Duana, I'm desperately seeking your sage advice. Having read your fascinating book (and every single one of your name blog posts), I feel like I'm slightly more equipped to handle naming my still-yet-to-be-named little one. But with only a month, and the gender to be determined at time of delivery, I am freaking out a little because nothing screams THE ONE.

When naming my son, we struggled because we wanted something that sounds timeless and, I guess you can say, weighty, but also rare. Like very rare. For some reason I had it in my head to give my child a name that is not in the top 1,000. So we decided on Corbett. Now in anticipation of number two, and not knowing the gender, this has gotten infinitely harder. For a girl, we've toyed with Genevieve (is this name getting too popular?) and Thea (or Theia -- opinion on the extra "i"? Also opinion on pronunciation? THEE-ah or Thay-ah?) But while Genevieve and Corbett sound like they could "fit", both being of British origin, Thea/Theia definitely leans more Greek/Greek mythology. For boys, the only name I like is Zechariah (how cute is the nickname Zek?), a Hebrew name that sounds wildly different from Corbett! You'd tell me if the two names absolutely don't go together, right?? On top of that, people on baby name forums are saying that they've seen a rise in baby girls being named Zechariah (often with "feminized" spelling derivations), but I'd only want to name a boy that name and I'm scared it will fall into the next wave of boy-names-as-girl-names like "Ashley" or "Madison" or "Emerson".

Still, nothing so far elicits a resounding YES, so we're stumped.

Please help!
- E


The glory of the internet is that it made communities out of people who, up until then, had just been people, with weird interests. I didn’t make up the term ‘Name Nerd’, but there are hundreds of us, and I love the communities that have sprung up around us. Nameberry and Appellation Mountain and BabyNameWizard and all the others you’ve heard me mention.

But there’s a funny thing that happens that you need to be aware of, and that is that these self-confessed Name Nerds are Different. If you’re One Of Us, you know this too. We’re different. We think about different names. We get bored of the same old, same old. We’re constantly looking for the next hit. We need bigger, bolder, different. The names I wonder about being ‘overdone’ are often names that people in my non-name life have literally never heard on real, non-storybook people. That’s great – I like it that way – but let’s be real. There are name nerd trends, and real people trends. There are names that are legitimate surprise popularity jumps, and there are those that never launch.

But nowhere is there an uptick in Zechariah so large that it’s going to become a girl’s name along the lines of Ashley, Madison, and Emerson. I promise you.

I can see this being the tweet they play on CNN when talking about my ultimate downfall. “She was wrong about this one name… and then she was wronger. And wronger. AND WRONGER.” But I’m willing to go ahead and say I’m sure about it. It doesn’t sound the same as other names that are headed that way, and it’s not straight-popular enough on its own, as a variant of a biblical favourite. I’d be more likely to say Zachary would go this way, even though that’s not likely either.

As for whether it goes with Corbett? It’s… seriously debatable.

I mean, it’s so unlike Corbett that it almost balances it out, actually. One is all consonants and the other’s all vowels, and it’s about equally rare. It’s not like one is called Corbett and the other is called Charlie, or Karen.

Butttt, in terms of style, they’re quite different. One sounds like the son of a senator/second-tier 09’er on Veronica Mars, and the other is a Brooklyn Yupster Kid, whose parents are losing it over whether to send him to St. Ann’s or the Little Red Schoolhouse. (What? I have to make my internet procrastination pay off as research somehow…)

I have to admit that the more I say them together the more I like them… but I have a hard time with them as siblings, since it seems as though they might be seen differently. However, if you’re reading this and thinking, “No! here’s all the ways those two names are similar!”, well then, go ahead… they’re both beautiful names.  Otherwise, you might think about names like Hector or Zane or even something like Gideon? They’re not too similar, but have a little bit of common DNA?

As for girls’ names – the funny thing about them is, maybe partially because of all the women we’ve come to know in literature, I think they often seem more ‘placeless’ than boys’ names do. Specifically, Greek girls’ names are very popular, in the Chloe-Phoebe-Naomi vein, though Thea is more rare than Theo, nobody’s thinking of either as particularly Greek, and the spareness of the name does lend itself to Corbett. You do get a little further into ‘oh where is that from’ as you venture into Theia, which I’d say is very likely to be misspelled, or even Thalia/Talia, if those were interesting to you, but they’re known and used in Anglo circles, and while they speak, again, to a style shift – Corbett is almost postmodern, part of the surname trend – they’re not going to be seen as unusual, cultural-origin wise.

Similarly… you don’t need me to point out that Genevieve is French, right? I know it’s sometimes pronounced ‘Gen-a-veev’ but of course its origin is “zhan-vee-ehvvv”.  Still totally usable, of course, but I just wanted to be clear about what we’re talking about. If you love it but feel tripped up by that, you can really mess with people’s expectations by calling her one of my favourites (which I think I recommend all the time, but which I don’t think is actually having an effect on anyone), Geneva. 

Or what about Cordelia or Flavian or Newton or Maurice or Phaedra? Would you take me seriously if I suggested Ptolemy?

Let us know!