Name HelpName Help is a 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!

April and her husband are expecting their first child in May.  It’s a boy!

She writes:

We are having a hard time finding a name we truly love. We have a list of names we like but none of them seem to be it.

I have several hang ups when it comes to settling in on a name: one is the pairing with our last name. Adams. It is so common.  (April adds that she doesn’t love the way surname names sound with Adams, either – and I get it.  Parker Adams could be the kid next door, could be a law firm.)

Another hang-up is I can’t decide if it’s okay to name the baby something beginning in a vowel.  My initials are A.A. and I just can’t decide how I feel about having a child with two vowel initials.

Ultimately I would like to land on something that is uncommon without being weird and flows nicely with our surname. I would love it if the name were literary or historical but that isn’t a necessity.

April’s favorites are: Felix, Judah, Julian, Roman

Her husband’s favorites are: Julian, Harrison, Asher, Linus

Those are in no particular order. I think I lean towards Felix because it means happy, isn’t less popular than Asher, and doesn’t start with a vowel, but that’s the one my husband likes the least!

His favorite is Linus, which I think is adorable for a baby/child but have a hard time picturing on a teenager/man.  Also, everyone we have mentioned Linus to has had a negative reaction. I don’t feel like I have to make everyone happy, but I also don’t want to justify our name choice to a lot of opinionated people.

Such good questions, April!  Read on for my answer – and please add your comments and thoughtful suggestions in the comments!

Hi April –

So many great questions in this post!  Let’s take those on before we get to the issue of finding an actual name.

Will this name age well?

It’s such a common concern, and a fair one, too. People talk about the “Supreme Court Justice test” or ask if you can imagine being operated on by a heart surgeon named Hattie.

But there are two things to bear in mind: first, once upon a time Gary was that adorable little boy down the street, the one who played with the neighbor boys, Peter and Donald.  Now Gary is an accountant, Don is a dentist, and Peter teaches high school math.  They’ve become grown-up names because all of the names from that generation grew up.  Sometime around 2070 Kaylee will be an old lady name, simply because all of these Kaylees will be, well, a lot older.

But in you’re a rock solid position, and here’s how I know: the names you love have been there before.  Everyone of those names has gone through the life cycle, from sweet, chubby toddler to grandpa.  This means that men of accomplishment have answered to Felix (he’s James Bond’s CIA sidekick!), Linus (the Pope!), and all of the other names on your list.

How can I avoid the wave of opinionated people?

I think what you’re saying is this: you’re not willing to choose a name so plain vanilla that it cannot possibly bother anyone.  But you’re hoping to avoid something that feels outlandish, that might burden your child in the future, right?

It’s a perfectly reasonable position, and happily, there are many names that are just a little bit different.  You can absolutely find something uncommon, that won’t be perceived by others as weird.

I wonder about the reactions, though – who are they coming from?  There are a few possibilities:

  • Group A: Your mom, who was naming kids in the heyday of Jason and Ashley.
  • Group B: Friends and colleagues who don’t have kids, who are picturing themselves as children, when everyone they knew answered to Jason or Ashley.
  • Group C: Friends and colleagues who are parents to small children in your community.

Group A and Group B can safely be ignored.  Why?  They don’t know, end of story.  The most common thing I hear from parents of young kids is “I didn’t know Isaiah/Ava/Harper was so popular when we chose it!”

Group C might be a different matter.  If their children are likely to be your child’s future classmates, they may be telling you that your child’s name will stand out more than you’d like.  Now, they’re not necessarily correct.  If I look at one circle of friends, all the boys are Max and Henry and Alex and Jack.  Draw another circle, and the boys are Kaya, Camilo, Seamus, Ellis, Dario, Sebastian, Avery.  And sure, a few kids with names like Sam.

The only way to answer the Group C question is to know yourself.  If you go to your first playgroup, and you introduce Linus to a circle of moms with kids called Mason, Noah, and Liam, will you feel uncomfortable?

Because the good news is this: unless you’ve named something really one-of-one – think Torch or PeaSoupGreen – after a very short time period, it’s just his name, and 99.9% of everyone gets over it.

Are double vowel initials a problem?

Good question! I think A.A. is associated with Alcoholics Anonymous, so that might give some people pause.  It doesn’t bother me.

But I’m Amy Abigail Sandel.  So let’s have a poll, because I’m clearly biased!

Now, on to a name for Baby Boy Adams!

So far, the shortlists are:

  • April: Felix, Judah, Julian, Roman
  • Mr. April: Julian, Harrison, Asher, Linus

It looks like Julian is on both of your lists, and yet it is Not the Name.  It’s a great name, and at #47 might be reasonably uncommon enough for you to safely consider.  (We know two, but one is five and one is twelve – and they live 300+ miles apart.)  Still, let’s assume that if you loved Julian, you wouldn’t b be here now, and move on.

Felix ranked #296 in 2013 – about as popular as Brooks, Rowan, Holden, or Milo.  Harrison came in at #161, Judah at #265 (but Jude at #162), Asher at #104, and Roman at #134.  Linus is currently outside of the US Top 1000, so I’m not surprised if it fails your Group C test.  For the moment, I’ll leave it off the list, not because it’s a bad name (I actually love Linus!), but because, like Julian, it seems to be an outlier in terms of popularity.

That leaves Felix, Judah, Asher, Harrison, and Roman.  Omitting all vowel names and surnames, I wonder if you might also like:

  • Jasper – At #248, it’s more on the Felix-Judah side of popularity.  Shares a J with Julian/Judah and an ‘r’ ending with Asher.  Jasper Adams might be an artist, but he doesn’t sound like a law firm or a bank.
  • Everett – At #189, closer to the Harrison mark, and like Harrison, shades of surname here.  Except Everett feels like an accepted given name, and I like the three-syllable rhythm of Everett (and Julian) with Adams.  Oh, heck – E is a vowel, isn’t it?  Hmmm … inclined to leave it on the list anyhow.
  • Hugo – I almost suggested Arlo, but there’s the letter A.  And Leo is awfully popular.  So how ’bout Hugo?  At #438, it’s definitely under-used, and the great movie based on The Invention of Hugo Cabret feels like a bonus.
  • Dashiell – Dashiell is a shape-shifter.  The full name is literary and very rare.  But nickname Dash is an active verb name, at home on the playground with Chase and Cash.  Not currently ranked in the US Top 1000, so closer to Linus in terms of popularity.

And yet, the name that still stands out from your initial list truly is Felix.  Felix sounds distinct from your surname – Felix Adams.  It feels just a little bit different, and yet, with that ‘x’ ending is absolutely on trend and stands out only in a good way.  It’s hard to argue with the meaning.  You’ve sidestepped the whole double-vowel-initials quandary.

Maxwell Augustus WilhelmI’d be curious to hear your husband’s reactions to Jasper, Hugo, Dashiell, and Everett.  But I’m even more curious to know if he’s opposed to Felix – because more than anything, that name really does seem to satisfy your criteria.

Update: He’s here, and isn’t he adorable? Welcome to the world, Maxwell Augustus Wilhelm, and congratulations to your lucky family!


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. Although I am not a fan of Felix, I like the ‘x’ right before Adams. What about Lennox Adams or Dax Adams? I also like the 3 syllable names with Adams. I think Harrison Adams is great. Hudson Adams, I also like Theodore Adams. Just be glad you have Adams which is a strong surname and not something really odd sounding.

  2. I love Felix – I met a little Felix a while ago and he was just so… Happy! Someone asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up, and he couldn’t think of anything. Finally he said he didn’t know because he was just having fun being a kid right now. Aww.

    Other names I like with your last name:

    Cyrus Adams
    Alden Adams (love this one!)
    Frederick Adams (a little Fred!)
    Andrew Adams (Andy sounds like the ultimate spunky boy’s name to me)

    Honestly, everything sounds good with Adams! 🙂

  3. My favorite of your picks is Felix, and I actually think that all of Abby’s suggestions are great. And I actually think that there are tons of names that go really nicely with your last name! A couple more options that might hit the sweet spot –

    Silas Adams
    Oscar Adams
    Dexter Adams
    Ezra Adams
    Theodore Adams
    Gideon Adams

    1. Silas and Gideon have both come up on our lists! Gideon is a name that I always thought I would want hands down if I were to have a boy, but now that I am pregnant I don’t seem to love it as much. It’s not off the table, but it falls into the same category of names we both like but don’t love.
      Thank you for the suggestions! I really like all of those!

      The Mrs.- I like Malcolm a lot too! It’s fun and uncommon without being out there. I’ll run that by Chris.

      I think that Felix is my favorite right now and I am really hoping he comes around on it, but if not I feel confident we’ll find one we both love!

      Thanks again for all of the helpful suggestions!

  4. Malcolm might fit your bill. It’s close to Julian and Roman. It has the weight of history behind it (first Scottish king), two syllables, and sounds rather pleasing with Adams. “Mal” works well on a baseball diamond, the chess team, or from under a car.

    Harrison and Felix make me think of Rex. Rex and Adams both end with the same sound without using the same letter. Rex is far outside the current popularity circle, but it is instantly familiar. “T-Rex” is possibly the most enviable name for a boy in elementary school, so the cool factor is definitely there… and it means ‘king’. I mean, c’mon! What boy wouldn’t love Rex for a name?! 🙂

    Best wishes as you and your husband find just the right title for your little prince. Please let us know when he arrives!

  5. Thank you everyone for the feedback! I’ve been truly overwhelmed at how hard this naming thing is!

    waltzing- I like Jasper the most out of the suggestions and Chris likes Hugo-we seem unable to like the same thing! But I agree they’re wonderful names!

    Laura- thank you for the input on vowel initials. It’s so hard to try and think of it from every angle!

    Kerry- I appreciate the other Linus connections! One of my concerns with that name is that he would get made fun of for it. I know every kid gets made fun of for something, but I still worry! But it’s good to think of some other examples that aren’t related to a kid with a blanket 🙂
    if we go with Julian he would also go by Jules, I love that name!

  6. I think Linus is really great.

    But if you decided to compromise, Jasper and Hugo are lovely – Hugo Adams sounds quite distinguished actually.

  7. A.A. made me first think of A. A. Milne, author of Winnie the Pooh, so I first had a very positive reaction, but I totally get how the connection to Alcoholics Anonymous could sour someone on the initials.

  8. I already know one little Linus, and for a while knew another couple who was seriously considering it before giving into pressure from their families. Which made me sad, because I really wanted my daughters to grow up knowing not just one but two kids named Linus. Linus Pauling (as in, the Nobel Prize winner) and Linus Torvalds (invented Linux) are also two other completely respectable grown-up non-cartoon holders of the name, if that helps.

    Have you thought about Jules or Julius instead of Julian? Jules is one of my favorites, with the Jules Verne connection, and it seems like you might like softer endings with -s or -x. You might also consider Harris as an alternative to Harrison. Or Marcus. Marcus is a good, strong, can-take-it-with-you-anywhere kind of name. Or Mercer?

    For what it’s worth, I would worry only a tiny bit about the initials AA, because of Alcoholics Anonymous, and not at all about any other vowel.