Hi Duana,

We really need your help.

Our daughter is due in less than 2 weeks and my husband and I are at an impasse. We are desperate and I’m frustrated, because we have not been able to agree on a name despite being in complete agreement on style -- uncommon, “strong”, not overtly feminine, ending in a consonant. So I’ve concluded that we interpret these traits very differently. My “uncommon” is his “too rare/one of a kind” or “a TV name”. My not overtly feminine is his “made-up name”.  


Our current list consists of names I've suggested and he has vetoed. I've listed his veto rationale after each: Meredith (Grey's Anatomy), Maeve (Sinbad character), Merritt (made up), Maren (family friend), Beatrix (Harry Potter), Iris (no major objections), Astrid (easy nickname fodder), Isla (no major objections) and Imogen (made up).

He has proposed Elizabeth, Caroline and Eleanor (Nora). I have vetoed because I find them dull. 

My clear and uncontested first choice is Meredith. It was my first choice for our now-toddler (who is Margo). While he has repeatedly claimed that everyone will associate her with Grey’s Anatomy (I can’t…), it does appear that my husband is coming around to it.

But I’d love to find something that isn’t a compromise. So I’m hoping you can help us breathe some new life into our stale list.

Other pertinent details: we’d like the middle name to be Ruth (if it works) and last name is a three-syllable Polish name*.

If we do end up with Meredith, does Ruth work as a middle name? Does it work with our long-ish last name? Can you tell I am spinning here??

Help! -A


You guys know I love starting these columns with some general musings before I ease into the actual advice directed specifically toward the letter-writer; in fact, it’s one of my distinct pleasures: talking about how names aren’t just a new-parent concern like swaddles or feeding schedules, and are instead a larger part of our cultural fabric, etc. 

But today we’re gonna have to f*ck all that. 


Look, A, I take great pains not to malign partners in this column because they’re not the ones writing in and so their concerns might not be fairly represented but… are we serious here? Your husband objects to a name because it’s a SINBAD CHARACTER?!?!

To clarify – we are not talking about Sinbad, the 1993-94 network sitcom starring the comedian of the same name. So I thought to myself, ‘maybe I’m being unreasonable here and this is a more recent production and it’s a bigger cultural association than I realize’. 

And in fact, that is true. See, Maeve is a character from The Adventures of Sinbad, a show that ran from 1996-1998. So, you know, WAYYYY different, I totally understand where he’s coming from … 

…no I don’t. In case my sarcasm isn’t clear here, refusing a name because it appeared on a show that went off the air TWENTY-TWO YEARS AGO is preposterous, and I know it’s only a two-word rationale in the middle of your whole letter, but it made me think your husband is so deeply out of touch on this topic that I’m not sure I can take his arguments seriously. You can give the following directly to him to read, if you like: 



Are you serious with this? Do you really not like these names or are you just using ‘I heard them once before’ as a reason to reject them? Because let me tell you, you’re not coming off terribly well-informed here, you know? Putting aside the billions of Elizabeths and Carolines and Noras that have been on TV (‘Nora’ was novel-ish for a baby when Parenthood chose to use it back in 2012…), your arguments are… not based in science, man! 

There is no Beatrix in Harry Potter. Are you saying it reminds you of Bellatrix? Merritt and Imogen are made up, I suppose, in the same sense that all names are made up – Shakespeare “made up” Imogen, along with Jessica, Olivia, and Miranda, so are those also not legit in your mind? 

Also, what makes a ‘TV name’ not a real name? Do you think we TV writers just sit around putting together syllables and calling them names? Do you think networks would let us get away with that? 

Look, I’m not trying to get in the way of your opinions – you’re absolutely allowed to like or not like as many names as you want, and how many are ‘permitted’ to be vetoed is between you and your partner. 

All I’m trying to tell you is that your rationale is truly flawed, and it’s getting in the way of your argument, you know? ‘Made up’ applies to pretty much every name going, including probably yours, unless it’s like, William. and even then I’d have my doubts.”


…I feel better. 

But you might not, so let’s actually get to your question and some alternatives for you. 

I think Meredith is gorgeous, and while some people might associate it with Grey’s Anatomy (at least that show is still ON THE AIR), there were millions of Merediths before and since. However, it’s worth noting that it’s a little similar to Margo (which I truly love) and that if you’re set on Ruth as a middle name, it’s not terrible, but it is a bit odd to have both names end in a ‘th’ sound – people do this, obviously, with all kinds of sounds, but the rarity of the ‘th’ makes it slightly more noticeable. 

So what are your other options? 

As a bridge between his not-that-uncommon choices and some of yours, you could think about names like Gillian (hard or soft ‘g’), Ingrid (sound-alike for Astrid without the nickname issue), Vivian or Rosamund or Bridget… basically, anyone who could be a secondary character in a postwar British girls’ boarding school novel. For that matter, Joan/Jean/Jane, all feasible in that scenario, are climbing back into popular consciousness, though I wouldn’t use them with Ruth unless you had some sort of connective tissue involved.

You could choose something French like Colette or Giselle or Celeste or Yvonne, something Ye Olde Name-ish like Gwendolyn or Primrose or Olive or Maude, Winifred or Juliet or Florence or Carmen or… ARIEL. Yes! I said it! I listed a name associated with a character! 


Look, I know. Maybe I’m making too much of this. But names of TV characters come from writers trying to create someone who seems like someone you could know, who doesn’t immediately make you go ‘huhwhatwho?’ unless that’s kind of the point (as in the case of Hermione Granger, whose name is rare enough that people commenting on it is a through-line through the entire series.) Otherwise? 

Don. Roger. Joan. Peggy. Betty. Pete. 

Walter. Jesse. Skylar. Hank. Gus. Todd. 

Phillip. Elizabeth. Stan. Paige. Henry. Martha.

Jay. Phil. Claire. Cameron. Mitchell. Hayley. Alex.

They’re just names, you guys! They don’t get covered in some kind of TV sparkle dust, and for everyone who immediately knows what the combinations of names above mean, there are three times as many people who read them and go ‘who?’, or who immediately think of the real people in their lives who bear these names. I promise that the 13% of people who associate ‘Meredith’ with Grey’s, virtually none of them is going to think of that association as a negative – and that percentage goes down exponentially for, you know, Maeve. You can choose a name you love in total peace and joy – and let us know! 

Sinbad. Honestly!