Hi Duana! I'm a name nerd and love your column I'm such a name nerd I never thought I'd have trouble coming up with one myself, but now that the time is actually here nothing has that spark for us and we're stumped. We're due with our second and have about a million girls names but need a boy name.

For context, our daughter is Louisa Mary. Classic, easy to pronounce and everyone recognizes it but it's not so popular. So what's the male equivalent of this? We love the idea of using a family name, so contenders are Francis, Bertram, and Richard, but those all seem like such old man names, is that too much to saddle a kid with? My favorite boys name is probably Beau but my husband doesn't like it. The closest we've gotten is August, but is it too trendy? Our remaining girl names are Rosalind and Georgia. We are open to weird nicknames.

Thanks so much!


Thank you so much, parents of Louisa Mary and brother to come, because your letter gave me a wake-up call, possibly one I should have had a long time ago, but here we are. 

I was reading along, going ‘yep, cute name, okay, boy names, not old-man particularly, but okay, right right’ and then got to the line where you write 

The closest we’ve gotten is August, but is it too trendy? 

I have no issue with what you wrote here, but I realized where names are concerned, we’ve stopped using ‘trendy’ to mean ‘part of a current trend’, and more as a blanket statement for all of the ‘new’ names we’re now considering.  It’s part of a subcategory where I’d also place names like Ezra and Georgia and Maeve, and I’d name it ‘names that were around, but still not ever ‘popular’, when my great-grandparents were growing up.’ 

I think as we go further into the art and science of naming, people are starting to feel like they need some specific ‘reason’ to choose a more offbeat name, and when they can’t think of a category to put the names in, like ‘classical’ or ‘Italian crossover names’, or when the name doesn’t appear in the family tree, they wonder if they’re being poseurs. 

You’re not. You can choose anything you want. Names are like colours, and everyone has a kind of arbitrary favourite. Now yes, if you walk around saying your favourite colour is vermillion, or chartreuse, someone might think you’re a bit extra, but that’s not what we’re focusing on here. It’s more that when you walk around and actually see some art or item of clothing that has that colour in it, you get that little extra thrill. 

Does August give you the thrill? 

Do Francis or Bertram or Richard? For the record, I don’t think any of those are ‘too much to saddle a baby with’, especially when you see what kids are being named today – it’s my old refrain, of course, but why is Bertram any different than, say, Callum?

I do think, though, that the idea of family names has kind of been warped a bit. Some families have to include a family name because tradition, no matter what; some, like you, love the idea of doing it. But you can’t give your kid a less-than-awesome name that you don’t love just because the options on the family tree are slim pickings. In fact, why not think of the name you’re giving him as fodder for future generations? 

The names that come to mind in the sort of vintage and style that you like are things like Clarence, Gilbert, Reuben, Wesley – what I might call ‘gumshoe names’, because you could envision them all being protagonists in detective novels in the 1930s and 40s. I’d also include Clive or Rupert or even my beloved Lionel, though I’ve tried to stay away from L names in case you don’t want alliteration with Louisa. Maybe even something like Marvin (which I’ve always slightly preferred to Martin)? 

Outside of that category I think you might like Abraham or Bartholomew or Frederick or hey – how about Eugene? Names we know, but that haven’t been overdone, now or at any other time, are going to be the ones that suit you best, and I may be over-fluffing myself, but I hope, and imagine, you feel a sense of relief in giving yourself permission to choose one of them, family and trends and everything except your delight at saying the name be damned. 

Let us know!