Hi Duana,

I love your name columns and have read them for fun, with no naming intentions for a while. My husband and I are finally expecting and we're overjoyed to find out it is boy/girl twins. We're due in August and have a list of girl names we like (favourites are Alienna, Vera, Isla), but we're absolutely stuck on boy names. My husband is German and we'd love to find a name that's German, without being too foreign. We will likely go with Peter or Friedrich as a middle name (both family names). We liked Ansel and Max for a while, however my husband tried giving Ansel as his name at Starbucks a couple of times, but didn't like that it was mistaken for Hansel. We worry that Max is just too common.

We're looking for a name that's unique, but not weird. German would be great, but it isn't mandatory.
To complicate things a little bit, my husband's last name is long and starts with O.

We would LOVE your help! Thanks for considering our email!


Wait! Don’t make any hasty decisions just yet!

Here’s the thing about Starbucks. Obviously, the phenomenon of giving your name is hilarious and specific. Talking about easy, decoy, “Starbucks Names” even gave my book its cover, which you can see on the right.

But the thing about it is, somehow, in an effort to do this weird little personal thing for everyone, Starbucks employees are way overthinking it. I know people with the most common names who have misspelled cups from there—some are even delighted by it, because it’s so rare. I’ve see Ryan get “Rhian” and Lauren get “Lourren”. So I wouldn’t be deterred from such an awesome name as Ansel just because someone heard it as “Hansel”; first of all, they’re almost right, and secondly, there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with the name Hansel, just because his namesake was a little attracted to sweets. Who among us can’t say the same?

Seriously, Ansel hits a lot of your characteristics, and also there’s no guarantee Isla and Alienna aren’t going to run into very similar issues. My vote goes to Vera on that score, among others. Also, with so many of the ‘less popular’ names on the list these days actually just being variants of the more popular names, almost every one of your kids’ contemporaries is going to have to spell their names. Which I think is going to be fine, and not the sort of headache it might seem to you or your husband right now.

But if you’re really not feeling it, or Friedrich which I am a huge fan of, how about Conrad? Familiar but not alienating, Conrad is authentically German and also great (also I just read that ‘Corrado’ is the Italian version of this name—why are we not hearing more of this name?). Or Gilbert, also totally ripe for a comeback? There’s also Wilfrid, the German version of Wilfred. Now, granted you’re not going to call him Wilfred Friedrich, but it could be another way to get there if you want, and Wilf is the cool cousin nickname to the abundance of Wills who are currently running around. Plus if you’re Canadian...

There’s Rupert, which is so stylish it’s a wonder it hasn’t been picked up yet, and you can be ahead of the curve. There’s my beloved Bruno. There’s Louis, which is never going to be misspelled (except as ‘Lewis’, which is undeniably less compelling), but will also never be one of a crowd. Then, to repeat myself, I know I suggested Dieter a couple of weeks ago (again, probably not Dieter Peter, [as if you needed me to tell you that. Last week my mom brought me spaghetti sauce, told me it needed to go into the fridge, then SUPERVISED ME doing so, nodding her assent.] sorry for the digression), but it could fit well here.  And if you feel the restraint of me holding back from one of my favourite names that has not yet been adopted, but is awesome and ends in O, well, just know that it’s because you told me your husband’s surname starts the same way. But if it didn’t, oh man…

Walter. Albert. Roger. All three feel like throwbacks that are totally ripe for a comeback—I think I would faint with delight if I met a little baby Roger. Not only would they pair perfectly with your girls’ names, they’d never be misspelled, but always stand out.

I’m not ready to let go of Ansel, because it’s great, but I’m pretty happy with the options laid out here.

And thank you for knowing that Max is too common, and saving me having to say so.

Let us know who your babies become!