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!
My husband and I are expecting a baby boy in September. We don’t share the same taste or naming style so it’s been especially difficult to settle on a name we both like or will at least tolerate. We have a daughter named Avonlea Ivy and her first name was “my pick” (according to my husband) so he feels he should get naming rights this time around, except I contend that we both equally liked and agreed to her first name while he chose her middle as a nod to the Ivy wall at Wrigley Field.
We are seeking a name that is as uncommon as Avonlea so anything that’s near the top 100 is out. My husband’s top pick is Nixon but I don’t care for it at all, no matter how many times he suggests it. I don’t mind the sound of the name but I cannot remove the negative political associations from it and that makes it a hard pass from me.
His other suggestions center around famous Chicago team sports figures (like Banks, Sammy, Bryant, Wrigley) but none of those are my taste. He also really likes Legend. We agree that we don’t want any Biblical or traditional names. He also seems to favor names that have an x in them, although this isn’t a requirement.
If I had to name this baby tomorrow, I’d vie for Mattis because I love the connection to the Marine Corps (General Mattis) since my husband and I both served and met as Marines. Other names we have tossed around are Angus, Douglas, and Richardson in honor of fallen Marines who meant a great deal to me, but I have a hard time picking one name over the other and feeling like I’m only honoring one.So, in a nutshell – we are seeking an uncommon name that we will both love and bonus if it has a nod to the Marine Corps. Middle name will likely be Marshall as it’s a family name but I wouldn’t mind using his pick of Legend in the middle spot.
Help! September will be here before we know it and so far baby boy is nameless!
Please read on for my response, and leave your thoughtful suggestions in the comments.
Dear Deanna –
Congratulations on your new son!
The good news? You and your husband are united in your preference for unusual names. Though maybe you’d both be surprised to realize that Legend ranks #255 in the US right now. Louis, Stephen, and Reid are all less common than Legend. Does that change anything?
Maybe not, because you’ve said that you want to avoid the Top 100. And yet, looking at the names on your shortlist, as well as the name you chose for your daughter, I wonder if that’s
The name from your list that leaps out at me is Merritt. Like Legend, it’s a word name. Well – not exactly like Legend. But it’s in the same broad category. It’s also outside of the current US Top 1000. So is Mattis, of course, but I wonder if Mattis would shorten to the more familiar Matt? And is that a benefit or a problem? After all, Avonlea sounds an awful lot like very popular girls’ names, from Top Ten Ava to so many three-syllable, ends-in-ee girls’ names.
Lennox and Wilder both rank in the Top 1000; Sterling strikes me as the other name that fulfills most of your criteria.
But I should add this: parents often play it just a little bit safer when naming a son. Traditionally, more boys receive a Top 1000 name than girls. (Though in recent years, more girls than boys now receive a Top Ten name – so the times, they are a-changin’ …) Still, there’s no rule that says both children’s names have to be equally unusual – so maybe I’m too quick to rule out Wilder and friends? And you’ve only said that you want to avoid the Top 100 – which would put all of those names on the place
Still, let’s try to find some new name options:
Callahan – Callahan has the same rugged, capable vibe as Wilder, but it’s much less common – it doesn’t crack the US Top 1000.
Exton – The problem with ‘x’ names is that lots of people love them! That’s taken names like Paxton on a march straight up the popularity charts. Exton, though, remains pretty rare. It’s a sometimes-heard place name, and it’s also the given name of Robert Downey Jr.’s younger son. Again, it doesn’t rank in the current Top 1000. I do think it sounds very wearable for a boy born today.
Hayes – Thinking about famous Marines inevitably brings to mind the Iwo Jima Memorial. One of the men depicted was Ira Hayes. I think Hayes has that fresh, modern sound you’re after. The only possible hitch? Hayes ranked #409 as of 2017. Still, I think it’s too good to leave off the list.
Huxley – Huxley has that cool, middle-x that seems like it appeals to your husband. At #790 on the current list, it’s pretty rare without actually being obscure. It feels masculine and unexpected, while still being on-trend. Another bonus? It’s gently literary. Just like Avonlea brings to mind Anne of Green Gables, Huxley might make some think of the British writer Aldous Huxley, best known for Brave New World.
Noble – It seems like a word name might appeal. Noble shares Nixon’s ‘x’, but sheds the controversy. It’s outside of the current Top 1000. While it has a similar vibe to Legend, I think Noble might be easier to wear. After all, it’s a virtue we can all aspire to achieve, while Legend? That’s a high bar!
Ramsey – Ramsey feels like a strong name, and while it’s rare as a given name, we all recognize it as a surname. Animal names are having a moment, but I’d put Ramsey closer to Leo – a subtle animal-inspired choice – than, say, Fox or Bear.
Revere – There weren’t nearly as many names specific to the Marines as I expected, but how about a different kind of military hero? Paul Revere’s midnight ride is the stuff of American legend, and feels like an appropriate nod to a family who has built their careers in service to our country. Plus, it has a similar vibe to Legend, and shares Avonlea’s ‘v’ – a subtle, but effective way to link your children’s names.
Riggs – There’s a whole cluster of names – Bridger and Briggs and Riggs – that just sound kind of tough. Resilient, even. I can imagine any of these names wearing well on a brother for Avonlea. The ‘s’ ending reminds me of Mattis, and it picks up on the sound of Wrigley, too.
If not Merritt, then I like so many of these names for your family! Riggs Marshall has a lot of appeal; I like Ramsey Legend, too. And Huxley strikes me as the exactly perfect compromise between Nixon and Wrigley, if, of course, you like the sound, too.
Let’s turn this one over to the readers, because I know they’ll have some great insights.
What would you name a brother for Avonlea Ivy? Bonus points for ties to the Marines and/or Chicago sports.
Deanna (OP) says
Thanks so much for all of your suggestions! After a very short labor and a 4 day NICU stay, we finally named our son! The discharge nurse told us we couldn’t go home until he had a name and so we finally settled on Atticus Marshall Le$her. He is the perfect addition to complete our family.
My current favourite boy’s name that includes an X is Brixton 🙂
Rose willow says
I think you should consider:
Matteo is like Mattis but more a stronger feeling to it. My friend had a baby boy and now he’s a toddler he is definitely a strong willed and cheeky Matteo.
Archer is a lovely strong and medieval feeling name.
Wilder James. 🙂
One of my friends named her son Haddox and I kind of love it.
Also Avonlea makes me think of a bother named Linus for some reason…
Or put them together and get Lennox
“Still, there’s no rule that says both children’s names have to be equally unusual” — Abby, can we have a post on this?
I love Ramsey, but wonder if the Game of Thrones connection (Bolton) pushes it down the list?
I’m really loving Garrison for you- sounds great with Avonlea and goes nicely with Marshall!
Truman, nickname True would be pretty amazing too!
Best of luck!
Huxley sounds right with Sister’s name or how about Hunter, Ray, Jett, Fox, Archer, Paxton / Pax..
The suggestions of Fidel, Fidelis, Loyal etc made me wonder whether Semper might work?
I don’t know much about military terms, and I apologise if any of these are inappropriate:
Congratulations, and good luck!
Garrison sounds great with Avonlea. Great suggestion!
I love Avonlea and Mattis (Ava and Matt)!
Also Angus (Gus), Axel, Duke and Felix.
I steered away from Top 1000 names and tried to look for names that evoked something from the Marines or echoed the sound of some of your other favorites.
I’ll do what I do for my own clients and break my picks down into “safer” and “quirkier” lists 🙂 (with the caveat that different families might have different standards for what counts as safe or quirky, this usually means ‘slightly more familiar’ and ‘slightly less familiar’).
– Creed (ranked #1025 in 2017): could be a religious name, but also just means a strong belief in something (the military, your family’s values, etc.)
– Jones (ranked #1277): James L. Jones Sr. & Jr. were both significant Marines — Sr. commanded the first amphibious reconnaissance group in the US.
– Loyal (ranked #2006): Since I thought “Fidel” might not be quite your speed, I went for something else that evoked the Marines’ motto.
– Truman (ranked #1098): Yes, it’s a Presidential name, but something of a less-controversial president than Nixon, and also another name that honors that “faithful” motto.
– West (ranked #1852): Mostly here because of its sound — could be a sibling to Lennox and Wilder.
– Flint (ranked #1708): Another one that mostly made the list because of sound. It might be too tied to the Michigan town but if you feel like that’s not a deal-breaker for you it’s got a great, strong sound.
– Holt (ranked #2228): The last of my single-syllable brothers for Lennox or Wilder.
– Neller (not given to 5 babies last year): The current Commandant of the Marine Corps.
– Orson (ranked #1946): Maybe a stretch style-wise for your family, but I had to put it on the list b/c it means “little bear.” A subtle nod to your Cubs fan husband 🙂
– True (ranked #2202): The most straightforward of the “faithful” names.
Good luck! I’m sure whatever name you choose for your baby will be perfect 🙂
Mandie L. says
What about the old puritan name Honor? It’s rare, similar to but not quite as “edgy” as Legend, and has the marine tie-in.
If Nixon is out due to political connections (and I couldn’t use it for the same reasons) I’m guessing Fidel is also off the table.
Jean C. says
Thank you for your service.
I like Maverick.
Or Pendleton, if one or both of you were stationed there. Penn is a nice nickname.
If you can be talked into Wrigley (I’m not sure if i could be!) then Riggs would make a great nickname.
Merritt is my favorite from your current list.
OP here! Thanks 🙂 I like Maverick too but my husband had a dog growing up with the same name so he feels we can’t use it!
Erin Beth says
I absolutely love Huxley with the sister name! Sterling is pretty great too, and the sound and significance of Mattis also makes that name appealing. I think you have lots of nice choices.
I agree with the Ace and Axel suggestions. Name the baby Axel Legend and call him Ace. Perfect.
From your other top picks, I like Merritt and Sterling best.
The Mrs. says
Sharp, masculine, classic.
Desmond Doss was a WWII medic who was decorated for bravery.
Baseball gives you Fielding.
What about Maddux, as in Greg Maddux, of the Chicago Cubs? It has the Cubs connection, the letter “x,” barely cracks the top 1000, is similar in sound to Mattis and, sweetly, possibly means “fortunate” or “goodly.”
Zena Eve says
Is Fidelis just too weird? I’m kinda liking it.
I was thinking of Fidelis too! Because of the ‘semper fi’ connection. Also thought of Oceanus.
Strong non x names:
York (Alvin York)
Ulysses or Grant
Cadmar – brave warrior