Name Help is a series at Appellation Mountain. Every week, 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!
We have a daughter named Alice Olivia. Olivia was my favorite name forever, but I guess it was everybody else’s favorite name, too! My husband suggested Alice Olivia the same day we found out we were having a girl, and it just clicked.
Now our son is due in a few weeks, and neither of us has any really good ideas. We like Paul on paper, but not when we say it out loud. (And when I Google searched Alice and Paul, a suffragist named Alice Paul came up. Would that be weird?)
Theo was another name we talked about, but we know two. I wouldn’t say that popularity bothers me, but I feel weird about re-using a name. (My husband would probably use Theo anyway.) My nephew is Jack, so while I love, love, love that name, we can’t use it, either.
I guess I’d call our style traditional but not serious or stuffy, if that’s a style!
Our last name is short, but very Italian, so names like Luca and Marco sound like they’re extras from The Sopranos. And it ends with ‘i’ so names like Henry don’t sound right, either.
At this point, we just need some new ideas. Can you help?
Please read on for my response and leave your thoughtful suggestions in the comments.
Dear Katelyn –
Congratulations on your new son!
I love the idea of traditional, not stuffy. And I think I know what you mean.
Part of me wants to talk you into Paul. It’s impeccably classic, easy to say and spell, and relatively rare for boys born in this generation. And yet … as traditional and handsome as Paul is, it makes me think of Newman and McCartney. It doesn’t quite fit the same category as Theo and Jack. Of course, that’s the strength of Paul – it won’t repeat (much) in this generation.
Still, let’s come up with a fresh list and see if any of these can top Paul. I’m going to skip names like William and James, even though they have great, breezy nicknames and
Calvin can feel serious and philosophical, or sporty and confident. It’s a name with swagger, but also a name that you can take seriously. Few names offer that kind of range.
I’ve included a handful of surname names on this list. We tend to hear “traditional” and think Charles and John, but the simple fact is that we’ve been using surnames for our sons (and, to a lesser extent, daughters) for generations. Carter feels like a rock solid choice.
Alice and Everett sound just right together. Plus Everett is a little longer, and it balances out a shorter surname nicely.
Hayes might feel a little more modern than Everett or Carter, but I think it fits the same traditional-ish vibe. It’s high energy, but still the kind of name that can be taken seriously.
Just Nate fails to make the US Top 1000, but dozens of boys named Nathan and Nathaniel probably answer to Nate, at least some of the time. Still, it’s probably less common than Jack and stands on its own every bit as well as Cole or Jake.
When I hear Alice, it’s tempting to add “in Wonderland.” Peter, too, has an automatic storybook association. But both names can – and do – grow up. They’ve done it in generation after generation. It makes Peter a natural brother name for Alice.
Like Peter, Simon counts as a classic – but we tend to overlook it, somehow. Simon sounds smart and capable. Oh, and the dashing duke in Netflix series Bridgerton just happens to be named Simon, too.
Xavier offers plenty of history, but it’s only been really popular in the US since the 1990s. Still, it feels unexpected without being new or invented. And Alice and Xavier sound great together, too.
Overall, I feel like Calvin is the name that falls midway between Paul and Jack. Maybe that’s because of breezy nickname option Cal? Though I think lots of these work well, and I really do love Nate as a substitute for Jack.
I know a sister and brother named Alice and Theodore, nn Teddy. So my thought is that if you love Theo but don’t want to use it, how about going for the full Theodore and using Ted or Teddy as a nn – but then you still have the option of calling him Theo at home? Unless the Theos you know are family or close friends, chances are that your son may not even know them when he is older, and that’s when you’d regret not using a name that you love.
Another Paul fan here. It’s an underused classic that, I think, became a victim of its runaway success mid-20th century, at any rate in Australia and Britain, where it traditionally had lagged well behind Peter owing to the tendency for English churches to be named after ‘St Peter and St Paul’ rather than just after St Paul . It’s been enjoying a wave of popularity in Germany as well (in the form Pawel) in Poland, and seems to be holding its own in France. It has lots of worthy historic namesakes and I first fell in love with it at age 5 owing to a very handsome and clever boy in my class at school. He grew into an even handsomer adult, very successful in his profession. Almost every Paul I have known has been handsome and good-natured! Go for it, if not in first then in second spot. Paul Miles or Miles Paul appeals. How about Paul Sebastian/Jonathan/Nathaniel?
This is somewhat niche and probably nothing, but in the Twilight Saga one of Alice’s “siblings” is Emmett, so when I think Alice and Everett that’s where my mind jumped. Ignore this is you love Everett…but I’d stay away from Emmett, Jasper, or Edward, just in case. 😉
Jack, Theo and Paul make me think of Liam, Cole, Will, Dane, Scott, Ross, Drew, Ralph, Clive, Wyatt. Also seconding Miles!
I don’t think Alice Paul would be an obvious connection to most people, but if someone does think of the suffragist, that’s probably a positive connotation.
I really like Phillip, Peter, or Russell for you of the names already suggested. Stephen is another rock solid classic that might work. If you’re open to names that are a bit less popular, the sounds in Alice Olivia (such a charming name!) make me think you might like Lowell.
I second Peter, Simon and Philip and I’ll add Thomas and Michael.
Thomas Leo (I love Alice & Thomas)
Philip Lucas (I think Philip could work for “we like Paul on paper, but not when we say it out loud”: in writing it’s similar, but it has a very different sound)
Erin Beth says
I love the suggestion of Calvin. Others I like for you: Jude, Emmett, Elliott, Oscar, Lionel.
I love Simon. I think Ethan, Ira, Levi and Zachary would be great with Alice.
Paul is great! I also like Calvin and Simon, as well as Jasper, Felix, Milo, and Wesley from the comments. Does Leo take you too far into Sopranos territory? I also like Theodore or Edward called Teddy/Ted, Cecil, Ralph, Warren, Russell, and Harvey.
I like Paul for you from your list and Peter and Calvin from Abby’s.
A few additional suggestions:
C in DC says
My spouse is Paul, so I hear it often. I also know two youngsters named Paul. Great name. Names in the style of Paul: Frank, Walt, Roy, Wesley, James, Karl/Carleton, Clifton, Pierce, Bart, Vincent, Kurt/Curtis, Russell, Gerold.
Frank, Wesley, James and Vincent are all SO perfect with Alice.
I vote to keep Paul in the middle place. Any of those suggestion would be great with it,
Calvin Paul tops my list, I think.
But I’d also suggest:
Milo Paul (Alice and Milo!)
Or some other ideas:
Graham and Grant are swoon worthy lol
Alison Doherty says
I love Peter, Calvin and Hayes…and also want to give a second thumbs up to Paul (I had one Paul in a class and it felt very wearable. Phillip, George, and Walter also came to mind!
I LOVE Arthur, Jasper, Felix, and Oscar. Jasper always brings to mind Basil and Ambrose, though I think Alice and Basil are a bit of a mouthfull together. Felix always brings to mind Eli and Toby.