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!

Katie writes:

We are having our third child, second boy, this July. I was positive we were having another girl and had lots of names picked out and am really struggling to land on a boy name. We have a daughter, Vera, and son, Wade. We like names that are not too popular or trendy, but definitely recognizable as a name.

We don’t have too many extra criteria, other than it seems like we have a LOT of close family members and friends with names we like that we can’t use because there is just too much overlap. 

James with a nickname of Jimmy would be my top pick, but my husband thinks its too similar to his name (Jeremy). I like Caleb, Isaac, Seth, Dean, and Grant but not enough to really land on any one of those names. 

My husband LOVES Clayton, with a nickname of Clayt, but I knew a troublemaker Clay as a child and I can’t get the association out of my head! He also likes Jethro, Jeb, and Kip, but I feel like those names are just a little too “out there” for me. 

I guess my question is 3-fold.

  • Do you have tips on choosing a name when you’re kind of just lukewarm on all your favorites? 
  • Any tips for getting over a negative name association? It really does feel silly to exclude a name for that reason, but I can’t get over that. 
  • Any other name suggestions that would complement Vera and Wade? 

I would LOVE any feedback!! 

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


Abby replies:

Congratulations on your new son!

I think this is such a familiar place to get stuck.

There’s this point in parenting when we know SO many children. We’ve thought about names multiple times in recent years. And lots of names appeal, at least a little bit. But none of them feel like The One.

How to move forward?

  • Instead of ruling names out, try to narrow UP. What does this mean, exactly? Look at your list of possibilities and think through what you like most about each one.
  • Choose a name to beat. If you had to name your son today, would he be … Grant? Seth? If you can identify the name you like best of your current choices, then you have a name to compare others against.
  • Lastly, remember that you’re comparing names on paper to your actual children. Swistle always stresses this, and I think she’s so right. We’re comparing a name and a notion to our actual children, and the names will always fall a little short as a result.


Before we talk about names specifically, let’s think through Clayton/Clayt.

I like to say that you can’t un-hear it. Sometimes, when someone randomly mentions a negative association with a name, it just sticks with us in a way that we can’t easily forget. Right or wrong, the name is ruled out.

It feels like Clayton could be that for you.

My suggestion is this: imagine naming your son Clayton. Would others also remember the same person unfavorably and have a negative reaction? (Like your childhood best friend exclaims, “You named your son after that guy!?!”) Or would you likely run into him, or connect with him through friends of friends on social media? (That’s potentially awkward even without any negative feelings.)

If either of those things – or similar awkward scenarios – are likely, then it’s not really a name In The Past, is it?

But if you sit with it, and this really is a fading into the background for you? It will absolutely evaporate in the first minutes you give the name to your son – should you choose to do so.

The issue: you’re the only one who can know if this difficult association is minor and forgettable or something you’re not willing to move past.

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There’s a really wide range on your current list. Jethro is so different! (Is your husband an NCIS fan?) And Isaac is actually really popular, at least compared to Wade. (And Jethro, come to that.)

So let’s see if we can find some fresh ideas that are less popular than Isaac and Caleb, but not quite as out-there as Jethro and maybe – just maybe – share some of Clayton’s sound.


There’s something clean cut and old school about Clark. It goes a little farther than Grant, but not quite as different as Jethro.


A logical alternative to Grant.


If you like Seth, would Heath appeal? It has the same ending sound, but it’s a little brighter – more of a nature name instead of an Old Testament one.


I almost suggested Hugh, and I think it works handsomely with Wade and Vera. But I’m torn between Hugh and Hugo.


A name in the key of Jeb, but with more of an Isaac sound.


I wanted to suggested Miles, but I think it’s just too popular for you now. Would Milo appeal?


If you can’t get past Clayt, I think Nate is upbeat, friendly, and stands on its own.


Another entry in my can’t-get-past-Clayton list. Traditionally short for Raphael, just Rafe has potential, too.

    From your list, I love the sound of Dean. I think it’s the perfect mix of familiar and unexpected, a brother for Wade and Vera.

    But I’m also really drawn to Heath – particularly because it shares that vaguely word-like/nature-adjacent/surname style of Wade so perfectly.

    Readers, over to you! What would you suggest for Vera and Wade’s new brother?

    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. I tried commenting yesterday, but I don’t think it went through!! Thank you for these suggestions and I am so touched by all of the comments! Abby, I love your comment about finding the middle ground of Caleb/Isaac and Jethro.

      I think right now my top picks are-
      Carson (not a suggestion, but I forgot we had talked about this and feels a little less popular than Caleb)

      Sadly, Clark, Graham, and Russell are out due to family names! And your advice about getting past the negative association was really helpful. This was more than a vague acquaintance- our families spent a LOT of time together and I think it would definitely feel weird to use that name.

      I’ll let you know what we come up with! :))

      1. Oh, love your revised list – thank you for the update!

        Also, apologies for the delay in approving your comments – there’s been a TON of spam lately + filtering out the real comments is quite the task! (Twenty-first century problems!)

    2. Thank you for these suggestions.. I am so touched by all the comments giving suggestions!! Abby, I love your description of “fresh ideas that are less popular than Isaac and Caleb, but not quite as out-there as Jethro.” That sounds EXACTLY like the sweet spot I’m aiming for.

      After reading these suggestions, I think my favorites are: Dean, Clint, Carson (not on the list, but I remembered this is one that my husband and I have talked about.. I like that it has the 2 syllables with a C of Caleb, but is less popular), Xander, Mitch, and Kit.

      Sadly, Graham, Clark, and Russell are all out due to family names/ties. And I definitely can’t get past the Clayton thing. The more I think about it, he was a pretty close family friend and there is quite a bit of overlap there still.

      I’m also thinking about using Caleb as a middle name– I really do think it’s such a sweet name. I will definitely report back when he is born! 🙂

    3. Rhett! Vera, Wade and Rhett!
      Vera, Wade and Xavier (continues alphabetically)
      Vera, Wade and Oscar
      Vera, Wade and Harry
      Vera, Wade and Lewis
      Vera, Wade and Curtis

    4. James, with nickname Jem.

      Or, if you want to toss Jeremy in there (not saying you do), you could do firstname Jeremy lastname, called Jem. Something like Isaac Jeremy. Then you could choose Zac or Jem or Remy or Ike.

      James T… lastname would stretch to nickname Jet, which is a color and a big, cool, manly machine. Airplane silhouette room theme?

    5. Something not too popular but not too out there, kinda different but not too different, short and sweet like you like but kinda punchy like your husband seems to prefer… Zane, Zane, Zane!

      And as an added bonus he’s also 4 letters long and has a high value scrabble letter just like Wade and Vera 🙂

      Or maybe a formal first name with a fun nickname like Isaac called Ziggy or Zac or Ike. Or Oscar “Ozzy”

      Congrats and good luck! Please let us know what you decide