Hi Duana,

I’m due with my second child on December 2 and we decided, as we did with our son, to keep the sex a surprise. My three year old is Gavin and it’s a name I loved forever – we settled on it before I was out of the first trimester. The problem is, it seems to be the only boy name I like. We have two girl options, Ainsley and  Camilla, that we both like about equally so I wouldn’t mind hearing your thoughts on those, but we’re totally stuck on boy names. Names I like include:

- Elias (can’t get past the meaning …too religious)
- Ezra (love but my husband can’t get past Levant)
- Nathaniel (meh…I like the name a lot but don’t love it)
- Zachary (husband hates)
- Tristan (husband doesn’t love and we know a couple of them)
- Owen (suggested by my husband but sounds like such a little boy name to me…it’s too cute)

The middle name for a girl will be Irene and for a boy, Ira (for my late mother in law). Our last name isn’t hard to pronounce but it throws most people off, I think due to the silent ‘h’, so I’d like to find a name that most people can spell since I spend my whole life spelling my first name. I also don’t want another “G” name because a lot of families in my husband’s culture name all kids starting with the same letter and I want to get away from that, nor do I want a “D” name since our last name starts with D…Double D is not good.

Also would be interested to know your thoughts on the name Kaius. I love it and love Kai for short but am not sure about the spelling (vs. Caius) and my husband thinks it's too close to his brother's stepson's name, which is Kyle (he's 12 and we're not very close with them...I think it's a non-issue).

I can literally stare at a list of 1,000 boys names and not see one that calls out to me as ‘our name’.  Please help! 


It’s not that I want to take sides. In fact, early on, I’d totally be with you. I love Gavin so very, very much, and I think you and I both know that you’ve majorly scored because it’s hiding in plain sight. It’s fantastic. And I’m with you because Ainsley and Camilla both feel fresh and like they’ll work well with Gavin.

But when I read on, some of the names that you like that your husband doesn’t, well…I’m with him.  I don’t hate Zachary at all, but I can understand how it would be seen as an all-or-nothing kind of name. For some people, it’s visceral. Maybe it’s the Zack Morris factor.

And I’m with him on Tristan, too. It’s just never added up for me at all, and feels incomplete, somehow, particularly if it’s going to be paired with Ira, which I love, because it gives me warm fuzzy feelings of Ira Glass.

Which means that I have to eliminate Ezra, which I also deeply love, because Ezra Ira sounds like a crazy tongue twister that kids sing on the school bus. And if you don’t like Elias, there’s no point talking you into it, or Nathaniel, either.

So. All your names are vowel-heavy, soft-syllabled. It makes sense with Gavin. Probably if someone had asked you 15 years ago, you would still be mourning that Oliver was getting popular, am I right?

So when I say I’m with ‘him’, I mean your hypothetical son, and I’m going to find you his name, ready?

Gilbert is unusual enough that any misgivings you have about having two G-named children will be assuaged because the name is so awesome and people will think ‘why didn’t I think of that’? Similarly, another predictble-but-awesome stop on my list is Duncan, which fits with Gavin without being too matchy.  Arthur fits right into your prescribed requirements, but it’s happening right now—so many Arthurs are between the ages of 1-4 it might have a similar effect to you feeling like Owen is a little boy’s name.

So the next stop on my list is Hamish – sure, it might indicate that you have Scottish leanings, but it’s fabulous and rare and begging to be used, and frankly, I love it with Gavin. If not this, then what about Amos? Soft syllables, big sound – is there anything here you can get with?

Then I found myself thinking of Irving. Sure, Irving Ira has the potential for a curious monogram, but I kind of love it as an offbeat nickname. How about Eugene? Gavin and Eugene? There’s a ‘g’ factor, and I’ve really been coming around to Gene since Mad Men. And I keep wanting to suggest Arnold, but I think it sounds too hard for what you’re looking for, opposite Gavin – so what about the softer Raymond, which feels light and lovely?

To be honest, I feel like you’re going to be the object of a lot of envy. These names feel fresh and underused, and while they might seem a little dusty at first, they’re going to seem hyper-stylish and thoughtful any second now. Try me and see if I’m right.

P.S. As for Kaius, nicknamed Kai, I far prefer the Caius spelling, which gives you plausible deniability where Kyle is concerned -- but it's still kind of close, if I'm being honest, and if I'm being honest AND egotistical, I think you have better choices.  But let me know!