Baby Name Advice: Use the Name You Love
By Abby Sandel
When it comes to baby naming, here’s my number one rule: Use the name you love.
That sounds straightforward. And yet, as we consider names, we come across all sorts of concerns – often from those closest to us.
The result? A shortlist of three or four great names starts to seem much more complicated.
Most objections are based on generational differences, or others’ personal preferences. It’s good to listen – remember Poppy Montgomery’s story about the near-naming disaster her father-in-law averted? But for every serious, name-changing observation, a great many comments are best ignored.
Here are nine frequently-cited concerns that shouldn’t come between you and your favorite name.
Popularity isn’t a bad thing – Choose a conventional name, like Ethan or Emma, and you might be warned that your child will be lost in a sea of same-named children. While it’s true that we all know an Ethan or two, that’s because it’s a great name. There’s something to be said for embracing well-liked choices. Your Emma can choose from dozens of other notable Emmas to admire, from Jane Austen’s heroine to the actress who played Hermione Granger. Of course, if you’re surprised to hear that Harper and Liam have cracked the US Top Ten, you might want to spend some time with the popularity lists.
Weird often just means unfamiliar – Maybe you’re going for different, and you know your choice might raise a few eyebrows. More often, this statement isn’t about your favorite name – it’s about the other person’s unfamiliarity with current trends. Malachi, Maverick, Axel, Everett, and Leonardo are in the US boys’ Top 200. The girls’ list includes Leilani, Harmony, Athena, Everly, and Willow. They’re names your mom might not recognize – but they’re perfectly mainstream today.
Everything old is new again – Speaking of trends, if you don’t spend time with very small children, you probably don’t know which names have made a comeback. I’ve heard Evelyn, Cora, and Hazel rejected as too old-fashioned, along with Henry, Ezra, and Julian – all Top 100 picks as of 2015. Take a deep breath and remember that names move in cycles. If your mom loved Brandon and Melissa in the 1980s, odds are she still thinks those would make great names for her grandchildren, and can’t imagine why you’d consider Elliott and Georgia.
Those “rhymes with” and “sounds like” take work! – Everything kind of-sort of sounds like something. Most of these objections bring to mind the classic Nicolas Cage Saturday Night Live skit, where the dad-to-be rejects Joe because it rhymes with blow and Todd because it sounds like tadpole. So if your sister frets that Paisley sounds too much like lazy, don’t give it another thought.
Few pop culture associations really stick – That same classic SNL skit hypothesizes that any child named Paul would be asked about Peter and Mary, as in 1960s folk trio Peter, Paul, and Mary. But let’s face it – even powerful cultural references rarely last more than a generation. Most Reagans weren’t named for Ronald, and calling your daughter Luna doesn’t make you a Potterhead. Only the most distinctive names – think Renesmee and Katniss – stay wedded to books and movies, and even that’s not necessarily forever.
A beautiful new baby can erase many a memory – What to do when the comment is, “I knew an awful person with that name?” If the awful person set off a chain of disastrous events worthy of a country-western song, well – maybe you shouldn’t name your daughter Jolene. But most of the time, the person has faded to the distant past – the bully from your mom’s fourth grade class, someone your sister vaguely remembers from her first job. I promise that if you do use the name, love for your child will eclipse those unpleasant memories.
Kids are pretty chill – We often worry that kids will be cruel, but actually, kids these days are pretty accepting. The pool of names in use is diverse, and often children can’t distinguish between a popular name and a rare one.
All names grow up – I’ve heard this one called “the Supreme Court Test.” Names considered trendy or cute, the argument goes, will never sound properly grown-up. Except it’s not so. As a generation ages, so do their names. Eventually, Kaylee and Tyler will take on leadership roles – and it won’t seem strange at all when Skylar introduces herself as your heart surgeon. Oh, and speaking of the Supreme Court? We’ve had justices named Rufus, Felix, Wiley, Smith, Thurgood, Sandra, and Elena. Traditional names are not a requirement for professional success.
Names can be used for girls, and still be great for boys – Are there girls named Hunter and Ryan? Yes. (We’ve got the numbers in this story.) But don’t assume occasional – or even frequent – use for girls makes a name off-limits for boys. Rowan, Charlie, Jordan, River, Reese, and many more have been used for both boys and girls in significant numbers. Love the idea of naming your son Ellis, Maxwell, or Jude, but worried because you’ve heard of girls with the name? Rest easy. They still wear well for a son.
Did you encounter any of these objections when naming your children? How did you handle them?
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on November 7th, 2016 at 12:19 am
This article feels like a breath of fresh air! 🙂
on November 7th, 2016 at 5:16 am
Popularity isn’t a bad thing –
A recent study here in Britain showed that 1 in 5 mothers admit to ‘namer’s remorse’, not including the number of women who perhaps refused to admit it, meaning that in reality that statistic is probably much higher. Bearing that in mind, the primary reason (25%) for women regretting their child’s name was that said name was too commonly used. That, to me, is very telling. More often than not we are told that if we truly love the name, than its popularity won’t faze us but, really, is that true?
Because when you think about it, a vast majority of people getting ready to have children nowadays don’t really have much contact with children overall. So when we research statistics, even when we’re looking at the numbers, we still don’t have a real concept of just how popular that favourite common name is. And we continue not to know, until we have a child and realise that our little James has three more in his class, with roughly ten frequenting the local playground, maybe another six in the neighbourhood and, oh! A few of your friends/family members have just had boys, and half of them have decided to go with James!
Do you see what I mean? For some people, popularity is not a problem at all but for people who are on the fence about it, finding out that, say, Beatrice, is no longer the vintage-chic name they thought it was, because it’s become so popular and thus watered-down and uninspired, can be quite upsetting. Do I think that the “Popularity isn’t a bad thing” argument should be dismissed? No. But I think that people who could go either way on that statement should have a sit down, and properly consider the pros and cons of the common names they’re interested in.
Having said that, I really enjoyed reading this article!
on November 7th, 2016 at 12:45 pm
I think a lot of the popularity aspect comes down to why you are choosing the name. If you are choosing a name you really love, has family history or an inspired namesake, or a meaning you adore, then popularity probably won’t bother you a whole lot. But if you are choosing a name to impress people with your creativity, then it probably matters if the name you chose feels “watered down and uninspired.”
Abby Sandel Said
on November 7th, 2016 at 1:51 pm
Thank you @cmariac!
Abby Sandel Said
on November 7th, 2016 at 1:53 pm
@Lisaahs – Very good point. It is crushing to think you’ve landed on an unusual name – only to realize it was actually in the Top 20 for the year your child was born! Our son’s name was very popular – still is! – when we chose it 12 years ago. But it’s a family name, so it wouldn’t matter if it hit #1.
Abby Sandel Said
on November 7th, 2016 at 1:54 pm
Thanks @AldabellaxWulfe – And you’re right. If you’re the first among your family and friends to have children, then you just won’t know what’s common and what’s unusual when it comes to names – which can definitely make for a challenge.
on November 7th, 2016 at 8:43 pm
Please comment on this related forum?
on November 9th, 2016 at 6:00 am
This is a great post. Many of the points here are ones that I have been thinking of myself. It’s easy to talk yourself out of using a name. I do think that it’s possible to overthink the issue of popularity, and also, for people who aren’t familiar with current statistics, to actually be incorrect about the popularity rates, which do change constantly. I’ve heard people saying that they want to avoid the name Adele because of the association with the singer, just as one example – when they had been previously hoping to use the name. The thing is, people not only don’t know whether Adele will still be well-known in twenty years time – but also, they can’t tell whether the name they choose instead is going to be the next household name – so really, why worry? I’ve heard – don’t want to use Harper because of the Beckhams or Charlotte because of the Royal couple using it (hardly surprising, given that it’s traditionally a Royal name). It would be better if people relaxed and went with their hearts, for the most part. I like both popular and unusual names, and I don’t feel that it matters that much. It’s a factor, but not the be and end all.
on November 15th, 2016 at 3:52 pm
Loving this! Especially as we’ve just named our new baby girl Rudy Lyla Buttercup and it took us six weeks to register her thanks to partly not agreeing with each other but mostly because other people seemed to hate the name Rudy (mostly my in laws and partners grandparents). Apparently Rudy is a boys name and Buttercup isn’t an acceptable name for a grown woman! So we spent the first six weeks of her life not calling her by any name and fretting about finding an alternative name to the one we’d already picked! I found myself defending my choice with all of the above arguments, I wish now we had just told them this was her name from the beginning so they had no choice but to accept it rather than seeing it as an opportunity to voice their own opinions on what we should call her!
on November 30th, 2016 at 7:59 am
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on December 3rd, 2016 at 6:03 pm
We definitely dealt with some naysayers when choosing the name Archimedes for our son; some relatives found it far too old fashioned, others called it “weird” and “exotic”, and we also got presented by many with the argument that he would picked on in school. So far the other infants I’ve met of late have been boys named Fox, and Alastair, and girls Nora, Penelope, and Kingsley. So I think Archimedes, or Archie as we sometimes call him, will be just fine on the playground.
on December 13th, 2016 at 4:47 am
This good and I would like to thank you for this. See the meaning of the baby name Aubour http://www.suggestbabynames.com/meaning_of_english_boyname_aubour.html
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