Hi Duana,

I'm due at the end of May but I have no idea what to name our baby if baby turns out to be a boy. This baby will be number 3 and likely our last. I already have a boy, age 3.5 (Theo, Theodore on official papers) and a girl, age 2, Fiona. Middle names for both kids start with J (and likely baby #3) are Chinese so any names starting with the letter "B" are out.

Girl names I like include: Zoe, Noelle, Joni. Hubby doesn't like Zoe because friends of ours have a dog named Zoe. Does that mean an automatic no?

The only boy name we can kind of agree on is Joel but I'm not completely sold.

Another problem I have is that hubby isn't keen on spending much time with names before baby is born because with our other two, we ended up throwing out all the names we had picked when baby was actually born. It took over a week for us to land on the other two names.

Any suggestions?


So I have a not-baby-anymore, and one of the most unexpected and… I don’t want to say ‘overwhelming’, but pervasive developments I didn’t expect is how well-versed I, and all parents, become in the various kids toys and TV they love to watch. I am fluent, against my will, in all kinds of shows of varying annoyance, so it’s even more special when a show isn’t so annoying. In particular, your letter made me think of a song from one of them:

Secret Agents on a Secret Mission
A Secret Agent slides into position

(sing it if you know it!)

Specifically, I thought this way because when you said your partner doesn’t want to spend time on names before the baby is born, I thought—you have an incredible opportunity to hoard a whole bunch of amazing names and just bring them out all “oh, I just thought of these!” Your baby is going to be the secret agent of already having a million names in your back pocket… and you can have a few sacrificial lambs to throw out and discuss before then, if you feel like the topic is going to come up.

I have to say, though, lest it seem like I’m conspiring against you with your husband, that I tend to agree with him about Zoe, with caveats. First of all, it depends hugely on how often you see those friends—and how often they mention their dog. If the dog comes up all the time by name, then you sometimes get into the situation where you’ll be saying, “Oh Zoe threw up”, and someone says “Dog Zoe or Human Zoe?” You never want your kid to have to be qualified as ‘Human …’, I think, and this doesn’t tend to happen with dogs named Pirate and Archimedes. It’s not that it makes it a not-good name, per se, but you’ll be annoyed the same way you would if you met other children with your kids’ names—it feels frustrating that they weren’t ‘first’. On the other hand, if it’s just a dog you know of who isn’t in your inner circle, I think you have a lot more latitude to shrug and choose Zoe.

I also think your misgivings are right, and Joel probably isn’t the fit. On the surface it looks like the names you like—it has an ‘O’ sound and it’s short and clever—but it is one of those names that can be swallowed and made to be less than it is (“Jole”, as opposed to the subtle but theoretically there “Jowell”) and also I wonder about the first and middle names both starting with J, although that hasn’t stopped tons of people, including those who are trying to get to the nickname ‘JJ’.

For boys, keeping that sound you like, I thought about Otis or Amos or Ambrose, or Hugo, depending on whether it sounds too close to Theo for your liking. You could go with something like Osian, which has Welsh roots and isn’t so far from Fiona—but the pronunciation of ‘Ocean’ might drive you crazy in its non-‘name’-ness (or the perception that it’s not a ‘real’ name). There’s also Noel, rather than Joel, or Niall if you want to go that route, or feel like the ‘o’ theme is a little too present… but I think you like it. Logan might be a bit too modern for you, but Holden or Tobin might not? Nolan?

Then of course if you want to stray away from that O sound, there are other short names that pack a punch like Troy or Clive or Arthur or Keith or Dean. Ned? Gideon?

As for girls, while I think you’re in better shape, some more options never hurt anyone, right? How about Ivy or Nora? Phoebe? Claire? I feel like Florence is too vintage for you, but you might like something like Liora? Eleni? Rory, even? 

The key here is to have them all ready to go, rank your favourites, and then ‘innocently’ launch an amazing-ass name when the baby is born, all ‘…this? I don’t know, I just thought of it off the top of my head!’

Let us know!