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Tricky Last Names: What Goes with Lo?

July 4, 2017 Abby Sandel

What to do when your last name rules out nearly every first name you love? An Australian reader turns to the Name Sage to solve the puzzle of a not-too-religious boys’ name that works with Lo.

Ping writes:

I’ve been reading your Name Sage posts keenly, hoping one might help us out. But our problem feels unique, and I’m getting genuinely worried, so I’m plucking up the courage to write in with our dilemma.

We’re pregnant with our third – and final – child, whose sex we’ve decided not to find out. We like the surprise!

We currently have two boys, named Archie and Jesse.

The kicker is, their surname is Lo. Turns out, it’s the HARDEST name to work with! Here’s why:

– Any names starting with B, F, G, or S would sound out as blow, flow, glow and slow!

– Names ending in ‘s’ or ‘x’ also roll into Lo awkwardly, making the sound ‘slow’.

– Names ending in vowels, especially if they contain ‘L’ in them, sound too sing-song.

So many of our favorite names fail these basic tests: Sasha, Leo, Louis, Seb, Benjamin. The only possibilities we have in mind are Roland – but is Rolly Lo too much? – and Reuben.

We have a few girls’ names in mind, but are stuck for boys’ names. Please help!

The Name Sage replies:

Nearly every surname presents certain challenges. But you’re right – Lo might be short and sweet, but it does rule out a remarkable number of names!

Jude Lo? Nope. Sounds like the actor. William Lo becomes Willow. Duncan Lo sounds like a basketball move.

And yet, even as I rule out possibility after possibility, it strikes me that Archie Lo and Jesse Lo sound exactly right. So there must be other options!

We’re looking for a traditional name with a distinctive sound that plays well with your surname. Because your older sons’ names end in the ‘ee’ sound, most of my suggestions do not. Here’s what comes to mind:

Emmett – Like Archie and Jesse, Emmett is a complete name unlikely to be shortened. And it has enough of a definite sound to work with Lo without running together. Archie, Jesse, and Emmett sound like brothers – a tiny bit old-fashioned, but very much at home in the world today.

Ethan – I like the long ‘e’ sound of Ethan with the long ‘o’ of Lo. Like Jesse, Ethan has Old Testament roots, but we don’t think of this as a Biblical boy name the way that we might, say, Noah or Hezekiah. It’s less common in Australia than the US, so I wonder if it feels like a good fit?

Henry – When your last name is challenging – either because it’s long and complex, or, in your case, short and easy to run together with a first name – sometimes the classics can be your best bets. As with Archie and Jesse, everyone instantly recognizes Henry as a boy’s name. That helps differentiate the first name from the last.

Julian Julian comes from the ancient world, but feels at home in the 21st century. Longer names can invite shortening, so I’m not sure if Julian leads to an automatic nickname in Australia. After all, Jules Lo creates the problem we’re trying to avoid! But if you can use Julian  in full, I think it makes a great brother name for Archie and Jesse.

Nate Nathan and Nathaniel might be options, too, but just Nate – with that bright, long ‘a’ sound – is one of my favorites on this list. Conventional wisdom says that a short surname requires a longer first name, but there’s something spare and appealing about two single-syllable names. More ideas that might fit in this category include Blake, Jake, and Graham.

Rory – I’ve been trying to avoid boys’ names ending in the ‘ee’ sound, but Archie, Jesse, and Rory seem like they’re still different enough to work for brothers. Irish Rory sidesteps any obvious religious ties.

Thatcher – I ruled out Arthur because it’s a little close to Archie, but there are tons of great ends-in-r names to consider. Carter, Spencer, Connor – all seem like options that work nicely. Thatcher is uncommon as a given name, but familiar enough as a surname that it should be easily spelled and pronounced.

Walton – While we’re considering surname names, what do you think of Walton? Even if it shortens to Walt, Walt Lo still feels very wearable. Aside from a 1970s television series, there’s no obvious association with Walton. It’s familiar, but uncommon – a winning combination in many cases. Archie, Jesse, and Walton.

As for your list, I’m torn over Roland. Roland Lo works nicely. But Rolly Lo? That seems close to the sing-song quality you’re hoping to avoid. And Rollo Lo? That’s fun to say a few times, but I suspect it would get old fast! Reuben, on the other hand, feels like a great fit. It’s traditional, not especially popular, and while it has Old Testament roots, it doesn’t feel especially spiritual.

Overall, I really like the sound of Reuben Lo. But if that’s not quite your style, I wonder if something like Emmett might work best? It’s my favorite with brothers Archie and Jesse, and I think it pairs nicely with your last name, too.

Readers, what would you suggest to Ping if this baby is a boy? Any tips on working with a challenging surname?

And oh–we have an update from an earlier post! Welcome, Nell James. Thanks to all for their thoughtful comments! Don’t you just love it when a parent finds the perfect name through our community?

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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