Back in April 2013, my wife and I welcomed our first child, a boy, into our budding family. Defying the common stereotype, I was the one (rather than my wife) who frequented Nameberry, scoured the Social Security Administration’s name statistics, and kept my eyes peeled for any possible baby name inspirations. Fitting of my obsessive personality, I created a spreadsheet with information on every name we thought had potential. More than just a list of names, this document contained detailed entries for each name including the meaning, the origin, the current ranking, and the number of children given the name in the previous year. The list was impressive, if I do say so myself.
Nonetheless, when it was finally time to choose a name for our son, we went with the choice we had first decided upon four years prior: Silas. Though the name has been on the rise over the last several years (a small drop on the popularity list last year will surely prove an anomaly now that the Timberlakes have given their son the same name), we still love it and find that it fits our son perfectly.
Now that we’re expecting our second, the process is following a similar trajectory, with one key difference: there are no true front runners. We still have the spreadsheet from last time (which, I must confess, I never technically stopped editing), but nothing really feels like “the one” yet. We’re a few weeks out from learning the gender, so we’re currently still searching for names for a girl or a boy. Our hope is to have strong contenders (if not a definite choice) by the time we know if the bubblegum cigars will be blue or pink.
In terms of requirements, we don’t necessarily have a “style” of name we’re looking for. However, as a writer, I’m always aware of word flow, so I do search for a sort of rhythm and prosody when constructing a name. With our two-syllable last name, it would be nice to have some variation in syllables for the first and middle. At the same time, I’m fairly opposed to a first name that starts with M, since I’m not really a fan of alliterative names. I would also be hesitant to use a name that ends in the long E sound, for fear of it sounding too “rhymey.”
One obstacle I’ve discovered in searching for names is that many of them don’t feel very fresh this time around. Even names that were runners-up last time don’t have the same appeal as they once did. I think this stems from what I like to call name fatigue—the familiarity that comes with being overly exposed to names. This condition doesn’t necessarily relate to the popularity of names; after all, our son’s name is in the top 200. It’s more related to the fact that I’ve read through the SSA name stats so many times that I seldom discover a name that feels new or different. As a result, I’ve begun to look to other places that could offer undiscovered gems or shed new light on names I would have merely skimmed over previously.
My wife and I enjoy literature, so we’ve started considering authors and their characters as a potential source of ideas. Our bookshelves hold a wide range of selections, including works by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Langston Hughes, Willa Cather, Nella Larsen, Cormac McCarthy, Jasper Fforde, Raymond Chandler, William Faulkner, Zadie Smith, and Teju Cole. In addition to their own names, some of the characters in their works offer other viable options: Gatsby, Cora, Emil, Irene, Ely, Thursday, Vivian, Quentin, Felix, and Julius. The range of names here may seem eclectic, but it does help when trying to think outside the box.
Another option is to search for a family connection. For our son, we used a family surname as his middle: Liles. We love that it carries meaning, so we would be willing to take that route again. Luckily, our family trees contain several types of names for our consideration. There are some last names with first name potential: Giles, Ivey, Thatcher, and Yates. As well as vintage-sounding names: Agnes, Arthur, Doris, Louise, Mamie, Solomon, and Vada. The attraction about these names is that they offer great options for both first and middle names.
While we’re not set on any of these names, it’s been challenging (in a good way) to search for unexpected inspiration. In spite of these obstacles and issues, this whole process is a fun and enjoyable one. I never really stopped hunting for names, and now that I have an end goal it’s that much more compelling. We can’t wait to discover the perfect name during these next months.