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!


Erica writes:

We have two children. Our son, Howard “Howie” Michael is six and our daughter Trudy Elinor is turning three. Baby number three will be here this summer. It’s another boy, and we’d love your help finding the right name.

Our kids’ names are NOT family names. We get asked that All The Time, which I think is just a semi-polite way of asking why we our kids such grandpa and grammy names.

But we like old things, and we loved the way these were names that absolutely everybody knows but no one else seems to have, at least no one under the age of 80.

If this baby was a girl, we were debating Lorna, which was almost Trudy’s name, but everyone heard as Laura/Nora, or Jeanne/Jeannie.

Our list now:

  • ALFRED – Alf is great, Freddie is adorable, but my husband can’t shake the Alfred E. Neuman reference
  • CHESTER – though we probably like Chet better and Chester is just necessary
  • EDWIN – love this so much, but not wild about Eddie
  • ERNEST – probably my frontrunner, but the whole Bert and Ernie thing makes me hesitate
  • FLOYD – so adorable, but worried we’d call him Floydie, which is weird
  • HARVEY – too Weinstein?
  • IRVING – I think we should like it, but I’m not sure we do. And no way are we cool enough to call him Ving!
  • LELAND – But if we called him Leo, we’re back to popular names again.
  • MARSHALL – Missing a nickname we can get behind and feel like the initials MM are a little Slim Shady
  • ROSCOE – Maybe this is too much, even for us?
  • RUFUS – Same issue as Roscoe.
  • WALLACE – One of my favorites, not sold on Wally.
  • WILBUR – My husband’s favorite, I just think Charlotte’s Web.

Are there any names on this list that really feel like they could be it? Or should we be looking for something new?

PS – Our last name sounds like Color, but starts with a M.

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

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Abby replies:

Congratulations on your new son!

When I hear Howie and Trudy, I do think old-fashioned, but I also think cuddly! While they can grow into serious, accomplished names, they’re right at home on adorable children, too, right?

Because of that, I’m tempted to drop a few of these names that don’t naturally lead to a nickname – or immediately feel like they fit with Howie and Trudy in that way.

So I’d drop Irving and Marshall immediately.

Based on your descriptions, I’m also going to take Chester and Leland off the list. (Though dropping Leland sort of breaks my heart. It’s perfect … except I hear your concern re: Leo.)


That still leaves nine great names! Let’s rank them.


I think these are great names! I’d be tempted to push for Roscoe, especially. And yet … your gut tells you that Roscoe and Rufus aren’t quite right. Floyd’s lack of nickname options feels like a serious flaw. And I’m not sold on Wally, either, though I think Wallace in full is dashing. (In fact, if you don’t have another middle name in mind, I’d probably suggest Wallace.)


Harvey feels like it has overcome its problematic associations, but does that satisfy your concern? My guess is that it wouldn’t come up in your child’s life, though maybe some other adults might think of it now.


With nicknames Will and Billy, it’s easy to make Wilbur quite flexible. And while the Charlotte’s Web reference isn’t perfect, I’m not sure it’s inherently problematic, right? I do wonder if Billy is a little too popular a nickname choice, sort of like Leland/Leo, though.


Such a cool, old school choice, and Ernie is darling! Also worth considering: Sesame Street, in general, isn’t quite the cultural juggernaut it once was. Yes, kids know it. But I feel like the kids in my life have been far more into Bluey, Paw Patrol, and Cocomelon in recent years. I think it deserves top contender status.


If Eddie isn’t quite right, would you consider Ned? There’s something smooth and polished about Edwin. Maybe it’s that winning second syllable. Or maybe it’s because we’re used to the idea of Edward and Edwin feels like a little bit of a glow up for that classic name.


Alf, Alfie, Freddie! What perfect names for a brother for Howie and Trudy. Plus Alfred has the same energy as Howard – old school, traditional, polished and vaguely British(ish), immediately familiar, seldom heard. I recognize the Alfred E. Neuman reference and yet … Mad Magazine hasn’t been around for a while. I’m guessing anyone under the age of 20 wouldn’t think of the character at all … instead, it’s probably very Batman’s loyal servant. (I just quizzed my pop culture vulture 15 y.o. who had never heard of Alfred E. Neuman. Not proof, but just a point.)

So I’d vote for Alfred with enthusiasm – Howard, Trudy, and Alfred; Howie, Trudy, and Alfie; Howie, Trudy, and Freddie.

It’s just plain perfection.

Readers, over to you – what would you name a brother for Howie and Trudy?

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. From your list, I love Chester (though not Chet). Ernest/Ernie and Alfred/Alfie/Freddie are great too. What about Wilby or Billy for Wilbur? I really like Lee for Leland — it feels much more unexpected than Leo. A few more suggestions:

    Howie, Trudy, and…

    Barnaby “Barney”
    Ralph “Ralphie”
    Bernard “Bernie” or “Benny”
    Walter “Walt”
    Alvin “Alvy”
    Raymond “Ray” or “Raymie”
    Russell “Rusty”
    Calvin “Cal”
    Leonard “Lenny”
    Roland “Rollie”
    Francis or Franklin “Frankie”
    Arnold “Arnie”
    Douglas “Dougie”
    Maurice “Maury”
    Hugh or Hubert “Huey”
    Rudolph “Rudy”

  2. I am here to vote for Chet. I knew one growing up and have always loved the name. No clue if he had a formal name like Chester.

  3. I really like Chester / Chet. I had a great-uncle named Chester William who went by Gus — no idea why Gus, as nothing about his last name lent itself to Gus either.

    Howard / Howie, Trudy, and Chester / Chet sound like a great sib set.

    I also like:
    Edwin — Eddie or Win
    Russel — Russ

    Best wishes to you!

  4. Winston!

    Howard, Trudy, and Winston
    Howie, Trudy, and Win


    Howard, Trudy, and Alistair
    Howie, Trudy, and Al


    Howard, Trudy, and Reginald
    Howie, Trudy, and Reggie

  5. Wallace could also be called “Walt” to avoid the “Wally” nickname. Edwin is a great name. Alfred seems to be the name to beat on your list though.

  6. I think the ones you listed would all be fine. I doubt many kids have heard of Mad Magazine and the news cycle will mean Weinstein is old news by the time a baby born this summer starts school.

    Here are some other old men names for your consideration: Alvin, Barney, Calvin, Clyde, Darwin, Elmer, Harold, Hector, Hobart, Lloyd, Marvin, Oscar, Ralph, Vincent, Virgil, Warren, Zeke.

  7. Earl
    Francis nn Frank
    Gerald nn Gerry
    Raymond nn Ray
    Barnaby nn Barney