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I’m sure you remember Sarah and Rupert – Sarah wrote in to the blog in 2013 just days before their daughter was born, and, despite some doubts, named their little girl Isabel. Eventually the doubts went away as Sarah realised they had chosen the right name.

Sarah and Rupert are expecting a brother or sister for Isabel next month, and are still not sure about names. Sarah is especially stressed about boys’ names, as she has a strong feeling that the baby will be a boy. The couple have decided not to continue a five generations long tradition of giving their son a certain name customary for eldest boys in Rupert’s family, and have not discussed this with the family, so that may be contributing to Sarah’s worries.

They like Frederick and Finnegan, but have ruled them out as the initial F looks rather like a rude word when combined with their surname.

Boys names they are considering:

Edward – both like the name, but Sarah can’t help thinking of Twilight when she sees Edward matched with Isabel! She wonders if other people will too.

Archer nn Archie – Sarah really likes this, and Rupert is okay with it, however when matched with Isabel she thinks of Henry James’ A Portrait of a Lady, whose heroine is Isabel Archer. Sarah wonders if other people will be similarly reminded, or if she’s being paranoid.

Charlie – the first name Sarah and Rupert agreed on, and Sarah will always like it. However, over the years it has lost some of its shine as she encountered quite a few people and pets with the name.

Other names they’ve thought of: Henry, Harry, and Oscar. They don’t have any clear front-runner at the moment, and would welcome name suggestions.

Girls names they are considering:

Camilla – a name that was on the list for Isabel, and Sarah still likes it with the nickname Millie. However, as a back up for Isabel, does it already feel “used”?

Imogen – a name that has recently made its way to the top of their name list, and they are seriously considering using it. Sarah is slightly concerned that Isabel and Imogen both start with I, and are too similar.

Lola – both really like this name, although the meaning of “sorrows” turns Sarah off slightly. She isn’t sure whether it fits the style of Isabel either.

Vivienne – Rupert isn’t as keen on this as Sarah, and Sarah wonders if the spelling is a bit much compared to the simplicity of Isabel.

Other names they’ve thought of: Madeleine, Gwendolen, and Juliet (last one definitely crossed off).

At the moment, they think the choice is between Camilla and Imogen, although Lola and Vivienne haven’t been ruled out.

Sarah really wants a name which matches Isabel in style, and something which goes well with a short surname.

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Sarah and Rupert, hardly anybody abandons a family naming tradition which has lasted five generations without thinking about it very deeply and carefully, so I feel sure that your reasons for deciding not to continue it are sound and well thought out. Please try not to get stressed over your decision, as it is completely your choice what to name your baby. And let’s face it – at some point every family naming tradition has to end, especially when a name that’s been popular for over a century has become dated.

Feel excited that this is your chance to choose a name for your son that is truly his, chosen for him alone! I’m very confident that he will be happy with the choice you made, and you should be confident too.

You’ve come up with some great names for boys that are probably less problematic than you fear. I don’t think Edward and Isabella from Twilight are enough to rule out Edward as a brother for Isabel, but if it really bothers you, what about Edwin or Edmund? I think Isabel and Edmund sound amazing together.

I love Archer as well, it sounds so strong and derring-do with your surname. I have read A Portrait of a Lady and saw the film with Nicole Kidman as Isabel, so I’m familiar with it. And guess what? I never made any connection between Isabel and Archer. Even after your prompting, I still only had a vague feeling that there was a connection there, and got it mixed up with Archer Newland from Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence (the films came out within a few years of each other, which might be one reason why).

And even after being reminded, I still couldn’t see anything wrong with it, as Isabel Archer is beautiful, intelligent and spirited, even if she does have a pretty septic time, like everyone else unlucky enough to be the heroine of a Henry James novel.

I would be very surprised if more than one or two people at most say anything about Henry James after introducing your son as Archer, and wouldn’t be surprised if the number was zero. Isabel and Archie sound really nice together too.

I feel for poor Charlie, which was your first choice, but has been seen too often to still feel fresh. Would it make a difference if the name was Charles, with Charlie as a nickname? I think Isabel and Charles sound lovely together. I have a feeling that you will think Charles too short with your surname though.

I also think Henry and Harry seem great, although you don’t seem as keen on them, and although I like Oscar, for some reason it sounds vaguely comical with your surname.

I almost wish I could hypnotise you into choosing Henry, which seems an absolutely perfect match with Isabel – both royal English-yet-French under-the-radar classic names, and sounds good with your surname. However, I also adore Archer, and wonder if Edmund might work for you if you can’t commit to Edward (does Edmund seem too old-fashioned next to Isabel)?

Other names that might work are Arthur (instead of Archer), Alfred (nn Alfie), Louis or Lewis, Alexander, Elliot, Leo, and Maxwell (is the nickname Max a problem with your short surname?).

You seem pretty set on either Camilla or Imogen for a girl, and I can’t see anything stopping you from using either name. I wouldn’t worry a bit about Camilla being considered for Isabel before she was born – you shouldn’t think of the name as being used or discarded. It wasn’t the right name for Isabel, but it might be the right name for her little sister, and those past name lists can be an invaluable resource when selecting sibling names. Isabel and Millie are very sweet together.

Imogen is a bit similar to Isabel, but I don’t think to the point where they couldn’t be sisters, as long as you feel comfortable with that.

I think Isabel and Lola sound very spunky as sisters: I don’t think they have a hugely different style really, I can imagine them both on sisters from the 19th century as well as now.

I adore Isabel and Vivienne and think they seem like a perfect match as sisters (also LOVE Vivienne with your surname); however it does sound as if Rupert is not terrifically enthusiastic.

This is your chance to choose the name you really want, so instead of looking for potential problems with every name, remember to focus on what you love most about it. Write down all the reasons you love each name, and remember those reasons when the time comes to choose the name. Allow yourself to fully embrace the possibilities of each name without worrying about any issues, and see where that takes you.

It’s more important that you choose a name that you love, and that works for you, rather than a name without any discernible problems. And don’t let other people rain on your parade: just because someone else criticises a name, it doesn’t mean you made the wrong choice. This is your child’s name, and you get to choose it, not them!


The public’s top choice for Isabel’s brother was Archer or Archie, gaining 35% of the vote. They liked Camilla for a sister, with 36% of the vote.

41% of people said siblings named Isabel or Edward didn’t remind them of Twilight, and 29% said it only reminded them a little bit. That left 30% of people who thought that Isabel and Edward were a strong reminder of the Twilight series.

87% of people said siblings named Isabel and Archer didn’t remind them of A Portrait of a Lady, while 7% were reminded a little, but didn’t think it was an issue. 6% of literature lovers couldn’t see Isabel and Archer together without thinking of the Henry James novel.

(Photo from Lifiekind Photography)