Is My Daughter's Name Too Confusing?

Filed under: Baby Names

We named our daughter Kennedy for her first name and Devyn for her middle name. We now realize that when just hearing her name, no one knows if she is a boy or girl, because both first and middle names can belong to a girl or a boy. Did we make a mistake? Should we change her name while she is still very young?

- Girl's Mom

You chose two names with a similar style. Most parents do. Our tastes are consistent, and we like the way "matching" names sound together. But as you've discovered, a matching pair can also double up on problem spots like gender confusion.

Does that make your name choice a mistake? That depends on what your goal was when you named your daughter. If your main objective was a fashionable, contemporary name with an androgynous edge, you got it. If your priority was a "can't miss" name that nobody will misspell or misunderstand, then you've gotten a rude wake-up call.

If you do decide that the confusion isn't worth it, the good news is that you only need to change the middle name. That shouldn't ruffle too many feathers. And if you do choose that route, let me make a case for the artful mismatch.

"Mismatched" names have different styles, but they don't have to clash. Like any great pairing, they can and should create a harmonious sound and a pleasing rhythm. Think of it like composing an outfit. Even a woman wearing the menswear trend won't dress head to toe in clothes from the men's department. It's the combination of effects that makes the impact -- the pinstripe suit matched with a statement necklace or a frilly blouse.

Names can work the same way. An androgynous first name can make a jazzy contrast with a ladylike middle name. A traditional middle name can anchor a a whimsical, offbeat first name. Even a plain-jane, conservative first name can suddenly look like a fashion statement when paired with a middle name that shows a bit of sass.

You might also think of a mismatched name as a kind of dress-up box: it gives your child plenty of room to play around with different identities before settling on the one that suits her best. (One woman who used the variety to her advantage: "To Kill a Mockingbird" author Nelle Lee, who wrote under her middle name Harper.) So if you do decide to make a practical-minded switch, you shouldn't have to sacrifice strength or style in the process.

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

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