Sunday Summary: 1.7.18We spent the weekend in Ottawa. Given the subzero, record-setting, bone-chilling temperatures, this almost sounds like a joke. Except, honestly? We had a great time. My son played in an ice hockey tournament. (They lost, a lot. Canadian kids? They can skate.) But we ice skated outside, including on the world-famous Rideau Canal, we enjoyed figuring out how to walk from place to place inside, because those clever Canadians know how to plan for weather, and we just enjoyed the absolute gorgeousness of the frozen winter.

Another bonus? I realized that nothing – nothing – that our Maryland weather delivers for the rest of the winter season will ever feel like being outside at 10 PM after an Ottawa Senators game in -30 degrees weather.

And that makes me think: everything is relative.

Which brought my brain back to baby names: talking about popular names can be terribly confusing, especially for first-time parents.

Many parents I talk with struggle with this exact question: how common is too common? And how unusual can you go before a name is downright wacky?

I’ve written about it before, so here’s my best thinking on the question:

But I feel like there’s still a lot to say on this topic. In particular, it’s tough when you and your partner disagree on the how-popular question. I’m not sure I have a brilliant fix, but I’m curious to hear others’ ideas. How did you handle a disagreement about how common was too common?

Elsewhere online:

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. Right now the fashion in names seems to be with more uncommon sounding names. In time, this trend may come to seem old fashioned, who knows? I think it’s important to go with the names one loves and connects to and has meaning for them. And I think the good, classic names will never truly go out of style, albeit New classics will also come into being. Personally I’m not overly fond of names that sound too trendy, because I think they lack a certain gravitas that a great name should have. Maybe that sounds fussy but I’d rather err a bit on the side of caution rather than saddle a person with a name that might come to seem silly in time. On the other hand, giving a name that is Too ponderous can also backfire which is why I wouldn’t use a name like Beethoven or Michaelangelo.

  2. I recently came across the name Iola, which peaked in 1909. The three syllables and L make it a raindrop name. Might be just the thing for someone who’s not sure if Viola is the way to go.

  3. Abby, I’m astounded that you braved the streets, rinks and canals of Ottawa on that brutally cold weekend. I was born and raised in Canada and I did not leave the house during those frigid days! I think you more than earned a supermom badge.

    Have you amused yourself yet by looking at the names of the young hockey players who competed in the World Junior tournament? Canada’s team has both a Cale and a Kale. 🙂

    1. Ha! Well, I’m not sure when we’ll get to Ottawa again, and I really didn’t want to miss it. 🙂

      Oh, I need to look at those names … heading there now!

  4. When my husband and I were naming our eldest, we quickly agreed that we wanted uncommon names (both of our own names being top 5 around the time we were born). However, to me “uncommon” meant “outside the top 100, maybe around the 300ish range”. To him, it meant “outside the top 1000”. We agreed to go with the stricter range, provided I had to actually like the name – which means no creative respellings of common names, not too ugly or weird, easily recognized as a “real” name, etc.

    Yes, it meant that pretty much my entire existing shortlist got cut at one blow – but that’s not necessarily a bad thing for a name lover with a long list and not a lot of criteria for cutting it down. And honestly, there are many wonderful names that don’t make the top 1000, so we still have a lot to choose from.

  5. Wow! Vanora as a Guinevere variant! Part Eleanor, part Vanessa. Clever way to honor a grandmother Jennifer instead of more mainstream Gwen or Vera.

  6. Oh wow, thanks so much for the mention, Abby!

    And I love that Swistle thread – some wonderful names mentioned and even more wonderful stories behind them.

    Happy New Year!