Hi Duana,

I am expecting my first child in a few months and would really appreciate your input on possible baby names.   I am totally stuck. The problem: my husbands last name is a girls first name-it's Allison.  It seems like everything we come up with sounds like a fake celebrity name. We are waiting to find out the gender so would like to have one girl name and one boy name picked out.  I was thinking about Elia. It's a name I came across while reading Divergent and Game of Thrones. What do you think? Is it weird to have a made up name from a book? Would that name just blend in with all the Ella and Elle's or can it stand on it's own? For a boy I'm clueless.   I have considered Benjamin, Henry, John....but those names all feel boring and overdone right now. It seems like everything I like ends up sounding feminine or like a male stripper due to the whole woman's first name as a last name issue. Any feedback would be much appreciated!  -C


Hi C,

This is one I haven’t gotten before, but I immediately start thinking romantic thoughts of your future child walking over the moors and moodily dreaming of poetry. I’m not sure why, but it has to do with Sir Edmund Hillary, I think, and boys named Beverley from L.M. Montgomery.   

But the fact remains that your son or daughter is going to live right now, and so yes, you need a name that will fit. I’d say keeping it rhythmic will do well for you, so what about Simon Allison? Gunther Allison? Archibald Allison actually has a really nice ring to it, and hey, it worked for Amy Poehler. Don’t tell me you don’t think Archie Allison has a ring to it. If that’s not it, how about Ephriam? Or Malcolm?  Malcolm Allison is actually really tickling me too. I think in this case for a boy, you want to stay away from anything too mod or one syllable or unisex, since Chase Allison does sound a little bit like a publishing firm or a wunderkind author. And it’s never too early to bring back one of my favourites, Barnaby. Barnaby Allison!

As for Elia, not my favourite, but only partly for the reasons you suggest. No, you can totally use a name “made up” from a book (and as name nerds love to point out, that’s exactly what “Vanessa” is), but you can’t use Elia when your last name is Allison, for two reasons. First of all, “Elia Allison What”? And secondly, I really have a bugaboo when the first and last begin with the same letter. They run together.  

So because Allison as a first, to me is so completely 80s – pleasantly 80s, but still – I think a girl’s name is where you go completely classic to give it some weight. And I deleted my first few selections, so I get that it’s hard. Charlotte Allison would be perfect, but of course there are entire schools worth of Charlottes these days. So how about Winifred Allison? Meredith Allison? Beatrice Allison? Faustine Allison?  Celeste? Genvieve? Actually the more I go on, the more the French names are hitting the spot here, not least because you avoid the problematic “A” ending. So that’s an avenue to consider. I would consider breaking my A rule for one spectacular moniker though – Wilhelmina. I know, right? Name her Wilhelmina Allison with my blessing because (maybe just because of my love for the name) the sounds do seem somewhat separated. You gotta know the rules to break them, right?

Definitely let me know!