A Boy for Dad

by Harry on May 12, 2006

I’ve already let this slip out in a couple of threads, so I might as well announce that my wife is expecting our third child in September. We have two girls (9 and 5); they are thrilled. Some people will be relieved, and others shocked, that even in liberal Madison the number of people who have immediately said “A boy for dad” to one or other of us is now into double figures. I am neither relieved or shocked, but utterly bemused (this is apparently a common sentiment; I didn’t know). Anyway, we’re delighted, though only my 5 year old was gunning for a boy (why? No idea).

Naming a boy is going to be difficult, mainly because one of us (not me) doesn’t like many boys names, and the other (me), after coming up with two or three good names (Reginald, Alfred, Clement etc…) stops taking it seriously and starts proposing absurdities (Zebedee; Egbert; Canute etc…(no offense meant to holdrs of these excellent names, but you can see that someone who rejects Reginald wouldn’t even consider these)). Eszter sent me to this amazing site, which is no help at all, but a great time waster. So, there is a point to this post. Via the voyager I discover that my own name, which I have always liked despite its tendency to produce confusion, has completely collapsed in popularity since records began. What is amazing to me (but not at all distressing, is that its decline has not been halted at all since the arrival of on the scene of Henry Potter. Why would that be?



Kieran Healy 05.12.06 at 4:58 pm

Obviously, Émile is the right name for a Professor of Education to pick.

As for the babyvoyager site: for boys check out the exponential rise of “Kieran” (I take full credit), and for girls, witness the horror of the great Hillary crash.


Raw Data 05.12.06 at 5:11 pm

Harry is a nice name.


Henry (not the famous one) 05.12.06 at 5:18 pm

So is Hank, Kiki, Errighetto, and Hal.

Another approach would be to let the two kids pick the name. A friend of mine knew a couple who did that; their third-born was named “Clock.”


Henry (not the famous one) 05.12.06 at 5:19 pm

Proofreaders: what I meant was “So are . . . “


John Quiggin 05.12.06 at 5:39 pm

Be sure to visit Baby’s named a bad, bad thing before you choose.


Juan 05.12.06 at 6:02 pm

We weren’t among those who said “a boy for dad”, right?
Before Tomás was born, some graduate students suggested “Godzilla Awesome Superman”. You can have it if you want.


ben wolfson 05.12.06 at 6:03 pm

The really strange thing here is that Harry apparently thinks Reginald, Alfred, and Clement are good names.


JR 05.12.06 at 6:26 pm

My son (15) has a friend named Henry. So it hasn’t disappeared entirely. And there’s a little Clement down the street (the dad is English.) But I assume your wife is American? There are lots of names that sound perfectly respectable to an Englishman but are more or less ludicrous to an American. Nigel is tops on that score, but Reginald and Alfred (and Archibald, Derek, Graham, Leslie, and many others) are on the list. To an American, the bearers of these names are all winners of the Monty Python silly walks contest. (Monty makes the list, too.) So you need something trans-Atlantic.

What about William? William Brighouse is four-square and solid with just a hint of swing. I vote for William.

Or Adrian? Roll Adrian Brighouse around on your tongue. It feels good, doesn’t it? Captain of industry, popular novelist, emeritus professor – it fits them all. Adrian Brighouse has a stirling future.

Other possibilities: Geoffrey, Alexander, Simon, Timothy, Charles, Alan, Thomas.

And certain Celtic names are very fashionable. Owen, Kevin, Evan, Duncan, Keiran. So if you’ve got a Scotsman in your family tree you can go ethnic.

Congratulations to you, your wife and your two very lucky girls.


yabonn 05.12.06 at 6:29 pm

Or maybe Victor is the right name for a Professor of Education to pick.


togolosh 05.12.06 at 6:43 pm



Gene O'Grady 05.12.06 at 7:12 pm

Interesting that someone besides my wife and I has run into the problem of liking lots of girls’ names and few boys names, a problem not made any easier by the premature arrival of the boy.

Of course we named our daughter “Emily” nearly thirty years ago thinking it was an unusual name (it was also my great-grandmother’s name), and now it’s number one ten years in a row. Of course her middle name, Kajsa, (also a great-grandmother) has only been seen twice, once in a Bergman movie.


grant 05.12.06 at 7:45 pm

I might suggest; Clinton, Frederick, Charles, Jonathan.

In real life some people tend to have a fairly strong reaction to my name(Grant Clinton Austin). They draw all kinds of crazy conclusions and say it sounds certain ways. E.g., like a movie star’s name.

Good luck.


Matt McIrvin 05.12.06 at 7:48 pm

When I was three, I attempted to get my sister named “Rocky Poodoo”.

We’re expecting a girl and have a name all picked out (a family name to be revealed later). I’d thought of a name for a boy but it was much harder to do.


Carlos 05.12.06 at 7:51 pm

Assimilate! Kurt. Dale. Eric. Kenseth. And of course, Brett. (The alliteration is a feature, not a bug.)

Seriously, congratulations!


MJ Memphis 05.12.06 at 8:10 pm

The future children of my fiancee (who is Thai) and I will be getting a combination of Western and Thai names, with the caveat that the Thai names have to be pronouncable by Americans. I like Henry Taksin for a boy, or Diana Alisara for a girl. I would like to use either my fiancee’s name (Rujira) or her mother’s name (Chantip) for the girl, but that got vetoed. :)


jamesonandwater 05.12.06 at 9:30 pm

Harry is an excellent name, apparently, for a future professional sportsman. Which is why my hubby has it earmarked for a future kid. I’m an Emma and it seems that every second infant I come across has my name. It’s out of hand.

Just don’t pick Aidan. Same deal as Emma, there.


craigie 05.12.06 at 10:00 pm

And your amazing timewasting site crashes firefox, so no time was wasted at all!


burritoboy 05.12.06 at 10:17 pm

My suggestion is to get extraordinarily drunk, get into a fistfight at a bar (or, even better, the county fair or a bowling alley) and tape yourself swearing…… and utilize a long section for your son’s name……

dissolve to 19 years from now
setting: courtroom

An extremely dissheveled strung-out young man with tears all over his dirty clothing is testifying to the judge:

“Yes, your Honor my real first name my parents gave IS “MotherFuckerStupidAssholeAssholeYourMmmm-motherSucksHorseCockYeahYeahYouandWhatFuckinArmyGimmeAnotherBarkeepGimmeAnotherBitchYeahSuckOnThisBadBoyFuckFucFuckYouAssholes””
or Tractor. Always liked Tractor.


burritoboy 05.12.06 at 10:33 pm

Sorry, I meant no offense to anyone who does actually have that name. Especially, since you’re probably psychotic and already coming after me with your collection of pretty, pretty knives.


Britta 05.13.06 at 3:11 am

When I was a baby, my four year old brother insisted on calling me “Otto,” though it never really stuck. He was probably just carrying on the family tradition of love for Prussian statesmen: my great-grandfather was named “Wilhelm” after the Kaiser. (and no, he was not German, he was Norwegian.)


emmanuel goldstein 05.13.06 at 3:34 am

Congratulations. Adrian? Homer?


mary 05.13.06 at 3:45 am

Lots of countries have rules and regulations about what you may or may not call your child. At work recently I came across the interesting fact that UK law lets you do what you like as long as it meets two requirements. 1)it mustn’t be short enough to fit the available space on a handwritten birth certificate 2)it must be decent enough to be sent through the post without contravention of the Obscene Publications Act. So Burrittoboy’s suggestion would be rejected by the registrar.

I have hear of one girl recently called Ikea … . And our databases are having all sorts of difficulty with names created with a mixture of numerals and letters (how about Twola spelt 2la). But there you go …


sidecarbob 05.13.06 at 7:19 am

no offence to you, harry (your own name could be worse..though i’m struggling..), but the only good boys names end in ‘o’. hugo, arlo, and…that’s it.


sidecarbob 05.13.06 at 7:22 am

ah…perhaps horatio is more your style.


Wax Banks 05.13.06 at 7:39 am

Congratulations and good luck! I should say: ‘A boy for big sisters!’

My parents took the coward’s way out with my name and my brother’s: each of us is named after a grandfather. My mother once revealed to me that had I been a girl, they’d settled on the Dutch(?) version of her name – I’d’ve been ‘Katrinka’, apparently, instead of ‘Kathleen’. My mom gave up drinking when she got pregnant with me, so I have no explanation for this lapse in sense and taste. Still: the language-transformation-of-relative’s-name strategy seems reasonable if you’re the sentimental sort.

Middle name ‘Snape’. That seems obvious.


Richard Carter 05.13.06 at 7:53 am

I always thought Richard was a really great name for a boy.


LowLife 05.13.06 at 9:12 am

Honus Wagner Brighouse,
Jonathan Skyler Brighouse (is the name I gave my son except replace Brighouse with Burns and has the same initials as Bach),
Warren Peace Brighouse,
Edson Arantes do Nascimento Brighouse (call him Pele for short),
Malcom X John Lennon Brighouse (from Firesign Theatre),
Robert Burns Brighouse (my name though I honestly can’t take any credit for the expected).

If you can’t pick a good name from any of these don’t blame me.


luci 05.13.06 at 10:57 am

The popularity of the name “Adolf” really fell off mid-20th century.


Gene O'Grady 05.13.06 at 12:12 pm

Per Luci’s comment, when I married into my wife’s family I wondered about the deceased uncle “Lefty” (who apparently wandered in out of a Raymond Chandler novel and departed the same way). I was told that he had adopted that name in mid-life, about 1935, since his given name was Adolf.


Eszter 05.13.06 at 12:35 pm

If we accept that alliteration is a feature not a bug (as per the above comment) then how about Brian?

I agree with Ben Wolfson about the strangest part of the post.;)

So has anyone NOT looked up their own name? I looked up Esther, and surprisingly found out that at the end of the 19th century it was used as a boy’s name in some (few) instances.

And no, the tool does not necessarily crash Firefox, works just fine for me.


Cryptic Ned 05.13.06 at 1:57 pm

The really strange thing here is that Harry apparently thinks Reginald, Alfred, and Clement are good names.

I believe Harry was born in 1887, that should resolve some of the confusion.

Naming boys is far less interesting than naming girls. I’ve thought of all sorts of somewhat-classic-yet-somewhat-cool-yet-not-trendy girls’ names (Millicent, Aurelia), but there’s no such thing for boys. Either your name is boring or it’s weird.


father-of-sons 05.13.06 at 2:06 pm

1) Initial consonant alliteration is a bug. No Bruce, Brian or Benjamin.

2) Alliteration of the vowel is a feature. Dylan, William.

3) Thre syllables have a slight advantage over two. Adrian, Anthony – hey, you think your wife would accept Alistair?


Tom T. 05.13.06 at 2:48 pm



NBarnes 05.13.06 at 3:58 pm

Millicent is good. And Derek is a fine boy’s name in the US. If a future Hall of Fame shortstop can wear it with pride in the most American of cities, New York, then it’s good, amen.


Jason 05.13.06 at 5:11 pm

Sometime ago I compiled a list of what I considered the coolest names. It might be a bad idea to choose an ultra cool name (such as “Clint,” “Jack,” “Dean,” “Malcom” or “Vincent”) because then your child will be faced with high expectations. I mean, so few people can pull off Clint. Also, spelling is important. “Jon” is fine, but “John” is very out. Finally, an obvioiust point: the first name should “go” with the last name (e.g., Michael Toris, Mike Hawke)

Here’s what I got, some mundane (Greg, Jack), some very cool (Zane, Quint): Vincent, Dean, Greg, Cain, Sean, Dustin, Dirk, Quint, Liam, Ryan, Malik, Dai, Kurt, Joel, Gavin, Victor, Hector, Hobbes, Chundrun (pronounced SHUN-DRUN), Locke, Clint, Darwin, Darren, Darrius, Derek, Jamal, Malcom, Marcus, Cyrus, Colin, Kai, Keirian, Grant, Graham, Sven, Nolan, Noam, Ramiro, Saul, Tariq, Vern, Zain/Zane, Xavier/Zavier, Xander, Warren, Rafe (spelling? pronounced RAYF).

I’m keeping the super-duper good names (one for a boy, one for a girl) to myself. I don’t want them to get stolen, as witnessed in that one episode of SEINFELD.


Belle Waring 05.13.06 at 7:59 pm

I personally favor Milo. also, Jasper. I used to know a guy named Browning Wesley Porter, and that is pretty much the kick-assest name ever. Browning. seriously awesome. then again, as you may know, people in my family are named Stuyvesant (as a first name) so I may have been knocked off course at some point.


vivian 05.13.06 at 8:06 pm

Congrats! Re post title: When my husband mentioned he had just become a father, a colleague (from Ireland) said “Congratulations. Is that congratulations on your new son, or just congratulations on your child?” in fun, of course, for some def of “fun”.

re names: we looked at the websites, but even found ourselves looking at movie credits for inspiration. That technique failed for female names though – too few. Are there male variations of female names you didn’t use, but like?

Just remember not to pick any names already used for pets or stuffed animals. Especially if the older sisters get to vote.


MikeN 05.13.06 at 11:00 pm

Where’s the popularity list on that site?

My three boys each have a Western and a (Taiwanese) aboriginal name:
David Byah
William Eki
Jordan Lamai

plus their official Chinese names (we live in Taiwan)
If I’d known how their size and personality were going to turn out, I’d have called them Adam, Hoss, and Li’l Joe


nameless 05.13.06 at 11:23 pm

A good friend of mine, a union lawyer in NYC, named his daughter Emma. I asked him why and he said “After Emma Goldman, Emma Bovary and Emma Peel.” Fair enough.

I learned a year later that another friend and colleague, also a union lawyer, but here in LA, also named his daughter Emma. I asked him, innocently enough, where he got the name. He told me “We named her after three Emmas.” You can fill in the rest of the story.


fatherofsons 05.13.06 at 11:45 pm

34 – “Derek Jeeter” would be a laughable name if it weren’t attached to Derek Jeeter. There was a kid in my jr high named Spotwood Quimby, but since he could tear the head off anyone in the school nobody thought that “Spot” was a particularly funny nickname. The daughter of fellow I know is named Matilda but she’s so jaw-dropping beautiful that her name sounds like the angels singing to all the boys.

But it’s a mistake to go out of your way to choose a peculiar name in hopes that your kid can rise above it. Johnny Cash wrote a song about that.

(and PS, 35, for the son of a sturdy yeoman like Harry Brighouse, John with an h is just fine.)


Matt Weiner 05.14.06 at 12:11 am

Congratulations Harry!

About the amazing timewasting site, you have to have Java turned on for it to work; don’t know if that’s the issue.

My new cousin is named Clyde.


Matt McIrvin 05.14.06 at 2:02 am

When I first found that Flash toy, I remember looking at names beginning with different letters of the alphabet, and noticed an odd pattern: for both boys and girls (but especially for girls, I think), the vowels were most popular as initial letters about 100 years ago, dropped off in popularity around mid-century and then started to come back; whereas the hardest-sounding consonants peaked around 1960 and dropped off after that. I am sure that something can be said about the Zeitgeist from this, but I am not sure what.


pdf23ds 05.14.06 at 10:42 am

It’s funny how so many people think they’re naming their kid something unusual, only for it to be in the top ten for that year. Mine’s number 2 for my birth decade, but my parents thought they were being pretty original with it.


ingrid 05.14.06 at 1:54 pm

Since the news is public, congratulations in public!

When we were thinking about a name for our son last year, we heard a story about some people (I think it were some group of Inuit, but I am not sure) who have a rule that your child should be given a name which is not the name of any one close to the parents, hence not the name of the parent themselves, or of a grandfather/mother, aunt/uncle, close friend etc. etc. The idea would be to regard the child as someone who is straight from the beginning seen as in individual in her own right.

We liked that symbolism very much — and choose accordingly. Other “criteria” that we used was that it had to be an “international” name (since we are a bi-national family and friends are dispersed everywhere) and it had to fit well with his familyname. Once we decided on the familyname, we quickly found a first name that fitted well esthetically (in our view at least) and that does not remind us of anyone we know.

Interesting to see that some of the previous posts *assume* that your child will be called Brighouse rather than his mother’s surname or both hyphenated, or something else…


Doug 05.14.06 at 3:13 pm

My parents unwittingly named me after two of the largest population centres on the Isle of Man. I have yet to visit.

Other islands may not be as suitable, although Dublin Cork Brighouse sounds good to me. Or if you’re feeling Estonian, Kuresaare Valjala Brighouse…


harry b 05.14.06 at 3:32 pm

Too much to respond to all of it. Adrian is among the rejcted names; it has a sentimental place for me, and if it were in the running I’d go for it. I like the idea of place names on the Isle of Man!

The last name will be “Brighouse Mother’sLastName”, non-hyphenated. In practice, the absence of a hyphen means that “Mother’sLastName” is the name is assumed to be the only last name (we know this from our existing kids). I understand that when hyphenating the standard practice is MotherLAstName-FathersLastName, but we didn’t know thatm and anyway, in our case MothersLAstName Brighouse sounded marginally sillier than Brighouse MothersLastName.

I’m surprised it took 40 comments before anyone mentioned Johnny Cash, though. Apparently Richard Wollheim had the same theory (RW was an undergraduate teach of mine, who was subseuqently, if briefly, a colleague, but I didn’t really know him, but a current colleague told me that RW expounded the theory that since your kid is bound to be teased for something, you should give them a strange name so that it would be that, and not something more personal, that they’d be teased about).


eudoxis 05.14.06 at 4:55 pm

Congratulations, Harry (and mother). A boy for mom, I’d say. When I was pregnant with my first, a boy, I received many comments like “Good thing your first one is a boy.” Inplicitly strange in several ways. We also received many suggestions for names and we ended up going with a very old-fashioned name. Is it common to be more creative with girls’ names? It’s come up in comments here, too. Is there a name-choice gender disparity? Something for Eszter, maybe.


Anarch 05.14.06 at 5:34 pm

Mine’s number 2 for my birth decade, but my parents thought they were being pretty original with it.

I’m told that my parents were being original when they were naming my sister. They picked an older name that had fallen into disuse but which they really liked, so her name would have an exotic, if antiquated, flair. They named her Jennifer.

Three months later, Love Story came out. The rest, as they say, is history.


john 05.14.06 at 11:41 pm

First of all accept my congratulations on being father for the third time. Its pretty confusing when it comes to naming your child. Everyone wants to be unusual but they land upto familiar ones.But Alfred is that bad. U can go with it. Otherwise its upto the proud parents of the boy!!!!


Harald Korneliussen 05.15.06 at 2:11 am

It’s annoying when people call me “Harold”. I’m not a harold. I don’t want to be “old”. I think it’s a slightly ugly name, and going from the statistics, many people agree with me…

Good thing my parents had the sense to give me the norwegian version.


Ginger Yellow 05.15.06 at 5:37 am

The single most important thing with baby naming is to think like a seven year old. Is there any way to turn the name into a toilet-humour based insult? If so, then reject it.


Tim 05.15.06 at 9:39 am


WE had a much easier time picking a girl’s name than a boy’s name, and I had a few observations on the stats, most of which came down to the fact that people (us included!) are much much more conservative with boys’ names than girls’ names.

Hence the observation above that boys’ names are either vanilla or totally off-the-wall weird.


tps12 05.15.06 at 11:10 am

Trunk. Or maybe Drink.


pdf23ds 05.15.06 at 11:45 am

Jennifer isn’t old-fashioned, according to the popularity graph linked in the post. It was completely unheard of before the 40s, unless it was current sometime before 1880. Ranked 206 in the 40s, 98 in the 50s, 20 in the 60s, and 1 in the 70s.

Mine was also ranked number two the decade *before* I was born. To be fair, I doubt my parents knew very many ten year olds at the time.

Also according to the chart, a considerably larger number of boys have names in the top 1000 than do girls for 2004. I assume this means more variations on spelling or completely off-the-wall names.

The overall trend also appears to be “more creativity”, in that fewer and fewer names are being chosen out of the top 1000.


pdf23ds 05.15.06 at 11:46 am

” I assume this means more variations on spelling or completely off-the-wall names.”

For girls, of course.


spencer 05.15.06 at 11:49 am

“Malcom” or “Vincent”

There is a place where these names are considered “cool?”


Julian Elson 05.15.06 at 2:49 pm

Athanaël! It’s like, it’s almost a normal name, but there’s a twist in it, because there’s no N in the beginning!

Or, if that’s too austere and cenobitey, Nicias, or Nick for short.

It’s probably best to ignore me. I come up with names without really thinking about the welfare of the child in question


emma 05.16.06 at 1:19 am

First of all accept my congratulations! Proud moment for both of u. In between this proud moment there is certain confusion. Let it not hamper your joy. U would certainly come up with some good names,there is still time.But i don’t think that there is any problem with the names u have suggested. Be patient!


Gene O'Grady 05.16.06 at 11:57 am

First Jennifer I know of was the daughter of DuBose Hayward (author of Porgy & Bess and some good children’s books). Wondered when I learned that where he’d got the name.


Victoria Férauge 05.16.06 at 1:47 pm

My great-grandmother, Celeste, had three children, a boy and two girls. The boy was called Quentin and the girls were Katherine and Rachel (Rachel was my grand-mother). So for boys’ name I have a particular fondness for Quentin but I also like Dominique, Pascal and Didier.

Never had a chance to use any of them because my Frenchlings were little girls (and are now in the process of becoming young women).

We had two things in mind when we named our ladies: the first was to come up with names that wouldn’t be ridiculous in French or English, the second was to do honor to the women ancestors from BOTH sides and from BOTH countries (US and France). And so my eldest is Elizabeth Marie-Celeste and my youngest is Jessica Irène-Rachel.


Henry 05.18.06 at 12:33 am

I was never confused when it came to naming my two daughters.I named them Christiana and Anny but your problem lies with naming a boy. Ya its hard to find good names for them but not that difficult. And by the way congratulations!

Comments on this entry are closed.