While probably everyone has had at least one “It sounded like a good idea at the time” misfire, giving siblings very similar names shouldn’t be one of those things that only seems wrong after the fact. With so many lovely names to choose from, there’s no reason to not think it through in advance.
I’ve written before about “sib sets,” the idea that siblings’ names MUST be matchy-matchy. While I strongly agree they should be similar thematically (e.g., Stella, Nora, Emilia, Adela; or Hestia, Circe, Leander, Nestor), sometimes there’s good reason for one name to seem out of place.
E.g., a couple may have been guilted into using family names for the first two kids, but stood their ground with the last child and used an original name they’d always loved. Maybe it meant a lot to them to give a dear friend or relative with a classic name a namesake, despite their usual preference for modern names. Or they may not have had the guts to use a name like Xanthe or Apollo until the final baby, knowing that was their last chance.
However, names that sound practically identical are an entirely different issue from names forced to all adhere to a certain theme. Cases in point:
1. Rhyming names for multiple births! While I understand sometimes one baby gets missed in earlier ultrasounds, I’d be quite surprised to hear of even the highest-order multiple pregnancy making it all the way to birth without anyone knowing just how many are in there in the modern era!
I can give people in the pre-sonogram era somewhat of a pass for giving multiples matching names, since it was generally a surprise at birth, but there’s no reason now to give them rhyming names like Sara, Zara, Kara, Lara, Mara, and Dara; Cora, Zora, Lora, and Nora; Brett and Rhett; Brandon and Landon; and of course the infamous Aidan, Braden, Caden, Jaden, Raiden, Maiden, and Zayden.
Though since truth is often stranger than fiction, I can see a couple who decides to only have one child, discovers it’s twins, and just happen to have their hearts set on names that rhyme. Perhaps one parent’s fave name has long been Breindel, and the other really wants to name a child after Great-Grandma Kreindel. Since they know they’re never having kids again, those are their only chances to use those names.
In every other case, though, it just seems lazy, or like something thought up by a 12-year-old.
2. Male-female paired names. This often happens with twins, but it sometimes happens with singletons as well. E.g., Paul and Paula; Michael and Michaela; Charles and Charlotte; George and Georgia; Theodore and Theodora. Of all the possible male-female pairs, I think the one I mind least is John and Jane.
On a similar note, I know I’m not the only one who finds it a bit weird how the long-awaited golden boy in Sydney Taylor’s All-of-a-Kind-Family series is named Charlie when there’s already a Charlotte. Mrs. Taylor named the girls after herself and her sisters (her birth name being Sarah), so why not name the boy Irving after her real-life firstborn brother?
3. Names that differ by only one syllable, often seen in twins. E.g., Taniya and Tania; Gregoriyana and Gregoriana; Krystal and Krystelle; Maurice and Marquis; Denzel and Danzel. You might as well announce, “I don’t think twins are individuals!”
4. Variations of the same name. E.g., Mary and Marie; Emma and Emily; Jack and Jacques; Brendan and Brandon. Just, why?! I can imagine parents and teachers constantly calling these kids the wrong name, since they’re so similar!
5. Names starting with the same letter. This can work in moderation, since there’s great variety per each letter, but there’s a world of difference between, e.g., three kids with G names, or two out of six kids with O names, and every single child in a large family with J names, à la those awful Duggars!
Maybe the parents think it’s cute their names both start with N, decide to continue the theme by giving their firstborn an N name, and end up liking it so much they use N names for the rest of their kids. Or they give all the girls C names and all the boys P names. However, that still has the potential to be really cheesy, a cute theme overstaying its welcome.
6. Names with a very similar sound, like Allegra and Electra.
There’s lots of happy medium between names lightyears apart in style and names that sound practically identical.