Hi Duana, 

My husband and I are expecting our first baby in late August. We have a boy's name nailed down - it will be Samson after my husband's late grandfather - but we are struggling to agree on a girl's name. We typically like more old-fashioned names that are still pretty sounding and ones that work equally well for a small baby or a grown woman. We originally both really liked Lucy but are worried it's becoming too popular. Some other ideas we have thrown around are Lydia, Lane, Elizabeth (too boring?), Sadie (too trendy?), and Josephine. My husband loves Sally but I'm not a huge fan. Last name is one syllable starting with "S". Would love to get your thoughts!

Thanks! K

See, this is why I’m so happy when people include names they chose for other kids or other genders, or even names they would use if they could but can’t. You can write ‘old fashioned but pretty sounding’ like a million other people, but telling me that you’re going to use ‘Samson’ for a boy helps a million, because it tells me the extent of names you’d be comfortable with. If I got this same letter but you were going to name your son ‘Phillip’, I’d have very different names to suggest. So, when trying to pin down your style – and noting that Samson (which I love!) is a choice because it was already in the family mix – I can give a lot better opinions on the girl names you’ve listed. 

In this context, Elizabeth is … not boring, per se, but not as exciting as some of your other choices. If we look at, say, Lydia as a pretty perfect analogous name to Samson (that is, it has the same known-but-not popular, charming-but-without-current-comparison qualities) and judge the others against it, then I’d say that Sadie and Sally both seem a bit nickname-y; plus you need to consider how you’ll feel if you have a girl named Sadie or Sally and then someday have a son to name Samson – will the same initial bother you? Not that it should, but it’s something to consider. 

I do love Lane, but should point out it’s by far the most gender-neutral name on your list; whereas Sadie and Sally are kicky and nickname-y, Lane is cool and a bit detached, in a way that’s different from your other choices. In that vein, you might also like Lara or Lena (there’s that The Fosters influence again), or Sasha or even something like Athena or Natasha, though I notice that, unlike most people’s lists of girl names, yours is, with the exception of Lydia, almost free of names that end in A, so … maybe you’d prefer Lilith? Too earthy? What about Leona or Leonora? I know you didn’t necessarily want a name with L, but since we’re in that corridor, I want to highlight some of these names that are regularly overlooked. I also came across slightly unusual but longer names that aren’t overly feminine that might appeal – what about something like Holland, or Arden? 

So I hear your point on Elizabeth, but I should also point out that I don’t think Josephine is for you, for a very arbitrary-science reason: in my anecdotal experience, people who love this name tend to love it to distraction, as in there’s no debate about it versus any other. That doesn’t have to be true, of course, but it’s different enough from most ‘classic & current’ names, with its ‘-ine’ ending and clear origin of being from Joseph, that it doesn’t often win out as a ‘maybe’. I could be wrong, and will probably get a slew of letters saying “we thought about it, but then…” 

So with that in mind, some other longer, classic-but-neglected options under the same banner as Samson include Genevieve, (which I’ll confess is a favourite of mine,) Anastasia, which might satiate your husband’s affection for an ‘s’ name, Cordelia (which really should be more popular than it is – I can’t imagine Buffy the Vampire Slayer had that much ill-effect on it, though I say that as a Cordelia Chase devotee …but what else is keeping people away? Is it just the dourness of King Lear?) or Cosima, or Cecily? Or maybe you’d like something like Lucille, or even the indomitable but still super-charming Katherine.

Can’t wait to know how this one turns out, and really like the directions you’re going in! This is going to be a lucky and well-named kid, no matter what. Let us know!