Dear Duana,
After 20 years of baby name obsession, I'm finally faced with naming my own baby and am totally stumped.
My husband and I want to honour several deceased relatives by choosing a name that begins with the same letter as did the relative's: R for a boy and J for a girl. Unfortunately we cannot agree on names we like.
For a boy, I like Rafael, Reuben or Reginald, while my husband likes Ralph or Rafe. I quite like Ralph but I don't think it goes well with my husband's last name, a one-syllable name that begins with an H, and Rafe is OK but sounds a bit too pretentious to me.
For a girl, I like Jemima or Jocelyn, both of which my husband dislikes. He, on the other hand, likes the oh-so-boring (to me) Jacqueline and Jessica, mostly because he likes the nicknames Jackie and Jessie. If we have a daughter, we will give her my last name, which is a one-syllable name that begins with B.
Any advice would be most welcome!!


Hey! The level of specificity here really helps, but chances are I’m probably going to repeat some names you’ve rejected. Also, would love some insight from readers who have done the initial thing – can they be used to honor the opposite sex sometimes too? Or is it always a direct correlation? My mind immediately flooded with J names for boys and Rs for girls – is it a total no-go?

You and your husband are really close together on your R names so I think you’re on your way. Interesting that Rafael is OK with you but Rafe seems too pretentious – I might go the other way around. But couldn’t you name him one and nickname him the other?

If not – how’s Roland? Ronan? Even Rory, which has been given to girls but still seems boy enough to me (though, interestingly, I don’t feel that way about Riley at all) to be a good strong boy’s name? Ramon, even? Or the surprisingly fresh out-of-nowhere Raymond?  

As for girls, my first thought was a name I love but that is clearly polarizing – Jacinta/Jacinda. I’ve heard it as “Ja-SIN-Ta”, “Ya-SIN-Ta” and “Ja-SINTH-a”,  and I love it, but it makes a lot of people crazy, so do with that what you will. I myself will never be able to use this as apparently SOMEONE dated a Jacinta and it didn’t go well, but if you can take advantage of it, you should.

If you both seem to be leaning toward three-syllable hyperfeminine J names,  what about Jessamyn? Don’t be mistaken, this is no Kymbryee – the Y has been in there for decades, it’s not a trendy addition. I agree that  Jessie is a nickname for a 30 year old woman, but maybe this way you get the “Jess” that he’s looking for? The other uber-popular J name right now that will fit right into her generation is Josephine – will a little Joey do it for your husband?

Also, I have no idea what the R or J names are that you’re choosing from, but why not just import them wholesale? I bet they’ll feel a lot more fresh and unusual than some of the ones you’ve tried so far – is it an impossibility?

Let me know!