Category: Name Image

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Name Stereotyping: Are you guilty?

naughtykid

Is Jesse a “bad boy name“?, a visitor to our message boards asked.

She wanted to know because she loved the name Jesse but was afraid that any boy named Jesse would be stereotyped as wild, naughty, rebellious — a bad kid.

That question summoned up an issue that simmers beneath many discussions on names: What’s the image that name conveys, and do we want to take that on for our child?

To put it more plainly, do some names carry stereotypes, positive or negative, that go beyond our individual expectations and experiences?  Are you guilty of stereotyping people based on their names, and what names carry the strongest stereotypes for you?

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disapprov2

Today’s Question of the Week was inspired by a suggestion from anniebee:

What iffy reactions have some of your choices gotten from non-name fans?

Have you ever gotten a quizzical look, a raised eyebrow—or worse—in response to one of your faves, a name known and loved on Nameberry, but which others out there in the nonberry world might never have even heard before—or else find hopelessly old-fashioned?

What is the most extreme reaction you’ve received to your name choice either while you were still considering it or after you had already used it for your child?

What was your response to their response?

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Shakespeare names

One of the most basic yet most essential of questions this week: How important is a name?

Is a name central to one’s identity and destiny? Does a buttoned-up William have a better chance at a bank presidency than a free-wheeling Wylie? Are you making an important difference to your child’s future when you choose his or her name?

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High-Energy Names

bouncingbypatdavid

When I was expecting my first child, I wanted a name with a lot of energy, for reasons that seem insane from the perspective of having raised three kids. But I didn’t anticipate that a high-energy toddler might run me ragged; I just knew I wanted my little boy or girl to be active, outgoing, not hobbled by the shyness and insecurities I felt had plagued my own childhood.

Well, I got my wish. Rory burst into the world, all 9 pounds, 5 ounces of her, with a shock of jet black hair and a voice that woke the whole maternity ward. At two weeks old, she was able to stand on my husband’s lap and sing along with him. As she grew, she starred in all the school plays and dominated on the lacrosse field.

The search for a high-energy name was part of the inspiration for our first name book. It was so difficult to sift through all the conventional name dictionaries on the market at the time and try to find names that sounded energetic (and Irish and that meant red, two of my other criteria). There should be a name book that put all the energetic-sounding names in one place, I thought, along with all the names that sounded smart and stylish, that were good for redheads or popular in the 1920s. That’s the thinking I brought to the first Beyond Jennifer & Jason (Linda, meanwhile, a friend and fellow writer, had conceived the same idea from a different direction), now grown up to Beyond Ava & Aiden.

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kidsbks

There are countless books for kids with first names in their titles—from Harold and the Purple Crayon to Madeline to Fancy Nancy to Olivia—but there aren’t very many books for children about names, with scenarios revolving around such name issues as how they relate to identity, popularity, etc

I have found a few books aimed at preschoolers that do address some of these questions, most of them  almost inevitably ending—no matter what the problem– with the child accepting and loving his or her own name, sometimes by finding the right nickname.  And several of the books have the added attraction of containing big bunches of appealing (or silly) names.

So here they are, for your name nerd in the making:

The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi (Alfred A. Knopf, 2001)

This is the gentle tale of a little Korean girl newly arrived with her family in America, beginning her first day of school.  When her classmates find her Korean name, Unhei, difficult to spell and pronounce, she wonders if she should have her own American name, and so the other kids try to help by putting name suggestions into a jar.  Daisy?  Miranda?  Madison? Avery? In the end, Unhei reconnects with her own culture, loving her name for its meaning and its link to her Korean family and heritage.  (I happen to know a five-year-old girl with Chinese roots and a Chinese name, whose favorite book this is.)

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