Hi Duana,

I'm pregnant with our second child, due in November. We have a 15 month old son named Pearce. Our last name is Allen, which is super mainstream, so it's important to us to choose first names that are memorable. Our style is short and sweet (max 2 syllables). We also like 'real' names as opposed to some of the more recent cobbled together vowels and consonants that people are using (Declan? Jace? Not for us.)‎

If it's a girl, we have always loved the name Claire, but I feel we can branch out to something more unique. Lately I've been drawn to Quinn. ‎Is the gender swaying to girls on this name? Is it becoming too popular? I saw it written on a chalkboard easel at Ikea today... which is making me have doubts.

For a boy, Quinn comes to mind again, and I love it, but I wouldn't want people to always wonder about the gender, like when you get an email from "Pat" and you're not sure. ‎ Or what about Clark? Does Clark Allen just sound like two last names? I love Cole but it creates a tongue twister with Allen (say it three times fast together) so we have steered clear.

Need some advice and open to other suggestions!


I feel obligated to point out that Declan is a real name. So was Aidan.  They’re being thoroughly corrupted by the trend toward, as you say, “vowels and consonants”, but it is a real name, though I can’t take responsibility if it’s spelled “Deklin”. Still, it’s food for thought that one person’s real is another person’s “I couldn’t possibly”.

Which is where we come to Pearce. Pearce Allen is a strong, short choice, and you don’t want to stray too far from that choice. As such, I don’t disagree that Quinn steps into that role really well – but any of those arguably unisex last-name-first names can sound a bit like a firm. This is a problem that I never knew existed until I began this column, but if it bothers you, then I have to point out that all of these choices kind of lend themselves to that distinction. Cole Allen is the least likely to incur this type of comparison, but in addition to your tongue-twisty comments, it’s also on an upswing – I know a lot of baby Coles right now.

So first of all – I know two girl Quinns and a baby boy Quint (which might help make the distinction?). My very unscientific survey of the four people I’ve spoken to this morning said Quinn was female, and I bet that’s been helped along quite a bit by Scandal (and Glee, I suppose). Does that help?  Claire is clean and spare enough to go with Pearce, but there are few other girls’ names that could be as effortlessly comparable. Jude? Jules? Vada? Ana? I’m not joking about Vada, by the way. It’s not just a joke from My Girl.

As for boys, I think you have more options. Kai. Rhys – I keep seeing Rhys around but not actually seeing it on any new little boys that I’m meeting,  so it might be still very fresh for you in November. Or what about Caius? Pearce and Caius are similar but different. Thoughts?

Or do you want to go more occupational names? Foster, Chalmers, Deacon? Or just a little unusual? Claude? Asa? Ira? Rufus? Silas?

Hit me back. No fake names here, I promise.