Can Good Books Ruin a Great Baby Name?

March 8, 2017 Abby Sandel

They love the name Gus for one of their twin sons. But with a big sister named Hazel, will others find fault with the YA literary reference?

Amanda writes:

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?

Should you decide that Hazel shouldn’t have a brother called Gus, I think you’ve already got some great options. Drew tops my list, probably because it’s familiar, but not rising.

If you’d like a few more options, you might consider:

BramNo 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.

EmmettHazel 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.

FinnLike Emmett, Finn has caught on in recent years. And yet, it has some of the same qualities as Jack. It’s a capable name for a boy; traditional, but not too buttoned-down.

HenryIf you’d prefer to avoid duplicating first initials, Henry is out. But Henry makes a great classic and stylish name, a logical brother for Hazel and Jack.

Leo – I mentioned Leo earlier, and it seems like a name to consider. It works well with Jack and Hazel, and it also hits the same vintage-traditional mark.

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.

Sam Sam seems like a go-to, every-guy kind of name – just like Jack. Jack and Sam sound exactly like brothers. Most Sams are actually Samuels, but either way works nicely.

I’m not sure any of these top Gus, but I do like the sound of Hazel, Jack, and Miles together.

Readers, please vote! And share your suggestions for Amanda’s twin sons in the comments.

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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