Dear Duana,

I have been reading your name column since it started and even almost wrote in when my sister was expecting. We are unexpectedly expecting our second child early this Spring almost eight years after our first.  

For our first, my husband insisted that our son's name be a classic name and it couldn't be spelled 'weird'. We ended up with Matthew. I'll admit that I don't love it but I'm relatively happy with its lack in current popularity (he's never the only Matthew in his school but always the only in his class) and with the less common nickname of Math for him. 


 I was convinced this time around we were expecting another boy and was pleased we easily agreed to Patrick or Vincent. So of course this go around it is a girl and we can agree on NOTHING. My husband has thrown out Emlyn (which I still believe he made up), Reagan (he spelled it Reegan) and Nora. I am a little shocked, to say the least, at the direction he is going this time. The only one of those three I even marginally like is Nora and it just doesn't feel like the name of my daughter.  

This is an issue I have been having regularly with suggestions provided by my husband or other random family members or friends. A name may be perfectly nice but giving it to MY daughter is a different story. With that said, I think I have narrowed down what I want in a name but I'm having trouble coming up with an actual name. I would like it to sound like Matthew's sibling, be longer so it can be shortened, not be frilly, and be at least two syllables. The harder part is that it has to go with our last name (plural form of the African jungle cat spelled like the French city).  

Names I liked that he nixed are Ryan, Blythe, Vivienne and Roslyn/Rosalie. Names we may have agreed on but are too similar to family members are Juliette, Jocelyn, Elizabeth, Elliott, Danielle. We both kind of liked Caroline but it didn't sound good with our last name.

My husband is sick of talking about it already and is really sick of people suggesting and providing comments. Any help in reaching a decision would be great. While we have time, I'm nervous with the lack of progress our little girl may be coming home nameless.  

I would like to begin with a bulletin: to those of you who would read this and say “wait, this says she’s due in EARLY spring” – it is currently 3 degrees Celsius/37 Fahrenheit in Toronto. I think it’s safe to say that spring has not arrived, and that the letter writer’s baby can surely sense that, okay? 

On to the topic at hand… it’s always the way, isn’t it? There’s one name you both agree on from jump, you’re just counting the days until you can unite your darling baby with the absolute perfect name, and then… 

I mean, in your case ‘and then…’ is that the name doesn’t fit with the sex of your baby, but obviously ‘and then my cousin used the name’ or ‘and then my mother said she hated it’ are also contenders here. 


So I think what we have to do here is to find the path that makes you happiest, without wondering about whether the name that lights up your amygdala also fits your theoretical criteria. Because the thing is, usually when you go purely on what you love, you’ll find your itemized list of musts is either satisfied – or no longer matters. 

First of all, Math! I’m sure there have been other Matthews with this nickname but I never met any, and have to applaud your creativity here! I definitely agree, though, that the names your husband is entertaining in the Emlyn and Reagan corridor seem way too modern, comparatively. And, lest you think I’m piling up on him, I would say the same for Ryan and Elliot – in a situation where your son has a very traditionally male-coded name, I don’t think your daughter can also have a traditionally male-coded name. It would be different if your son’s name was more modern or gender neutral, but as it is it’s going to feel weirdly off-balance, you know? 

For our purposes I think you should continue in the corridor of Juliette, Jocelyn, Rosalie, Vivienne – longer names, first of all, and names that could be considered traditional, but not common. I’ll also point out that you really favour names that don’t end in vowel sounds, which may be why Nora doesn’t feel like your daughter, and I would also venture might cover some of the names suggested by ‘random family members or friends’ (the shade in that sentence!). I also feel it’s entirely possible to do this without being ‘frilly’, but I want you to keep an open mind. Ready? 

The first name that popped to mind was Constance – I like the gravity of it and it’s sure to be rare. And before you or any reader tells me they don’t like ‘Connie’ you can nickname Constance Stana or Tansy or even Stacey, if you felt so inclined; if anyone knows this, it’s you guys! (Math. I’m still not over it!) You might also like Frances or Esther or Celeste… all those great S and T sounds. 

If you love shorter names, what about Blanche or Helen? If you crave unusual sounds, maybe Ingrid or Astrid – ooh, or Maude? I think I suspect those are going to feel a little spare for your tastes, so if I’m right, you could think about Delphine, or Millicent, or Celestine, or Giselle; opinions will vary on whether or not those are ‘frilly’, but I want to point out that eschewing frills doesn’t have to mean eschewing a certain kind of spark in the name. 


I’ve been wanting to suggest Genevieve but worry you’ll feel it’s a bit extra relative to Matthew – if you do, you could pivot towards names like Iris or Olive or Violet, which somehow never seems as… you know, floral… as other flower names. This could be because I absolutely think of the name relative to Rainbow Brite, where I first heard it, but that’s a digression for another time. 

Hazel or Alice or even Beatrice seem like they could really work in your favour – and if all else fails, I wonder whether you might find joy in the beautiful, sophisticated, spare, cool, simple… Jane. 

Look, you’ve already proved you can reinvent a name that might have seemed like there was nothing new in it, so I’m not worried about your creating a perfect combination of sleek, stylish, and traditional yet currently uncommon. I want you to trust your ability to do it again. 

Let us know!