Hi Duana,

We're expecting our second child in October and have started thinking of names. Our first child is Ethan Patrick, which we chose based off of family names. I realize with Ethan coming in on several Top 10 baby lists that it's also probably considered "vanilla" and "common."

I'd really like to find a more unique name for the second baby (gender still unknown), but I also want something that goes along with Ethan. My husband has been fighting for Hailey, should it be a girl. And I just...can't. I can't with Hailey. Is there something similar that would make both of us happy?

We've also tossed around Andrew - another family name - should it be a boy. Personally, I like Andi for a girls name, but I think I'm alone there.

Are we destined to be suburban vanilla? Say it ain't so.

Thanks for your help,


Okay, you come here for truth, so I’m going to give you the truth. Yes, there are more unusual names than Ethan, but even if it weren’t common, it would be buoyed by the overall trend of the –n named boys. Which is to say that yeah, it’s on the popular end of popular, but it would have gotten there even if you’d chosen the relatively obscure Roman or Nolan (why aren’t you people picking up on Nolan? I love this so much!) instead. 

I hear you on wanting something relatively more rare, and as such I’m duty-bound to point out that Hailey isn’t really that common anymore…like, on the lower half of the top 100. I’m not advocating for it if you hate it, but I’m sensing a real resentment for it, or an association you think is there, that I don’t feel. Like, Hailee Steinfeld? What’s the person connected with the name that you can’t bear?

It also feels old fashioned, a little, a name for a 90s sitcom kid, in the same way that Andi feels like a name from the 80s. Those aren’t suburban vanilla, strictly speaking, since the equivalents today would be Sophia and Ella, but they aren’t unusual or new. If you want something that feels fresh, goes with Ethan, but isn’t too outré, as well as having that ‘ee’ ending that you like, what about Lucy or Audrey? Sydney, which sits at 122 on the popularity lists, feels like it’s of the same vintage as Ethan, but isn’t being used for babies today; in fact, raise your hand if the first one you remember was Sydney Rutledge from Swan’s Crossing (as opposed to Sydney from Melrose Place). What about Ivy or Valerie or Cecily?

If you wind up naming a boy, of course, the world is your oyster – slightly offbeat names are the new mainstream, so anything ‘unusual’ you choose to go with Ethan will seem to fit right in…that is, other than Andrew. Here’s the guiding principle: if it is, or could be, the name of a dad you know, it’s going to feel out of place for a boy. For the sake of argument I’m staying within the popular-ish range, and originally I thought I’d avoid names ending in N, but there are SO many I’m just avoiding the ones that have a similar rhythm to Ethan…how about Levi or Gabriel or Gavin? Eli and Ethan might be too close, but you could go with Elias, or Julian, or somehow I think you’d like the name Sawyer, or maybe Micah or Wesley?

This falls under the category of, what was popular, or even familiar, when we were kids isn’t now, so fitting-in-yet-standing-out can happen far further down the popularity scale, but also won’t feel quite right unless it’s reasonably far away from the names we used to know.

It’s alchemy, not calculus, but let me know what you decide!