Hi Duana,

I have been really enjoying reading your series on names, but I was hoping to be able to avoid seeking help for myself. Unfortunately, we’re six weeks away from the arrival of our new boy and still my husband and I cannot seem to agree on a name.

We have a few stipulations that make it difficult
1. Easy to pronounce in both French and English
2. Would prefer if it started with a "J"
2. Unique but....
3. Not wacky

I am including the last one because my husband keeps trying to convince me that we should name our son after a particular gypsy jazz guitarist who shares his names with a man who was recently unchained. (Yup, that one.)

We are not doing very well as the short list of names we can actually agree on are Gabriel, Levi, Orson and Jake. Obviously, none of them fit all four requirements. My favourite name currently is Orson, so I am trying to come up with a good "J" middle name to appease both my husband and stipulation number 2. Any opinions on these or suggested alternatives would be very much appreciated.


So here’s the thing – J names, English and French, no problem. Got it covered. Unique but not wacky – yeah, you know better, don’t you? One person’s RIDICULOUS is the other one’s entirely delightful. Do you know how much sh*t I caught for suggesting a friend name her kid Drusilla? Do you know how much I wasn’t joking?

So. Fine. No guitarists who were recently unchained. Got it. Jake, I assume, in addition to being not unique, doesn’t sound particularly French – though I don’t know if it’s “difficult” to pronounce. Nonetheless, let’s see what we can do.    

For better or worse, the first name that comes to mind is Jerome. I don’t know whether this makes you think of Jerry Seinfeld like it does me, but it’s kind of due for a revival. If that’s not for you, how about Junot? Easy to say both ways, and it’s much more familiar now due to Junot Diaz.   

Are these a little out there for you? I don’t know the reasoning for the “J” – whether it’s a familial honor name or what – but one of the issues with using a popular initial is that they’re kind of….I don’t want to say boring exactly but “well-used” comes to mind. Jack becomes Jacques very easily, I’ve always found the (possibly made-up) French pronunciation of “Jona’ton” to be kind of charming, but they’re not unusual names. They’re not run of the mill, especially these days, but I mean, from Jason came Jaden, you know? 

Judah? Jeremiah? Too biblical? For my money, I think Jeremy and Jeremiah are both underused and ripe for more. Orson Jeremiah is a pretty great name, if I say so myself. Levi Jeremiah, too, if a bit Old Testament.

And then, just as I was rejecting Johannes because everyone hates a letter that’s not pronounced the way it looks (ask Jacek how many times his name has been pronounced correctly the first time), it came to me.

Jonah. Or Jonas. Yes, both were hipster baby names circa the late 90s, that blissful time before we knew what hipsters were, but neither ever reached the pinnacle of overuse that would make them seem outdated for your babe. And I can see them as easily in a Paris crèche (someone’s been reading about France!) as in a North American daycare.

Hit me back!