Name Spotting: Oceana

OceanaLast week I took Fiona to the hair salon for her back-to-school hair cut. While waiting for Fiona’s turn in the chair, I started looking at the hairstyle books in the waiting area.

In a book of children’s hair styles titled Passion Kids Volume 8, one of the models stuck out. All of the kiddies were adorable, but this girl was striking with dark hair, long dark eyelashes and blue-grey eyes.

And then I was pleasantly surprised to see that she had an equally striking name: Oceana.

No name seemed more fitting for this beautiful child with eyes that could almost be described as aquatic-colored.

Oceana is a feminine form of Oceanus, a name featured in UBN’s Names from the Mayflower. According to Nameberry, the variation Oceane (oh-she-ANN) is very fashionable in France.

Oceana has always been rare. It has never been in the US top 1000. There were only 25 newborn girls named Oceana last year.

The more literal Ocean is slightly more popular, but still uncommon, given to 62 girls and 85 boys last year.

This nautical name might seem whimsical, but when compared to names like Brook and River, it is a real possibility on a modern child.


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.

Don’t miss the next Reader Q&A Video. Submit your email address below to get updates.

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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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When The One You Love Hates The Name You Love

disappointmentBased on a survey I did of UBN’s email subscriber community, the biggest obstacle in finding a baby name is when partners disagree.

This is a topic I addressed before in UBN’s When Every Name Seems Wrong series. That article dealt with finding common ground, discarding both partners’ top names and starting from scratch. The approach was very systematical and is helpful when partners have divergent name-styles.

What that article didn’t address is when one partner absolutely hates the other partner’s most favorite name in the world, the name that feels like home to one partner but not the other.

This is something I have experienced personally. In my situation, circumstances eliminated the debate–my beloved name was a girl name and we ended up having a boy. Therefore I cannot share what learned from my personal experience.

If we found out we were having a girl, this would have been my game plan:

  1. Fight til the end for my beloved name.
  2. If I failed to convince Rob that he was wrong and my name was awesome (after much weeping and gnashing of teeth), I would have tried to let the name go but that would have been really, really hard.

To find out how to maximize success in step 1., I asked readers if they had ever sold a name to a skeptical partner.

Something told me the weeping/gnashing of teeth approach wouldn’t work for everyone.

There were great responses. One suggestion was to find personal connections with the name that the other partner could appreciate.

Ashley said:

My husband is a sentimentalist. He vetoes every name I run past him at first, but I search for names with a personal connection. Nature, music, and anything else that reminds him of good memories are all fair game.

Another reader said that her partner reluctantly agreed to the name after he failed to come up with other options.

Toniette said:

I was in LOVE with the name Blythe, but my husband didn’t like it for a variety of reasons… however, I couldn’t love another name, […]. So, I began my campaign, and since he wasn’t one to come up with other suggestions, or lobby for a different option, she was Blythe.

When I was creating my campaign for my beloved name, I consulted name forums and one great suggestion was to google images of attractive real-life people with the name to show Rob.

One of the reasons he didn’t like the name, was because it was too unique for him. Perhaps after seeing the name on real-life people, he would have an easier time imagining it on our hypothetical daughter.

I tried that piece of advice. The good news was most of the women were attractive. The bad news was that Rob thought one of the women, an artist named Cecily Brown “looked pissed off” in one of her pictures. Perhaps I should have left out that picture.

In the end, I could easily accept that we weren’t meant to have a daughter named Cecily because we have a wonderful little boy. (I hadn’t considered Cecily when my daughter, my oldest child, was born.)

But what if circumstances don’t work themselves out and you have a stubborn partner who’s unpersuaded by your well-thought-out campaign? How do you let go of the beloved name?

There is little advice I can offer. As I was thinking about what advice I would give, I wanted to avoid platitudes, like “time heals all…”.

The best I can do is suggest you find out why your partner doesn’t like the name you love. Your partner’s reasons are also useful during your campaign for the name.

Once you learn your partner’s reasons for disliking the name, you may find out that he or she has very solid, practical concerns that you hadn’t considered because you were too starry-eyed.

At the very least, your partner’s reasons may help you find another name that you both love (or at least one of you loves and the other accepts).

Another piece of advice that may help some of you, especially the name nerds among us, is that as much as you love the name now, and you may always love it, you will find other names you love just as much, long after you are done having kids. And using the names on pets just doesn’t seem as satisfying.

For example, after falling in love with Cecily and giving birth to my son, I fell in love with Opal, a name I will never get to use since we are done having kids.

Us name people might find peace by accepting that we will never get to use every single name we love–at least not on a real-live human. But sharing the lost names with others may help with the process. One way to do this is through writing about the names, like I do on UBN.

I know first-hand how difficult letting go can be. I can only imagine how disappointed I would have been if I had a girl and couldn’t use my beloved name.

However, I also believe that failing to compromise with your partner is one way to sabotage your baby name search. As I said before, coming to an agreement with your partner isn’t just best for your relationship, it is also best for your baby.

Readers: Have you ever been unable to use a beloved name on one of your kids?

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Bush Twin Syndrome: Generation Gap Siblings


Barbara and Jenna Bush with India the cat on Jenna’s wedding day

Like Swistle (from Swistle Baby Names) I was always unsettled by the names of the Bush twins, Barbara and Jenna.

Swistle brought up the Bush twin example in response to a reader who is grappling with naming girl number two when girl number one’s name was a compromise name picked by dad.

In this case, as is often the case, the mom’s tastes are more contemporary than the dad’s. Now this mom fears her children will have generation gap names. FYI: Girl number one’s name is Shannon.

Should this expectant mother ignore clashing sibling names and pick what she loves or try to find a name that complements her older daughter’s name? Is there a middle ground? Swistle and her readers have come up with great suggestions, such as looking at names that were popular around the same time or have something else in common with Shannon such as Celtic origins or double letters. It’s a great read.

Siblings—especially twins—with generation gap names drive me bonkers! I’m a name nerd after all.

With the Bush twins, I always assumed Barbara was honoring (after George W’s mother) and Jenna was the name they really wanted.

I had briefly considered that Jenna could have been honoring, but dismissed that possibility out of hand, since the name never really became common until shortly after the Bush twins were born in 1981.

Imagine my shock when I learned, from a thoughtful Swistle reader, that Jenna was also an honoring name, the name of Laura Bush’s mother, Jenna Hawkins.

Jenna Hawkins was born in 1919. That year Jenna almost didn’t make the Social Security baby name data. For privacy reasons, the Social Security Administration will not count a name in its database if fewer than five were born that year. In 1919 there were only six newborn girls on record* named Jenna.

How surprising! And now the Bush twins’ names make more sense.

*Many people born before 1937 never applied for a Social Security card and therefore are not counted in the Social Security baby name data. 

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