Hi Duana!

Long time reader, fellow name nerd and big fan. 

I’m expecting my first child (gender unknown) and, being a naturally indecisive person, am having a hard time with names. I have been thinking about baby names since I was in elementary school but now that it’s go time I’m stuck. My name is extremely rare but easy to pronounce and spell and I would like the same for my child. Also, my husband is of Italian heritage so I would like something that feels ambiguously “International”. Some names in the running, but not quite right:

Romy (I love this - but am afraid my son could end up in school with a girl of the same name - is this a legit fear? Should this name be avoided?)
Indio (too provocative for the times?)
Rio (too hipster?)


This baby is coming any day now and I’m afraid of settling, or choosing something that is confusing to others and my judgement is clouded.

Thanks In advance! 


You know, I grabbed onto one thing in this letter first, and I bet longtime readers (including you!) know what it is: that the one name you love has a problem attached that, to an outsider’s eye, doesn’t seem like much of a problem. 

So let’s go there first. You say that you love Romy, but that you’re afraid your son could end up with a classmate of the same name. I understand that you’re in a maelstrom of thoughts, but it might help you to think about how this affects the Jamies and Devons and Haydens and Marlows and Finns of the world. You won’t find much about it, because I don’t think it does – they know they have a name that can be used for any gender, but there’s no ‘affect’ for them any more than there is an affect for being one of the many brown-haired children or the ones who wear braces. That is, sure, it might be a thing that makes them ‘different’ – but there are many many things that make them the same. Plus – sing it if you know it – there is nothing wrong with a boy having a name that is also used for girls. There’s nothing inherently negative about a girl’s name, as you know because you’re thinking about girls names with as much thoughtfulness and love as you are boys names. So there’s nothing ‘wrong’ with having a name that is also used for girls. I think you know that and you’re just trying to look at every possibility which is making you overthink things, and also somehow imbue the name Indio with provocation, which I have to confess I tried and failed to find. Unless you are worried that it could be used to sound like ‘idiot’, which is an exception to my ‘childhood teasing’ rule, I can see where that would be a struggle for a certain kid. I know you don’t want that which is why you’re thinking so hard. 

But there are all kinds of issues you’ve listed in the names that aren’t real problems. “Too hipster” = who says? If you love it, it’s the right name, and I would say that to someone who wanted to call their child Plum Chocolate. If you ask me for my opinion, I’ll give it – but there’s no empirical list of the ‘best’ names where you can risk vs. reward all the elements of the names, especially in relation to other people’s opinions, because it’s so, so subjective! Your opinion matters most, I swear! 

So – here’s where we are. The names you’ve chosen seem to really define what you want, which is great! Short-ish, lots of vowels, definitely an international flavour. I love several that you’ve said are ‘not quite right’, particularly Elio and Ione, so going on that tip, let’s see what I can find. 

For boys, you might like Enzo or Roman (okay, those first two were kind of gimmes) or Apollo or Orin or Remy, or maybe Saul or Soren or Magnus or Zeke or Caius or Dante or Zane or Kai. God, I love Kai. 

For girls, your names made me think of Ohana or Paloma or Marin or Geneva – or maybe Elin or Leda or Anya. I’ve been trying to stay short because that’s what you seem to like, but I saw Romilly and thought that suited you so well – does it spark anything in you? What about Juno or Una or Anaïs? 

Look, even among the 20-odd names I just threw out, there are things to debate that might not feel right, or that make you wonder, but there comes a point where the plusses and minuses of every name have to take a bit of a backseat relative to how much you love the name and the feel of wanting to say it all the time, and wanting to raise a person with that name. 

I can’t wait to hear what you choose, which I know will be the right name. You know it too. Go do it.