Happiness is the definition of Joy Cho.  Do you read her style blog, Oh Joy!?  It’s a delight.  I love her “this and that” combos and that she incorporates all her passions from food to flowers.  Not long ago she and hubby Bob announced that they were going to share their joy with a new bambino.  And then we found out that it was a bambina (which is fab — Joy’s design sense has a distinct feminine sensibility).

She’s due super soon, and I’ve been laboring myself over what name matches them best.  It should be something cheerful and slightly hip, but manage to stand the test of time.  Here are a few recommendations/guesses.  Will she go a heavy duty Agatha-Winifred route, with a happy-go-lucky Daisy, or with something else entirely?  We’ll know soon!

Agatha - If anyone can pull off Agatha, it’s these two.  Can they breathe new life into this old saint?

Blythe – If my name were Joy, the felicitous Blythe might be too tempting to pass up.  It might be anyway.

Cecily – While Cecily may not mean “happiness”, it connotes it in the bounce and rhythm of the name.

Cordelia- Shakespearean Cordelia.  She could go by Coco or Dells, Delia or Cora.  Though Hollywood’s already gone there, the symmetry of Coco Cho could be appealing to a designer.

Daisy – If ever there was happiness wrapped up in a name, it would be here.

Elsa – Should they opt with short and sweet like mom’s name, Elsa is like the chic up-do of Ella.

Flossie” (Florence?) – The British are coming, and names like Flossie are long overdue on these shores.

Georgina- I do see these two picking something with a vintage European flair.  Though I don’t know him one iota, perhaps daddy Bob would like having a daughter George, but Georgina is just enough frills for mom?

Harriet- Compiled before yesterday’s bombshell of an announcement, I almost left this one off.  While I can’t see them choosing to call a daughter Hattie now, Harriet is still just the right amount of retro for a pair like the Chos to bring it boldly back to the fore.

Imogene – I was preferring Imogen until I met a local girl who uses the long E version.  It’s due to return, so I bequeath it to this baby.

Louisa- While sister names Sophia and Olivia reign, Louisa is another queen’s classic that has been overlooked.  They could be “Lulu” types.

Marjorie- Yes, I love Marjorie for many of the reasons mentioned above.  Retro chic, unexpected, and undeniably peppy on the right child.

Mirabel- Will Joy go for something classically “pretty”?

Penelope – My gut instinct and first thought for them.  Not sure if the celebrity birth of Tina Fey’s babe will have any bearing on this one way or the other.

Poppy- While it could be a nickname for Penelope, it deserves its own entry.  Poppy Cho has designer written all over her.

Susannah- Will somebody please use this?  You could call her Zuzu, Susie, Sanna, so many options!

Sylvie- Sylvie gives the somewhat dowdy-but-not-dowdy-enough Sylvia a lift.

Tabitha- It would take just one more style maven in the public eye to push this into the mainstream.  That of course may not be what Joy wants.

Viola- Love the long O repetition of this with Cho.  Fits the criteria we’ve set up nicely.

Winifred- I’ve met several Chinese women named Winnie, no doubt because it works well in both languages.  I believe Bob’s family is Chinese, I’d be just tickled if they had a little Winifred.


A Sibling for Virgil and Hector

September 26th, 2011

Lots of pleas for help in the inbox this month culminate in one great week of consultations.  To start, put your thinking caps on and let’s assist Alexandria in naming her third.  She writes:

Hello Elisabeth!

Thank you so much for your website. I’m a long time reader, but only now find myself in serious need of some baby-namin’ inspiration. And after pouring over your site for hours and hours, I’m so sure I’ve come to the right place.  Here’s the situation:
My husband and I have two fab boys, Virgil Ephram and Hector Adrien, 5 and 2.5 respectively, and I am pregnant with our third. We’re so super psyched, and not so secretly crossing all our fingers and toes for a girl :)
But we’ve decided to not find out the sex of the baby until he/she arrives, so we’re trying to decide on names for a boy and a girl.
Some details about us and our naming style:
When we decided to give our first son the name Virgil, most people thought we were completely bonkers. We got, ‘Hahaha… but seriously, what’s his name?’s and “The poor kid…’s left and right and we just didn’t understand why. I mean sure, it’s a letter off from Virgin and it’s not terribly common, and we certainly took that into consideration and went back and forth a bit, but in the end we were just so in love with the name there really was no other option for us. We have zero regrets. At home we call him Virg (read like verge) affectionately but he goes by Virgil to everyone else and he wears his name very proudly for such a little guy. The story behind us choosing that is as simple as that, we just really loved it. Ephram is my father’s name.
Hector (Heck to us) was named for Hector of Troy, my most beloved literary character in all the literature I’ve ever read or studied (I literally weep over my book every time I read his death. I can’t even explain the connection I feel with him). Since I first read the Iliad as a girl I’ve wanted to have a son to call Hector. And I do, and his name suits him so perfectly. Adrienne is my husband’s mother’s so Adrien is in homage to her.
We love names from literature and myth, uncommon names, sturdy names. My husband’s last name is Armstrong. Some names we’ve been thinking about but simply aren’t in love with (asterisks next to the top contenders):
Girls: For a girl we want something feminine, but strong. Nothing too frilly and that fits in with the boys.
Boys: Again, something strong that goes with the boys.
I hope this gives you an idea of our tastes and what we’re looking for for our third-to-be.
Any input is beyond appreciated. :)
Oh Alexandria I do hope we can help!  Thank you for your sweet words about the site.
If you’re not in love with your current list, I’m inclined to say keep moving.  Maybe one of your old favorites will present itself in a new light, or maybe you just haven’t uncovered “the one” yet.  I will say I’m loving Lavinia and Remus.
Your boy’s names are divine and you’ve shown you can really do this all on your own.  BUT, I have a few additional ideas that you might like.  I have a feeling you actually like “frillier” girls’ names than you’re willing to admit to yourself.  Your own name, Alexandria, is an ancient city that fits with your children’s names, but it’s also used today as an amped up version of Alexandra.  Valentina and Ophelia certainly both fit into the frilly category for me.
With that in mind, here are a few thoughts culled from the ancient world:


Readers, what do you love with Virgil and Hector?
Image: Hector Reproaches Paris by Pierre Claude François Delorme

Names Are Like Tattoos

June 10th, 2011

A very interesting point arose during the Young Hunter post.  The couple was considering the name Virgil, but didn’t know if its history outweighed tease potential and general public discomfort with the name.

Our reader Kristen astutely pointed out that names have the capability to steer us toward communities that may be accepting of our family’s values:

Maybe the name will lend itself to pushing you all toward the type of exceptional communities that would embrace a boy with a beautiful name like Virgil? I think names are kind of like tattoos in that way; they sort of force your hand a bit, but that isn’t always a bad thing.

My question for you to mull over this weekend, is, do you agree with this sentiment?  Are names like tattoos, and is that a good or bad thing?

Can anyone share personal experience with this, either their own or that of their children?

Mythological Sisters

June 6th, 2011

File:Primavera 01.jpg


Bridget is due very soon with her third baby girl, and know how hard naming a third child can be!  She needs our help:


Hi Elisabeth! My name is Bridget, and I’m having another little girl. My husband and I already have two daughters, Iris Elizabeth and Cecilia Ariadne. A little background on us: I’m a stay at home mom and former marketing professional. My husband Will is a dermatologist and we love to travel and my husband is very into music and plays numerous instruments. I was a classics/marketing double major in college and I love Greek mythology. It’s been a passion of mine since my mother read me the myths when I was child and I’ve always loved the names. Our first daughter Iris is named after the Greek goddess of rainbows so that was how we incorporated mythology into her name. Her middle name is Elizabeth because it’s been a tradition in my family for five generations. Cecilia was similarly easy to name; Cecilia is a name we both really liked and felt went well with Iris. Cecilia is also the patron saint of music which really sold my husband. Then we incorporated Greek mythology into her name by giving her the middle name Ariadne, like the woman who helped Theseus defeat the Minotaur. It’s my favorite myth and I loved the name and I love Cecilia’s name. However, this baby is proving harder to name. My husband and I are having trouble finding a name we both love equally. On our list are both mythological names and names that don’t link directly to mythology; if we do go with a non-mythological first name, I’d like to use a mythological name in the middle name slot like we did with Cecilia. The two forerunners that we have liked are also the two names I have the most worry about. We both really like both Willa and Persephone. My worry about Willa is that my husband’s name is William, and I don’t want their names somehow getting confused. Willa and Will are awfully close and I don’t want our little girl getting confused with her dad. Then, there’s Persephone. It’s a mouthful of a name and I’m not sure how it’ll actually work on a little girl. I watched the new Upstairs Downstairs and liked how they used Percy as a nickname, but I still feel like it might be too much. The other names on our most recent short list are Penelope, Rose, Mercy, Leda, Thalia, Danae, Phoebe and Rhea, but we’re open to any and all suggestions. If you can do a post for me that would be fantastic, but if not, of course no worries. Thanks so much!



Bridget, your question is a fun one for me because as of late I’ve been a wee bit obsessed with names from Greek mythology!  Iris and Cecilia are that perfect mesh between familiar but not overused, and they are beautiful to boot.  Iris made my “Sweet Spot” list and I remember having Cecilia on there as well but took her out because there were too many C names.  Also on that list?  Phoebe, Petra (Greek), Mira (Latin), and Louisa (similar to Cecilia).  I could see any of these working for you.  From your list, Phoebe and Penelope strike the perfect note.  I love that they have different endings from both Iris and Cecilia (my reason for striking Leda, Rhea, and Thalia– though not a deal breaker).  Mercy sounds a little hissy with all the S sounds going on in Iris and Cecilia.  This is where the surname also becomes important.  I’m a huge fan of Rose as a first name but then one daughter, the middle child at that, is left without a flower name.  Will she feel left out?  Danae is intriguing but somehow your other names are prettier to me.


From my own secret stash of Greek names, I love Xanthe for you, a magical name.  Other possibilities that have likely been nixed– but hey– I’ll throw them out anyway, include: Daphne, Evadne, Gaia, and Helen. They may not be your favorite stories I gather?


It sounds as if you are likely to choose between Willa and Persephone.  Willa would be a nice tribute to daddy William, but I do think as a first name it could get confusing.  How lovely would Persephone Willa be?  You could call her Percy, Perry, Sephie, Ephie, Eppie, Poppy, Posy, Nonie, any number of things really!  And with lengthy names like Isabella, Olivia, Mackenzie, and Alexandra at the top of the charts, Persephone only has to become more familiar to people.  It is a name that winds up on many people’s lists of loves-that-are-too-over-the-top-to-use, but I say if you are in love, go for it.


Readers, what is your favorite name for Bridget, and have you ever regretted not going with your favorite, or conversely, been glad that you did?

Tour de France Riders

July 15th, 2009



The renowned Tour de France bicycle race is underway and I cannot tell you how beautiful the scenery is.  The riders hail from around the world, and while many of them may have middle-aged names in their home countries, quite a few sound awfully fresh to me.

I have no idea who is ahead or if Lance will make a play for the title, but here are the monikers we might want to pilfer aux Etats Unis.  Underlined are those that seem particularly poised  to make the voyage next, while several are already here.


Amaël (Moinard)

Amets (Txurruka) 

Andreas (Klier)

Arnaud (Coyot)

Benoït (Vaudgrenard)

Bernhard (Eisel)

Brice (Feillu)

Christian (Knees, Vande Velde)

Christophe (Kern, Moreau)

Cyril (Dessel, Lemoine)

Dmitriy (Muravyev)

Egoi (Martinez)

Fabian (Cancellara, Wegmann)

Filippo (Pozzato)

Frederik (Willems)

Geoffroy (LeQuatre)

Grischa (Niermann)

Gustav (Larsson)

Heinrich (Haussler)

Hubert (Dupont)

Igor (Anton)

Inigo (Cuesta)

Jérôme (Coppel, Pineau)

Johan (Van Summeren)

Johannes (Fröhlinger)

Joost (Posthuma) -This wins the award for absolute weirdest last name ever!  FN pronounced “Yost”, like toast.

Julian (Dean)

Jurgen (Van den Broeck, Van der Walle)

Koldo (Fernandez)

Lance (Armstrong)

Laurens (Ten Dam)

Laurent (LeFevre)

Levi (Leipheimer)

Linus (Gerdemann)

Lloyd (Mondory)

Marcin (Sapa)

Martijn (Maaskant)

Marzio (Bruseghin)

Mauro (Santambrogio)

Maxime (Monfort)

Mickaël (Delage)

Oscar (Freire, Pereiro Sio)

Pierre (Rolland)

Pierrick (Federigo)

Piet (Rooijaakers)

Rémi (Pauriol)

Rigoberto (Uran)

Rinaldo (Nacentini)

Romain (Feillu)

Ryder (Hesjedal)- a rider named Ryder.  

Ruben (Perez Moreno)

Saïd (Haddou)

Sebastian (Lang)-  the course also knows several Sébastiens.

Sergio (Paulinho)

Simon (Geschke, Spilak)

Stijn (Devolder)

Styn (Vandenbergh)

Stuart (O’Grady)

Sylvain (Chavanel)

Thierry (Hupond)

Thor (Hushovd)

Vladimir (Karpets)

Molly Ringwald


Man, Molly hit it out of the park on this one.  She demonstrated to the world her great taste when she named her daughter Mathilda Ereni five years ago.  When presented with a name nerd’s dream of naming two at once, the much beloved awkward beauty from Sixteen Candles did not disappoint.  

Adele Georgiana Ringwald Gianopoulous and Roman Stylianos Ringwald Gianopoulous made their way into the world on Friday, July 10th.  Evidentally, it was a natural double birth to boot.  Go mom.

A bit saddened here to see celeb use of the understated Adele.  Both it and Georgina are on a personal shortish list.  A Greek friend has considered Stylianos with the English transliteration of Stellan.  She also knows another young Stylianos who goes by Stanley here!  (That’s for you, Bliss).  Roman itself is a pretty stellar choice, already in the celeb sphere but not over done (Cate Blanchett’s middle boy, for one, is a Roman).  Were Adele to go all Addie on us I think I’d cry.  

So now Ferris Bueller and Samantha Baker each have their own set of newborns.  And Michael Jackson is dead.  How times change…

Mid-Century Modern

June 26th, 2009


There’s something in the water.  

While I’ve had my eye on Bernard and Rosemary, other unlikely candidates such as Lois, CalvinJune and Theodore are popping up on baby name message boards with some frequency.  SJP chose Marion Loretta for one of her girls, and Appellation Mountain coincidentally featured Clyde, Marjorie, and Florence in the past three days.  Fellow blogger Onomastitrix calls her daughter Bonnie, among other things.  What do all these have in common, you ask?  

They were all top picks in the 1950s.  

Most will likely find these names tired.  Mother or even grandmother names, they’ve past their prime, hit middle age, and are for all intents and purposes, not ready for a comeback just yet.  However, they do have that coveted element of surprise.  They avert current conventions of “old-lady-chic” or newly coined cutesy names.  

The boys’ list represents a kind of geek chic.  The girls have rather a kitsch quality.

Below are some possibilities from the top 200 in 1950.  Their rank then and now are follow in parenthesis.  Maybe you can just honor your mother directly without altering it from Mary to Maren.



Anne (84, 499)

Barbara (4, 758)

Belinda (174, 747)

Betty (26, NR)

Beverly (31, NR)

Bonnie (33, NR)

Carmen (186, 262)

Claudia (126, 417)

Constance (85, NR)

Dolores (139, NR)

Diana (47, 137)

Dorothy (35, NR)

Edith (150, 806)

Eileen (91, 760)

Esther (162, 274)

Florence (190, NR)

Glenda (87, NR)

Gloria (31, 431)

Gwendolyn (113, 586)

Irene (92, 636)

Jacqueline (55, 152)

June (137, 863)

Lois (83, NR)

Loretta (120, NR)

Louise (109, NR)

Lucille (180, 615)

Marianne (192, NR)

Marion (198, NR)

Marjorie (121, NR)

Martha (32, 617)

Mary (2, 97)

Nancy (6, 379)

Paula (54, 681)

Priscilla (169, 416)

Regina (143, 688)

Roberta (96, NR)

Rosemary (101, 754)

Sally (78, NR)

Shirley (19, 911)

Susan (5, 712)

Vivian (138, 207)

Yolanda (179, NR)



Albert (55, 372)

Alfred (96, 787)

Arthur (46, 363)

Bernard (109, 940)

Bruce (26, 476)

Calvin (105, 228)

Clarence (95, 938)

Claude (177, NR)

Clyde (136, NR)

Frank (29, 278)

Frederick (75, 523)

George (20, 153)

Gilbert (144, 728)

Gordon (108, 946)

Gregory (25, 236)

Guy (179, NR)

Harold (45, 737)

Harvey (147, NR)

Howard (63, 903)

Jerome (103, 616)

Johnny (50, 246)

Kenneth (15, 136)

Kent (182, NR)

Lawrence (33, 427)

Leon (119, 502)

Lloyd (107, NR)

Louis (67, 351)

Paul (18, 155)

Philip (53, 378)

Ralph (52, 868)

Randolph (162, NR)

Raymond (31, 215)

Rex (196, 799)

Roger (27, 463)

Roy (51, 497)

Theodore (99, 297)

Timothy (32, 108)

Vernon (134, NR)

Wallace (198, NR)

Walter (40, 393)


Above: The Cygnet, a children’s replica of the 1958 Swan Chair by Arne Jacobsen

Fusty Yet Feisty

June 1st, 2009

Iris Apfel


What do you do when all your neighbors turn to longtime loves Oliver and Henry?  

Go a little dustier, of course.  

It’s old news that when not opting for Zaphyn or Bandit, celebrities embrace this type of name in droves.  And for good reason.  They sound fresh and charming, and are worthy of revival.  Who wouldn’t just melt at a meeting a pint-sized Winifred?  

Even Jake and Olivia sounded fuddy duddy not long ago.



Agatha (Thomas Gibson)

Agnes (Elisabeth Shue & David Guggenheim)




Dorothea, Dorothy (Tyler Florence has a Dorothy)




Georgina, Georgiana


Hazel (Julia Roberts)




Honor (Jessica Alba)


Ingrid (Gordon Lightfoot)



Mabel (Chad Lowe, Tracey Ullman)

Maud (Judd Apatow)


Olive (Sacha Baron Cohen & Isla Fisher)




Ruth (Eric Clapton)

Theodora (Keith Richards)

Ursula (Plum Sykes)




Zelda (Robin Williams)





Archibald (Amy Poehler)




Bruno (Nigella Lawson)






Chester (Tom Hanks & Rita Wilson)







Ignatius (Cate Blanchett, Julianne Nicholson)






Louis (Mel Gibson, Ozzy Osbourne)

Lucian (Steve Buscemi)




Perry, Peter, Piers (Mikhail Baryshnikov, Meredith Baxter & David Birney, Kirk Douglas, and Sally Field are parents of Peters)



Rufus (James Taylor)





Above:  Iris Apfel, proud possessor of a pleasantly old-lady-chic name.

Jewish Ceremony in Israel


Please jet over to Pamela Redmond Satran’s article The Big Baby Naming Battle at The Daily Beast.  She breaks down the great debate over the rising use of Cohen as a first name, among Christians and other folks.  It’s a must-read.

The Sweet Spot.

April 30th, 2009



We’re all on the lookout for them. Names that somehow defy popularity, aren’t moving up in the charts, and haven’t been usurped by a celebrity. Names that have a nice balance between simplicity and complexity, sound modern but timeless, and are easy to say and spell. Names that aren’t trying too hard, but don’t bore you to tears. Names that even the grandparents can tolerate. For girls, we’d like them to be feminine but strong, for boys, masculine yet kind. Here’s a list of relatively off the radar names that come recommended by YCCII for 2009– all with great meanings to boot:



Adele- Germanic, “noble” and underused. 

Aster- Greek, “star.” a flower, a form of Hebrew Esther with a modern sound; Pop culture: Rita’s daughter in “Dexter.”

Blythe- Old English, “cheerful.” Gwyneth Paltrow’s mother Blythe Danner is one famous bearer who began a litany of unusual names in their family.

Bronwen- Welsh, “fair breasted”, or pure of heart.  This gets a lot of attention on the name boards but remains unusual in the big picture.

Celeste- Latin origin, “heavenly.”  Queen Celeste reigns in the Babar books.  

Coralie- French, “coral.”  Somewhere between Cora and the newly famous Coraline, this one has potential to be a crowd pleaser.  

Frances- English from Francis, “Frenchman” or “free.”  Courtney Love broke with her own image when she and Kurt Cobain named their baby Frances Bean.

Iris- Greek goddess of the rainbow.  Jude Law and Judd Apatow both have one.  What fun for a young girl to have both a flower and a rainbow to celebrate her name.  

Louisa- “Prepared for battle”; appears in both Jane Austen’s Persuasion, and is the author of Little Women Louisa May Alcott.  All the beauty of Sophia and Olivia, without the searing popularity. 

Margot-French short form of Margaret, “pearl.”  Alluring woman in charge.

Mira- Triple threat: Slavic, “peace”, Sanskrit, “sea”, and Latin, “admirable”; Actress Mira Sorvino has faded from view so your daughter would have no trouble owning this name.  

Naomi- Hebrew, “pleasant”, Japanese “honest + beautiful.”  Cross cultural appeal far surmounts any quibble that may come from spelling this name backwards.  Don’t be silly.  If it does bother you, try Noemi.  

Petra- Greek, “rock.”  This will surprise people– pleasantly, I would think.

Phoebe- Greek, “bright, pure.”  Shakesperean, Biblical, and Mythological.  Cool.  

Susannah- Hebrew, “lily.”  Ladylike and lovely from childhood on.

Verity- From the Latin veritas, “truth.”  Appellation Mountain picked this as her alias for good reason.  



Callum- Scottish, from Latin Columba for “dove.”  While people are discovering this, it’s still far from popular.  The nickname Cal just might help to sell Dad.

Conrad- German, “bold counsel.”  Time for Conrad to shed his geeky image.  Conrad is strong and commanding, and maybe even too cool for school.

Desmond- Irish, “from South Munster.”  One of many delectables brought to America’s attention on LOST.  I hope to have the pleasure of meeting a few.  

Edward- Old English, “rich guard.”  Will easily weather the storm that is Twilight.  A tried and true classic.  Try Ned, Ted, and Teddy before you stop at Ed.  

Everett- English, from the Germanic Everard, meaning “brave boar.”  Handsome choice that people seem to forget about.

Hugh- German, “intellect.”  A personal favorite.  Hugo is a top of the charts in France. 

Jonah- Hebrew, “dove.”  Are Callum and Jonah too incongruous to work for twins?  No, it’s not Jonas, but we like that too.  The brothers will be soon forgotten.  

Lachlan- Scottish nickname for a person from Norway, “land of lochs.”  Australia is gaga over Lachlan.  A sign it could make the journey here. 

Leo- Latin origin, “lion.”  Such an international choice.

Malcolm- Scottish, “disciple of St. Columba.”  It’s time to make way for new associations from Malcolm X and “Malcolm in the Middle.”

Philip- Greek origin, “horse lover.”  Try this name in full, with one L, and you’ve got a winner.

Raphael- Hebrew, “God has healed.”  Another name that works in so many languages.  Rafael is another bonafide spelling.

Reid- English, may mean “red-haired” or “forest clearing.”  This child could be preppy, a hippie baby, or just hip.

Seth- Hebrew, “appointed.”  Handsome and understated. 

Tobias- Hebrew, “God is good.”  Germans are liking Tobias these days and so am I.  

Wesley- English, “west meadow.”  Straddles Western cowboy and tea-sipping gentleman.  


Where does your sweet spot lie?