Hi Duana, 
I need some help! I am pregnant with my first child, a boy. For the last couple of years my go-to boy name has been Noel, pronounced the English way, like 'knoll'. While I have been very open to other names and have narrowed down a list to about 5-6 other possibilities, it's the one I keep going back to. 
I haven't pushed it hard yet on my husband because I don't sense that he loves it, and we still have time to decide. However I know that the pressure to choose will increase as we get closer, and I could use some help to try and convince him it's a good name. I would really love any convincing thoughts on the name from you (if you think it is a good choice?) to help persuade him, if it comes to that! 
Conversely, I am still open to other names I maybe haven't thought of - if you have any recommendations similar to Noel (I like more classic names, and my husband seems to think a boy's name needs a short-form - he has even thrown back we name him 'Nolan' and call him 'Nole' or some spelling of it for short, which I really don't love as much as straight-up Noel). My two current runner-ups are Francis and Daniel (maybe Frankie/Frank or Dan for short, for my hubby?) I also really like Harrison/Harry. 
The middle name will probably be Peter (a family name), and my husband's (and baby's) last name is Irish, starting with 'McC'. 
Thanks so much in advance for your help :)   


You guys have heard me talk about how I choose the letters I answer in what sequence, it’s a science but also an art. And I love this letter for a few reasons, but maybe it came up today because I just got off the phone with my mom, who, as I think I’ve talked about before, is a bit of a Gaelic name Truther. Love you, mom.

Noel still has the feeling of being a little bit different and surprising, but when it comes down to it, it’s only one letter off from Joel. I have known a few Joels in my time (as well as a couple of Noels) and as far as I can see, they don’t usually take a nickname. That is, I’m sure there are guys named Joel – or Noel – who go by their surnames or nicknames acquired in college or whatever, but they’re not Joey or Jojo or whatever, they’re Joel.  Like the names Claire, or Dirk, or Shane… they are what they are. It may or may not be for you, but they’re really meant to stand alone.
This makes a name like Noel the kind of name that belongs to a confident person – someone who doesn’t need decoration or cuteness tacked onto his name. Who is who he is, and stands in that pretty happily. Other names like this include Cole. Grant. Isaac. Kirk. I’m sure there are people who can tell me about times when people with these names had nicknames, but it’s not very common or instinctive for people, so they often remain as they are. Which is kind of cool, don’t you think? People hear the name, get it, and understand – no matter where he is, as a 5 year old or a 50 year old, Graham is Graham. Drake is Drake (sorry, but it’s true – it’s a good name!). Noel is Noel, no matter what situation, which friends he has, or who loves him. 
Francis and Daniel definitely read as more ‘traditional’ to me, not only because they have built-in nicknames, as you point out, but because they’re much more standard-issue, in history and literature and the neighbourhoods you grew up in. You know parents and grandparents who have had them, even if they’re not your own.

The first name that came to mind as being rarer than those but still more familiar is a name like Simon – give or take your tolerance for ‘Si’, I guess. If you think the first-syllable nickname is a given, not just a possibility, then Gavin might be up your alley – ‘Gav’ sounds affectionate when it is used, but doesn’t stand up to every-day-all-day deployment, so you’ll still hear the full name Gavin used more often than not. Griffin falls into that same category – ‘Griff’ will organically happen sometimes, but not all the time, if that’s what you want. 
Still, I think you’re right that Noel has a specialness all its own, and I think it may suffer from the pop culture characters being pretty singularly known – give or take how much overlap there is between Oasis fans and Felicity fans. Other names that ring that bell – which isn’t the same as the one-syllable no-nickname bell – are names like Odin or Callum or Heath. No interpretation necessary. Remember the family who named their kid Yeats? I went back to that column and still like the suggestions of Farley and Clive…
This is a curious one. A lot of people write to me asking whether they should go with, like, Rain or Elizabeth… and generally speaking I know there’s a 3-to-1 chance they’re going to go more traditional on the spectrum. But the names you like aren’t zany or outside the box – they’re just slightly different from choices your partner thought you’d make – which means I think you have a really good chance of making it clear that it’s actually a great, stylish choice that you will probably both love for years to come. 
Let me know!