Hi Duana,

We are expecting our first, a little boy, in late October, and my husband is insisting on a junior unless I have another name I'm truly passionate about (which unfortunately I don't). 

The thing is, his name is kind of a pretentious one for a little guy: Howell. My husband got a lot of grief for the Gilligan's Island association as a kid, and even though that show will be more than 50 years removed from our son's school days, I think it sounds snooty regardless. The only nicknames we've thought of are Howie (which my husband goes by), Hal (which his grandfather went by, but we don't like), and Wells (the total frontrunner, but also seems a little "made-up" as a nickname). The standard "junior" nicknames like Chip, Buddy, Deuce and HJ all seem too folksy, so we're trying to find a happy medium. 

I won't even get into the middle name, because it's a straight-up veto from me (but it starts with an "S"- if that helps with ideas). Our last name is a common English one, 2 syllables, starting with an "A." Any help would be so appreciated. You're super creative, so I'm sure can find a way out of the tight name box in which we're stuck.


- A millionaire and his wife 
Kidding, L


This is an interesting letter to read, mostly because I kept reading trying to find the way you were leaning, but couldn’t really find it. I’m not sure that I would believe anyone who said they don’t have another name they’re passionate about, but I buy what you’re selling. It’s actually refreshing to read “Here’s what we’ve got on the table, given that, help me out”.

Having said that – please, please do not name the baby Deuce. Even as a joke.

Remember before you go looking too much for nicknames that a lot of kids these days are William-not-Will, or Thomas-not-Tom. Howell may actually fit in well, and it’s perfectly in line with Daniel, or Lionel that I keep pimping, or Thomas or Henry. You know what I mean?

Given all of this though, I get it if you still want something else. The first thought that came to mind was Howes. I know, I know – ‘whose house’? But that’s not actually what’s happening here, and it makes me think of Jules or Wills – casualizing via plurality, if that makes sense. I’d also be inclined to go with Howe, because I think it looks cool, and because if it works for names like Hugh or Sue or Tao, why not Howe? 

Now, those are both ‘made up’ by me, no more or less than Wells is. I like Wells, too, although I think you’ll wind up calling him Wellie, because Wells is one of those consonant-heavy words that might be tricky or trippy for your tongue. Similarly, you could shorten it even more, to Ellie or Ellis or Eli or Elias. No, they’re definitely not direct roots of Howell, but you know, neither is Buddy. 

Also, if I understand correctly and his grandfather was also Howell, doesn’t this make your boy the third? In that case, did you know that Trey is a viable nickname for ‘the third”? True story. Ask Bill Gates. (Trip is also eligible in this way, but you don’t want to do that to a poor defenceless baby, right?)

If what you’re hoping for is something that’s almost Howell, but isn’t, I immediately think of Wesley or Allen or Earl or Clarence or Hayes or even Wolf. I mean, I know, but you’re asking about Howell.

Also, remember that Gilligan’s Island means very little to most of the people who are becoming parents these days, and absolutely nothing to your son and his contemporaries. Nobody will know if it’s snobby or posh or old or new – unless you make a point of saying so.