I'm due with our first, a girl, mid-February. And we've kind of chosen a name? and been referring to the baby by it for months now, only I'm realizing that while my fella loves it I don't know that I do:

Augustine. (We call the bump Augie)

I really want to love it but there's just something that's not clicking for me. Other names on my short-list (which fella is lukewarm to) are Sabine and Simone. We also love the names Margot and Rowan but those are no-go's for different reasons.

Baby's taking the mister's last name: a really beautiful hyphenated name (3 syllables - 1 syllable) and will have a 2 syllable family name as her middle name. You've mentioned the syllable thing in your column a few times and I really like that! Maybe that's why Augustine doesn't feel right - it doesn't seem to flow as nicely as a 2 syllable name.

Anyways, could you please either 1) sell me hard on Augustine or 2) suggest some other names of like?

Thanks so much! And a very big congratulations to you on the book! 


This is a really good question.

Someone who is more of an overall anthropologist or psychologist than I am must be able to highlight exactly why parents-to-be need to refer to the baby by something. Like, I have never heard of this in generations gone by, but I suspect it’s evolutionary, like it’s hard-wired into our DNA to have to call the roiling internal alien SOMETHING, and now in the age of identifying the sex of the baby so early, we use real names instead of just everyone in the world referring to their fetus as Peanut. True confessions, in my house we referred to a certain sea mammal that an ultrasound resembled. I don’t know what I can do about that except to say I’m not perfect. But I understand why lots of people do this. It’s so clearly absurd that there’s a soon-to-be human inside of another human that you have to give it a non-human cutesy name just to deal with the whole phenomenon. See also, Punkin, Bubs, and one million people who think they are the first to think up Bean.

Then again, some people just go with the name from the beginning. I know plenty of people who did this, by the way. The fetus was Jacob or Claire or Xerxes pretty early on, and was referred to by name routinely. Some people are circumspect about doing this outside of their couple-bubble, if there is one, and some aren’t.

I think the problem you’re having here is that Augustine/Augie has allowed you to do both. That is, Augie is a cute-sounding nickname that you have no real intention of using for the actual baby (if it was, you would have said ‘sell me on Augie’), and Augustine is a gorgeous, actual name for a person that doesn’t seem suited to refer to the slightly cartoonish thing that’s happening on those ultrasounds.

It’s also worth noting that Augustine is usually the male version (sometimes written as “Augusten”), and that it’s not usually pronounced AugusTEEN – that one usually has an "a" on the end, for Augustina.

So now what? I’m not offended by long names in general, so ‘Augustine Weatherby-George’ doesn’t bother me, not least because that hyphenation gives it a different rhythm. Or maybe it feels very formal now that you’re getting to ‘know’ Augie?

One option is to think of using the name August or Augusta instead of Augustine, since they might seem to be shorter and thereby ‘closer’ to Augie, whom you are kind of getting to know already.

That may seem kind of academic, but it might make you feel better. I like both Sabine and Stella (and growing up, I knew a Sabina, which is as lyrical as Sabrina but that much less cutesy), but they do seem less special somehow. Maybe one of them is a stealth first name to balance the Augie of it all? Sabine Augustine is out of the question, but you could do Stella Augustine or Sabine August or something if it helps.

You can also go full-out and call her Augustina and let the later-on nicknames fall where they may. This weekend contained many revelations about Beyonce, obviously, but one of them is that her mother Tina is actually Celestine, which is incredible and reminds me of this situation.

I did take seriously your request, to either sell you hard or give some alternatives. And I am happy to do both, but I think the issue is that you’re not quite sure what it is that’s making you uncomfortable about Augustine—I suspect the problem is a bit of unexpected familiarity, in that you don’t get to ‘name’ the baby given that you’re already naming her.

So for what it’s worth, other names that feel the same to me are Eugenia, Alba, Lucia, Allegra, and, because of course, Celestine. I think this is where your attraction to Sabine comes in, too. There’s also Emmeline, if you can keep people from calling her Emma, or the much-underused Regina. 

Or if you want to keep in the vein of Augie, think about Audra or Autumn or Ana (Ah-na, not Anna, you tell me whether this is feasible where you live) or Georgina or Rory.

But most importantly, think about the person you’re already connecting with—the Augie you’ve been referring to. It’s totally OK if that person’s name isn’t Augustine, even though you planned it to be – but you’re the only one who knows for sure.