Baby Naming Rules: One man’s humorous take

Baby Naming Rules: One man’s humorous take

Today’s guest blogger, writer Jon Finkel, has come up with his own idiosyncratic set of baby-naming rules—see if you agree.

With the average life expectancy in the United States pushing 80 years, picking the wrong name for your kid could turn out to be an eight-decade mistake. Think about that. In eighty years you’ll be dead; the house you lived in, the cars you drove, the clothes you wore, will probably all be recycled, rebuilt or destroyed; but your son, who is now living in an old-age facility in 2091, has to go by the name Mason S., because Mason A., Mason G., Mason L. and Mason P. live on the same floor in his retirement home, were all born in 2011 and also had parents who went the unoriginal route and simply picked the trendiest name available.

So though Mason is a solid name, when it comes to your child in 2011, unless you have always loved Mason, or you are named Mason (or work as a mason) and your son is going to be a Mason Junior or a mason, the name is just too popular. This thought led me to compose what I’ll call “The Not Another Mason and Other Rules for Baby Naming” list.

  1. Prior to picking a name, Google the phrase “Most Popular Baby Names,” which will take you to the Social Security list, and then cross off the top ten or twenty names that pop up for the past three years. Simple. Effective. Efficient. Now your child is guaranteed to have a reasonably untrendy name. This way, when your eight-year-old daughter is playing soccer and you yell, “Nice hustle, Ava!” the entire team of girls doesn’t turn to see which of their dads was cheering for them.

  2. Babies named after cities or states are hit or miss. Brooklyn Decker — perfect. Dakota (either North or South) Fanning — decent. Rochester Stevenson — Huh?  Cities in Texas tend to work out best when it comes to names, like Dallas and Austin, while cities in Iowa tend to work out worst, like Des Moines and Cedar Rapids.

  3. For girls, seasonal names seem to go well with alliterative last names. Summer Sanders — good. Summer Blaskovich — not so much. Autumn Appleton — good. Autumn Linhoffer — a little tougher. (My apologies if one of these examples happens to be your name.)

  4. If you have a last name with three syllables or more, opt for a short, one-syllable first name for your kid, or at least a first name that can easily be shortened. Leonardo (Leo) DiCaprio is a good example of the latter, Jack Nicholson of the former.

  5. If your child’s name is going to be Jonathan Leibowitz and you want him to be a talk show host on Comedy Central, change his name to Jon Stewart when he’s born and save him the trouble.

  6. Don’t turn everyday nouns into names. If you can find your child’s name in an aisle at the grocery store or Home Depot, you might want to pass on it.

  7. Google your child’s potential full name before he or she is born. At some point in their life, whether it’s in first grade or freshman year, some kids are going to Google it, and it would be a shame to wait until then for your son to find out he shares a name with an America’s Most Wanted criminal who is on the no-fly list.

  8. Don’t make stuff up. If you have never, ever heard of anyone naming their child by the name you are thinking of, there’s probably a great reason for that.

  9. Keep initials in mind with both middle and first names. My old buddy Steve Timothy Durkee wishes his parents had. Same with Hailey Ingrid Vecchio and Aaron Scott Shotland.

  10. Keep luxury car names and other luxury item names where they belong — on luxury cars and items. Naming your daughter Gucci guarantees that her ceiling in life will be a role as a cast member on Jersey Shore: Season 17.

  11. Solid boy names like John, Mike, Ed, Matt, Jim, Bill and George never go out of style.

  12. Boy names for girls are okay, but be careful breaking new ground. Sam is now perfectly acceptable because of Samantha; naming your daughter Hector is going a little too far and will surely cause an identity crisis.

  13. If you have a last name that screams that your family is from a certain country, there is nothing wrong with giving your child a first name that is also from that country. Feel free to be proud of your heritage. Chow Yun Fat didn’t change his name to Tim Fat before crossing over into American films.

  14. On the opposite side of this coin — and this is coming from a man with a very Jewish last name — if your last name is Goldbergman, and you’ve been in America for several generations, you don’t have to hit the Jewish point home twice as hard with your kid by giving him a first name like Elehu or Ravi … Unless of course you’re actually from Israel, then Rule 13 applies.

Journalist Jon Finkel has written for GQ, Details, and the New York Times, among others. He has recently published a comedy/advice book called The Three Dollar Scholar: Awesome Advice for Acing Life’s Major Decisions and Mindless Debates, from which this is adapted.

About the Author

Linda Rosenkrantz

Linda Rosenkrantz

Linda Rosenkrantz is the co-founder of Nameberry, and co-author with Pamela Redmond of the ten baby naming books acknowledged to have revolutionized American baby naming. You can follow her personally at InstagramTwitter and Facebook. She is also the author of the highly acclaimed New York Review Books Classics novel Talk and a number of other books.