Hi Duana,

We are in desperate need of name advice for our second baby girl, due in December! I'm Indian, and my husband is American, and while I'd like a name that works in both contexts, I think it's more important that we just love the name. We were easily able to pick our first daughter's name, Annika, because we both just heard it and loved it and it fit all our 'requirements' about working in both cultures. So while we considered others and had a list, we really never thought beyond that. 2 years later, looking at the rest of the list, none of the names really strikes a chord. Some of them were: Kiera and Kaia (both seem too short), and Alexia (now reminds me of Amazon Alexa). I'm just not feeling any of them for baby #2.

Names we like so far this time around: Daria, Cora/Cara, Tatiana. I like all those names, as does my husband, but we just aren't ready to pull the trigger on any of them. One name I heard recently that's stuck with me is: Nerine, which I think sounds lovely, but I still don't have the instant click I did with Annika. I also really like Luna and Lola, but our last name starts with 'L' and has another 'L' near the end, so I think that might be too many Ls, especially Lola.

Really hoping you'll help us find the perfect name, or convince us that one on our list already is!

I’m beginning to think this is a kind of meta statement about life and children – watch. So many people tell me they ‘fell in love’ with their first child’s name and used it. We’re a society that believes you can only really be in love with one person(ish), so when you fall in love with your child’s name, and then subsequently fall in love with your kid, it can feel impossible to replicate that a second time.

But of course, what parents always say is that they realize they love their children differently, but equally – that they find things in them that surprised and delighted them in their second that they never expected. The metaphor is slightly different where names are concerned, because the whole buffet of who and what they could be is laid out in front of you to choose from – so I think the idea here is not to ‘do’ Annika over again, but to find something that makes you happy in a way that may be totally different but evokes the same feelings. 

What I suspect you like about the name is what I’ve referred to as the ‘tiny pause’: Annika is a name that is so easy and palatable for North American/Euro ears, but so resolutely unusual, that people give you the tiny pause of impressed-ness when they hear it. It’s that divine combination of being perfectly familiar and also feeling new. 

Ordinarily, I would heartily agree with you that Daria falls into this category. I’m biased, since there’s one in my life I know and love but it has all the same characteristics of being an unusual but not inaccessible name. It’s gorgeous, and I staunchly endorse it for you or anyone else who wants to use it. 

So if it ticks all your boxes, why isn’t it making you as happy as it should? The reason may surprise you! (Can you put a clickbait line in the middle of an article someone has already clicked on?)

You like names with hard consonants in them. Cora, Kiera, Alexia, Tatiana. One of the reasons Annika is so surprising for people is that usually names that start with ‘Ana’ are completely filled with soft consonants. Annabel. Annette (technically a hard consonant but ‘ette’ is intrinsically feminine). Annelise. Annika gives us a surprise at the end, and I think the hard sound is what you’re attracted to… which is also why you’re passing by Nerina and Luna. 

I could be wrong, of course, but that’s what jumps out at me… and amusingly, the name that comes to mind is Danica, which is off-limits for you for various reasons. 

So what’s a name that has a bit of surprise and a hard consonant but still fits into the familiarity you want? Vera might be one that gets it done for you, with sounds that are familiar but not super typical. Renata might also work here, if it doesn’t feel too rhymey with Annika. The gorgeous Britta would be a great choice here, and not coincidentally both names are popular in similar parts of the world. Saskia might feel good here, as might the growing-in-popularity Tessa… though if you were thinking of Tessa I’d steer you back toward Tatiana – you may as well go for some drama, you know? You could even go with something like Catrin or Vada or Kezia or  even Zelda – the whole A-Z thing is really not without its charms. 

If I’m completely wrong and Annika was a total fluke and you love soft consonants more than anything, then my principle about just unusual-enough-to-charm stands, and extends to include the aforementioned Daria and Nerine -  and I’d also suggest Celine, or Cecily, or Yesenia, or my beloved, wear-anywhere Ramona. 

The trick here, in an age of Mollys and Evelyns and Lunas, is to try your best to take the meanings and associations out of names, at least initially, and try not to choose names that sound alike; that is, absent any context of how we feel about the name, ‘Molly’ and ‘Lola’ have a lot in common, so you may feel unconsciously tired of some names because you’ve heard all their sounds so many times before, if not their actual names – but teaching ourselves to appreciate names that don’t currently ‘fit’ in the mainstream sounds is trickier than it initially seems. 

I can’t wait to hear what you choose!