Number 2
Number 2 (Photo credit: yoppy)

Here’s something that I think we all get wrong.

We behave as if perceptions of names are fixed and unchanging.  But our ideas about names change constantly.

It applies in the micro.  Announce mid-pregnancy that you’re naming your baby Shiloh and your cousin will snark that you’ve been reading too much Us Weekly.  Or declare that you’re going with Milton and there will be raised eyebrows.  “That’s an old man’s name!”

But then your darling little person arrives, and suddenly, Milton or Shiloh isn’t anything other than your child’s name.  And loving the child generally means accepting the name, even when it is outlandish by the standards of the day.  So grandma might still have her hesitations, but they usually quickly fade.  (My family wasn’t wild about Clio as a nickname for Claire Caroline Wren – but it hasn’t come up since she was born.)

Children are accepting, at least when they’re little.  They’re soaking up words as varied as pineapple and chihuahua and California and December.  We don’t come pre-programmed with lists of names, so children generally accept that their neighbors and classmates are called Persephone or Adlai or Lumi.

In the big picture, we tend to forget how perceptions of names change over time.  Maddie sounds like a girl now, somewhere between newborn and teenager.  But in time she’ll feel more like a mom name.  And eventually, Madison and Madeline and Madalyn will all be the names of accomplished professionals – your dentist, your real estate agent, the writer of your new favorite novel.

Change is constant, and the act of choosing a name changes how the name will be perceived.

So be brave, and be confident that our pool of names continues to expand, and the range of wearable choices is greater than ever before.

  • This issue came up at Nameberry’s question of the week: Love the name, love the person?  The comments are fascinating.
  • Looking for a stand-out name that will wear well in Australia?  Anna’s new book builds on her knowledge from blogging at Waltzing More than Matilda.  The suggestions work throughout the English-speaking world.
  • There’s a second part to Elea’s exploration of all names Scadinavian: Scandi Spectaculars.  I’m partial to her first list in this series, but from the second installment, I love Sigrid.  Can’t wait to read what she has in mind for the promised part three!
  • Isotta, Elettra, Cosima, Salvatrice, Orsino, Lorenzo, Federico, Nico – I’m smitten by Bree’s Illustriously Italian list, too.
  • Which reminds me – I stumbled on something that mentioned Nigella Lawson’s daughter Cosima answers to the nickname Mimi.  I love Mimi as a nickname!
  • Did you read this post at namecandy?  The couple can’t decide if their daughter’s name should be Cruz Emanuelle or Emanuelle Cruz.  I’m dying to know how they came up with the combination in the first place.
  • Speaking of unusual names, a baby called Tali’Zorah from a video game character.  Her middle name is Rose.
  • Have you had to rule out a favorite name because of rhyming with your surname?  I’ve long-loved the idea of naming a daughter Helena or Penelope and calling her Nell.  Which would make her Nell Sandel, emphasis on the second syllable: NELL san DELL. I love it, but it might not be such a great idea.  Swistle gives good advice in a similar situation here.
  • A question on my mind this week: Kevin and Danielle Jonas have said that their daughter will have a “different” name.  How many celebs have made this claim?  And how many have actually delivered?
  • And another thought-provoking post: I read the news that 74% of survey respondents agreed that parents should be able to name their children anything as good news.  Nancy looked at the results and pointed out that 19% of Americans believe that judges should be able to change children’s names on religious grounds.  When you look at it that way, it’s alarming.
  • Let’s end on a cheerful note.  I love Bombay Bicycle Club’s song “Luna” and their swimming-pool-centric video.  It makes me like the name even more.

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

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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 don’t believe there are any favorites that rhyme with my surname, but Hester almost does and that was a favorite that was hard to give up. I think some near rhymes sound awesome together, but it’s really a case by case basis. I kept my maiden name when I married my first husband because his surname also had a strong “oo” sound (like Julie Tooka.) It almost worked when pronounced right, but the more common mispronunciation sounded like a cartoon character’s name.

  2. Ooh I love Cosima, nn Mimi!

    I know what you mean – like so many others, our surname ends in an -en sound, which makes names like Sebastian and Cassian sound annoyingly sing-song, and have thus been eliminated.

  3. I thought I read the Jonas’s were naming their baby Jersey whether it was a boy or girl. I’d say Jersey Jonas counts as “different.” LOL