The Lost Names

graveyardEvery once in a while I think about my lost names. You know, those names you thought or hoped you would use on your own children one day, but for one reason or another never could.

A few of my lost names I’m relieved I never used.

For example, Max was the name I picked for my future son in high school or college. I still like Max, but now the name is a lot less surprising than it was 20 years ago, and after a generation of Max, Maxwell, Maximilian, Maximus, et al., the name has lost its “fresh” factor.

Then there are other lost names that I still mourn. Those of you who have followed UBN for a while may already know that I still wish I could use Cecily. And despite its growing popularity, Owen really feels like a son of mine.

Don’t get me wrong, I feel fortunate to have my two wonderful kids, and I can’t imagine them with any other names. And I know I can’t have 10 kids just to name them. And when I think of that craziness, I can accept these names were never meant for my kids and I get satisfaction suggesting them to certain readers.

After hearing many baby name stories from parents, I suspect most parents, especially Moms, have a baby name graveyard in their minds.

Readers: Do you have lost names? Why didn’t you use your lost names? Do you still mourn your lost names or are you glad you didn’t use them?

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Announcing Baby’s Name Before Birth: Yay or Nay?

baby-shower-inviteSome people are still figuring out their baby’s name 24 hours after birth. A few people take even longer to find a name, struggling for weeks–or in the case of one UBN reader–months. Rob and I were fortunate to pick our first child’s name quickly. Our first child’s name was picked at the 18 week ultrasound once we knew the sex. We had discussed names long before we knew the sex. Like many other name-people, I was making boy and girl name lists as soon as the stick read “Pregnant” (and maybe a little earlier than that).

While the name was picked relatively early in the pregnancy, there was a very practical reason Rob and I never announced the name of our first child before birth: we didn’t want to feel committed in the event we changed our minds.

There was also the concern that certain family members would give us unsolicited advice. What we told everyone was that we knew the sex and wouldn’t be able to keep that a secret, and there had to be something left for a surprise at birth.

With our second child, we found the naming process more difficult. Coming to an agreement was trickier the second time. In the end we picked a name with family significance, that I wasn’t initially thrilled with. Since the name we picked was traditional and inoffensive, and I was looking for some outside validation to get excited about the name, I found myself verbally sharing the name with a few select people. But there were an opinionated few who didn’t hear our son’s name before birth.

This was probably not the smartest decision. One of my friend’s husband liked to refer to our unborn baby by name every time he saw me. Our daughter’s third birthday was six weeks before our son was born. This inquisitive husband was at the party along with the few oblivious family members. I had fears of this friend asking, “How’s Paul?” in front of the wrong people.

One thing I never did was announce my unborn child’s name in writing. Recently I was surprised to get a baby shower invitation printed with the unborn baby’s name. Once I was at the shower, I noticed the favors had customized M&M’s with the unborn baby’s first and last name. This was shocking to me. The baby is due shortly and the expectant parents must be very committed to the name!

While I can think of several advantages of keeping an unborn baby’s name secret, I can’t think of many advantages of broadcasting an unborn baby’s name. I can only speculate that some expectant parents might get a kick out of shower attendees giving then monogrammed stuff for gifts. But ultrasound gender predictions can be wrong. And I can’t think of any disadvantages of keeping an unborn baby’s name secret.

For those who decide to keep an unborn baby’s name secret, the real challenge might be determining how to keep the secret, especially if the name is picked early in the pregnancy. When we kept our first child’s name secret, we decided to tell family members that we were keeping the name a surprise until the birth.

We considered telling a white lie and claim we hadn’t picked a name, and maybe that would have been the best option. The path we took resulted in some family members trying to coax the name out of us. Hint: these were the same family members who were kept in the dark when we decided to share our second child’s name with a few people. Had we pretended we were undecided on the name, the worst we would have endured is unsolicited name suggestions. Ah hindsight.

This leads me to wonder: how would you keep an unborn baby’s name secret? Is sharing an unborn baby’s name good or bad? Does it matter whether the name is shared verbally or in writing?

Readers: Would you share your unborn baby’s name with others?

Names You Never Thought You Would Like

BreakfastMaybe there are names that have been on your top list forever. Maybe there are names that you never thought you would like. I have names like that.

Perhaps the tendency to change one’s mind is a testament to how much most of us are influenced by fashion. Perhaps this tendency is why so many of us are so afraid to pick a name for our child, afraid we will unintentionally pick a name that isn’t really our style, but rather a sign of a phase we are going through.

After all, if you find yourself liking a name you used to hate, couldn’t you also find yourself hating (or at least growing tired) of a name you used to love? I have some reassurance to offer those with that fear, but first I’m curious to hear from others.

Have you ever found yourself liking a name you never thought you would like?

Here are some names that I never thought would grow on me. While most of these are in the “I now like these on other people’s babies but don’t like enough to use on one of my own” category, there are even some I would consider using.


Allegra – Like many other people, I immediately envisioned the allergy medicine when I first heard this name. And then I saw the name on a person, not a real person, but a character in the Will Smith movie, Hitch, the beautiful, wealthy, and surprisingly down-to-earth Allegra Cole. Seeing the name on a person, even a fictional one, made the name more than just an allergy medication.

Jennifer – is still too dated for me to recommend and I could never bring myself to use it, but for the first time I can understand why my parent’s generation loved this name. This modern variation of Guinevere has subtle ties to Arthurian Legend, and pairs respectably with most surnames. The only thing wrong with Jennifer was that she was used too much.

Minerva – The “nerve” sound once grated on me, but now I recognize the name’s stylish qualities. Minerva is darkly intelligent with the popular letter V. This is a great option for people who are turned off by conventionally beautiful girl names, but don’t like androgynous names either.

Wilhelmina – Not too long ago, an overabundance consonants was a stark contrast to the vowel-heavy names popular today, which might be why many parents didn’t appreciate this adventurous name. I still struggle to spell it.

But the vast nicknames assortment (Willa, Willie, and Mina) and lovely sound won me over. Those qualities, and former teen idol Taylor Hanson naming his second daughter Wilhelmina, may win others over. This is one name from my former “dislike list” that I would even use without regrets. (If it didn’t compete with my long last name.)


Arthur – is simply one of those old-man names that feels ready for a comeback. And for those who like Arthurian Legend names, there is no name more fitting than Arthur.

John – is every-man  and that is what made John seem boring. But for the most recent generation, John isn’t all that common. It still ranks in the top 30 (at #27 for 2011) but is falling for the first time in history. John may seem less common than a #27 ranking because many John’s under 10 are called the more fashionable Jack or go by their middle name or some other nickname to distinguish them from living family namesakes.

While some may consider John anonymous to the point of blandness, I feel John is the kind of name any child can make his own. Recently I met a little John who’s around three and goes by Johnny, which has a vintage charm. But the most original nickname for John is no nickname.

Reassurance If You Fear You’ll Change Your Mind

If you have changed your mind about a name, you are not alone. However, anyone who picks their children’s names with care shouldn’t worry about eventually growing to dislike their names. I firmly believe that most people find the names they were meant to have.

Confession: While I still love many of the names my husband vetoed for our children, I’m relieved he vetoed Greta, a name I suggested for our daughter. I was telling one of my friends that I couldn’t picture my daughter as a Greta and I’m not even sure I like the name that much any more. She said, “You would love Greta if it was Fiona’s name.”

I considered what she said, and supposed she is right. Honestly, considering how often I discover new names, I’m not sure I would even still like my daughter’s name if my husband and I didn’t use it. But now I will always love it because I love her and can’t picture her with any other name.

Let’s face it: when it comes to fashion, people are fickle. What once was revered is ridiculed and vice versa. With that in mind, don’t be surprised to find yourself liking a name you never thought you would.

Readers: What are some names you never thought you would like?

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Who Has Sold A Name To Skeptical Partner?

skeptical-babyA couple of weeks ago I shared 5 Ways To Sabotage Your Baby Name Search. One “baby name saboteur”, was #2: Failing to Compromise With Your Partner. This doesn’t mean I recommend giving up on a name right away. I even mentioned that I encourage trying to sell a name to a skeptical partner before resorting to compromise.

This led me to wonder if this topic, selling a name to a skeptical partner, deserves some attention. How do you sell a name to a skeptical partner?

Because I wanna know. I have some ideas of pitfalls to avoid (which I will get into later), but I imagine some tips on how to improve chances for success would be helpful too. And for that I am seeking suggestions from readers since my experience is limited.

I have some experience in this area. My husband wasn’t open to one of my “crazy” names. In my case things worked themselves out; the name in question was for a girl and we ended up having a boy, eliminating the issue.

Have any of you tried to sell a name to your partner? Were you successful? How did you do it?

Readers: Have you ever tried to sell a name to a skeptical partner?

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Because Now I’m Obligated: My Cat’s Name

I hadn’t originally set out to share the story behind my cat’s name. Because, well, this site is about baby names not cat names. However, after sharing the stories behind my daughter’s and son’s names, I feel a little obligated to share the story behind my first baby’s name.

Actually, I didn’t pick our cat’s name, my husband did. This is ironic since my husband only tolerates our cat – and just barely.

When we adopted our cat from the shelter, she had come from another home and had another name. Her name from her former life was Tucker. This name was too masculine sounding for my tastes and I wanted to change it.

Since she was only a year old according to the shelter (but may have been older since a former shelter worker has since told me they will say anything to get an animal adopted), I thought she would have no problem with a name change.

Regardless of her actual age, in the surrender paperwork from her previous owners, they said they obtained her as “a neighborhood cat.” This led me to suspect her previous owners may have only fed her and not interacted with her much, and thus hadn’t used her name often.

While I had thought in depth about my children’s names long before they had become a reality, when it comes to pet names I always struggled. For some reason, naming pets was never as satisfying for me as naming babies. Part of the reason may be because I don’t like to use what I would consider a person’s name on a pet. A dog named John seems strange to me.

As Rob and I were driving home from the shelter, with our newest family member in the back seat in a pet carrier, we both agreed that Tucker wasn’t the right name for her. I tried to come up with another name. I suggested Jasmine, which could be a person’s name, but also seemed appropriate for a cat in my mind.

Rob didn’t think Jasmine was right. He suggested Pepper, because he thought her brown tabby coloring resembled the seasoning pepper. The seasoning by that name didn’t look much like brown tabby to me. The seasoning doesn’t contain much if any brown or tan, only black, white, and maybe grey. But I did find Pepper cute as a name.

There was another problem though. Pepper just happened to be the name of my new boss’s late dog. I didn’t want to look like I was kissing butt in an odd, yet misguided way. But I couldn’t think of a name I liked better.

I remember telling my boss our new cat’s name, while stressing that Rob named her, not me. I think I may have stressed it more than once. I’m not sure if that minimized the weirdness or made it worse. But I don’t work there anymore, and I still have my cat.

Pepper’s middle name sort of came about randomly, and was also picked by Rob. Rob just called her Pepper Anne out of the blue. (I decided on the Anne spelling over Ann a few weeks ago for the purpose of writing this article.)

Some name snobs may consider Anne a “filler” middle name, meaning it is a very common middle name, picked without much thought, because it flows well enough , and serves as nothing more than a bridge between the first and last names.

I doubt anyone will really think less of me as a name writer because I used a “filler” middle name on my cat. However, being a name writer, I somehow feel compelled to explain our middle name choice, even though initially it was picked without a lot of deliberation. Deliberation wasn’t really needed because Pepper Anne just felt right.

First of all, most pets I know don’t even have middle names. Our cat is special just by having one. Second of all, while Anne flows well with most names, I especially like the sound of Pepper Anne. Anne is clearly a feminine name, and clearly indicates that our cat, with an androgynous first name (my ex-boss’s dog was a boy), is clearly a girl cat. In addition, since Anne is feminine but not girly, it pairs well with the androgynous Pepper. Pepper and Anne combine to create a wholesome image.

That, in a nutshell, is the story of how our cat became Pepper Anne.