Hi Duana!

I have been following your Name Nerd column for a long time, and I need some help. My husband and I have baby #2 on the way, and we are stuck. We do not know what we are having, but we do not have major issues with girl names. We have several girl names to choose from. The issue is choosing a boy name. My husband has all these ideas of what his son will not be named...but he is not very helpful on names that he can be named. :) He is all about the Joseph, Nicholas and James names of our generation and names from our grandparents' generation, and is not happy about any of these “weird" names (his words) kids have now.

I do not know how, but we finally came up with the name Bradley for our first son. I think I repeated every single decent name from every list I could find several times for months (the name Bradley had been mentioned before) and then one day it clicked and he loved it. It wasn't my favorite name at first, but I liked it better than his other few suggestions (Kenneth, Clyde, etc). I love it now though.

His other major issue is that the name cannot end with an N (our last name starts with N and he says it sounds weird). Our last name is a pretty common English 2 syllables. I like names like Cooper, Mark, Logan, Declan, etc. He is okay with Mark, but doesn't really like anything.

Please help!!! I need some suggestions to go back with. I understand naming a child is really important, but it gets really frustrating hearing "no" after "no!" Any help that you can provide would be greatly appreciated.


I have to say there are just a few questions that I get over and over. Number one is “We’re of two totally disparate cultural heritages, how do we choose a name that involves them both” and the other is “The other parent HATES EVERYTHING, now what?” There are as many answers to these questions as there are people, and I never get sick of answering them. 

So the first thing to understand here is that your husband doesn’t hear the new names. I’m a little surprised at that because you have a son already – usually when that happens you wind up talking about the kids in your son’s circle, inevitably noticing there are more Sebastians and Dashiells and Amoses.

So your task if you want to get out from under names that boys wore with matching jogging suits in the 80s (remember that? To school!), what you have to do is present your husband with names that are unassailably names. That is, you have to skip over Declan and Logan because he’s never heard them before, poor him, and go with names that he knows for sure.  

That is, you have to go with grandpa names.

Who can argue that Walter is not a name? That Walt is not an awesome nickname?  Walter would have been right alongside James and Joseph at Confederation so there’s no complaints there and it’s fresh and unseen on the playground.

Equally as old but with more current playground cred is Caleb. I know there are quite a few, but I really like it with Bradley and it has a similar feel without being too matchy. In fact, I think part of what your husband is craving is a particular number of hard consonants (not that “James” is all that tough) so how about Isaac?  Unimpeachably male, not in any way 80s. 

Then I feel like, once you’ve felt that out (there’s nothing wrong with doing a throwaway name either - one that you float knowing it’s never going to be the one, so that the one after that feels more palatable), you can expand a bit. Ambrose? Clarence? I know I’m going to be in the minority but Bradley and Clarence seem like they could be presiding over a spelling bee in a Laura Ingalls Wilder book and that in turn makes me think they’re ready to live again on new little boys.    

Alistair? I know the spelling and pronunciation with that one is a bear so you have my blessing to consider and adopt the ‘Allister’ pronunciation if you wish. I suggested both Duncan and Reuben before I remembered no names ending in ‘n’ (and readers, this is definitely a good move in this case) but how about Levi.  Tobias? Hey, what about Wilfred? Wilfred and Bradley?

And finally. When your husband vetoes a name, do not just offer up another in an ever-more-panicked spiral until you’re offering ‘Hadley!?’ and neither of you remembers it rhymes with Bradley. If he doesn’t like a name, let it sit there.   Remember that you’re just as entitled to say no when he comes up with something – but somehow in naming debates there seems to be a thing where women are whirling dervishes offering more and more names while the husband makes like Malia Obama with the single dismissive “no-I’m-not-touching-a-turkey” syllable: “Nah”. I don’t know if this is a male thing or a hetero thing or what, but don’t feel obligated to offer up dozens of names until you find the one that suits him. You can tell him you don’t like his either (I agree that Kenneth is untenable) and go from there.