Baby Name Doubt: Is This Name Too Different?

They're torn between Callahan, Jack, and starting all over again.

a Name Sage post by: Abby View all Name Sage posts

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.

What's should Lucy's brother be named?

  1. AJack
  2. BCal
  3. CAnother name
Show current results

Current Results:

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About the author


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
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31 Responses to “Baby Name Doubt: Is This Name Too Different?”

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Wittyusername103 Says:

September 5th, 2018 at 1:08 am

I would advise against Jack. Whilst Lucy & Jack go together well it does cement the 4 letter thing (the 2nd childs name always does) so in my opinion Lucy & Jack would almost certainly have to have Kate or Noah as a sibling as opposed to Lucy , Jack & Caroline or Lucy , Jack & Thomas in order to not seem a bit like “huh?”. I also think if you were in love Jack you would have already chosen it. I’d also advise against Callahan because to me it has kinda cowboy hippie vibes whereas Lucy is classic and British or to put it this way Callahan is bare feet and overalls and Lucy is knee socks and plaid headbands. Nothing is wrong with my style but your style is definitely more knee socks and plaid headbands than bare feet and overalls.

Here’s some ideas –

David – David is a classic that doesn’t necessarily scream British like Lucy but is still a beloved classic like Lucy and I think it sounds great with it. Plus Dave and Davey are well known nicknames so you 1000% won’t have pronunciation issues. Lucy Jane & David Samuel.

Matthew – Second verse same as the first really but I think Matthew may appeal slightly more due to the double letters like Callahan. Lucy Jane & Matthew Samuel.

Alfie – Lucy to me is the most British girls name I could possibly think of and if I had to pick a boy version it would definitely be Alfie. The only potential disadvantage is there’s no nickname (unless you are a fan of Alf or don’t necessarily need a nickname then it’s a okay). Lucy Jane & Alfie Samuel.

Edmund – Edmund is a slight twist on the classic Edward and I think it would go perfectly with Lucy (Edison would also go really well). And like Matt & Davey you won’t pronunciation issues with Eddie. Lucy Jane & Edmund Samuel. Lucy Jane & Edison Samuel.

Angus – Angus is Scottish rather then English but I think it’s the perfect marriage between the styles of Callahan & Jack. This is the name I’d expect on a British cowboy. Fergus is another similar name in the same style. Lucy Jane & Angus Samuel. Lucy Jane & Fergus Samuel.

Caspar – Callahan may have the nickname Cal but Caspar has the equally cool Cas. I’m not sure if the pronunciation issues would still be there but if they do just say it’s “lass with a c instead of an l”. Lucy Jane & Caspar Samuel.

Floyd – Same vibes as Lucy but Floyd is quirkier than David or Matthew. I think it’s very handsome and different but also not too different that they wouldn’t mesh together. Plus out of all the combos I personally think Floyd Samuel sounds the best. Lucy Jane & Floyd Samuel.

Asher – It’s sophisticated and has more vintage flair to it then the similar Archer but it also is rising up the charts as a classic love for modern parents just like Lucy is. Plus Ash is an automatic and easy nickname while also being a bit quirkier. Lucy Jane & Asher Samuel.

Roscoe – It reminds a lot of Floyd in style. It’s strong and has a similar style to Lucy but is also really fun & unique. Kinda like Lucy. Lucy Jane & Roscoe Samuel.

Callum – Callum is basically Callahan but with the same style as Lucy. I’ve also met quite a couple of Lucys who have brothers name Callum and it works perfectly. Lucy Jane & Callum Samuel.

Off this list my favorite is Floyd Samuel with David Samuel , Alfie Samuel & Angus Samuel trailing behind.

Wittyusername103 Says:

September 5th, 2018 at 1:09 am

*With and *that (though it is similar to my style lol) sorry I have the flu and it’s taken all my brain power

Suzannah Says:

September 5th, 2018 at 5:54 am

I have an uncle named Kalman and I think Kalman Samuel sounds great. It’s usually spelled with a “K” but Calman Samuel would be wonderful.

Janie_Larkin70 Says:

September 5th, 2018 at 6:39 am

I love the combo of Lucy and Jack! Timeless, simple yet complex, lots of history and namesake role models bearing the names.

I know a young woman named Callaghan, (pronounced the same as Callahan.) It works well for either gender, but while Cal doesn’t stray too far from the style of Lucy, the full name most certainly does.

Jack would be my personal choice, here, perhaps as a nickname and John the formal name.

Sweetchariot Says:

September 5th, 2018 at 9:03 am

Although not as intuitive, I think Malcolm nn Cal is spot on. All the letters/sounds for a Cal are there, but Malcolm is a charming style match for Lucy. And there’s always Mal or Mac (rhymes with JACK!!!) if those suit better. Lucy and her little brother Malcolm-oh yes please.

SparkleNinja18 Says:

September 5th, 2018 at 9:33 am

I’m not great with suggestions but I feel like I should say that I agree with Abby when she said two is a coincidence, three is a pattern. And, honestly, even if you had three kids with four letter names, I don’t think it would be as obvious if you broke the pattern than it would be if you, say, had three L names and broke the tradition with the fourth. My sisters and I actually have this. We’re @bby, Le@h, and Eli@na/Ell!e. No one has ever thought it was weird that Leah and I have four letter names while Ellie either has five or six depending on which name she uses (she uses both).

I like both Jack and Callahan (and Cal), but it sounds like Jack has your heart so I say go for it. No one will find it weird if you have a Lucy, Jack, and Caroline or Thomas—or something different—in the real world.

niteowl13 Says:

September 5th, 2018 at 9:35 am

I love Sweetchariot’s suggestion!

sarah1800 Says:

September 5th, 2018 at 10:30 am

My personal choice would be Calvin nn Cal, but Jack is nice too. I don’t think the 4 letters or initials are a big deal. Callahan is pretty trendy to me and not as classic as Lucy Jane. I also like Samuel as a first if that’s an option.

wandsworth Says:

September 5th, 2018 at 10:55 am

Go with Cal! Jack is overdone.

dresdendoll Says:

September 5th, 2018 at 11:57 am

I agree with wandsworth: “Go with Cal! Jack is overdone.”

Kew Says:

September 5th, 2018 at 12:16 pm

Stylistically, I find Lucy and Callahan “Cal” fine together. They’re both versatile names with history, which could be worn by people of all ages in all walks of life. On the other hand, I don’t think that using Lucy and Jack would mean that you couldn’t name your third Virginia or Alexander or whatever (I wouldn’t even have noticed the four-letter pattern!), so you’re fine either way.

jpruitt76 Says:

September 5th, 2018 at 1:38 pm

My favorite is Callahan, nn Cal (or Callum) but if you can’t get past the issues you brought up, Jack does work nicely.

I also wanted to suggest Grant. Lucy and Grant. Grant Samuel. So handsome and without the possible popularity issues that come with Jack.

Bobcat108 Says:

September 5th, 2018 at 2:42 pm

To my eye/ear, Callahan Samuel is really different from Lucy Jane…six syllables as opposed to three & very different in style, at least IMO. If you want to stick w/Cal as a nickname, I think that one of the shorter names that yields Cal as a nn would be better. Callum would be my pick as it’s a bit different than Calvin, but easily pronounceable. If you were interested in something similar, Colm might suit. The drawback that I can see w/Callum & Colm is that there are a lot of M-sounds when they’re combined w/Samuel.

If Jack is really appealing, you might go w/Jackson Samuel to get away from the Jack Daniels feel. Or you could go w/John Samuel & use the nn Jack, or Jonathan Samuel, which again is pretty long when compared w/Lucy Jane, but Jonathan Samuel feels more similar in style than does Callahan Samuel, & if you’re going to use Jack on an everyday basis the length might not be an issue. If you use Jonathan, you also have the option of Jon as a nn, which to see goes quite nicely w/Lucy.

Good luck! 🙂

shxe Says:

September 5th, 2018 at 8:38 pm

What about Cale as a name/nickname? That could also be short for Caleb!

alom Says:

September 5th, 2018 at 8:39 pm

I also love the nn Cal but don’t have a “full” name I love so much. What about just Cal on it’s own? It may be uncommon but other “nickname names” like Max and even Jack are used as given names. My other suggestion would be a “Cam” name like Cameron or Camden.

But I also I think you’re overthinking things with Jack by focusing on four letters and sharing an initial. I never noticed length of names in siblings until I started reading Nameberry and sharing an initial with a parent isn’t as noticeable siblings sharing the same letter. If you love it, go with Jack! Or as Bobcat108 suggested, maybe Jackson nn Jack would work and then one hesitation can be eliminated.

Katiesa Says:

September 6th, 2018 at 12:18 am

You could maybe use the name Campbell to get Cal for short.

mymel0dy Says:

September 6th, 2018 at 8:52 am

Personally, I like Jack but like Cal just a little better. I think Caleb Samuel is a great choice to get to the nickname, Cal. However, Sweetchariot’s suggestion of Malcolm with the nickname Cal is amazing. Malcolm and Lucy sound great together and it does get the nickname you desire, even if it is not blatantly obvious. I also like the suggestion of Callum it is a great name with a great meaning.

JH Says:

September 6th, 2018 at 3:57 pm

What about Calhoun? (Cal-hoon)

CocoaPuff Says:

September 6th, 2018 at 9:45 pm

I would stick with Cal, given your husband’s attachment to it. There are so many options from which to choose. As a compromise, if your husband gets to pick Cal, then you should get to pick Cal’s full name.

As for style matching, it’s not as if your first born is named Moon Unity Applejuice and your second, Albert. They are not that different, and I think Lucy and Cal sound very nice together.

Eizariya Says:

September 6th, 2018 at 11:02 pm

I don’t hear the Cal/Cow blending, but maybe that’s just my region’s accent. I like the suggestion of Calder.

Some other ways to get to Cal are Carlton and Carlisle.

Have you considered Hal? Henry Samuel nn Hal is nice. Says:

September 6th, 2018 at 11:26 pm

If Jack is still on the table, i would look at Jackson Samuel & Lucy Jane – Jackson can be shortened to Jack

Callahan to me just sounds like a surname. If you still really like Cal – these are my two-bob;
Calixte (or Calix) Samuel, Calin Samuel , Macallister Samuel (i know macallister is a surname but it has a great ring to it) – might end up as Mac or Cal ….

Kjh446 Says:

September 7th, 2018 at 1:07 am

I would like to suggest Cullen nn Cal or Cul.

Lucy & Cullen go nicely together imo and Cullen Samuel is very pretty!

Mrs_B_King Says:

September 7th, 2018 at 11:08 am

What about classic Michael with the nickname Cal? It is a classic like Lucy and you can see and hear the name “Cal” in MiChAeL. Another classic name like Jack is Carl called Cal? Another alternative could be Campbell nn Cal. Lucy Jane and Campell “Cal” Samuel sounds good together. More Cal option could also be Cassiel, Carlson and Pascal (it’s french).

ElsaAnne Says:

September 8th, 2018 at 12:49 pm

Initally when I first read I was 100% team Jack, its goes so well with Lucy. But I also really love, as a close second, Charles nn Cal. It offers that classic feel that Callahan doesn’t, and matches Lucy perfectly. Plus you have the bonus nn potential of Charlie! Either Jack or Charles are great. Another suggestion – how about Jack Callahan Samuel? Use all the names you love, don’t limit yourself!

WrenEloise Says:

September 8th, 2018 at 1:34 pm

Well, I want to say that I see and sympathize with your dilemma, but I think you’re on the right track!

Callahan Samuel is a sturdy, cool name. What I’m noticinf, though, is that it’s rather serious compared to Lucy Jane, which has a sweet and playful sound, though is certainly still classic as can be. I see you are tied to Samuel as a family Nana, but I wonder if part of the issue is the overall sound and feel.

I like Cal. It’s a friendly nickname. I agree Callahan is unusual compared to Lucy, and if your husband is cringing, it’s not the name. I LOVE Abby’s idea of Caleb, called Cal, with Lucy. Caleb Samuel is sturdy and sweet — Caleb has a softness Callahan lacks. I have to say the previous poster’s idea of Malcolm is also a neat one. Cal is a stretch of a nickname, yet it works, and Mac is so cool — many a boy will want to go by Mac, I’d guess!

Jack, to me, is a tried and true option, nice if not a tad bit bland. Lucy and Jack work, sure, but I find it a bit lackluster, to be honest. Not to say you need to find another name! Jack is a good name, yes, I’m just wondering how it can shine a tad more. Jacob Samuel could be one option, or even Jacoby, for a nice swingy fun sound with Samuel? Both could be Jake or Jack.

Of Abby’s new ideas, I really like Nate with Lucy, and I love Theo or Teddy!

With Samuel, though, to get a similar rolls off your tongue sound like Lucy Jane, I wonder if you need a name that ends in -r?

Arthur Samuel – A little more serious than Lucy, but Arthur has appeal, and geek chic Artie might, too?

Archer Samuel – It has the surname feel of your pick of Callahan, but it’s more mainstream and perhaps more classic. Archie, or Arch?

Asher Samuel – This one has a Biblical feel to me, but it’s soft and welcoming.

Jasper Samuel – You’re stick with the J issue, but I like the pizazz I’d Jasper next to Lucy.

Peter Samuel – This one is just as classic as Lucy Jane, without a doubt, and both have a children’s storybook quality to them. Lucy and Pete?

I’m also drawn to the sound of a name that ends in -t with Samuel:

Beckett Samuel – It’s mainstream but cool, and if you need a nickname, Becks works.

Bennett Samuel – Drop the extra t and the name is literary (think Elizabeth Bennet), or use the classic Ben (or Benny) as a nickname. Trust me, Ben is one name boys like. Lucy and Ben are great siblings!

Everett Samuel – More uncommon than the above two, but with a traditional flair. I like the sound of Lucy and Everett together, and Rhett makes a nice and handsome nickname option.

Finally, I leave you with the always-perky names that end in o:

Otto Samuel – Certainly more vintage and unusual than Lucy, but I still think it works. I’m personally in love with Otto! It gets you into the 4-letter mild problem, but (1) that doesn’t have to be a pattern and (2) if it does become a pattern, there are tons of 4-letter names!

Milo Samuel – Lucy Jane and Milo Samuel both in my opinion have a fun, playful sound. Milo is more hipster classic than Lucy, so it could take you to a broader name style going forward. For example, if you had Lucy and Jack (and let’s say you wanted to go 4-letter), you might use Emma. With Milo in the mix, you might use Opal or Rose, Tess or Fern?

My FAVORITES might be Beckett, Bennett, and Everett. But, Jasper, Peter, and Milo are solid, too. And there’s still sweet Caleb, called Cal.

Good luck to you!

lashleytwill Says:

September 8th, 2018 at 2:18 pm

I think you should definitely find a way to use Cal, it seems to be where both of your hearts are. Have you considered getting the nickname Cal from a middle name? Lucy and Samuel are both straight forward names. Samuel Callahan nn Cal or really any one of the other Cal names. I think Samuel Calloway has a nice ring to it. Lucy Jane and Samuel Calloway aren’t so different from each other and Lucy and Cal are a cute sibset.

savannahclass Says:

September 9th, 2018 at 5:18 pm

Why settle for one if you can have both?

Jack Callahan/Callaghan is awesome, smooth, simple and can still go by “Cal”.

Perfect compromise and everyone is happy, Dad included. As a middle name, Dad won’t have to hear “Callahan” too often and you’ll have the satisfaction of including it within the name and you can use “Cal” with good reason. Win-win!

Gondolin Says:

September 20th, 2018 at 5:51 pm

Callahan to me sounds like he could be one of the Knights of the Round Table. I don’t necessarily mind that, but Lucy seems a little light next to it.

I quite like the suggestions of Charles “Cal”, Michael “Cal” and Calum. Caleb Samuel would be too biblical for me, but that’s personal preference – I do love the name Caleb.

The one name that I know Cal to be a short version for it Caledon, as in the “Titanic” antagonist who is called Cal.
I don’t think that solves any of your problems but just wanted to mention it.

I also found:
Callan (I like this one!)

Dadtwobe Says:

September 21st, 2018 at 2:52 am

It seems like you really like Cal the most. I think it’s a fantastic name. Go with Cal. : ) I know someone who has a baby named Cal and I immediately liked the name.

pamjsg99 Says:

September 23rd, 2018 at 12:59 pm

I love Callahan! Have you considered Calloway or modifying Samuel? Perhaps Jack Samson/Sampson, Jack Samuelson. I know of someone with the last name Samuelian.

pamjsg99 Says:

September 23rd, 2018 at 1:02 pm

Calypso Samuel.

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