Name That Baby

Ask A Pro

Let a pro do the picking We sent the country's top name experts to consult with two stumped couples.

The Couple: Michelle and Tim Peters, of Hagerstown, Maryland

Parents holding balloons on beach

Thayer Allyson Gowdy

The quagmire Baby number three, a boy, is soon to join sister Mason (Macy) and bro Samuel, but their parents' well of inspiration has been tapped. "With the third, we have to think more," Michelle says. "We've already used our favorite names, and we want the name to sound good with the other two." To complicate matters, the couple's last name is slang for -- how to put this delicately -- a part of the male anatomy, and the Peters don't want Peewee falling prey to a bully. "Our last name makes it challenging, especially for a boy. He won't be a Harry!" says Michelle. The couple have names they like, including Braeden, Jackson, Sullivan, and Weston.

Gurus' guidance "This couple's options are wide open," says Linda Rosenkrantz, of Nameberry.com. "They chose a unisex, nontraditional name for their daughter and a traditional Biblical name for their son, so they aren't limited to one genre for their third." Rosenkrantz loves Sullivan (Sully), because "Macy, Sully, and Sam" has a nice ring to it. (Think of signing your holiday cards and yelling for the kids on the playground!) Also, "three-syllable first names work well with two-syllable last names like Peters," Rosenkrantz says. She suggested other three-syllable names too: Finnegan, Rafferty, Elias, and Tobias. Laura Wattenberg, author of The Baby Name Wizard, prefers the surname-as-first-name options, such as Rafferty and Finnegan. "Choosing a biblical name -- like Tobias and Elias -- creates a clear divide between the girl and boy names in the family," says Wattenberg. "Going with one of the surnames breaks that up by matching more closely with Mason." However, parents shouldn't feel compelled to give kids matching monikers. "Sibling names don't have to go together like a coordinated outfit," Wattenberg says. "A mix of sounds and styles can work fine, as long as the names are equivalent. Dramatically contrasting names -- like Jon, Tom, and Elvis -- suggests that you hold different expectations for your children." Wattenberg's fave? "Jackson Peters is the strongest combo based on sound alone," she says. "The compact, 'crunchy' sound has a lot of energy."

Parents' pick "We tossed Sullivan around, but we keep coming back to Jackson," Michelle said after her consult. But just before delivery, her husband suggested Oliver, and it finally felt right. A few days later, Oliver Thomas Peters was born!

The Couple: Rhalee and Yoav Perry, of New York City

The quagmire Rhalee's family has a tradition of unique names -- her mother dreamed up Rhalee (pronounced like the city Raleigh) in memory of Rhalee's great-grandmother, Rachel. Rhalee wants to follow suit. "I'd like to give our daughter a beautiful, unusual name that honors important family members -- Betty, Elsie, Marsha, and Sarah -- by using parts of their names," Rhalee says. She already has a slew of options (including Ballen, Bevan, Breklyn, Elayr, Elleni, Meadoway, Millar, Shonsome, Solayr, and Sontine) thanks to her mother, who has been making lists of names for her future grandkids for decades. (And you thought your mom couldn't wait to be a grandma!) The trip-up? Yoav, who has a Hebrew name that is often mispronounced in English (it's yo-AHV), is concerned that if they bestow a unique name on their daughter, folks will mangle it. The Perrys also prefer a name that's easily pronounced in Hebrew, for Yoav's family.

Gurus' guidance The Perrys aren't unique in wanting a unique name for their baby. "Many millennial parents grew up with popular names and felt that this robbed them of some of their individuality," Rosenkrantz says. But she cautions against going too far afield. "If a name is very strange, it might be misunderstood, misspelled, or misremembered."

Wattenberg says that pleasing both Yoav and Rhalee may be an impossible feat. "Imagine that it's a summer Saturday and you want to find a gorgeous beach that is quick to get to and has easy parking...but is empty," she says. "It just doesn't work that way, does it? The same holds for names. The ideal is a name that everybody loves and everybody can spell and pronounce, but nobody uses. They're tough to find." Our pros valiantly tried! Rosenkrantz shared more than a dozen names that borrowed a syllable from a family member and were rarely used in the U.S. yet common in Hebrew. Among them: Bethel, Shifta, Shoshanna, and Shula. Wattenberg offered another strategy: "The Perrys should choose a place name or word that holds significance to them," she says. "That could make the spelling and pronunciation familiar, though the name is rare."

Parents' pick "Several of the names the pros suggested are common in Hebrew and have been on my mom's lists," Rhalee says. "But Yoav isn't loving those, so they didn't float to the top." The Perrys were undecided (and pregnant) when we went to press, but they had these finalists: Elenee, Evrin, Marais, and Serelia. Their front runner, Marais (a charming Paris neighborhood), has sentimental value -- Yoav proposed in the City of Light!

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