowledging that yeah, they have the same grandfather). 

But I would think about Wesley Vance (or Wesley Vance David if that’s going to cause a family jealousy incident) if I thought it were going to make you happy.

Trouble is, I’m not sure it is.

Let’s be real that despite the overwhelming popularity of Olivia right now, it is, on its face, one of those names that’s kind of offbeat, that doesn’t rhyme with any other name, that wasn’t piggybacking on any other trend. Like Jennifer, the name grew hugely popular because it was popular, not because it was imitating anything else. So the key is to find a boys’ name that feels similarly singular—something that’s easier said than done. Wesley actually is one of those names, but I feel like you might not get your husband’s buy in. So what about surname names, like Edison or Miller or Keaton? How about Damian? Olivia and Damian have similar-but-uncommon rhythms and syllables, and feel balanced, as would Olivia and Julian.

Or are all these too conservative? I know Olivia isn’t wacky, but maybe you’re looking for something that seems the way Olivia feels when we were growing up – not unheard of, but decidedly sideways. Something like Simon or Heathcliff or Reuben or Casper or Fabian? Maybe something like Andreas or Rupert or Bosley?

I love the names I use here, but if they’re not all hitting the spot don’t be afraid to go further afield. I grew up with a kid called Adi, Yiddish for Adam. Maybe a language change gets you what you’re looking for – an Italian Alessio or Hebrew-origin Phineas or Solomon might hit the spot.

Certainly, don’t feel like you have to go with two granddad names you don’t love just because you loved the names of the women they married! The fact that you thought about them matters, but the fact that you want your son to have a name your whole family can love matters even more.

Let me know!