Will you help us with baby boy names? At an impasse!
December 16, 2017 10:31 AM   Subscribe

Hi there, my husband and I are expecting our first child, and it’s a boy. We are on two completely different pages regarding names and we could use some outside help!

Husband has an extremely common name; therefore, he wants baby to have a very rare, unique name. However, the names he’s okay with seem crazy to me. I want something more normal. Please help us! Husband is on metafilter too, don’t worry about offending either of us, he helped me craft this question :-). Also, we’ve looked at the prior baby name asks, and have been all over the internet lists...and we would still like help. We originally were hoping for a girl, and had lots of girl names ready to go.

His criteria:
- not popular
- no English royalty
- prefer to avoid obvious Biblical names; however, he is Jewish and open to Hebraic names
- not Christian at all
- no living famous people names
- he is an avid reader, and is okay with an interesting name from a good book

My criteria:
- more of a “normal” name
- can’t have a stupid nickname from people shortening it
- I don’t like names that can be used for either gender (to clarify, baby won’t be raised in a gendered way, I just tend to not like those names)
- would love name to be for awesome historical scientists or something cool in nature or geology; however, this has been tough. Aristotle? No way. Archimedes? Ugh. (Husband is okay with these, just to help you understand our disagreement!)

I like names like, David, Ezra, Joshua, Samuel, Daniel etc. He’s come up with Jet, Mordechai, Granite, Orion, Polaris, Sol. My family members have been no help - my sister came up with Beelzebub, Constantine, and Caligula (ugh!!). His family has been of middling help, coming up with things like Ephraim, Clay, Charlie, Abner, Atlas, Rudy (I hate all those). A few potential compromise names we’ve come up with (we both don’t love these, but also don’t hate them): Issac, Ari, Avi, Malachi.

Also, their middle and last name initials will be I. And S., respectively, if that helps.

Also, if I’m being a stick in the mud about the more unique names, I’m okay with hearing that perspective too. I’m mostly afraid of kid being bullied for having a weird name, people butchering a weird name, giving them a terrible nickname, and getting derision from other parents.

Thanks for the help!
posted by FireFountain to Human Relations (131 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
posted by oflinkey at 10:37 AM on December 16, 2017 [4 favorites]

Axel? Or Xavier (for Xavier Le Pichon, if you want the geology connection)?
posted by thrungva at 10:43 AM on December 16, 2017

posted by ilovewinter at 10:44 AM on December 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

Some notes, as someone with a kid named something unusual but that is immediately recognized and always spelled correctly (it is a moderately common surname):

- Kids will gain nicknames even if you didn't plan for them.
- Ask a friend to share their preschool aged child's school roster. Depending where you are, "weird" names might be the norm. In my kid's early daycare classes, I've never heard most of those names again. It has changed as we have moved to more traditional places.
- Type in names you like into Baby Name Wizard or Baby Voyager and it will suggest more names for you.
posted by k8t at 10:44 AM on December 16, 2017 [3 favorites]

This list of Jewish boy names has a ton of options: Alon, Berel, Micha, Oren, Uri all immediately sounded good to me
posted by noloveforned at 10:46 AM on December 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

Do you like Solomon, Sol for short?
posted by yarly at 10:46 AM on December 16, 2017 [3 favorites]

As a compromise choice, I'd call him Orion. Most people who mishear his name will hear "Ryan," and that's a ordinary not-stupid name, although a Christian name, maybe. Initials RIS; nothing notably bad. If he's not cool with the relative obscurity of his name, he can go with 'Ryan," or maybe he'll prefer something like "Ori." You and he will spend a lifetime explaining or dismissing questions about whether you named him after the constellation because it's, at the moment, the most obvious connection. There's a small chance someone will connect him to the Ford Orion, an unremarkable European car from the 80s-90s, which is no big deal.

> I’m mostly afraid of kid being bullied for having a weird name

It's also likely to get him some positive attention, and be memorable. Kid's likely going to get bullied, and no name will prevent that, so name him whatever and teach him how to cope with bullies.
posted by Sunburnt at 10:46 AM on December 16, 2017 [8 favorites]

I see you live in Portland. My sister (mother to baby Ezra - warning, this is becoming a more common name) and her friends tend to name their kids middle ground names. Here's the popular in Oregon list.
posted by k8t at 10:48 AM on December 16, 2017

Zev, Zane.
posted by Iris Gambol at 10:48 AM on December 16, 2017 [2 favorites]

I think the bigger risk with unique names is that because there's such a premium on uniqueness right now, what frequently happens is that parents choose a very unique name ... and because every other parent is also chasing uniqueness in the same cultural context, often the unique name shoots up the chart the year you choose it. I had a friend name their baby "Amelia" because they'd never, ever met one and it was hanging out at the bottom of name popularity lists, and every other parent did too the same year. Now their daughter is 5 and Amelia was the 12th most popular name last near, and they meet baby Amelias all the time, and they're just furious about it. (Similarly, w/r/t "no living famous people names" -- no matter what name you pick, there will at some point be a famous person with that name, who is probably either super-annoying or in jail, that's just how it goes.)

Jet, Mordechai, Granite, and Orion all seem like the sorts of names that are about to be popular -- stone and machine names for boy are big right now; more unusual Hebrew names are growing, and Orion just has the right "sound" to take off.

I would urge your husband to put less of a premium on uniqueness and think more about a name he loves and is meaningful to him, maybe that isn't in the top 20 or top 50, but not worry too much about find a "very unique" name, because those inevitably end up trending.

"I’m mostly afraid of kid being bullied for having a weird name, people butchering a weird name, giving them a terrible nickname, and getting derision from other parents."

I wouldn't worry about that too much either -- other kids have way fuckin' weirder and harder to spell names than any of the names on your lists. Except Beelzebub, don't do that. Other parents are going to silently judge your baby naming no matter what, so you can't do anything about that and shouldn't worry about it.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:52 AM on December 16, 2017 [17 favorites]

posted by Betelgeuse at 10:59 AM on December 16, 2017 [9 favorites]

How about unique first and normal middle, call em both and let the kid choose!

PS I hate my boring valley girl first name and have re-monikered myself several times as an adult, much to the chagrin of my family. So, uh, eventually it's not even your call ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
posted by fritillary at 11:01 AM on December 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

I was going to say Ari, but I see you two both kindof like it already. More: Tanner, Reed, Renner, Trenton, Evan, Darren. Names flow nicely when the first, middle and last names each have a different number of syllables.
posted by txtwinkletoes at 11:03 AM on December 16, 2017

Evan is a nice name that seems to be a compromise between you and your husband's tastes.
posted by katypickle at 11:07 AM on December 16, 2017 [2 favorites]

I would look at last names and flip it. Aristille? Armand? All your husband's names sound really masculine, and there's a middle ground for a 'normal' masculine name. Jet is way too far, but Viktor could work, and so on.
posted by tooloudinhere at 11:11 AM on December 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

Angus and Hamish are both excellent names.
posted by glitter at 11:13 AM on December 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

I've been watching a lot of Friends lately. What about a name like Chandler? Isn't weird-sounding, but may be unique enough for your husband. I've never met another Chandler before. Could be a good in-between name. The name is derived from what they used to call candle-makers.

I don't like run-of-the-mill names such as David and Joshua, but I do think the names your husband has come up with are awful. Sorry.
posted by AppleTurnover at 11:17 AM on December 16, 2017 [2 favorites]

I think you could probably find some Jewish names that would fit the bill: what about Eitan, Lev, Lior, or Noam? (I was going to say Asher, but BabyNameVoyager suggests that's getting popular. I wouldn't have seen that coming!) Keep in mind, though, that those could be more common in some communities than others, and other Jews may immediately make assumptions about the kind of Jew you and/or your kid are based on your kid's name.

Is there a family last name that could make a good first name?
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 11:18 AM on December 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

posted by amtho at 11:20 AM on December 16, 2017 [5 favorites]

Cohen is popular here, but it's definitely Jewish and unique. How about warren? Uncommon but still totally a name. For herbed names: pronunciation becomes and issue, I know an Avi who's name is mispronounced on a daily basis. Reuben is biblical, as is Judah. Yuval is common in Israel. Solomon? Abraham?

(Also funny: of my kids whose names I think of as similar, one is on your love list, and a ne on you're hate list.)
posted by Valancy Rachel at 11:26 AM on December 16, 2017

I’m mostly afraid of kid being bullied for having a weird name, people butchering a weird name, giving them a terrible nickname, and getting derision from other parents

I was recently working on a project involving a lot of kids with "interesting" names -- it's really annoying to figure out the spelling on some of them. Especially long ones that the child themselves does not actually know how to spell. Things like Sol, Clay, Jet -- these sound great and won't doom a child to spending a year of their life dealing with "no, it's spelled (string of 15 letters)". Might have to explain Sol but at least it's short.

Rest assured that bullies will find ways to bully for common names too, and people with common names also end up with weird nicknames -- probably more often, how else can one tell which of two Joshs or Joes or Daves one means without the implied formality of a last name?

I'm sure you'll get derision from other parents no matter what -- the parents of little Azlizxizia and little Zebrnixikah will be saying "Oh, poor David, you can tell his parents really didn't even bother, such a common name".


Whut. THIS is a name you feel people won't butcher? Look, that's the only criteria you have that really makes sense. Whatever name you come up with, tell some random people the pronunciation and ask them to write it down, and go to different people with the name written out and ask them to say it. (And don't think you are making it easy because it's just like "chi as in Chicago" -- no one agrees on how to pronounce that)


DO look at the name in different fonts.
posted by yohko at 11:26 AM on December 16, 2017 [2 favorites]

Just spitballing here but what about Ethan, Nathan, Owen, Ellis, Elliott, Max, Caleb or Trevor? A name I’ve thought of giving a kiddo is Marek - I knew a guy named Marek and he was awesome and it’s just a derivation of Mark. I’ve also liked the name Hudson though it might be too trendy. Also what about Francis or Franklin and going with Frankie? If you and husband can compromise, maybe go with a more boring first name and more exotic middle name. You can call the kid by his middle name but if he doesn’t like it when he gets older, he has a tamer option.
posted by kat518 at 11:28 AM on December 16, 2017 [4 favorites]

From my son’s (non-US) preschool class:

Yann or Yannik
Xavier or Javier (too Christian?)
Tancrede or tancredo

I think looking for names that are real names but not super popular in other countries might be a way to go. You’ll find variants of names you’re familiar with but they are still different from the basic English spelling.
posted by ohio at 11:29 AM on December 16, 2017

Best answer: Thinking of a way to narrow it down, I went with H, since then stuff he got monogrammed would say HIS, haha.
Hiram Herman Hosea Hamish Horatio Hugo Haakon Herbert Hashem or "Hank. No, not short for Henry, just Hank."
posted by bartleby at 11:31 AM on December 16, 2017 [3 favorites]


We gave our son the middle name August as an homage to the Grateful Dead (August West--don't judge).
posted by murrey at 11:35 AM on December 16, 2017 [3 favorites]

I like the name Rex, old fashioned, but unique, I still haven't met anyone under 50 with this name. Everyone knows how to spell it.

Can't speak to it's connection with English royalty.
posted by aetg at 11:38 AM on December 16, 2017 [3 favorites]

Cohen is popular here, but it's definitely Jewish and unique.
For what it's worth, Cohen is a common Jewish surname, but as a first name I associate it strongly with evangelical Christians, and many Jews find it a bit off-putting.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 11:39 AM on December 16, 2017 [6 favorites]

Given names - American Jews - Immigrant generation - 1910s
Looks like an interesting mix of names on the slides.
posted by TrishaU at 11:43 AM on December 16, 2017


Protagonist of _Magic Mountain_, if you want artsy justification.

Can't shorten it.

Henry is good, too.
posted by nothing.especially.clever at 11:44 AM on December 16, 2017

posted by danceswithlight at 11:47 AM on December 16, 2017

Micah/Mica seem to be close enough to a traditional name while being just a bit different?
posted by shelbaroo at 11:54 AM on December 16, 2017 [3 favorites]

I like the idea of making it short and memorable, like Avi or Ari. It has elements of both your kind of names, in that it won't be complicated or mockable but still unique.

Full disclosure: the only boy name my husband and I loved was Sam, so we have a Sam who is totally a Sam and even though it says Samuel on his birth certificate we should have just officially named him Sam because why not, he's not going to end up on the Supreme Court.
posted by lydhre at 11:57 AM on December 16, 2017

Once you get a shortlist, you can check popularity at SSI.gov to make sure the unique name you thought of isn't the same unique name everybody else thought of. I wish it had been available to my parents so I needn't have spent thirteen years of school with two other girls with the same name in my class.

I second August/Augustus from above. It shortens to Gus, and Gus Pike was one of my favorite characters in L.M. Montgomery's Avonlea stories.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:58 AM on December 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Oh man this made me LOL. I am pregnant right now and my husband and I are just bowing out of the whole unique name thing. Both of us have super unique names, like #12,000 and #6,000 respectively and is really not that cool. If we have a boy it will be Jim and if it's a girl it will be Betsy, Barbara or Jennifer. With the whole unique names being a Thing these days you pretty much can't predict if a name will wind up popular. I know three malachis, a Jet and an Orion.
posted by pintapicasso at 12:00 PM on December 16, 2017 [17 favorites]

Cobb, Cameron, Gus, Tanner
posted by FirstMateKate at 12:01 PM on December 16, 2017

Best answer: Sorry to expand on what I said it's not that cool to grow up with a really unique name, not its not cool to name your kids something unique. Go for it if you want. In my experience I need to repeat myself 5x when introducing myself (10x if I'm on the phone).
posted by pintapicasso at 12:02 PM on December 16, 2017 [4 favorites]

I was thinking Albert after Einstein (a scientist) which led to Albion because of Orion.

I also like Hector.
posted by BAKERSFIELD! at 12:04 PM on December 16, 2017

Hmm, not sure if your husband is Ashkenazi Jewish, but if so, are there any deceased relatives on either side of your family you guys would like to honor by using their first initial or a similar name? Having an artificial constraint like that can help narrow down and focus name options, as well as give some more meaning to the potential choices.

I can say I've heard of at least one kid named Orion. I definitely lean in the direction your husband does when it comes to naming; I tend to like prospective names to be somewhat uncommon. My husband's perspective is more like yours. We're Jewish too.

Thinking on the basis of the names you've said you each like, here are some that come to mind:

• Isidore: Sid is one possible nickname, and Si would be a good corresponding Hebrew name—not sure you want two I's in a row, but this is like Issac but better
• Theodore: Theo is a great nickname, and Teddy or Ted are OK also
• Amory: I love this name because of Amory Blaine, the character in F. Scott Fitzgerald's This Side of Paradise
• Darcy: I'm thinking of Monsignor Darcy from This Side of Paradise; it's uncommon and bold
• Valentin: Val is what we all call a friend who's named this
• Valory: This is a rare spelling of the girl's name Valerie, but it would be a good boy's name; it's just derived straight from Valor, which is nice
• Kennedy: Shortens to Ken, makes me think of the MTV VJ Kennedy's uncommon use of it as a first name
• Sal: This is technically short for Salvatore, Salvador, or Saleem, but it doesn't have to be; I love it on its own
• Chet: This is also a letter in Hebrew, and it'll always have that musician association, but that's not a bad thing—it makes me think of the Hardy Boys, and sounds similar to Jet, which I also like but see why you might not want to go with
• Mandel: OK, I got this from Mandy Patinkin, who's alive and well, but still, definitely a bit of an uncommon name that's also Ashkenazic, and Mandy is a great nickname
• Tristan: I had always thought it was a girl's name, as the first person I met with it was a woman, but it was a boy's name first
• Tal: It sounds like a rune (there was a rune named this in Diablo II), but it's a Hebrew name. Tal Bachman is a musician, but his name is short for Talmage, so I wouldn't discount it for that reason
• Rael: It's kind of an awesome name, though the one downside is that there's a UFO cult, the Raëlians, that sounds similar. I feel like most people won't know about that. The more immediate difficulty is that people might not be sure how it's pronounced (ry-el? rail?)
• Jay: Just straight-up Jay—the birds are awesome, it's not very common, but it's similar to Jason and names like that, and very classy
posted by limeonaire at 12:05 PM on December 16, 2017 [2 favorites]

More random ideas - Jude, Harrison, Brendan.
posted by kat518 at 12:05 PM on December 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

Three more:
• Dael: I once had a professor whose name was Dael, and I like the uncommon spelling of Dale
• Jed: It's technically short for Jedediah or Josiah, but it doesn't have to be; it stands on its own as a Hebrew name. I like it a lot and think of President Josiah Bartlett on The West Wing, who's a great namesake and went by it
• Tobin: Along those lines, the last one made me think of Toby Ziegler, and Toby is short for Tobin (or Tobias, but I like Tobin better); I was also watching a movie a few days ago, The Interpreter, where one of the main characters is named Tobin (and of course, Tobin's Spirit Guide from Ghostbusters was a great reference manual)
posted by limeonaire at 12:14 PM on December 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

Kennedy: Shortens to Ken, makes me think of the MTV VJ Kennedy's uncommon use of it as a first name

I know four little girls named Kennedy. My cousin tells me that there are also two other girls named Kennedy at her daughter Kennedy's school.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 12:19 PM on December 16, 2017 [7 favorites]

I know a very cool teenage boy called Zeke, short for Ezekiel. It sounds both Jewish and old-timey.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 12:21 PM on December 16, 2017 [3 favorites]

Yeah, I was worried Kennedy might have become like Madison, one of those crossover president's-last-name-as-girl's-name ones. Alas... There's nothing about the name itself that would make it a bad boy's name, but yeah.
posted by limeonaire at 12:21 PM on December 16, 2017

I suggest Franz, for Franz Boas (note, he was Jewish).

Also, I know an Henri, pronounced the French way. Yeah, he has to explain the pronounciation, but it is only two syllables, and people who butcher it call him Henry, which is not really that bad.
posted by gudrun at 12:25 PM on December 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

Trevor (used to be everywhere but I don't think a single person on earth has named their baby Trevor since about 1992)
posted by phunniemee at 12:25 PM on December 16, 2017

Darwin (first thing that came to mind based on your cool science preference)
Finn (as in Huck Finn and a generally great all-purpose name that can't be shortened or butchered, though I think it's popular now?)
Matas (or Mattis)
Rudolf (though I don't know if Rudy counts as a stupid nickname?)
posted by the return of the thin white sock at 12:38 PM on December 16, 2017

Ezikiel. Zeke for short.



Ari (Ariel).
posted by DarlingBri at 12:39 PM on December 16, 2017

As the mother of Jordan* and Sean, I'm not a good source for name recommendations. So, I'm going to suggest that you simply narrow the list and make the final decision after you've spent a couple of days with your son. Granted, you won't really "know" your son any better than you do now, but you will feel like you do.

*In my defense, in 1989 the only female Jordan I was aware of was Gatsby's Jordan Baker.


...And don't think you are making it easy because it's just like "chi as in Chicago" -- no one agrees on how to pronounce that.
If this is correct, I've been mispronouncing the name of the place I lived for 30 years or the first name of a former acquaintance. In either case, I'm embarrassed.
posted by she's not there at 12:47 PM on December 16, 2017 [2 favorites]

posted by juliapangolin at 12:51 PM on December 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

FWIW I've heard Jet as a girl's name but not a boy's. I have the same question as yarly--I think Sol sounds like the best choice from your husband's list, provided it's short for Solomon, which would seem to meet your criteria as well; I think the other suggestions are unusual enough that your kid would get teased.
posted by ferret branca at 12:52 PM on December 16, 2017

posted by xo at 12:53 PM on December 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

I haven't seen Asher on here. It's unique enough (although rising in the ranks), has a nice meaning, and is easy to pronounce and spell.
posted by emkelley at 1:05 PM on December 16, 2017 [2 favorites]

(Also, I think a fair number of the suggestions people have made above sound quite Christian to my Jewish ears. Even a name like Ezekiel, which is originally Jewish, reads way more Christian to me these days.)
posted by ferret branca at 1:10 PM on December 16, 2017 [2 favorites]

Maybe look to Scottish and Irish royalty and or deities?

I have a name that, in America, is considered highly unusual (It's a real name, used more often in England but has not made the leap across the Pond) and when choosing our son's name I wanted to walk the line between so unusual that he'd have to deal with what I deal with on the regs (literally no one can pronounce my name and I always know when I'm about to be called in a doctor's office because the nurse comes out and there's a long long pause where no name is called--that's always me. I love my name but after four decades the rigamarole surrounding having such a name is getting kind of old.) but also not one more in the long line of Standard Catholic Biblical Names that exist in both of our families. My husband has one of those standard names and wanted a name that befit a D&D character (I had to make a "no diacritical marks" rule). So I get where you and your partner are clashing. Our shortlist included:

posted by soren_lorensen at 1:15 PM on December 16, 2017 [2 favorites]

If you’re into data and spreadsheets, one interesting approach is to download some name lists from the Social Security Administration. They go back to 1890, are divided by gender, include all names with more than 5 instances. It can be interesting to go to, like, a grandparent’s birth year and use that list and just print the list and review it separately or together. (This is a good way to rediscover some traditional names, especially traditional ethnic names).

You can also then see how the name is trending in the last few years if you want. Or if you’re interested in checking out newer-style names that aren’t yet super popular, you can look lower on the list from recent years.

If you’re excel savvy you can do a bunch of filters for word length or downward or upward trends.

My husband and I did this during our babymoon and came up with some additional candidates. I felt like it was more freeing to be able to be like, “oh, Roberta is kind of fun, what else is there?” instead of feeling like Roberta had to be on my list and would be summarily dismissed.
posted by vunder at 1:16 PM on December 16, 2017 [3 favorites]

From my kindergartener’s school:

posted by tristeza at 1:18 PM on December 16, 2017

I know an adult man named Darwin. It’s unusual but familiar, sciencey but not a living person, hard to nickname.
posted by vunder at 1:21 PM on December 16, 2017

All of the Jewish names I've seen listed may seem unusual to non-Jews, but are ultra-common Jewish names, either among the Orthodox or in Israel. Just FYI.
posted by 8603 at 1:22 PM on December 16, 2017

Also, Sol is an old-man name in the Jewish world. Source: my ex is an old man.
posted by 8603 at 1:23 PM on December 16, 2017

(Sorry this is likely a derail so feel free to delete but I mean more the royalty and Greek and Roman and last-name-as-first-name ideas read non-Jewish, Ezekiel is the only notionally Jewish one that really jumps out at me as not seeming that way, at least in relatively secular US context.)
posted by ferret branca at 1:26 PM on December 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

Ezekiel sounds more fundamentalist Christian to me! Yechezkel, the Hebrew version, is another common Jewish name.
posted by 8603 at 1:28 PM on December 16, 2017

Best answer: I have a very normal but not super common first name (it's a variant of a much more popular name), and I think my parents did a great job choosing it. To give you a sense of popularity, my name is #109 for the decade I was born in on the SSA baby name website and I've met maybe 5 or 6 other people with my name in my entire life and there's only one famous person I can think of who has my first name (and she's pretty cool, so that's nice). So, I think your husband's desire for your baby to not be 1 of 6 Davids in his class can be honored without having to pick a name so wacky that you hate it.

Number 108 for this year is Micah, which is a name I like a lot (the one Micah I know is an excellent dude) and it seems like it might work for you. I think Damian is also nice and underused these days, even though it's a very normal name. Joel is also only a couple spots more popular than Malachi this year, so, your husband's perception of what's unique may be colored more by older name trends than current ones.
posted by snaw at 1:30 PM on December 16, 2017 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Maybe a compromise would be to find a more common name in a geology term:

Al (bite, luvium)
Cal or Kal (cite, dera)
Cam (brian, although Brian is a fine name too)
Del (ta)
(dia) Tom (ite)
Hugh (hedral, static)
Mel (lange- also could reference the Spice Melange)
Mica (but, come on, we know this kid would grow up to be a flake)
Moe (raine)
Oli (vine)
(O) Rog or Raj (eny)
(Pa) Leo (gene, which is also a name)
Trav (ertine)

Or perhaps:
Bowen (will grow up to be a reactionary!)
Kyan (ite), which may or may not be a real name but sounds like a variant of Ryan
(P) Lute (onic)
Tal (lus)
Rhy (olite)
posted by Secretariat at 1:30 PM on December 16, 2017 [2 favorites]

Nobody's mentioned Isaac? Def. has some scientific connotations

- Ah, apologies! I see YOU mention it. Well, maybe he'll tell you his name when he gets here.
posted by glasseyes at 1:50 PM on December 16, 2017 [2 favorites]

I know several babies named Orion and two name Hamish, sorry. Also as a non-USian I think naming your kid a foreign name to sound "unique" comes across as really provincial I'm afraid. I know it's common in the US but Hamish or Angus are common enough names in their culture. Two Americans naming their kid that to sound cool with no connection to that culture is just odd. I'd stick to names you have some personal connection with for the kids sake.
posted by fshgrl at 2:10 PM on December 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

Aaron (more common but very classic)
posted by Armed Only With Hubris at 2:14 PM on December 16, 2017

Even a name like Ezekiel, which is originally Jewish, reads way more Christian to me these days.

Huh. The Zeke I know is a Jewish boy.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 2:24 PM on December 16, 2017

Ezekiel and Israel are probably the two most common boys names in fundamentalist Christian society these days.
posted by fshgrl at 2:39 PM on December 16, 2017

posted by epj at 2:44 PM on December 16, 2017

Kelvin for the science aspect
Chester - Chess for short
posted by sciencegeek at 2:45 PM on December 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

posted by whitewall at 2:49 PM on December 16, 2017

posted by saladin at 2:56 PM on December 16, 2017

Best answer: The names your husband likes are trying too hard and are not actually names (sorry I’m 31 weeks pregnant, you’ll understand why I have no filter.) The names you agree on are VERY Jewish, as in your kid will be instantly recognizable as One Of Us. Malachi is much more common in the Black community, in my area at least. I would go on Baby Name Wizard and do serious research there because you guys are kind of at odds with regards to your preferences. Also you are correct in not wanting your kid to have a stupid name where people can say “well she named her kid something that isn’t a name.” Finally, since you are doing all the work of carrying this child your vote counts for more than 50%. Fight me dudes you have no earthly idea what it’s like to grow a person in your abdomen
posted by tatiana wishbone at 3:24 PM on December 16, 2017 [45 favorites]

Just give the little house ape a basic name: Jim, Jack, Ed, Bill, Chris, Mike, Neil, etc. He's a person, not a boat.
posted by KazamaSmokers at 3:33 PM on December 16, 2017 [12 favorites]

A nice Southern US tradition is to use a family last name as a first/middle name, thereby keeping it current. All my names are family names: first is ggrandparents last name; middle is mother's name; last is father's name. Only my first name is weird enough to require spelling a lot and coaching pronunciation, but that's okay. So look around in your families for nice names.
posted by MovableBookLady at 3:34 PM on December 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

Greek scientists like you've suggested are hard as the names are quite foreign. Roman might be a better compromise. A few suggestions from a Classical Archaeologist (these are ancient Greek and Roman names:


For Sol, what about Saul instead? Little more normal, but an older name and def. Jewish.
posted by thatminx at 3:39 PM on December 16, 2017 [2 favorites]

Alan is a nice Jewish name. Easy to spell (except for the Alan/Allen thing) Not weird but not common either.
posted by vespabelle at 3:45 PM on December 16, 2017 [2 favorites]

Doug. I’d go with Doug. Douglas. Dougie. No one names their kid Doug anymore.
posted by ecorrocio at 3:49 PM on December 16, 2017

Judah. Or Maccabee!
posted by amro at 4:04 PM on December 16, 2017

Nothing unusual about that at all...
It is light. It is life.
posted by OnefortheLast at 4:20 PM on December 16, 2017

If you're on iOS, check out Nametrix. It lets you graph the popularity of names over time... totally nice for making a good, data-driven decision about baby names...
posted by ph00dz at 4:25 PM on December 16, 2017

posted by maurreen at 4:25 PM on December 16, 2017

Aurel, as in Aurel Stein, derived from Aurelius.
Rainer, as in Rainer Maria Rilke, akin to Ragnar.
posted by Wobbuffet at 4:28 PM on December 16, 2017

The book Baby Name Wizard lists names and also “if you like this then also...” it was helpful for us. Ezra suggests Eli.
posted by kerf at 5:03 PM on December 16, 2017

Ha! I’m in the middle of you both, and have a lot of the same requisites. Here’s my list:

posted by functionequalsform at 5:06 PM on December 16, 2017 [1 favorite]


Traditional, Jewish, impossible to mess up.
posted by gaspode at 5:12 PM on December 16, 2017

I have a toddler and baby called Brendan and Liam, both names I never have to spell for anyone but I've barely met any other children with them.
posted by chiquitita at 5:20 PM on December 16, 2017

posted by Sassyfras at 5:33 PM on December 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

posted by maurreen at 6:00 PM on December 16, 2017

posted by maurreen at 6:02 PM on December 16, 2017

Here in fundamentalist heartland, I know many Isaacs, Aris, Ezekials, Ezras, Cohens and ELIS UPON ELIS UPON ELIS. The problem with the no-Christian names clause is that the evangelicals are very into the traditional Jewish names.

I really like Rainer, Franz and Asa. I would add Titus (from Gormenghast), Walt (Whitman), Kurt, Vachel (Lindsay) and Lorenzo. Or, you know, Gene. Gene Wilder named himself such after Eugene Gant, the protagonist of Look Homewards Angel. I don't know any baby Genes. And it's...um...very scientific. Get it? Gene?

I'll go.

Also, ever since I found out I had a relative named Mungo, that's been my go to baby name. So there you go. Mungo. There is only one famous example I can think of.
posted by theweasel at 6:04 PM on December 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: You guys are the best - you’ve definitely given us a lot to chew over. I marked a few as best answer, mostly because I appreciated the perspective or they made me laugh, but you guys all are awesome. Keep ‘em coming if you want. We might try to narrow down a list, and then wait until he’s born and see what feels right like someone suggested. Thanks again!
posted by FireFountain at 6:30 PM on December 16, 2017

Aloysius is my usual suggestion, if for no other reason than nobody knows how to pronounce it except for extremely devout Catholics.

The only Micah I know is in effect named Mike, because that's what everyone calls him.

Damien is a nice name but there's that pesky horror movie.

I think old-timey names are cool, at least the ones that haven't been done to death already: Horace. Augustus. Henry. George. Archie (but not Archibald. The other kids will destroy him). Josiah, or just Joe. Ethan. Wade. Wyatt. Mac/Max. Simon. Sidney. Everett. Emmett. Leonard/Lenny. Roy (or Royal).

Dashiell is bookish, but I think not so unusual anymore. How about Sinclair, if you're Sinclair Lewis fans?

Nathaniel. Carl. Brendan. Jonas. Jasper.

One of those "obsolete occupation" names: Cooper. Chandler. Fuller. Coleman.
posted by scratch at 6:35 PM on December 16, 2017

posted by Lay Off The Books at 6:44 PM on December 16, 2017

I like Silas, Saul, and Solomon, although the first of those is getting more popular (not in the top 100, but could get there in the next few years). Some other options that are neither too rare nor too common: Kai, Luka, Jonas (Salk), Gideon, Matthias, Tobias, Ira, Jasper (if you want something geological that's not unusual as a name), Jerome, Leonard (Leo or Lenny for short), Otto (Hahn), Max (Planck), Edwin (Hubble).
posted by karayel at 6:46 PM on December 16, 2017

Obsolete occupations are great: Fletcher's another good one.
posted by Sunburnt at 6:57 PM on December 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

posted by maurreen at 7:26 PM on December 16, 2017

Tycho, Ansel, August, Mathias, Leander, Keir, Walter, Terence
posted by Iris Gambol at 7:46 PM on December 16, 2017

Girard / Gerard
posted by sepviva at 7:55 PM on December 16, 2017

There's this excellent kid who lives next door - he just turned 18 - and his name is Raziel (Razi for short). It is apparently not even in the top 1000 most common names in the US.

Anecdatally, I was a kid whose name was totally unremarkable for a while, and then we moved and I was the only kid anyone had ever met with that name, and it was not an issue. I got bullied when I was in "this name is not weird" state (and not because of my name), and I was not bullied in the "your name is what now?" state. Kids will bully just cuz, and they will also not bully (much, anyway) if it is really not tolerated in the school. Don't make "unusual means getting bullied!" part of the criteria, is what I'm saying.
posted by rtha at 8:25 PM on December 16, 2017 [4 favorites]

vespabelle: The name Alan isn't Jewish. It's English or Celtic. It's also common, at 154th place in the USA in 2016.
posted by maurreen at 8:41 PM on December 16, 2017

Almost every Alan I know is Jewish though (even if it's not a biblical name.) and I'm surprised it's that popular these days.
posted by vespabelle at 8:52 PM on December 16, 2017

If Mr. Fountain isn't down with David, how about Davis?
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:19 PM on December 16, 2017

posted by _Mona_ at 9:47 PM on December 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

Marcus, Julius, Titus, Gaius, Lucius, Cato, Claudius, Justin, Magnus, Remus are all pretty normal/plausible names from Ancient Rome.
Sejanus (aka Patrick Stewart with hair!) not so much. Nor Fabius, Flavius, Quintus, Octavian, Publius, Sextus...
posted by janell at 9:48 PM on December 16, 2017

Unshortenable names: Gus, Wyatt, Lee, Evan, Ivan, Nate, Nat.
posted by janell at 9:50 PM on December 16, 2017

Compromise. My kids all have unique FIRST names. They also have more common MIDDLE names. The idea was, if they didn't like their first name, they could go by the middle names if they want. All of the middle names each have several shortened versions that they could use as well, if they wanted.

My younger sister is named Danielle Rebecca. She was only called Danielle the first day of school each year. She could have also been known as Becca or Becky at school and that would have been fine too. After that, she went by Rebecca. So far with my two in high school and one in middle, none of them want to go by the middle names.
posted by 101cats at 10:23 PM on December 16, 2017 [3 favorites]

My husband and I couldn't agree on a name, but Zachary was my favorite. It wasn't his favorite, but we figured we still had time to come up with something else. We kept putting off a proper debate. Then I went into labor five weeks early. As we sat there in the hospital, after a nurse confirmed we really were having a baby that night, he said "so... Zachary?" And that was that.

So, two things: consider Zachary, and make sure you have a consensus well before you think you need it.
posted by liet at 10:28 PM on December 16, 2017 [2 favorites]

murrey: "August?

We gave our son the middle name August as an homage to the Grateful Dead (August West--don't judge).

Couldn't have said it better myself. +1 for August. (West) (Wharf Rat!)
posted by AugustWest at 12:33 AM on December 17, 2017 [3 favorites]

posted by BusyBusyBusy at 1:35 AM on December 17, 2017

If you call your kid something spacey I, a middle aged woman, will at least internally be squeaking “hey, Orion, I can see Uranus” every time I hear them mentioned. Call the kid Neil, it’s a nice stable name, unshortenable, first man on the moon. Below top hundred but rising. Could go with Niall (pronounced Nile) otherwise, it’s what Neil is derived from, but that’s more hassle.
posted by Iteki at 2:01 AM on December 17, 2017

If Ezikiel is trending fundie, what about Zebediah? I went to school with a marvelous Zeb.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:53 AM on December 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

Agree that if there's a weird name in the mix, include a normal name back-up. Our son with a normal first name has an unusual middle name in case he ever wants to get fancy and use it. Our son with a more unusual first name has a bog standard middle name in case he wants to fall back on that. Just don't torture a kid by naming him Hoskalocious Alpenard with no place for him to retreat.
posted by whitewall at 6:12 AM on December 17, 2017 [2 favorites]

Please give your kid a full name, even if you want to call him something short (if you want to call him Jimmy or Jim, fine, but name him James). My legal name is a diminutive and I hate it. Not only does everyone ask if it's short for something, but I'm 40 years old and I don't even have the option of using a grown up name.

Also I've got about 12 Albions in my family tree. And my great-grandfather was named Orrin. Name popularity is amusingly cyclical.
posted by elsietheeel at 8:37 AM on December 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

We went with Asher as a middle name, but I often call my son that instead of his first name. Hebrew meaning is said to be "happy, blessed". He's the most positive, happy person I know, so it was a perfect choice.
posted by Rapunzel1111 at 8:39 AM on December 17, 2017

I feel like history might be a good source here - e.g. this list of interesting British names from 1911, but as others have commented, naming is kind of a crapshoot and whether or not your name is "unusual" is not something that can be guaranteed. My parents thought they were safe because my mother was a preschool teacher - well, the name they picked wasn't top hundred, but we ended up moving to a neighborhood with seven (!) girls my age who had derivations of the name (four of them had the same name; THAT was fun). Plus in this day and age of Google-ability, isn't it nice to have some plausible deniability as to whether that particular Horatio Parsnip was really you Horatio Parsnip?
posted by posadnitsa at 8:52 AM on December 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

but I'm 40 years old and I don't even have the option of using a grown up name.

My uncle's legal name is a diminutive, but he goes by and does business as the name his name is usually short for.

It did give him aggro in his K-12 school days, though; all his teachers assumed he was lying and backsassing when he told them it was his real full name. But this was 50-odd years ago.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:31 AM on December 17, 2017

I'm not sure rare and unique names are all they're cracked up to be. I am 100% positive I am the only person in the world with my full name. I have a very unusual last name, and while my first name is popular popular now, it wasn't when I was born, and I spell it differently than most other people. Sometimes I would just like to move along into the conversation without having to go through "oh what an unusual name/spelling! Where does it come from/what nationality is that?" Also I have never minded correcting people's pronunciation of my names, but I can say it would have been nice to not have to spell my name for every single person I ever gave it to.

That said, by the time I got married I didn't change my name. So there's that.

My son has a super normal name, but we gave him a unique middle name - we can bust it out whenever we want to but he never has to share it with other people if he doesn't want.
posted by lyssabee at 11:12 AM on December 17, 2017

Agreed with posadnitsa. I appear to be the only person on the google-able planet with my name and would be very happy if there were another thousand or so of us to blur identifiability.
posted by apparently at 12:23 PM on December 17, 2017 [4 favorites]

I'm with you on the more tradition names tbh, but this year's unusual is next year's common.

There are some fairly mainstream names that are currently waning in popularity. Martin for example, Leonard, Bernard, Philip, Graham, Gary. Sadly these can be shortened to Marty, Lenny, Bernie, Phil, Gray and Gazza.

Though reasonably common, what is the ranking for names like Mark, Stephen and Michael? It seems everyone is busy naming their child Alfie, Otto and Nathan so maybe these names will be less common?
posted by BAKERSFIELD! at 3:17 PM on December 17, 2017

A friend of mine named her son Teal, presumably after the lovely waterfowl.
posted by Drosera at 4:34 PM on December 17, 2017

Check out the SSA website list of top US baby names...from 100+ years ago, all the way back to 1880. From those lists Mental Floss compiled a list of 106 of the Least Popular Baby Names in American History.

Alternate idea in a similar vein: consult genealogy lists for both your families and run back at least 50 years until you hit old relatives with weird names that you like.
posted by nicebookrack at 5:22 PM on December 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

Fundies super fetishize Jewishness these days and that would make me avoid the more deep cut Old Testament names if I myself had no strong connection to either religion. So many Ezekiels and Elis and Zechariahs.

My son went to a kind of hipster preschool and he had two Augusts in his class, plus a Felix. Where I live, you can't swing a cat without hitting a Liam. There were also two of those in my kid's class.
posted by soren_lorensen at 6:20 PM on December 17, 2017

Leonard or Cohen
posted by St. Peepsburg at 7:01 PM on December 17, 2017

Agreed about consulting your genealogy, but go back 100+ years, not 50 because that's likely to just be your parents' names.

Just now I happened to find a couple of Orions in my family tree as well, so if you want to plumb the depths of my family history for name ideas, MeMail me. Or hell, I'll search yours if you'd like.

Amusingly, when I was in my early 20s, before I had committed to being childfree, I wanted to name my kid Orion.
posted by elsietheeel at 8:46 PM on December 17, 2017

posted by ZabeLeeZoo at 9:15 PM on December 17, 2017

posted by Jubey at 3:35 AM on December 18, 2017

Aldo Leopold was a famous and influential ecologist, well worth being named after (as either Aldo or Leopold). (Leopold is also the Jewish main character of Ulysses).

* Carson for Rachel Carson
* Arne for Arne Naess.

Further afield, maybe Leonhard (for both Euler and Fuchs), either Blaise or Pascal, or one of Kip, Bertrand, Niels, Hercules, Otto, or Gustave?
posted by rollick at 7:46 AM on December 18, 2017

I like the name Ezra from the list. It's not common, but it's like ... a cromulent name. However, I am PMing you with my kid's name, which you are welcome to either hate or use :D
posted by freezer cake at 9:08 AM on December 18, 2017

I love the name "Sol"/"Saul", and I think that would work well with your Jewish heritage and science-y stuff.

I am kind of a fan of the name "Zebulon" because of Zebulon Pike who "discovered" the source of the Mississippi River, and I think "Zeb" is a totally great shortening of the name. Plus initials of "ZIS" is pretty cool.

I really like the name "Isaac", too, as I actually had a dream when I was 8 weeks pregnant I'd have a little blond boy named Isaac. (We named him something else, to my disappointment) It is quite popular, though.
posted by jillithd at 9:46 AM on December 18, 2017

Late to this party - but consider that a very unique name raises privacy concerns since your child will be one of very few by that name. I'd be awfully tempted to give a kid a more average name and just use a nickname in person. On one side of my family, all the names are average enough - not "James Smith"-level average, but common enough that if someone googles a name, there is some ambiguity about who is who. On the other side - unique first names, extremely rare last name, and there is no hiding - no one will ever think "that stupid letter to the editor, ill-advised blog or teenage criminal episode might belong to some other McShanely Fishpants". This....is not always ideal. It also makes stalking waaaaaaaay easier.
posted by Frowner at 6:06 AM on December 19, 2017 [6 favorites]

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