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?
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on February 22nd, 2016 at 12:55 am
I love my name (Andrea) because I learned early on that it meant “womanly” and I thought/think that meaning was/is totally awesome. I also liked that my dad picked my name and my mom’s top pick (Nicole) went to the middle. I still like that she calls me Nicole sometimes. I also like that it is pronounced the western way as I’m a westerner through and through. It makes it easy to identify someone on the phone who doesn’t know me. Easterners pronounce it differently.
on February 22nd, 2016 at 2:25 am
Mostly I like being a Brooke, most common problem is people occasionally missing the E on the end of my name. And even though most Brooke’s are girls, I have been mistaken for a boy a few times. When I was a child I entered a competition on a local Saturday morning kids show that had a boys prize and a girls prize. When my name was drawn for the boys prize I was shocked – they rang me live on air and all I could say was “but I’m a girl!”. After that they made people address their entries to say if they needed to go in the boys draw or the girls draw 😉
on February 22nd, 2016 at 5:02 am
Great blog! Laughed hard at Aoibheann’s friend’s very cute attempt to spell Aoibheann.
Agree there is no set of principles that will deliver a ‘no-downsides’ name. You just have to make sure you’re going eyes wide open and you’re comfortable with whatever issue is likely to arise.
on February 22nd, 2016 at 10:31 am
My name is actually a variation of Jamilla, and I love not seeing my name on any souvenirs etc. It’s always made me feel like I have a really nice name without it being overused to the point of being tired and dull. Spelling and pronunciation issues have never really bothered me, and having a relatively unusual name for where I live is probably why I’m obsessed and strict with how popular my favourites are now. I like a name that’s different and interesting, although I do love more popular ones too, just not to actually use :).
on February 22nd, 2016 at 1:08 pm
Fun article! I can’t wait to look through the hashtags more.
on February 22nd, 2016 at 1:48 pm
I’m a “Sara” who’s slightly older than the popularity of my spelling. So I had both the “one of a swarm” problem (six Sara/hs on my freshman dorm floor, including my roommate) AND the “never a souvenir with my spelling” problem.
I wanted desperately to use my middle instead (Elaine).
I still don’t really identify with Sara, that’s a label other people call me, in my head I’m someone different…
on February 23rd, 2016 at 9:25 am
My name is Maite and I’ve had people mispronounce it, misspell it, confuse it with similar names and think it’s a nickname for Maitena. I can understand it coming from English speakers, but Spanish speakers? It’s as simple as it gets!
I also only once found something with my name on it, which sucks for me. I have to stick with initials if I want something personalised
on February 23rd, 2016 at 10:45 pm
I’m a Grace and there were definitely comments about how graceful I was/wasn’t. (I also took ballet for 11 years, so that made things worse.) I also remember feeling like people were staring at me every time we sang Amazing Grace in church and dealt with the pain of being one of five Graces in my drama camp. (I had the name first, and I still didn’t get to keep it!)
On the plus side, I have shirts with my name on them and it kinda rocks. I never cared about key chains or other souvenirs, but I’ve been gifted a few Jesus-related t-shirts because the giver thought it was funny that they had my name on them. I did get asked if one of them was custom, but the other was from Matthew West’s song Grace Wins Every Time and I think it’s just the greatest. #growingupwithmyname was actually prety great.
on February 25th, 2016 at 7:26 pm
Me: It’s Allison
Them: Hey Alice
Me: No, Allison
Them: Ohhhh Allison. A or E? 1 L or 2? I or Y? 1 S or 2? How many N’s?
Me: *spells it out* – Allison is the most common! It’s not Ellison, or Alison, or Alyson, or Allyson, or Alysson, or Alisson, or Alisonn, or Allisonn etc.
Them: Can I call you Ali?
Them: 1 L or 2? I, IE, or Y at the end?
Me: gives up.
on February 26th, 2016 at 5:30 pm
We don’t have name tags at work so someone was trying to be funny and ask where mine was and I was wearing my Matthew West shirt so I just pointed and said “right here”. It was great
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