Ok Duana:

I have a couple of questions for you! My husband and I are expecting our first child and we are leaving the sex a surprise. We both have names that we love that we don't necessarily agree on but also could live with. My husband is Jewish and is really pushing for the name Moses for a boy, which I do love (he has no idea who Gwyneth Paltrow is so I'm even more okay with it.) I'm still partial to (don't hate me) Atticus but I could live with, and love, Moses.

We're really running into difficulty with girls names. We are both very close with the women in our lives, grandmothers and aunts. The thing is, they are mostly old fashioned. One of my grandmother's names is Lucy, the other Gladys. My great grandmother's names were Grace and Zella, respectively. I love, love, love both of those names, but here is where we run into a few problems. 1. I knew a Grace in college that was an absolutely terrible person. Literally and figuratively the worst. Cocaine-snorting, relationship-wrecking, hot mess of a person. Will I never be able to forget that Grace?? 2. Zella = totally awesome, and have never heard a Zella before, ever. But: will she be confused with Bella / Zelda? I would die if someone had thought I was a diehard twihard and named my daughter Bella.

To add even more name drama to the mix, my husband, who is cool with Lucy (or alternatively Lucie) is pushing really hard for his late aunt's name, Muriel. Muriel and Gladys... both names of women we love so dearly, but I don't know if I can get on that bandwagon. Can you help shed some light on this situation, or suggest alternatives or other names you think may be up our alley, for either a boy or girl? We are also planning on having a few children, so names that go well together would be super helpful. Thanks Duana!


I try to use the letters I get more or less in the order they’re received, but also try to see that we’re not answering the same questions all the time – that we’re varying up the names I might suggest or that you might ask about. This letter deals in Muriel, Gladys, and Zella. Huzzah!

So, first of all, get rid of Grace because a. It’s super-common and b. You hate it.  You’re never going to get rid of the image of that other Grace in your head. And you don’t need to. Just move along.

Zella, on the other hand, god, the romance of this name! Yes, the occasional idiot will get it wrong, but that’s because they’re not listening to that great zippy Z in the front. Zzzzzella! I feel obligated to point out that it’s kind of attractive precisely because our ears are attuned to all the Bella Ella names that abound these days, but still, Zella is unusual.

As for Gladys, well, when I found this name for the first time in the Booky books, I thought it was pronounced “Glade-ies”. Which I kind of liked. But as it is, Gladys is difficult primarily because it doesn’t look the way it sounds. And, as we learned with Zella, people like names that sound ‘right ’- that is, familiar.

And so I’ve been trying to figure out what it is that sounds so familiar and welcoming about ‘Muriel’ and I can’t put my finger on it. Same ending as Ariel? Or is it just that saying ‘Muriel’ in a bad Aussie accent is so much fun?

I don’t know what it is, but while I can easily and unequivocally eliminate Grace and Gladys, Muriel seems eminently viable. Honestly, Zella Muriel is not going to be out of place, she’s going to be damn proud of her name. Or if she winds up Lucy Muriel, there’s a lot of ground covered including peppy and historical, sweet and serious. I think there’s so much you can do here. I know you also asked about options but I feel like you really wanted reassurance on what you’ve already got, and I think it’s great!

Let me know!