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 partner and I are due in early May with a son. We don’t really agree on names, but we do agree on ONE name: Colby. It’s his mother’s maiden name.
We would use my dad’s name, William, for his middle name.
But when I shared it with others, it’s gotten a mixed reaction.
First, there’s the cheese. Which, yes, I know it’s a cheese.
Then a friend mentioned the family from Dynasty, which actually had their own show called, of course, The Colbys. My mom used to watch all of those shows, so I remember it. Which makes it … even cheesier?
Now I’m rethinking everything, but we don’t have another name.
Please read on for my response, and leave your thoughtful suggestions in the comments.
Dear Kristin –
Congratulations on your son!
In some ways, you’re facing the classic problem of choosing a name. There’s a choice that you love, and you have good reasons to use it. But it’s not completely, absolutely perfect. And that makes you wonder if, in the broad and deep recesses of the internet, there’s not Some Other Even Better Name that you’ve overlooked?
And if you do find Some Other Even Better Name a few weeks or months or even years after naming your son, will you be overcome with inescapable name regret?
Oof! No wonder it’s tough to settle on just one name.
At times like these, the best approach is to apply cool logic – even when this is terribly challenging.
First up: the cheese.
According to Cheese Wiki – yup, that’s a thing – colby cheese was first developed in 1874 on a dairy farm near Colby, Wisconsin. The Wisconsin Central Railroad established the settlement and named the town for a financier instrumental in the business. That same guy – Gardner Colby – was a well-known philanthropist in the late nineteenth century. Among other things, Colby College in Maine bears his name.
Colby is a surname and a place name, long before it sat on refrigerator shelves.
That makes me very willing to shrug off the cheesy association. It’s broadly familiar, but it’s not as if the word only refers to the cheese.
Now, let’s head back in time to the 1980s and turn our pre-HD television to Dynasty.
The first season introduces us to the crazy rich Carringtons, with their mansions and their millions made from oil. We eventually meet one a rival family, the Colbys.
It’s a logical name for a wealthy American dynasty – obviously. Gardner had amassed his fortune ages before the show aired.
Would it strike others as problematic? Every Khaleesi will be asked if her parents were into dragons – at least for the next decade or so. But the Colby reference seems buried in another age. If the average 20-something today can’t reliably identify Joan Collins, then I’m not sure if this reference is a drawback. Of course, Dynasty is back on the air, thanks to a reboot on The CW, complete with the Colby family. But I don’t see it as the same kind of phenomenon.
So does the prime time soap opera association color Colby in 2019? I’m inclined to say it’s a non-issue.
Now, let’s turn to one other factor, the most important one: you both like this name! You agree that naming your son Colby William works. It’s a family name, with Colby honoring his mom and William your dad. That’s pretty much perfect.
Assuming there’s not another great name waiting on your family tree, that makes Colby one-of-one.
Should you sacrifice a name rich with family meaning because it might sometimes be associated with a cheese – or a cheesy 80s television drama?
I’d say no. You should use the name you love, and shrug off anyone who cracks a joke about naming your next kid Macaroni or Jack.
But I’m curious to hear what others think, too, so let’s have a poll.
Should they name their son Colby? Or is it too cheesy?
So glad I stumbled upon this post.
My name is Kristen. My husband and I are expecting a baby boy in June. The ONLY name we have agreed on and love is Colby. And his middle name is going to be William after his dad. I thought that was so neat we have all 3 names in common!
We are in the same debate now because we never once thought of cheese and as we are telling people his name we have had 3 people make cheese comments and it’s getting old already. We don’t want him to get picked on or dislike his name but I don’t want to let the opinions or jokes of others deter us from naming him the name we love. If you see this comment, I’m curious if you kept your son’s name as Colby William and also if you have any comments about how it has been so far?
I think Colby is great. If the association bothers you using the ie spelling would fix things in a heartbeat.
In case you aren’t convinced here’s some other suggestions –
Jean C. says
I like Colby as is. I’m in my 30s and I was in college with a young man named Colby back in the day. He was handsome and smart and kind. While cheese may have briefly crossed my mind (I’m originally from Wisconsin!) I don’t remember it being an issue for him, or frankly something that crossed my mind more than fleetingly. I think it’s a great name.
If he (or you) gets asked, “Like the cheese?” telling an anecdote or fact about the Colby side of the family for whom he is named should squelch any teasing. A lovely way to connect your son to his heritage!
I think you can use Colby as is. However, I agree with the comment as Jacob being an alternative (or possibly Colton?) if you felt like you needed to make Colby the baby’s nickname. Afterall, I’ve know a few Kobi/Cobie’s whose first names are Jacob or Jacoby.
The Mrs. says
The only Colby I have ever met was a teenage girl over a decade ago. Her name was memorable because… well… the cheese. (And we LOVE cheese!)
If you’re truly troubled by potential teasing, head it off at the pass: when people ask you to repeat his name, be ready with a prompt, “Colby. Like the cheese!” If clever-feeling folks ask, “Is his middle name Jack? Har-har!”, you can always laugh and respond with, “You’d think so! He IS the yummiest baby!”
He might even appreciate it when he’s older and you go grocery shopping that you hold up a brick and wink, “You KNOW this is the best cheese! It’s wearing your name!”
A question: have you considered what you might name potential siblings? Would they all be honor names? What would you pair as meaningful with Colby for his little brother? Just didn’t know if you had considered this.
Best wishes! Really like the suggestion of Cole as a nickname, too!
We have friends with a little Colby. They were very afraid of this too but said that they haven’t ever actually been asked about the cheese. She is now 4. I never thought about the association until the raised it either.
The only comments they get is on her having a “boys” name, which I guess is to be expensive when you bend historical gender roles. Bottom line, it is a great name with family history that is very handsome and, apparently most people believe is for the boys. So if you love it, use it.
If Brie can somehow escape the cheese connotations and make it as a girls name I’m pretty sure Colby – which has a history that far outstrips the cheese thing – definitely can too! Also for what it’s worth I think Colby as a cheese is a very US specific thing, it’s not going to be a point of reference internationally.
Go for it. Do not let others change your opinion on this name. You will regret not using it. Its a fab name. Id never heard of the cheese!? My first thought was Colbie Smoulders from How I Met Your Mother. Shes a girl bit i think its a perfect unisex name , i love it. When your baby is born the first thought will be of him not cheese.
My daughter is named after a character in am anime series. I thought of that character first every time we spoke about her name. Until she was born and now she is my first thought.
Just do it, you wont regret it x
Please use Colby! I love it- It’s adorable/cool/handsome. I know one baby Colby, and met one at the park not too long ago who’s 4 years old and i didn’t think of anything cheesy, just what a great name it is. I was born in 84 and don’t remember anything about dynasty, and I really don’t think it would come up if you used this name.
I also like that you can shorten it to Col / Cole if wanted.
If you love it, I hope you use it- it’s a great name!! 🙂
So I am a kid of the 80s, who watched Dynasty , Dallas, and Knots Landing. Never would I have thought of Colby being associated with the show if someone chose this name. Colby to me is an established name in its own right these days and the fact that it is a family name makes it perfect.
As long as you’re willing to rule out Brie or Jack as sibling names, I think you’re good.
As one of the aforementioned twenty-somethings, I have never heard of that tv show. Also, as a kid I had a neighbor named Colby, and I never once thought of the cheese, and I don’t think he had any issues with the name. It always seemed like a normal name to me. It’s not like you’re giving him the middle name Jack, after all.
Plus, I’ve given my kids far more unusual names with stronger associations (Hermione and Evander) and only get comments on their pop culture references every once in while (usually the first time meeting someone). It’s not a big deal. The name becomes associated with the kid very quickly.
Best of luck!
Colby William is a lovely name and if you both love it then that’s all that matters and you should use it! I think Colby has been used long enough as a first name that people will get over the cheese association rather quickly.
If you still have reservations about using Colby then what about Jacob called Colby or Jacoby called Colby?
Similar to Colby…
Crosby… Love this one!