Dear Duana,

I need help, please and thanks!

After being adamant that we weren’t going to have children – for years and years - at the age of 38, we realized that soon the decision wouldn’t be ours anymore so we decided to stop trying not to have a baby. Within 7 minutes, the decision was made and we were pregnant.

For health reasons, I never thought I’d be able to have kids, but have always loved my maternal grandfather’s middle name: Mowatt. I tried desperately to get my sister, cousins, friends etc…to name one of their children Mowatt but to no avail. Fortunately, when we found out we were expecting, my husband loved the name as much as I do and we decided regardless of gender, we would name our child Mowat (we dropped the second t). My grandfather and I were very close, and he was always a wonderful storyteller. I pursued a degree in Creative Writing and now work in communications largely due to his influence. We’re also from the Maritimes, so the name Mowat has deep resonance here (Farley Mowat) and ties in with my writing. Win – win, right?!?

So, we have a son Mowat and I love the name. It’s unique, it’s fresh, it doesn’t sound too different and it really suits him (his personality reminds me a lot of my grandfather). We’re now expecting our second child – crazy how things can change so quickly – and we’re stuck on names - I mean, how do you match a name like Mowat? If we have a girl, we are leaning towards Dagny Romana Jean. I loved your suggestion of Zillah for a girl, but my husband thinks my love for Godzilla would overshadow it too much. We’ve both agreed on Dagny and feel it is a proper name, but not used very frequently and I feel like it flows nicely with Mowat. Romana is a Dr. Who companion (my husband's obsessions) and Jean is a family tradition (my middle name is Jean).

But, for a boy, I have NOTHING. My husband is leaning towards Monty (his nickname as a child and a reference to our love for Monty Python, but I’m not feeling it 100 percent). Monty is well Monty, and all I can think is that people will think of the Simpsons when they here our baby's name.

I’ve been trying to wrack my mind for other names that speak to me, but nothing speaks to me the way Mowat did. Can you help us?!?

Thank you!!!


Okay, well clearly you’ve taken the most efficient method to getting things done. Just have a kid yourself so you can choose the name you wanted! Tongue firmly in cheek, of course, but I love that you did it, and yes – I love the name Mowat! 

So I read on with bated breath to see what you’ll choose next, and I’m in that place where maybe I have to bury the lede a bit, because … what do you mean, ‘my love for Godzilla would overshadow it too much’? Honestly, I’m not criciticizing, I’m just trying to figure out what this could be: do you mean that it would seem as though you named her that for a joke, because you love Godzilla so much? Regardless, that buried lede we talked about is that Dagny is great, and I think it’s fantastic AND I love what you’ve done with the middle names, alternating the rhythm of the syllables…

… but you have your work cut out for you here.

You guys have got to stop with the film and tv references.

That is, you don’t, necessarily – and you, reading this, don’t need to. But you say that Godzilla would overshadow Zillah, and while your husband’s primary reference is Monty Python, yours is The Simpsons; you’re letting the references be the good and the bad at the same time, if you know what I mean?

Not that I would necessarily choose Monty. Montgomery, on the other hand, I could really dig into, and maybe you could get to the nickname Mungo if you wanted to – but I’d be inclined to use Montgomery, full voice, because that’s all that could stand up to the admittedly awesome Mowat.

But then I thought about Pavel, which I love every time I hear it, which isn’t enough, and the related Pascal. I don’t think Mowat seems French, but it does share some sounds that mean it could pass – especially in a house where it might otherwise be paired with Dagny. Or if you like that Scandinavian region, what about the incredible name Odin? Do NOT tell me you just thought of Garfield the cat. Get your mind out of pop culture! Or, what do you think of Viggo? Yes, we’re hearing it more these days and ‘o’ is a trendy end-letter, but it’s a good name and I do think it balances Mowat.

Part of the reason you’re having trouble is because Mowat, outside of the literary associations, is fun to say. (I said ‘Aziz’ was fun to say on Show Your Work, and Shereen laughed at me because to her it’s an old man’s name. “The equivalent of Stanley.” Hi Shereen!) So other names that fill that category, to me – the names that are satisfying coming out of your mouth? What about Zeke? Mowat and Ezekiel, if you’re being formal? How about Regis? Yes, I know who you think of, but it’s also kind of regal, isn’t it? Maybe? You watch, Regis will come back.

But along those lines, think about names that sound satisfying. (And may I point out that for me, ‘Farley’ has always been one of them? I attribute it to the Sesame Street dog, and not the first name of your son’s name-donor, but I love it.) How about Dag, or even Dagwood, if Dagny doesn’t arrive? How about Clive? Nico? Dashiell? Okay, so that might get too literary-tribute, but it’s a great name to say. How about one of my very favourites, Enoch? How can you not love getting your mouth around that name?

I cannot wait to see what you choose, but be as bold as you were the first time! Of course it has to sound right to you, but don’t let the name of some character get in the way of the name your kid is about to be born to have… and let us know!