Reader Q&A Poll: Is Lennon Masculine or Feminine?


A few months ago I decided to reach out to the UBN email community and ask what they felt was the most difficult aspect of naming a baby. Their answers to that question were eye-opening.

I decided this question would be a great followup email to new members once they join the community. I set the email to automatically go out to new members, and have been pleased with the feedback so far.

One reader mentioned some concerns she has with the boy and girl name she picked for her expectant baby–gender unknown.

She likes names that start with L, and had picked Lachlan for a boy and Lennon for a girl. She mentioned the following concerns:

  • Does Lachlan seem feminine?
  • Is Lach (pronounced LOCK) a good nickname for Lachlan?
  • Could Lennon be mistaken for “lemon” or is it “too out there”?

Since I’m aware of Lachlan’s popularity on boys in Australia, I believe Lachlan is all-boy, and I feel confident that I stand with the majority on this.

But the name that stood out as causing gender confusion to me is Lennon. As I read her question, my thought *wasn’t* “Is Lachlan too feminine?” my thought *was* “Is Lennon too masculine?”

Lennon reminds me of two things:

  1. John Lennon
  2. The nicknames Len and Lenny–both masculine names to me.

For girl names, Lainey, Laney or Lane seem like good fits for this reader’s preferences (modern L-names).

But perhaps this is just me? I have seen Fallon on a girl and that name has a similar style to Lennon. Perhaps Lennon would make a good unisex name? I’m not sure what the consensus is.

And that is why I decided to ask readers: Do you think Lennon is more feminine, masculine or unisex? And if you have any suggestions for this reader, feel free to leave them in the comments. 


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Reader Q&A: Middle Names For Ann

I’ve recently become a proponent of promoting Ann from middle to first name status.

One reader, Shannon, is planning to do just that!

The problem, however, is that she is struggling to find a good middle name for Ann.

Oh the irony.

But once you start to dig, you will find that Ann has more middle name possibilities than ever imagined.

Watch and listen to Shannon’s plight and my suggestions.

So many of us are used to putting Ann in the middle that when we try to use it as a first name, we may find the search for a middle name challenging at first.

But once you get past the old habit of relegating Ann to the middle and let Ann shine, you will see that you actually have so many wonderful middle name options.

And I feel Ann is about ready to come out from the shadows, shed its boring reputation and become appreciated again for its elegant, understated style.

Good Luck Shannon!

Readers: What middle names can you come up with for Ann?

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Sorry: There Are No Nickname Proof Names…


…But There Are Assumed vs. Optional Nicknames

A few years ago I remember an expectant mother lamenting that she loved the name Samuel, but hated Sam. She was pleading to the internet community, looking for validation.

“Can I name my son Samuel and avoid having him called Sam?”, she asked hopefully.

So many people were willing to tell her what she wanted to hear.

If you know me, you know I am not one to tell people what they want to hear.

I was the lone dissenting voice.

Something to remember when picking a name: When kids become older, the name becomes theirs not the parents.

The parents give the name, but the kid owns it.

Maybe this mom can successfully insist on Samuel for a few years, but once her son becomes older, if he decides he prefers to be called Sam, there’s little she can do.

Compounding this problem is that, for Samuel, Sam is the assumed nickname.

Names with assumed nicknames are like package deals. I would suggest to parents who don’t love the assumed nickname to avoid these names no matter how much they love them. (If the parents also happen to love the assumed nickname, that’s a different story.)

Few names are nickname-proof, but some names that have optional, and not assumed nicknames.

What does that mean?

Since the most recent Reader Q&A Video post was about an unwanted nickname, now seems like a good time to discuss assumed vs. optional nicknames.

Some names have assumed nicknames. This means that there is only one, possibly two nicknames that are widely used and are often assumed.

Then there are optional nicknames. Optional nicknames are ideal in my opinion. These names either are very unusual with one or two little-known nicknames or they have so many nicknames that most people won’t assume any of them.

The infamous Elizabeth is one of these names that has so many nicknames that no one should assume someone named Elizabeth goes by any of them.

But Elizabeth is an easy example.

An example of a name that is very unusual to the point where few people would know any nicknames is Bisma. (There were 6 Bisma’s born in the US in 2012.)

And of course there’s the name from the most recent Reader Q&A video, Philomena, another unusual name. The name is susceptible to being shortening due to its length, but there are a few options: Philly, Philo, Mena, Mina, Millie, and possibly others. Due to the unusualness of the name and the number of nicknames, none of them can be assumed.

Do you want other examples of names with optional nicknames?

Of course you do.

Here are some former UBN Spotlight Names that fit this category.

And if you are not familiar with Spotlight names the list may look a bit eclectic to you. That’s the idea. Some of these are part of a Spotlight Name series such as Great-grandparent Names and Unfairly Dated Names. (You can learn more about these series by visiting the UBN Spotlight Names page.)

(Each name links to the original post.)

Name Spotlight Name Series
Aida Spotlight Name
Aletha Spotlight Name
Amos Spotlight Name
Amy Unfairly Dated
April Unfairly Dated
Balthazar Spotlight Name
Begonia Spotlight Name
Bianca Spotlight Name
Blythe Name To Watch
Casimir Spotlight Name
Clive Spotlight Name
Eartha Spotlight Name
Effie Spotlight Name
Etta Spotlight Name
Farrah Failure to Launch
Heather Unfairly Dated
Helen Great-Grandparent
Hillary Failure to Launch
Humphrey Unexpectedly Familiar
Lara Failure to Launch
Lavinia Spotlight Name
Lottie Great-Grandparent
Mack Failure to Launch
Marlon Spotlight Name
Mary Spotlight Name
Mindy Failure to Launch
Ocie Great-Grandparent
Ophelie Spotlight Name
Perry Spotlight Name
Phaedra Spotlight Name
Rafe Spotlight Name
Rhea Spotlight Name
Roscoe Spotlight Name
Ross Spotlight Name
Tennessee Unexpectedly Familiar
Wallis Failure to Launch

It’s worth repeating: I can’t claim these names are nickname proof. A nickname proof name is one without any nicknames.

But as UBN reader Elizabeth recently discovered, there is no such thing as a nickname proof names. There will always be people who insist on finding a nickname for everyone.

What I am saying is that these names don’t have assumed nicknames. While 90% of Michael’s are called “Mike,” the names on this list don’t have that fate, the fate of an assumed nickname.

Names with optional nicknames do have a downside: these names may be more susceptible to unwanted nicknames from friends and family.

But like I said to Elizabeth (who was disappointed that family members had shortened Philomena into “Philly”): you can’t control what other people call your child, but you can control what you call your child and you should keep calling your child whatever you like.

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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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Spotlight On: Euphemia


Before discovering Euphemia, I assumed if Effie had a long form, somehow it wouldn’t do the short form justice.

Effie’s appeal lies in its ability to be sweet and smart, homey and exotic, old-fashioned and modern, like a cross between Millie and Ione.

And when a nickname has that many selling points, I can understand why some people skip over the formal version and make the diminutive the baby’s official name.

But I’m one of those people who isn’t satisfied with just a good nickname. I don’t think I’m alone in wanting a good nickname to have an equally good formal version.

As it happens, Effie can have a few formal versions.

Of Effie’s many possible long-forms, Josephine, Fiona, and even Elizabeth, the most natural is Euphemia, a name sounding almost like the words “ephemeral” or “euphemism” .

The name means something like “well-spoken”. Other possible meanings are: “to speak well” or “fair speech.” The eu prefix is Greek for good, new or well.

And this eu prefix may be the name’s modern downfall.

Eu-name such as Eugene, were fashionable at one point, but have been out of fashion for a while.

Euphemia even visited the bottom of the top 1000 over a century ago. It peaked at #770 in 1881. Its last year in the top 1000 was 1903.

Eu-names are hard to find on babies born in 2014. And yet the FEE sound, also found in top girl name Sophia and fashionable Fiona (#209 and rising) could make the name a slight possibility.

There’s also the Greek origins, found in just outside the top 10 Chloe and fashionable Daphne (only at #420 but rising) and Phoebe (#303).

The similar Seraphina may not be in the top 1000 yet, but as a celebrity baby name (thanks to Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck who used the Serafina spelling for their second daughter) the name has loads of potential.

And these Greek names all have a fashionable digraph, the ph, also found in top girl name Sophia.

Euphemia has much in common with another Spotlight name, Phaedra.

Euphemia may not be appreciated by the mainstream yet, but it deserves a place on UBN.

In fact, Euphemia could revive other eu-names, such as these:

Eula (or Eulah)

There is also the Eufemia variation.

Perhaps a parent has to be pretty bold to name their daughter Euphemia (or Eufemia) in 2014. Neither spelling can be found in the US Social Security data, meaning there were fewer than 5 born in the entire US in 2012.

But if you like Euphemia, I feel the name is a managed risk, and I would use it.

For those not quite ready to take the risk and use it as a first name, Euphemia has the same four-syllable stress on the second syllable pattern as Elizabeth, making it a great middle name.

But note the first African-American woman mathematician, born Martha Euphemia Lofton, rarely used Martha. Other notable Euphemia’s include a Christian saint, and an anime character, Euphemia li Britannia.

Euphemia’s credentials can give it some familiarity and manage its risk-factor.

Being a baby name pioneer means appreciating eu-names when the rest of the country is still in love with el-names, but US parents will rave about eu-names eventually. I can feel it.

And Euphemia could lead the way.

Readers: What do you think of Euphemia?

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