Rhythm and Flow in Names












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To some people, rhythm is everything. Some people would rather name a child something rhythmically beautiful, than a name they loved that clashed with their surname. I've had experience in this area, myself. I have loved the name Eamon (pron. AY-mun) for years now. It has a lot of family significance, and I love the sound. A long tine ago I was engaged to a man with the last name Hillman. Eamonn Hillman sounded pretty bad, though. Time and time again, people would try to dissuade me from using the name! Annoyingly enough, my next boyfriend's surname was Inman. If we had ever had kids (God forbid!), Eamonn Inman would have been even worse than Eamonn Hillman! This is just one of the things that makes me happy to be single again! But supposing your last name seriously clashes with the first name you love...what should you do?

What Makes Good Rhythm and Flow?

1. Unique (non-repeated) Sounds
Names that contain the same combinations of sounds in the first name and the last name tend to sound "sing-songy" to English-speaking ears. While these examples are not necessarily make bad names, some people find them to be not rhythmically pleasing. The unique sounds category is purely subjective.
  • If your last name is Ferry, try to resist naming your children Terri and Sherri. Rhyming names, while not necessarily sounding bad, often provoke teasing, or sound "funny" to others.
  • Ditto is true for names that repeat sounds, la Eamon Inman. Sometimes, the difference can be subtle. For example, Karen Mary Harrington and Brandon Jackson repeat the "ar" sound and the "an" sound. Isabella Theresa O'Meara repeats the "a" sound on the end.

  • Try to resist the urge to give your child a first name that is contianed in your last name, i.e., Steve Stevenson, David Davidson, Mary Merriman etc. However, I went to elementary school with a Carrie Caravelli (who's mother's name was Carol Caravelli), and I always thought it sounded beautifully melodious--but the "car" and the final "ee" sounds on both names might be considered too repetitive by some.

2.Varying Numbers of Syllables
This is the rule that I think is the most important when finding a rhythmically nice name. Syllabic combinations that vary are usually the most pleasing to the ears. For example, Michael Robert Cooper is a fine name, but a little bland rhythmically. each name has two syllables, and is accented on the first. Try putting together names with varying syllables and stress. For example, if your surname is Cooper, try:
  • Ross Mackenzie Cooper (1 syl- 3 syl- 2 syl)
  • Anthony John Cooper (3-1-2)
  • MacKay Alexander Cooper (2 with 2nd syll stess- 4- 2 with 1st syllable stess)

If you must use a name with the same syllabic configuration as your last, try varying the middle name (see Middle Names for more on this topic):

  • Michael James Cooper
  • Michael Adair Cooper
  • Michael Anthony Cooper

So what do you do if the name you love sounds bad with your middle name?
That's up to you! How concerned with rhythm are you? I have said "Eamonn Inman" to myself so many times, that is sounds really melodic and musical to my ears. However, if I post it on a bulletin board, 9 out of 10 people will tell me to find a new name.

  • Find a new name. This is one option. You can try to find a new name that sounds similar, but doesn't clash so badly. For example, with the Eamonn Inman problem, people have suggested Evan Inman and Ian Inman as being marginally better than Eamonn. I once knew a woman whose married name was Martha Arthur. She later changed it to Marta Arthur. It's amazing what one different letter can make!
  • Find a name that has a different pet form or long form You love the name Kate. Your last name is Gates. If Kate Gates doesn't cut it, how about Katherine Gates, Katya Gates or Katrina Gates? You could still call her Kate, but she'd have a longer form for official letters and certificates. Or if you love Brittni, but your surname is Whitney, what about naming her Britni Whitney, but calling her Britta all of the time? Britta Whitney isn't so bad, and you still get to use your favorite name.
  • Use the name as a middle. Maybe Nathaniel Eamon Inman or Isabelle Kate Gates? Your favorite name will still be in there, but not in as prominent as spot.
  • Add another middle name to "dilute" the effect. this doesn't always work, but instead of Kara Kerrigan, how about Kara Jane Kerrigan, and calling her Kara Jane? Michael James Miles instead of Michael Miles?
  • Learn to live with it.. Name your child Eamon Inman or Kate Gates. If people give you a hard time, explain how much you love the name, and how you put a lot of thought into it before you reached the decision. Most people will understand, and won't bother you or your child further! If your child knows how special his or her name is to you, perhaps he or she will love the name as well, and not grow up to be a tormented, psychologically-scarred freak, as your friends seem to imply!