Category: Name Image
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?
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.
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.)
Question of the Week: How much does a person’s name affect your opinion of them?
Do you get a mental image of people before meeting them, setting up positive or negative expectations because they have a name you like–or don’t?? Ever turn down a blind date because of his/her name? Could you imagine yourself married to an Egbert or a Hortense?
On the other hand, does having a beautiful name add something special to a person’s appeal (as it does for me with my British friend Araminta)?
Has knowing a person changed your image of their name?
Do you judge people by what they’ve named their children—even a little bit– and even though you know you shouldn’t?
Many of us spend an entire nine months – or even longer – weighing the relative merits of names for our babies.
But it’s possible to judge most names much more quickly than that, at least accurately enough to tell whether they belong on your short list.
Here, nameberry’s top quick and easy tips for judging a baby’s name.
WHAT’S YOUR INSTANT REACTION?
The book Blink theorized that the reaction we have to something in the first few seconds has important long-term meaning, and that counts for a name. Perhaps you can learn to love a name that at first seems weird and old-fashioned like Leopold or get over your image of Ruth as the kid you knew who had green teeth, but better to choose a name that, the minute you hear it, makes you feel positive and full of anticipation for meeting the person who owns it.
HOW MANY SYLLABLES DOES IT HAVE?
The most compatible first names will have a different number of syllables than your surname…and a different number from the middle name too. So a syllable combination of 2-3-1 – Rufus Barnaby Flynn, for instance – or 3-1-2 or 1-3-4 is best.
Of course, my three children all have two-syllable names paired with our two-syllable last name and I didn’t even realize it for about 20 years. But if I had, I would have picked names with uneven numbers of syllables as I think that rhythm is most pleasing to the ear.
WHAT WOULD THE INITIALS BE?
We’ve always made fun of those dumb rulebooks that advise you not to give your child initials that spell out P.I.G. or A.S.S. Duh. Of course you wouldn’t do that.
But what about something like S.T.D.? Writing out the potential initials and checking them twice can be worthwhile. Studies show that people with initials that spell out positive things – A.C.E. or V.I.P. – live nearly five years longer than those with negative ones.
CHECK OUT THE CHART
No reason to invent an algorithm for divining the future population of every name on the Social Security’s Top 1000. Instead, simply check out the popularity chart we include for every name on the SS list. You can tell at a glance how quickly a name is motoring upward, as Leila is here http://nameberry.com/babyname/Leila, and how consistent its use has been over time. At least in terms of popularity, this can give you all the information you really need.
HOW SIMPLE IS IT TO UNDERSTAND?
Take it on a test drive, trying it out on, say, half a dozen people. You don’t have to tell them it’s a name you’re considering for your baby; that may skew the results. Instead, say you’d just met someone named Dashiell, for instance, and ask whether they’ve ever hear of the name.
If the overall response is confusion, repeated requests for spelling and pronunciation, and misunderstanding the name as everything from Daniel to Cashel, you can be pretty sure that will be the response throughout your child’s life. You may decide you love the name enough to put up with it, but at least you’ll know what you’re getting yourself and your child into.