Earlier this month, I posted my 2,000th post here at Appellation Mountain.

When I published my 1,000th post, I wrote a list of things that I’d learned.  What was true then is even more true now.  When I started writing in 2008, I could have put names into categories – good and bad, wearable and not.  Now I think that’s a much harder line to draw, and almost always difficult for an outsider to determine.

I’m definitely much more tolerant than I was before.

So for this milestone, I’m composing a list of three things that I love in names.  In some cases, I’ve used these qualities for my children’s names.  But they’re more things that I love to stumble on in birth announcements or overhear on a playground, like a birdwatcher has a favorite creature to spot in the wild.

  • Quirky and meaningful middles – Especially with a more conventional, or classic first.  Pairings like Alice ZenobiaJulian Fuego.  I hesitate when I hear Danger, mostly because it feels more like a punchline than a middle name.  But there are some daring, fierce alternatives that work.
  • Alliteration – On my dad’s side, we have kids with the initials E.E., A.A., R.R., and C.C. My sister broke the pattern, but it was fun while it lasted – even if I was the only one to notice.  I’m Amy Abigail, and my kids are Alexander Arthur and Claire Caroline Wren.  I think any future children would have to have repeating initials, too.
  • Names with great stories, whether they are conventional or offbeat.  Like the Novogratz family.  Or the stories on the Name Stories page here at AppMtn.  Or even Jessica Simpson’s choices.  She’s gotten a lot of flack for the names she’s given her kiddos, but they’re rich with family significance, and I was pleasantly surprised to realize that Ace wasn’t really as novel as he seemed.

Above all, I’ve come to appreciate how writing about a name can make me more open to it as a possibility.  Some choices – like Nevaeh – remain not my style.  But there’s almost always something to enjoy about any name, no matter how rare or recent a coinage.

So, with a special thanks to all of you for sticking around for 2,000 posts, I’d love to know this: What qualities make you appreciate a name?

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’m not a big fan of assonance/ alliteration, but it really just bothers me when it’s a first/ last name combination and if it sounds like a character from a children’s book. My husband has double initials and I do think it sounds silly, though I don’t think his is truly alliterative because one is an S sound and the other is Sh. I grew up with T first and last names and I always thought it sounded cheesy, so I couldn’t wait to change my last name. That said, I did receive a lot of compliments on my name growing up, so I may be in the minority. First/ middle names don’t bother me, though, and if it’s a tradition, I think it can be cute.

  2. Congrats!

    I like interesting name combinations, either with the first and middle name or first and last name. I love name stories. I can’t hear them enough in real life. I made my husband ask his grandmother about how she got her name and whether she liked it. I probably overthink it but I love learning everything there is to know about a name. I also love naming imaginary children, so many less restrictions than actually naming my child. In my head, we could have a dozen well named kids but in reality, I still can’t even narrow down my list if our next is a boy.

    1. Thanks, Colleen!

      And I agree – I want to ask everyone about their child’s name. Or their name. And I’m sad I didn’t spend more time asking my grandparents for their name stories.

  3. My favourite names tend to be ones with family significance. I love a good backstory, but when someone has the opportunity to use something meaningful or quirky off the family tree, perhaps something they wouldn’t have been daring enough to use otherwise, I get really giddy. I know it’s not an option for everyone but that is definitely one of my favourite qualities.

    1. Oh, that’s a great thought, Hettie – and I agree! I’m always charmed when I hear those kinds of stories.

  4. Congratulations, Abby! Looking forward to the 20 000th post! 🙂

    I think for me the name has to have some sort of meaning behind it, something more significant than “We just thought it was cool and wasn’t too popular”, or “It sounded classy and had some great nicknames to go with it”. I always really hope when I hear that that there really is a fantastic name story attached to the name, and it’s too personal and special to share with others.

    1. Thanks, Anna – and gulp! 20,000 sounds … big. But then, so did 2,000 back in 2008 so who knows? 🙂

      That’s a lovely thought – maybe there is a story behind the name, but the parent isn’t comfortable sharing … I remember an acquaintance telling me that they’d chucked their shortlist in the hospital after their first daughter was born. She hadn’t decided on a final name, but they’d had Jane down as a possible middle. And that first night, she found herself thinking of her daughter as Baby Janie. Her husband came in a few hours later and had the exact same thought. So it was Jane. It’s very sweet, and yet … now that Jane is 7 or 8, I wonder if she would tell the same story as freely.

      1. I do think it gets harder to share your “name story” as your children get older – if only because the story seems too much “theirs” for you to feel comfortable sharing it on their behalf.

  5. Congratulations on 2000 posts 🙂

    I agree with the double initial thing. I have Clementine Clara in my head as a possibility for DD3!

    And a story for you: I was convinced, and I mean CONVINCED, that DD2 was called Romy. It was never a name that had entered my head until conception, and I was very confused and wondered what I would do if she were a boy (it’s a girls’ name for me). We found out she was a girl at 20 weeks and I was then sure that was who she was – she kind of named herself. Only trouble was DH hated it. We left the issue until labour, when, feeling miserable but sure it was unfair to force it on him, I was about to capitulate. Then the midwife bought the postpartum tea and toast. And the spread with the toast was “Romi” spread. I’ve never seen it before or since and nearly had a heart attack. Fortunately DH was in a compromising mood after labour and agreed that could be her name. It really felt like a sign I was right!

  6. Congratulations on 2000 posts! You are awesome!

    I agree with you on everything 🙂 and my favorites are those quirky middles. I wish I knew the story behind some of them.


  7. Congratulations on 2000 posts! You’re an inspiration for all name bloggers 🙂

    I’d have to agree with all three of your points. I also love names that I’ve never heard before. Not a new way to spell a familiar one, but a new sound that I haven’t encountered on a person before. Even if I personally love or hate it, I like that it gives me something new to wonder about and learn from.

    1. Thanks, Blue Juniper!

      And your addition is a great one – it is fascinating to hear names that I’ve never heard before, and I’m amazed at how often it happens. I mean, you’d think at some point we’d all say, okay, that’s it, can’t find anything new. But it doesn’t happen, does it?

  8. Congratulations on #2000! I find that the names I like least are the ones without a story. “We just liked it” takes the wind right out of the sails of even the loveliest sounding name. OTOH, I can get behind almost any name lovingly bestowed and imbued with meaning!