Reader Q&A: 4-Week-Old Nameless Son

I’m always humbled and flattered when a reader reaches out for help. In this case, I felt a huge responsibility because reader Carrie’s little son has already passed his one-month birthday and still has no name!

This is a classic case of when every name seems wrong. With Carrie’s permission, I have posted her request with minor editing. The baby’s last name has been partially obscured for privacy reasons.

Carrie writes:

My son is 4 weeks old and still nameless. My husband and I cannot agree. We looked at pretty much every name in existence and are down to Archer, Oliver, Charlie and Bodhi/Bode/Bodie (just deciding on spelling.) We are actually starting to look at other names and rehash our old long list because we cannot agree and nothing is standing out.

Oliver is my #1 and has been a favorite for years. Our older son is named Liam, and Oliver was on our short list for him as well. It was in our final 2 and he was two days old before I agreed to name him Liam. My husband knew the instant that he saw him that he was Liam, so I trusted him and his fatherly instincts. Today, he is very much a Liam. It fits him perfectly.

We hoped the same thing would happen, that one name would just fit when our second was born. We didn’t really have a short list, though, so we were flailing, and still are.

My husband is stuck on Archer. I do not mind it, but it isn’t a favorite of mine. And here’s the big problem: our last name is S***er. I’m not a fan of how Archer S***er sounds together, but I’m not sure how important that is, really.

Yesterday, my husband informed me that he doesn’t even like Oliver anymore. I’m not sure where that’s coming from since he’s been ok with it all along.

Charlie and Bodhi are our alternates. We both like them, neither of us love them. I feel like my husband is just holding his breath until I finally give in and name him Archer.

Nothing seems right and I am ready to give up. Do you have any advice? Help? Please? We are pretty desperate

My response:

Given that your son is already 4 weeks old, I feel your urgency. I didn’t realize hospitals discharged parents with a nameless baby, but that rule must be a myth. When I read your letter, a few things stood out.

The first one was that you said you had already looked at every name in existence. This led me to suspect that you need to narrow down your list and a list of names from me may only add to your dilemma. But none of the names on your shortlist seem like the name.

The second thing that stood out was that you and your husband made your list together, but for your first son your husband made the final decision. I suspect you would like a chance to make the final decision on son two’s name. And that is reasonable, especially if you don’t think you are going to have any more children. At the same time, I don’t want your husband to feel like he is settling for a name he doesn’t like. I don’t want either one of you to feel like you are settling for a name that doesn’t feel right.

It sounds like you and your husband are at an impasse. You really like Oliver. He really likes Archer. Neither one of you are willing to agree to the other name.

I agree the flow with Archer S***er isn’t ideal. It wouldn’t be a big deal if you both loved the name, but it sounds like you don’t love it. I thought Oliver would have similar problems with the -er ending, but since it has an extra syllable and the stress on a different syllable, it flows a little better with the last name.

Sometimes the right name is one that had been previously discarded. I think revisiting your long list is a good idea. I’m going to give some suggestions, but only because I suspect some of these names were on your long list, and if you see a name on my list and your long list, maybe that will make you more confident about a discarded name.

Oliver made me think of Owen, Olin, Olson, Calvin, Clive, Everett.

Charlie and Bodhi made me think of Freddie (big in the U.K.), Louie, Huey, Jamie, Darby, Chauncey, Clancy, Kirby, Toby.

Toby reminded me of Tobias, but then I said Tobias with S***er, and didn’t like how they run together. Which is too bad, since I love Tobias and like how it pairs with Liam.

I also thought of Declan, the name of another reader’s son from a recent Reader Q&A post, that I thought you might like. It pairs well with Liam, and S***er.

Declan made me think of Duncan and Deacon.

Liam and Owen made me think of Ewan (top 100 in Scotland, but surprisingly underused in other English-speaking countries).

Or maybe Charlie or Bodhi is the name.  They are both nice names, and perhaps if you and your husband can’t live with the other’s favorite, a good compromise is picking a name you both like enough but neither one of you love.

We would all love our children’s names to just hit us with this overwhelming conviction that “this is the name” the second we hear it, sort of like love at first sight. But sometimes love comes at second or third or fourth sight, and I suspect that may be the case with your second son’s name.

I didn’t love my son’s name when I chose it. I chose my son’s name for family significance and because my husband didn’t like any of my other suggestions and had none of his own. But I love my son’s name now. I’m convinced the name I chose fits my son, and I know you will feel the same way, even if you pick a name you simply like and don’t love right now.

Good luck.

Carrie’s response:

Thank you so much for your quick response.  I didn’t respond immediately because I thought we had it and on  Wednesday evening, thought we were going to go with Bodhi, but now are, of course, rethinking.  I have reservations about how well Bodhi or Bode will serve him throughout his life.

Your suggestions were great ones and many of them we went over. Funny, we just started talking about Duncan a few days ago.  We both agreed that we like it a lot, love that it has Scottish roots (like Liam) and agree that our little red-haired guy actually looks like a Duncan.  However, two big drawbacks.  First, we live in New England and Dunkin Donuts are on every street corner.  Second, no good obvious nicknames, or simple shortenings, which is an important factor for me. So, Duncan is off the list, sadly.

Declan was suggested recently and we seriously considered it.  My husband liked it, and we agreed that it went nicely with Liam, so I gave it a shot.  We watched the grandparents call him that a couple of times and I liked it less the more times they said it.  The sound is too harsh, I think, I’m not sure.  There’s just something about it that doesn’t sit right with me.

We considered Owen, Louie, Jamie, Toby, Calvin and Everett.  Owen is a family name with a negative connection for me, unfortunately.  I have considered overlooking it because it is so perfect, but I can’t.  I like the nickname Cal, so we discussed Calvin.  My husband likes Calvin for the Hobbes connection but Calvin sounds really dorky to me, which I can’t seem to shake no matter how much I like it.  I like Everett a lot, and its also a family name for me, but my husband doesn’t like it, unfortunately.

We had a long talk last night on our drive home from Thanksgiving, and my husband just doesn’t like Oliver.  He tried to make himself like it, he said, but he couldn’t.  I don’t mind Archer, I kind of like the nicknames Archie and Ace, but it is a little heartbreaking to me that I won’t really *love* either of my boys names.  Oliver and Wilder are the only names I love, and they’re both out.  I feel like if I agree to Archer, I will just be settling and my husband will have named both of our boys.  Or maybe I am just over thinking it all.

It feels like everyone who names a child falls in love with one easily and then sticks with it and it’s that simple.  It is great to hear that it hasn’t been so easy for some others, and that even for others, like you, you don’t necessarily love a name when you choose it, and that’s ok.  Thanks for that vote of confidence.

I would love to hear others input also, so if you want to share on your page, that would be great!  

Looking at Liam’s chalkboard easel here in our living room, it is filled with crossed off names.  Here are just some of them:

Finnegan, Griffin, Boone, Duncan, Pax, Wilder, Cooper, Owen, Keaton, Theodore, Milo, Beckett, Dutch, James, Rafferty, Beau, Indy/Indiana, Bartholomew, Thatcher, Dempsey, Noah, Asa, Brodie, Aaron

Thanks so much for this!  🙂

My response:

Your concern with Duncan is familiar because we also live in New England around a lot of Dunkin Donuts. While I never noticed the connection, my husband did, and he vetoed it for our son. My husband’s main concern was that he was a chubby child, and in case our son took after him, he didn’t want our son carrying the extra Dunkin Donuts burden. Ironically our son is a peanut.

You may have noticed that every name will have a drawback. The trick is to decide which drawbacks you can live with. Maybe my readers can shed more light on which drawbacks they could live with and which ones are deal breakers. But in the end, the decision is very personal. For me clashing with the last name is a deal breaker, while clashing with a sibling name is not, unless distinguishing among the siblings’ names is difficult. Someone else may disagree with me.

The names crossed off your easel are terrific. I really love Rafferty, and know a little boy named Thatcher, which has grown on me. I was going to suggest Thatcher, along with Fletcher and Spencer, but was trying to steer you clear of -er ending names because of your last name. But if you find that name you both love that happens to end in -er, I wouldn’t nix the name for that reason alone.

Readers: What would you named baby boy S***er? Which drawbacks are deal breakers and which drawbacks could you learn to live with?


  1. Declan, duncan, and Deacon makes me think of Desmond and Douglas.

    • Ah, Douglas was on of our “unfairly dated” names that were popular a few decades ago and would be pleasantly surprising today. I would love to meet a Douglas under 20.

  2. First off, I totally can see myself in this exact spot. We have a daughter whom my husband ultimately named after a huge struggle. He basically had quietly settled on our daughter’s name, and instead of telling me, “This is it, can we just go with it?” he proceeded to trash every other name on the list for her. I eventually relented, went with the name (which I like but wasn’t necessarily my 1st choice,) and I picked middle name for her and the compromise was that with child #2, I would get to pick the 1st name and he’d do middle.

    Now we’re also having another girl and we’re stuck, because two things are happening: (1) he already trashed so many names before that I feel they’re “second rate” with him, and (2) he’s already settled on a name (again) even though it’s not his choice, and although it’s a name I don’t hate, it’s not *my* pick, which he is intentionally screwing up over and over again, mostly to wear me down until I decide to just go with what he wants. But I’m not going for it because I saw he did it last time, so I just keep reminding him it’s not his choice, he has veto power but that’s all, and unless he really doesn’t like my choice–which he hasn’t said–then he needs to start working on a middle name and put his energy there. It’s not working of course and we’re still at the same impasse. So hopefully we resolve it before our newest daughter arrives or we’ll be in the same boat.

    As for you, I will tell you the name I love for a boy and perhaps it will be a good match for you: Rory. It’s Irish/Gaelic like your son, Liam, isn’t super popular, and hopefully has no rhymes in your family (it wouldn’t fly in mine because my niece is Lauren but goes by Laurie, so the rhyming thing would be annoying.) If not Rory, we were going to name son #1 Gabriel (but of course we had a girl so it was a moot point.)

    Best of luck–and honestly? He named Liam. I vote you get to go with the name you really like, even if your husband isn’t wild about it. Compromise means that sometimes he isn’t thrilled, but that’s part of the deal if there is no “magic” name that both of you like.

    • Rory is a good match, and makes me think of Rhys.

      I feel your frustration. I’m surprised at the number of Dads who have such strong opinions on names. I always thought Moms were the ones naming their kids 20 years before they were born, while Dads were oblivious and went along with whatever name the Mom wanted. Most of the time I’m happy to see Dads take an active role in naming their kids, but I don’t like when Mom and Dad get into power struggles over the baby’s name.

      I agree with your direct approach and would only add that maybe you could start thinking of his #1 choice as a middle name and start pairing it with first names you like to see how they flow. Maybe your #1 choice flows well with his #1 choice (in the middle of course) or if that’s not the case, there might be another name you like that flows well with his #1 choice. Maybe if he sees how well one of your names flows with his #1 name (in the middle – it bears repeating!) he will grow to like or at least accept your choice. Good luck.

  3. Kylen, Bastien, Asher.

  4. What about :
    Kegan – Keagan
    Phelim – Felim
    Tayten – Tayte

    Greetings from The Netherlands

  5. First thought was Ronan. It’s Celtic, like Liam.

    Second choice for me would be Duncan. I live in Boston, so I understand the Dunkin Donuts issue, but I think you could easily get past that. Other kids might think its funny and tease about it for a little while, but I’m sure it’d get old and they’d get over it.

    • I agree about Duncan. Duncan = Dunkin Donuts is sort of like assuming Macy = Macy’s (the department store). I don’t automatically think “like the department store?” when I meet someone named Macy. Granted a department store and donut/coffee chain aren’t exactly the same, but I think Dunkin Donuts can be easily overcome.

  6. I have to throw a hat in the ring here, since I have a Duncan! He is 6, and not one other kid thus far has ever brought up the donut chain. He gets called Dunk, Dunk-a-munk, Dunkers, and had 2 nursery teachers who called him “The Dunk” because, they said, “He’s just so cool!” (he was 3 at the time, LOL). We have yet to meet another one, and he loves his name. And I agree, whatever you choose, that your choice should weigh more heavily than your husband’s this time around. Good luck! 🙂

  7. A few more suggestions:

    Tavish, Grant, Murphy, Garrett and Cormac. I hope that helped.

  8. sounds like we have similar tastes in names 🙂
    I am in australia, and some trending names are
    Braxton, xavier, cooper, brayden/jayden/etc, riley (which I love with liam!) Aston, bailey…

    My boys have unique names (#1 was but isnt now) Brayden, Harlan, Kaizen (pronounced Ki-zen)

    My deal breaker is initials, for eg. Brayden was going to be, brayden robert anthony S

  9. Wouldnt let me type more…

    BRAS…. Not good initials, so we dropped the anthony lol

  10. Some of the other suggestions made me think of Riley and Rowan. Other suggestions: Julian nn Jules, Hugh. I think you should also reconsider your crossed off list. For our second, we ended up going with a name we liked that wasn’t perfect (unusual, easily mistaken for another name) but we couldn’t think of anything we both liked better. I think the name Bodhi/Bode will work well for a lifetime, particularly as there are more of them now and it will grow as this generation grows.

  11. I admit to being a total Duncan-booster! I know you have Dunkin Donuts in the US, but every time I’ve heard a parent worry about a potential baby name because of a TV show, or a brand, or a place name, and they’ve gone with it anyway – nobody has even mentioned it. I think it’s one of those things that we worry about WAY more than other people do (naturally, because it’s our child).

    I’d seriously suggest re-considering Duncan – it seems perfect as a match for Liam.

    You might also like Callum or Ian, I love the suggestions of Rhys and Ewan, and I’ve seen quite a few Liams who have brothers named Joel or Eli, for some reason.

    • I don’t feel Dunkin Donuts is a deal breaker either. Especially when you consider there’s also Dunan Hines (the cake mix). These two associations should cancel each other out, sort of the same way Oscar Mayer and The Oscars cancel each other out.

      Oscar is gently climbing the U.S. chart, and yet I usually hear positive comments about the name and few people express concern about the hot dog or the entertainment industry trophy.

      I would only discourage Oscar if the last name happens to be Mayer (or Dunan if the last name happens to be Hines).

  12. There’ve been lots of great names listed, and any would serve a young boy well. My two cents: I love Duncan (nickname Duke <3 ), and my favorite "Cal" name is Pascal. I've told my mother about Duncan, and she's not a fan. However, that started her on a Dunley/Dunlee kick. Not sure if that's a name that'd be on anyone's list but hers, but there you have it.

    Good luck with the search. 🙂

  13. Donovan sprang to mind as in keeping with Liam, softer than Declan, and less donut-fied than Duncan?

    I think Tobin is better with the surname than Tobias? Is there a reason it’s out or I’m just the only one who is really into Tobin?

    My favourite Cal- is easily Callum.

    Tobin, Callum, Corbin, Ronan, Damon – they all seem to fit well without being cutesy in the matching.

  14. Names that I thought of to go with Liam (a name I’ve always loved, btw!):

    Also, for what its worth, I’m from Boston & have known both a Declan & a Duncan & until this moment reading this post, the Duncan = Dunkin connection never even occurred to me. Also, I’m not a believer in naming your kids to avoid bullies- kids will find something if they want to, whether their target has a bland name or is named Harry Wienerslave. When I was eleven, I got bullied because I was the youngest kid to make the top competitive horseback riding team, so all of the jealous girls (& their little boy friends) would yell out “Bea is a MAN!” whenever I walked by. Had nothing to do with my name- they found a way! The important thing was my parents taught me self worth & the importance of doing my best, even if others got jealous, so I shook it off & am a happy, well adjusted adult as a result!

    • I agree with your position on over-thinking a name’s teasing potential. With a few exceptions I would not eliminate a name for teasing potential alone, unless the potential is very blatant. If a kid is going to be teased, chances are their name will have nothing to do with it. Some kids could have the safest name possible and get teased for other reasons while other kids will never get teased regardless of their name.

  15. Jemima says:

    Names to go with Liam…. I’m *assuming* you’ve probably resolved this by now but I’m interested! So here are some names just in case:
    -Asher – similar to Archer (very), but perhaps it could feel more like *your* choice (and your husband could probably really get on board)
    -Jack – often overlooked, awesome boys name, goes great with Liam
    -Hamish – Irish touch that I love with Liam!
    -Ryan – Liam and Ryan. I love it
    -Finley – you had Finnegan on your list, perhaps you like this one too?
    Please let us know what you went with! I’m so interested 🙂 best of luck with your little ones!

    • Jemima says:

      Oooh, also – Dominic! Awesome name, similar (ish) to Declan and Duncan, but softer (and with the great nickname Dom). I love it with Liam too!

  16. This is a very old article now, so… Does anyone know what Carrie’s final decision was? I’d love to know!

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