Test-Driving your Baby Name
By Esmeralda Rocha
When picking a name, it can be hard to find opportunities to test the name in a way that gauges the true ‘wearability’ of the name and the reactions it is likely to elicit. People’s abstract opinions of names (“Meredith is an old lady’s name,”“Billy doesn’t work on a grown man,” “Zenobia is utterly ridiculous,” “no-one will ever be able to spell Aoife correctly,” “Harper is too feminine to be a boy’s name”) are not necessarily great indications of what people think of the name once it is attached to a flesh-and-blood human being.
And while sharing name options with friends and family can be valuable, it can also be fraught – should you really discount Millie because it was the name of your mother-in-law’s pet cat when she was 7?
Is your cousin’s opinion that “using Enzo is not OK because you’re not Italian” valid? If you’re looking for dispassionate and real-life reactions to a name, may we suggest the following strategies. These are based on scenarios where names are required but you never need to show ID:
Pizza and Coffee
Placing a pizza order with Domino’s on a Friday night, or getting your morning cup of sweet, sweet caffeine in the morning may be an opportunity to test how a name works in real life. Can the barista spell your name properly and, if not, does it feel like a big deal? When you go to collect your pizza, how does the name sound when the 16-year-old pizza guys shout it out? How do you feel when you see it on that Domino’s screen?
Staying with our food theme, but offering a different (likely more formal) context, the next time you book a date with your partner or catch-up with some friends, consider putting the restaurant reservation in the name you’re trying out. This can test spelling issues and also reactions (do you get one, and if so is it positive?)
Putting something on hold in a store
This can be great because you can go to a whole bunch of stores in a day (upmarket or downmarket, with an older clerk or a young college student) and get a number of responses. Then you can see who is more likely to misspell the name, who has a positive reaction to it, and who didn’t bat an eye.
Making a small donation to charity
You can often donate to charity in a name other than that on the credit card. This test has a bigger written dimension to it, so you can test what the name looks like in a ‘real-world’ setting as well as how people respond to the name.
This can be a good choice for adults looking to change their name (or change the name of their child). The advent of technology has made it really easy to customize items. Placing a personalized order can help you test whether it was easy or difficult to place the order (especially if doing it verbally), whether the name was spelled correctly on the finished product, whether you elicit any comments on the name, and whether you like the name once it is put on something material and real. My tip is to keep the items cheap – a $5 key ring or a $15 supermarket cake will give you exactly the same effect as an engraved bracelet or a fancy gourmet creation.
Do you have any other ways of testing names in real life situations? Please share in the comments section.