Hi Duana.

I'm 5 months pregnant with my second son. Our first is named Declan. (You can imagine how excited I was when it came up in your column as a possible recommendation!)

I agree with you on the Irish boys name front. They are cool but, if called on it (I've honestly been asked if I "made up" Declan, for real), you can reference centuries of history to show how tried and true and actually classic the names are. Here's my challenge - I want names that work together, but I don't want it to be too matchy matchy. What I mean is that Declan is REALLY Irish. So, if we go with Ronan, as an example, is that too much Irish for one family?

Does it seem kind of lame coming from us? - me, a half Polish, half Canadian mix/mutt, and my husband, while Irish from an ancestral perspective, has only ever visited the "homeland" once and whose family is umpteenth generation Canadian. Like we're trying to hard to be Irish? (When, in fact, the top names in Ireland right now actually are quite British!) Or do we go with something a little more mainstream with perhaps more subtle celtic roots?

I would be really interested to hear your opinion!


There are two issues here, I think, that are slightly separate.The first is whether a non-Irish (or German or Japanese) person is allowed to use a name belonging to a particular culture. My mother, an Irish immigrant, would say no. She’s is a lovely woman who planted in me the seed of my love of names, but I have to disagree with her.

The argument is that people who don’t really “know” the names or where they come from sort of have less claim to them, but I think this is garbage.  As we become more and more a world culture with names that are from everywhere, the key is to choose a name that will, in theory, work anywhere in the world.

Now I’m not going to lie. When Tom and Katie Wilson (not real people) name their first blonde, blue-eyed baby Sachiko, it can feel a little try-hard.   I get it. So you try to find something that incorporates into your daily lives a little more easily – but that doesn’t mean it has to be “common” or Anglo.   Suri Cruise is a great example here. Sure, it’s unusual, but it sounds enough like Sophie or Lucy that the ear and the mouth can pick it up easily, and thus, a name trend is born. In short, no. Everyone can be Irish or German or Japanese within reason – but make sure you’re doing it because you love the name, not because you love being “exotic” and different.

Speaking of trends though, your other issue is whether Declan and Ronan (I know it’s just a for instance) sound too much alike. While I don’t think they’re too Irish together (Ronan is about to be as mainstream as Aidan, I think) they do both have the “an” endings, or “bell tones” that we’ve begun to hear as very common in names in general. The concern is not that your names are too Irish, but too similar to what’s going on now. To you, Declan and Ronan are brothers with a heritage that’s shared (and that you love).  To Braeden and Jaylen’s mother, y’all’s kids are the same.   

From this perspective then, from naming your son at a different point in time, I say sure, go Irish – but Cormac or Donahue or Padraig might give you a more varied feel.