When I read the name American Idol (season 8) winner Kris Allen and his wife Katy chose for their baby boy, Oliver Neil Allen, I wanted to say it out loud. My initial reaction was: “Smoooooth!”
Now you try it. Say “Oliver Neil Allen” and focus on the subtle rhythm. Did you notice that Oliver has three syllables, Neil has one and Allen has two? So capitalizing the accented syllables, it sounds like this: O-li-ver-neil AL-len. The rhythm is sly and subtle.
Now say it again and focus on the other reason the name sounds so smooth: the alliteration. Did you notice that all three names have “l” sounds? Both Neil and Allen have “n” sounds, too. Say “Neil Allen.” Notice that Neil starts with “n” and ends with “l.” Allen goes the other way: first the “l”s, then the “n.”
Now think about what your tongue is doing when you say “Neil Allen.” To make the “n” sound in “Neil,” your tongue travels to the roof of your mouth just behind your teeth. When you say “lallen” your tongue moves forward for a moment before it goes back to the roof of your mouth behind your teeth to make the final “n” sound in “Allen.”
So, when you say “Oliver Neil Allen,” it’s not just the rhythm, it’s not just the alliteration, it’s also fun to say the name–which is why the name is music to the ears and a pleasure to pronounce. (I hope you’re also enjoying all the “p”s and “t”s I’m writing–so if you want to try reciting my comments out loud too, be my guest.)
Before we get to the end of this ode to Kris Allen’s baby-naming prowess, consider his unique skill-set which includes picking songs that are a pleasure to listen to and singing them in a way pleases your ears. It may not seem fair, but singers, songwriters and poets have an advantage over the rest of us when it comes choosing names that sound great.
But wait, there are practical reasons I like the name, too. Oliver is a fairly versatile name. It works well for formal occasions. And the nickname, Ollie, works well for children and for informal adult use. If Kris and Katy’s child ever gets tired of Oliver and Ollie, the middle name, Neil, provides another solid option. (Two out of the four boys in my family ditched their given names and switched to their middle names. You never know when a good option may be needed.)
So far, so good. But if my comments about the name seem uncharacteristically positive, you may be wondering what niggling little criticism I’m going to dig up to spoil Kris and Katy’s announcement and deny Oliver Neil Allen a two thumbs-up rating.
I would if I could but I can’t. It’s a winner all the way. Both thumbs up. (In other words, Brucey likes it.)