Hi Duana,

We are in desperate need of name help. We are (unexpectedly) expecting our third child this winter and are completely stumped on a name. We don't know the gender and have two sons already named Kadence (the K...I know, I know but I was young and it was 2006) and Cash. Both had family names as middle names, and our last name is hyphenated with 3 syllables total and ending in the "eee" sound.

As you can see, we like somewhat non traditional names with a little bit of a "country" feel (my husband and I both have Appalachian heritage and our sons' middle names reflect that). However, I don't want something super trendy (like Kadence ended up being) and I want it to be a strong name for either a girl or boy.

For girls, I like Amarie (a family name), Evangeline (but is it too trendy?) or Reverie (too weird?). For boys...we've got nothing. It was hard enough to come up with Cash and I don't have any ideas. The rest of the boy family names we have are just a little too old fashioned, like Lemuel, Herman and Buford.

Please help us! We are stumped!


Yeah, this cannot be easy. To avoid trends, to be non-traditional and ‘country’, as you say, plus to not have a gender to eliminate half the choices—I know you’re in the thick of it right now. I also applaud you for not lingering on name choices you should have made and oh how the trends betrayed you – it is what it is, I’m sure you couldn’t imagine the kids named anything else, and we move forward.

I think what’s causing you problems is that you don’t actually see some of the similarities between your first two children’s names. I think in most people’s eyes, your son’s names are definitely nontraditional, and Cash, which wasn’t really used as a name before the last decade-and-a-half, could also be seen as following a trend.

More importantly, both Kadence and Cash are also words for things—Cash is an object while a cadence is…more of a construct, I guess. But that’s why I think Evangeline doesn’t fit, for example—it’s a name, and only a name. (I suppose you could make a case that it’s related to ‘Evangelical’ but your call if you want that association in the first place.)

To make the name work, you have to incorporate some of the elements of your first two children’s names with the knowledge you have now—easier said, of course, than done.   

Weirdly, Reverie kind of works – it’s a word/thing, it’s not going to be trendy, and it’s so decorative that I’m not bothered that it doesn’t begin with the same sound as the other two. I feel the same way about Buford – even though it’s not a ‘thing’, it’s not a commonly known name, and so it doesn’t feel out of place, even though you think it’s old-fashioned; to my ears, it rounds out the ‘faintly Southern’ influence you’re working with—though I admit ‘Lemuel’ seems a bit more out of step.

I encourage you heartily with both genders to go with names that aren’t only names, or that could be surname-y or etc. Think Tate, Lennox, or even Wilder, if it’s not too trendy for you – girl-wise, I’d be looking at Jonquil, Piper, or Ivy. The key here is to keep the name in a place that’s as fanciful as the other two, but that doesn’t tip into the territory of ‘this name is so wacky!’ Not that I think you want to do that, but I think these suggestions, taken without context, might lead someone down a treacherous path to a child called Karmalove.

Other names that are also words and still kind of where you live include Phoenix (unless, I guess, you live in Phoenix), Reed, or Fox. Pandora, Lark, or Honor. True, they’re still a little on the fanciful side, but to me, a fanciful-but-usable name that still makes a surprise baby part of the family tradition is better than a Nathaniel or an Emily who bears no resemblance to the brothers who came before.

Let me know what you choose, I’m very interested in how this will wind up!