Hi Duana,

I wrote you once before thinking I was having a boy, but we had a surprise girl! Now I'm (almost certainly) definitely having a boy (due in July), and our name choices are all over the map! My daughter is named Djuna which I love and is perfect for her, and I'm struggling to find boys' names that combine elegance, strength, and quirkiness in quite the same way. Baby's heritage will be mixed South Asian and European. His surname will be long and double-barrelled. 

So, our short list right now is: Gilbert, Conrad, Fritz, Sachin, and Samik. I also like Sascha but my partner says no. To me, these names all reflect very different personalities, and I'm struggling to see what our 'style' is; none of them is speaking to me the way Djuna did/does.

Can you see anything that links them? Can you help us choose one? 

Thank you!


You know what? This letter actually brought tears to my eyes. Is that not a bit much? 

I’m just so happy to read one like this, where names that really rarely appear in other letters are in serious consideration with each other. Not a William in the bunch. Which begets the obligatory qualifier: William is a fine name and I’m not mad at it, but I and everyone else who cares about names has debated its merits and nicknames and images… it’s nice to look at a whole new brand and style. 

I really do like all your name choices, but also see how Djuna (which, full disclosure, is one of my favourites) has an extra-special quality that some of these come maybe sliiightly short of.  The exception, in terms of an unknown name that simultaneously feels super-intriguing and charming, is probably Sachin. That said, you do run into a dilemma if you care that many, many popular boys’ names these days are two-syllable-ending-in-n names… and you may or may not. 

I also have a personal love for Gilbert and 100% think it’s on its way back, but if you’re not convinced, what about Grover? Like yes yes yes, it’s a Sesame Street character – but so are Abby and Murray and that doesn’t cause anyone any problems. 

I never want to hold back on name suggestions, because I want to explore as many options as possible, but in some cases I wish I had held back on a certain name so that when it was really the perfect option, it would feel new and fresh. That lament aside, I want to point out that Barnaby could work really well here. Djuna and Barnaby have an energy and excitement together that I think is so much fun and really deserves a day in the sun… you feel it, right? 

Your naming vibe, which to me, seems like a ‘accessible-unusual literary’ style, if you want to put a label on it, also lends itself to Eleazar, which I have always loved in print and never been lucky enough to meet on an actual human being; Moritz, which feels like Fritz which is a lot more room to expand beyond preconceived notions therein; Andreas, which is fantastic and kind of confusing in its utter underuse; and the really incredible Laszlo – which, full credit, was used by Jason Biggs and Jenny Mollen recently, and which makes me appreciate them and their naming skills a bit more. 

Padraig (if you live somewhere people will make an effort and not just make him ‘Patrick’)? Leif? Pascal? Caius? Ezra? Garrett? I feel like the possibilities are endless and I’m so delighted for you. It’s also worth noting that there are a few names within your style window that I didn’t suggest because they begin with ‘D’: Dashiell and Dmitri and even the comparatively pedestrian Duncan – but if you’re not bothered by the alliteration, go crazy! 

Also, a first! Maybe it’s because this letter has me dealing with all kinds of names I don’t usually but I actually ran into another really unusual situation – a name I wanted to suggest, but that I nonetheless don’t think is wearable because of how associated it is with a singular person… Regis. I know I know I know. I maintain that on its own it is kind of a cool name, but it’s not gonna be viable until our kids have kids. This may actually be a first for me. I’ve even told people they can still name a kid ‘Drake’ – but for me, Regis is right up there with Madonna, religious iconography aside. Which I’m sure he’s thrilled about. (Also, I came across a reference to Philbin apparently constantly looking for namesakes? Is this a thing?) 

You made a great choice the first time, so I would first look for a name that gives you the same kind of joyous feeling, and then put it through the filters of elegance, strength, and quirkiness that you specify above. I humbly think you have a few real gems here to choose from. 

Let us know!