Dear Duana,

I am having my fourth baby in July.  I have boy/girl twins who are four named Annabelle Rae (b/c I have always loved Annabelle and Rae is my mom’s middle name) and Stephen Michael (after my dad). Our two year old girl is Beatrice Elizabeth (After my husband’s great grandma and mother respectively).   

If it is a boy, he will be named after my husband’s father, Jack Houston. However, we are at a loss for a girl name.  We can’t really totally agree on anything and I am having a hard time loving anything as much as I love Annabelle and Beatrice. I feel like those names are longer (three syllables), kind of romantic, and lend themselves well to cute nicknames (Belle and Bea).  I just can’t seem to find anything that goes with them.

I seem to like the same names and sounds so much that it would just be too repetitive to use them.  My next choice for a girl would have been Elizabeth but we used that one up on Bea’s middle name. I also really like Annalise but I feel like that would be akin to having Mary Kate and Mary Francis in one family.  We liked Cora for a while but then my mother-in-law voiced her negative opinion so vehemently that it has tainted and ruined the name for me.  I feel like Felicity is the perfect match but my husband cannot get on board with giving her the name of a late 1990s New York college student with curly hair played by Keri Russell. I considered Margaret because I like the nickname Maggie but it feels too frumpy compared to the other two.   I suggested Jacklynn (which would be Grandpa’s name with my middle name) but it doesn’t feel right.

Am I over thinking this or being too picky? I am just at a loss and I feel like the perfect name is out there, I just haven’t stumbled upon it yet. Can you help?


Your instincts are mostly bang on, and I really like Annabelle Rae in particular. But you are getting a bit hung up on specifics so the key here is to open your mind and relax a bit. Try again for Felicity. Remind your husband that nobody who is your daughter’s age will ever know that show existed (or why they spoke into physical things like ‘tapes’) and those who do know, your contemporaries? Other parents? They’re too busy hoping Keri Russell will get naked again on The Americans. So it’s fine. But if it’s not the thing, here are the ways you can go. 

Helena. Don’t say ‘oh, her nickname will be hell, I can’t!’ First of all, no it won’t, second of all, consider Lena (or “Leyna”, though I think you can get there). You’ll be happy you did. Francesca? I know this is a little biblical and it’s not always the way people want to go, but I think it would be beautiful and in perfect step with Annabelle and Beatrice.  

How about Eleanor? Eleanor Felicity, even? Eleanor is so appropriate and antique and simultaneously current that I think it will work beautifully. Or Camilla, or Tallulah if you’re feeling fanciful (she certainly won’t be the only one in your town with that name) or Serafina if you want to go further afield, or if you want to rein me back in, Louisa or Bianca (which needs to shed a certain reputation it’s acquired anyway) or hey, if you’re feeling creative, how about Eugenie?

This was fun, as I think there are a lot of people with affection for a lot of long girly names who never have the opportunity. I know you’re going to do the right thing, so I want you to have fun with it (and don’t worry about the fact that I kind of agree with your mother in law and don’t think Cora is right. For your family. Don’t kill me)!

A note to name-nerd letter writers,

I love getting your letters. In order to give them the best chance of being answered in a timely fashion, could I please trouble you to include the due date in the subject line of your email? Also, please send only one email – duplicates are deleted and may result in your email not being answered. Thanks!