Dear Duana,

Guess how many people in this world have the surname Lee? Over 100 million people, and my partner for life is one of these Lees. We are expecting twin girls at the beginning of March, but are at risk of delivering sooner due to a high risk pregnancy, and we are faced with finding not one, but two names that roll off the tongue landing gracefully, while avoiding a pronunciation collision course, with Lee (e.g. Julie Lee and Frank Lee). 

We’re also a Korean couple from Catholic families and to please the elders on both sides, the structure of the twins names will consist of an English name, a baptismal name, a Korean name, and finally the surname Lee. My instinct is telling me that to tackle this name structure successfully lies in architecting the right English name, and so I have taken over the reins, ‘kindly’ asked my partner to move to the back of the car, and picked up my BFF to be my co-driver for this mental drive.

Of course picking the first twin’s name was easy; we all embraced the name Astrid, a cool, strong, gender-neutral name for a girl, and not to mention a character on Crazy Rich Asians. How can you not love this name? We have brainstormed a handful of complementary names to Astrid.  Artemis (nickname: Arti or Missy), Amalia (nickname: Mia), Eleanor (nickname: Ele and a CRA character), Aminta (nickname: Minty and also a similar name on CRA), and Isadora (nickname: Isa) — but none of these names make us swoon like Astrid. We are lost Duana and turn to you, can you please suggest a name, matchy-matchy or clashy-clashy, that will make us swoon again?

Many Thanks!


OK, among all the other things that are great about this question… sometimes people ask me, entirely understandably, to obscure certain parts of their letter for the sake of privacy and anonymity.  But in your case, the anonymity is necessarily kind of baked in – to your point, about 100 million times over. 

So I appreciate precisely why finding names that are, in your words, swoon-worthy, is of such importance. I also really appreciate that you see me as your BFF! That’s what you meant, right? When you said your BFF was co-driver, you meant me? 

I jest, but I get it, especially since having to come up with two names of the same sex is necessarily playing the game on Hard Mode, you need to get all the input you can.  Here’s what you’ve done right: you’ve found (or ‘architected’, a word I’m stealing immediately) a name you love, that has a million great associations, sounds, and places to go. Astrid. It’s objectively amazing, it feels good to say it, and with your last name, it checks off all your boxes. Well done. 

Here’s what you’re now not doing right: in searching for the second name, in finding one that makes you as happy and satisfied and proud, you are literally trying to replicate Astrid, and coming up short because… they’re not Astrid. What you should be doing instead is trying to partner it.  

You see what I mean, right? Araminta and Artemis and Eleanor all have similar qualities to Astrid, and maybe even would be chosen by other people who are considering Astrid… but once you’ve chosen Astrid, the best all those other names can be is ‘almost as good’, you know? They’re also-rans, or else you would have chosen one of those in the first place. 

What I think you want to do instead is find a name outside of that area entirely that feels worthy of standing up to Astrid, to being an equal partner to her – and my immediate thought on where to begin was at the end. Literally. 

That is, Astrid is a Trojan horse of a name because it starts off seeming ethereal and star-based, but it actually lands firmly. There’s no wishy-washy ending, it’s definitive and unusual, and it’s going to anchor all the other names behind it. 

So a partner name, to me, starts in the place Astrid stops, something that’s super-strong at the beginning, and maybe gets lighter afterward. And I actually thought that ‘D’ was a good place to start – a hard consonant right at the beginning allows for a lighter ending. 

For example, my first thought was that a balance for Astrid was something like Delilah. It’s strong at the front, but light and beautiful at the back. Astrid and Delilah is kind of like music together – you need both parts, but each is as strong and definitive as the other.  

That said, some people don’t like the biblical associations, so you can go with a lot of other options. Davina is underused for how beautiful it is, as are Daria and Danica;  you could go with something like Delphine if you wanted both names to end in a consonant sound, though I don’t think that’s obligatory. Djuna is another one that works in this comparison too – and, because I know you like nicknames, you could go with something longer, like Dominique or Dorothea, if you want to have an excuse to shorten it. 

Obviously this mechanism works with other initials, too – for example Cressida comes to mind as a strong pairing for Astrid; they share a lot of the same sounds/letters, but are completely their own creations. Cordelia falls into this category too, and the concept works even if they don’t share a lot of letters. Astrid and Juniper, Astrid and Mirabel, Astrid and Bryony. All of them have their stronger sounds at the beginning, to balance Astrid’s stronger sounds at the end. 

Now, if you think they all sound too harsh, if you’re craving some vowels, I think you can do that – the key is to still have something in the name to ‘hang onto’, and I think the names you were debating, with vowels at the beginning, middle, and end, don’t have enough of that. But it’s not hard to find names that do. Astrid and Naomi, for example, comes to mind. Lots of vowels to balance Astrid’s consonants, but there’s still a definitive ‘feel’ and personality to Naomi that’s all its own (give or take your tolerance for the way ‘Naomi Lee’ sounds, which is also what kept me from suggesting the otherwise perfect Daphne in the ‘D’ section). Or you could go with Sabrina (whereas Serena seems too weak by comparison), Philippa, Geneva (I have a weakness for this name and I think it would be spectacular with Astrid) or even Jessamine. 

Finally, if you’re devoted to the idea of a ‘floaty’ A-name, I’d suggest you find one that has as much grounded grit in the middle as possible. I rejected a number of them for sounding too airy beside the quiet confidence of Astrid, but Allegra is one that has enough structural integrity to stand beside her – and it will always have a musical/balletic association for me, and for many people, despite the vocal minority who insist on emailing me that it’s the name of an allergy medication in the US, which… and? 

I love the task you have in front of you, and I can’t wait to see what you choose. Just remember that, in names as in life, Astrid deserves a partner, not a shadow, and you’ll be in great shape. 

Please let us know! 

Love your BFF,