Hello Duana, 

We are currently trying to figure out a name for our baby that we'll be welcoming in September. Despite being a combo of procrastinators mixed with a bit of decision fatigue (what stroller? car seat? nursery paint color? reusable diapers?), all of this while dealing with a significant workload increase because of the pandemic, we were down to two names that we were pretty confident about. 


A few weeks ago, we saw that the stats for the babies born in 2019 in our province were published and it hit us like a truck: we're basic AF. Jacob is in the top 10 of the boys' names and Henry/Henri isn't far behind. Not that we NEED to be super original but we would like the kid to have a name that doesn't cause 4-5 hands to pop up when he's called in a classroom. 

To make it more difficult, the name needs to be easy to pronounce in English and in French (doesn't need to sound exactly the same, just basically something that won't make me cringe when my dad says it, you know!?). The last name starts with a "S" so probably nothing that starts or ends with that letter so minimize the whole Parseltongue feeling when we'll say his full name out loud. 

We went back to the Tinder-ish baby name app but I feel that, like Tinder, we've run out of matches in our location: we are now deep down in cultural appropriation territory with suggestions like T'Challah or Kumail. 

So here we are at 33 weeks, desperately trying to strengthen my perineum, dealing with the painful realization that we are basic and wondering who will be the next person to tell us "Well you can always name him COVID AHAHAHAHAH" #blessed

Any help would be amazing (even if it's just a good comeback to the goddamn COVID joke).


Okay well, whomever used that COVID joke on you should be summarily dismissed as a friend/acquaintance/delivery person, with one exception/party game for the group – has anyone tried referring to a friend named Dave as ‘COVID’?

Am I watching too much Curb Your Enthusiasm? I’m always a fan of using someone’s full name in mock annoyance, imagine you’re about to go “Get your own drink then, DAVID” but throw COVID in instead? Try it out, let me know if hilarity ensues. 


I love this letter, and I think it’s worth a reiteration of one of my central premises – popular names are popular because they’re good. That’s especially true right now, when we’re in a phase of very old-usage, classic names coming back – but if you take away our personal preferences or judgments about names now in 2020, it’s true of even trendy names in the past. Jennifer? It’s a good name, it has soft and hard parts, can be longer or shorter… Linda? It’s bouncy, it’s fun, it’s lively –- you get the idea. It’s useful to point out that the basicness in question here, if such a thing exists, is in choosing a name that’s incredibly popular, but not that the name itself is basic by definition. If I had met a Henry in high school in the mid 90s, for example, the name would have been no less ‘classical’, but much, much rarer than it is now, and my teen brain would have swooned over the ‘unusual’ choice. 

So the task here is to choose names that are just outside the popularity bubble, *while* understanding they’re popular for a reason, and then reminding yourself that a name that isn’t popular, or that didn’t immediately jump to mind, isn’t ‘bad’, it’s just not as familiar in your lexicon. 

Blah blah get to the names – I’ve already accepted you’ve set a super high bar for funny letters, so rather than compete to catch up I’m just gonna push through with facts: 

I’m glad you included the Parseltongue warning because my first suggestion out of the gate would have been Simon; I’m not opposed to names that start with the same letter but I recognize it’s a case-by-case basis. Still, say it out loud to see if it’s really not working or just your bias about alliteration. 

If it is, then I’d walk down the corridor of Jacob & Henri’s historical siblings/classmates: Victor is the first that comes to mind, with Vincent a close second – they both work in either language, and I’ll remind you (and other readers who might be worried) that nicknames like Vic and Vince are much, much less likely to occur spontaneously among kids’ peers; they wouldn’t think to do it, and you can chastise the adults who do. When nicknames do happen, it seems to be in names that ‘say their own name’ – that is, Emmeline is more likely to be nicknamed Emma or Leonardo to be Leo than, say, Adele is to be Addie, unless the nickname is suggested/used by the child in question. 

Moving on, what about Oscar? What about Felix? Both short, punchy, easy to say and to understand. Isaac? Jonah? Louis? Beau? Timothée? (Now *that* is a boom I suspect is coming… in 5 years…) The ‘usual suspects’ in this category would include Oliver and Noah and Alex(andre) but I haven’t included them here because I think there’s a decent chance of replication, either from English or French peers, and you don’t want that, so I’d just be aware that the possibility exists… and that’s why I’m going to escort you slightly further down the path…


I still don’t totally know why the two-syllable name is considered the platonic ideal for boys, except familiarity, but the further you step outside it, while still very much in the realm of the familiar, the less you have to worry about replication. 

To that end, what about Julian? Adrian? Raphael? I know that for some people stepping into this category moves toward something almost romance novel-esque, but that is not what I’m hearing on the playgrounds, where a rogue 10 year old Jason is playing with a Pascal (also a good choice), a Dashiell, and a Romeo – so I’d seriously consider something longer. It’s also a bit of an insurance policy, in the sense that if your Nate meets another Nate and decides he doesn’t want to have an alter ego, Nathaniel is right there for him, in a way that doesn’t work for, say, John. Lionel is one of my favourites in this category, Zachary is another favourite-for-a-reason (and most of the Zachs are well into their teens/20s by now) and I’m never going to be mad at Sebastian. Maybe the length of it separates it from your S-surname? 

What about Marcel? Eugene? Jeremiah (or Jeremy)? The one popular French name that comes up a lot that I’ve never quite suggested with conviction is Terrence, because it’s so rare I have trouble coming up with an image or a personality to associate with it – but maybe you guys are the ones to carry it over the finish line? We know he’s gonna be funny, just look at this letter. 

Terrence Covid Surname… and done? I’ll show myself out for making such a ‘joke’, but I’m betting there’s something in here that can fill all the qualities you’re looking for and be the face of the stories Future You will tell, as you regale your little boy with stories of how the pandemic meant the nursery paint colour was the equivalent of the Eco Challenge, and he should be delighted as a result. 

Let us know!