The Duggars are a family made famous by reality television. They had a number of TLC specials, and then eventually a TLC show, following the (very planned) "adventures" of their "Quiverfull" family. "Quiverfull" is a religious philosophy of reproduction in which no birth control is used (with few exceptions). The idea is to accept any children as gifts from god. Not everyone's cup of tea, but what it does mean is that they choose A LOT of baby names. In the case of the Duggars, they also chose to stick with a letter them. All J names. They currently have 19 living children and one deceased child (stillborn at 20 weeks). Their eldest son has also started a family already and appears to be going with an "M" theme.
Thus, the Duggar challenge is to choose 20 baby names that start with the same letter, and do not get confusing or sound bad together. Oh, and you have to like them! After all, these are your kids names.
Here are the names of the real Duggar children.
Jedidiah, Jeremiah, Jessa, Jennifer
Joshua, John, Jordyn (f),
Joseph, Josiah, Johanna, Josie
Did you figure out how they are sorted? It's not age.
What this "challenge" really got me focusing on was phonetics - how the same first letter can fit together with others to make very different sounds. Thus the above list is sorted by vowel sound - short A, long A, short E (long E is absent), short I (long I is absent), Short O, Long O, Short U, Long U, Diphthongs (oi/oy, au/ow). These various vowels mean that for almost any consonant, you have at least 12 different "sound" options. Any consonants that can be paired offer additional options - (ex: Bl, Pr, Ch, St, etc). Some consonants make multiple sounds - C can sound like K or S,and here J can take on a Y sound (Johanna).
The above sibset is relatively varied, but has a lot of repetition around the long o, I mean Joseph, and Josie are variants of the same name and Josiah is not far off. Joy-Anna and Johanna are also a bit too close for my comfort. I would like to see a Jane, Jade, Jewel, Jean, or June instead.
But could I do any better?
I started playing around with some letters. I started with B, since I already had a Benjamin, and found that while I easily could get ten boy's names I like that start with B, I could get almost no where with girls. So, onto some other letters. The first letter I was successful at turned out to be "L"
So here is my answer to the Duggar Challenge:
Lazlo, Landon, Laurel
Learner, Lester, Lexi,
Lief, Leander, Liesl
Lily, Lydia, Lisbeth, Lincoln
I think this list is pretty good - no repeated root names (no Lucy to match my Lucian), no sound alike names (no Lorah and Laurel), and they are pretty spread out in terms of vowel sounds. My biggest remaining concern about it is that Lexi is more of a nickname than I would normally prefer. There are a few names in here that I LOVE (Lazlo has been a favorite since I read The Alienist), but most of them are just names I like, not love. And that is really the problem with a naming theme like this, you are locked in to finding the best of names you like instead of that one name you love.
This post has mostly been for my amusement. What do you think, could you name 20 kids with the same letter? Can you even imagine having that many kids? I am not sure I can....