I need help. I think I've overthought and over-researched names until I have completely confused myself.

I am due with our second baby, gender unknown, at the end of November. We are set on a boy's name - Declan. Our first child is Eleanor (middle name - Jane), and we adore it. We had planned to call her Ellie, but Eleanor just
seems so right.

So, we need a girl's name. I have always tended toward longer, classic names that can also have a cute nickname - Samantha (Sam), Louise (Lulu), Elizabeth (Libby), Margaret (Maggie), Georgia (Gigi), Evelyn (Evie), Josephine (Josie), Brianna (Bree), Estelle (Stella?). Even within those names, I'm not sure that a style emerges. Then it gets worse. Recently I've added Finley, Quinn, Greer, and Claire to my list. The only names that my husband has liked out of this list are Brianna, Finley, Quinn, and Greer. However, I'm fairly sure I can get him on board with most any name if I try hard enough. The other thought that I keep having is that if I choose a name with the intention of using the nickname (Louise and Georgia are examples of this), what if I do the same thing that I did with Eleanor, and
never end up using the nickname?

Help...and thanks!


When my mother met my husband, I introduced him—or maybe he introduced himself – with the very, very common, lots of people use it as a first-name short form of his name. (Note: I’m being vague for your amusement, not because of privacy. The #1 boys name for 40 years? That one.)

My mother smiled, said ‘nice to meet you’, used the full version of his name, and has proceeded to do so ever since. Not once has she faltered. She considers this her prerogative, because she likes the long version better, even if he likes the short version better (and he does).

I have conflicted feelings about nicknames. Usually, I don’t like them—mostly because I think that the longer name is almost always the better one anyway. But then I’d be annoyed if someone put ‘Didi’ on the birth certificate. The kid deserves the option, but also because most people only associate themselves with one name, period. People who are Jack don’t think of themselves as John (yes, Jack doesn’t always originate from Jackson).

So you have to choose a name you love in both forms, if it’s nickname-able, or that you love even if it doesn’t have a nickname—because everyone only has one name.

Given that, not all names are created equal. First let’s start with the ‘you better say it’ names. If you introduce your daughter as ‘Elizabeth but we call her Libby’, half the people will hear ‘Lizzie’, half the people will only remember ‘Elizabeth’, and the third half are going to call her Beth. Introduce her as Libby from the beginning. If people want to ask you can explain about the root of it. This also applies to Maggie for Margaret, Josie for Josephine, and other ‘traditional’ nicknames. If you want to call her Madge, don’t introduce her as Madeline.

That said, other shorter-syllable names like Bree for Brianna and Sam for Samantha are more obvious and will happen whether you ‘nickname’ her or not, so in that way, you might feel a little more free. 

For my money, my favourites of your choices are Claire, Margaret, and Louisa. I know none are on your husband’s list, but we’ll get there in a moment. These are all in line with the classic-but-shortenable names you’ve said you like. Others like this are Caroline, Anna, or Harriet. But you have to let go a little and let the name be what it’s going to be—you can’t control whether Eleanor is an Ellie any more than whether the others on your kids’ soccer team call him ‘Feets’, gnawing both at your naming prowess and grammar skills.

OK, let me know!