How Not To Name the Baby
Our focus is usually how to do things right: How to find the best baby names and choose a name for your child that you — and he or she — will love forever. But occasionally we need to step back and warn you what NOT to do when naming the baby.
Here, the Top 10 Baby Name Mistakes:
1. BYPASSING A NAME YOU LOVE JUST BECAUSE A FRIEND OR FAMILY MEMBER DOESN’T LIKE IT. You’ll soon find that everyone wants to get into the naming act with suggestions and (often negative) opinions, but you’ll regret walking away from one of your favorites because someone else tries to convince you it’s not attractive or stylish.
2. REJECTING A NAME YOU LOVE BECAUSE IT’S TOO HIGH ON THE NATIONAL POPULARITY LIST. Many parents today are obsessed with tracking names on the Social Security most popular list, discarding those they fear are getting overexposed. But truly loving a name is a more important factor in being content with your choice than its standing on any list.
3. BEING TOO CONCERNED WITH A NAME’S LITERAL MEANING. So what if it means ”graceful” in Old German if it’s clunky in Modern American?
4. BEING TOO CONCERNED WITH A NAME’S PERSONAL MEANING. Choosing a name with personal significance — the city where your baby was conceived, an artist you admire — is increasingly important for parents. But it’s possible to take this too far, which you’re doing if you name your baby Porsche or Pasadena or — yes, it happened — ESPN.
5. BOWING TO FAMILY PRESSURE TO CHOOSE A TRADITIONAL NAME. A family favorite or a name that reflects your ethnic or religious heritage can be a wonderful gift to pass on to you child, providing it’s YOUR choice and not your mother-in-law’s.
6. NOT TALKING THROUGH THE NAME DECISION WITH A SPOUSE. Too often, couples get locked in battle over their name favorites rather than talking through the reasons they like the names they do — wanting a name more distinctive than the one you grew up with, for instance, or wishing to honor your ethnic heritage. Talking through these deep issues will almost certainly lead you to a choice you can agree on.
7. BELIEVING A NAME IS UNUSUAL JUST BECAUSE YOU’VE NEVER HEARD IT BEFORE. Trends change quickly and many names that were virtually unheard of by today’s first-time parents–Harper, Emerson, Sawyer–are epidemic among children of both genders. Check out popularity statistics–they’re here — and keep an ear open in your neighborhood playground.
10. NAMING A BABY, NOT THE CHILD OR ADULT HE OR SHE WILL BECOME. A diminutive like Jojo or an endearment like Precious might be cute for an infant or toddler, but it’s better to choose a name that will serve your child on the more formal occasions of his or her future.
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on January 21st, 2016 at 7:36 am
I do agree with all of these points, with the exception of two.
1. REJECTING A NAME YOU LOVE BECAUSE IT’S TOO HIGH ON THE NATIONAL POPULARITY LIST.
This point holds true for people who are trying to follow trends, as there’s a definite undercurrent of expectation in some areas which push certain parents to feel like they HAVE to choose a unique baby name in order to fit in with the times. And so for them, I say that they should choose whatever name they want, regardless of how popular it is, because it’s about what they as the parents want, and not about what modern trends are dictating.
Having said that, for people like me, this point isn’t really an option.
I’m not fond of repetition in most cases. And it just so happens that seeing and hearing the same names repeated over and over and over again becomes quite tiresome, rather quickly. As such, popularity is very much a deal-breaker for me, as I cannot stand the thought of my child being one more Sophia to add to the lot or “Oh! _Another_ James?” Popularity has a funny way of taking the most distinctive, charming, elegant classics and turning them into tedious, watered-down, standard, and uninspired choices (in my opinion, at least), and I would hate for those same qualities to be attributed to my own child’s name.
Therefore, in spite of how much I may love certain common names such as Ophelia, Clementine and Valentina, I will continue to stay clear of all popular choices.
2. BEING TOO CONCERNED WITH A NAME’S LITERAL MEANING. So what if it means ”graceful” in Old German if it’s clunky in Modern American?
I don’t understand this point at all.
Barely anyone actually cares about the meanings of names nowdays, which I think is shocking. It’s not that a name meaning will somehow have an effect on a child but, it adds to their identity! And wouldn’t you rather have your son’s name mean “Treasure” as opposed to “Crooked Nose” – and wouldn’t you rather have your daughter’s name mean “Light” instead of “Lame/Disabled”? I personally don’t understand how people can just disregard name meanings like they’re nothing. For the record, I would choose, say, Helga (Prosperous; Successful) and Hortense (Of the Garden) over Persephone (Bringer of Death/Destruction) and Portia (Pig) any day of the week and feel very proud of that. Beauty is only skin-deep, after all, and meanings have a lot to offer.
on January 21st, 2016 at 8:11 am
Great points and well said!
on January 21st, 2016 at 10:42 am
AldabellaxWulfe, I love the adjectives you used to illustrate overly popular names. I have been trying to think of a way to explain why I hate them and you did it beautifully. “Watered down” is a great way to put it. And it’s so true, names with lovely meaning and heritage have lost their shine thanks to an overabundance of them. Emma. Madison. Aidan. Jackson. I know far too many of these kids, and even if I did love one of these names, I could never give my child one of them because I wouldn’t want them just lost in a sea of trendiness. Beautiful name or not, overpopularity murders names.
As far as the article itself, I feel like it has contradicting points. It tells you not to worry about picking a popular name if you love it, but a little further down it tells you to check popularity statistics before naming Junior. I understand that this particular point is so that you don’t get stuck naming your child something that you thought was unique, but was actually very popular. But if they love the name, isn’t your advice to not worry about it regardless? I don’t know, I’m not sure if this article sits well with me.
on January 21st, 2016 at 11:10 am
I disagree with @AldabellaxWulfe on literal meanings. I don’t think people should disregard literal meaning, but it shouldn’t take precedent over sound and personal meaning. If you’re deciding between Clara and Claudia, you could use literal meaning to decide between the two, but personal meaning could still be a factor and it’s still not the same as choosing between Helga and Persephone.
on January 21st, 2016 at 2:56 pm
I liked this article. I don’t think the author is suggesting that the points being made are absolutes, but just something to consider.
Examples. My oldest son’s name is Lincoln. We had NO IDEA how popular this name was, or would become, not only nationally but particularly in our state. I don’t know if we still would have used the name our not, but it would have been nice to make an informed decision.
Another example. My fifth child’s name is Ruby. I always wanted to have a Ruby, I have always loved the name and it had family significance. When I started having my babies, Ruby was not a popular name at all. I kept having boys. When I finally got to #5 and she was a girl, Ruby was popular. Well inside the top 100. I stressed for weeks. I picked different names, but I didn’t LOVE any of them the way I loved Ruby. I kept telling my husband, “I just wish we could name her Ruby!” And he was finally like, “Um, we can.” We named her Ruby, and there was such relief. We also gave her a very distinct middle, so if someday she decides she doesn’t like being one of many Rubys, she can go by her middle.
So, yes, popularity is something to consider, but it shouldn’t be the all-encompassing factor. And I think all these points are trying to say the same thing. Which is, just make informed decisions. If meaning is important to you, then absolutely pick a name with meaning. But don’t pick a name you hate, or that would be hard for a child to have, JUST because of the meaning. If you LOVE the clunky German name that means graceful, then use it, even if your family hates it. That sort of thing…
on January 21st, 2016 at 5:01 pm
Ophelia, Clementine and Valentina are common? Are you serious?
on January 21st, 2016 at 6:33 pm
h0neybee: There is people in this site who consider any name in the top 1000 as ‘popular’. It’s quite obsesive, actually
on January 21st, 2016 at 7:21 pm
I have to say something because the whole “Popularity has a funny way of taking the most distinctive, charming, elegant classics and turning them into tedious, watered-down, standard, and uninspired choices” actually bothers me because it’s quite ridiculous.
But I’m going to tell you a little story. For a VERY long time I disliked my name. It is VERY common. Like you all have no idea how common it is. In my country it was never bellow the top 4. In fact, most of the time it was at number 1. You think being Jennifer and Ashley is bad? That’s cute. I share my name with two cousins (in honor the truth, my parents were the first ones to use the name in the family, the rest just followed their lead), I always had to share the name with somebody else in the class, my neighbour and I have the same name too, etc…
Of course, I always wanted to give my kids something not THAT common. But that’s the thing here. When I mean not that common it doesn’t mean an obscure and ugly name that I picked because I was trying to be original and I was against every name in the top 1000 in a obsessive compulsive way. And that’s the thing here in this website and, with all honestly, it made me appreciate my name in a whole new level.
I know we are all name nerds and I also get very excited when I discover a new name. In my list there are names in all kind of positions: from the number one Emma to the obscure Aldara. However, I wouldn’t ever make popularity a deal breaker unless it was sort of a Jennifer situation and even in that situation I would give it a long thought.
If my mother could have asked me if I prefered to be named Ophelia, Fern, Sparrow, Apple, Nevaeh or Persephone instead my “watered-down, standard, and uninspired” name, you all can bet your asses that I would choose my common classic name without heasitation, because my overly common name it’s not ugly, everybody knows how to pronounce it and write, it’s universal, and, most importantly, when I say my name nobody is going to question my parent’s sanity when they choose it. One of my friends worked in the hospital with newborns and we would laugh at the name choices some parents made. That won’t happen with my oh-so-common (but not ugly, rich on history and meaning) name.
So, what I’m saying, if you like if you genuinely love a name, go for it; it doesn’t matter if it is at number one or there is only 2 babies per year with that name. But only if you like it genuinely not because of a rank. The problem, for me, comes when it looks like some people only like a name because it’s below the top 1000 or something like that. Does that mean that if you pick a name bellow the top 1000, and when your kid is 20 and the name climbed until the number one, you’ll stop liking it?
In 1990 Isabella was at 894, 8 years later it reached the top 100, in 2009 it was the number 1. Does that mean that if you were one of those mothers who in the ’90’s choose Isabella because it was a pretty name, a classic with history, not common, but easy to spell a pronounce; now you would hate it? That’s why I think it’s not important that rank, what matters is how much you really love the name and if you REALLY genuinely love the name you picked, it doesn’t matter how popular it is, you’ll still love it. My mother never regreted my name and I bet most of those mothers who choose Jennifer in the 80’s still love their choices; and honestly, that’s what matters the most.
If a rank would make you dislike that name you thought it was oh-so-pretty-and-uncommon but now it’s popular, you don’t love it as much as you think you do.
Sorry for the long answer, but I had to rant.
on January 21st, 2016 at 7:51 pm
Pick what you love. End of naming lesson.
on January 21st, 2016 at 9:17 pm
When I was born, my first name was in the mid 600s and my middle name was not even listed. (Both are French.) Now my middle name is in the top 100 and my first name is out of the top 1000. I love both names with an equal passion, and I don’t mind if my middle is now the name of every other little girl on the street. It’s a great name, and I’m proud of all my little name-buddies!
Names will come and go in and out of fashion–if you love it, and if it means something to you and your family, go for it.
on January 21st, 2016 at 10:35 pm
I agree w/gmdx on meaning, sound, & personal meaning. To my ear, Helga & Hortense are awful-sounding, & I’d never use them regardless of their lovely meanings. Conversely, Persephone is pleasing to my ear, & if I could think of a nice nn for it & had a partner who was on board w/it, I’d definitely consider using it (additionally, the meaning of Persephone is not definite as being “murderer, destroyer”; I checked a number of name sites to be sure of that before mentioning it). The mythology attached to the name isn’t off-putting to me as it obviously is to others. Portia, on the other hand, sounds pretty, but the meaning isn’t attractive (at least to me), & the way the letters look together is unattractive to me as well.
The bottom line in naming, as far as I’m concerned, is that you & your partner choose a name that you love for whatever reasons you find important to you, whether it’s honoring a family member or friend, you like the sound/meaning of the name itself, etc.
on January 23rd, 2016 at 4:50 am
I definitely agree with this blog. Always go with what you love. These two are really big for me:
7. BELIEVING A NAME IS UNUSUAL JUST BECAUSE YOU’VE NEVER HEARD IT BEFORE
I’m shocked at how many people say they’ve never heard a name before they named their child. As long as there is access to the internet, so much information is available. Not only national rankings, but the rankings within each state from the SSA that goes back to 1910. Even simple google searches can provide a lot of information.
9. THINKING YOU CAN CONTROL NICKNAMING
I think this is why it’s so important to consider the nicknames when looking at a name, since there’s no way to control what others are calling the child or what they want to call themselves. If I hate the nicknames, then the name has to be off the list.
on January 26th, 2016 at 3:22 pm
This blog hits the spot!
I totally agree with the popylarity thing. At one point I really disliked really popular names (and I mean really populat names not names like Ophelia and Clementine) because I thought they were boring but I’ve now learned to look past that and find the beauty in some of the highest ranking classics. I love James and Elizabeth even though you find people of all ages called them. However, if it came down to me loving Elizabeth and Magdalena exactly the same amount, then I’d choose Magdalena simply for the added bonus of it being less common.
In big on nicknames, love them. This means I have a big issue with the ‘control of nicknames’ thing. My simple way to combat this? Think of the most common nickname and if I don’t like it, the name is scrapped or sent to middle name position only. Thomas I like, Tom I hate, therefore I’m not going to consider Thomas as a first name.
After my MIL made a brief passing comment about her daughter (my SIL) not calling her baby Jackson, I decided that no family will be involved in our name discussions. I know I’ll find this hard because I LOVE talking about names but if I don’t give them the option to get involved then they can’t abnoy me with their opinions and I don’t care what they think, we’ll name our child what we want no matter what they think (but I still don’t want to risk that niggling thought in the back of my head trying to put me off my favourite name).
I like my name, I do, but I really would’ve prefered if my parents had spelt phonetically (it’s not a common name, as in not even on Nameberry uncommon, so there’s no usual spelling so my parents had to experiment with what they thought was best, especially without the internet to research). A phonetic (or well known making it easy to pronounce) name would’ve been great in my opinion. Don’t get me wrong, I’m used to spelling my name out and correcting people when they say it wrong and really, it’s not that much of a burden, but a phonetic name would’ve just made it easier.
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