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Category: Dos, Don’ts, Rules, & Guidelines

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Unisex names and the question of whether a child’s gender should be evident via his or her name is one that comes up frequently on Nameberry.  It’s an issue that’s changed a lot over the years we’ve been writing about baby names and that varies substantially in different cultures.

Starting with the baby boomlet of the 1980s, the first wave of feminist parents gave girls androgynous names like Morgan and Parker to make them more competitive with boys…..while parents of boys abandoned unisex names in favor of more traditional masculine choices.   Next came names that broke away from traditional boy or girl choices — Logan and Lake, Bellamy and Finn — but still somehow held onto a gendered identity.

Despite vast changes in naming practices around the world, some ancient cultures accommodate names that work for either sex — Japan is a notable example — while other countries such as Norway require that names carry gender identity.  Germany changed its naming laws in 2008 to allow the use of unisex names.

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A few weeks ago we asked the Nameberry moms and dads to tell us their best baby names rules.  What followed were hundreds of suggestions, from the idiosyncratically individual (All middle names must be Celtic and begin with R) to rules so universal they might apply to everyone.

Rule Number 1, according to one berry?  No dumb names.  We’re down with that, along with these 21 other smart, sensible rules that every modern baby namer should follow:

1.     No yooneek spellings.  Name your son (or daughter) Peyton or even Payton.  But not Peighton, Patyn, or Paitynne.

2.     No made-up names.  Translating a meaningful place or word into a name is all right, but don’t manufacture a name from whole cloth.  Jaunel and Calton, we’re looking at you.

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Canadian guest blogger and name book writer Shandley McMurray offers some advice on global baby names–picking a name that will travel well. (And those are her beautiful kids in the illustration.)

Growing up with a name like Shandley in Canada wasn’t always easy. I became tired of correcting people’s spelling and pronunciation of it, and, of course, I bemoaned the lack of personalized products like pens and rulers that adorned the desks of my more traditionally-named friends. Then, the world’s increasing reliance on email made things even more difficult, with online editors and others I hadn’t met in person often referring to me as Mr. rather than Ms. in their correspondence.

Now don’t get me wrong—I’ve always loved my name. I’m a loud and opinionated free spirit and a quieter name like Elizabeth or Ashley just wouldn’t have fit. My name set me apart and I took pride in the fact that my parents had invented such a unique name.  So when it came time to name my own children, I thought long and hard about my decision.

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Baby Name Rules: What are YOURS?

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We were intrigued by this thread on baby name rules over on the Nameberry forums, where visitors detail their personal and family rules for choosing names.

It made us want to write down our own baby name rules; I mean, our personal rules as well as Nameberry’s rules.

As a mom, I’d say my rules for my kids’ names were that they:

Sound distinct from each other. My husband’s family has a Tom and a Tim, a Jane and a John, and I wanted to avoid that kind of matchy-matchy thing.  So one of my first rules was that my kids’ names sound very different from each other. I didn’t anticipate that Rory, Joseph, and Owen would end up being called Ro, Joe, and O.

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Forbidden Baby Names

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When a name like Talula Does The Hula from Hawaii gets banned, it makes big news. But there are lots of other names that, now and since the beginning of recorded name time, have quietly been relegated to the forbidden list.  No judge may have pounded a gavel, no name-sensitive Napoleon decreed a law against outlandish names as he did in France.  But these names have nevertheless been shunned by parents in the Western World – and sometimes even by those who’ve been unlucky enough to be born with them.

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