Dear Duana,

We are expecting a little girl in May and we are facing a dilemma.  My husband and I have been together for 15 years, and shortly after we got engaged a decade ago, we picked the names of our future children. We both loved those names.  So when we had our son three years ago, we didn’t give it a second thought and gave him the pre-picked boy name.  It wasn’t until afterwards that we realized how popular his name is.  It’s definitely one of the top 5 in North America and there’s a boy with that name in every class.  With that in mind, I looked up our pre-picked girl name, “Avery”, and realized that it’s also now super popular (definitely wasn’t nearly as popular a decade ago!!)  So now we are struggling.  We LOVE that name and it’s the name we’ve imagined for our little girl for the past 10 years - but we also don’t want her to have the same problem that her brother now has. Any suggestions?  Should we just stick with it?  Otherwise, do you have any other suggestions?  We have a one syllable last name.


Do you ever get the impression that ‘sibling rivalry’ is a concept that was invented in the 70s and 80s, flourished, and then died there? Seriously. I can tell you any number of stories of near-death situations my sister and I suffered at each others’ hands – mostly mine, if I’m being honest. That was par for the course – 80s movies and books seemed to confirm it. Your sibling was your sworn enemy, and the idea that you might someday be able to tolerate them was preposterous unless they were driving you someplace or you were working to get your parents back together.

But I don’t see that anymore, at all actually. Everyone seems anxious to talk about how well their babies get along, how sweet they are together, how much little Evan wanted a baby sister and how gentle he is.

All this by way of saying I don’t know if sibling rivalry is a thing or not. That is, if you protect your daughter from what your son’s already gone through, will he be resentful? Will he wonder why you didn’t protect him?

My gut says no. A lot of guys have a more love/shrug relationship with their name or the popularity of same, while it cuts close to the quick for a lot of girls and women. I’m working on pinpointing exactly why that is.  

The actual solution, of course, is simple. Put Avery in the middle slot. It’s still a name you wanted her to have, and dreamed of, and you still love it, but you want her to have the option of something else. The way you react to my suggestion will tell you what you should do about Avery. Can you handle the fact that she’s not the little girl you dreamed of?   

The inverse might work just as well, of course. Call her Avery Middle Last, but have her go by Middle and see whether that is a balm or a hole in your heart. And whether you can handle your son as originally pictured, namewise, but your daughter with a new and updated version.

I love this dilemma. Let me know what you choose!

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!