Category: What Not to Name the Baby
By Aimee Gedge
Recently, the hashtag #GrowingUpWithMyName has been trending on Twitter, enabling people with a gripe about their name to share it with the world. As a name enthusiast, I took interest in the types of names being complained about most, and thought I’d compile some of the most popular reasons. Expectant parents beware – if you’re going to try and avoid every pitfall on this list you will find your baby name list will get a lot shorter very quickly!
A berry named Iamamiam gets credit for this question: What are your favorite unusable names?
Reasons people wouldn’t use the names they love? Association with a tragic story or character is one problem. Difficulty of spelling or pronunciation is another. And then there are those high-drama names that feel like they wouldn’t fit into the modern world.
What are your favorite names that nevertheless can never be used?
Bonus points for telling us why not.
Since parents today invest so much thought and effort into finding the right name for their child, we get a lot of queries asking for advice on what to name the baby, and we do try to accentuate the positive. But we also find it incumbent upon us to point out some of the pitfalls as well. So, here are what we see as the top ten baby-naming mistakes:
1. BYPASSING A NAME YOU LOVE JUST BECAUSE A FRIEND OR FAMILY MEMBER DOESN’T LIKE IT. You’ll soon find that everyone wants to get into the naming act with suggestions and (often negative) opinions, but you’ll regret walking away from one of your favorites because someone else tries to convince you it’s not attractive or stylish.
2. REJECTING A NAME YOU LOVE BECAUSE IT’S TOO HIGH ON THE NATIONAL POPULARITY LIST. Many parents today are obsessed with tracking names on the Social Security most popular list, discarding those they fear are getting overexposed. But truly loving a name is a more important factor in being content with your choice than its standing on any list.
3. BEING TOO CONCERNED WITH A NAME’S LITERAL MEANING. So what if it means ”graceful” in Old German if it’s clunky in Modern American?
5. BOWING TO FAMILY PRESSURE TO CHOOSE A TRADITIONAL NAME. A family favorite or a name that reflects your ethnic or religious heritage can be a wonderful gift to pass on to you child, providing it’s YOUR choice and not your mother-in-law’s.
6. NOT TALKING THROUGH THE NAME DECISION WITH A SPOUSE. Too often, couples get locked in battle over their name favorites rather than talking through the reasons they like the names they do–which would almost certainly lead them to a choice they can agree on.
7. BELIEVING A NAME IS UNUSUAL JUST BECAUSE YOU’VE NEVER HEARD IT BEFORE. Trends change quickly and many names that were virtually unheard of by today’s first-time parents–Harper, Emerson, Sawyer–are epidemic among children of both genders. Check out popularity statistics–and keep an ear open in your neighborhood playground.
10. NAMING A BABY, NOT THE CHILD OR ADULT HE OR SHE WILL BECOME. A diminutive like Jojo or an endearment like Precious might be cute for an infant or toddler, but it’s better to choose a name that will serve your child on the more formal occasions of his or her future.
If you’re looking for some eye-opening name moments, try browsing through some vintage name books and you might be surprised to discover just how dramatically perceptions of some names have changed over time. In some cases what we think of as perfectly valid current choices have actually been written off as dead and gone. Today’s popular Ava, for instance, was rarely thought worthy of inclusion in most name books, even fairly recent ones. But one generation’s dusty skeleton can be reborn as another’s darling baby boy or girl, so it’s a risky business to write off a name (at least post-Etheldred period), as can be seen from the comments below about some names we love today:
ABIGAIL – turned into a cant term for a lady’s maid, and thenceforth has been seldom heard even in a cottage (1884)
CHLOE — its main use has been by pastoral poets (1945)
ESME – is now sometimes given to girls (1945)
MATILDA — among the most disliked names for girls (1967)
SOPHIA – went out of fashion in the 19th century (1945)
VICTORIA – is now almost obsolete (1945)
COLIN — by the 16th century was regarded as a rustic nickname and it gradually died out altogether (1945)
CONNOR — now survives mainly as a surname (1945)
JONAH – most everywhere regarded as sissy (1967)