Hi Duana,
I'm a HUGE name nerd and am so happy to be newly pregnant. I have a question about naming strategies and obligations. Here's the deal: Jewish people tend to name children after deceased relatives, to honour them. For example, if it's a girl she will be Paulina, after my grandmother Pauline. Husband and I both love that one, so not a problem.

If it's a boy, Husband wants the middle name to be Morris, after his grandfather (we both agree it's middle-name material only). But we can't agree on a first name for a boy. I want Samuel, for my grandfather. Husband doesn't hate the name but he doesn't love it either. I really want to honour my grandfather (it would made my dad SO happy) and I really like the name but... I'm not in love with it either.

I do think that if Sam were our son's name, we would grow to love it. Like instantly.

What's your take on this - do we buck tradition/obligation and find a totally different name we both love, or do we work on loving a name that we do like, but don't love (yet), that has so much meaning and honour going for it?

Thank you so much and keep the name articles coming, they're my favourite!!!


I’ve written before that honour names can be tricky, but one of the reasons I like this tradition in the Jewish faith is because I’ve seen it interpreted so many different ways. From an exact interpretation of the name to just a first initial, I like that many different variations “count”. 

So I love Paulina, think it’s fantastic. But it’s always that one name is easy and the other really isn’t, right?   

Okay, so your son is Babyname Morris.  I don’t disagree that Samuel Morris isn’t the most lyrical – there’s nothing wrong with it in theory, but since both names have that old-world feel, I can see how you might think you were naming a member of your grandfather’s generation, or, as often worries me, that the kid will live mostly in the shadows of the names of the men who came before him.  

But there’s a lot going for it, Samuel. It’s formal and casual all at once, and it suits both a football player and an oboe soloist. It’s timeless. And if you need to be convinced that Sam is a great name for a baby, I’ve been rereading the Anastasia Krupnik series, and that baby Sam is about the best advertisement for the name there is.  

But if it’s really not happening for you, what about doing a double-honour that’s also new? Use a different “S” name in the front spot, and put both Samuel and Morris in the middle? Sutton or Seth or Sacha? Or, for that matter, a new name altogether in the front spot with two middles?

For now, walk around talking out loud. Is Sam a name that just sounds right? Or are you talking yourself into it? Make sure that when you think of your child at a year and three and fifteen that you see the name fitting him (or not). The honour names are only an honour if you feel good when you use them, you know?