We are having a baby boy, due September 25 and there are two naming issues I’ve been thinking about, first names and portmanteau’d last names.
First names: we are struggling to find name options that we love/fit in with our names. My name is Kate (Katherine, but please no) and my husband’s name is quite unusual, though easy to say/read, we both like rarely used names but I also want something that doesn’t feel like a stranger to “Kate”. On our minimoon we had a Hungarian waiter called Csongor (pronounced like Chungor) and my husband has fallen in love with it because “it’s strong” and he loves his own unusual first name.

I quite like Csongor too, but it is too far for me to go for a first name, so we are currently thinking this will be a/the middle name. I tend to like Celtic names (Finnick, Malcolm, Angus, Eamon, Hamish), he likes Finnick but not so much the rest (although I think partly because these are super foreign sounding to him (somewhat ironic given his love affair with Csongor)). We also both liked Thaddeus, but it doesn’t feel quite right. He LOVES the name Lando, which I like and am not so bothered by the Star Wars connection (although assume baby boy will accordingly hate Star Wars when he grows up as is his right), but it also feels a bit out of my comfort zone to use as a first name. He also thinks that Lando Lastname flows better than Finnick Lastname.

I am American, but grew up in Hong Kong, and he is first generation American with Polish/Israeli/Romanian roots. What I (think I) like about Finnick is that the long form is unusual but he has the option to wear the more common “Finn” if the long version isn’t right, and that it seems kind of in the middle of our first names uniqueness-wise. We don’t tend to gravitate to names that end in the trendy “n” sound, although I do love Eamon. In case helpful, when we were convinced he was a girl, we both liked Georgia, Margot or Geneva (with potential nickname Gigi, after my grandmother’s nickname). Dying to hear your thoughts/suggestions!

We are planning to portmanteau our last names to create a new one for our kid(s) - Short and Gregorovich, portmanteau’d to Shorovich. Neither of us are planning to change our last names, and I think, given the sounds, the new name will be clearly connected to us. But we made the mistake of mentioning this to our families, and our parents especially are not fans of this idea. They have suggested hyphenating our last names but neither of us like either hyphenated combination, so that’s basically off the table. I’m not especially bothered by what other people think about this approach as our parents suggestions have not affected us on this point, but I guess could use some reassurance that having a “different” albeit connected last name to their parents won’t cause them irreparable psychological harm (or if it will, I could alternatively use some suggestions of how to deal with this!).

You guys, the parentheses game is STRONG with this one – peep the brackets inside brackets in paragraph 3! 

I was highly entertained by your letter (Csongor!), and I’ll get to your first name thoughts, but first, an amusing little story about the wild world of surnames these days… 

Like millions of other schools, my kid’s has an integrated before and after program. Small school, and (humblebrag) we’re pretty involved parents, so we know the staff and other families pretty well. Which means everything is all first-name basis all the time. I have no idea what half the kids’ surnames are, and am occasionally shocked when I get an email from ‘Jeremy Kennebacher’, or some other name I’ve never heard of – and have to dig deep to discover he’s emailing to set up a playdate with his twins Tristan and Isolde. (All names fake, obviously, but man, what if they weren’t?) 

One day when talking to a parent I’ve known a couple of years, laughing about our single days and etc, I’d just finished some story about my wedding when her brow furrowed, and she asked – if I was married 7 years ago then when had I met my son’s dad? I looked confused, and she stammered… or was it a family name or… had she made a faux pas? This poor woman! She started to apologize profusely: Since she knew my surname, and my husband’s, and our kid’s last name was totally different… “I’m so sorry, I just assumed Mayhew was his birth dad’s name!” 

And that’s how I learned my kid’s name had been printed on a class list with a totally different surname – that belongs to nobody in our family, nor, as far as I can tell, anyone in the class’s family – and posted on the door of the aftercare program for the better part of a year. 


I tell this story for two reasons. One, surnames are irrelevant to kids – if anyone called my kid by that erstwhile last name, I never heard about it – and secondly, wherever the error came from, it didn’t affect our lives one iota; no missed birthday invitations, report cards, or bus pickups… nobody was confused about who his parents were, even though in theory, there were three different surnames between us for a while there. 

So I don’t see any logistical problems with your portmanteau, or any reason beyond familial pride why your parents should object. I’m reading a story to my kid right now that involves families being referred to as a common last name (you know, “The Snyders”, “The Halls”) and I had to explain the concept because… that’s just not the norm in many, many places anymore – not counting the places (like Quebec) where it was never done in the first place. 

By all means, portmanteau your names, especially if they go together as easily as yours seem to and I think it has the potential to become a really charming custom, or possibly the start of a terrifying movement where we refer to families, however they’re connected, by their kids’ names. “Oh, that’s the Arabella family” or “Hey I saw the Connor and Tamsins on the streetcar today!”  

But seriously, go in peace – this is way more common than you think, whether through blended families, hyphenations, or portmanteaus, and schools, extracurricular programs and etc are not phased by any of it (even if certain school boards have heteronormative parent information forms that need to be updated, ahem). 

Where the first name is concerned, I have to say I quite like your choices – both Finnick and Lando have the same qualities in that they’re a little unusual yet intuitive to read and say. I wonder whether your reticence is due to the issue you point out – that they’re more on the unusual-first-name front that seems connected to your partner, which makes your name seem a bit like the odd one out, right? 

I adore Hamish, but it might be a bit sticky to say with Csongor, and I can see how Malcolm and, to a certain extent, Eamon, might not feel like they had that X factor. 

The names that come to mind along your same continuum include Duncan (n-ending-be-damned), or maybe Callum, which gives you a built-in short form. Or if you’re angling for something that’s akin to Lando, there’s always Lachlan, which is either very high or very low on people’s preference lists, with no in-between. I think you might also get a lot of mileage out of Seamus – it’s one of those names that’s unusual in origin, but early-adopted in North America, so that now it seems charming and offbeat-but-fun. Lastly, if you’re debating over Finnick but liked Thaddeus, there’s always Phineas to keep you in the middle – and if it’s good enough for Julia Roberts, who are we to say no? 

Please include LOTS of parentheses when you email us to let us know!