Category: baby name mistakes
Wednesday, May 25 is a big day for the small screen. After twenty-five years as the reigning queen of daytime television, Oprah Winfrey will broadcast her last show. She’s not headed from retirement – far from it. Ms. Winfrey commands a media empire, from her own television network to magazines to Harpo Productions, responsible for everything from feature films to satellite radio shows.
The story about her given name is well known. Born in rural Mississippi, her aunt chose the name Orpah from the Book of Ruth, and that’s the name recorded on her birth certificate. But Orpah never really stuck, and family and friends morphed the Biblical obscurity into a whole new name, destined for greatness.
Oprah isn’t the only name formed by a happy accident. Sometimes they’re actual errors made by the officials responsible for issuing birth certificates. Basketball player Antawn Jamison was supposed to be named Antwan – the phonetic spelling of Antoine – but his parents decided they liked the mistake.
Invented baby names get a bad rap, but there are a surprising number of mistakes, flukes, and misinterpretations that have led to some well-established names.
Annabel – She first appears in medieval Scotland. Amabel, Mabel, and other names based on Amabilis – an early saint’s name from the Latin for lovable – were common. Annabel appears to be either an error in recording, or possibly a sign that creative baby namers have been at work for centuries.
Aveline – Parents are rediscovering her as something of an Ava-Adeline smoosh, but she was used in medieval England, either from the Germanic element avi – desired, or possibly from the Latin avis – bird. She’s also the forerunner of Evelyn.
Imogen – William Shakespeare’s Cymbeline is loosely based on a real-life king of the Britons. King Cymbeline has a daughter called Imogen – except that Shakespeare almost certainly called her Innogen, from a Gaelic word for maiden. Despite references to Innogen in the Bard’s notes, Imogen is used almost exclusively today.
Jade – She’s an ornamental stone and a popular choice for daughters in recent decades. The Spanish name was originally piedra de ijada – stone of the flank. It was thought that jade could cure ailments of the kidneys. In French, piedra de ijada became l’ejade, and the English interpreted it as le jade. Jade has been the English name for the stone since the 1600s.
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.
The question of the week: Have you ever experienced namer’s remorse?
This is a term heard more and more frequently in the baby name world, describing the feeling of parents when they think they could have made a better choice for their child.
Have you ever regretted picking the name you picked?
If so, was this an immediate reaction as soon as you saw your baby, or did it happen later, when it just didn’t feel like the right fit?
Or did it happen when the name became mega-popular—or when you came to realize that it already was?
A compromise choice you regret making?
A response to negative reactions you got when people heard the name? Spelling or pronunciation problems?
Was it just a twinge or was your remorse strong enough for you to consider actually making a legal change?
Anyone out there who did make a change?
Novelist Christina Baker Kline, whose wonderful new book Bird in Hand comes out this week, writes about how even someone who names fictional people for a living can make mistakes when naming real live babies. Like when she named her three sons: Eli, his brother William, and his other brother William.
You’d think that someone who spends her days creating and naming characters might have gotten the hang of it by the time she had to name some actual humans. That’s what I thought, at least. In fact, I was rather smug about it. A novelist spends a lot of time, over the course of writing 300 pages, with the characters she names, so you learn to choose carefully.
Names can instantly reveal a person‘s class, age, social standing, and even race. They have positive and negative connotations. And the wrong name can be disastrous. For example, a friend of mine named Brandy is an award-winning journalist who has had to battle people’s preconceptions all her life about her name. I would never do that to a character!
So why did I do it to my kids?
(I‘m charitably saying “I,” but for the record my husband was an equal and willing partner in this.)
We named our firstborn William Hayden Baker Kline (yes, four names – bear with me), after my father, William Baker, and a whole lot of Hadens — we added the “y” — in my husband’s family tree. We signed the birth certificate, sent out printed announcements, and received everything from picture frames to baby rattles to blankets with “William Hayden” and his birthdate inscribed.
But over the next few weeks, we began to second-guess. This child was round and jolly, with curly red hair: a baby leprechaun. The princely name of William just didn’t fit. But Hayden – yes! He was definitely a Hayden, a hobbity child of the heather-grown hills. It was the perfect name for him, and, we thought, relatively undiscovered.