Hi Duana,

I never thought I would need to write to you asking for your help, but here I am: 8 months pregnant with my second boy and totally at a loss.

Our first, Magnus, is truly the perfect name - for us as a family and for him as an individual. We knew for years before we had him that should we have a boy, his name would be Magnus. My husband is Norwegian and we wanted our kids' names to be of that ilk. We did struggle with Magnus' middle name, but as life happens, the weekend I went into labour, our beloved dog Bear passed away and so we honoured Magnus' big brother by giving Magnus a middle name which means 'bear god' in Norwegian. We LOVE Magnus' name through and through. It actually brings my husband and I joy. 

Back when my husband and I day dreamed about our future kids, we imagined that if we had a Magnus, his little brother would be Gunnar and his little sister would be Saga. We still love Saga but are totally off Gunnar...and we are having another boy - hence our dilemma. 

Other first names that we like but are not sold on are: Viggo and Virgil. Of the two, we like Virgil the best (it's at this point that between Magnus, Saga, Viggo and Virgil, I'm realizing we have a pattern of gravitating towards names with strong g sounds). We have gone weeks where we have referred to baby boy #2 as Viggo and then as Virgil, and while Virgil has won out over Viggo, we are having a hard time committing and I can't help but feel like the perfect name is staring us right in the face but I CAN'T SEE IT. [side note: we recognize that Virgil is not of Scandinavian origin, however we were inspired because he is one of the star players on our EPL team and we think Virgil has a badass ring to it with our last name.] 

Names that are off the list because of family associations are: Anders, Dag, Marius, Mathias, Xavier, Reginald.

We are also really struggling with the middle name and hope you can give us some input  - we love how our son’s middle name has a sentimental meaning but also that it is a bit softer to compliment the strong nature of Magnus. We'd like to strike a similar balance with this kid. Middle names that we are considering, but again can't commit to are: Oberon (again, Bear - we miss him so much), Evert (germanic for bear), Artti (finnish for bear), Otso (bear in finnish, version 2). Of all of them, my husband likes Oberon the best, and I'm just not sure on any of them.

For what it's worth, I have full confidence in you and have even referred loved ones to you in the past for help (Cape Up, Name Nerds!). Thank you for your time and consideration and hopefully having an outside perspective will help my husband and I figure out what this little guy's name is.


I think, first of all, that you might have to give yourselves a tiny break. Maybe even a breath, a cool beverage, a nap, and then a break. 

I often have people write to me saying “we love our first child’s name”, and as a result struggling because if they’ve already chosen THE perfect name, definitively, then by definition all the others in the world must pale in comparison, right? But you guys have gone above and beyond even that – you love your son’s name SO much, it carries on the love of your dog so I think it’s okay to say that this name is an outlier in terms of what it does for you, and for Magnus himself. 

But, kind of like the way that no two relationships are the same or develop in the same way, you can fall in a different kind of love with your second son’s name, as long as you give yourself the permission. 

So I think the first key here is not to try to mimic Magnus too much. I appreciate you pointing out that Virgil has similar sounds (someone’s been reading a name column!), and that you think it sounds badass with your last name. At the risk of pointing out the obvious – for a lot of people, that’s enough! And usually I’d read up on Virgil and offer a bunch of alternatives, based on sound and feel (and look, don’t worry, I’ve still got some below), but I’m worried that you might be getting to a place where no name will measure up to the wonder of your first. 

So as you look over the names you have and my name suggestions, I’d ask whether you can find something that’s actively not right about any of the names – which is totally legitimate – as opposed to just feeling like there could be some platonic ideal of a name that’s better, you know? 

My other thought was that Magnus is very strong (which is why, as you point out, you wanted a softer middle name) but you could always switch that up for #2. 

For example, I really liked your husband’s choice of Oberon – and wondered whether that couldn’t be a first name. Oberon Viggo? Or Oberon Virgil? That could be a thing, no? Or maybe you want to go with that G sound, so maybe think about a name that begins with G? I love Gilbert, as previously mentioned here, but for you guys, maybe Grover? Maybe Gerard? Are we off G in the lead position? What happened with Gunnar anyway? Gustave? Augustus?

If not these, maybe you want to look at something that’s strong in a completely different way? Kiefer, for example. Yes, yes, there’s a famous bearer, but it’s still a great name, and strong and crisp and mouthy like Magnus, but in a completely different way. Or something like Inigo, or Ignacio? No, they don’t have Scandinavian roots, but they sound the way you seem to want your child’s name to sound, complete with the power you want it to have… maybe? Similarly, I know I’ve been on a real Wolf-and-Wolfgang tear lately, but I think it legitimately works for your scenario, so maybe that’s a thing? 

If it’s not these, it might be something unusual but not unusual sounding, like Lysander or Caius or Cyrus – none of which have your cultural influence but which feel like names you would want. Then, depending on what you choose, your bank of middle names will naturally suggest the name that should float to the top. 

But most importantly, let yourselves off the hook from finding THE PERFECT name, again – think of it this way: you’ve already done the ‘perfect’ name, now it’s time to find a name you never thought of, and get excited about the love affair with it that will grow over time …which is every bit as legit. 

And let us know!