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gulgong-35961Elise and Alex are expecting their third child, and had already decided that if it was a boy, his name would be Digby. Digby is a rare name; unfortunately, it has been used often enough amongst Elise and Alex’s circle that they no longer feel as enthusiastic about using it.

They are now looking for a new boy’s name, and would ideally like something which is uncommon without being particularly unusual, and would sound at home in a country community. They like surname names for boys, and don’t mind if the name they choose becomes popular later, just as long as it isn’t popular now.

They would like it to match with their son’s name, Law$on, and as their daughter’s name also starts with L, they don’t want another name starting with that letter. Elise and Alex’s surname starts with M and ends in S eg Matthews.

Names on their short list so far:

  • Banjo
  • Baxter
  • Fred

Names they’ve crossed off or can’t use for some reason:

Abraham, Angus/Gus, Benjamin/Ben, Cameron, Charles/Charlie, Elliot, Eustie, Fletcher, George, Guy, Hamish, Henry/Harry, Hugo, Jack, Jed, Luke, Remington, Samuel/Sam, Sawyer, Spencer, Stirling, Sullivan, Thomas/Tom, Wilbur, Wilhelm, William/Will, Winston

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I felt quite distraught on first reading your e-mail, because Digby is one of my favourite names too, and it’s so uncommon that it doesn’t seem fair that it’s become overly used in your corner of the world. Unfortunately, there’s no guarantee that choosing a name not on the Top 100, or even not ranked at all, ever, means you will be the only parents who like it. Underused doesn’t mean unused.

I grew up in a small town, so I understand why you want a name that nobody else is currently using. When you live in a small community, you see each so often on a daily basis that it almost feels like you’re one big family. Nobody really wants 8 Uncle Jacks and 13 cousins named Mia – not to mention all your brothers being named Sam.

You’ve already discovered that rare names can prove disconcertingly popular in pockets – the good news is that quite common names may be almost unheard of in your community. When I was born, my name was in the Top 50, and yet I was the only one, of any age, called Anna in our little town, or in all the towns surrounding us. It was only when I went to the city for holidays that I met other Annas – it just didn’t seem to be used in my region.

If you are concerned about too many other people choosing the same name, I wouldn’t worry too much about the overall popularity charts, but more about what’s popular and unpopular on a local level. Keep an eye on birth notices in your local paper, and also watch out for regional popularity lists (I have been putting these on Twitter as they come out).

The perfect name is probably one which your friends and neighbours think sounds “a bit different” the first time they hear it, but are used to within two days, and in two weeks time, are starting to really like it. That means you might want to consider a few names that you think sound a bit different at first!

It’s also a good idea to have several names on your list, in case someone else uses one you’ve picked out while you’re still pregnant. Luckily, you have plenty of time left to thoroughly explore your options.



This is such a cool name, but for me, Banjo and Law$on are a little too much as brothers. Also, if your daughter’s name isn’t super-Aussie, I wonder if she might be a little left out of the theme?


I think Baxter is a definite keeper. It’s got that perfect balance of being uncommon, yet sounding completely normal, and the nickname Bax fits in with familiar names like Max and Jax.


You’ve absolutely got me over a barrel on this one, because Fred is my dad’s name. To me Fred sounds kind and funny and sweet, just like my dad. Yes, I’m very biased. But being non-biased, I do think Fred sounds brilliant with your surname.



To me, Archie is very much like Digby – it’s cute and boyish, yet also sounds grown-up and dignified. Unfortunately, Archie is popular, increasing in popularity, and seems to be used more in the country than the city. However, I’m suggesting it because I love the way this sounds with your surname – it seems really happy and I just can’t help smiling when I hear it.

Arthur “Artie”

Arthur is one of those useful classic names which have been stable for decades (a “normal name”), yet also underused (“uncommon”). It’s very slowly increasing in popularity, but in no way trendy. The nickname Artie makes it seem like a replacement for Archie, for people worried about popularity. This is another name I think suits your surname


Dexter is really similar in sound to Baxter, and has a similar level of popularity. I like this better with your surname, but I think Baxter makes a better sibset with your son’s name.


Huxley reminds me both of Baxter and Digby – I feel as if someone who likes both these names might appreciate Huxley. And like Banjo, it has an Australian connection, because the naturalist T.H. Huxley travelled to Australia, which is where his scientific career began (he has a mountain named after him here). Huxley’s descendant Sir Leonard Huxley became a famous Australian physicist. You get the nickname Huck from Huxley, which somehow seems to tie in with Sawyer.


Beckett is another name which reminds me of Baxter. It does have an Australian literary connection, because Beckett’s Budget was a famous men’s magazine of the 1920s and ’30s which combined hard journalism with saucy pictures (tame by today’s standards). Not quite as idealistic as Banjo, I admit!


Jasper is another name which reminds me, in sound, of Baxter, yet somehow also has a little of Digby’s image. It might seem mad to consider this when it’s a Top 100 name, but when I thought about it, I couldn’t recall often seeing this name in birth announcements from rural areas. Could this be one of those names which are popular overall, but underused where you live?


I really like the sound of this surname, which as a place name, has played an important role in Australia’s colonial history. You’ve crossed Cameron off your list, so I wondered if Camden might appeal instead? This name, growing in popularity in the US, is extremely rare in Australia.

Theodore “Ted”

Like Arthur, Theodore is a classic, but rapidly growing in popularity, while still not a common name. I mostly thought of it because Ted is very much like Fred, and to me it sounds “country” but also quite patrician – Ted is  the gentleman farmer, while Fred is his trusty right-hand-man!

My favourites from your list are Baxter and Fred, and from my suggestions, I feel as if Huxley fits your criteria better than any other.

If you still feel unsure about your name list in 6-8 weeks time, write in to the blog again, and we’ll take another look at it. In the meantime, happy name hunting!

UPDATE: Elise and Alex decided to stick with Digby.

POLL RESULTS: The most popular choices for a new baby name were Fred, Archie, Arthur and Beckett, which each got around 10% of the vote.

(Photo is of Gulgong in New South Wales, the childhood home of Henry Lawson; in no way is this meant to identify where Elise and Alex live)