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Baby Name Doubt: Is This Name Too Different?

September 4, 2018 Abby Sandel

They chose a name for Lucy’s brother, but now they’re having doubts. Should they reconsider the name that got away?

Kelsey writes:

We’re due November 24 with a boy. My husband and I decided to name our son Callahan Samuel and call him CalSamuel is a family name, so that part is sticking.

We both loved Cal, but I wanted a longer name.

Calvin, Callen/Callan, Callum, Callix, etc. were all ruled out for various reasons. We settled on Callahan – handsome, rhythmic, great meaning. But recently I’ve started having second thoughts.

Some people pronounce Cal and it sounds like “Cow.” Now I hear it like that everywhere, despite my efforts to specifically enunciate.

Our daughter is Lucy Jane.  I love her full name. Straightforward, flows nicely, didn’t crack the top 50 in popularity at the time.

Callahan Samuel just doesn’t have that same impact. It feels very different. maybe TOO different.

We also liked Owen for a really long time, but we know three babies born in the last year with that name, and it lost its allure for me.

My husband recently admitted he doesn’t love the name Callahan. He loves Cal, but cringes a bit when he hears Callahan. However, he is so rooted in identifying this baby as Cal that he feels like picking another name would feel weird, unless we went back to another name we considered.

That name is Jack, one of my husband’s favorites. I now find myself thinking about that name a lot.  It feels like a name a kid can grow with, and seems to go hand-in-hand with Lucy.

I vetoed Jack for a number of reasons. It’s a 4-letter name just like Lucy.  Is that a pattern for all future children? Also, it’s a J name, and my husband has a J name. I wanted everyone in our family to have their own initial. Lastly, doesn’t Jack Samuel sound a little bit like Jack Daniels?

Regardless, I just can’t stop thinking about the name Jack and questioning Callahan.  I feel so confused right now… Do you have any fresh name suggestions or insights into either side of the debate?

The Name Sage responds:

You’ve got a long list of logical, carefully considered reasons why Jack cannot possibly be your son’s name. But if you really had to choose between Jack and Callahan right now?

It sounds to me like you would almost certainly choose Jack.

I’d agree that Jack does have more in common with Lucy. It’s very much in favor today, but it’s still a timeless name, sure to grow with a child. Everyone recognizes them instantly, and while there are kids out there named Lucie and Jac, I’d guess that 99.9% of the time, there’s no need to spell, pronounce, or repeat either name.

Now, about all those concerns.

First, two names is a coincidence; three makes a pattern. If you had kids named Lucy and Kate, maybe Jack would feel like it cemented the four-letter name theme. But Lucy and Jack could easily have a sibling named Henry or Caroline.

While it can be nice for everyone to have their own initial, I’m not sure I’d rank that ahead of using a name you love. Solutions abound. (In our house, with repeating initials, I’m always M, for Mom.)

Lastly, while I hear what you’re saying with Jack Samuel, I’m not sure it has to be a dealbreaker. Jack Daniel is off-limits, but Jack Samuel? It’s similar, but not so close that the whiskey will come to mind immediately. They’re two great, classic names that go well together.

As for Callahan, I’d agree that Cal feels incomplete. You’ve ruled out many of the more familiar Cal– names, but I do have a few other thoughts:

Calder – I’d put Calder in the same category as Callahan – easily recognized, but seldom heard. So maybe it’s too unusual? 

Caleb – The letters are there, though some would say that Caleb should shorten to Cale instead. I’d argue that Cal comes from Caleb as easily as Jim can come from James.

Charles – It’s a little unconventional, but the more classic the name, the more nicknames attach. The letters are all there to get Cal from Charles. Like Lucy, it’s a rock-solid classic.

If you can’t let go of Cal, but feel like Callahan’s just not your style? I think any of these three might work nicely. It checks all the boxes – a different initial, a longer name, and the nickname that you’re already calling your son.

Let’s look at a few other options, just in case none of the Cal names feels quite right.

Cole Cole sounds almost like Cal, and yet I think it’s a more mainstream choice. It’s still a four-letter name, but Cole doesn’t repeat an initial. Of course, Cole could be short for Colin, or even Nicholas.   

Max Max may be brief, but it’s complete in just three letters. You could easily choose Maxwell or another formal name if you prefer, but unlike Cal, Max doesn’t seem to need one.

Nate – I’d say Nate falls somewhere between Cal and Jack, a brother for either name. Use Nathan or Nathaniel on his birth certificate to avoid the 4-letter pattern.

Theo – Have you considered Theodore, nickname Theo? It’s traditional, but stylish. And I can’t think of a better sister-brother combination than Lucy and Theo. Plus, the meaning appeals.

From these not-Jack and not-Cal possibilities, I like NathanNateSamuel best of all. And from the Cal-not-Callahan list, I’m drawn to CalebCalSamuel.

And yet, I think I’m with your husband on this one. It does feel like it’s time to revisit Jack.

Let’s have a poll.

About the author

Abby

Abby Sandel is nameberry's Senior Editor and resident Name Sage. Look for her baby name news round-ups every Monday, and her Name Sage columns on Wednesdays. Abby is the creator of the baby name blog Appellation Mountain and mom to Alex and Clio. For a chance to have your questions answered, contact Abby at namesage@nameberry.com.

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