Category: baby name advice
Guest blogger Nina Badzin, a Pushcart Prize-nominated fiction writer, loves baby names so much she wants to pick one for you. Here, her story.
I’m obsessed with baby names. Freakishly obsessed. In fact, I’d like to name your baby.
Ask my friends. I’m breathlessly giddy when someone asks my opinion on a combination of first and middle names with the surname or the siblings’ names. My heart races just thinking about it.
Thank goodness I write fiction, which means I can legitimately waste time on baby-name sites when I’m creating characters. Although last year I actually published a story about a couple arguing in the hospital over what to name their third boy. I warned you–freakishly obsessed.
So . . . clearly I have a problem. But lucky for you, if you’re expanding your family or naming characters for stories and novels, I’m offering my collection of names as a good starting point.
The names below have stood the test of time. Whose test? MINE! Hey–it’s my blog post. What is the “test” based on? Gut feel. That’s all. I like a name or I don’t. But for the purposes of the list below, I tried to provide some sort of logical headings. It should be noted (because I want kudos for my restraint) that I can provide an even longer list of names I think you should avoid, but I’d rather not insult the blogosphere. At least not today.
Ever feel like you’re a baby name klutz and that there are other, infinitely smarter baby namers out there who do everything right and magically arrive at the perfect name with no fuss or wrong turns?
Not true. Here are the five most common mistakes even the smartest baby namers make.
1. They try to psych out the Social Security list.
There’s something about naming a baby that can inspire even the most math phobic among us to turn to the Social Security list of most popular names and try to deconstruct it with the precision of an actuary. But baby name ups and downs depend on much more than statistics, and you can drive yourself crazy trying to psych out the numbers in search of the name that’s unusual but not too weird, stylish but not in danger of getting overpopular.
How better to find names that achieve the golden mean? By consulting nameberry, of course.
2. They’re afraid to tell anyone their name ideas.
Many parents today keep their favorite names secret in fear of namenapping or harsh critiques, and that can be a smart thing in some cases. But it can also keep you from learning a name’s pitfalls, such as that nobody can understand what you’re saying unless you spell it, or that it’s prone to mispronunciation, or that there are three little girls with that name in the local nursery school.
A was the most popular first initial for girls’ names in 2009, the last year for which there are official US statistics, and the most popular first letter overall, with one in eight babies getting a name that starts with A.
Boys’ names were led by J names, starting with the Number 1 Jacob.
C or K? A lot of parents see these initials as interchangeable, with names from the classic (Cate or Kate) to the trendy (Kaylee or Caleigh) . And of course, international variations of certain names may make the first initial C in some cases — Christopher, for instance — but K is others, as with the Dutch or German Kristof.
Kids with names that start with D do worse in school than those whose start with A, B, and C, according to one study.
So you’re looking for family names for your baby. But you’re not willing to pass on some monstrosity just to please mom or be sure you make it into Aunt Elfreda’s will. Rather, you want a name that carries on the best spirit of your family but that’s also wonderful in its own right.
You’re not alone. More than 70 percent of parents surveyed by nameberry say they used family names for their babies. Sometimes they varied the name to suit their taste or used a family name in the middle, but the main aim was to choose a name that honored their family lineage.
1. Survey Your Family For Ideas – Having a baby can be the perfect time to ask your parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles to contribute all the family names and connections they can think of. You may be surprised at the far-flung relatives who emerge or the names that pop up that you never heard of before. When my husband and I asked our families for this information, for instance, we discovered long-lost relatives named Leopold, Owen, Jane, and Victor, all of which we liked as first names.
2. Look Beyond First Names To Surnames and Place Names – Past the usual Josephs and Elizabeths on our family trees were intriguing surnames such as Dillon and Early, along with a line of relatives from a town called Paisley, any of which could work as first names.
3. Climb Through Family Trees – Sites such as ancestry.com can help you climb into the further reaches of your family tree – or even someone else’s. Even if you don’t find any actual relatives there, you may be able to explore names used in families with the same surname as yours. So what if Clarissa or Clement may not be your bona fide second cousins 12 times removed? They could be, and maybe getting the era and the ethnicity right is close enough.
4. Consult Government Registries – More and more birth, marriage, and death records can be found online now, offering a wealth of information for the industrious baby namer. I was able to trace the Scottish side of my family back to the early 1800s with the help of Scotland’s online government resources where I discovered such delectable family names as Grey. And the new online Irish census records served up all the middle names and maiden names from my Irish grandmother’s family.
5. Search Other Historical Sources – Once you exhaust the available information on your own family, you can look through everything from old ship manifests such as those available on the Ellis Island site to the early Social Security popularity lists to old books available for free via kindle or google books for ideas of names and nicknames popular in the past.
6. Embrace the Nickname – One way to use a genuine family name but make it your own is to come up with a new nickname for Percival Charles III, calling your child Perry or Charley or maybe Mac instead of PC. Or you can go in another direction and call your child Maggie after grandma, for instance, but give her Magdalena rather than Margaret as a proper name.
7. Be Creative – You don’t need to be constrained by outmoded ideas or naming practices when spinning a family name to suit your child. Reviving great-grandma’s maiden name can be an excellent way to name a son after a female ancestor, for instance, and there’s no reason you can’t give your daughter your granddad’s first name in the middle. You can use a first letter as inspiration, or even look for a new name with the same meaning as an ancestral original.
Popular baby names go through cycles: They rise to the top, but then in a year or a decade, most fall away to be replaced by….
Well, by new names that are often pretty darn similar to the old ones. In the 80s, Jennifer was number one, until it was replaced by Jessica. Emily held the top spot for several years, and then was supplanted by Emma.
The reason for this same-but-different pattern is so simple and logical it hardly bears stating — but we’ll do so anyway. Popular baby names, by definition, are those that are favored by a wide range of people. Except once they become too popular for too long, parents don’t want to choose them, no matter how much they may still like them.
So they look for names that are the same, but different. That have some twist that makes them new, while retaining the appeal of the originals.
Many of the most popular baby names today have close cousins waiting in the wings, ready to move up and replace the well-liked but overused favorites of today.