Baby Names: Advice from Twitter
By Abby Sandel
Let’s talk #growingupwithmyname.
If you’re expecting a child, do the complaints translate into good baby naming advice?
In many cases, the answer is no. Not unless you’re willing to change your surname, or hire a psychic to anticipate every pop culture association imaginable. After all, Alejandro was a perfectly ordinary name until Lady Gaga’s hit 2010 single, and who would’ve guessed that every Anna would be asked if she has a sister called Elsa?
But there’s wisdom in crowds, and this hashtag is no exception. Read on for nine lessons about choosing baby names gleaned from thousands of people who don’t always love the choices their parents made.
One in the crowd – We sometimes assume that kids will dislike having an unusual name, but #growingupwithmyname often followed complaints about being one in the crowd. “Wait, no … the other Emily,” or “Someone says Sarah and like 87 people turn around.” There are good reasons to use the most common names, especially as the percentage of children receiving Top Ten names continues to drop. But one of the hazards of a popular choice is that your child might feel like he always has to share.
Forget the souvenirs – The opposite extreme seems to be a problem, too. Unusual names like Cremia and Karanna have to be repeated and respelled more than once. Even in our on-demand age, #growingupwithmyname often lamented never finding a personalized keychain. Then again, restrict your search to the fifty or so most popular names guaranteed to be available on a coffee mug, and you might have the first problem.
What’s that short for? – Parents are increasingly naming their children Kate instead of Katherine, Jack instead of John. But Maggie (not Margaret), Sam (just Sam), and Allie (no, it’s not short for anything) reported frustration that their informal name was perceived as incomplete. But the solution isn’t necessarily giving your child a formal name. Kitt and Drew both tired of explaining that yes, Kitt is short for Christopher, and Drew is really Andrew.
#growingupwithmyname “did your mum just go through the alphabet?” “that can’t be your real name, is it short for something?” no, no, NO!
Close, but not quite – Plenty of the #growingupwithmyname rants were about confusing names. Ashlyn is always called Ashley, Kaylin gets Kaitlyn and Kaylee, and Brianda is forever losing her d. Creative twists on current favorites seem to be the biggest problems, but clusters of similar names can cause headaches, too – like Brian, Brandon, Brendan, and Brayden.
Let me spell it for you – Crystle tweeted, “No one knows how to spell it, not even my own aunt.” Ouch! Malorie, Jerimiah, Arianah, Maddi, and Maddison all had similar tales of woe. But the prize goes to Emilee. When she spells her name, people often reply, “Oh, I can spell Emily.” Plenty of names have multiple popular spellings, like Catherine/Katherine/Kathryn and Louis/Lewis. And yet, it’s still a struggle.
#growingupwithmyname My kindergarten teacher managed to convince me that I spelled my name wrong so I spelled it sonYa for a year 🙂
— sonja vidovi? (@sonjatheserb) January 27, 2016
Everyone looks for a boy – You knew this one was coming! And yet, it wasn’t nearly as common as you might guess. Riley, Colby, Taylor, and Tyler vented about #growingupwithmyname and being mistaken for a he instead of a she. But so did Frances.
#growingupwithmyname “oh you’re a girl?”
— ron (@ronniwarddd_) January 28, 2016
What’s your real name? – No one believes that Blaze and Ginger could really be their real names, and they’re not alone. When it comes to #growingupwithmyname, dramatic choices that really are given names – can raise eyebrows. With bold, braggadocio names on the rise, either we’ll all get used to people with names like Legend – or we’ll have lots more to tweet about.
I’ve never heard that one before – Another complaint? Jokes! Bad jokes, repeated constantly. Autumn was asked about Winter, Orlando Smith became Orlando Florida, Christian’s faith was questioned, Destiny was asked about the future. Is this a reason to avoid word names? Since many of these names are mainstream favorites, and even Faith, Grace, and April suffer from bad puns, I’d say no.
#growingupwithmyname everybody making the pun “you’re so graceful” and then winking at me
— grace (@graciee_vargass) January 28, 2016
Lost in translation – Nastya is great in Russian, but awkward in English. Saoirse leaves American English speakers tongue-tied. And yet, heritage names can be a source of tremendous pride – despite the challenges they may present.
So what’s the lesson?
There is no perfect name, and no list of rules that can ensure a universally pleasing name for a child.
Parents can – and should – try to think through any name’s potential pitfalls. It’s worth knowing if your top choice is everybody else’s favorite, or imagining how you’ll feel if your child’s name is frequently misspelled.
But ultimately, #growingupwithmyname is about embracing the challenges, but also the strengths of every person’s individual name – foreign or familiar, long or short, popular or rare.
Have you been following #growingupwithmyname? What was it like to grow up with your name?