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What to name a baby boy? Guidance inside.
December 14, 2009 9:02 AM   Subscribe

Literary/historical baby boy name suggestions? Guidance inside.

So, we gave our first child a name that we adore--Cleopatra. We call her Cleo. Last name is two syllables, starting with a G.

Now, we're expecting a boy. Nothing is sounding great yet. Here's our wish list:
--not too common. My husband has a very common name and hated it. John, Michael, Eric, Sam, even Hank--all of those are waaay too normal.
--not trendy.
--classical. It's got to be a real name. Preferably of a mythological or historical figure.
--can't be Lincoln! My brother's wife is also pregnant, and they have dibs on that name. This also pretty much rules out other historical elected officials in America.

Ideas so far:
Zeus (this is our fallback if we can't find anything else. I love the sound of it. I love that it sounds like a kick-ass person. I don't love that he's the god who goes around coercing mortal women into sleeping with him.)
Odysseus (great character, but spelling seems a little cruel, seems possibly a little wimpy-sounding for those who aren't familiar with the character, and nicknames could be bad (Oddie?). Nickname Ossie is cute, IMO, though)
Darwin (love the historical figure, like the sound of the name, but it's a little humorless and nerdy)

Help please! Thanks for any ideas. And yes, I've seen this thread already--nothing in there worked for me.
posted by tk to Writing & Language (111 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
 
How about Emerson?
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:04 AM on December 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


Charlemagne.

(p.s. I had a Zeus and Darwin in my class when I was a kid and both of them were mocked ENDLESSLY, which is saying a lot, since I also had a Lotte who was the coolest kid around)
posted by banannafish at 9:07 AM on December 14, 2009


I have loved the name Phineas ever since I read A Separate Peace. The character's nickname in that book was Finny. Phineas is classical- Hebrew, from Pinchas.
posted by Ashley801 at 9:08 AM on December 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


The name Gilgamesh sounds epically cool to me and you could call him Gil.
posted by fullofragerie at 9:10 AM on December 14, 2009


Thor

Samson

Basho
posted by mattbucher at 9:11 AM on December 14, 2009


Leander. Can be shortened to Lee.
posted by rocket88 at 9:11 AM on December 14, 2009 [3 favorites]


I went to babynames.com and went through every single page of names (didn't know if we were having a boy or a girl so yes, ALL of them) and wrote down all the names I liked.

You seem to be leaning toward Greek names, so you could do an advanced search for Greek names for boys and see what that pops up.

Agamemnon is a pretty kick ass name.

And the Name Voyager at babynamewizard.com doesn't even have it showing on the charts. Baby Name Wizard also has a really extensive search option that I bet will direct you to a bunch of names you'd find worth considering. I love this website and think it really is the absolute golden site for name hunting.

It was between these two sites that we found our sons not trendy, not too common (at least not for boys), Irish traditional name.
posted by zizzle at 9:12 AM on December 14, 2009


friends will be naming their impending son Atticus (after Atticus Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird) which I think is a wonderful name.
I think Darwin would be great too.
posted by supermedusa at 9:13 AM on December 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


Silas. Avery. Aubrey. Lewis.
posted by fish tick at 9:13 AM on December 14, 2009


Orion
Castor
Hector
Phineas
posted by the littlest brussels sprout at 9:14 AM on December 14, 2009


I might get back to you with some actual name ideas, but first let me just pop in to say: Please don't give your son the name Zeus. Or any deity's name. It will make his childhood hell, especially if he's not quite mighty enough to live up to his namesake (which, unless thunderbolt superpowers run in your family, is a near certainty).
posted by decagon at 9:15 AM on December 14, 2009 [15 favorites]


Augustus? You can call him Augie.
posted by mrsshotglass at 9:16 AM on December 14, 2009


Ooh, you know what else is fun? Going back through censuses from 100 years ago and looking at the given names in different ethnic neighborhoods. I found this out when I was doing my genealogy. So many cool names that just died out over the years as people homogenized.

For you, it might be worthwhile to find, say, a Greek census online (if you're into Greek names, for example) from like 1900 or so. I bet you'll see a lot of awesome names there.
posted by Ashley801 at 9:18 AM on December 14, 2009


i always liked the name 'ambrose', but don't see it in use. i know it's some kind of saint, but i was exposed to it in a john barth story.

another favorite name is 'nesselrode'--which i've only seen used in a louis l'amour story about a character who is usually referred to as 'the cactus kid.'

unfortunately, i've had this discussion with ms lester. she wasn't too happy with my ideas. maybe you might be.
posted by lester's sock puppet at 9:18 AM on December 14, 2009


I LOVE the name Orion. My husband says "Irish bar" so that's not going to happen.

I'm not THAT worried about baby boy getting his butt kicked. My husband is 6'4", my brother is 6'6"... I'm 5'6" myself. I will be surprised if this kid isn't one of the bigger kids in his class. That being said, I appreciate the warnings about ass-kicking and fun-making and will keep that in mind. I know that unusual names in boys are much more prone to ridicule than unusual names in girls.

Additional info that might be relevant: We live in Brooklyn NY, home of some bizzaro names. He will definitely not be the only weird-named kid in his class.
posted by tk at 9:18 AM on December 14, 2009


Oskar (as in Matzerath from the Tin Drum) may work. Then again it may curse your boy into being a terrible screecher.
posted by Ufez Jones at 9:19 AM on December 14, 2009


You couldn't get creative with a middle name, maybe? I assume you're planning to home school young Zeus?

If you must do this, at least don't name him after a god. How about a romantic poet, so at least when he makes it to adolescence, he can use it with goth chicks. Someone like Walter Savage Landor, or Almeida Garret.

Or maybe Mellors, after the studly gamekeeper from Lady Chatterley's Lover.

But really, common names are common for a reason.
posted by Naberius at 9:19 AM on December 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


Octavian
posted by spaltavian at 9:19 AM on December 14, 2009


A friend named his son Ulysses and they call him Uly.
posted by bluesapphires at 9:20 AM on December 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


If you're into Greek mythology as a source of name ideas, how about Ajax? Especially good if he grows up to be a web developer.
posted by decagon at 9:21 AM on December 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


Roman Names

Virgil
Julius
Augustus
Gaius
Octavian
Quintus

Saints' Names

Cyril
Methodius
Cosmas
Damian
posted by ocherdraco at 9:22 AM on December 14, 2009


By the way, being the "big kid" absolutely does not save a young boy from being made fun of and harrassment. The "big tough kid" can just as easily be the "oafish outcast". Zeus is pretty much condeming him in his child years, even if he grows up to look like Brad Pitt.
posted by spaltavian at 9:23 AM on December 14, 2009 [11 favorites]


I'm actually reading this while taking a break from my ancient Greek finals cramming.

The problem you might have with Greek names is that almost all of them have some unfortunate baggage tacked onto them (Agamemnon was murdered by his wife in his bathtub along with his slave concubine, for example. Hector's corpse was dragged through the streets of Troy.).

If I were you, I'd go for historical figures, and probably Roman ones. Cicero or Catullus could be a good middle name. I've always loved the name Alexander, although it's very common now. Atticus is cute (aside from being Atticus Finch's name, it means "Athenian" and was the nickname of Cicero's book publisher best friend). Or emperors: Julian, Justinian, Constantine.
posted by oinopaponton at 9:24 AM on December 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


Ceasar (although it is common in latin cultures and once some smartass figures out that it means hair it will get annoying for your kid)

Ptolemy (one of Alexander the Great's generals, and the man who founded the imperial line of which I believe Cleopatra was the final member)

Hector

Priam

Minos

Xerxes

Darius

Artabyzanes

My only real advice is to avoid using someones surname as a first name, it sounds cheesy and to me it is tacky, just dig real deep to find the right name for you kid.
posted by BobbyDigital at 9:26 AM on December 14, 2009


In defense of Zeus in particular, I think most kids will probably not have any clue what it refers to until at least 4th grade, if not later. I would be more concerned about taunts based on homonyms or rhymes or something like that, rather than on the reference itself for something literary, when it comes to young kids.
posted by Ashley801 at 9:27 AM on December 14, 2009


Also, Ajax.
posted by BobbyDigital at 9:27 AM on December 14, 2009


Theodore (or Theodoros, if you want to get Byzantine) is also a good, not too silly name, especially when shortened to Theo.
posted by oinopaponton at 9:29 AM on December 14, 2009


Perseus? Mythological figure, mortal hero rather than god, none of the, er, connotations you bring up about Zeus.
posted by Electric Dragon at 9:30 AM on December 14, 2009


Axel

Spyder

Holden

Griffin
posted by pseudostrabismus at 9:30 AM on December 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


Roman. My personal favorite and an entire era in history!
posted by marimeko at 9:30 AM on December 14, 2009


Apollo - I think this would be awesome
Pericles
Hercules (Maybe too much, but Herc would be the coolest nickname)
Constantine
Socrates - Expectations too high?
Cicero
Leopold
Alexander (classical and modern at the same time)
Lothar/Lothair
Otto
Matthias
Ferdinand
Maximilian - cooool

Don't name him Plato or girls will always be telling him, "Let's just be friends."
posted by Askr at 9:32 AM on December 14, 2009


Is Cleopatra old enough to be in elementary school yet? Because when she is, I think you will understand why so many people are trying to talk you out of this.
posted by so_gracefully at 9:37 AM on December 14, 2009 [6 favorites]


Sorry, but I need to make sure you don't name your son Ptolemy. Please. Unless you want both of your kids to be accused of incest their entire lives.
posted by oinopaponton at 9:40 AM on December 14, 2009


I love Theo, but Cleo (oldest child) and Theo ain't gonna fly.

Roman is her cousin's name, actually!
posted by tk at 9:46 AM on December 14, 2009


Ajax and Zeus will need to learn how to fight very early.

Try Lucien or Lucius, nickname Luke. I knew a Lucien in school and he was a cool guy, gave me positive associations with the name.
posted by mikewas at 9:48 AM on December 14, 2009


You can use the name that my wife and I have picked for our (still theoretical) first male child:

Tycho.

Uncommon, phonetic, historic. We're going to pair it with the middle name "Knox" so that you have the option of the name, or the nickname "T.K."
posted by SNWidget at 9:49 AM on December 14, 2009


Here's another name site.
posted by TooFewShoes at 10:00 AM on December 14, 2009


How about Emerson?

This may be a good or bad things depending on how you view things, but I have a feeling that Emerson is just about to be a very trendy name. I live in a fairly hip neighborhood, filled with exactly the sort of folks the Freakonomics guys were talking about. One of them named their baby girl Emerson, so I guess it is now a unisex name.

Is the Bible off limits? There was a time when everyone's name came from the Bible, now only a few do commonly. The nice thing about using a Biblical name is, they have that classic cache, everyone knows how to spell them, and they were used enough as names a hundred years ago that somehow they don't have the same weirdness as naming your child after a thunderbolt.

Whatever you do, choose a name that is easy to spell and that does not immediately lend itself to ridicule. Kids are already very inventive when it comes to being cruel, you do not need to make their job any easier.
posted by Deathalicious at 10:03 AM on December 14, 2009


Let me get this straight--your daughter is named Cleopatra and you're passing on the chance to name your son Mark Antony? :-)


Anyway, seconding Ulysses. Greek hero (although the Romans despised him), cunning man, madly in love with his wife, and all-around admirable guy...and also the name of one of the great works of English literature AND a former US president.

There's also Socrates, a name that's woefully underused, IMO, given the man's position in history.

And since your daughter has an Egyptian name, what about Horus, or Osiris, or Ptolemy?

Avoid Caesarion. It means "Little Caesar" and for the rest of his life your kid will get grief every time he orders a pizza.

Do the kid a favor, though--give him a "common" middle name that he can use as a fall-back if--when he's older--he doesn't like whatever you come up with. While I appreciate that parents want their kids to have "unique" names, sometimes their enthusiasm causes them to minimize the frustrations that can come with having a unique name.
posted by magstheaxe at 10:08 AM on December 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


There's a popular kid's show out right now called Phineas & Ferb, so the name Phineas is certainly more in the public eye these days.

A colleague of mine has a young son named Ari, short for Aristotle.

What about Odin? It's not Greek mythology, but it does fit the other criteria.
posted by mogget at 10:11 AM on December 14, 2009


Galen might have a nice alliterative effect (or it might not).
posted by Pax at 10:21 AM on December 14, 2009


"My only real advice is to avoid using someones surname as a first name, it sounds cheesy and to me it is tacky..."

Really? In the American South there's a whole tradition around it. The oldest boy is given the mother's maiden name as his first name. It was a rather clever way women in the South kept their surnames actively used after taking their husband's name in marriage (in the days before a woman keeping her maiden name after marriage was an option).

These days, it's probably more common for the oldest child to receive the mother's maiden name as a middle name, but it's still out there as a way to honor an entire branch of the family.
posted by magstheaxe at 10:21 AM on December 14, 2009


Gabriel - he was an angel. Little Gabes are great.
posted by ersatzkat at 10:28 AM on December 14, 2009


I cannot believe that this thread about literary/historical names has gone on this far without someone suggesting anything Tolkienian. If you'd like to avoid the most well-known, here's my general suggestion, grab a copy of the Silmarillion and peruse through. You could go simply by euphony, or you could read it and actually get an idea of the stories associated with the names.
A few of my favorites (male):
Beren
Turin
Earendil
Orodreth
Feanor
posted by LifeEngineer at 10:29 AM on December 14, 2009


My name is Orion, so I can confirm that mishearing it as O'Ryan is pretty common, but "...like the constellation" always clears it up. But the new NASA crew exploration vehicle is going to be called Orion, so in a few years it might be like naming your kid Apollo or SCUBA or something. My name didn't get made much fun of, btw, and if anything my name is now cool enough on me that it was worth a brief period of discomfort to have a great name. Duncan Jones would obviously disagree.

astronomical
Rigel
Perseus
Cepheus

authors
Callimachus
Petronius
Quintilian
Marcus Tullius
Publius
Gaius (I gave a niece named Gaia, but boys don't get the male equivalent (obviously because it can be construed to have "gay" in it))

divinities
Osiris
Thoth
posted by xueexueg at 10:30 AM on December 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm not exactly sure why, but some Greek names just sound better as modern names than others. I like Nestor, which sounds sufficiently modern but still slightly unusual.

Remember that Theodore can also be Ted.

Don't name the kid Ajax. Really. Don't name your kid Ajax.

I understand your desire to give your kids unique and meaningful names--I was just telling Mr. WanKenobi last night that, as a kid, I dreamed of giving my son the name Percival--but sometimes, particularly with boys, it's just not a good idea.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:31 AM on December 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


There's also Socrates, a name that's woefully underused, IMO, given the man's position in history.

I had an uncle (? Maybe? I never know exactly how all the Greeks I grew up with were related to me) named Socrates. They called him "Sock". Both the full name and nickname were kind of awesome, I thought. And I had the nickname "Zeus" in high school, and that, too, was awesome.

But! as ancient Greek names go, I vote for Diomedes, because dude is a fucking BEAST in the Iliad. He's all, "oh athena wants me to stab aphrodite? lol okay brb gonna go stab a FUCKING GOD now"
posted by Greg Nog at 10:36 AM on December 14, 2009 [6 favorites]


Atlas
posted by Sassyfras at 10:38 AM on December 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


magstheaxe: Mark Antony and Cleopatra were lovers. Famously. Some dude (Shakes-something?) wrote a play about it. (Sorry if you meant the suggestion as a joke. But it's worse than Ptolemy.)

What about Maximus? Max is kind of trendy these days, though.

Also, seconding Atlas.
posted by purpleclover at 10:39 AM on December 14, 2009


Some Roman emperors with non-terrible names (I avoided those who were notably awful as rulers):

Julius
Hadrian
Cassius
Lucius
Antonius
Philippus
Valerian
Marius
Diocletian
Constantine
Marcian
Zeno
Justinian
Constans
Basil
Alexius

You can read about these guys here.
posted by Kattullus at 10:41 AM on December 14, 2009


I used to be a huge fan the name Phineas, then I found out that apparently, there are certain groups that are fans of the biblical Fineas because they see him as a preventer of interracial marriage.
posted by drezdn at 10:43 AM on December 14, 2009


A few other literary ideas: Dante, Geoffrey, Marlowe, Walden (might be a bit too geeky).
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:46 AM on December 14, 2009


Xerxes is pretty kick-ass name. And it gets that unusual Z sound of Zeus without the association with lightening bolts and coerced pregnancies. He'll have to explain that it's not spelled with a Z, but less so than one might think, since he'll probably be in school with a couple of boys named Xander.
posted by desuetude at 10:49 AM on December 14, 2009


Adonis! (That's a joke, don't do this.)

Caesar
Julius
Cyrus (has only been in the top 500 names 4 out of the last 30 years, highest rank at 465th most popular boy name in 2007.source It is increasing in popularity, but only mildly and gradually. King of Persia c. 600 BC. This is my favorite choice on my list.)

Cicero is too easy to nickname "sissy"
(It'd be easier to help if we knew if the last name was a hard "g" or a soft "g".)
posted by Night_owl at 10:51 AM on December 14, 2009


I hope you re-think this matter before sticking a name like Ajax or Galen or Apollo on a child. This is not an action figure you're naming, it's a human being, who will presumably go to school, grow up and find his place in the working world, and who, every time he reveals his name to a stranger, will have to add the explanation "Well, my sister's name is Cleopatra and my parents love literary names....." (Much like every Emmaleigh has to give her name as "Emily, spelled E-m-m-a- " etc.) You may have visions of your hulking 6'5" adult son as a university professor or neurosurgeon, where an unusual name will only make him seem more intriguing and cerebral, but there's an equal chance he may end up as a foreman on a construction crew and be subjected to "Hey, GAY-len, I've got a question..." or "Fellatio, I mean Horatio, ....."

You've given Cleo a fighting chance with a very pretty and not that unusual nickname (lest she doesn't care to be called "Cleopatra" in later life). Give your son the same opportunity. Lancelot can at least call himself "Lance," Leopold can be shortened to "Leo," and Heathcliff can use either "Heath" or "Cliff."
posted by Oriole Adams at 10:55 AM on December 14, 2009 [7 favorites]


How about Omri .
posted by gudrun at 11:08 AM on December 14, 2009


Scientists:

Faraday
Murchison
Lyell
Huxley
Rutherford
posted by Rumple at 11:11 AM on December 14, 2009


My friends have a son named Whitman. I like it. Maybe not unique enough for you, though.
posted by pyjammy at 11:11 AM on December 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


My best friend and her husband named their son Ares, he's in elementary school now and hasn't had a single problem with name calling. FYI.
posted by trinkatot at 11:15 AM on December 14, 2009


My rationale in suggesting Ajax (mostly as a substitute for Zeus) was that, while most everyone has heard of Zeus, few kids would recognize Ajax as the name of an epic mythological figure, hence fewer beatings. (And the kids who have heard of Ajax the Greater are likely to be rather nerdy themselves.) Plus, if he didn't like it, he could go by Jax or Jack.

However, I totally forgot Ajax was a cleansing product. Sorry about that. You should probably cross Ajax off your list.
posted by decagon at 11:16 AM on December 14, 2009


I know someone with a baby boy Atlas. At first, I wasn't so sure, but it's grown on me.
posted by amanda at 11:16 AM on December 14, 2009


That's funny, I knew a guy named Galen and I never heard him say that happened to him - never occurred to me, but you are probably right.
posted by Pax at 11:18 AM on December 14, 2009


Thanks everyone! Please keep them coming.

Favorites on this list so far:
Heath (I can't think of anything wrong with this one.. except that the character is depressive and not necessarily heroic, and H. Ledger came to a disappointing end)
Socrates (a little wimpy, but love everything else about it, esp the nickname "Sock")
Ajax (love the sound, the toughness, the character, but cleaning product makes it a no-go)
Dante (love the sound, the figure, but since we are pretty much Jewish atheists it seem inappropriate)

Oriole Adams, you nailed our aspirations here--we want something that is unusual, literary, and ideally, NOT something that will get made fun of. I'm really not aiming to set this kid up for a childhood of ridicule--that's why I want your help! Basically, we want to do for our boy what we did for Cleopatra.

And Cleopatra has an very ordinary middle name, as will this boy, so there will be a fallback option.
posted by tk at 11:25 AM on December 14, 2009


A cautionary tale of what is at stake, courtesy Nicolas Cage and Julia Sweeney. :-)
posted by Naberius at 11:26 AM on December 14, 2009


I know an Ajax (an adult man) and I've always thought it was a cool name and I never even associated it with the cleaning product, which I actually use. It's a rad name.

One of our boy names was Linus. We decided that despite the slightly wussy tone the name takes from it's association with the Peanuts character (who is RAD, blanket notwithstanding, in my opinion), it has some cool sciency cachet from Linus Pauling and Linus Torvalds. Alas, we had girls instead.
posted by padraigin at 11:35 AM on December 14, 2009


I come from a long, long line of oddly named folk and on my short list of fave boys names:

Duvoisin
Bonaventure
Baltazar
Jeanot
Jett
Achilles
Elder
Claiborne
Hilaire
posted by SoulOnIce at 11:35 AM on December 14, 2009


My only real advice is to avoid using someones surname as a first name,

This was actually the custom where my dad grew up. First born sons got the mom's maiden name as their first name. Eleanor Laughton and Stuart Neville's first son would be named Laughton Neville. It often worked out okay.
posted by small_ruminant at 11:39 AM on December 14, 2009


And since your daughter has an Egyptian name

Cleopatra is actually a Greek name, right? A Greek dynasty started by one of Alexander's generals, Ptolemy ruled Egypt from Alexander's death until Octavian's conquest for Rome. They adopted some Egyptian culture, but I think the names stayed Greek. Nearly every queen was named Cleopatra and every king was named Ptolemy from the start.
posted by spaltavian at 11:44 AM on December 14, 2009


I knew some girls surnamed Assman - pronounced Ozman.
Oh and beware of what the child's initials spell...
posted by Cranberry at 11:51 AM on December 14, 2009


I'm a big fan of Langston, which is less "rah rah manly" and more wimpy poetic, but Hughes is my favorite of the Harlem Renaissance guys.

Wyatt is more American mythic, but I love how it sounds phonetically, and it's pretty bad ass. Finn goes back to Finn mac Cumhaill, and also has the American mythos ring to it.

I've met two grown men named Darwin and they both own it.
posted by zoomorphic at 11:53 AM on December 14, 2009


Of the ones you suggested, Darwin is my favorite. I would go against Zeus or Odysseus. A better alternative is Ulysses, as someone already suggested. That one has the bonus of being 1) the Latin version of Odysseus, 2) from literature, 3) an American historical figure that isn't one of the obvious ones. It's a three-for. And it's (slightly) less likely to be misspelled or mispronounced.
posted by ishotjr at 11:54 AM on December 14, 2009


I'm a big fan of Langston, which is less "rah rah manly" and more wimpy poetic, but Hughes is my favorite of the Harlem Renaissance guys.
I know someone who named their daughter this a few years ago and have been hearing of it more lately. I think it might become trendy soon.
posted by ishotjr at 11:55 AM on December 14, 2009


Julius
Ivan
Gus (Augustus)
Nashville (Nash)
Cleveland
Quinn
Christof
Til
Vadim
Vladimir
Boris
Roxy (Rocky)

(all true stories, all people I know - none ever sufferring from their names)
posted by marimeko at 12:22 PM on December 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


My grandfather + great grandfather's name: Edmund
My great-great-grandfather's name: Augustus.

YMMV.
posted by blue_beetle at 12:24 PM on December 14, 2009


Ozymandias?

I always liked the name, plus as someone mentioned above, it does give the kid a bit of an out to just go by Oz or Ozzie (granted, I like both of those names too, might not be to everyone's taste though). Off the top of my head I don't remember much about the history of the name, except that it's a sonnet written by Percy Shelley.

A lot of folks are warning you off naming your kid something weird. I can understand where they're coming from certainly, but really, I'm of the opinion that no names are "tease proof"...if kids wanna make fun of a John or a Mary or a Joe based on their name, they will find a way.

I've got a really silly name, but I love it. Even though it carries certain connotations that I don't like that most people probably immediately think of when I first meet them, and even though it's been spoiled by a popular movie and TV show that came out while I was in high school...I don't care. I think it fits me, and there's no other name I'd want. But I suppose I lucked out, in that I liked the name that was given to me. There's no guarantee that your kid will like his name, no matter what you go with. He might hate a normal name like Joe or John, he might hate an unusual name like Zeus. There's no telling....so go with what feels right to you now, and he can change it later if he doesn't like it, or you'll find a more suitable nickname for him together as he grows up.
posted by Squee at 1:18 PM on December 14, 2009


A name I used for a character in a short stories is Archimedes, which can be shorted to Arch or Arc for a nickname. The folks in my creative writing class thought it was an awesome name, though of course there's a big difference between fictional characters and actual human beings. Plus: he was one of the leading scientists in classical antiquity. Minus: also the name of Merlin's owl. Other than being Merlin's owl, I can't think of any terrible ways to make fun of the name (particularly if he always goes by Arc), though I've long since lost the creative cruelty of childhood, so there may well be something I'm missing.

I guess you could rock some geometry jokes, but those just don't have much sting.
posted by Caduceus at 1:31 PM on December 14, 2009


How about Synchro? Or Wistar?
posted by bz at 1:37 PM on December 14, 2009


Julius can be shortened to Julie, which might not be a great nickname for a little boy to have. (Even though he'd have another awesome namesake besides Caesar.)

Similarly, even though Lucius or Lucien can be shortened to Luke, it can also be shortened to Lucy.

Kids can figure out a way to make fun of anything but there are certainly some names that lend themselves more easily to mockery.

On preview: Archimedes has a nice ring to it and it can be shortened to "Archie" - probably not a bad idea to look at distinctive names that, when shortened, can lead to more common names.
posted by cobwebberies at 1:38 PM on December 14, 2009


I've grown up with a very common first name and a pretty rare middle name (John Schyler.) I go by my middle name since my father's name is also John. I don't entirely agree that odd names mean automatic ridicule. Explaining your name isn't that bad either, in fact, many times it is a quick opening conversation in a first impression situation.

I like:
Ozymandius (Ozzy, Oz, etc.)
Atticus
Cyrus
Clifford (cliff)
Linneas (Homage to the great scientist)
posted by schyler523 at 1:44 PM on December 14, 2009


Minus: also the name of Merlin's owl.

What! How is that a minus? That's probably the most awesome part of that name, especially since Disney's version of Archimedes has one of the best animated laughs ever.

Okay, maybe this is just additional evidence over how frequently tastes vary when it comes to this kind of thing. Or, possibly evidence that the OP shouldn't listen to my name suggestions. ;)
posted by Squee at 1:44 PM on December 14, 2009


Absalom
Asher
Crispin
Cyrus
Dorian
Mitchell
Nicodemus
Parker
Quentin
Rory
Saul
Tobias
Zebulon
Zacchariah
posted by cross_impact at 1:45 PM on December 14, 2009


Zebulon (American explorer)
Zenofon / Xenophon (ancient Greek writer)
Zeno (a number of famous Greeks)
Artemas (tribute to goddess Artemis)
Solon (father of Athenian democracy)
Anaxander (Spartan king)
Hadrian (Roman emperor)
Tamerlane / Timur (Central Asian conqueror)
Theodoric (a number of Germanic kings)
Solomon (Bible guy)
Alaric (Visigoth king, sacked Rome!)

I wouldn't worry about teasing that much as long as the name isn't ridiculous - sure, Lucian can be shortened to Lucy but there are lots of normal names that can be feminized like that, and really, if a kid is going to be teased, his classmates will find a way to do it, funny name or no.
posted by thirteenkiller at 2:52 PM on December 14, 2009


A name I used for a character in a short stories is Archimedes, which can be shorted to Arch or Arc for a nickname.

I'm happy to admit that I'm a straight-up sucker for pre-Christian Greek names, so yeah, I think this is great. My closest friend in high school was Aristeides (pronounced arr-iss-TIDE-ees in English, pronounced as a guttural growl by his oft-cranky Greek father), and he went by Artie for short. He was the only Artie any of us knew, which had definite advantages: if someone asked, "Oh, have you met that Artie kid?" you knew who they meant instantly. Compare that with the various Mikes I knew: you had Mike-(lastname), Dirt Mike, Slike, Fat-Mike-not-the-NOFX-one, Mike Who Fucked His Cousin (which: not true, they just messed around and frenched a little), etc.

Basically, kids will make fun of any other kid, for any reason, regardless of whether the epithet can be predicted or not; yeah, "Artie" was occasionally called "Farty", but then, "Greg" was also changed by some thirteen-year-old modern-day Oscar Wildes to "fucking gaywad", so I wouldn't worry about that aspect too much.
posted by Greg Nog at 3:00 PM on December 14, 2009 [5 favorites]


Minus: also the name of Merlin's owl.

What! How is that a minus? That's probably the most awesome part of that name, especially since Disney's version of Archimedes has one of the best animated laughs ever.

Oh, I totally agree, but I was trying to look at it from the perspective of a kid who doesn't want to be made fun of.

Also
A name I used for a character in a short storiesstory is Archimedes,

FTFM.
posted by Caduceus at 3:17 PM on December 14, 2009


The Archimedes crowd has won me over (not that my opinion matters much).

Also Greg Nog, hilarious.
posted by grapesaresour at 3:32 PM on December 14, 2009


cross_impact: Saul

Like this one. It's unique without being too strange, it sounds cool, and he can go by Paul if need be.
posted by spaltavian at 3:44 PM on December 14, 2009


I've met more than one child named Orion. And a young woman named Freyja. All of them were American, all of them live in North Carolina, and all seemed to be coping fine. Freyja was pretty pleased with her name, even though people asked her about it a lot. Yes, she often ended up explaining that her parents were big into mythology, but it didn't seem to bother her.

Just throwing this in as a stamp of approval of the types of names you're considering. Kids are always getting mocked for their names, and whether the mocking turns malicious has a lot to do with the reaction of the kid being mocked. Any name is up for childhood mutilation.
posted by Coatlicue at 3:45 PM on December 14, 2009


Theseus
Ares
Hector
Archimedes (Archie)

Leonides is, of course, Spartan, but the kids today love the myth and you could call him Leon or Leo.

Hephaestus or Vulcan, because they are both kickass, though you might end up with people calling your son Festus.
posted by misha at 3:58 PM on December 14, 2009


As much as I love Star Trek, Vulcan might be a bad idea.

I sort of love Archimedes/Archie, though. Archie and Cleo? Adorable!
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 4:08 PM on December 14, 2009


Ramses!
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 4:50 PM on December 14, 2009


Thadeus?
posted by kylej at 5:13 PM on December 14, 2009


Ulysses gets a vote from me - love it. Fave Tennyson poem too.

But I came by to say 'Phoenix' is my favourite boy's name.
posted by honey-barbara at 5:30 PM on December 14, 2009


Please don't name your boy after a greek god unless you're certain he'll grow up to be stunningly good looking.
posted by moxiedoll at 5:55 PM on December 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


I've thought about this sort of thing quite a bit more than a man my age should. Some ideas:

Perseus, or Percy for short. Shouldn't bring too much heat down on him.

If you're avoiding American heroes, Churchill could be pretty cool as a name.

I also like the name Rhodes for some reason, dating back to a dream I had years ago. Seems better for a girl to me for whatever reason though.

There are a hell of a lot of last names one could look into as decent first names. Raliegh, for instance.

Zeus just makes me think of Sam Jackson's character in Die Hard with a Vengeance. Hermes could work, though.

My sister and brother-in-law took forever trying to find a name for their second son which would reflect on my brother-in-law. He's an accomplished fisherman, and they wanted something which would refer to that historically. Finally, they realized that the name Fisher was actually pretty cool, and that's what they named him. Don't overthink it, I guess is my point.
posted by Navelgazer at 7:14 PM on December 14, 2009


You might stay away from Augustus, unless you're into epic sibling rivalry.
posted by Hoenikker at 7:20 PM on December 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


Came to say Ulysses. I wasted my go at the name on a handsome cat. Should have saved it for one of our boys...
posted by the christopher hundreds at 8:10 PM on December 14, 2009


How about Arthur? (Apart from King Arthur, there's also Arthur Dent.)
posted by rjs at 8:32 PM on December 14, 2009


Lior is one of my favorite Hebrew names.
posted by brujita at 10:43 PM on December 14, 2009


Lysander.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 12:28 AM on December 15, 2009


> Oh, I totally agree, but I was trying to look at it from the perspective of a kid who doesn't want to be made fun of.

Same here for my "drop the -us suffix and presto, girl's name!" comments earlier, but in your case (or is that Archimedes' case?), it seems less likely that other kids will taunt a young Archie for sharing the same name as an animated owl. Like, they'll probably still taunt him for something, but not that reason.

And after reading PhoBWanKenobi's comment up above, I agree - Archie and Cleo does sound pretty adorable. It suddenly gives me visions of a kid detective duo solving neighborhood mysteries.

Huh. I think this means I'm voting for Archimedes!
posted by cobwebberies at 2:36 AM on December 15, 2009


Tiberius? Ty is a nice short name.
posted by doozer_ex_machina at 4:27 AM on December 15, 2009


I used to know a Leonidas. We called him that when he was very little but I think he's called Lee now.
posted by Pax at 6:18 AM on December 15, 2009


Please don't name your boy after a greek god unless you're certain he'll grow up to be stunningly good looking.

Oh, no, I completely disagree with this! I think it's only overly cutesy if he DOES have chiseled, plastic perfection good looks.
posted by misha at 7:16 AM on December 15, 2009


And for the record, two of my favorite boy names:

Ransom

Wilder
posted by Sassyfras at 8:08 AM on December 15, 2009


Caspian is my suggestion, i love how dashing it sounds! I also love Rufus.

By the way, my name is Danae and I think classical names totally rock. My name got me interested in Greek Mythology in a young age and helped foster my lifelong love of reading. On the other hand, my brother's name is Dalton, after the train robbers, and I think his is awesome, too!
posted by ukdanae at 9:10 AM on December 15, 2009


Floyd. Everybody is named Brayden now, so I would go with Floyd.
posted by anniecat at 11:58 AM on December 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Noble

I had a friend by that name when I was younger, and always thought it was such a strong title for a boy. Not really nickname-able though, is it?
posted by alight at 3:21 PM on December 15, 2009


I vote for Loki or Odin. (Odie!)

Also, Tolkien had some great names in Middle Earth:

Middle Earth Character List
posted by Kimothy at 7:56 PM on December 15, 2009


@purpleclover. Yes, I was joking. I'm perfectly aware of Cleopatra and Mark Antony's relationship (and my old Shakespeare professor in college can confirm this!).

But I also know that parents bent on a unique name for their child usually don't let the facts get in the way of making their choices. It's impossible to hear the name Cleopatra without thinking of Mark Antony. So why not go for it?

Besides, my brother's name is Marc Anthony, so I'm a bit fond of it. Suggest it whenever I can. :-)
posted by magstheaxe at 10:24 AM on December 19, 2009


My daughter's first name is Julia and we call her Jules fairly often which would work for a boy named Julius as well, and it's kinda badass thanks to Pulp Fiction. Her middle initial is K, so she's been called Jake since before birth, when I didn't know her sex yet (if she was a boy, she would have been Charles Richard Lastname, but Jake was a better thing to call the kid than IT and I had a feeling she was going to be a girl), and that's been a pretty good nickname, too. She's a tomboy like her momma.

So, my votes are for Julius KMiddlename Lastname or Charles Richard Lastname.

Or, you know, whatever you want to name the kid the first time you see him.

Best wishes to you and Miss Cleo! It's an adventure every time.
posted by lilywing13 at 1:12 AM on January 8, 2010


Ugh, meant to say best wishes to you BOTH and Miss Cleo.
Happy baby endgames!
posted by lilywing13 at 1:28 AM on January 8, 2010


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