Hi Duana,
I just want to say first that I LOVE your column and have been reading since way before getting pregnant.
You recently mentioned the name Nova in one of your columns and that you were surprised it wasn’t used more. I thought it was a bit unusual at first but the more I think about it the more excited I get about the name! However, I was looking into our BC name stats for babies and it seems like Nova IS getting more and more popular which I am nervous about. About 50 babies were named Nova in 2018. For reference there were 148 Ava’s, 170 Charlotte’s, 222 Emma’s, and 246 Olivia’s in 2018. I wasn’t even looking at this popularity list until my coworker who is also pregnant showed me. I’m even afraid that writing to you bringing up the name Nova will create more popularity with you mentioning it haha!
I am hoping for a name where she won’t have another classmate with the same name (as with all other parents). Before hearing about Nova from you we had a couple of names on our list but all of them seem to be popular or I’m just not as excited about them as Nova. Some of the names we have on our list are Leia, Hayden, Zoey, Lucy. I feel like I’m back to square one. HELP! I’m due in April and even though we have some time I want a name we really love.
Thank you!!!


Well. It goes without saying that the vast majority of the letters I answer in the next few months will have been written before our whole world/timeline was split into Before and After COVID-19. Obviously if you were and still are expecting a baby this spring or summer, a lot of your questions are still the same, and babies still need names… 

…but I also wonder if our perspectives, and yours specifically, may have changed since the whole world got dire. On group texts and HouseParties, a constant topic is ‘which beauty treatments are you missing most?’ Obviously there are some I fantasize about getting (or learning to do myself – is it possible to be genetically incapable of doing your own nails?) but some others haven’t crossed my mind since I cancelled all my appointments. 

I’m hoping something similar may have happened to you – that in the last few anxiety-making weeks, some of your priorities have become more clear while others become less of a problem. Specifically, for people who love Nova as much as you do, I hope the relative popularity issues pale in comparison to the joy the name brings. 

But I have to confess that Nova’s trajectory has been quite dramatic. In some Scandinavian countries, it’s landed in the top 20. I get why it happened – the name sounds fresh and new, it’s easy to understand, and has the air of being less-than-typical in a way that’s really attractive. So if your sober second thought is that no name of YOUR child is going to be anywhere near a popularity ranking that high, here are a few more suggestions to re-up the thrill of the perfect name.

Nova, like your other contenders Lucy and Zoe, falls under a category I’d label “short with a spark” – two (or so) syllables, and one or more ‘unusual’ letters or sounds that make the name feel fresh and unique. The good news is there are dozens of these names, and the only hurdle to clear is personal preference. Here we go...

I refuse to stop loving the name Zara just because of the Spanish fast-fashion chain, but for a lot of people it’s too big a hurdle to clear. If you’re one of them, what about Zola or Zoya or Zinnia? Nadine or Nina both seem like they’d fit here too, or maybe you want to try Opal or Inez or Eva? How about Lark or Dinah or Yvette or Liesl? Libby? Hazel? Sheena or Lotte or Bette or Shea? 

As you debate each of these names, some are automatic nos, while some will make you pause and think through them again. When that happens, try to find out what you like about them - what’s common in names you love (or don’t), and which sounds, styles, or feelings spark excitement? 

Each of them will strike you as better or worse than Nova already is, then it’s a matter of figuring out which one comes on top, and whether your baby-to-be will care more about having a name all her own, or one that makes her parents eyes light up with joy. 

Let us know!