Name HelpName Help is a new series at Appellation Mountain. Every Saturday, one reader’s name questions will be discussed.

We’re relying on thoughtful comments from the community to help expectant parents narrow down their name decisions. Thank you in advance for sharing your insight!

Giacor is expecting her first at the end of December.  They’ve chosen not to find out the gender in advance.  She writes:

Two problems.

First: If it’s a boy, it’s the James Joseph the 5th. I don’t like Joey, JJ, Jay, Jamie was used by my husband, I don’t like Jim, Jimmy … all of these names are used in one of our families. Jacques? My husband’s last name is very French. Is that basically Jack? Another name I strongly dislike. 🙁  I have Googled this like crazy! I’m afraid I’ll end up with just James. Which is what I call my husband … soooo that will be weird.

Second: If it’s a girl, I don’t want anything that could be turned into Mary (my mother). Marigold, Rosemary. I LOVE those names, but nope. We want a name that honors either our heritage or our natural surroundings, (flowers/herbs from the South), preferably uncommon, no Jennifer, Ashley, Emily, etc.

I’m Italian and Irish, my husband is French and Scottish. He has a strong French last name and I’m 2nd generation Italian. We are both from the the South. We like names that stand out, but appreciate some underused classics.

Read on for my answer – and please leave your suggestions in the comments!

Hi Giacor –

This is quite a puzzle!  If it is a boy, your name is set – except you can’t settle on what you’ll actually call him, which is definitely a problem, since you’re hoping to avoid defaulting to James.

For a girl, it seems like you’re still generating a shortlist.

Let’s take these one at a time.

Name Help: Naming a Son

Assuming it’s a boy, you’re set on James Joseph FrenchLastName V.  And why not? Tradition galore, and it’s a solid, substantial name.

But you have exhausted all of the nicknames, and I agree – it can be frustrating to have a father and son with the same first name in the same household.

So there are two possible routes:

  • Choose a nickname related to the number five.  Quinn or Quint, maybe? Quincy?  Or Pen/Penn, as in penta- the Greek prefix for five.  I saw V – pronounced vee – suggested on another forum, which makes me think of Van, though that’s even farther away from the number.  Is Cinco too crazy?  Or heck, even Five.  The Novogratz family named their fifth child Five.  All of these might take some explanation, but “oh, he’s James Joseph the fifth” is straightforward.  Bonus?  Most of these work for a child or a grown-up.
  • Choose a nickname unrelated to either of his given names.  Sonny, Buddy, etc.  The downside to this approach is that you kind of hope they won’t stick after childhood – so at some point, you’ll have a 30-something son still answering to Buddy … or maybe Jim.

Or have we exhausted all of the nicknames for James Joseph?  A few unusual possibilities include:

  • Joss – For Joseph, but without the long ‘o’ sound.
  • Jake – James and Jacob share the same origins, so Jake isn’t a huge stretch.
  • Jem – Too animated 80s rock star?  Jem was originally a medieval short form of James.

You haven’t shared your last name, so I’d also ask if there’s any potential from your son’s first and last initial?  James Joseph T- could be Jet, or James Joseph D- could be Jude.  Or … something like that.  A stretch, yes, but again, explaining that you’re the fifth generation usually satisfies the curious.

Naming a Daughter

Here’s your list as I understand it:

  • No elaborations/forms of Mary.
  • Preferably honors your Southern heritage, with a tie to the natural world.
  • Nothing too common.

You’ve mentioned that you love Marigold and Rosemary, and ruled them out mostly because they’d be perceived as honor names for your mom.  So let’s look at the florals:

English: White Magnolia grandiflora (southern ...

  • Magnolia – The one that immediately came to mind!  Vintage, Southern, lovely.  253 girls were given the name last year.  Compare that to over 13,000 Emilys, and this one is pretty unusual.
  • Daphne – Not so Southern, but a name that strikes a good balance between vintage and modern – plus, Daphne means laurel.
  • Camellia – As in the state flower of Alabama.  Only drawback?  The similar Camila is very popular right now – in the US Top 100.
  • Azalea – Too Iggy?  The state wildflower of Georgia is the azalea.  As a name, this one sounds and feels current, but with just 440 girls given the name in 2013, it’s not at all common.  Of course, Australian rapper Iggy Azalea could change that …
  • Rose – While Rosemary and Marigold suggest a more elaborate style, would you consider just Rose?  It’s very popular as a middle name, but much less common as a first.
  • Jessamine – Another southern state flower, and a rare name, too.  Other forms include Jessamyn – which feels invented – and Jessamy – which is sort of fabulous in the Cecily-Felicity mode.
  • Marguerite – The French form of Margaret, linked to the daisy – though maybe this would feel too French when paired with your husband’s surname?  Margaret is a possibility as well, but it seems like you’d prefer something more unusual.
  • Sylvie – Ultimately from the Latin silva, forest.  Lots of history to the name, and several possible forms – but this is the French one.

Other names that aren’t floral, but are elaborate and at least somewhat unusual: Isabetta, Francesca (an Italian name that refers to France), Helena, Juliet, Rosalind, Antonia.

I’d love to hear your reaction to the floral names in particular – are you really set on something botanical, or do none of these feel quite right?  There are lots (and I mean lots) of possibilities for a girl that are elaborate and interesting – and I know you’ll see some more in the comments!

Readers, what names would you suggest to Giacor – for a son and for a daughter? 


About Abby Sandel

Whether you're naming a baby, or just all about names, you've come to the right place! Appellation Mountain is a haven for lovers of obscure gems and enduring classics alike.

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What do you think?


  1. I had a boy and we call him Quinn! I just liked the two n’a. another baby coming soon so I reread this post knowing I had loved all the girl
    names. Thanks again!! This is my favorite naming website.

  2. Some names/nicknames that are related that haven’t been mentioned…
    Akiva, Coby, Giacobbe, Giacomo, Hemi, Iago, Ib, Kapel, Kimo, Kobe, Kobi, Koby, Kuba, Lapo, Tiago, Xanti, Xaime, Yago, Yakov, Yaqub, Yankel, Yasha, Zak

    Bepo, Beppe, Jop, Jose, Josie, Pep, Peppe, Peppi, Seb, Xose, Zef, Zeze

  3. Wow!! So many great ideas! I took notes. Thank you every one!!

    Kerry, you are so right about James and Jamie etc. My last resort is to use Jamie and let his family deal with the confusion!

    Agree that Jem is so close to Jim.

    I should have mentioned Joseph was out because of a cousin of mine (who I’m close with!) I would always think of him.

    Darn I should have mentioned last name starts with L. My name Giacor is abbreviated for use as a username. My name is Giovanna and my last name is the same number of letters, starting with a C. I kept my last name. Which makes this whole thing more interesting!! 🙂

    I LOVE so many of these names!!! I’ve got a great list to discuss with my husband now. Thank you so much!