When we got pregnant with our first boy, and then our second, the naming process was quite easy on both occasions and went a little something like this: (i) I suggested my top boy name to my husband; (ii) he really liked it; (iii) over the next several months we would occasionally throw a new name into the ring just to be sure, but Top Name always won without so much as a fight; and (iv) Top Name became the given name.
Just for fun, I maintained an A-list of names and sure enough, we are now tasked with deciding on a boy name for #3. This process is proving not as easy. My husband has vetoed the remaining names on my A-list for one reason or another (Aaron, Cole, Camden, Cameron, Damian, Drew, Grant, Myles and Reid). I like names that are neither too popular nor unusual, neither old-fashioned-traditional nor made-up-trendy.
Feeling a little deflated, I came up with what feels like a B-list of names – names that are ok but I don’t love or connect to them, at least not yet. However, one of these names kept leaping out at me, so much so that it was promoted to be the only remaining name on my A-list, and one my husband seems to like too: Callum.
I have grown to love this name. I was personally ready to commit until I started to overthink it (because of course I did). These are my concerns that I would love your insight into:
(i) Is Callum going to seem like just another name "categorized" with the little Kellans, Cullens, Callens, Caelans, Caelums, and variants thereof, such that it sounds like part of a group of unmemorable or trendy two-syllable C/K names that our own family and friends may need reminding of (particularly if the name Callum is novel to them)
(ii) Would you be concerned that, unlike in the UK where the name Callum is common, here in Canada there will most likely be people who mispronounce the name to instead say CAY-lum and/or COL-lum? Or is it becoming more popular now (but hopefully not too popular?) that the pronunciation will sort itself out?
Other names on my B-list which haven't been discounted but also haven't yet been promoted include Corbin and Tate, though I recognize there is still time for another name to become a fast-riser to take Top Name.
Your insight would be greatly appreciated as I battle between head and heart.
*Another great title from the letter writer – it appeared in my inbox as ‘Because of course I did’
I really get this letter, and like it – especially since we get to evaluate the name in isolation, since the older kids’ names are not included. So I realize what I’m about to say next might sound incongruous. I mean it in the best possible way:
In my book I wrote about having ‘name privilege’, and what it means never to have to worry about your name and how it comes across. But I think you’re experiencing naming privilege – you chose two names you liked the first two times around, and by your own admission, you’ve had the time to overthink this.
Which is OK, because I think it makes sense that after having the #1 name strike the bullseye the first two times, maybe you fall in love a little differently the third time around. You’ll probably love the name more because you found it that way.
And by ‘the name’, of course I mean Callum. Yes, I think you should choose it. I know what you men in terms of being rolled into Kellans and Cullens and etc, but I don’t worry about that. Yes, the hard C-K sound is one namer really like – but they liked it when we were kids too, and I don’t see Chris as particularly similar to Keith or Kenny or Claire just because they share sounds. That said, if you were serious about ‘Caelum’ – as in, you’ve run into this name in real life – I would assume that they were trying to approximate a variant of Callum, yes.
Which brings me to my next point – no, in no way would I be worried about pronunciation. Callum looks like it sounds, and most people are familiar enough with it, while still noticing that it’s kind of unusual. It’s in a really sweet spot. Funnily enough, the name that immediately comes to mind as a comparison is Darius – it’s not common, but it’s easy to read and doesn’t confuse anyone with it’s pronunciation.
However, there are other similar names and the bleeding-into-each-other thing is worth a little discussion. I had an Irish friend whose boyfriend was ‘Colum’, and given her accent and my penchant for musical theatre, I assumed she was referring to another Irish name, Colm – familiar to Canadians as the original Jean Valjean and the first Phantom Of The Opera. I didn’t realize the distinction between the two until later, and I suppose it’s possible that someone could hear Callum and think ‘Colum’ – but I doubt it.
That’s because Callum is the most phonetic and, arguably, most appealing variation on the name, and because it lends itself to North American pronunciation pretty easily – not to mention that at press time, there were two YouTubers listed as ‘Famous Callums’ on Nameberry – so it’s in the consciousness.
But that doesn’t mean it’s ‘popular’ or to be avoided – the sounds and especially the ‘m’ ending distinguish it from some of the names you were concerned about, and frankly it’s much more distinct than Cameron or Corbin or Camden or the amazing but suddenly-very-popular Cole.
I say do it. You wanted to fall in love and you did, and you need to get out of your own way, which I think you know. To illustrate, a story:
When I think back on the early days of dating my now-husband, I always laugh at the ramshackle collection of memories. We were briefly long distance so I remember a lot of jokes from our emails (one involving Oreo products not available in Canada), I have burned-in-my-memory images of when all my friends met him, because I remember how their faces looked, like “Oh! We got a live one!”, and I remember this leather jacket he wore the first winter we were dating.
I haaaated it. It was no big deal and I’m not that shallow, but this jacket became the representation of everything I wasn’t yet sure of. “I don’t think he’s going to disappoint me, but he does wear that jacket...” There were good signs racking themselves up every day, but then when I saw the jacket I’d think ‘Maybe I’m not thinking this through clearly enough.’
Obviously I got over myself and stopped seeing problems where there were none (and the jacket is, of course, long gone). This is what I dispatch for you also. Don’t turn the name over and over looking for problems – admire it for how it emerged from the pack to become your favourite, and a ‘true’ A-list name, which I agree it is.
We look forward to reading your love letter to Callum – the name and the person – as soon as you can.