Here, five ways to choose unusual names that have all the best qualities of the genre and avoid the worst.
1. Spell them the, uh, normal way.
Okay, let’s say you want to name your child Atticus. Unusual, yes; weird (at least in today’s terms), no. But change it up to Attykus and you tip it over the line to weird.
2. Keep your gender-bending within bounds.
Using an androgynous name like Taylor or Mason, for a boy or a girl, is one way to be distinctive. You can even push the limits by choosing an all-boy name like Eric, say, as a daughter’s middle name to honor an ancestor, or reclaiming a name such as Sasha for your son. But using Eric as your daughter’s first name or letting your son’s name veer too far into the feminine camp starts to get weird.
3. Choose unusual names that have regular old nicknames.
Rosamund might be unusual-in-a-good way, but one of the best things about it is that you can always call your daughter Rosie if, for whatever reason, you think she needs a name option that’s a little less unusual.
4. Make sure people can pronounce and understand them.
You may be interested in an unusual name that fits your ethnic identity, and that’s great, but if people in the country where you live are going to have endless trouble pronouncing or remembering it, you’ve got a problem. Xanthipe may be lovely if you live in Athens, but in Athens, Georgia, you’d do better with Cynthia.
5. Pick names that will last your child a lifetime.
Sure, your friends think Floyd is a cool name, in a retro hip, so far out it’s in kind of way. But how’s Floyd going to sound when yelled out on the soccer field? Can Floyd get a blind date? Even if a three-year-old or a 30-year-old would deem it the best kind of unusual, if a 13-year-old would call it weird, it’s out.
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