Straight to the point, here is our short list of boy names

Do we have a winner here?
We tend to gravitate towards strong hopefully non-pretentious names. I could go into detail why each of these mean something to us but that's not how names work. You hear them, make a judgement, and then if you get to know the person might find out why they were named. The name has to stand on its own regardless of the reasoning.

This is our second child and will be a sibling to Shepard Leo.

We don't know what we are having but if it is a girl we are pretty set on Laurel Maris. The child will have my husband’s last name, which is sometimes a hard pronunciation for Americans but nowhere else in the world has had issues. But I am questioning the alliteration of Rex R-----b.

Would love your input or a one name response. Due on May 13th.

Thank you,


PS My husband has vetoed Manning, which is a family name. Is it good enough to fight for or let it go?



I’m just kidding. But could you imagine if I replied to your email with just a one-name response? God, the pressure! Hobart! I don’t know, Elin!

Putting aside me amusing myself for a second, I really love the straight-to-the-point tone you have going here. But if you’ll indulge me for a little bit, let’s set the scene.

Unlike some of the people who write to me, you know what you want. Here’s why: Shepard Leo, which is not a terribly typical name but a totally familiar one, makes total sense to me because of the girl’s name you love – Laurel Maris. You didn’t hesitate, and I think the strength and quality of the name is exactly in line with ‘Shepard Leo’. It’s different but familiar. There are no froufs and frills on it—kind of like your letter. You are unshakeable in your assurance of its excellence.

This is why there is only one choice for your second son’s name.

It’s not Manning, first of all. I like Manning quite well and think it goes beautifully with Shepard, but you weren’t sure. “Maybe it’s too surname-y?” you thought to yourself, or maybe that there was some negative about it you weren’t seeing. There isn’t, it’s a good name, all things considered—but I feel like, if you loved it, you would already have fought for it.

Then there’s your list at the top.  I love your line “I could go into detail about why each of these mean something to us, but that’s not how names work.” PREACH, K! That’s not how names work. They have to stand on their own, with their sounds and visuals, the entire representation of what you want people to think and feel when meeting your children or anyone you name.

With that in mind, and because your stalwart feelings on names are as much a factor as anything else, I am first going to eliminate “Samson”. If you know why, sing it with me: it’s likely to get shortened to ‘Sam’, and then all the creativity and boldness of naming him Samson and not Sam is a little bit lost, which I’m sad about. I don’t know if Shepard is always called Shepard, but people who never dreamed of calling him anything but might suddenly take up ‘Shep’ to match with ‘Sam’.

I am a little more conflicted about Rex.  It has always seemed a bit foreshortened to me, as though there was meant to be more there. I know it’s meant to invoke ‘King’, but it’s always seemed comparable to ‘Reg’, which has the more formal ‘Reginald’ to fall back on. Having said that, Rex is so singular that maybe it doesn’t need anything else. It’s certainly not going to be mistaken for anything else…except for s-e-x.  Rhyming with unfortunate terms is one of the few ways names might still be made fun of (see also, Bart the…you know), and if I thought this would bother you I would feel honor-bound to point it out. I don’t think it actually would, based on what I know from your super-straightforward email, but it’s one of those factors that isn’t enough to be a whole concern, but maybe warrants consideration alongside others.

Which brings me to the choice I think is fantastic—I love Dietrich. I love that it’s a name we didn’t know we already loved. I love the way it makes a pairing with Shepard, two would-be surnames making a beautiful pair together. I’m a real fan of it and I definitely think it should come back, and I’m also wondering if I have a D-name bias now that I think about it!

“But”, you say “couldn’t the same be said for Manning?” In theory, of course the answer is yes, but in practice, you didn’t feel the same way about it—or your husband didn’t, and in the end, you both have to love it. And in the end, I didn’t need to fight for Manning because Dietrich, the superior name, was right there.

So. I’ve answered your brief email with a long missive. Are you relieved? In love? Does what I said sound right to you? Or if it doesn’t, does it make another name much more palatable? Hit me back, let me know—but know that I think you nailed it.