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Boys Baby Names: The viable and the verboten

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Nameberry 9 by Abby Sandel, Appellation Mountain

A French film made its US debut this week.  What’s in a Name? takes us to a dinner party.  A happy couple announces that they’re expecting a son, and they’ve chosen a name.

Adolphe.

It’s as scandalous a choice in French as it would be in English, and the fellow guests are aghast.

The party goes downhill from there.  Other guests are criticized for their children’s “pretentious” names: Myrtille and Apollin.

Such scathing comments are usually reserved for gossip, or maybe anonymous online forums.  Can you imagine yourself in a social setting, hearing your child’s name ripped to shreds?  Let’s hope the movie – and the play it is based on – are pure fiction.

Then again, even if Adolf is your beloved grandfather’s given name, I would think long and hard about giving the name to a son.  It’s one of a very few names, like Lucifer, that strike me as off limits for good reason.

Most names are more like Apollin – maybe they’re not your style.  Maybe you raised an eyebrow when you heard the name announced.  But it is tough to argue that the choice is truly burdensome.

Parents lament the limited pool of names for boys, and it is true that we tend to be more conservative with names for our sons.  But this week’s baby name news is full of choices that are mainstream, but far from ordinary.

There’s nothing wrong with William and James – they’re the kind of classic names that would provoke no comment in a social setting.  But there’s a wide range of possibilities that fall somewhere in between the out-there and the ordinary, choices that wear well but probably wouldn’t have been heard fifty or even twenty years ago.

Sky LynLee – Actress Clare Kramer and husband Brian Keathley have welcomed their fourth child.  When I heard Sky, I assumed it was a baby girl.  But no – Sky LynLee is the couple’s second son.  LynLee honors Sky’s late aunt.  Clare and Brian are also parents to two daughters, River and Gavin, and son Hart.  While some might balk at Gavin on a girl, I appreciate that they choose equally interesting names for their boys.

Ryker Mobley – Country music’s Lee Brice is known as a creative namer.  He and wife Sara are already parents to son Takoda.  Ryker seems like an almost safe choice in comparison, especially combined with middle name Mobley, borrowed from Lee’s family tree.  While Ryker might strike some as different, he actually ranked #219 in the US last year, making him about as popular as Peter or Charlie.

Zion – He’s another name that only seems different.  Zion is nearly as popular as Ryker, ranking #235 in 2012.  But he still made BabyCenter’s unusual names of 2013 list.  If Biblical place name Eden is stylish, and Ryan is an established classic, Zion could wear very well on a boy.

Trace – Here’s another name from the unusual list that also charts in the US Top 1000 – Trace.  Country music’s Trace Adkins makes this one familiar, a cool pick for a little cowboy.  With so many women called Tracy (and Tracey and Tracie) in the 1960s and 70s, using Trace for a boy feels like a fresh reinvention of a name we all recognize – and proof that names once popular for girls can inspire cool choices for our sons.

Colt – If Trace is a cowboy name, Colt is definitely straight from the Wild West.  There’s the young horse, the firearms manufacturer, and the Indianapolis football team.  Add it up, and I’m never surprised to meet a baby ColtColton ranked in the US Top 100, and Colt has been on the rise, too.  But this birth announcement, for a baby named Colt .45?  That might be taking things a bit too far.

Jaxon – First Kaitlyn overtook Caitlin.  Then Zoey became more popular than Zoe.  Could Jaxon be the next alternative spelling to outrank the original?  Canadian website Today’s Parent ranked Jackson #49 – but Jaxon/Jaxson #24.  Maybe it is the appeal of the letter x, found in other Canadian favorites, like Felix, Xavier, Maxime, Alexis, and Alexander/Alexandre.

Nolan – The late actor Paul Walker has a new movie coming out this month.  Unlike many of his roles, he’s not playing an action hero.  Instead Hours is about a father trying to keep his newborn daughter alive in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.  His character’s name – Nolan – ranked #88 last year, a name rich with Irish appeal.

Walker – I’ve found myself thinking about Walker in recent weeks, too.  In the Will Ferrell movie Talladega Nights, Ricky Bobby was the father of sons Walker and Texas Ranger.  But the surname name also has presidential ties and a very current sound.

Sullivan – Let’s end with one more surname choice.  Nameisms suggested Sullivan as a way to honor a Steven.  But even without an uncle Steve or grandpa Stephen to honor, Sullivan makes for another great surname name possibility.  He’s been on the rise in recent years, and fits right in with longer names like Sebastian, as well as other upbeat Irish choices like Ronan.

Are you more conservative when it comes to naming a boy?  Are there names that you consider unwearable?  Which names are on your shortlist that you might not have considered five or ten years ago?

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