Popular baby names: The case for the common name

Popular baby names: The case for the common name

Today’s guest blogger Kristen, aka Swistle, confronts the question of popular baby names–and explains why it’s okay to use them.

More common than the name is this naming concern heard from parents: “We don’t want her to be one of five  in every class.”

We know they don’t need to worry about that: even the name Jennifer, with its impressive peak usage of 4 out of every 100 girls, didn’t achieve such a feat—and today’s #1 name can’t compete at just over 1 girl in 100.

But another issue is this: Does it make sense to avoid names just because they’re common? Sure, if there really were five children with the same name per classroom, but what if there aren’t? It depends on our naming goals, but here are some reasons we might want to use a common name:

1. If the common name has been common for a long time, it’s been time-tested. We know how well it works on a baby and on a grown-up; we know the possible nicknames; we know how the name is perceived (preppy? energetic? boyish?); and we know it’s not a flash-in-the-pan that will leave people saying, “Let me guess: born in 2010-2014?”

2. A common name is not going to disappoint us by becoming common. This may sound a little like “I’ll fall down on purpose to avoid tripping”—but there seems to be exponentially more disappointment when a name is chosen specifically for its uncommonness, only to have it explode into popularity that same year or soon after.

3. A common name may dilute associations. A girl named Shiloh or Madonna or Farrah is going to be compared to other well-known holders of the name, but a girl named Catherine is not.

4. A common name may avoid some of the hassles of double-takes, explanations, mispronunciations, and misspellings. A name is never hassle-free, of course: my 1970s-common name, Kristen, is sometimes spelled Kristin or pronounced Christine . But I deal with fewer misunderstandings and remarks than my former co-workers Honesty and Ursa, both of whom were pretty sick of talking about their names by the time I knew them in their twenties.

5. A common name may be a family name or a name of some other special significance. Using the name after your Grandma Emma is different than using it because everyone else is doing it: the honor association gives the name another level of meaning.

6. Common names may fit well in your extended family, with your surname, and with all the names you like for sibling names.

7. And if it’s a name you love and agree on and want to use, that may be the best reason of all of them.

Popular blogger Swistle started life as a baby named Kristen, and now writes at  http://www.swistle.blogspot.com and http://www.swistlebabynames.blogspot.com

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.