The 7 Biggest Mistakes Newbie Baby Namers Make

There are few things more thrilling in life than having your first baby.  But newbie baby namers are prone to making some mistakes that more experienced name choosers are able to avoid.

If you’re choosing a baby name for the first time, don’t make one of these 7 common mistakes:

1. Believing that the names that were popular – and creative – when you were a kid still have the same status.

Name tastes have changed radically over the last decade or two.  Goodbye, Jessica and Josh, hello Layla and Serenity, Landon and Tristan – all Top 100 names.

2. Thinking that the playground rules are the same as they were back in the day.

Kids no longer get teased for having names that are unique, androgynous, exotic, or hard to pronounce or spell.  Rather, name diversity is celebrated.

3. Letting mom and dad have too much say in the baby’s name.

Baby names can undoubtedly be a fun topic of family conversation.  But the person who changes the diapers at 3 a.m. gets to name the baby.

4. Clinging too tightly to the name you always swore you’d give your first child.

A lot of people – let’s face it: girls – spend their childhoods coming up with fanciful names they want to give their children.  But if that name you always loved has suddenly become uber popular or clashes with your new last name, let it go.

5. Caring too much about how cool the name choice makes you look.

Sure, pregnancy is cooler than it used to be, with cuter clothes and celebrity role models.  But putting a name’s cool factor above all else won’t make little Bronx’s life very easy.

6. Not considering subsequent children’s names.

First-time namers are likely to think about, well, their first child’s name., but if you name Baby #1 Tallulah, then you pretty much rule out Lula, Lila, Delilah, Sula, Tally, and maybe even Louis for subsequent children.

7. Not realizing that there’s going to be a real live baby….and child…and eventually grownup on the other end of the naming decision.

We get it that it can seem like your pregnancy is all about you.  Sometimes, it can almost come as a shock when an actual baby emerges in the delivery room, instantly asserting her own needs and personality.  Try to keep that little (and eventually big) person in mind when you choose the name she’ll live with forever.

Photo by Helga Weber.

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12 Responses to “The 7 Biggest Mistakes Newbie Baby Namers Make”

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Nook of Names Says:

August 30th, 2011 at 4:27 am

I agree very much with most of this advice; my only reservations are over points 1 and 6.

As far as 1 goes, while I’m all for finding names that have either been long-neglected or are entirely new, I think if you like a name, and it feels right to you, you should use it. Yes, it’s definitely “cool” to have a name that’s unusual in your age group but on the up in the population at large, but there is a certain zing to having a name on the other side of the curve too — names from the “shabby chic” shelf, as it were.

As for this issue of thinking about the names of other siblings. I would say other names are never ruled out. There’s no law that says you can’t have a Tallulah and a Lula and Lila and a Delilah all in one big happy family, if that’s what you want. It may not be to your individual taste — which is why I agree it’s worth a mention — but nothing is ever ruled out (unless you live somewhere where they veto names — but that’s not because of the names borne by elder siblings).

It troubles me that I see so many people clearly worrying themselves to death over this whole issue of whether names “go together” — even before they’ve had their first child. That’s why I think it’s gone too far, I think. Especially as there’s never any guarantee that there will be more than one child!

lyddy Says:

August 30th, 2011 at 5:01 am

My mum made mistake number 4 but fortunately it turned out very well for me. She had my name picked out when she was, like, 12 and stuck to it. I’m so grateful that name was Lydia, not many 12 year olds have taste as good as that, it could have been a lot worse!!

Marginamia Says:

August 30th, 2011 at 8:42 am

number 4-heck yes! I’ve seen too many friends/family do this one, and most have regretted it.

number 3–do people do this? Do grandparents think they should…. never mind. Agreed. It’s your pick!

I’m not sure 2 and 5 are entirely compatible on one list. I agree that parents should care much less about how cool the names make them look, but NOT because the “cool” name will somehow make like for difficult for Bronx. I mean, Bronx is benefiting from the new play ground rules of number 2, after all. ; ) Parents shouldn’t worry about how the names make them look at all: cool, practical, wealthy, not wealthy, etc, etc. Pick the name you love that is special and meaningful for your family.
And absolutely consider number 2 in that process; don’t pass on a name over worry for the child seeming too ‘different’. The world is just becoming more and more blended, connected and beautifully diverse. Kids are going to be used to seeing lots of different names… and so will the adults they turn into in that golden, shining (blinding,) guiding light of baby names– the professional world.

babylemonade Says:

August 30th, 2011 at 8:46 am

I’ve not actually had to name a person yet, but as an amendment to No. 7, I think a mistake I’ve seen a lot of parents making is naming a *baby* (or a toddler) rather than a *person*. Little Adora Belle might get oodles of praise for her name when she is three (and probably is adorable) but when she’s 30 and applying for her dream job? Not so much. That isn’t so much parental self-centeredness, I think, but rather parental short-sightedness. I think a lot of parents get all caught up in how sweet and tiny the baby is going to be when it gets here…thinking about him or her at 20 is a bit of a challenge.

i.heart.nerds Says:

August 30th, 2011 at 9:12 am

I wish more people would realize that playground rules have changed. I have gotten yelled at by family saying naming my child Agatha would set her up to be beaten up. Why? How is it so much worse than Payton or Adison?

corsue Says:

August 30th, 2011 at 9:42 am

I disagree with rule 2. I work at a school and kids still laugh at each other’s names, though I haven’t witnessed any serious teasing or beating up due to a name. The laughing is especially true if the name is sexual, bathroom related, a body part, a common word name, or a famous people/cartoon character/song names. However, after classmates get used to the name, everyone forgets to laugh. It lasts several weeks at the start of every school year, so beware that your child might relive the annoyance every year. But the rest of the rules are reasonable.

Nyx Says:

August 30th, 2011 at 5:54 pm

— 1. Believing that the names that were popular – and creative – when you were a kid still have the same status. —
While names might not have the same status, this might not be a bad thing. Naming a daughter Morgan, because your best friend while growing up was named Morgan, would actually give you name that is more popular right now then it was back then. However, using the name Brandy, for the same reasons, might be seen as dated (or worse) since it only came into use 50-ish years ago and has since fallen from use almost completely. Bottom line, do a little checking on the name to see if it’s still got the same vibe/feel associated with it before committing to using it.

— 2. Thinking that the playground rules are the same as they were back in the day. —
This is true and not true in the same instance. Kids aren’t as likely to make fun of little Claude’s name as they might have in the past. But if they want to make fun of Claude, then a tease-able name/nickname is only going to make it easier. Also, if the name isn’t common, and has a VERY obvious teasing potential, then I would avoid it also (think Willy or Dick as a FN).

— 3. Letting mom and dad have too much say in the baby’s name. —
Input is always nice, but if somebody is being overtly pushy then don’t feel like you need to share. As they stated above, you’re going to do the work so you get to chose the name.

— 4. Clinging too tightly to the name you always swore you’d give your first child. —
I agree with everything said above. If, in the end, you aren’t going to love the name because it clashes with your last name or every third girl on the playground has a similar name, then it’s time to let it go.

— 5. Caring too much about how cool the name choice makes you look. —
This is a VERY big issue for me. I’ve seen too many teen mom’s try and find the ultimate name… just to impress their friends with how cool and creative they’ve been. Personally, if you want to impress somebody with how creative you can be, then do something creative like write a book or paint a picture. This is a child and not a blank canvas. This child will have to go through life AS AN ADULT with whatever name you throw on him. Think about how hard of a time Mr. Ransom X. Smith is going to have getting people to believe that he is actually a good lawyer and not some partying frat boy.

— 6. Not considering subsequent children’s names. —
I think that, overall, people stress way too much about sibset names. While I don’t think that a Don and a Dawn or a Michael and a Michelle as a sibset is great, I have heard of it before and they’ve grown up just fine. Also, if you start stressing now over sibset combos, you’ll be more likely to go overboard the other direction. Let’s face it, having all of the kids first-names start an “H” or having them all end with “ly” is just as bad (if not worse) then accidentally using two names that are similar.

— 7. Not realizing that there’s going to be a real live baby… and child… and eventually grownup on the other end of the naming decision. —
For me, this goes back to my rant in #5. Ultimately, the child is going to wear this name forever (except in rare circumstances). And, even though it’s not always nice, many people are going to judge your daughter before they meet her, and base that upon her name. Which doctor would you want operating on you: Dr. Emhily Jones or Dr. Emily Jones?

Overall, I wouldn’t consider this a rule sheet for naming your first born. But I would consider it a great list of considerations when trying to find that perfect name for your new baby.

iatros Says:

August 30th, 2011 at 10:27 pm

Don’t forget to add the last name when you’re putting them together too. My-now ex-sister-in-law wanted to use Noah or Eaton for their son’s name. Two great names, except our last name is Bacon. very, very bad!

Maegan Says:

September 10th, 2011 at 8:43 pm

I just wanted to comment on 6…About sibling names. After we named our first daughter…An “ethnic” name, native to my husband’s family’s native country, we realized we couldn’t just pick Jane, Sue, or Bobby for the next kid. We searched for names from that general region of Europe & came up with a good “pair”. We did assume we would have more than 1 child, but when we named our first baby we just couldn’t agree. It was day 2 in the hospital and they told us we wouldn’t be allowed to take her home without a name. (We later found out that’s just a scare tactic to push you to make a decision, but whatevs.) We finally picked one my husband had chosen earlier…I wasn’t thrilled with it, but I thought it would satisfy my “nothing too weird or unique or with a bad spelling” criteria.

And FWIW, the name for baby #2 (we have 2 girls) was a name I had picked out when I was 9…From a book I read in the 4th grade. I kind of forgot about it…Until I saw it in the list of names we considered ‘appropriate’ as a match to our first child’s. We weren’t using the same letter (in fact, I insist that for an subsequent children…they all have individual first initials!), the same rhythm, syllables or syncopation. They were both sort of popular around the same time in the same general region of Europe, so that’s neat. Also, for baby 2…Both of our nurses were from Eastern Europe and recognized it right away, “Beautiful Czech name!” they both told me. It felt nice. 🙂

R_J Says:

July 28th, 2012 at 7:54 am

I only half agree with #2. Maybe the elementary school playground rules have changed, but I am pretty sure high school is the same jungle as when I attended.

Aurra Says:

August 16th, 2012 at 10:31 am

For rule number two: I know from experience that when your name is Reine, pronounced rainy, you get all sorts of rain jokes on the playground.

ssterikoff Says:

January 17th, 2013 at 10:22 am

#3 – My mother tried to push us in to naming our first child after one of my husband’s parents. I told her, after trying to be polite for quite a while, that if she wanted to name a baby that she should get pregnant. My step-father told her to back off.

#5 – Today the name might be considered cool, but it will most likely become popular and/or dated, particularly if it associated with a particular person/book/song/movie/era. I went to school with a girl whose middle name was Starchild, which her parents thought was really cool. She was counting the days to her 18th birthday so that she could ditch Starchild in favor of something a bit more classic.

#7 – Definitely you should think about the person who will bear the name. A person I knew once suggested what she referred to as the Supreme Court test. Would you take a Supreme Court Justice named Adora Belle seriously or fall apart laughing?

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