Evening Duana!

(Not yet, sweet Letter Writer, but soon…)

My dearest friend put me on to you one night when I was complaining on the phone to her about naming baby #3. Our little boy, who will have brother Griffin and sister Adair, is due in just a couple months.

I'm really struggling for a name this time. I love using family names (how Adair got her name) or sticking with our Scottish/Irish heritage (how Griffin got his name) but absolutely nothing is grabbing me this time. A lot of the names out there feel overused or trendy. 

Currently I have been able to stomach these names, but they don’t feel like 'the one' right now: Harrison, Theodore, Miles, Leo. I really love a nickname to a full name (Adair is Addy, Griffin is Giffy) and am at my wits end after months of trying to name this baby. What are your thoughts on classic names that have more modern nicknames? 

I so appreciate your input, I'm desperate to name this baby! 


This email came in with a title similar to the one above, and it tickled me so I’m using it, but please know I’m at the end of my video game references file, and there will be no further jokes about this, unless they involve referencing that thing Seth Rogan figured out about Duck Hunt recently. 

Okay, now I’m tapped. But the reason I liked it is because it’s a variation on something I talk about often – that you want the people in your family to feel like they’re being named from the same creative well. That they’d fit well together in a book series or in those narrative songs about how strange and quick life can be. 

That’s what strikes me so much about your first two children – if I were assigning a category to those names, I’d go with ‘slightly dreamy middle-grade novel’ names. That’s partly my bias – because I don’t know too many real life kids with those names, I can imagine them without reality trampling in, whereas for me, and probably for you, there are too many real-life Mileses and Leos interrupting the fantasy, and silently assigning characteristics you’re not interested in. 

So I think you need to look for names that are more firmly outside the currently-used corridor, while still being familiar. Duncan is the first one that jumps to mind, depending on your tolerance for two names that end the same way – or Garrett, where same rules apply but w/r/t the first initial. These names tend not to be well-used or unknown, they’re just hovering around the edges of our consciousness, calling to mind authors of articles we’ve liked or the first name of a professor from a dozen years ago. 

Rupert isn’t Scottish/Irish, but feels right in terms of rarity, as do Simon and Angus and the lovely but sometimes-neglected Graham. Victor and Vincent are two of my favourites, but when I tested them, neither feels quite right here. But you know what does? Virgil – soft, unusual, and totally ready to be shaped by a young Player 3. 

I was playing around with O-names, and found that while in a lot of cases Oscar seems really definitive and bold, in this case it’s softened by being the third name of three – Adair and Griffin and Oscar share so much, including the usage of ‘less popular’ consonants (as opposed to names like Lachlan and Kyra) that I think there’s an argument to be made here. Or if it feels too bold, maybe consider Walter or Edwin or Albert or yes, my beloved Barnaby. 

I have to admit, I’m surprised after your first two choices that your third round includes more well-trodden (these days) names, and wonder if it’s not just fatigue. But if you’re really craving a name that ‘feels’ more popular, or feel that by happy accident, Adair and Griffin both fit in and stand out, then I could see and argument for Phineas or August – but the Finn and Augie nicknames would place him a lot more closely into the ‘popular’ category than even your chosen nicknames have done so far. 

Basically, be as bold as you already have been, even if you’re not sure you’re ‘ready’ to hear an old name on a new person. I would wager a guess that you are – because we are. And please…let us know! 

PS – If you want to hear more about how adults feel about the name choices their parents made, you can catch me on the most recent episode of The Allusionist Podcast, with the delightfully named Helen Zaltzman!