Reader Q&A

Reader Q&A: An Unwanted Nickname

You called me what?!?!?

You called me what?!?!?

Today’s reader Q&A comes from Elizabeth who picked a wonderfully unique name for her daughter, Philomena.

Unfortunately, she didn’t realize a possible nickname that has been picked up by some of her relatives.

When relatives start using a nickname for your child that you don’t like, how can you get them to stop?

Watch below to find out.

Readers: Do you have any other suggestions for avoiding unwanted nicknames?

*And* would you like your baby name question featured on a Reader Q&A video?

Submit your question by email through the contact page.

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Reader Q&A: Is Elliot Going To The Girls? Part 2 of 2


Reader Jennifer reached out to me because the name she is considering should her unborn child be a boy has gained popularity with girls in recent years.

The name in question, Elliott (spelled with 2 Ts) is almost in the girls’ top 1000 and the variation Elliot (with one T) had already hit the top 1000 a couple of years ago.

In the first part of this series, I compared Elliot (with one T since that spelling is in the top 1000 for both genders) to three gender crossover names that have gone to the girls: Addison, Ashley, Aubrey.

See Part 1 here.

The comparisons with Addison and Ashley were encouraging for those who feel Elliot should stay on the “blue team”.

Addison and Ashley were never very popular on boys and spent a lot of time outside the boys’ top 1000, unlike Elliot which has been in the boys’ top 1000 for about a century.

This suggests Elliot has a solid history on the boys’ side to keep it there.

However, the findings with Aubrey weren’t as encouraging–unless you prefer Elliot on a girl.

While Aubrey was never very popular on boys, it had never left the boys’ top 1000 until 2009, when it suddenly took off on girls.

Almost a century ago, Aubrey was more popular on boys than Elliot.

Could Elliot go the way of Aubrey?

Watch my take.

My opinion is just my opinion. I would love to hear from readers on this.

Readers: In your opinion, is Elliot a boy name, girl name or unisex name?

Reader Q & A: Is Elliot Going To The Girls? Part 1 of 2

elliot-graphI love when readers give me ideas for UBN.

Recently Jennifer reached out to me with a concern that the name she is considering for a possible son is gaining popularity on girls.

Will Elliot (or Elliott) Become The Next Ashley?

I did do a post on the subject of gender crossover names that looked back in time: Whoa! These Were Once Boy Names! 

But I haven’t done a forward-looking post on gender-crossover names yet. Watch my take on the subject*:

Readers: What do you think? Will Elliot/Elliott go to the girls?

Update: Part 2 is now available here.

Never miss an update. To get notified for the second part of this series and get other updates, including stuff I don’t share on the blog, enter your email address below.

* This was originally going to be a standard written post until I was nearly finished writing and creating graphs and saw all the graphs and decided this was another opportunity for a video post. See my first one here

Because I didn’t want to wait until Rob could tape me during daylight hours to get this out to you guys (the lighting in our house at night is hardly ideal for video), I experimented with my webcam. I think for the next one, I’m going to ask Rob to tape me because he did a great job.

Reader Q & A: What Are Some Good “Smoosh” Names For Boys?

mismatched-shoes“Smoosh” names or double first names have gone through fashion cycles in the U.S. They have come and gone, but each time they come back, the names change.

For example:

  • The Victorian age had Lou-Ella (or Louella).
  • The 20’s & 30’s had Betty-Jane and Mary-Jane.
  • The mid-century or “Mad Men” era had: Ann-Marie, Mary-Ann, and Mary-Beth

These names are now fashionable again in the U.K., and I think they are finding their way back to the U.S. Double first names such as Emma-Lynn (or Emmalyn) and Grace-Lynn (or Gracelyn) have recently hit the U.S. top 1000 and are gradually going up in popularity.


These names have never been huge (at least in the U.S.) on boys.

I feel they have potential on boys, though, which is why I was psyched when a reader asked about boy combo names in the comments of one of UBN’s pioneer posts, Compound (or Double) First Names.

cycy writes:

I am really torn apart now, I am 6 months pregnant and having a boy. I wanted to give him a compound name that is rather cute but not too common. I wanted the name to be “Kevin-Gio” but my husband thinks it’s kinda weird as a name can I get some feedbacks about that name.

Thank you all

My response:

Combo names can be cute, but finding two names that mesh well together can be a challenge. I consider myself a name person and still struggle sometimes to create my own combinations.

Kevin and Gio are both great names on their own, but in my opinion, don’t quite complement each other. (I’m pronouncing Gio as GEE-oh.)

It could be the rhythm that isn’t right or the fact that both names have very contrasting styles. Kevin is a traditional mid-to-late 20th century name and Gio is a rare-exotic name, a short form of the Italian Giovanni. With similar short names like Kai (#195 on boys and #919 on girls) becoming more popular, Gio has modern appeal.

Therefore, in my humble opinion, a combo like Kevin-Gio comes across like a combo such as Brian-Kai.

Both combos (Kevin-Gio & Brian-Kai) have names that might be fine when used as first and middle names but, when always said and written together, they seem to compete.

I just thought of another similar combo, Eric-Kai which might work with the K sound tying the names together. I might try the Erikai spelling, but that could come across as feminine in Western cultures. Darn this is a challenge!

I suggest deciding between Kevin and Gio and finding a different partner.

I tried switching the name too: Gio-Kevin. I didn’t see (or hear) an improvement.

For Kevin, my first thought was Kevin-Lee. However, if you want something more original, I looked up Gio on Nameberry, and Nameberry readers who liked Gio also liked Levi. Levi is a more current name than Lee, and (in my opinion) also goes well with Kevin.

So for Kevin:


For Gio, as I mentioned, I had some great luck on Nameberry where I found some interesting names under the “people who liked Gio also liked…” heading. The two biggest names (at time of writing) were Quint and Rishi. Both would work with Gio, but I feel Gio (at least they way I am saying it) flows better as the first name.

So for Gio:


I keep using what I call my “playground call-out” test. And the names I feel most comfortable calling on the playground are the Kevin combos: Kevin-Lee and Kevin-Levi. I think.

I can get used to saying Gio-Rishi. I did some research on Rishi. It is an Indian name, and I am using the pronunciation that can be heard here on Pronounce Names.

Gio-Quint looks good to me on paper, but when I try to call that name, I’m not sure I feel comfortable, but that could just be me. I would love to hear from other readers on this.

Readers: What combo names would you suggest for reader cycy’s son?

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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?