Dear Duana,

I'm a huge fan and have read your book and followed your column for years. Having said that, I never thought I'd be in such an indecisive position to actually require your assistance. But here I am, merely weeks away from welcoming our newest family member (sex unknown) and we are nowhere with names! Am I/we overthinking truly great names that will work perfectly for our child or have we just not considered THE one yet? I'm hoping you can help clarify.

Baby boy or girl will join Ruby Elaine and Theodore Charles. (Our little guy is pretty well exclusively referred to as Theodore. We're not militant about it and expect he'll one day become Theo or Teddy to many, but it hasn't really occurred to me to shorten his name so I guess others have followed my lead.) Their names suit them perfectly and we have absolutely no regrets. I'm hoping for a similar certainty this time around.

For number 3, we're looking for something that "goes" with both Ruby and Theodore while having its own vibe as well. I obviously want to avoid names in use in our own circle, but general widespread popularity of the name (within reason) isn't necessarily a dealbreaker.

Boys' names are particularly tough, but I think we've narrowed it down to a final four, each having at least one little issue that's holding us back from committing. Or maybe we're just overthinking it at this point? I think we need you to talk us into or out of these names and/or help us come up with something else entirely. I just feel stuck. Here's where we are now for boys:

Simon - I love, love, love this name! It's perfect and we'd lock it down today except... we already have a Theodore. Do we need to care that we'll likely have to endure two decades of "Where's Alvin?" jokes? Mostly I think it's a benign children's cartoon and the connection doesn't bother me, but does our last name mean it's all just way too Chipmunky? 

Arthur - My husband's only issue with this name is that he strongly dislikes both Art and Artie as nicknames. My argument is that people won't necessarily feel the need to shorten a two syllable name these days, but maybe I'm wrong about that? Also, while we adore the charming local Boston accent, that particular dialect definitely doesn't do the name Arthur any favors.

Angus - We love this one, but haven't gotten an enthusiastic response any time we've mentioned it and that gives me pause. Is it too hipster or something?

Edison - We both love it, but hubby worries about the Thomas Edison effect and the pressure for this kid to become some kind of genius. He fears that using this name is "as presumptuous as naming your kid Einstein".

What do you think? Are we overthinking this? Do we have a winner here? I'd love to hear your thoughts and other suggestions.

For girls' names, there are literally dozens that I love. But here's a short list of those at least somewhat approved by my husband too: 

Nova (too alliterative with our last name?), Eliza, Vera, Mona, Alice, Mary, Greta, Margot (if Theodore eventually becomes Theo, this is likely too similar an ending, right?), Hazel, Lucy (too similar to Ruby?). 

Is there a winner in here somewhere? Or are we overlooking the perfect name?

Thank you in advance for even considering helping to (possibly/probably) "put the period at the end of our sentence". We're truly stick and if you can set us on a better path, I will be eternally grateful!

P.S. My husband's last name (and the last name of our children) is N****e [Duana – think a Gryffindor with last name Longbottom]. It seems like a straightforward pronunciation to me it never gives us any problems at home in Canada, but we've frequently had people here in the Boston area pronounce it so that it rhymes with the last name Seville. Not a huge deal generally, but potentially relevant to my quandary...



If you’ve been reading these articles for a minute you know my general responses run along the lines of ‘Yes, you’re overthinking, no, nobody will make that comparison, no, most people don’t know that pop culture reference, yes, you should go with the name you love no matter what people think.’ Like, I’m not saying that’s all there is to writing this column, I just think people should feel freer, generally, than they do to choose what they know in their bones is right. 

I also think people know I occasionally edit for space or clarity, though I don’t usually have to, beyond condensing paragraphs (you guys LOVE a hard return, huh?), because I think all the info letter writers include is pretty relevant. 

But in this case, the PS above was actually originally at the top of the letter. I read it, noted it, and went on to read the rest of the letter – but after I did, I realized I had to put that bit at the end. 

10 points to Gryffindor if you know why…anybody? 

Here’s the thing – I love the names you’ve chosen, so much so that some have made it onto my personal list/progeny. I think you’ve done a stellar job of finding names that are in the same vein as Ruby and Theodore without stepping on their particular styles. And I have pointed out, when letter writers love names that are associated with fictional characters and worry about it, it’s because some writers are name nerds, and others just strive to use names that aren’t in the current parlance so their character stands out – Dexter is one that benefitted from this phenomenon (and yes, I know the book series came first). Pop culture nerds overlap a lot with name nerds, and nobody is going to call you out for using a name or names they know from a show, unless you’re actively using a Kardashian-style construction in a place it has no business. I haven’t met a MalKhom yet but I’m sure it’s coming.

But your top name is Simon, which is uncommon enough that a brother called Theodore is, yes, going to call to mind the Chipmunks sometimes, for those who know. In and of itself, I have no problem with this, to be honest. They’re both great names, they’re roughly of the same popularity scope, and frankly, of the people who recognize the link between the names, only a few will hear your kids’ names and break into song all “Ruby, Simon… Theodore!” Which, even if it was more than a few, isn’t exactly a problem.

In fact, there’s still no problem here – but when you pointed out the common mispronunciation of your surname, as in ‘Seville’, which of course is those Chipmunks’ last name… I mean, it’s still not a problem, but the combination of Chipmunk-esque factors may mean that the comparison comes up more than you’d otherwise expect, or that you’ll have a harder time shrugging and swearing you had no idea of the similarity. 

Again, this doesn’t actually matter. If Simon is your son’s name, it’s his name, and I would heartily endorse it, especially since I don’t think the name gets enough play! But if the link is going to bother you, I feel honour-bound to point out that there’s actually more like a triangle of similarities… lol. 
Your other choices have no such problems, if you can learn to love them as much. Arthur is very likely to stay Arthur, not only because nicknames are less commonly assumed these days (see above where you point out that your Theodore is… Theodore), and you will meet a whole bunch of Williams and Nathaniels and Benjamins on the playground who would never even turn around if someone called for Billy or Nate or Benji, but because the renewed popularity of the animated Arthur – and his delightful similarity to John Legend – means that’s how kids are going to refer to him, and we all know they’re the ones who really make the style choices in each others’ lives. 

I also love Angus on a deep level, and if people aren’t responding to it (which – you don’t actually care, right?) it may be because it hasn’t been re-adopted much yet but with August and Magnus and Gustave on the rise, I think it’s a matter of time, and you will seem super trendy and ahead of the curve here – not to mention how nicely it complements your other kids’ names. 

As for Edison – I was all set to pull out my usual “nobody’s going to think that” refrain, but because of the association with brightness and lightbulbs in particular, I can sort of see where your husband has a point; that said, he’ll also be arriving in an era of Samsons and Westons and Graysons, and so I don’t think ‘oh what a bright little bulb this is OR SHOULD BE’ will be more than a passing reference. I should point out, though, that Edison (and Simon, for that matter) may blend into your last name in a way that your other choices don’t. 

Which means that, where girls’ names are concerned, I don’t have a problem with Nova and the alliteration. In fact, in isolation I love all of your choices, though I would say that with so many excellent ones (Mona! Greta! Alice!), that yeah, you might want to leave Lucy on the table to avoid sing-song-iness with Ruby. If you like a longer form, and feel your kids are relatively free of nicknames unless self-imposed, then I would heartily endorse Lucinda or Lucille, and for that matter, ‘Ruby, Theodore and Margot’ doesn’t sound too rhymey at all – for all you know she’ll become Marge, or he’ll be Teddy, or it will be Ruby who starts calling herself Red, ‘as in Ruby Red slippers, Mum, God, OBVIOUSLY’ so I wouldn’t worry too much about similarities there. 

In short, you should choose what you love. If I had to pick today, I’d tell you to go with Simon and Greta, because I personally adore them  -- unless the Chipmunk factor has turned you off it altogether, in which case I would happily and without reservation sub in Angus instead, and be arguably even more thrilled. 

Ask a lengthy question, get a lengthy answer – and please, definitely let us know?