Hi Duana!

I'm so excited to be writing you this email. One of my closest friends is pregnant after a long journey to get here, and she's having a little girl a few weeks after I do too! She's having a really hard time picking a name and since she knows I'm obsessed with your column, she asked me to write in on her behalf to get some naming advice. 

First of all, she feels like it's important you know her last name, Akins (pronounces ache-ins). She feels like her last name is SUPER southern sounding if you pronounce it with a southern accent. She is from the south but lives in a big city in the northeast US and doesn't really identify with the southern vibes that her last name gives off, so she'd like to have "a first name that balances out the country-ness" of the last name. 

Here are some other stipulations: Doesn't want it to be the most popular name, but something not too out there. Can pass your "supreme court justice" test. Nothing too long or complicated to spell. Sounds good with the middle name Mae (family name). Perks would be that it is has a good meaning or is the name of an inspiring woman from history.

Names her and her husband like: Ada, Nora, Eleanor. Names just her husband likes: Madelyn, Adeline, Florence. Names just she likes: Quinn, Talia, Alder, Emeline. 

It should be noted also that between their first names, her brother's name, and a family pet name basically every single prominent Kennedy family member is covered (think John, Bobby, Ted, Jacqueline, etc). So nothing too political!  

Thanks for your help!



You know, this letter did not play out the way I expected – I thought for sure from the first paragraph that this was going to be about how you both wanted to use the same name, so you (both) get extra points for surprising me. 

You also get points for pointing out that she feels her name sounds super-Southern – I can understand it, but if it hadn’t been pointed out, I wouldn’t ever have clocked it… and I suspect you wouldn’t have either. But that’s why names are so personal to the people who actually wear them, you know? 

My biggest reaction to the name isn’t the ‘southern-ness’ of it, but the shortness. Combined with family middle name ‘Mae’, I think it needs something lengthy to balance it out so it doesn’t feel too… I don’t know, cutesy or pat? For this reason as well as sound-alikes, I’d definitely eliminate Ada – and Nora, actually. “Nora Akins” doesn’t allow for any break in between; I’m actually more inclined to her husband’s choices, even though ‘Adeline Akins’ has a rhythm that makes me think of a Reese Witherspoon character…. who am I thinking of? ‘Emmeline Akins’ doesn’t have the same effect, so that works but I think I’m ready to say we don’t want a name that ends in a vowel sound. Julia Akins? No. Emily Akins? No. But Micheline Akins, sure. Claudette Akins – absolutely. 

Obviously looking for names that end in consonants can send us toward French-inspired names, but they also have the benefit of perhaps implying a wide geographic influence: Evelyn would work, though it’s coming up in popularity, as would Nadine or Elise or Louise or Margot, or even Katherine, in homage to her best friend…!  

If for some reason French names are not the thing, there are others that will work. One Gaelic name I really wish got more play is Roísín – pronounced ‘RoSHEEN’ – and even though I know that’s a headache, there are enough people who know how to read and pronounce ‘Siobhan’ by now, aren’t there? Maybe that’s one for them? 

My go-to Celeste works here, as do names like Juniper or Harper. And actually, you could do a name ending in a vower if there were a lot of hard consonants up front – Vanessa Akins works, for example; Penelope Akins is even better. Ginevra Akins? Sure. Cordelia Akins. Wilhelmina Akins. But they’re still a little harder to land on confidently than Lisette Akins. Camille Akins. Evangeline Akins – or even Adelaide, instead of Ava. 

I should say that Lainey is about to be your biggest fan, because I can hear her marveling “she didn’t mention her own baby name once!”  -- when you write in to update, you can feel free to tell us not only what your friend named her baby but what you chose, too! 

Thanks for the surprise – can’t wait to hear how it shakes out!