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 first and only child will be here around Valentine’s Day. I’ve done all the things: researched names, made lists, ranked my favorites, practiced saying them aloud, tried writing them out. The good news? I have three names that I really like.
The bad news, of course, is that I have three names I really like. And even if I could theoretically use one of the runner-up names as a middle name, it doesn’t change the fact that I still have to pick a favorite.
I’m a single parent by choice, and so there’s no one else who could offer a tie-breaking vote. I’ve asked the three people closest to me and, surprise, they each chose a different name.
Can you help?
The three names are:
NORA – I like that it’s traditional, and that I can picture it on a child or a grown woman.
SLOANE – Love how cool this name is! It’s the kind of name I’d want to choose for myself if I could. But maybe it will sound a little silly/dated/something in another twenty years?
PRESLEY – I’m not an Elvis fan, and when I first head it, I didn’t like it all. But I keep coming back to it, and I really like the way it sounds with my last name. Also, this is my mom’s favorite, so maybe that’s making me liking it more, too. (I thought for sure she’d vote for Nora!)
My last name is three syllables, starting with R and ending with -son.
Please read on for my response and leave your thoughtful suggestions in the comments.
Congratulations on your daughter!
A few things leap out at me:
You can use Nora with Presley or Sloane as a middle, but Sloane Presley sounds like it should have “Memorial Hospital” after it. Yes, plenty of parents name their kids Preston Sullivan and Riley Carson, and it’s fine. But all things being equal, I think it’s better to have one name be more obviously a given name. That’s even more true because your surname is fairly name-like. I think this is the strongest argument in favor of Nora – you get to choose two of your favorites, even if one is seldom used.
Presley and Sloane have very similar popularity profiles, but Sloane seems maybe a little more substantial. This might be just my impression. Sloane took ages to really catch on. Sloane Square became a prominent London neighborhood in the 1980s. (The future Princess Diana was a “Sloane Ranger” – a sort of British version of preppy.) Ferris Bueller gave us a Sloane, then so did Entourage, but she spelled it without the E. Sloane/Sloan and Presley have gained steadily throughout the 2000s, but I still think of Sloane as slightly more established.
There’s a potential for misspelling with any -ley name. Or maybe I’m just a little hesitant about the possibility of having to spell Presley. Even though the -ley spelling is, far and away, the most popular, way ahead of Preslee or Preslie or Presleigh.
If it isn’t obvious, I’m inclined to rank them in that order: Nora, Sloane, Presley.
But for a first-middle combination, my favorite is Nora Presley.
It’s a little unexpected, a mix of the traditional and the modern. You’re not an Elvis fan, and I’m guessing fewer people will break out their version of “Hound Dog” if it’s your daughter’s middle name.
You might even choose Nora Presley Sloane or Nora Sloane Presley. I kind of love them both, but that depends on how you feel about double middles. (Especially if you’re a one-and-done mama, I say there’s no reason to hold back on an extra middle. But it’s very much a personal preference.)
That said, Nora is probably the safest of the options, even with a current middle name – or two.
So I’ll also offer this: would you like the sound of Presley Eleanor? It’s not quite Nora, but it’s a great combination of a buttoned-up classic with a stylish favorite of our moment.
I like it nearly as much as Nora Presley – maybe even a little bit more.
I don’t think Sloane would feel dated or silly when she’s older! I think it has the same qualities as Nora does that make it easy to grow into. If popularity is an issue for you, keep in mind Nora is quite popular. If it doesn’t bother you, I’m inclined to say Nora!
Joanna Howson says
I feel like Nora Sloane, or Nora Sloane Presley, is the best way to go. I think Presley would raise too many Elvis questions, and Sloane Nora bleeds together.
Another vote for Nora as the first name, and to use Sloane and Presley (in whatever order you prefer) as 2 middle names.
Since it’s going to be your only child, I say use your 3 favorites.
I think Nora doesn’t work as a middle with Presley or Sloane, so:
Nora Presley Sloane
Nora Sloane Presley
I prefer the first one, but both sound great.
My immediate thought was use all three. I being a fan of the name Nora went for Nora Sloane Presley R-son, which is pretty much the order I prefer the three names, but that is me. However then I said just Nora with my guesses for what R-son might be and immediately changed my mind. Now my vote would be Sloane Nora Presley R-son. Then again I also agree with the person or people that say wait till you meet her. She might totally be a Presley or a Nora and not at all a Sloane.
Mandie L says
I vote for Nora. I like the idea of using one (or both) of the others as a middle.
You could totally wait to meet her and see if she gives you a sign one way or the other? My first kid definitely gave us the vibes of one of our choices, and the last kid showed us our list wasn’t sufficient. A few thoughts anyways:
I like that Nora Presley R—son makes NPR!
I know a little Presley and the frequent Qs about Elvis might get tiresome.
I can’t truly vote until I know the surname – if it’s a very common surname I’d hesitate at Nora. If it rubs against the -ra in Nora, I’d hesitate at Nora. I like the alternate of Eleanor, but it sounds like you’re a name-them-what-you’ll-call-them person and I totally respect that. Eleanor might choose to go by Ellie and that’s not on your list.
I really like Sloane. I think anyone of a certain generation considers it cool. I totally get what Abby says about it being more substantial. In that case I’d use Eleanor in the middle to give choices of she wants something more traditional to use later. S.Eleanor R—son sounds great!
But I agree to use all the names! Unless you’d like to keep one for a pet? Sloane Eleanor Presley R—son sounds sweet.
Alison Doherty says
From the way you described the names, I think you are infatuated with Presley but love Nora. But all three are great names – I do like Nora and Sloane more than Presley personally though.
Nora Presley if you go with one middle name, Eleanor Presley Sloane nn Nora if you go with two middle names. Can’t go wrong either way. Also since you’re sure you’re only having one, use all the names you love.
I was initially leaning toward Nora after reading your comments on each name. It seemed like you might have some doubt creeping in for Sloane and perhaps Presley was a name you only recently warmed to. But then I tried Nora with a surname like yours and I changed my mind. I’m very much hearing that “ra-Ra” sound as Marisa put it. It’s not terrible, but if I’m being picky that would make me put Nora lower down my list.
If I look at the SSA popularity data, I see that Nora is also a lot more common at #30 (with Norah at #151) compared to Sloane at #181 and Presley at #213. So if you have a preference for more common / traditional or less common that’s another way to split them.
I’m starting to feel that Presley might be the dark horse here. It has a lovely name story to go with it. It doesn’t sound like you’re attached to the idea of using a runner up as a middle name, so maybe you could try out some other middle names that you like or are meaningful to you. That might also help a name stand out.
I would pick Nora, but I don’t personally care for Sloane or Presley. I think it probably comes down to which one your gut tells you is right. How do you picture your daughter, based on you and other family members, and what kind of person do you think she will be at age 10, 15, 20, 40? How do you picture a Sloane or Presley or Nora? I have known pretty serious and effective lawyers and doctors or PE teachers or artists or cheerleader coaches with names like Ashli and Eleanor, so names don’t have much to do with who people actually turn out to be.
If this is a straight up vote, I’d go with Nora. The meaning of light or honor (depending the origin of the word) make awesome namesakes. And I don’t hear the Ra-ra part described in a separate comment. I love alliteration so the two strong r sounds are great to my ear. Nora Presely Sloane R___. You can do it all!
Sloane is my favorite! It’s the cool name you wished you’d had AND it’s popular enough—but not TOO popular—that it’ll be in use and age respectfully with her. When she’s an adult, everyone will expect a Sloane to be adult too. Definitely my fav!
I also want to point out that I noticed Nora R——-son might sound a bit “ra-Ra” together in the middle—a small tongue twister—depending which surname she’ll have.