Hi Duana, we are expecting our second (and definitely last) child this summer. While our daughter's name came about easily- Evangeline Marian (goes by Evie most of the time)- things haven't been so easy coming up with a name for #2, a little boy.

Right now Gabriel is our frontrunner, but we're worried it might be a little too matchy-matchy with Evangeline, since Evangeline and Gabriel were the lovers from the epic poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. I mean, it's not as immediately recognizable as Romeo and Juliet or anything, but I know the poem is still on a lot of school curriculums in Canada, where we live. How big an issue do you think this would be?

Other considerations right now are Dashiell and Theodore but we're still sort of stuck on Gabriel as a front-runner. Middle name has already been decided, if that helps- Maximilian, after a beloved family member. 

Thanks a bunch!


Blanket statement – I HATE when people say things like “you worry too much” or “why are you wasting time on that?” or “That is not even a problem.” I’ve thought those things about other people, obviously, but if I’m ASKING you what you think, it’s because I am in fact worried and haven’t been able to dispense with my concern, okay? 

So I am telling you with my heart full and my eyes open that I have thought about your concern, understood it, and have with all the power vested in me decided wholeheartedly to reassure you that you can choose your names with utter impunity. 

Your invoking of school curriculum made me want to use the old essay format, but we’re all in a rush, so let me just get to my three points: 

Number One: Despite the fact that Longfellow is still well-known, this is not going to come up in casual conversation ever at all. Picture it – someone, adult or child, meets your kids, and says, “Oh, like in the poem!” “Pardon?” says someone who doesn’t already know this.  “Well okay, so you know Longfellow?” says person A. They are greeted with a blank stare.  “The poet? Paul Revere?” “Um, I’m having a high school panic attack,” says the second person, who obviously is not you. 

I can’t predict history, but I don’t think there’s a chance of Longfellow and his poems suddenly becoming much more popular than they are now, and anyone who recognizes the link between your kids’ names is going to be a deep, deep poetry nerd, in the best way possible. I don’t know whether there’s a scale for whether this is an obscure reference per se, but I know for sure that “He was the lover of Evangeline in the Henry Wadsworth Longfellow poem of the same name” is an $800 clue, no question. Maybe $1000 depending what the category is. We can discuss whether Jeopardy is getting too easy at another time.  

Number Two: Let’s say for the sake of argument that this poem is still being taught when your daughter is in high school, and let’s further say that she’s still using her (gorgeous!) full name at that point, and not shortening it to ‘Veenie’ or ‘Leen’ or something else that makes you crazy. Yes? 

No matter how old she is when this poem is introduced, and who her friends are, you will be protected by the following: 

There is nothing less cool than talking about your friends’ younger siblings, unless they are somehow famous or otherwise notable. And even then.

For someone to notice that Evangeline, in their class, is like the poem, is one thing. Half of them won’t, to be honest, and the other half will be named Henry and going “FINALLY, not another poet named William”. Absolutely nobody is going to look at your daughter and say, “Hey, isn’t your brother, who’s two-or-more years younger than us and therefore not necessarily even in the same school, named Gabriel?” I promise. 

Number Three: As for the reaction from your daughter (or your son, I’m leading with her because she’s the one who’s likelier to run into this first), she will likely barely notice, because = teenager, but if she does, and if she finds this horrifying, fair enough, but she will find so many things horrifying at this point that it’s only a matter of time before something comes to supplant it.  

I mean, to be fair (to be faiiiir) one or both of your children may be literary geniuses who run into this at 8 or 10 years old, but even so, by then they will be aware that there are other people with their names who don’t fit their same description – witness the number of people who have said to you/will say to her, “Ohhh, after Evangeline Lilly?” No, not after, you utter potato of a person! Plus, you’re right – this isn’t Romeo & Juliet, they’re not inextricably linked forever, and this isn’t going to follow them everywhere, or even to fourth period. I promise. 

Dashiell and Theodore are great names, but you love Gabriel. Good on you for considering this, but you can safely put it out of your mind. I’d say ‘let us know’, but… I think we know. So… thanks for your letter, and your well-named sibling pair to-be!