by Hildie Westenhaver
Maybe it’s because we’re kind of different to begin with that Mormons love oddball baby names. We’re taught from day one to be “in the world but not of the world” and that apparently applies to the way we name our kids as well. While this holds true to Mormons all over the U.S, you’ll find the most outlandish baby names in the intermountain West: Utah and southern Idaho in particular. I have met children named Wrangler, Smokey, Mersadie, Corporate (for a girl), Maverix, Jenedy, Silver, Xacian, Versailles, Rafter, and—I kid you not—R2.
But Mormons still want to fit in, hence the popularity of names that sound normal, but whose spellings are anything but: Payzlee, Djaryd, Jaymz, Myrical and Jrake.
Even among Utah baby names, though, there are trends. Boys’ names lean heavily towards two syllable names ending with –er, –en and –ton. While mainstream names like Jayden remain popular, it’s really better to pick something a little more unusual. Truxton perhaps? Decken, Nyler, Kyson, Teyton, Zyker, and Trusen have all been chosen for babies recently.
Girls’ names almost always have a letter y in them somewhere. Mormons love the letter y. Which explains the popularity of names that end with –ley (or more commonly –lee or –leigh), and names that end with –lyn: Kyzlee, Oaklyn, Tynslee, McCartlyn, Avonlie, Chandley, Skylynne. and Chasidee. Let’s not forget other girls’ names like Drakelle, Ezrie, Aubrielle, Swayzee, Taizel, Cambria, and Alivian.
Surnames-as-first-names are extremely popular for both boys and girls. But why give your child a normally spelled name when you can give her one spelled like (almost) nobody else’s? Hence the popularity of Anistyn, MaCade, Ramzy, Awstyn and Paedyn
The biggest and most obvious question when you hear names like this is why? Why on earth would somebody name a baby Serandipidee? Tradition is the most obvious answer. These oddly-named babies are the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of DaLynns, Cloydeans and LaVerls. As I said before, we Mormons are used to being a little bit different, and it’s been this way for a long time.
The age of the parents is a big factor as well. To Mormons, nothing is more important than having a family and we tend to get married and have kids earlier than our non-Mormon counterparts. Imagine the baby names you liked when you were fifteen. Kind of different from your taste at age thirty, right? If you’re having a baby at age twenty, your taste will be a lot closer to a teenager-y sort of name than something an older, better-educated set of parents might pick. The name Eleanor might sound old and fusty to a young person but Zaylie sounds fresh and fun.
Even among Mormons, though, class and education have a lot to do with it. You’re not going to find many college professors with a baby named Stryder. The last two babies born in my congregation were named Jane and Mary. So not every LDS person is going bonkers with baby names—but not coincidentally, Jane and Mary both have parents with PhD’s.
Whether you like these names or think they’re preposterous, they’re a part of Mormon culture. I might roll my eyes every time a cousin posts info about her new baby on Facebook (“Rope??? They named their baby Rope?! I know they like Rodeo, but come on!”) but it’s part of my cultural identity.