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Category: Matthew

How Unique is Your Name?

I once wrote a magazine story where I went looking for all the women named Pamela Redmond in America.  It was a strange experience, meeting this wide range of women — a welfare mom in California; a factory worker in Iowa; an architect in New York City — with whom I expected to feel a kinship based on our mutual name.  But didn’t, necessarily.

According to a new tool called How Many of Me?, there are 51 people named Pamela Redmond out there, but only one named Pamela Satran, one of the best arguments I’ve heard for using my husband’s name.  My kids Rory and Owen are similarly one-of-a-kind, though my husband (Richard) and older son (Joseph) share their names with a couple of other people on the planet, undoubtedly long-lost relatives.

If you’re looking for a truly unique name for your baby, or just want to see how common your own name is, check out this tool.  Of course, a lot depends on your last name.  A Smith or a Jackson may have to come up with something really unusual to qualify as unique.  I tested it out and came up with 3,198 Emily Smiths and 3,122 Matthew Jacksons, but only a couple of statistically likely Andromeda Smiths or Jericho Jacksons.

Of course, if your last name is (I picked these out of the phone book) Nienaber or Emenogu, you’ll have a much easier time being distinctive.  You can choose a popular name such as Isabella or Ethan and still be fairly sure your child’s full name will be one-of-a-kind.

You may even feel, if you have a unfamiliar or complicated last name, that it may be preferable to choose a common first name for your baby, that Emily Emenogu will have an easier time overall than Aanisah Emenogu. And you may be right.

Some people try to make a name “more unique” by varying the spelling or pronunciation, turning Ashley into Ashleigh or Ashlea or pronouncing is ash-LAY-uh.  Take this route only if you don’t mind spelling and respelling and explaining a name for the next hundred or so years.  And definitely DON‘T try this if your last name is Smythe.

You may want your baby’s name to be unique.  But there may also be such a thing as too unique.

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