My husband and I are expecting our first child, a boy, the first week in March. And we had a name picked out we both loved - Rex. It was familiar without being popular, I think it is cute for a little boy and handsome for an adult. I like the sound of it, and its succinctness. It has loose ties to my home state (Louisiana, via Mardi Gras), and I had even gotten over the dog thing. And then, Donald Trump nominated a person I assume will turn out to be a Christopher Nolan Batman villain named Rex for Secretary of State. And I don't think I can look past it. I know it won't be the first association for everyone, but since it is a pretty rare name, and my group of friends tend to be quasi-politically aware, I just... can't. So. Back to a very frustrating drawing board.
The other name my husband and I agree on is Henry. Which, honestly, I really do love. But it's so popular! But maybe that doesn't matter to me? What if I want to be a unique name person, but I don't actually have the constitution for it??
Names I like, but he does not:
Arthur (sometimes nn Art)
Frederick (sometimes nn Fred)
Ike (can't figure out a longer name I like for this)
Harvey (somewhat ironically, husband nixed this one because it is an actual Batman villain name)
Names he likes that I do not:
Lincoln (like it in theory for the presidential ties, but feels too trendy right now)
Archer/Fletcher (also feeling a little trendy/preppy)
Murphy (he has out of the blue decided this is his favorite name for a girl or boy... I liked it for a possible dog name, so it's out for me, and I recognize the irony, thank you)
Nox (I like Knox, but husband only likes it without a K, and I am not into weird respellings)
Names he likes that I like in theory, but I can't imagine actually putting on the person growing inside me:
If the baby were a girl, she would have been Nora Evelyn, which are both super popular, but both are honor names, and Nora is not in the top 100 in my state. Last name will be my husband's, Wi11iams. Middle name is up in the air, but that can wait. Please help! Donald has already cast a pall over the next four years, please don't let him ruin my baby naming experience as well!
You know, if this were any other kind of column or question, I’d probably talk you out of how you feel. That is, the first hit of the name you reference was a headline that, paraphrased, read: “[name] has been pretty quiet so far.”
But isn’t that the whole problem? People being told their experiences aren’t really their experiences, and that they didn’t see and feel what they thought they saw and felt? I’m not going to do that here, telling you that the name won’t be associated with the person you dread, because even if it isn’t for me, I get that it will never be as pure as a name you want to lay on your little baby boy.
So. The lists: Hugh and Harvey and Murphy and Fletcher and Otis and Orson come the closest, to me, to filling the spirit of Rex, which is, as you put it, ‘familiar without being popular’, and also borrowed from another time in a non-offensive way. I met a man last night named Rick who falls under the same umbrella – he’s likely the only one, but people have grandfathers named Rick, or uncles whose neighbour is, or…you get the idea. This is something akin to the vibe I think you want for your boy, but with a different era and vibe attached.
I love some of the others, of course – Arthur and Frederick and Simon and Felix are longtime faves of mine, and it is a proven fact that all ‘x’ names, like Lennox and Knox, always make me happy without knowing exactly why – but this isn’t about me, or how cool a choice I might think you would make. Ultimately, it’s about you and your feelings, and the same feelings that decided Rex isn’t the name must be heard here.
And I really love your line: “What if I want to be a unique name person, but I don’t actually have the constitution for it?” I mean, I think this is a totally valid thing to think—but I sense a shred of equating ‘unique’ with ‘old-fashioned or unattractive or that I don’t love’, and that’s ultimately not the point of a unique name. The point is that maybe a name that you love has been buried in the ether and you’re the one to bring it out to play – not that you have to choose something that sets your teeth on edge. There’s no pride to being different just for the sake of being it – to me, unique has to come hand in hand with ‘a joy to say and write’ or there’s no point.
Given that, let me see if there are a few names that fit within your Venn diagram. I immediately think of Hamish or Darius, Albert or Graydon, or something like Louis, with or without the hard ‘s’. How about Barney or Carter or Walter or Grover – part preppy, part sharing that ‘ar’ sound with Harvey? Or there’s Abel or Tate. Teague. Truman? Clarence sounds very, very 1930s to me which means it sounds very now indeed -- or what about Reginald, also with the kingly vibe? You don’t strike me as Kingston people at all, but… Desmond? Malcolm?
Seriously though, find the names you love to hear and say. That bit about yelling the names over and over is a true enough thing – they can almost be completely dissociated with the device of being an identifier. Then, when you’ve found the ones you love, only then should you consider which are popular, which aren’t, or which less run-of-the-mill ones you can sub in to make you feel like you do have the intestinal fortitude for both a rare name, and one you’re going to love forever.
Let me know!