Hi Duana,

I would love some feedback from you regarding naming our second daughter due early this Spring.  I feel like I have spent several months looking every baby name book and list out there and am coming up empty handed. Here is the background on my hold up. We named our first daughter Elia. Pronounced "El-lee-ah". We picked the name thinking it was sweet, strong and not overly common. I assumed that people would be able to pronounce her name. In fact, it never even occurred to me that people wouldn't be able to pronounce it.  Well, I was totally wrong.

People are constantly having to ask how to pronounce her name or totally butchering it when having to guess how to pronounce it. When I tell them the pronunciation people frequently have to repeat the name back slowly several times like they are saying something odd and have to get the hang of how to say it. I hate this.  I know this makes me sound like a crappy mother, but every time we are at the doctors office and the nurse yells out "E-LIE-Ah" into the waiting room, I secretly wish I would have given my daughter a different name. I feel incredibly guilty that I’ve given my daughter a lifetime of frustration with no one being able to pronounce her name.  So with this guilt, I am much having a lot of difficulty picking out a name for our second daughter. I would like something not overly common, that would go well with Elia, but not sound odd to people.  There is one name that I ran across that I like, Adair, but am fairly certain that this will give our second daughter the same problem that our first daughter has.   Please throw at me any feedback or suggestions you have! Thank you,  C


Okay, C. First of all, nothing about what you wrote here involves you being a ‘crappy mother’. At all. Because you wish people wouldn’t be dumb? That doesn’t make you a crappy mother, that makes you one of Our People. Seriously, Elaine and I spent the whole weekend together, and I think ‘people are idiots’ came up no fewer than 10 times.

And, as annoying as it is, that doesn’t take anything away from your daughter’s beautiful name. It’s frustrating because I think far fewer people would have a problem with, say, Elio, which I love and don’t hear often enough. But even given that people stumble or think it’s Ella or Eh-LYE-ah, it doesn’t mean her name isn’t intrinsically beautiful. Elia. It’s lovely. 

And actually, I don’t think Adair is going to suffer the same problem. Firstly because I think it’s more well-known as a girl’s name. I was reading a deliciously creepy book just last night with an Adair in it [‘Whatever Happened To Janie’, Caroline B Cooney,  definitely worth a reread if you haven’t since you were a teen], and nobody batted an eye at that name. 

Plus, it’s lovely. I don’t know a single Adair and I think you should use it. Plus I think she’ll make a charming sister for Elia – in the same family without sounding like the same name. But if you think you absolutely can’t, I have a few suggestions that may feel like they fit.

In situations where the name feels like it could be the one but isn’t the one, I like to use some of the ‘sibling’ features on the name boards. Like suggestions around Adair include Ansley (which would get misktaken for Ainsley, which is not the worst name) or Siri or Neve. Nice names, but none has the elegance of Adair. So what about Audra (shoutout to our Audra!), though, it is sometimes heard as Audrey? Or Daria or Winnifred or Aisling?

No. Adair is best. I believe it and so do you. Choose it, because both of your girls will thank you.

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!