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Name Sage: A Brother for Charles Alasdair

November 17, 2015 Abby Sandel

Kristen writes:

We put lots of thought into naming our first son, and I couldn’t be happier with what we settled on: Charles Alasdair, Cal for short.

Both his first and middle names honor his great-grandparents, Charles and Al. Cal is the name of my favorite character from my favorite book, East of Eden, and Alasdair is a cheeky nod to Alexander the Great and the fact that we were deployed to Afghanistan at the time of his conception. It’s the perfect name for him and our family.

The problem is coming up with a name for his little brother, due in March, with a similar traditional feel, cool-but-not-too-common nickname-ability, and family significance. We like strong, classic boy names, but I have always wanted to avoid the Top 100 — though I obviously made an exception with Charles.

Some of the family first names we’re working with are John, William, James, Thomas, and Raymond — all of which are too familiar for my taste, as they are — and Bertsch, Rhodes, and Stokes as possibly transformable last names. I’d also be open to using honor initials, like J.D. after my father or T.R. after my husband’s grandfather, but we just can’t think of any combination of names that we’re in love with.

As a middle child, I know what it’s like to feel overshadowed by my older sibling, and I really want this baby’s name to be just as special as his brother’s. Can you offer any advice?

The Name Sage replies:

So often we determine our first child’s name over years, dreaming up possible combinations and unexpected honor names until we get it Just. Exactly. Right.

Then we find ourselves expecting our second child, and somehow, we need to recreate that magic in just a few months, in between laundry and picking up spilled Cheerios. Not only does the second name have to live up to the first, but the first name rules out possibilities for the second, either because they’re too close – or just too wildly different.

No wonder naming a second child can feel tough!

But here’s the good news: you can fall in love with a name over time. I put lots of thought into my daughter’s name, and I’m always discovering new reasons to be delighted with our choice. My guess is that you’re having the same experience. Charles Alasdair was a really good name when you chose it, but over time, Cal has transformed it into a great name and helps you find more reasons to love his name when you least expect it.

I do think that avoiding the Top 100 is a tough request, given that you’re working with so many great, classic family names. I’ve suggested some names that are far less common, but I suspect that your best choices might include a very traditional first name for your son!

On to the names:

Thomas Rhodes, called Troy – From the first-middle options you’ve listed, Thomas Rhodes leapt out at me immediately. Thomas, like Charles, is an impeccable classic. But it’s not nearly as common as many of the other choices on your list. It’s ranked in the Top 60 or Top 70 over the last few years – not the Top Ten. But I’m not so sure about Troy as a nickname. It has a kind of cool, ancient world vibe – as does Rhodes, of course! And I do think Cal and Troy sound like brothers. But it’s not quite as current and cool as some other possibilities, so let’s keep looking.

James Bertsch, called Jeb Jeb seems like a natural, if unexpected, nickname from James Bertsch. It also sounds Southern, and might read as political, thanks to Jeb Bush.

James Stokes, called Jase Jase is another brisk, bold boy name, a logical brother for Cal. And James Stokes is every bit as classic as Charles Alasdair.

James Stokes, called Jake – With Jase, we took the ‘s’ sound from Stokes. But the ‘k’ sound is equally obvious, so I think Jake works well as a nickname. For what it’s worth, James and Jacob actually come from the same Hebrew root, so it’s not nearly as much of a stretch as it might seem at first.

William Rhodes or John Rhodes, called Rhodes – The Colossus of Rhodes was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. It reminds me of your subtle nod to Alexander the Great. I think it’s the most wearable of the surname names on your list – you could easily opt for Rhodes William or Rhodes John, too! The one combination I’m not suggesting is James Rhodes – though the fictional character is a good reason to like Rhodes even more! In The Avengers franchise, James Rhodes is a good friend of Tony Stark, and fights alongside Iron Man in a high tech suit of his own. Don Cheadle played him in the recent movies. The character is called Rhodey for short. Cal and Rhodes, Cal and Rhodey. I think it works!

John Dashiell, called Dash – Using your father’s initials, I though about John Dashiell. Cal and Dash sound like a great pair of names for brothers, and John Dashiell is every bit as classic and handsome as Charles Alasdair. Of course, you could also call him J.D., which might make the connection to your father even more obvious.

Lucian James, called Luke – Bertsch means bright ruler, and Lucian is ultimately derived from the Latin lux – light.

Lucian James, called Lux – Again, I’m borrowing Bertsch’s meaning. I’m not sure if that’s too much of a stretch. But I can easily imagine brothers called Cal and Lux, and a name like Lucian is familiar, but far outside of the US Top 100.

Raymond William or James Raymond, called Ray Ray is such a cool name! Think of Ray Charles and Ray Bradbury. It also brings to mind a ray of light, which is yet another reference to Bertsch’s meaning. I’m not sure if you’d consider Raymond as a first name, but I think you could move it to the middle and still use Ray as a nickname.

William Blaise, called Blaise – Here’s another name inspired by a surname – Blaise, from Stokes. It brings to mind stoking a fire – starting a fire, or a blaze. So if you’re willing to really stretch, Blaise or even Blaze could be a nod to Stokes. I do think Cal and Blaise sound like brothers, and I think Blaise is a cool, edgy name.

Lucian James called Lux is my favorite, but I’m not sure if I’ve strayed too far from your family names with Lucian. John Dashiell is a close second, and seems a little more faithful to your original list.

UPDATE: Welcome, JamesJemLysander! You can read about his handsome name in the March 2016 Baby Names Announcements.

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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. For a chance to have your questions answered, contact Abby at namesage@nameberry.com.
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