Hi Duana,

I’m expecting baby boy #2 at the end of October, and my husband and I are having trouble coming up with a name that we love as much as the one we gave our first son – Calvin James. James is a family name on my side, and since he was getting my husband’s last name, I wanted him to have that connection to my family, as well. Calvin was an out of the blue suggestion of my husband’s and it just immediately struck us as “right”. My husband grew up on Calvin and Hobbes comics and was a big Cal Ripken Jr. fan, so he had positive connotations with the name. I liked that it fit in with all the N-ending names that are popular, without being overly popular itself, and also that it would go along with the wave of grandpa names that are happening right now, without being another Henry, George, etc. My husband mentioned it and it just… stuck. We never had an alternate, there was no short list, so when we found out we were expecting another boy, we had to start from scratch, and we're struggling.

We’d like something that fits with Calvin, in that it’s not overly long or fussy, and has the potential for a less formal nickname. Middle name will be Victor, after my husband’s father (which neither of us wants to promote to the top spot as a first name). Last name is 2 syllables, Hispanic, and starts with a D. We are currently circling Samuel and Maxwell, and I really do like them both very much, but they are both pretty popular, and much more popular than Calvin. According to some naming site research, Maxwell is less common than Samuel, but you also have Max, Maximillian, Maxim, and Maximus all essentially being called just Max, so maybe the name seems more common than it is?

My questions are: (1) Am I blowing this out of proportion? Cal and Sam, or Cal and Max, seem like good pairs, and maybe I shouldn’t worry about one name being much more common than the other. (2) Are we overlooking something? Is there another name that would be a good fit that’s flying under the radar? Having read The Name Therapist – are we just not being brave enough, trying to find a name that is uncommon without actually being very unique? Should we just accept that we’re not as cool as we might have thought and call the kid Sam because we like it, even if a lot of other people like it, too? My husband is very much leaning towards Samuel, but I'm just not sure it's "the one", like I was with Calvin.

Other names we have briefly considered, but haven’t stuck are Desmond, Edison, Edwin, Simon, Miles, and Wilson. Names that are vetoed as already existing in our immediate circle are Dean, Mason, Ethan, Reid, and Oliver.

I'd appreciate any help or direction you can offer.



I don’t want you to think your letter isn’t good.

Your letter is good, no question there. 

But you know how I pick up on things in letters, and sometimes I make them a bigger focus than you might have thought? And that is, in itself, kind of a thing?

I’m not doing that here today. I’m ignoring the whole aspect of your letter that nods to a certain sport, because I’m inclined to believe in magic to begin with and over a decade of friendship with Lainey has cemented my superstition.

So on another day, in another month, nothing you could have known about when you wrote this letter, I’d be going a different way, but I’m not this time, and I hope you’ll forgive me.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way…

…it seems unfair that you are where you are. Technically, you’re right, a name like ‘Samuel’ is as familiar and easy to say as ‘Calvin’. But that all gets blown out of the water when we go to short forms, because there are many more Sams than Cals, and that’s before we factor in the ‘moms named Sam’ factor.  The same is more or less true for Max. And while I agree on a fundamental level that it shouldn’t matter whether one is much more popular than the other, I think it feels off, somehow. One feels like a choice that was made with more deliberateness than the other, and the question, I guess, is whether or not that will bother you.

I think it might bother me…and of course, if you were sure it didn’t bother you, you wouldn’t have written.

So here’s where I go after this. Immediately my inclination is to go with Wesley. It’s familiar but not popular, and there aren’t lots of kids named Wes, but there are a lot of people who love the name. Cal and Wes! Right?

I also was pleased to note you’d considered Edison and Edwin, because I think the reason you didn’t go with those is a rhyming-with-Calvin factor. But what about Edgar? Same shortenability, same basic pronunciation level, but the same ‘hey, that’s unusual’ factor. Right?

I think if you go with things that feel popular or familiar, you’re going to feel a little disappointed, so if you go with a little offbeat, even if you have to talk yourself into it ever-so-slightly, it’s going to give you a longer, larger feeling of satisfaction. This is where, yes, I have to plead with you to maybe, please, just kind of think about whether it would be good to put Victor in the top spot after all? It’s a really great name and it’s totally usable and it goes with Calvin and I’ll stop being so desperate because I know it never convinces anyone, but I just want you to know that you could…

…or if that’s not it (but think about it!), how about Vincent or Terence or Walter? Cal and Walt?! Come on! There’s Frederick to think about, or Arthur or maybe Darius or Louis? It occurs to me that one of the things I love about ‘Damian’ that most people maybe hate is that it doesn’t shorten easily…but that also makes me think about names that are short by nature?

Cal and Jude? Cal and Dean? Cal and Jared or Ian or even something like Trent? Cal and Trent really works for me.

Of course, so does “Victor Trent”. I’m just saying.

Let us know!