Hi Duana,
I love your column and have been scanning it for months hoping for some inspiration.

We are expecting our second baby on May 17th. The gender will be a surprise until the big day.

Our first was a boy and we named him Ivan. I absolutely love it and am hoping to be equally excited about this name. But I’m finding the second round much harder. Any boy name feels like a consolation as we used our top pick on Ivan, and now there is the added pressure that it “goes with” Ivan as well.
I feel like this second child is already going to have a complex, second hand crib, car seat, clothes… name.

My husband is very decisive (I’m not). Last time, I made my lists and he picked his favorite and that’s what we went with. It was a great compromise allowing me to have a lot of fun with the process and him still being involved.
This time is proving a lot more difficult. I’m having a hard time coming up with names I’m really excited about. My husband is not a huge help as he’s not interested in debating the merits of each name with me. Just tells me to make him a list.

In his defense, any time he has made a suggestion, I’ve shut it down. 
His suggestions: Elizabeth, Duncan, Griffin. 
- Elizabeth is not exciting to me
- Duncan is just ok (maybe growing on me?)
- Griffin I really like, but I feel like Griffin + Ivan are too similar (not on paper, but when I say them aloud)
For Boys I like: Walter, Norman, George, Milo, maybe Simon
- Simon/Norman might be too similar sounding to Ivan (see Griffin)
- Milo feels a bit too trendy

For Girls I like: Tess, Greta, Mavis, Leona, Hazel and Violet 
- is Violet to twinsy with Ivan? We sometimes call him Iv, and I’m sure she’d get Vi
I “like” these, but as they were all in the running the first time, I feel like I’ve overthought them.

What am I looking for in a name? I don’t even know anymore. I think I want something a little bit unexpected, but still firmly a name you’ve heard of. I like a name that grows on you and nothing too flowery.
I really hope you can help! I had so much fun naming my first kid, it’s making me sad that this one is more of a burden. 

I’m hoping for a new perspective or perhaps a fresh suggestion. Any thoughts on a name that might be in line with what I like, but something that feels like it’s just as special for this little one.


Okay, I feel like I can help you out here. Your first question, or your only question, is the most important. “What am I looking for here?” And I think you’ve answered it – a little bit unexpected, but still a name – and I love your phrase “something that grows on you”. So I may suggest a few names that are a little outside of the ones you’ve been going over – not because there’s anything wrong with the names you have, but because you’ve been staring at them too long to really be able to get into them. 

First of all, I would put aside the following names – Griffin, Duncan, Simon, and Norman. All of them great names – all of them names I’ve recommended in the column in the past. I would even say that they fit your requirement of “a surprising name you’d heard of”. But as the trend of n-ending boys names continues to grow in popularity, I can see how some of these names would sound like they were just second-best to the incredible choice you made the first time. 

When I read that you like Walter – and I do too – I was reminded that a few weeks ago I asked a friend whether her sister is complimented on her kids’ names; they’re of upper-elementary age now and out of the name-complimenting period, maybe, but one has your son’s name, and the other is Victor.  

…Right? Why wouldn’t you? I can sense from your letter that you might be worried about the repeating ‘V’ sounds, but I’m not, and the names sound different enough that there’s a cohesiveness, not a repetition. Or you could go with Vincent, or Rupert, or Edgar if the ‘r’ ending is more appealing. Or Arthur, which for some parents is still too laid-back and for others is already feeling the creep of popularity. Which side do you come down on? Would Albert be a better feel? 

I toss around Griffin and Duncan in the rock-tumbler of my brain and inevitably want to suggest Damian, but I’ve still never had anyone take me up on it, so instead, in keeping with starting letters that are on the less common side, what about Ivan and Garrett, or Ivan and Basil – which is SO cute for a little boy. Or what about Ivan and Luther? Don’t shrink up before you’ve tossed it around a little.  Alfred? Enoch? Or, you could go with Lainey’s assertion today that Jasper sounds like a “rascally name” and lean into that. The more I write, the more I think having two names that end differently will be the key to finding something that balances Ivan rather than feeling inferior to it. 

For girls, I think, you must immediately toss Elizabeth for two different but related reasons – it’s not exciting to you, which is 90% of the reason and because there are people who Love Love Love it beyond reason, and for whom it is the only choice. But if you don’t fall into that category, there’s no reason to choose a name that’s been so well-used. Similarly, just for the sake of narrowing things down, I’d probably eliminate Tess, because it’s the only nickname name you have here, and though it’s technically a derivative of Teresa, that doesn’t seem like a name you’d want to go with.  

But Leona I love, and I think it works beautifully with Ivan. So too does Greta, though I’ll admit it’s another name I’ve stumped for often here, so I have an affection for it.  

That said, those are the only two names on your girls’ list that end in vowels, which is relatively unusual for girls’ names, so I think you should look at some that end in consonants. Tess and Mavis and Elizabeth and Violet are all indicative of not wanting a long vowel at the end of the name, so I suspect that’s what you want in some way or other. 

If that sounds like it makes sense to you, you might want to consider names like Helen or Tamsin or Juliet or Maeve – all of which end on a definitive ‘downbeat’ that might make you feel you had a definitive ending to the name. Ruth and Nell fit this description but don’t feel like they’re surprising (and, if I’m being honest, neither do Juliet or Maeve these days) but what about Ingrid or Mabel or Rosamund or Astrid or Maude or Agnes? Celeste? 

Once I lit on this idea for the girls’ names you liked, I felt strongly that it was the right way to go for you, but I will admit it was hard to restrain myself from suggesting names like Josephine or Louise, because even though they do, technically, end in consonants, the sound you remember is the ‘eeee’ of the ending syllable, which I don’t think is what you want. 

That said, I did in my search come up with a name that defies everything I said you might want to avoid above and some of the things you didn’t want in terms of comparisons to Ivan, but that might nonetheless be absolutely perfect: Imogen. Note the ‘Jen’ sound at the end, not “Jean’

The surprise sex reveal complicates this one, of course, but I’m very curious about where this is going to go! Let us know!