When Every Name Seems Wrong: We Can’t Agree!

This is the fourth and last installment of When Every Name Seems Wrong. If you missed the first parts of this series, they are Part 1: When Every Name Seems Wrong: The Cure, Part 2: We Don’t Like Any Names, and Part 3: Good Names Are Ruined by Other Kids!

Real Life Application When You Can’t Agree

Imagine you have finally met the love of your life. In seemingly every area, even boring yet crucial ones, like where to buy your mortgage, you are in sync.

Surely you would have similar tastes in baby names. Right?

Alas, not even soul mates are exactly alike. You had to disagree on something. In many cases, that something is baby names.

Generally men tend to be behind the trends. So many times I hear stories of Dads-to-be suggesting names from the 1970’s, 80’s and 90’s. Often once the Dad is introduced to the 21st century, the couple realizes their tastes really aren’t that different and they can move forward and find common ground.

However, there are some cases, where name tastes truly do clash. What is the solution?

This dilemma was saved for last in this series because it is the most difficult one to resolve.

Manage Expectations

Both parents loving their child’s name is wonderful and ideal. The ideal isn’t usually possible when both parents have such divergent tastes. I won’t say it can’t happen, but going into the naming process with that end-goal can cause a bit of stress.

Instead, aim for one parent loving the name and the other parent liking the name enough.

One approach is to allow Dad to pick the boy’s name and Mom to pick the girl’s names or Mom to pick the first kid’s name and Dad to pick the second kid’s name. There are downsides to this approach:

  1. If you plan to have more kids, “coordinating sibling names” must become a low priority.
  2. If you don’t plan to have more kids or are unable to have more kids, the other parent doesn’t get much say.

A better approach may be searching for similarities in each other’s favorites, and using those similarities to find common ground. To see how this approach is practiced, let’s look at how hypothetical parents Rachel Lutz and Ryan Freeman tackle this problem.

Scenario: Rachel Lutz was told by doctors she would never have any children when she was diagnosed with endometriosis over 10 years ago. Now at 37, she finds herself unexpectedly, yet happily, pregnant. The father is her 28 year-old boyfriend Ryan Freeman. While there is an age difference, the couple has the same general outlook on life and had similar upbringings, which results in their bond.

The baby is a boy. In the first few months of pregnancy the couple was too busy figuring out the baby’s surname to think much about the first and middle names.

Around the end of the second trimester, the couple decides the baby’s last name will be hyphenated as Lutz-Freeman.

Once the surname was figured out, the couple realized more work was ahead of them. Rachel and Ryan each wrote out their own list of names.

Here’s Rachel’s list:

  • Leo
  • Oliver
  • Jacob
  • Thomas
  • Henry

Here’s Ryan’s list:

  • Keelin
  • Finn
  • Cormack
  • Callum

Judging by the list, Rachel’s tastes run old-fashioned-classic, while Ryan likes modern Celtic-inspired names. The age difference that had previously been an afterthought suddenly was blamed for the couple’s clashing styles.

To compound the problem the couple hasn’t figured out if there will be a middle name due to the hyphenated last name. If there is a middle name, it will most likely be Ryan or Ryan’s middle name, Michael. The couple also plans to marry and possibly adopt more children so their son has siblings.

Since the baby will be a boy, Rachel concedes she is willing to defer to Ryan’s tastes somewhat on the condition that she gets more say in the second child’s name.

However, since both acknowledge the likelihood of a second child is a crapshoot, Rachel must find something redeemable in their son’s name. Unfortunately the Modern Celtic names dominating Ryan’s list make her cringe.

The couple compares the lists to see if there was anything the names have in common. The most obvious was the repeated L found in these names:

  • Leo
  • Oliver
  • Keelin
  • Callum

However, Ryan doesn’t like alliteration (e.g. Leo Lutz-Freeman). The order of the hyphenated name was chosen for specific reasons by the couple and will be the family’s surname once the couple marries. They decide not to change the order to Freeman-Lutz just to avoid alliteration.

The couple decides to drop names beginning with L, but makes a note of the L in the middle. Searching for names based on their middle letters, however, is not easy.

Then Rachel gets an idea:

Owen begins with O like Oliver from her list and ends in N like Keelin and Finn from his list.

Ryan is concerned about Owen’s popularity. He really wanted something more unusual, but he says he will consider it.

Then Ryan gets an idea:

Olin is very similar to Owen but it has the L like several other names on their list. Rachel isn’t sure. On paper Olin should be perfect. After all, it begins with the first three letters of her number two choice Oliver. It has the old-fashioned qualities of several names on her list, but still sounds like the modern names on Ryan’s list. Still, Olin seems a little too different for her tastes.

Then Rachel gets another idea:

How about Franklin? It has the -lin ending just like Keelin, Ryan’s number three choice. And it has a hard K sound just like Jacob on her list and Keelin, Callum and Cormack on his list.

Ryan says he will consider it, but he really wanted something more modern.

At this point, the couple lists the new names they have discovered together:

  • Owen
  • Olin
  • Franklin

They are not sure their baby’s name is on this list and want to expand the list. But how do they do this?

Using The Baby Name Wizard, Rachel and Ryan look up the three names in the Name Snapshot section and make note of the name’s style families:

Owen: Antique Charm, Celtic, Nickname-Proof, The -ens
Olin: Not featured under Name Snapshots
Franklin: Solid Citizens

While Olin didn’t have its own Name Snapshot, when looking through the Name Snapshot chapter for Olin, they came across Nolan, and add that to the list.

They decide that Olin is too strange for Rachel and Franklin is too old-man sounding for Ryan. Both get crossed off the list. That leaves:

Owen: Antique Charm, Celtic, Nickname-Proof, The -ens
Nolan: The -ens, Timeless, Nickname Proof

Looking at the Style Families for Owen, one can see how the name is perfect for the couple, belonging in the Antique Charm family that appeals to Rachel and the Celtic family that appeals to Ryan. Nolan has the L going for it, but eliminates Ryan as a middle name.

Both names fall into two of the same Style Families, The -ens, and Nickname Proof. While the couple won’t rule out an -ens name, they know the style is prevalent among small children. For that reason, the couple doesn’t explore The -ens style family more, but decides to checkout the Nickname Proof names.

Most of the names appealing to both of them happen to be more -ens names. Perhaps there is a reason these names have become popular. Nevertheless, they add Ian and Ronan to their list.

Looking at their list, one thing is certain: they don’t care how Ryan pairs with these names. They don’t like how the first and middle names almost rhyme:

  • Owen Ryan Lutz-Freeman
  • Nolan Ryan Lutz-Freeman
  • Ian Ryan Lutz-Freeman
  • Ronan Ryan Lutz-Freeman

They consider using Ryan’s middle name Michael, but would rather use his first name. This eliminates Nolan. They also cut Ronan because the don’t want everyone in the family to share the R initial.

This leaves Owen and Ian. At this point the couple likes both names equally, and can’t decided. They will take the two names to the hospital and decide once their son is born.

Readers: Which name would you pick for the fictional Lutz-Freeman baby boy? And should baby boy Lutz-Freeman have a middle name? What should it be?

As the When Every Name Seems Wrong series draws to a close, I will leave you with this thought:

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we knew our unborn kid’s tastes, and could pick a name we knew they would love? On second thought, considering that kids pretty much hate everything their parents like, maybe that wouldn’t be such a good thing.

The classic advice is to ask yourself if you could live with this name. If the answer is yes, then you have done the best you could.

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  1. I would go with Owen Michael Lutz-Freeman.

    • I like the idea of using the father’s first name, since using the first name makes the namesake more obvious. But style-wise Michael makes the better middle name in this case. Even though these situations are fictional I try to make the decisions similar to the decisions real parents might make (e.g. style vs. sentiment).

  2. I agree – Owen Michael is by far the best, but can understand why they would go with Owen Ryan instead.

    It is a good example of what happens when you compromise, because the names on both their individual lists were great, and what they ended up with is something pretty generic.

    I would have preferred it if they took one name from her list and another from his, and made them the first and middle (or the other way around). But, I suspect that not likely to happen in real life.

    (I also had real life compromising to do!)

    • I had to compromise too. I considered doing a post about The Dad Who Doesn’t Like Any Names, because my husband kept vetoing my names, but offered few suggestions of his own, making it difficult to figure out what his name style was exactly. This is almost more difficult than having a partner with divergent tastes. At least the divergent tastes give you something to work with.

      But I don’t think our tastes are really that different. He is risk adverse and prefers more popular names, where I can be a managed risk-taker because I like being a pioneer. For example, he nixed Silvia had our son been a girl, but probably would have been fine with top 10 Olivia or Sophia.

      With that said, I like Owen, which I think is a top 50, maybe even top 30 name. It doesn’t seem generic to me. But I struggled to find a name for their compromise list that didn’t end in N!

      I agree all of those repetitious N endings on the compromise list can seem unsatisfying. I almost included Reid on their list, but didn’t only because this post was already long, and I didn’t want to add another explanation behind how they found Reid, only to remove Reid because of the R.

  3. Owen isn’t generic, but Owen Michael or Owen Ryan is – just a very standard name combination.

    But your example is true to life, I think, because I do think that’s what tends to happen when you have to compromise on names.

    When I was single, I wouldn’t have been able to comprehend how you could name a baby Sienna Rose or Max James, when there are millions of them. Trust me, I get it now!!!

  4. I once wrote a story about an unusual way that a mom and dad who couldn’t agree on what to name the baby decided: Play a card game tournament, and the winner has naming rights. (If you’re intrigued I’ll see if I can pull the full story up.)

  5. You could always try an online baby name compromise tool like this one:


    Each partner puts in his or her list, and then it makes suggestions.

  6. Morgan perry waterboer says:

    I think its best to look at the bigger picture…because it doesn’t matter how much you think about it…your child get used to it


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