Hi Duana!

I'm one of those girls who never wanted to have kids, but have been coming around to the idea, much to my husband's happiness (but no worries, he never pressured me into being a mom). And the main reason I'm coming around to it is because then I get to name the baby! For some strange reason, reading this column and coming up with potential names has been really helpful in making what originally seemed like a crazy concept, a much more realistic idea. And I think that once I get the names fixed in my head, I'll be even more excited to become a mom.

So that's where I need your help. My husband and I are both Asian. My husband has a very common Vietnamese one-syllable last name. I've grown up my whole life having to make a hard stop in between my first and last name because my parents didn't think about how my name would go together, and people still mess up my last name all the time because it kinda just rolls into my first name (MichelleLuWuVu, etc). So I definitely want to avoid that for my child. So, no one syllable names or nicknames.

Some names that we like but are worried may be too popular are: Chloe, Caitlin, Genevieve, Oliver (how cute is Ollie as a nickname??), Augustus (again, here we would nickname him Auggie), and Joshua. I've tried to suggest other names like Dmitri, but my husband is worried that people will look at our Asian baby strangely if it has a distinctively non-Asian name. My husband is also worried that some of the names are too "grandma/grandpa" sounding, or worse yet, better fit for a pet (see Ollie, Auggie).

We haven't fallen in love with any of them just yet, and are hoping you can help us out! :)  



God, what a way to start a Monday. You are making my life over here for a couple of reasons. Number one because, are you telling me that this column actually makes you want to have a child? Can I be elated just for a minute?

The second is because you are touching on two of my favourite name topics. One is that there are certain names that can’t match up with certain other ethnicities, and another is the perceived popularity of names that may not actually be popular. Let’s see where we can start.  

In the way-too-popular pile – Chloe, Caitlin, and Oliver. As I repeat all the time, they’re great names … but they’re ones that people have discovered by now. Wait 10 years, or go with alternatives, but know that your taste in name style is both au courant and also populist. For whatever reason, all the love for Chloe and Zoe falls through the floor when I talk about their sister Phoebe, but I can’t not bring her up. Or if you’re even more flow-ily inclined, think about Ariadne?  

If my bossy Irish mother, who recently complained that Leprechauns are a cultural stereotype, were reading this, she would remind you that Caitlin is not actually “Katelynn” but, in the original Gaelic, is “Kotchleen”. This is ridiculous of course, and one of the reasons why I am not my mother, but if you want a viable alternative, Kathleen is attractive and rare.

Oliver is tough. A lot of people like it specifically because it’s so singular, and that’s why it’s popular. But if you want to go with something that’s like it but not, you could consider Auden or Tolliver – which yes, is a real name, and underused, and kind of charming.

On the not so popular side – Augustus. This is one of those names that everyone talks about using – everyone says they want a little Gus –but fewer people actually choose. I have yet to meet a baby Gus in person. People say it was second or third on their list but they went with Luke or Arthur instead. So go in peace that you’ll be the only one. Similarly Genevieve – in both its ‘Jenna-veev’ and “Zhan-vee-ehv” pronunciations – is oft-admired but rarely chosen. Either is attractive and admired, but not used. Joshua on the other hand is never going to be underused but is not in a popularity bubble – it’s a perennial, the way it would be if you named a child today Sarah.  Always popular, but never a fad.

But as for Dimitri – I could be wrong but I think the issue here would be not the perceived associated ethnicity, but the sort of other image. That larger-than-life debonair individual kind of image. I am partially influenced by the fact that there is a …character in Toronto literally known as Dmitri The Lover, who is more like a character from Jane The Virgin than a real life person, but I think you might find people would nickname him Dimi or Demi, not so much because the name is unpronounceable but because the image is hard to shake.

Other names your names made me think of…Geneva, Dominic, Victor, Otto, Briony, Penelope. Culturally all over the map but I see no reason why you can’t lay claim to any of them. Your baby is going to be growing up with many kids of many many extractions including some that defy description, and the best thing about that is that all the names are for everyone. If you’re motivated by names you can even decide to have a bunch of kids so you can use all your favourites…

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!