A shockingly forward-thinking reader writes:
"Hi, my name's Russ, and I've been a reader of your site for about two months now. I'm currently planning a wedding with my fiancee XXX for May 29th of next year, and your advice has been indispensable for talking to vendors and family alike. However, I do have a question (admittedly tangential in nature) that I haven't seen covered on the forums, and I'd like to seek your wisdom on the matter.
XXX and I can't seem to agree on baby names. We don't plan to have kids until we both get our PhDs (I will graduate this spring with a degree in physics and mathematics, she has a bachelor's in medieval history, and we plan to go to grad school together), which is good seeing as how no consensus is yet in sight. I come from a strong (though nowhere near fundamentalist) Christian background, and so I want to give my boys strong names like Moses, or Gabriel, or Isaac, etc. She wants to give them flowery names like Cyprian, or Roman, or Trajan - I think you get the idea. Now, if we were communicating two thousand years ago and I happened to be a Roman centurion, those are all fine names, but I intend not to make my boys the object of scorn for the entirety of their childhood, which having been a small boy myself, I know to be a certainty.
We can both agree that we don't want our boys to have ubiquitous names like Mike or Steve or Dave - with no disrespect meant to Mikes, Steves, and Daves - and the litmus test here is that if you were a friend of my son, you wouldn't have to hear his last name too in order to identify him for who he is. I have suggested a compromise that I name the boys and she names the girls, but she would not tolerate this; we are both stubborn to a fault. My question is, then, do you see any possible strategy by which I can ensure that my son has a strong name while stopping short of making an ultimatum on XXX? After all, that's how women work, not men.
What, you don't want your son to be named Trajan? Or Cyprian? What's wrong with you, man? Lemme guess. You're probably also against what must be another of her suggestions: Percival. Percival is a terrific name for a boy. As a nickname you could call him Persey, which suggests both a women's purse and something else that rhymes with hussy. It's perfect.
Okay, okay, we'll take this a little more seriously. Fine. It's just that you caught us a little off guard; we always knew that The Plunge would one day expand to include baby names, marital troubles, buying a home, that kinda thing...we just didn't know it would come so soon. So, thank you. You're helping us grow up.
Here's one easy solution: since you're both stubborn, you should agree to allow an impartial, outside party choose your name, and then you accept the decision without complaint. Fair's fair. Would you like us, The Plunge, to be that impartial party? You got it! We're in.
We humbly suggest 5 names that are at least as good as Trajan and Cyprian. And since your fiancée is a medieval scholar, we'll keep them all from the medieval timeframe:
1) Godfrey. Who wouldn't like that? Your frickin' son is a deity. Awesome. From thinkbabynames: "The boy's name Godfrey g(o)-df-rey, god-frey is pronounced GAHD-free. It is of Old German origin, and its meaning is "God-peace". A saint's name, popular during medieval times. The name of a valet in the 1936 comic film "My Man Godfrey."
2) Robin. How can you talk any shit to the man who kicked the Sheriff of Nottingham's ass? This one's a winner. From the same source: "The boy's name Robin r(o)-bin, also used as girl's name Robin, is pronounced RAH-bin. It is of English origin. Variant of Robert, in popular use as a boy's name since the medieval days of Robin Hood."
3) Tristan. Now we're getting somewhere. "The boy's name Tristan t-ris-tan, tr(i)-stan, also used as girl's name Tristan, is pronounced TRISS-tan. It is of Celtic origin. From a Celtic name. In Arthurian legend, Tristan (sometimes called Tristram) was a Knight of the Round Table and the tragic hero of the medieval tale "Tristan and Isolde". The tale has been retold in many poems and operas. This ancient name may derive from a Pictish original, Drostan, but the form was probably influenced by the French term "triste", meaning "sad". The name is popular in Spain."
4) Griffin. Dude. How cool would it be to have a son that's named after a mythical creature? If you go this route, just make sure you name his brother "Centaur" and his sister "Medusa."
5) Ladislas. Is it Legolas' brother from Lord of the Rings, is it a sneeze, or is it a topical cream for toe fungus? None of the above: it's your new baby boy!!! "The boy's name Ladislas l(a)-dis-las, lad(i)-slas is of Slavic origin, and its meaning is "glorious rule". Related to Vladislav. This was a royal name in medieval Hungary."
Now you have only one problem left: which of those 5 kick-ass names to choose? Luckily you can always pump out more babies.
IF, on the off chance, you're not madly in love with our names, perhaps it's time for our actual advice.
You consider the idea of giving her an "ultimatum." Don't do it. As you seem to grasp, that's not fair to her and it's way too early in the game. (Maybe you should get, you know, "married" before throwing down any gauntlets about baby names.)
And as for your compromise about you choosing the boy's name, her choosing the girl's? Meh. Good thing she spiked that idea. If you go that route, then you're guaranteeing at least one unhappy camper every single baby. Besides, frankly, we're not sure she'll do any better with the girl names. (Here's a quick list of girl medieval names your daughter might get slapped with: Gaynor, Jay, Ysabel, you get the idea.)
Here's what we really think: you're smart. She's smart. And you have plenty of time to figure this sucker out. There are over 39,728,387 million names in the English language. (Note: that's probably not true.) I challenge the two of you to come to consensus without resorting to ugly ultimatums. Believe it or not, you're actually in better shape then most couples. When there's a disagreement, usually one person wants a simple name (i.e. David) and the other person wants something more exotic (i.e. Percival.) You're both in agreement on the core issue: you want a non-ordinary name. You've already done the hard part.
Try this on for size. It's just one of many scenarios. You honor her study of medieval history but you pick a butch, non-pansy name. There are plenty that fit this bill. Just skimming the list from ThinkBabyNames/Medieval, we see the following non-normal names that wouldn't get your kid beaten up: Gavin, Randall, Kimball, Colin, Dante (Since both of you are scholars you'll appreciate this, plus, the name just sounds badass), Dawson, Bryce, Moses (incidentally, also popular in medieval times, possibly a compromise), Wolfe, and so on. We're not saying these names are perfect. But there's plenty like these from which to choose, and there are more than enough that will satisfy both your and her criteria.