Name Help: Initial ChallengeName 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!

Jess writes:

Before my first was born, I knew I wanted to name her Josephine (after my grandmother and one of my favorite literary characters of all time – Jo March from Little Women). My husband wasn’t completely sold initially, but loved the idea of using Jo as a nickname. It’s grown on him since she was born – she definitely looks like and has the personality of a Jo. We ended up choosing Maryanne as her middle name, after my mother-in-law.

Until after our sweet girl was born, I didn’t realize that she and I share the same initials – JM. Now on the verge of our second, my husband, Robert Kyle has his heart set on sharing his initials with our new little one.

For a girl, we’ve settled on Katherine as the middle name, but we’re stumped on the first name. We’ve tossed around Rosalie, which I love because we can call her Rosie. Unfortunately my husband is not a fan of Rosalie. He suggested Rosaline or Rosalyn instead, but I’m not a fan of either. And as far as boy names go, we’re completely stumped.


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

Dear Jess –

Congrats on your second!

I love the idea of mirroring your husband’s initials for this child.

But it does mean this: you may have a choose a name you love (slightly) less to make the meaningful pattern work. And that’s completely fine!

There are lots of Rose names, and while I’m tempted to suggest them all – Rosemary! Rosalind! Rosario! – I wonder if another R option might work better?

Ramona – The hero of an enduring children’s book, Ramona was a smash hit name of the 1920s. Today it’s on the upswing again.

Rebecca – I know, I know. Becky belongs to another era, stuck on the playground with Melissa and Jenny. But Rebecca in full is a little different. Nicknames Becca and Bex feel like fresh updates, too. So … Josephine and Rebecca, Jo and Bex?

Reese – Josephine is traditionally feminine, so I skipped all of the more unisex and modern options on the first draft of this list. Except … that leaves you with relatively few R names to pick from. So I wonder if it’s worth considering Reese? Ms. Witherspoon means that it’s long felt like an acceptable choice for a girl, and Jo and Reese feel quite compatible. (Plus I love the balance of Reese Katherine.)

Robin – Of course, you could mirror her father’s name even more closely with Robin. While Robin had a good run in the 1960s, it’s showing hints of a comeback on the heels of other bird names, like Wren.

Romilly – It’s not a Rose name, but it’s similar to Rosemary. A rare surname name, Romilly is a French place name turned surname, and occasionally heard as a first, too.

Rowan – If I have any hesitation with Rowan and Romilly – and maybe Robin, too! – it’s the potential to call your kiddos Jo and Ro. That’s either darling or annoying, depending on your reaction. Like Reese, Rowan is unisex. And I do like it quite a bit with Jo.

Rory – It might be more accurate to call Rory borrowed from the boys, but Americans tend to hear it as acceptably feminine. (Yes, even before Gilmore Girls!) Jo and Rory are great together!

Ruth – Classic Ruth is so often overlooked. But Ruthie is downright adorable. It’s a rock solid classic you won’t hear everyday.

Let’s say none of those feel quite right. Would you consider:

Calling her Kate? Jo and Kate sound like sisters, and it’s not the end of the world to go through life as R. Katherine. Fun fact: Katharine Hepburn – called Kate – played Jo in the 1933 screen version of Little Women. She often remarked that it was one of her favorite roles.

Flipping the initials to KR? That opens up Katherine Rose, Katherine Robin, Katherine Rowan … or any other K name.

And if it’s a boy …

Parents who agree readily on a girl’s name often struggle to name a son, or vice versa. We often have slightly different ideas about what makes a great boy’s name, and that can trip us up!

I’m going to suggest R names from lots of different style categories, in hopes that one of them feels right.

Rafe, Rafael, Raphael – It’s a dashing, romantic choice, but it’s also relatively traditional. In fact, it’s common in nearly every European language. Jo and Rafe both sound bright and energetic.

Reid, Reed – The ‘ei’ spelling is slightly more common. I like the simplicity and strong sound of Reid. And while it’s modern, in the sense that it wasn’t a Top 100 pick a century – or even fifty years – back, it feels rooted in history.

Rhett – A Southern gentleman name, probably thanks to the enduring legacy of Gone With the Wind, and Clark Gable’s Oscar-nominated performance. It’s gaining in use, but remains outside of the current US Top 100.

Robert – I’m not suggesting a junior necessarily … but since your husband uses his middle, there’s no real reason to avoid Robert, right? It’s a classic, one that’s neither in fashion nor out of step. Bob feels a little Boomer, but Robbie and Rob strike me as perfectly reasonable on a child today. And Bobby? It’s currently in the top 100 in England.

Roman – Okay, we’re back to the Jo and Ro problem. Except it’s rare to hear anyone shorten Roman. It’s a strong name with a big sound.

Rowan – It’s on the girls’ list, yes. But Rowan is unisex, used for about 3000 boys last year, and not quite 1500 girls.

Royce – Fun fact: Royce is sometimes associated with roses. It has more than one possible root, but we know it mostly as a surname. And while naming kids after luxury brands can feel a little extreme, Royce doesn’t scream Silver Phantom.

Ryan – It’s not as traditional as William or James, but I think Ryan counts as a modern classic. It has ranked in the US Top 100 since 1971. In fact, it’s been in the Top 50 since 1972. I feel like you must have considered the name at some point, and yet … I think it’s worth looking at with fresh eyes.

As for middles? If you don’t go with Robert as a first, I’d suggest Kyle. Or maybe Kieran, Keaton, Kai, Kane, or – if the silent K doesn’t feel like a disqualifier – Knox.

Overall, I really like Reese Katherine or Ruth Katherine. (Or maybe calling her Kate?) For boys, I’m more torn. Roman Kyle and Raphael Kyle are my favorites. (Or possibly Raphael Kai?)

But I know our readers will have more great suggestions.

What would you name a brother or sister for Josephine Maryanne, if you had to use the initials RK?

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. For a girl, I like Rosemary or Romilly, nn Romy. Romy and Jo totally sound like sisters. I also really like Remy, Rory, Ruby and Regina.

    For a boy, I think I’d go with Reid, Ronan, Ryan, Reginald (Reggie) or Remington (Remy). I’d use Kyle in the middle except with Reid as it’s a little choppy. Or make him a Jr but call him by his middle name.

    1. YES to Romy & Jo! That would be an adorable sister set. <3

      Also, really love the suggestion of Reginald/Reggie!

  2. Rosa


    And you didn’t mention any K names for boys so:

  3. Renae Katherine nn Rae, which sounds perfect as a sister for Jo.

    Jo and Rae

    Risa (means laughter in Spanish)

  4. Rosamund (Rosie)
    Rowena (Rosie)
    Ruby (Roo)
    Renee (Wren)
    Roisin (Rosie)


  5. I’m quite partial to the classic Rose on its own, Rose Katherine is lovely. I also love the idea of flipping the initials.

    As an aside, my family did this and inverted the initials. My father’s initials are VJ and mine are JV.

    As for boys, I’d like to add Ralph and Russell into the mix. Both names share a vintage charm. I love the nickname Rusty for Russell, and Ralph always conjures images of A Christmas Story.

  6. I have a little girl named Robin, who often goes by Robbie, and she adores her name. I have been wondering if the name might gain a little popularity again because of Robin from the latest season of Stranger Things. Reese is also wonderful, and I am a huge fan of Rainey. For a boy, Raphael and Reid are my favorite of Abby’s suggestions. 🙂

  7. Why not just Rose? Rose ‘Rosie’ with Josephine ‘Jo’ sounds wonderful. Or how about Rachel or Ruby?

    For boys:
    Rupert Kieran
    Radcliffe Killian
    Reuben Kip

  8. I recently met a pre-schooler who was a Robert nn Bo. If you like the idea of your kids rhyming, then Jo and Bo (RK) might be for you.

    Other R names for girls: Rachel, Rana (Ronna), Raina, Raya

  9. For girls that shorten to Rosie:

    I think my favorite with Katherine is Rosemary.

    I love Kingsley for a boy, and I think it works nicely for Rhett through Ryan on Abby’s list.

  10. My first thought for you was Rory, but Abby’s suggestion of Rosemary strikes me as a perfect sister name for Josephine. A few other ideas: