Category: baby name choice
Let’s imagine, for one shining moment, that your partner in baby-having says, “You pick the name, honey. I’ll be good with whatever you choose.”
Let’s suppose that this generous-minded partner even says, “You have such awesome taste in names, you can name all our children: First name, middle name — heck, even do the last name any way you want.”
You can name the kids after your mother, if you choose, or use grandma’s maiden name, and your partner won’t even lobby to slip names from their (see how I’m avoiding saying his) side of the family into the equation.
So….what do you do?
When I was naming each of my three children, I was overwhelmed (my family would say obsessed) with the near impossible task of encoding more of life into one word than seemed possible. My third child, a girl, proved an unprecedented challenge. My husband, mystified, would tell me to choose a name I just liked.
But my process was different, I insisted. There had to be an origami of symbolism! “You’re like Borges,” one friend told me, confronted with an ornate justification for the name May. I don’t think he meant it as a compliment. Assorted friends and family looked questioningly at similar extrapolations on favorites like Roxana, Inka, Frieda, Silvia, Maren, Louisa, and Judith (nickname Jude, what’s not to like?). Just keep thinking, my mother advised. And think I did, though with increasing guilty anxiety. Why was it so hard?
I’m always amused to see the different timetables that our forum visitors put on choosing baby names.
Help! Only four weeks to go and no name!!, one expectant parent will panic.
Others only feel urgency around baby names when the labor pains kick in, while some berries have their baby names complete with middles lined up years before they’re expecting, and still others are vacillating about the name months or years after their child’s birth.
Obviously, everyone has their own definition of what a perfect name is, but for Pam and me, as expressed in our books, it has always been distilled into the phrase fitting in/standing out.
Located in the sweet spot between the hundreds of names that are epidemically popular–common enough for their distinctive images to be diluted–and those that are too unusual, too extreme– is a kind of golden triangle of lightly used names that have meaning, history, depth, and appeal, yet won’t provoke any raised eyebrows, names that will allow your child to both fit in with her peers and stand out among them.
Lately I’m wondering: is all this talk about baby names changing the names we use?
A century ago, parents could draw inspiration from the newspaper, the Bible, literature, music, and anything on the family tree. There was room for creativity, but actual data gathering would have been difficult.
Today a few keystrokes will tell you how many girls were named Isabella last year, or whether hundreds of random strangers think that Ethan Alexander is a good name for your son. No wonder an expectant mom actually grimaced when I asked her if they’d chosen a name yet.
With all of this information, could it be that trends will accelerate? Will we talk ourselves out of using great names? I’ve heard of dozens of parents deciding against their top choice for fear that Stella is the next Ava. Or maybe they’re desperately searching for a name just like Logan, but much less popular, without actually being too unusual.