Dear Duana,

Our son is almost two months old and still needs a name! He has a Chinese name already but we still need a name that the (English-speaking, non-Chinese) side of the family can pronounce (one will be his first name and the other his middle).

Emil was our front runner for a while, but we have had nothing but negative reactions to it. Everyone pronounces it differently, or doesn’t know how to pronounce it, and pronunciation being such an issue has kind of put me off it. Hugo was the other name we really liked: used internationally, easy to spell and pronounce (including for my non-English-speaking husband), fun but still substantial. We like the ‘o’ ending but I’m worried it will sound dated as he grows older. I’d love to find a name that will be unlikely to have any sudden spikes or drops in popularity and won’t be overly tied to one generation in the future. (Simon seemed like a possible contender but my husband says it reminds him too much of the name of the antihero of a famous ancient Chinese erotic novel.)

Our last name is one syllable long, so one-syllable first names tend to sound a bit clipped (John is a family name that we had considered using). Names that end in ‘s’ (we kind of liked Linus, Julius, and Cyrus) also may be a no-go as they run into the beginning of our last name (which starts with a “sh” sound). If it matters, for girls we liked Daphne, Miriam, or Susanna, or on more adventurous days Petra and Sabine. Thoughts? Ideas? Help! Please!


Okay, but no. There’s got to be something else going on here. He’s two months old? Did you actually try calling him Emil and then backing away from it? Did you think it didn’t suit him? I am kind of delighted as well as shocked. It’s a nice contrast.

So let’s get into it. First of all, I think your fears about Hugo are unfounded. You’re absolutely right that there is a renaissance of “o” names for boys right now, but it’s not Jaydo, you know? It’s a real name with actual roots and meaning that will resonate. I like it personally, but beyond that I don’t think it’s going to scream 2014 the way you mean.

(A sidebar while I process not that your husband is referencing a famous ancient Chinese erotic novel but that Simon is the ANTI-hero!)

I always hesitate, with people who have one strong cultural association, to go too far in another direction, but it really seems Micah should be suggested here. Light but substantial, unusual but say-able. Maybe? If not, how does Edmund strike you?   Dexter? Felix? (Okay, Felix actually will scream 2014.)

If you liked Simon, what about Nolan? How about Desmond? The “N” ending for boys is relentlessly here to stay, but there are ways to do it that don’t sound so overwrought. How about Gavin? How about Gerard or Victor? 

Finally, I have to say I really do like Emil. I know it’s frustrating when the families don’t like the name. But you really have good taste, so you should trust in that.

Laszlo? I mean at least it would give them something to talk about!