The Perfect Name Will Find Your Baby (Part 2): My Son’s Name

Paul Robert's birth announcement

Had Fiona been a boy, she would have been named Max for Maxwell. That was the name I mentally filed away for a future son when I was a teenager. You know, I liked Max, mostly because I knew a cute boy at school named Max, back when it was edgy and sporty. But I was never completely satisfied with Max.

Within the context of the newest generation of kids, Max never felt quite edgy enough for me. But truthfully I wasn’t as excited about picking a boy’s name and figured if my son’s name was somewhat mainstream that was OK.

While Rob hated the name Felicity, he just loved Max. I didn’t like the alliteration with Max and our last name. But Rob really loved it, and when I was pregnant with Fiona, Rob was convinced she was a boy and was already thinking of her as “Max.” The discussion was ended. Max she would be. Until we found out she was a she.

When I got pregnant for the second time, I was long over Max. I had realized when all the boys named Maxwell, Maximilian and Maximus who went by Max were combined with all the boys just named Max that equaled a lot of Max’s. I said I didn’t care if my son’s name was somewhat mainstream, but Max had gone from somewhat mainstream to completely mainstream.

And then there’s the alliteration with my last name. Surprisingly Rob was OK with abandoning Max, especially when I told him I didn’t like the alliteration. I knew not to bring up the popularity argument because that didn’t matter to Rob. If anything, the popularity probably would have convinced Rob to stick with Max.

When Fiona was about a year old, I discovered the name Linus. Maybe “discover” isn’t the right word since of course I was familiar with the Peanuts character, but I never considered Linus usable on a real baby until recently.

This was it. I had a “eureka” moment like I had with Felicity. For the first time, I found a boy’s name that truly inspired me.

But did Linus inspire Rob? At this point, if you read the story behind Fiona’s name, you probably can guess the answer to that question. Here’s the conversation we had while I was pregnant with our son with me trying in vain to convince Rob to go with Linus:

Rob: Linus? Are you serious? He’s Charlie Brown’s friend with the blanket.

Me: Linus is a classic in Sweden.

Rob: We don’t live in Sweden.

Me: Linus is also a Greek god, who was Apollo’s son. He was a gifted musician who taught music to the gods.

Rob: Do you really think our son is going to walk around bragging about being named after some Greek god!?!?!?!

Rob’s stubbornness was true to form. I didn’t expect Rob to like Linus but I was very surprised that he vetoed all of my other suggestions: Louis, Stuart, Oscar, Calvin. Rob didn’t like any of them.

I thought he would at least go along with Louis, Stuart or Calvin. I wasn’t surprised that he didn’t like Oscar. I didn’t seriously consider my second favorite boy’s name, Hugh, because it seems very British and I didn’t like it with our very Italian last name.

I briefly considered Duncan before I had gotten pregnant with my son. Rob’s concern with Duncan was that the Dunkin Donuts association could become an extra burden if our son inherited Rob’s childhood weight problems. Since Rob’s apprehension seemed reasonable, I nixed Duncan from the list. Ironically, our son takes after me and is tiny.

I asked Rob for suggestions and the only name he could come up with was Samuel. Samuel was not only way too popular, but I also found Sam ugly and didn’t want to attempt to avoid it.

Paul is a name that is on a lot of birth certificates in my family but no one ever used it. My Great Grandfather was Raymond Paul, my Grandfather is Paul Donald, but he was supposed to be Donald Paul and goes by Don or P. Donald on formal documents (long story), and my brother is Anthony Paul.

As a kid, I would have written off Paul as boring, but over the last couple of years I began to think about Paul.

I wondered why no one in my family felt Paul was deserving of the first name slot. I thought my brother’s name would sound more interesting reversed: Paul Anthony.

I thought of all of the great Paul namesakes throughout history, Paul Revere, Paul McCartney, and Paul Newman. Most famous Paul’s seemed like decent, handsome men.

Being a big-time name fanatic I started to realize the trend was towards more exotic names, and suddenly white bread names like John, Mark, Peter, and Paul, my generation’s parents’ and grandparents’ names, begun to stand out.

I found myself suggesting Paul to certain parents on name blogs (the ones who liked names like Joseph, Benjamin, and Jack, but couldn’t use them for whatever reason), but I don’t think any one ever took my suggestion.

Basically while Paul started off near the bottom of my list, as a name I would have loved to see on more modern babies, but not seriously considered for one of my own, Paul became our front-runner. Rob wasn’t excited about it, but he agreed to it due to the family connections.

We always though our son’s middle name would be Rob’s middle name, James, which also happens to be my Father-in-Law’s middle name. That way both of our children would be the third generation heir to their middle names.

But I wanted to avoid PJ like the plague, and we ended up using Robert for the middle name, which is not only my husband’s name, but was his Great Grandfather’s name.

Somehow, I managed to name both of my children after both sides of the family while calling them by names unique within the family. As mentioned in Part 1 of this series, Fiona’s middle name is not only my middle name and my Mom’s middle name, but my sister-in-law’s first name.

I’ll be honest. I wasn’t excited to put Paul Robert on the birth announcement, but the solid manly classic grows on me more each day. And while Fiona (as a name) has been, admittedly, a little disappointing in its uniqueness, I have yet to run into another Paul under the age of 5.

While anecdotal, I was convinced of Paul’s relative uniqueness, when I was at a party and a 7 or 8 year-old girl asked me my son’s name.

When I said, Paul, she smiled and said, That’s different. I like that. 

More importantly, my son’s name has family connections on both sides, and sentiment trumps fashion most of the time.

When I was in the hospital, shortly after giving birth to Paul, my Grandmother said, Thank you.

And I couldn’t figure out why she was thanking me except for maybe giving them a great grandson.

Seeing what must have been my puzzled expression, she said, For the name. Thank you for the name.


  1. My oldest is Paul! He’s 11. It’s a fabulous name and he wears it really well. I once heard it described as the warmest of the manly classic. I love that it has so many strong namesakes from St. Paul to Paul Revere and legendary Paul Bunyan.


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