I'm a big fan of your column and it was super helpful in choosing the name of our daughter. Our son was born a few weeks ago and we're being super indecisive about his name! We've gone 2 weeks with no name and it's getting embarrassing! One of the problems is that our daughter is named after my wife's mother so it's super meaningful. Unfortunately, none of the male family members on either side have names that we like. We want something classic and versatile (works for an artist but also for a politician or business leader) but isn't too boring. Right now, we're down to 4 favorites (in order):
1) Christopher -- I love the name Christopher but my wife's name is Christine so I think it would get super confusing around the house. We thought about shortening it to Topher but we feel like that sounds a little too "fratty". Also, everyone seems to bring up Topher Grace who is fine but it seems to be the only association. We like this because it was super popular in the 1980s and 1990s but seems to have fallen out of favor.
2) Theodore -- This is another classic name which shortens to either Teddy or Theo. I prefer Theo but Teddy could be cute when he's younger. My only issue with this one is that it seems super popular since I'm seeing this in the recent top 10 lists.
3) David -- This is classic but could it be too boring? It's not as popular as it used to be but like, Matt, I have so many friends named David. We feel like this is a strong name where it's hard to go wrong.
4) Wesley -- He will have a hyphenated last name that starts with W. I really like the alliteration but don't feel like Wes is as strong as the first 3 names.
Others in the running were Miles, Reed, Cooper and Franklin.
I would LOVE your advice since we're having so much trouble making this decision.
Well, here we are, right? It was bound to happen soon – parents looking for a name that really feels unusual for their kids are realizing that the ubiquitous names of our youth are now pretty rare for kids born these days…
My cardinal rule, as you always know, is that if you love the name, that should trump any qualms about popularity (and if you’re not sure if you love it, testing whether popularity or lack thereof still bothers you is a pretty good test) but in your case, you already have a little bundle there to compare the name to, which – okay, I know they’re basically sleepy-but-adorable lizards at this point, but I’ll be very interested in whether seeing him in real life is helping much.
Also, you didn’t include your daughter’s name, but based on the fact that it’s your wife’s mother’s name, and compared to your choices here, I’m going to assume it’s familiar and somewhat long and classic: Elizabeth, Veronica, Angeline… am I close?
Okay, let’s dig in. Christopher is interesting in that it doesn’t feel as dated as some other 80s boys’ names – but what does, of course, is the obvious ‘Chris’ nickname. I have heard of a couple of Tophers around, so while I agree that Topher Grace is currently the only reference people have for that nickname, I’d wager that’s going to be changing soon.
I think the key here is twofold. One, can you find a nickname you like enough to use Christopher, and two, if you do, what’s the point of calling him Christopher? That is, I totally understand your hesitation about having two such similar named people in the house, but if he was Topher overall, you might as well just go with a different name altogether, right?
That said, I looked around for nicknames that aren’t Chris – Kip, Kit, and Christo are all used more overseas/in Britain than here, but they might appeal in the same vein as Teddy does; and I also found some people using Tove, which I like more than I thought I would. There’s also a non-zero percentage of people using Toby, and – get this – I read about someone who was planning on naming her child Christopher Oscar… to get to the nickname Crosby. That might be a stretch if you hate Oscar, but other people suggested Christopher Bernard or Christopher Darby. Thoughts and feels?
Theodore is a name where I have a bias, of course, but I also think it shares a lot of soft-but-strong sounds and feelings with Christopher so I understand why you like it. I do think it’s far more in use than it was a generation ago, but sometimes popularity lists are more about ‘most searched’ rather than ‘most used’, so keep that in mind. That said, this is one that’s also rising for girls, in the Theodora/Dorothea vein, so you might want to consider outside nicknames here – aside from the obvious, I’ve seen Teo and Rory and even Thor suggested and, again, I’m not mad at them.
The benefit to David is that he’d very likely be David (and not Dave) these days – but it feels out of step from your other choices mainly in that it’s a little more stolid and consonant-heavy, there’s a bit less whimsy around it, and less creativity to be had. I know a hilarious little David and I quite like the name on him, and he’s most definitely the only one in his orbit but, either because of the name or the ‘feeling’ I (and other adults) put on it, he seems like a very serious little fellow; that’s unquestionably anecdata, but I do wonder if he’d feel he was being pressured to be more ‘grown up’/less silly than, say, Dashiell or Dimitri.
Finally, I don’t share your feelings about Wesley – it’s one I really like, and I am surprised it hasn’t been picked up on the ‘everything old is new again’ train. I wonder if it’s because trend-following parents are going with Weston instead, or because, even though people like the name and want something ‘unusual’, there’s no amazing Wesley that people tend to emulate. I would definitely give this one a second look, and not just because I suspect you won’t like my other W-name suggestions to get you to alliteration as much: Wilfred and Wilder both work for me, but they may not for you.
So there we are. I suspect that there’s a little too much baggage around Christopher to get you there, but I would endorse it if you wanted to, and felt like you could get down with one of the nicknames above – and I’d subtly steer you away from David because it seems like you’re thinking it’s “good enough”, so after that, how do you feel?
I don’t think you need more choices at this stage in the game (what are you calling him right now? Is it all ‘the baby’ or are you still calling him Dumpling or whatever he was in utero?), but I will say that your ‘classically lyrical/whimsical’ style also made me think of August, Sebastian, Tobias, and Nathaniel – just in case you need some jumping off points.
Please, please let us know!