We Know the Middle Name, Now What?

Filed under: Baby Names


If my husband and I have a girl, we'd like to give her a middle name after my mother, Nancy. We're having trouble finding first names that sound good with Nancy. Any advice?

-Anagogic


Indeed, I do have advice. You're doing this backwards.

It's a common mistake. You start with two simple, loving desires: to honor your mother, and to choose an attractive name that will give your child a great start in life. Since your mom's name comes from a different era of name fashion, you moved it to the middle name position.

So far so good. Middle names are perfect for this role. They're part of a person's identity and can be a powerful symbol of connection, yet we don't actually use them. Unless your name is designed as a two-parter, like Mary Kate or John Henry, your middle name settles into a private, personal realm. It's part of you, but it's not the name the world knows you by.

That should have solved your problem. But instead, it's turned your decision-making process upside down.

Because the middle name is the one thing you know for sure, you're building around it, even catering to it. Talk about putting the cart before the horse. You're letting the name you won't use determine the name you will -- and letting the name that's not your style dictate your style.

Try to separate your two goals in your mind. Give the middle name over to family bonds, then start your first-name search with a blank slate. Once you have a short list of names you truly love, then the middle name might be a tie-breaker. (Names ending in an "n" sound, like Brianne, can be a bit awkward with Nancy.) But in the end, the first-middle match is a trifle compared to having a first name you love, and a full name that honors the people you love.

How do you handle family names? Share your experiences here. And if you have your own question to Ask the Name Lady, drop her a line!

Related: The Most Popular Baby Names of 2009: The Triumph of Isabella

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.