Hi Duana,

My husband and I are expecting our second, a boy, in mid-March. As is to be expected since I’m writing to you, we are having a very hard time with the name. We landed on Rowan for our daughter fairly quickly (although much to my chagrin it seems to be getting more and more popular). I thought we had landed on Finn because my husband seemed all in, and I liked it well enough. Thankfully we recently discussed it again, and while he likes it the most, like me he isn’t 100% sold. We’re currently kicking around Cyrus, Tate, and Beckett, with Cyrus being the current favorite. I think I’m just assuming that at some point we will love something the way we loved Rowan – and that will just be the name. But that doesn’t appear to be happening. Our last name is typical Scottish starting with Mc – so fairly innocuous. We tend to lean toward “different” names, but not too far off the beaten path. Any help you can provide would be very much appreciated!


So the title of this email was “I’m not clever enough for this”, and while my first instinct is to reassure J that of course she is, I realized there’s a greater lesson here. Gather round, children… 
I have to thank you, J, because you pointed out something that I’ve never exactly articulated before, even in my book: there’s a feeling out there that finding the ‘perfect’ name for your child is some sort of trick – like that if you know the exact places to look, you’ll find the name that will not only fit your family and your style perfectly, but will tell everyone what a great style you have, which I guess gets us to the ‘clever’ place, with the idea that you somehow unearthed this gorgeous moniker nobody else has heard of.

But you know the drill - when you’re trolling around and have read everything on the internet you find a list of ‘Rare boys names!!” and it turns out to be, like, Shaeden and Caevon and you throw up your hands. 
So a reminder that people who find rare, great, unusual names aren’t smarter or cleverer, they’re people who genuinely like the name they chose – whether they found it in their family tree or overheard at Sea-Tac airport. And just because you’re exposed to great names doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily think they fit for you, as evidenced by the fact that, as of today, not one of you has taken me up on Bruno! 
But on to the task at hand. I’m beginning to hear a few Cyruses around, which isn’t that surprising because it’s a great name, and because Silas had its return to usage a few years ago. I think you might like Felix, or Cedric or Caius, or maybe something like Ambrose? Ambrose and Rowan actually work really beautifully together, and has an old world feeling while still being completely singular. 
What about Lewis, or Rhys? I think they’re softer than you were going for with Tate and Beckett, but as short as they are, they still pack a punch, as does something like Clive or Knox or Flynn – just a little punchier than Finn. 
The style you’re wandering in does make me think you might be happier with something just a little bit longer – Evander or Declan or Callahan or even Elias, which seems like another good style match for Rowan.

Don’t get discouraged by lists of names that do nothing for you, seeming more and more obscure the lower you look. Here’s the ‘trick’, that people—even me – forget all the time: you don’t have to only look on name sites for names. Yes, they have giant lists, but there are names everywhere that can inspire you, if you’re creative about how you let them. 
Pay attention to the names of clients, people in grocery stores, on television, that catch and keep your interest, even if you’re sure you wouldn’t use that name. If you keep thinking about Lawrence, maybe that works. But if you can’t stop thinking about the badassness of Gayle King, for example, maybe you want to think about something like Verity, or Gloria, or Sovereign – okay, maybe easy on that one, but you get the idea. Use the sounds and feelings of names that catch your attention, regardless of how they come to you, and you’ll find something you love saying all the time. 
I know you’re going to find the one you’re looking for – let us know!