Your Biggest Baby Name Surprises
Choosing a name — like having a child — is a leap into the unknown. Whether you decide on a name instantly or agonize over it for months, eventually you make the final choice and the name goes out into the world with your child.
And then? It surprises you, in ways you never imagined.
Most of us do a few basic checks on potential names: no unfortunate initials, no accidental rhyming with the surname. But there are still so many things you could never predict, both positive and negative. They can come from other people’s reactions, from events outside your control, or from your children themselves.
We asked some of our Instagram followers what they’d found surprising about their children’s names — and boy, did they deliver. Here are some of the reasons why, when it comes to baby names, you can always expect the unexpected.
However, since the data is freely available, it’s worth checking so you know where you stand. If you call your baby Emma or Liam believing these are unusual names that you won’t hear on other children… well, you’re probably in for a surprise.
“My husband quickly calmed me down and then pointed out that my name is Alex… and that I couldn’t really be that upset. …I love his name even more that it can be shared with everyone just like mine.”
Wherever you stand on nicknames — love them, or desperate for a nickname-proof name — it doesn’t always go to plan.
Shauna was surprised that for two of her children, many people just can’t use their full three syllables. Atticus is Atti to his teachers, and for Mirabelle, people split equally between Mira and Belle.
But for @nameaddict_ca, the opposite happened. She expected that a nickname would develop naturally for her daughter, Everly. Maybe Ever, or Evie? Two and a half years later, she’s still Everly. Now mom has twin boys on the way (congratulations!), and this time they’re weighing up not only full names, but also pre-chosen nicknames that make a good pair.
Follower @anna.dubourg didn’t realize until after her daughter Halston (“hall-ston”) was born, that some people would call her “hal-ston”. She still loves the name but says,
“I’m just worried she’ll be doomed to correct people her whole life.”
“I would say well over half of the people call her Myla rather than Mila. I was so shocked at this confusion. Not once when we were choosing her name did I think it was tricky or difficult to pronounce!”
This doesn’t mean you should avoid every name that could possibly be mispronounced, and just call your child Bob. But it might be worth considering if there are any other way people might say your chosen name — and if so, whether that would be a problem.
Going beyond pronunciation, some parents are surprised when others don’t recognize a name that seems common and familiar to them.
Take Dean, for example. A steady staple with one common spelling, not overly trendy and never out of the Top 400. Familiar, right? Wrong. At least that’s the case for our follower Molly, whose son is called Dean:
“we prided ourselves on giving him a ‘normal’ name that we wouldn’t have to repeat or spell out and that’s literally all we’ve done since he’s been born”
“almost no one who meets him has heard the name! They assume it is a girl’s name (‘Oh, I love cross-gender name choices!’) or a name I invented (‘Oh, that’s really… unique!’).”
Sometimes it’s a generation thing. Samantha’s daughter, Quinn, has a name that has been in the Top 1000 for 25 years, and the Top 100 for five years. Kindergarten teachers probably wouldn’t bat an eyelid, but many older people mishear it as Gwen or Lynn. Statistically, it would be much more surprising to meet a young girl with either of those names.
Who’d have thought it?
Then there are some things you could just never predict. Sometimes, events in the world and pop culture can change a name overnight: just ask parents who named their children Alexa, Isis, or Harry Potter. They’ve had to quickly learn to weather the storm, and boldly face any reactions.
Our most unpredictable reader story came from follower @LitchfieldLocals. Her son’s name is Santino — Tino or just T for short (so cute!). Now he’s starting to learn words, it’s surprisingly difficult to teach him “no”:
“when I say “T, no!” he thinks I’m saying Tino… we’re now using words like ‘stop’ and ‘don’t’ [instead]”
On the flip side, sometimes the issue you worry about before your child arrives (and ask about in the Nameberry forums)… turns out to be no big deal. Dean’s mom, Molly, thought they might get negativity for giving him the initials DAM, but no one has bothered about it yet.
So if you’re naming a baby now, don’t be disheartened! Part of the joy of names is that they take on a life of their own. All we can do is bestow a name with love and the best intentions, then sit back and wait for the surprises to come.
Thanks to everyone who shared their stories with us! Now over to you: what have you found surprising about your child’s name (or your own)?
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on May 8th, 2020 at 1:04 pm
I completely relate to the part about teachers shortening names! I’m a Kindergarten teacher, and though I love and respect the names parents picked out for their kids, when I have to rattle off dozens (feels like hundreds) of names in a day I find myself shortening them to one syllable whenever possible. Gavin = Gav, Lilly = Lil, Silas = Si, etc. I don’t have time for extra syllables!
on May 8th, 2020 at 4:30 pm
I don’t think my parents had any surprises with mine (Carrie). However, there was one memorable school event where the emcee paused before reading my name. This is typical; my last name is long and unusual, and people always stumble through it. Finally, he haltingly said, “….Carr-ie…?” (pronouncing the first syllable like “car”) and then confidently rattled off my last name to perfection. Who knows!
on May 10th, 2020 at 8:41 pm
My children are named Theodore and Jameson. I’d never ever met another child with those names when I decided on them. Of course, now both are pretty popular. I’d intended for Theodore to be nicknamed Theo and never called his whole name. I didn’t like it much at all. Once he got here though, I never called him Theo. He’s just not a nickname kid. With Jameson, I never wanted a nickname and now he has tons!! He’s called James, Jamie…we even have a relative that calls him baby Jimmy (HATE IT!!!) Isn’t it funny how these things change so quickly
on May 11th, 2020 at 5:21 am
I have Rosalie and Atticus. With Rosie, I was astonished by the number of people who pronounced it “ro-sa-LEE” vs. my (I thought very simple?) pronunciation of “ROSE-a-lee.” It’s minor but it drives me nuts. Luckily she’s just Rosie 99% of the time.
With Atty, two things. First, I had planned on using Kit as a nickname. It’s all I used. For like two months. I hated the sound of Atty. Kit did not stick. My daughter refused to use it and she’s the boss. Haha! So he’s Atty. I dont mind it now, it suits him. Secondly, I had so many people in the slightly older generation (say, 50+) who asked “How do you pronounce that?” Atticus. Really? What other way is there to pronounce it?
on May 14th, 2020 at 12:32 pm
My daughter is Phoebe. Never imagined we’d have so many spelling mistakes, though now it seems logical since it isn’t exactly intuitive for English-speakers. I thought it was so familiar that it wouldn’t be an issue, but no one seems to know what it is. Also, no one can understand it over the phone; I’ve gotten See-bee, Thee-bee, Vee-bee, Bee-Bee, Jee-bee… really?
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