So everyone I know is going to know who this letter is from by (a) my children's names, and (b) the fact that I'm writing in when they all know I am a very loyal reader.

My problem is this: we have backed ourselves into a bit of a name corner with our two children, Charles (4, goes by Charlie unless he's in trouble), and Mary (2, goes by Trouble most days). We are expecting our third this summer, and it will be another girl. Who is Charlie and Mary's sister?

I have ruled out any name starting with "A" or "I" out of concerns for the email address down the road - those initials do not work with the noun that is my children's surname.  I would have loved an Anne, or Sarah, or Katherine, but there are already a lot of those in our family and it will start to look like an homage to one branch that we love very much but don't want to send that message.

We also don't want to be too matchy-matchy, so I've already consciously avoided considering other "M" names, but that's not as firm as the no "A" or "I" rule. I will note, however, so you have all the facts, that I've also not really given a lot of consideration to "C" names because then Mary will be the only cousin on one side without a "C" name, and I can't get that out of my head.

I like classic, strong names that pass the Supreme Court Justice test. I also like pretty and feminine names, because I've always considered my own name, Ellen, to be clunky and heavy.

I am purposely not telling you my short list because my husband thinks it is made of up names all proposed by me. It is, but that's only because I propose like a hundred names for every one he proposes. For example, he said he likes the name Lauren. I said no, which should be the end of the discussion. I proposed Penelope, Eloise, Rowena, and countless others. He says no, I really like Lauren. You see what I'm working with here. It would be great if you proposed something, and then it isn't coming from me.


So, you’re calling her Lauren?

I’m joking, but I know that feeling, of throwing out a million options – say for dinner, when someone says they’re bored with hamburgers – only to have that same someone say “yeah, no, we’re going with hamburgers”.  

I was all smart and proud and ready to tell you that all you needed to do was call your child Alice when I saw your rule about A. And we might as well cut out I and C now, without enjoying any flights of fancy about Claire.

So Charles and Mary – who wouldn’t be out of place in almost any period of time – are having a sister. A classically-named sister, but we’ve eliminated a lot of options above. So weirdly, the first thing that comes to mind is Nadine. I’ve written before about how the weird overtaking of “NAY-dine” seems to take the prettiness out of this simple name, but Charles, Mary, and Nadine seems clean and classic to me. If not, then of course there’s Nina – short, clean, and so much of many ethnicities that it is of none of them.

I am tempted to suggest Kate, but given that it might purport some allegiance that you don’t actually share, how about Jane? Charles, Mary, and Jane. Perfectly storybook, stenciled on beds in the nursery, waiting for Peter Pan to come.  

But I sense, from Penelope and Eloise and Rowena, that you’d love if I went a little further afield. So I’m going to try to do so while not acutely offending your husband’s sensibilities.   

Eliza? If there are too many literary associations for you, what about Flora? Or, to keep it in a royal bent, how about the increasingly popular Willa (or Wilhelmina, as I’ve been known to get giddy about)? 

I think that in addition to being somewhat stalwart and somewhat British, Charlie and Mary are fairly simple to read and pronounce, so I probably won’t recommend Orpah or anything else that could get easily confused but I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least look in the Venn Diagram that is posh British names and also the Bible – so what about Lydia? Naomi?  

No, I keep coming back to Eliza. Not so long that Charlie and Mary will feel like their names are too short, not rooted in the 80s like Lauren (sorry, Laurens, you have a beautiful name but it definitely is of a time) but beautiful and equally as easy to shorten to Trouble if you need it!

Let us know!