Hi Duana,

Long-time listener, first-time caller! We're expecting baby 2 in two weeks  - the first was a boy and this one's a girl.

My husband's last name is quite long/Slavic and starts with an O. So we're looking for names that don't jar with this - probably avoiding any names ending in "a" though willing to be persuaded!


We're pretty settled on Silvie for the first name. We like that it's a name that pops up in various forms in lots of cultures and countries, that it has a slightly hidden nature/hippie meaning and that it feels like it would be equally suited to a child and a grown-up. One of the few "ie" ending names with a certain amount of gravitas, IMO.

Somehow though, we haven't found any middle name that we can agree on or that feels right, though you'd think it would be so much easier.

My husband likes "Joan", which I initially liked as well - an understated retro cool and lots of good namesakes. But I haven't quite fallen in love with the whole name. Maybe because Silvie Joan feels almost like a cutesy hyphenated name. I also think I don't want to throw away the chance to make the middle name more special or even a bit weird - I mean, why not?

I loved Silvie Hildegard, Silvie Sigrid, or maybe even Silvie Lake. Largely very European/Germanic/Scandi names with hard consonants. Husband not keen on those though. Would love suggestions for other names that are a bit more special (and maybe longer) than Joan but perhaps less weird than Hildegard!

Would love to hear some suggestions or new ways of thinking about this - feels like time is running out and would hate to settle just because!

I’ve never said it in so many words but obviously, I agree with people not including their surnames in this column unless they’re relevant (using a first name as a last, or including a particularly hilarious rhyme…). We don’t choose them, we can only work with them, etc. 


But it does mean that when people give me hints of what their names are, I just fill in the blanks – in this case, I’m going to go with Oleksiak, as in Canadian swimmer Penny Oleksiak, and imagine your whole family as a group of committed hard-core breast-strokers and front-crawlers, okay? 

I’m excited by your name choice of Silvie. I agree with you that it’s one of the ‘ending-in-ie-names’ that feels finished, somehow – maybe because it’s not shortened from a longer name we know of, so you have my hearty endorsement! 

But I also agree that Silvie Joan Oleksiak seems… foreshortened, somehow. I think it’s partly because short names like Joan/Jean/Jane, along with Lynn, Sue, and Marie, have historically been used as catch-all middle names, less chosen for style or homage than as a literal stopper to keep the first and last names from bumping into each other. That doesn’t mean those names can never feel intentional, but in conjunction with Silvie, I understand why you’re feeling like it’s truncated. 

In fact, I’d caution you away from shorter names in general – not that I don’t love Lake or Sigrid, but I think you have the opportunity to go longer, as you did with Hildegarde – but you can have solid consonants without also feeling like you can’t allow yourselves any sort of softness or lyrical-ity. 


That is, I immediately thought of Silvie Millicent, or Silvie Genevieve, or Silvie Jacqueline. As you say, it’s the middle name, so why not go longer and decorative? But I know you want names that are arguably a bit more outside the box than this; so I would say, since (as I often point out) the middle name is largely for writing, and rarely for saying, with a surname, I wouldn’t be afraid of vowels at the end. Silvie Andromeda is calling to me, and so might Silvie Marcella, or Silvie Seraphina, which I love because of the alliteration and because Seraphina is unquestionably a lot of name, but also it deserves a day out once in a while!

Silvie Veronique? Silvie Zenobia? Silvie Ophelia, so her initials are SOO? I really do think the sky is the limit here but if you want further guidance, I’d recommend checking on ‘weird’ initials that don’t get much play – N, B, R, etc – and thumbing through some of your favourite books from childhood if you need inspiration, or even look into Greek myths, ancient ghost stories, wherever. Silvie Athena? Silvie Adelaide? Silvie Lorelai? (Oooh!) On that note, I’d also throw in a couple of my favourite long-but-rares: Silvie Henrietta or Silvie Wilhelmina would both be kind of beyond gorgeous, don’t you think? 

If you call her Silvie Bathsheba I would appreciate a tweet directly from the delivery room, thanks in advance, lol. Good luck, and let us know!