The Names We Choose, Those We Refuse
By Abby Sandel
Here’s something that fascinates me: the difference between the names that we truly love, but don’t use, and the names that we actually bestow upon our children.
Carrie Underwood recently dished about the names that she and husband Mike Fisher considered for son Isaiah, and the reasons that they rejected some of their favorites. She sounded remarkably like almost every mom I’ve ever heard explain why certain names just couldn’t be The Name for their new arrival.
This week’s baby name news was all about the names that we choose and the names that we consider before moving on.
Christian – Carrie Underwood admitted that she decided against the name Christian, thanks to one of the main characters in Fifty Shades of Grey. Christian has been a Top 100 favorite since 1986, but could the racy blockbuster persuade parents too look elsewhere? It’s a classic name, with history dating to the ninth century. One fictional figure shouldn’t derail this name – but it might.
Roland – Pop culture takes away baby name possibilities, but it also adds new options. Brad Pitt is set to star as Roland in new movie By the Sea. If the movie is a success, could romantic, medieval Roland make a comeback? It’s not such a stretch from Roman, Rowan, and Ronan.
Simone – This is another name I’m watching. As French as Genevieve, as tailored as Charlotte, and yet Simone was given to fewer than 400 girls in 2014. Simone Biles just won her third straight gold medal in the all-around competition at the women’s gymnastics World Championship, and could be heavily favored going into the 2016 Olympics. Could she also boost her lovely, underused name?
Jane – Jimmy Kimmel (shown) recently joked that he and wife Molly had “accomplished something” by giving their daughter a “normal” name. I’d agree that Jane is tailored, classic, and downright gorgeous. But it’s worth noting that Jane ranked in the 300s in 2014. If popularity is a measure of normalcy, the Kimmels could have chosen a name like Serenity, Skyler, Kaydence, Athena, or London – and those could have been normal, too.
Galileo – Meanwhile in Azerbaijan, some parents are avoiding normal. Names like Galileo have been registered for newborns in recent months, prompting a government official to suggest an official dictionary of names.
Zoe Ireland – While we’re in Europe, let’s talk about Ireland. It’s the name of Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger’s twenty-something daughter, and it’s the middle name chosen by a Kentucky couple for their new arrival. Zoe Ireland’s mom went into premature labor on a flight from Paris to the US, and gave birth in a Dublin hospital following an emergency landing. It’s a place name with a very special meaning.
Scout – Meaning matters for many parents, and celebrated novel To Kill a Mockingbird has inspired many moms and dads to choose names like Harper and Atticus for their children. In the aftermath of Go Set a Watchman, it will be interesting to see if Atticus rises or falls, but Scout – the nickname for Mockingbird’s Jean Louise Finch – seems likely to rise. Right now, it’s more popular for girls, but recent birth announcements suggest that this one could be truly gender neutral.
Grayson – I was curious to see the outcome of this Swistle post. The couple have a son named Grayson and were expecting another boy. Was Jackson too much repetition? Swistle gave a great answer – as always – but the family ultimately went with Maddox instead. It’s a reminder that every name we love enough to choose for a child can potentially rule out others for future children.
Jovan – Despite all of the talk of normal names and worry about pop culture references or what’s too out there, plenty of families stick with the basics when naming their children. The Chew’s Daphne Oz and husband Jovan Jovanovic chose a bold name for daughter Philomena Bijou. But when their second child arrived at the end of October, they went the traditional route. Their son is named Jovan Jovanovic, Jr. They’re calling him John–John.
Which names did you decide not to use?
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on November 1st, 2015 at 11:52 pm
I’ve been writing about nicknames in the forums and it occurred to me that to use a name I would have to love it beyond logic, even beyond nickname concerns.
I feel this way about Cordelia (our unborn daughter) and I felt that way about Owen (our unborn son), despite the fact that Cordelia includes some (to me) grisly nicknames like Cory and Cordy and Owen doesn’t lend itself to nicknames.
While I really like Charles and Charleston, I would not use them for fear of Charlie or worse, Chuck. I just don’t love them enough to risk it.
The female name that blinds me with passion now is Endellion. If I had a daughter I would use it, in fact could use nothing else unless I had twins. With male names I am more bold, but again, it would have to be a name that knocked me off my feet.
I guess my basic answer is that I would reject every name on earth that did not sweep me off my feet. And the one I chose would have to sweep me the most off my feet. That’s why it’s hard for me to understand a different, more logical approach, the folks who write in and say they kind of like two names, but aren’t sure and which should they choose. Or they ask for names with a certain number of syllables or a certain ethnicity or a certain starting initial (or all three, April Fools, right?).
on November 2nd, 2015 at 12:41 am
I loved the name Conrad for a boy. But my older brother told me everyone would call him Connie. That was the normal nn. Then he told me about some football player with a nn of Connie. I changed the name to Hunter. I like Hunter, but I still like Conrad. This was 30 some years ago.
on November 2nd, 2015 at 9:52 am
My first son’s name ends in ‘n’ and it seemed that all the names that I liked for my second boy had a similar ending. I wanted both of their names to be distinctive, so it made choosing another boys’ name more challenging.
on November 2nd, 2015 at 3:26 pm
I don’t recall even looking at the popularity charts when thinking about names for my daughter 18 years ago…I wanted a name that was meaningful to me/us (although my ex really didn’t care about meaning at all & wanted “normal” names, like Susan), sounded nice, & had nn possibilities in case we wanted a nn. I also knew I only wanted one child, so the idea of modifying a name to allow a wider range of names for a second child wasn’t a factor. In the end, we easily chose the girl mn & had two options for the fn; we had two fn-mn options for a boy. I told my ex he could pick the fn for a girl & my daughter is happy he chose the option he did.
on November 2nd, 2015 at 4:42 pm
Beautifully said, lesliemarion. We took a VERY logical approach to naming our children – because we just don’t have the same taste in names and it could have been a huge source of conflict. But in another life? Yes, I think the “sweeps me off my feet the most” test is an excellent approach!
on November 2nd, 2015 at 4:49 pm
A few names I absolutely love but probably would never actually use on a child are Basil, Jemima, Guinevere, and a couple of new names I’m loving lately, Gunnar and Wilder. Why wouldn’t I use them? I come from a traditionally very Mexican family, where names like those I’ve mentioned would get me chewed out and my child teased amongst his/her extended family.
I adore these names, but the only one I could realistically consider using is Jemima, as that was almost my aunt’s name. However, since I live in the South, the syrup association is strong and I highly doubt even the cute nickname Mim would save her from teasing (Miriam, which I do actually really like, has become my backup to the Mim nickname). Each of the other names have already gotten me funny looks when I’ve mentioned how much I like them (I’ve heard “That’s not a Mexican kid’s name!” being shouted at me more than once 🙁 ). I wish I could be brave enough to go against tradition and give my future hypothetical child a name I truly love, instead of one I merely like and only picked because it honors family members.
on November 3rd, 2015 at 4:37 pm
Great post! There are so many awesome names I feel I can’t use due to: pronunciation confusion (already have tough last name), too close to daughter’s name (an offshoot of Adelaide – love Adele and would totally use otherwise!), unappealing or no nicknames (e.g., Sonia, Hazel), and unfortunate associations (e.g., Hurricane Katrina, Esme from Twilight). Plus I have the common desire to honor family with the name, which limits options. Then there’s the fear that if I pick a super ethnic and unfamiliar name to go with last name, it will sound too exotic and make it hard for the poor kid to land a job someday!
on November 3rd, 2015 at 8:12 pm
I do understand there might be need for logical choosing or not choosing at times. I pretty much felt that my husband would go with any names I chose because he had already gotten to have a daughter and I had not gotten to have kids so that freed me up considerably. 🙂
I think the hardest for me to choose/unchoose would be male names because I do not currently have one total sweep me off my feet male name— instead I love about 100 male names! So how would I ever choose? I guess I’d have to pray for a sudden blinding passion!
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