Sunday Summary: 9.17.17Here’s my best piece of advice for parents choosing a truly unusual name for their child: be prepared to succinctly explain the name’s origin, and then smile.

Because if you choose a name that is very unusual – or really, even one that is just slightly outside the mainstream – questions will come.

They’re often well-meaning, good-natured, just plain curious. When we named our son Alex, no one commented on his name. When we called our daughter Clio, the floodgates opened.

“Oh, how do you spell that?” “That’s different! How did you choose … ” “What was that again?” “Is that a family name?” “I’ve never met a person named …” and so on and so on and ON.

Deliver a brief explanation with confidence, and all those questions tend to fade away.

The explanation doesn’t require a lot of detail. I often reply that Clio is a family name, though that fails to capture the story.

Of course, if you can’t bear the thought of offering any explanation, maybe – just maybe – unusual names aren’t for you. It’s something to consider before choosing a name far outside of the mainstream. We can’t know how our children will feel about our choices, but we can gauge how a name choice will make us feel.

When you’re debating whether to stick with a traditional name or choose something far more daring, that’s as good a starting point as any.

Elsewhere online:

  • Just as I was gathering my thoughts on female juniors, Laura Wattenberg wrote this. It’s all kinds of perfect, especially this part: Young Alexis doesn’t have exactly the same name as her dad … Sticklers may say that … bars her from being a Junior. Custom does expect names to match 100% for Junior status, but it’s a custom many parents flout. Besides, when it comes to a female Junior, tradition offers little guidance.
  • More excellent advice, this time from Duana: You have to like the name you give your kid, period. A great read for anyone dealing with cross-cultural naming and/or feeling like they’re not nearly as interested in names as others might expect them to be.
  • This is such a rich name story! It’s also a good reminder than unorthodox spellings sometimes carry significance. While I take a cautious approach to re-spelling, it’s always a good reminder that such choices can be deeply satisfying.
  • Helen Odette, Keats Fisher, Cleo Madison – I love so many combinations in this For Real Baby Names round-up!
  • While we’re #namespotting, I’ve been fascinated by Washingtonian’s Cutest Baby Contest entrants. I’ve shared a handful of their names on social this week, but you’ll have fun looking through, too. Included in the contest: triplets named Serena, Saraya, and Sela, plus Talin, Gwyneth, Boaz, Ophelia, and Mietta. And more!
  • What style is Blythe? It fits with different trends and eras, but seems tough to categorize.

That’s all for this week. As always, thank you for reading – and have a great week!

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. We recently named out son Eoin. It’s an Irish form of John and pronounced “Owen.” We knew the spelling and pronunciation issues going into it, but since my own name is misheard, misspelled etc. I’m not too worried

  2. I have always loved having an unusual name and believe it builds confidence/self acceptance. The recent credit breach gave me another reason to be thankful for this since identity thrives prefer names that are shared by several people. I previously hadn’t realized this particular upside of unique names.