Can Good Books Ruin a Great Baby Name?
We are expecting twin boys in early April and still have not decided on names. Naming our daughter was a stressful experience for me, so now having to name two at once is bringing the pressure.
I definitely want something to complement our daughter’s name, Hazel. Not only is it classic, but with my husband and I both being teachers it is so difficult to choose a name that we haven’t had in the classroom.
We are all but sold on the name Jack. Even though it is a bit too popular for my liking, everything else about the name just feels right. Other names we have thought about include Axel, Archer, Griffin, Grey, Drew, and Gus.
My personal favorite is Gus, however I recently discovered that the two main characters in the book The Fault in our Stars were Hazel and Gus. Now I’m wondering if that would be weird since those characters fell in love with each other. Am I thinking too hard on this? I truly am stuck. Any and all advice would be appreciated!
The Name Sage replies:
When it comes to pop culture pairings, it’s tough to guess which will fade into obscurity, and which will linger in our collective imaginations, subject to prequels and re-imaginings for decades to come.
And that’s the heart of the question here. Juliet can’t have a brother called Romeo, and I’d tell you not to name Han’s sister Leia. John Green’s novel of tragic teenage romance was published in 2012, and became a movie two years later. It’s very much on our minds today, but in ten years, when your kids are old enough to care?
My guess is that it will have been eclipsed by dozens of other novels and films.
2001’s Kate & Leopold comes to mind. It was a quirky time travel rom-com starring Meg Ryan and Hugh Jackman. Because of the movie, many parents have avoided Leo when naming a brother for Kate or Kaitlyn or Katherine. Or vice versa.
But while other moms might raise an eyebrow occasionally, kids born in the last few years will almost certainly never have a clue about the movie. Should they catch it on Netflix, it’s a curiosity, not a current pop culture reference.
Because I doubt we’ll be quoting The Fault in Our Stars in ten more years, and because Hazel has become such a mainstream favorite, and because there’s also a brother named Jack in the mix, I’d vote in favor of using Hazel, Jack, and Gus.
Except that I could be completely wrong. So let’s have a poll. I’m especially curious to hear from younger readers – teenberries, is John Green’s tale of star-crossed lovers as enduring a duo as Bonnie and Clyde or Scarlett and Rhett?
If you’d like a few more options, you might consider:
Bram – No matter how many students you and your husband have educated, I’m guessing you’ve yet to meet a Bram. A short form of Abraham, it’s wildly popular in the Netherlands, but almost unheard of in the US. Bram Stoker, author of Dracula, makes it literary.
Emmett – Hazel strikes me as homespun – in a good way. It’s a simple and straightforward name with a vintage vibe. Emmett evokes the same feeling. It’s more common than in years past, but still outside of the current Top 100.
Max – Jack and Max are just plain fun to say together! And Max reminds me of Axel from your original list. (Which reminds me – I tend to run Jack and Axel together, into Jaxel! Am I the only one who finds those two names difficult together?)
Miles – Like Leo, Max, and Emmett, Miles is equally vintage. Legendary jazz musician Miles Davis lends it some creative brio. Miles falls just outside of the current Top 100 – familiar, but not overused.
Readers, please vote! And share your suggestions for Amanda’s twin sons in the comments.
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Stella Quinn Said
on March 8th, 2017 at 12:34 am
Leo and Hazel might be awkward because of Heroes of Olympus.
on March 8th, 2017 at 12:40 am
I have loved the name Gus for a while and liked it for my b/b twin set. Sadly my mother did not. Our boys are Archie and Theo. Theodore is his full name. I love your name choices especially Jack, Gus, Asher, and Griffin (which happens to be our dogs’name. I really love your naming style:). Good luck on naming baby b, I know you will pick two perfect names. And enjoy your twins. It’s such a special thing being a twin mama and they won’t be babies for long!
on March 8th, 2017 at 12:47 am
I would be more worried about twin boys Jack and Gus because of Cinderella’s mice Jaq (I know it’s not the same exact name but many people mispronounce it as Jack) and Gus in the animated Disney movie.
on March 8th, 2017 at 1:46 am
Hazel & Gus is really cute. I haven’t seen the movie and the names didn’t stand out as from the movie until it was mentioned. I’m a teacher also so I know how hard it is to name your own babies! I really like Hazel & Jack and it seems you do too. I prefer Jack to Gus. I really like August though! That way you could get Gus from that but not have the worry of the association. Hazel & August sound strong together.
on March 8th, 2017 at 3:01 am
I love the suggestion of Miles. Hazel, Jack, and Miles, what a great sibset!
on March 8th, 2017 at 6:40 am
I vote for Bram! What a perfect name for this group!
I’m out of the YA market, and although I’ve heard of the book, I didn’t know the character’s names. But I doubt it will be a super classic, so Gus also seems like a decent option. Personally I would go with Gus and Bram, as I feel as teachers you will eventually run into many Jacks, if you haven’t already…
on March 8th, 2017 at 6:45 am
Jack and Gus makes me think of Jaq and Gus from Cinderella. So the twin set seems corny to me. Sorry. And I’m not sure of Fault in our Stars will fade…. I could see it being a common middle school read for years to come.
on March 8th, 2017 at 8:44 am
Before even reading the article, Hazel and Gustav made me think of A Fault in Our Stars, however it is just one of many YA novels that were made into movies and I’m sure if you look hard enough many names have been romantically paired at one time or another. I wouldn’t worry about it unless it truly bothers you. Hazel, Gus, and Jack are a great sibset (but I am also very on board with Bram or Asher!)
Abby Sandel Said
on March 8th, 2017 at 9:17 am
Whaddaya know? Those ARE the mice names from Cinderella! (Also: Google tells me they’re short for Jacques and Octavius. Best. Named. Mice. Ever.) I can’t decide if that would be a deal breaker for me – curious to hear if others notice that, too.
on March 8th, 2017 at 10:23 am
We have an August (not called Gus), and (4 years ago) we had planned to name his little sister Hazel… until someone pointed the book, and soon-to-be movie, out to me and said that we “just couldn’t”. We didn’t – not because of the book on its own but because the association with terminal illness was something I couldn’t get over in the last couple of months before the baby was born. At the time, I just wanted to be able to look a few years into the future and make sure the movie didn’t have Twilight-level success. (And it didn’t). If you love it, then go for it! With twins, there will never be a point when it is just Hazel & Gus, so I think that really helps. If you don’t go with Gus, then I think Hazel, Jack & Miles is a great alternative.
on March 8th, 2017 at 11:54 am
Jack is my all-time favorite boy name so I heartily endorse it, regardless of popularity. I’d go with Finn or Sam instead of Gus, but that’s just my personal tastes; it has nothing to do with the book, which I don’t think will be a major factor in a few years.
on March 8th, 2017 at 12:43 pm
I wouldn’t mind the YA reference. I doubt it will be a relevant for your children’s generation, and The Fault in Our Stars isn’t exactly Harry Potter or Star Wars in terms of widespread appeal.
on March 8th, 2017 at 12:44 pm
*will be relevant
on March 8th, 2017 at 1:44 pm
I say go for Gus if you love it. Even if people do see a connection, you can just say these were the names you loved.
I know a family with a girl Eliza and a boy Bennett. It makes me think of Pride and Prejudice. But those were the names they loved. So who cares what I think? (Not that it’s a bad association.)
If you’ve found THE names, and there’s no obvious clash with the surname, a la Ben Dover, go with them.
Congrats on the twin babies!
on March 8th, 2017 at 2:16 pm
I see a few things to consider:
Hazel and Grey are both colors
Hazel and Axel sort of rhyme
Jack and Gus are the Cinderella mice
I would go with one of the other names on your list:
Hazel, Jack, and Archer
Hazel, Jack, and Griffin
Hazel, Jack, and Drew
on March 8th, 2017 at 3:40 pm
With most pop culture references, some people are going to notice. But the people who notice are usually fans of the work, and they will just find it nice rather than annoying. I think if you love the names in spite of the reference, just go with it and be prepared to laugh it off when someone mentions it. I once knew twins named Jack and Leo, and it occasionally made people think of Titanic even though it is the actor name and the character name and not a pair of characters. But I don’t think it was a big deal.
on March 8th, 2017 at 4:04 pm
I like the suggestion of August, nn Gus! I also thought about the Cinderella mice, but that’s just cute to me. They’re Hazel’s little mice!! I prefer that association, and I don’t think anyone will think of or mind the Fault in Our Stars association.
Seriously, though. Can I just say again: Hazel’s little mice, Jack and Gus (August). SO PRECIOUS.
on March 8th, 2017 at 4:39 pm
I like Abby’s suggestion of Max best, as Hazel, Jack and Max would all have an ‘a” and be cohesive:)
on March 8th, 2017 at 4:50 pm
What’s weird is the actors who play Hazel and Gus (Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort) play brother and sister in another series (Divergent).
on March 8th, 2017 at 4:55 pm
Speaking as a 17-year-old girl whose friend dragged her to see the movie 3 years ago, almost two weeks after it came out, with a jam-packed movie theater of teenage and pre-teen girls, I got the reference immediately. To me and a lot of the people in my age group (at least in my area), siblings named Hazel and Gus are almost like siblings named Romeo and Juliet. Hazel and Augustus would be worse though.
I’m not sure how lasting the impression of the reference will be though. If I were to guess, I would say that it would probably only be an issue for people who are between 13 and 25 years old now, as in, those would be the most likely to notice it.
I would honestly be more bothered by the Cinderella mice, however. This is my first association when I hear Gus, so I’m not particularly fond of the name. Jaq is skinny, helpful, and a quick thinker. Gus is fat and kinda dumb. While the Hazel’s little mice thing is cute, I wouldn’t want to be Gus in that set.
I really like some of the other suggestions. Asher, Bram, Miles, and Leo (Hazel and Leo does make me think of Heroes of Olympus, but the two characters never date or have any sort of romantic relationship so it’s not a big deal. Not like siblings named Percy and Annabeth, which would also be like Romeo and Juliet to me even though I’d love the association. But I digress) are great ideas.
Hope my teenberry insight helped!
on March 8th, 2017 at 8:47 pm
Love Hazel, Jack is fine, and Gus is cute, but to me Hazel has a lot more solidity to her than Gus does. I like Gus as a nickname.
However, I would not let an ephemeral YA adult get in the way of my naming. I too am a teacher (high school English) and have heard far too many John Green book talks, but they go in one ear and out the other.
PS I LOVE Bram though.
on March 8th, 2017 at 11:41 pm
The Fault in Our Stars is NOT going to have the literary staying power to make this an issue in 10 years. And the Cinderella thing is obscure, too, especially since they are minor characters. I remember those mice and their silly little elf shoes, but would never have made that connection despite having probably watched the movie a ridiculous number of times as a child.
If this lady were having triplet boys and asking whether she should name them Jaq, Gus-Gus, and Bruno, and she already had a daughter named Cinda Relly, then I could see avoiding Gus.
Jack, Hazel, and Gus are fine together.
on March 9th, 2017 at 3:42 am
I think the article writer and other commenters are vastly underestimating the staying power of The Fault In Our Stars, though I’m not sure that should ruin using “Gus” as your son’s name. Though, there’s also the Cinderella reference. You could just say “whatever, I like this name” and go with it and have a couple simultaneous references, but if you prefer not to make a couple movie references, then don’t. Personally, if I really liked the name, I’d go with it anyway lol
on March 9th, 2017 at 11:24 am
John Green (author) has a literal following that’s only growing, despite the fact that he hasn’t published another book in 5 years. He has a youtube channel and does history “crash courses” and reaches people in so many ways beyond the book (and then they read his books). This pairing isn’t going to fade away and has a lot of staying power.
on March 9th, 2017 at 12:14 pm
If it was just a TFIOS reference, I could somewhat handle it. But that reference paired with Jack/Jaq and Gus from “Cinderella” is personally too much for me. I adore the name Jack and I think that’s great, but I think Gus needs to go. There are a ton of great names out there; I’m sure you can find one that fits!
Abby Sandel Said
on March 9th, 2017 at 12:15 pm
You might be right – I mean, in 1977, who would’ve predicted that we’d still be talking about Luke Skywalker? It’s always a risk.
on March 9th, 2017 at 5:28 pm
I have a Romy and even though the movie was 20 years ago I would not be able to name her sister Michelle. Even when she was a tiny baby a woman in the supermarket asked “Is her best friend Michelle?” -_-
When you are an adult and have your own life and friends you aren’t really a set with your siblings anymore. You could name him Angus or August and he can choose if he wants to be a Gus when he’s older.
on March 9th, 2017 at 6:16 pm
I think Jack, Gus and Hazel make such a great trio, if the names feel right, go for it. I would have a few backups for a just in case, but I love it. August could be another option 🙂
on March 10th, 2017 at 1:23 pm
I go back and forth on this. The Fault in Our Stars is still on the best sellers list, and that’s a pretty long time for a YA novel. Younger kids, who were too young for it when it first came out, are still picking it up. It’s a great story, and I know some local high schools have started incorporating it into their curriculum. I think its still too soon to tell how popular it will ultimately be in 10 years.
However, as a teacher, I know how hard it is to narrow down names (and how sometimes the perfect name was ruined by a perfectly awful child.) so if you love it, go for it. If Hazel and Gus were twins, that might be too much. But even if the book is still popular in 15 years, I don’t think the connection will be easily made.
on March 10th, 2017 at 2:53 pm
Hazel, Jack, and Gus sound like a good sibset to me! And as far as Fault In Our Stars goes, I hear way more people refer to him as Augustus, so that does create some distance between the name and the book 🙂
on March 11th, 2017 at 11:46 am
As a Teenberry, I think that, even though the book is fairly iconic (I’ve never read it myself, however), it’s mainly cemented into the YA generation. I think Hazel and Gus as siblings would work, if you brace yourself for a few comments here and there. After all, I don’t think the book will ever have a lasting impact. (Basically, the situation would be way worse if you were dealing with naming siblings Luke and Leia or Harry and Hermione or Sherlock and John…more famous, lasting combinations.)
on March 11th, 2017 at 9:08 pm
I’m a teenberry that grow up reading Fault in Ours Stars in my 9th grade English class, however, I didn’t even think of the relationship between Hazel and Gus until you said it. (I would think of Hazel and Augustus, but not Gus). I would use the name as long as it doesn’t bother you. I think this is one of the things that will bother yourself more than other people
on March 11th, 2017 at 10:58 pm
I read the book when it first came out. I haven’t looked at it or really thought about it in years. However, as soon as I saw Hazel & Gus, I thought TFIOS. I couldn’t see siblings Hazel and Gus (Augustus is even worse) without thinking of the book/movie. The association with terminal illness makes it worse (Gus dies in the movie). They were boyfriend and girlfriend, as well. Honestly, people would keep making references or asking if you named them after the book characters, I think it would get really old really fast. Also, about the Cinderella mice thing, I saw that reference as well. As a PP pointed out, Gus was fat and lazy – not a great association. (Sidenote: Jacques and Octavius are AMAZING mouse names. Kudos to whoever thought of those). I think The Fault In Our Stars will stay around for a while, and because of that, I wouldn’t name siblings Hazel and Gus. My suggestion would be to find a new name for Gus, one that avoids both the Cinderella and TFIOS associations.
Best of luck!
on March 13th, 2017 at 7:48 am
I do like Miles and Henry as alternatives. Nice style.
My fiance has brothers named Jack and Sam, so you are on the right track with that one. His name is Alex and there is another brother named Ben.
As for the movie, I honestly think it isn’t a big deal. It’s not like everyone has seen it. I haven’t.
As for the heading question: Can a good book ruin a great name? Yes it bloody can! I loove the name Ambrose. But my fiance Alex hates it because he is an evil character in a book he loves.
He said it would be like naming our child Voldemort. Or Joffery. Hah.
on March 15th, 2017 at 3:41 pm
Hazel, Jack & Bram and Hazel, Jack & Miles are my favorite from the suggestions!
I also like Jack & Leo but I am kind of on the fence since one of Leonardo Dicaprio’s most memorable roles was as Jack in the Titanic.
Hazel, Jack & Gus sound great together! But I’m on the maybe, but look for another name first boat.
Hazel, Jack & Abel
Hazel, Jack & Abe
Hazel, Jack & Collin
Hazel, Jack & Quinton
Hazel, Jack & Bennett
Hazel, Jack & Bryce
Hazel, Jack & Beau
Hazel, Jack & Brighton “Bright”
Hazel, Jack & Calvin “Cal”
Hazel, Jack & Callen “Cal”
Hazel, Jack & Colby
Hazel, Jack & Cole
Hazel, Jack & Coby
Hazel, Jack & Cyrus
Hazel, Jack & Dominic
Hazel, Jack & Sebastian “Bash”
Hazel, Jack & Dean
Hazel, Jack & Dane
Hazel, Jack & Evan
Hazel, Jack & Elton
Hazel, Jack & Elroy
Hazel, Jack & Evander
Hazel, Jack & Frank
Hazel, Jack & Fred “Freddie”
Hazel, Jack & Francis
Hazel, Jack & Grant***** probably my favorite
Hazel, Jack & Ike
Hazel, Jack & Jethro “Jet”
Hazel, Jack & Kellan
Hazel, Jack & Kyle “Ky”
Hazel, Jack & Neil
Hazel, Jack & Nico
Hazel, Jack & Owen
Hazel, Jack & Clark
Hazel, Jack & Craig
Hazel, Jack & Parker
Hazel, Jack & Perry
Hazel, Jack & Samson
Hazel, Jack & Silas
Hazel, Jack & Stellan
Hazel, Jack & Trevor
Hazel, Jack & Walker
Hazel, Jack & Wesley
Hazel, Jack & Wiley
Hazel, Jack & Warren
Hazel, Jack & Will
Hazel, Jack & Zander
Hazel, Jack & Zev
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