Confessions of a Name Snob
My sister and I name other people’s babies for sport. Do we know you? We’ve named your baby. Do we know you well? We’ve probably named him better than you have. It’s something we do daily, a ritual bonding activity in between Skype sessions and Words With Friends. As soon as we find out there’s a bun in the oven, the speculation begins. The lists are rolled out and refined. The months go by and they are calibrated with reference to new information gleaned from social media. Then we sit back and wait for the grand announcement: to see if you’ve gotten it right after all.
Our particular area of expertise is the names of subsequent children, because 1) we like a hook on which to hang our predictions and 2) there is a special kind of tragedy in a sibling set gone awry. We’ve had some impressive successes on this front, if I do say so myself. Like the time we spun our magic on an acquaintance’s third child, a boy on the way after George and Louise. I was convinced it was going to be Henry, she was certain it would be William and, voilà, the baby arrived as William Henry. That was a good day.
There have also been some crushing disappointments, such as the second girl of a friend of a friend. First baby: Scarlett Adina. Classic, artistic, funky undertones. The next baby, what would she be? My books said Celia, perhaps, Harper or even Marlowe. The mom dropped a hint that Piper was in the running and we both jumped on that possibility like it was a springy mattress. Alas the baby came…Bea Catherine. Which is sweet, but not what we expected. “Let’s have a moment of silence,” my sister messaged me on Facebook almost instantly, “for the baby name that could have been.”
What makes the name of a friend’s baby “right” for me is not that I would have chosen it myself. That’s just silly and crass and I don’t really want all the babies in the world to be called Oliver, Leo, Phoebe or Jasper. I don’t need to love your baby’s name in the sense that it is my favorite name ever; I need to love it in the sense that I believe it. That it suits you, that it represents the best compromise available for you and your partner’s idiosyncratic tastes, that is of the same style and originality as your other children’s names. Most importantly, I need to believe that you’ve actually said it out loud with your last name. Not to mention with the names of your existing kids (my sister once saved somebody from Sonny and Claire, I kid you not).
Let me give you a case in point. One of my good friends had a second baby recently: Nicholas. In the abstract, I am not a fan of this name. But she hit every one of my criteria like a home run and I couldn’t have been happier with the resulting sibling set had I invented it myself. Alexander and Nicholas. Two little tsars, with comparable lengths, workable nicknames and, oh boy, don’t they sound great together.
It fills me with a warm gooeyness to have people in my life whose children’s names I applaud (I am thinking of trios like Natalie, Alexandra, Charlotte; I am thinking of quartets like Owen, Lavinia, Tessa, Clementine). Then there are the other names. The ones that cause my heart to wilt a little when I open the email. What do you say in these situations or do you say anything at all? Silence isn’t an option for me – I’m too outspoken. Lying isn’t either. Not only does it feel disrespectful to the naming gods, but it goes against my personal convictions. I was raised on truth, straight-as-a-picket-fence truth, and my mother is famed for telling it like it is.
Pop quiz: which of the following sentences escaped her lips in the immediate aftermath of the birth of my children?
B. (Of Leo) You haven’t actually registered that name yet, though, have you?
The correct answer is D) all of the above. Honesty has its merits, to be sure, but when it comes to non-family members and the syllables they will be hollering across playgrounds for years to come, I can appreciate the desire for a little more tact. The good news is that with names, as with any feature of a new baby, there are always things to say that are true. Even if they are not terribly complimentary and even if they miss the point. So, for instance, you can try:
1. I’ve never heard that name before! So unique! (= That’s bloody weird.)
2. What a great complement to your first kid’s name! (= I would never have chosen either of those names in a million years, but at least you’re consistent.)
3. Such a thoughtful choice! (= I don’t like it, but I understand your reasons.)
4. They will certainly have separate identities! (= Did you let your husband pick one on his own? You should not have done that.)
It’s a funny feeling when someone close to you chooses a name for their baby that you just can’t get behind. You will inevitably go through a phase of wondering: did I ever really know you at all? But the truth of the matter is that we don’t pick our friends on the basis of a common reverence for monikers that are “vintage chic” any more than we do our spouses. And yet, now that I think about it, maybe we should. .
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on October 18th, 2013 at 1:06 am
Great article! Really enjoyed reading 🙂
on October 18th, 2013 at 1:14 am
Haha LOVE this. Explains what no one else will confess to.
on October 18th, 2013 at 1:51 am
I’m a little jealous of your naming bond with your sister. I do the exact same thing with acquaintances’ children, however my sisters don’t share the interest.
on October 18th, 2013 at 5:57 am
Fun read! So what would you name my fourth? Grant, Andrew, Noah and ???? (It’s a girl!)
on October 18th, 2013 at 6:41 am
I LOVE this article, it hits all the points I try to make myself when I explain how to love names to those who want the whole world to only be named blank or blank.
on October 18th, 2013 at 8:28 am
Tressa, I felt the same way, until I realized I do have a baby-naming sister — Linda!
on October 18th, 2013 at 8:29 am
And thanks, Lauren, great piece.
on October 18th, 2013 at 8:48 am
Love this! Love the part about your mom. The best thing I learned when my brother and his wife had kids is to keep the names to ourselves until kiddo is born. In fact, their third went three days without a name and everyone was simply so pleased she had a name that they barely commented on the fact that it was a family name on my brother’s side that didn’t have the best connection (they chose the name of the adopted sister my grandmother hated; at least our grandmother had been dead for 20 years and so was unable to comment on the name).
on October 18th, 2013 at 10:22 am
Hahaha Yes, I am a name snob. I wish I could name other people’s kids for them! 🙂
on October 18th, 2013 at 10:51 am
Since most Berries have years of reading great literary works, researching name meanings, investigating cultural trends and just LOVE names, I think we can be forgiven for our “name snobbery”. I like to think we earn the right to advise parents who are less informed or want educated opinions after so many years of intense study. OK, repeat after me: “I AM A NAME SNOB AND I’M PROUD OF IT!” Now, doesn’t everyone feel so much better now! 🙂
on October 18th, 2013 at 11:06 am
A funny counterpoint to my “confessions of a name heretic” piece.
on October 18th, 2013 at 11:22 am
Oh my, I love this blog so much!
on October 18th, 2013 at 11:42 am
Haha this article is basically my life. My weakness as a name snob are people who pick two top 10 names as a combo. For boys, isn’t so bad Noah William and Ethan Alexander will probably have no problems with their names, but for girls this is a different story. I’m talking to you parents of the Emma Madisons and the Mia Isabellas! When my cousin chose Ava Sophia for her daughter, it was all I could do to keep my mouth shut, until I remembered her husband’s last name is Gardner and that was going to be a serious problem for me (I feel comfortable putting that on the internet because even if you google it you are not going to get an eight month old). She still named her daughter that. And look at me ranting now!
I am Kaylah, and I am a semi-recovering name snob.
on October 18th, 2013 at 12:59 pm
Disaster of a sibset? I’ve never been big on focusing on the sibset thing because, after all, once the oldest one is 18 most the people they meet will not know their siblings. To me sibset will be an issue for maybe 15 years or so, but hopefully they will have another 80 years of living with their given name after that time. So, that being said, am I headed for a sibset disaster? I have an Owen Michael and Jackson Floyd (mn’s are always family names for us), we don’t know the sex of #3 yet, but are thinking Lennon George for a boy and Lennon Georgia for a girl. I don’t have another close front-runner for our boy name, for a girl I am thinking Georgia Arline as a 2nd choice. I’ve gotten a lot of flack about Lennon, especially for a girl. I happen to like unisex, or even traditionally masculine names for girls even though that trend seems to be taking a lot of heat these days. Long uber feminine double middle girls names like Persephonie Clementine Saraphine are the exact opposite of our style. So am I headed for a sibset trainwreck or not?
on October 18th, 2013 at 2:17 pm
LOVE this. Now I’m gonna start naming other people’s kids. Also, I’m pregnant with my third and now I’m terrified I’ll get the sib-set thing wrong. My kids are Asa Malachi and Naomi Honor. Please name my third child. We don’t know if it’s a boy or girl, so I need both. 🙂
on October 18th, 2013 at 6:04 pm
OH! Somebody else does this? I have lists for most of my pregnant friends. My best day was when baby Drew arrived. He was a friend’s fourth baby, third son, and Andrew was in my top four! They gave him the nickname as a full name, but that was my closest guess. I thought I deserved points, especially after sibs Esth3r, Joshu@ and J1mothy (I’m using the symbols on purpose, but otherwise those are not misprints.)
And yes, I’m a snob, but I try to keep snarky comments to myself. After all, it’s not my baby to name.
on October 18th, 2013 at 10:24 pm
I think this article is hilarious! Do you really think that you name other people’s kids better than they do? One important thing to keep in mind is that a million-to-one if you don’t like your friend’s kids names then they are certain not to like yours! As for your mum’s comments – the fact that you can reproduce them years later should remind you how hurtful these comments can be. Snarky rudeness dressed as niceness is very easy to recognise and very unkind – if you don’t like the name why not just tell them that the baby is beautiful and leave it at that? I got some of these comments about my daughters name (a biblical classic) and I will never forget them.
on October 18th, 2013 at 10:54 pm
Loved this article! I can completely relate!
on October 20th, 2013 at 7:58 pm
I agree with mmljar1, although its harmless if you’re just making up these lists for yourself and your sister, giving unsolicited advice crosses the line into rudeness.
on October 20th, 2013 at 10:14 pm
I find it’s incredibly easy to “name” someone elses child…however, when the pressure is on me-I freak out! Lol
My name snobbery definitely wore off after all kinds of trouble trying to give baby 2 a name!
If I hear a name I don’t care for I just try to find the positive and say that or I find that it grows on me when I see the cutie who’s wearing it:)
confessions of a baby name snob | omnimom Said
on October 21st, 2013 at 6:48 am
[…] A version of this piece appears at nameberry. […]
on October 21st, 2013 at 2:54 pm
October 18th, 2013 at 2:17 pm
“LOVE this. Now I’m gonna start naming other people’s kids. Also, I’m pregnant with my third and now I’m terrified I’ll get the sib-set thing wrong. My kids are Asa Malachi and Naomi Honor. Please name my third child. We don’t know if it’s a boy or girl, so I need both.”
Ooooo. I love the harmony in your naming choices: rising, underused, and offbeat biblicals with a Puritan virtue name used in the middle place. Not sure if you’re planning to continue along the same lines, but assuming you are, here are some possibilities:
For a boy:
Ezra (Ezra Micah, perhaps); Ezra matches Asa best, in my opinion.
Asher (not sure if you’re ‘beyond Asher and Abigail’ already 🙂
For a girl:
Esther Hope, Esther Evangeline, Esther Hosanna
Lydia Mercy, Lydia Charity (not sure if you do New Testament)
Susanna(h) (Sukey, Sadie, Sosie)
There are many biblical virtue, concept, word or place names available to use as middle names like your choice of Honor. You could choose a fruit of the Spirit such as faith, joy, or patience. You could have all of your daughters’ middle names begin with ‘h’: Honor, Haven, Hope/Hopewell/Hopestill, Harvest, Hosanna, Hallelujah. Biblical place names include Salem, Moriah, Ariel, Shiloh, Eden. Some biblical nature names are Summer, Orion, Sun, Dawn, Star, Sky, Daystar. Precious gems and flowers such as Ruby, Diamond, Sapphire, Amethyst, Pearl, Lily, Rose make great choices. Among the concept and word names are Jubilee, Desire (after God; I believe the name of one of the Mayflower passengers), Shalom (peace), Sophia (NT word for wisdom), Irene (NT word for peace), Agape (NT word for Christian love), Anastasia (NT word for resurrection). In short, you could have a field day!
I’m getting off track here, but one could have a number of children, and give them all biblical ‘R’ names: Rachel, Rebecca (Rebecca, King James spelling; Rebekah, New American Standard), Ruth, Rhoda, Ruhamah (from Hosea), Rizpah, Reuben.
Again, I love the choices you made. You have an intrepid streak.
on October 21st, 2013 at 6:25 pm
Loved this post! Particularly the part about your mom’s reactions to your kids’ names.
My dad’s response when I told him his (then soon-to-be-born) granddaughter was to be named Calyssa Paige: “Yecch! I hate those crazy, made-up names.”
Now that she will be celebrating her 10th birthday next week, his tune has changed: “She looks EXACTLY like a Calyssa. Can’t imagine her with any other name. Good thing I always liked it!”
on October 21st, 2013 at 6:47 pm
I met twins named Haileigh and Kayleigh yesterday, and I had a spit take. I felt sooo bad but seriously? HAILEIGH AND KAYLEIGH? Give me Hailey and Hannah or Kailey and Katelyn please. But don’t make it RHYME. And don’t spell it wrong.
on October 29th, 2013 at 2:19 pm
Great article! @Marci0393. I like your name choices and I thought I would give you something to think about. My first question is are you a Beatles fan? If you are, then the name Lennon George would be perfect for you. If you are not everyone who hears the name will probably have the same question as me and you might get sick of answering it. As for Lennon as a girls name, I personally am not a fan of masculine names for girls, but I applaud you for sticking with your style. I think that Lennon is not such a well established boy’s name that using it will cause people to jump down you throat for picking it. It reminds me of Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard’s choice to name their daughter Lincoln. I don’t think anyone has the right to question your name choice (except your spouse) and if they do just tell them that they can name the baby if the volunteer to give birth to it. I don’t know what other people will say, but I think that your children’s names will sound great together whether you choose Georgia or Lennon. I hope this helped and I wish you all the best!
on January 8th, 2014 at 4:08 pm
This thread is older, but Nicholas and Alexander (Nicky and Alex) were the names of Becky and Uncle Jesse’s twins on Full House. I would always think of that when I called their names!
Baby Naming Therapy – Baby Name Blog – Nameberry Said
on February 13th, 2014 at 11:20 pm
[…] wrote a post here not too long ago called Confessions of a Baby Name Snob, a funny post about how my sister and I name other people’s babies better than they do. It was […]
on October 7th, 2017 at 11:27 pm
Lauren, how do I get your input on my second baby’s name?! I’m 12 weeks pregnant and don’t know if it’s a boy or girl, but I’m already worried about what to name it. It took a solid 24 hours after my first’s birth that we decided on Lyra Clare. Help!
on October 9th, 2017 at 3:16 pm
Great piece! I had a recent triumph guessing the name Atlas for a couple, it’s not about names you like for yourself but names that are great for them.
My own sibset of Soren, Leonora, Phoebe and Daphne a bit of a car crash (I named two kids basically the same name, one name super popular and all the others quite uncommon. I wish I could call them all by their middles Sebastian, Mary, Elizabeth and Jemima, isn’t that a great sibset?
Oh well, next time. What? You mean you can’t change your 11-year-old’s name once a year? Darn it, no fair.
The masterplan is to have lots of pets that live fast and die young, I’m thinking mice and gerbils.
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