Name HelpBaby Name Help is a series at Appellation Mountain. Every Saturday, 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!

S and her partner are parents to Ge0rge S!nger and Zeld@ Marig0ld.  They’re expecting a third child soon.

Their girls’ list has been narrowed down to Djuna, Alberta, Bernadette, and Mabel/Maybell, but they’re struggling to find ideas if baby #3 is a boy.

She writes:

We feel a bit like we’ve painted ourselves into a corner with the two names we’ve already used, and all the leftovers on our lists seem to go well enough with one of the kids’ names, but not both. I’m not overly concerned with matching, but I’m talking major outliers.

Of the new boy names we’ve considered, my partner likes NONE of them well enough to use. I have ultimate deciding power, but it’d be nice to find a name we both love. 

Names that S likes, but her partner does not like:

  • Harvey
  • Barnaby
  • Orson
  • Ambrose
  • Lawrence/Laurence

Names that both mostly like:

  • Leo/Leopold (though I prefer Napoleon to get to Leo)
  • Arlo (but we know a couple already)
  • Francis
  • Otto
  • Theodore (though its popularity gives me pause)

S describes her both-mostly-like list as “sad, short, and meh,” so they’re not really finalists – at least it doesn’t sound that way.

She adds:

My last name is long, French, and starts with an L, so most L-ending names are out. The middle will probably be a two syllable S name (like S!nger) followed by Tom.

S describes names that they love:

  • Subtle nature and virtue names
  • Nothing religious
  • Names you’d hear on really old folks and hippie communes
  • Names to honor the writers and artists and characters we dig

And finally: I hate to ask for help because our other kids’ names are full of meaning to us, but we need help!

Read on for my answer – and please be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments!

Hi S –

So here’s the funny thing – as I was reading, a bunch of names popped into my head.  Henry, Milo, Laszlo, Louis!  All vintage boy names, mostly with a quirky-cool vibe.  All of which are on your ruled-out-for-various-reasons list.  And Otto, which made your maybe list.

The complete ruled-out list is as follows:

  • Ira
  • Cosmo
  • Henry
  • Milo
  • Laszlo
  • Asa
  • Lou/Louis/Llewellyn
  • Albert
  • Clyde
  • Oslo
  • Franklin
  • Lisle (like Lyle)

The more I think about, I think it is tough match Ge0rge and Zeld@.  Ge0rge is a solid citizen, while Zeld@ is all jazz age excitement.  Nothing mismatched about them – but a name like Henry feels so perfectly paired with Ge0rge that Zeld@ becomes the outlier.  And if you went with something like Arlo, I can imagine that Ge0rge might strike others as a family name used out of obligation.

When I tried running the names through Nameberry’s Namehunter, the results were either awfully conservative (Edward) or terribly daring (Maceo).  Neither direction feels quite right.

So this is a puzzle.

Here’s my suggestion: let’s take a walk back in time.  You’ve got a definite preference for older names.  Both George and Zelda were at their most popular in the early part of the twentieth century, so let’s look at 1900 – 1930 and see if some of those vintage boy names stand out:

  • Dexter – Definitely a name more popular than in the past, but like your children’s names – and many names on your considered list – currently making a comeback.  Ge0rge and Dexter sound like brothers; Zeld@ and Dexter sound like siblings.  I think all three fit – Dexter splits the difference between buttoned-down Ge0rge and carefree Zeld@.
  • August – You’ve mentioned subtle nature and virtue names – how ’bout one that is both?  Like Dexter, I think this one splits the difference between your older kids’ names.  On the down side, lots of related names, like Augustus and Augustine, are considered stylish, and the latter can be considered religious.  On the plus side, do you know the work of Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright August Wilson?  It makes this name literary, and much more.
  • Leland – Too preppy?  It’s definitely from the same early part of the twentieth century, and I thought of it because Leo is on your list.  But the only Leland who comes to mind for me is university-founder Leland Stanford.  And while Leland is a great sound, it might be too much L- with your surname.
  • Rufus – Rufus is mentioned in the New Testament, but I don’t think this one feels like a Biblical name in the same way that Ezekiel or Noah might.  I think of William Rufus – William the Red.
  • Doyle – I was surprised to find Doyle so highly ranked in the 1930s – the name peaked at #195 in 1931.  There’s Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, so it is easy to argue that there’s a literary tie here, too.  And, like Dexter and August, I think Doyle strikes a midpoint between Ge0rge and Zeld@.
  • Clark – I’ve always liked this name, the ordinary Joe disguise of Man-of-Steel Superman.  The name is clunky and edgy at once – a little bit of a surprise.  Ge0rge, Zeld@, and Clark – I think it makes for a really appealing trio.
  • Forrest – Back on the nature name idea, how about Forrest?  Or Forest?  When it comes to finding a nature name, I leaned towards those that were in use in the early part of the twentieth century.  Both spellings of this name fared well in that era, and I think that’s why Ge0rge and Forest/Forrest sound like brothers, without leaving Zeld@ out in the cold.
  • Hugo – Since you’ve considered names like Milo and Arlo, I wanted to find another ‘o’ ending name for your list.  Is it possible you’ve never talked about Hugo?
  • Alder, Adler – Maybe it’s because of middle name S!nger, but I kept coming back to Alder, as in the tree, and Adler, as in the German surname meaning eagle.  I think the gentler Alder might be the better fit for your family, but there’s something quite tempting about Adler, too.
  • Burton – Lots of Bert/Burt names came up in my various searches, and Alberta made your girls’ shortlist, but Albert isn’t a possibility for a boy.  Maybe Burton?  As in Tim Burton and snowboards and Sir Richard Burton, who translated The Arabian Nights.  Okay, and the Oscar-nominated actor Richard Burton, known for his tumultuous marriage to Elizabeth Taylor.
  • Linus – Like Leland, I hesitated to add Linus to the list.  In fact, I think this might be one of the great vintage boy names that just falls flat when paired with your last name.  Still, I like it so much with Ge0rge and Zeld@ that I’m keeping it here, just in case.
  • Galileo – Okay, Galileo is a total outlier.  It’s never been in the US Top 1000, never even been given to more than 20 boys in a single year.  (There were 13 newborn Galileos in 2013; the peak was about 15 boys.)  So this one is rare, rare, rare.  But if you like the idea of Leo, but are stuck between Leo/Leopold/Napoleon, I thought yet another option might be worth a look.  No, the sound isn’t exactly right – but the letters are there.  It seemed worth a mention.

Vintage Boy Names

And that brings me to my final point: many of these names feel like outliers now, but when you actually have the three children together in your home, I suspect they’ll feel like a perfect match as time goes by.  None of your choices are forever-jarring, like sisters called Madison and Esther.  The mismatch is slight, subtle enough that it’s only noticeable when trying to add another sibling to the mix.  So I’d encourage you to use the name that you love, even if it isn’t necessarily a perfect style-sibling to Zeld@ and Ge0rge.

What suggestions do you have for S?  Are there names that jump out of this list as great matches?  Something I haven’t listed?  Please add your thoughts below! 

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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  1. Well, in the 10 months since our would-be August was born Djuna Bird, we have met 2 younger Augusts, an Augustus, a standalone Gus and a Douglas that goes, inexplicably, by Gus. Ha! You’re always ahead of the trends!