Name Help: Names like Prudence and BernadetteName 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!

Julie writes:

My husband and I are due with our first child together in August. We waited until we found out the sex to really talk about names. Now we know it’s a girl, but that hasn’t helped at all!

I’m drawn to old-fashioned names such as Prudence and Bernadette. Serious names that sound strong.

He’s not on board. I mean, completely not willing to consider the names that I love best.

To be fair, he has a really unusual family name and goes by his initials instead. He says I have no idea what it’s like to go through life being the kid with the weird name.

I’ve told him that things are different now and that we know lots of kids with “weird” names, including some of our nieces/nephews.

He won’t budge, and I’m getting closer and closer to my due date, and our little one is going to be known as Baby T. because I don’t even know where to begin. Help, please!

Please read on for my response and leave your thoughtful suggestions in the comments.

Abby replies:

Congratulations on your new daughter! And I’m so sorry you’re struggling to find a name.

You’ve actually done some good work, though. Thinking and talking about your own names is a great place to start – even though it highlights your differences.

Here’s the thing: your husband isn’t rejecting your favorite names on a whim. He’s basing his preferences on lived experience. And while I agree with you – names have gotten more diverse, and yes, weirder! – it doesn’t change his feelings.

So the trick is to turn the dial on your style enough to address his concerns. I’d call your style delightful antiques. And it sounds like he’d be amenable to a delightful antique with plenty of strength … as long as it seemed more familiar.

Do you think you could love a name that shared many of the qualities of Bernadette and Prudence, but was just a little less uncommon?

There’s a category of names I call Trending Traditionals. They’re not quite classic, but they’ve got history to spare. And they feel stylish by today’s measure, without being wildly popular.


ADA #184

Close to Top Ten Ava, but with a very different vibe, Ada might hit the mark for you both. Ada Lovelace cements this name as intelligent, and the sound is undeniably accessible.


A name everyone knows, but relatively few parents are using. Shorten it to Bea (or Betty or Birdie) or not, because Beatrice requires no nickname. It has all that deliciously complex sound while being more familiar than Prudence or Bernadette.


A former chart-topping favorite, Dorothy has gone from Oz to Miami. But this familiar name remains nicely uncommon in the 2020s.


Spirited and traditional, Josephine shares the classic style of Elizabeth and Katherine. But it’s just a little different, too.


Equally romantic and high-energy, Louisa sounds like a sister for Prudence or Bernadette. But because we love so many Lou- names these days – think Lucy, Luna, and Lucia – Louisa fits right in.

PEARL #773

A spare gemstone name, Pearl feels gently antique, but with all the resilience that the stone suggests, too.

RUTH #220

A vintage name that signals strength and accomplishment. Bonus: Ruthie is a darling nickname for a little Ruth.

VERA #246

With two solid meanings – truth and faith – Vera marries virtuous meanings with an appealing sound.

From this list, I’d probably put Ruth at the top. But it doesn’t have to be Ruth. That’s just an example of names that share all the qualities you value, but might feel more accessible and familiar to meet your husband’s concerns.

And if you did compromise on something like Ruth for your daughter’s first name, a dramatic and surprising middle might be just the thing. Ruth Bernadette has me swooning.

All of that said, has he suggested any names at all? If he’s thinking, say, Emily or Katherine, then he could probably be persuaded to meet you in the middle with a name like Louisa.

But if he objects to vintage style entirely? Then we’d have to start with a slightly different list! But the approach remains the same – look for the midpoint between his “normal” names and the ones you really love.

Readers, what girl names would you suggest for Julie and EJ?

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. Same here. Finding out we were having a girl the second time made things even harder!

    I’m solidly in the “clunky, old lady name” fanclub (per my husband–Margaret, Bernadette, Violet, Eleanor), while he’s solidly in the “frilly frou-frou ridiculous name” name fanclub (per me–Angelique, Cassiopeia, Isabellina, Anastasia – 5 syllable, not 4).

    Find out what names he envisions for a little girl. See if there is maybe overlap at all. We settled on Evangeline (-een ending). Pretty and frou-frou enough for him while clunky old lady enough for me.

    We literally were unable to come up with any other names although I think I might have wanted to deck him one when she was about 9 months old and he said, “You know, if we have another girl, I kind of like Eleanor.” LOL!

  2. Naming our kids was hard! My husband and I had very different preferences. We had to keep revisiting the conversation. By our third kid, we’d figured out how the process could work for us: we’d set aside a time and popcorn style names (like anything we thought of or read from a list), and I’d jot down any that weren’t immediate no’s. We’d go back over them at the end or a later date, depending on our patience. Our first has a name I was leaning towards, our second a suggestion by my husband, and the third a suggestion by my husband but with my preferred spelling. None were named until birth—the discussions were looooong.

  3. Winifred or Edwina, nn Winnie. Magdalena, nn Maggie or Lena. Marguerite instead of Margaret. Georgia or Georgette. Claudia or Claudette. Constantina. Valentina. Veronica/Veronique. Joanna. Salome’ (nn Sally or May).
    There’s an Olympian named Jenieve (pr. juh-nev), which I would spell Geneve. Simone. Esther.

  4. I am not surprised that someone who grew up hating his own weird name doesn’t want to be the dad of Bernadette or Patience. If he’s comfortable with Emma and Sophia and you can’t get excited by any top-1000 name, then you will just have to meet in the middle somehow. It may take a lot of discussion to even figure out what counts as reasonable compromise for each of you. Instead of just vetoing your entire list, can he rank them and then you all can discuss why he hates one more than another, to try to figure out what he likes about any of them? Can you just agree to go whichever name on your list is the most popular? If rare is important to you, can you figure out what sounds or qualities he likes and try to meet him there? Like if he wants “easy to spell,” you could still get that in a rare, old name like Ida or Winnie. If his top priority is that the name be popular today, what about Elizabeth or Josephine? Clunky and time-tested for you, common and with many wearable nicknames for him. You may even find a name that hits a home run for both of you, something perhaps like Jane or Anna.

    Your style sounds similar to mine! We went with Margaret called Maisy & Harriet called Hattie.

  5. Kathleen.
    Okay, there are six in my immediate family but on the whole, I don’t hear it too often. Catherine and Caitlyn (all spellings) are much more common. Lots of nicknames. Katie, Kate, Kit, Kitty, Lena.


    1. @Kathleen, these are some great suggestions! Cordelia could go by Ellie or Delia or Corrie or Coco if she wanted. They made me think of Felicity and Genevieve as additional possibilities that are similar in style but might feel a bit more contemporary in usage.

  6. I had to give up my favorites too. Choosing powerful namesakes helped me feel enthusiastic about compromise. He might be comforted by hearing how others you both respect respond to names.
    Some of the tailored evergreen names are storied and stately: Eleanor (more-popular also not what it used to be!), Edith, Verity, Clara, Agatha, Rosemary.
    My favorite for you is Constance. Similar ending to Prudence, and so beautiful.
    And for Bernadette alternatives, perhaps Brigid or Harriet or (after you) Juliette?