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Boy Baby Names: Gone to the Dogs?

Is their favorite name best reserved for pets?

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

They have a favorite name picked out for their son, but some have dismissed it as a dog name. What does that mean, exactly, in 2017? Should they choose another name, or stick with their first choice?

Monica writes:

We are expecting our first baby boy in just a couple weeks and still haven’t decided on his name.

We have a 2 year old named Betsy Ray, both inspired by family. We love the country casual vibe of her name, and really want to match that style for baby boy.

Hipster baby names are big where we live. I love most of them, and prefer “old man” names for the most part.

The middle name will be John, another family name. Our last name starts with a T and sounds like tunes, so names ending in a T don’t work well, and I tend to think names ending in S don’t sound very good, either.

Our current frontrunner is Murphy. My husband is a surfer, so the meaning – sea warrior – is perfect. Plus, there was a comic strip from the 1960s about a little surfer dude named Murphy, drawn by one of my husband’s favorite artists.

We’ve also considered Louie, Stanley, Victor, Fletcher, and Otis, but none of them have the same meaning.

I’m not sure about Betsy and Murphy together. Are they too matchy? When I look online, I see mentions of Murphy’s Law, Murphy Brown, and Murphy beds.

Also, lots of people call it a “dog name.” Which I’m really sick of on the whole. I always seem to like all those so-called dog names. Who cares if people named their dog a GOOD name? Does that mean we should just turn the name over to the dogs indefinitely?

Thanks for any advice you have. I want to just fall in love with Murphy, but I can’t shake this feeling that I’m not all the way done looking yet!

The Name Sage replies:

I am so glad you brought up the dog name question!

You’re absolutely right – dog names are people names, and people names are dog names. Gone are the days of Fluffy and Fido. Now Gracie could be the name of the family’s golden retriever – or their new baby.

The next time you hear someone dismiss Murphy – or Dexter or Coco or Bailey – as a dog name, know that she’s saying something different. Imagine she said, “Hmmm … that’s not really a name I can imagine on my child.”

People do choose great names for their pets, as they should. And you’re right! It doesn’t mean that those names should be off-limits for people.

Now, back to Murphy.

Murphy is an upbeat name, friendly and familiar without being common. Fewer than 150 boys were given the name last year. That puts it very much in the same column as Betsy, comfortably outside of the current US Top 1000. Style-wise, they go together very well.

Do they match a little too much? I don’t think so. If you were considering Margot and Milo or Lola and Louie, I might answer differently. But Betsy and Murphy only share an ending sound, and seem distinctly different. Siblings answer to combinations like Henry and Mary, Lucy and Charlie, Aubrey and Riley. Betsy and Murphy work every bit as well.

It also sounds like there’s some magic to Murphy.

Your connection to the name’s meaning, and the fictional Murphy from the comic strip, sets it far ahead of Stanley and Victor. If we were talking about style alone, I might rate Otis or Fletcher more “country casual” than Murphy. But this decision seems to be about story, rather than style. And in this regard, Murphy seems tough to beat.

Still, since it seems like a few more suggestions might help you decide, I’ll offer some ideas:

Arthur – Maybe more mainstream than you’d like, but Arthur and Betsy were both more popular one hundred years ago than they are today. It definitely fits in the “old man” category.

Garner – An overlooked surname name option.

Harvey – Yet another retro choice, though it shares the same –y ending that gives you pause with Murphy.

RoscoeRoscoe comes from an English surname, but works with the country casual vibe. The ‘o’ ending is stylish and old-fashioned.

Russell – From the 1890s through the 1970s, Russell ranked in the US Top 100 most years. Now it’s sliding, but the surname name might make a surprising choice.

Wylie – A surname name much fresher than Riley, Wylie is also spelled Wiley. As with Harvey, the ending sound duplicates your daughter’s name.

I think any of these names, or any of the choices on your shortlist, would wear nicely. But I’m rooting for Murphy this time. I think the meaning and significance for your family far outweighs the possibility that your son might someday share his name with a neighbor’s dog.

Readers, I’d love to your take on a name for Betsy Ray‘s brother, but also on the dog name/kid name conundrum!

Do you avoid "dog names" for your kids?

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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.
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