Thursday, September 22, 2011

Things to Consider When Choosing a Baby Name

I feel like it might be best to write this post while this blog is still quite young, meaning, there's a high probability of this post offending someone. Then again, everyone is offended by everything these days, so I'll just go ahead.

1. Please research the names you like. Don't just say, "Oh, Jemima, that sounds great," without being aware of the cultural associations it has. Don't just say, "I'm going to name my baby Anthony," because, although it's a great name, it's also the 10th most popular name in the U.S. as of 2010. Live in Michigan? It's #23. Live in California? It's #3. And your baby will surely be known as Anthony J. or Tony J. or whatever your last initial is for his entire education, and will undoubtedly know a handful+ more boys with the same name. Don't just say, "I'm going to name her Persephone," without knowing the name means "bringer of destruction" and that she was called a goddess of death. I'm NOT saying you should avoid these names, (and Persephone is a great, great name), or any similar, I'm just saying to be aware of what comes with the name. It's popularity, meaning and cultural associations come with it. If you've made this mistake before, give some friendly advice to someone you know so that they can be well aware of these things.

2. That said, please remember that you are not naming yourself, you are bestowing a name unto a child that has no control over your decision. If you take a traditional name and spell it creatively, your child will likely have to spell it out for everyone they meet, and it's really not worth the trouble just because you think it looks/sounds better. If you take a word name and spell it backwards, they will also have to spell it out for everyone they meet, plus have to explain what it means, and sometimes be secretly laughed at. If you give them a very silly or inappropriate name like Dick, even if it was your beloved Grampa's name, or a very hard-to-wear name that celebrities are so famous for, such as Audio Science, there is a high probability they will be made fun of. And not all kids can learn to own their name, so to speak. Poor little Twinkle (of which there were 6 born in 2010) will be very confident early in life, but is going to feel very awkward later in life, as an adult, with such a silly name. My point is, be respectful of your baby and don't make them want to go through a name change later in life. Poor little Treasure (of which there were 201 born in 2010, along with 7 Tresure and 13 Trezure) might be your little treasure, but she's not going to feel like it if her word-name isn't even spelled right, or if she meets five other little Treasure's in life. I can't stress enough about how important it is to spell word-names right, though. Take Symphony, for example. Some like it, some don't, but everyone will think you're illiterate if you spell it Symphonie, Symphany, Symphani, Symphony, or Symphoni (all of which were actual births in 2010).

3. Names you think are ridiculous may or may not be. Many a blog-writer have frowned upon such names as Harlow Winter Kate and Sparrow James Midnight, the children of Nicole Richie and Joel Madden. However, these names are no longer unusual, at least not in communities where moms and future moms are well-informed about potential names and trends. Your immediate circle may not appreciate these gems, but they're not ridiculous. However, Magic and Majesty pretty much are ridiculous. I would suggest to try to keep it to one rare/trendy name per baby, meaning, don't go overboard with a name like Winter Midnight or Athena Saffron, as magical as they may seem to you. Try Winter Katherine or Katherine Midnight, for example. Also, take advantage of baby name websites with forums and polls, such as Nameberry, Baby Name Genie, and Behind the Name. You can ask for experienced and inexperienced namers alike for advice and have them vote on your polls.

4. Don't name your baby after a fad, trend, product (Nivea, anyone?), celebrity, celebrity baby name, or whatever you happen to like at the time or be watching on TV. Chances are that fad is going to get super popular and stress everyone out (like Aidan), that trend may not be so great to you in a few years, the celebrity might do something really stupid to piss you off, or the character on TV might really disappoint you. There's also the "Harry Potter thing." A lot of blogs talk about this, but the Harry Potter series brought up some fantastic names like Bellatrix and Firenze. However, since there are SO many people that can recognize these names, they're probably going to call you out on it. "Oh, did you name your baby after Bellatrix Lestrange?" It's up to you whether you want the association, and I don't think it is either a good or a bad thing. No, scratch that, I'm going to contradict myself: Harry Potter brought up some wonderful names and you should use them regardless of the association. There, I said it. But don't name your baby Crisangel or Apple.

5. Don't name your baby something you think is unique and special, because a lot of other people think that same name is unique and special. Point: Younique, Unique, Miracle, Precious, Princess, etc. These names are cringe-inducing. (By the way, creative spellings of the name Unique are by far the worst.) On that note, don't blend names together in hopes that it will be creative. Examples: Rayshawn, Marcanthony, Renesmee.

6. I know a ton of people will disagree with this, because everyone loves to get opinions, but try to limit how much information you share with friends and family and online forums. I cannot tell you how often I hear someone complain that their friend used the name they were going to use first, or their family hates all the names they came up with, or the annonymousnamenapping. Don't share your short list with family (and even friends) because the chances of them being critical are very high, unless you're naming the baby after one of them. Friends and family always want to help, but sometimes they get upset if you don't like their suggestions or the names you picked aren't up to their ideal.

7. Really plan out the first, middle, and last names together, so that there aren't any unexpected consequences, like Barbara Wire, James Dean, Virginia Mary, or Will Smith. These can be an easy target for others to make fun of, and other combinations can be redundant, like Scarlett Rose. (Roses are red, scarlett is red, you get the point.) You think it's cute. Others think it's stupid.

8. Try to keep out excess punctuation, like dashes, spaces, and apostrophes. Most legal documents (and the SSA list, by the way) cannot accomodate these extra marks, or can only contain the letters. Some forms are even capital letters only, and a name like AnneMarie (with two capital letters) will not register. And on that note, try to keep in mind your child's potential future career. Certain names are often disregarded when employers look through resumes. Names like Andromeda, Captain, Arian, Mujahamahad (if that's even a real name, I haven't checked), and Star-Shine sometimes don't make the professional world's list of acceptable names, and employers pass over them.


  1. You bring up some really, really good points and some pet peeves I have. Particularly the research one. I was reading a comment today (the comment was posted today) where someone talked about Nevaeh being unique, special, and a great name for religous people who want to be subtle and avoid popular bible names. The poster also said that she could not see why Madison would ever be used for a boy. I don't remember exactly how she said it, but it was clear she had no idea that it was originally masculine. I get that people have opinions on names and some have misconceptions as well (I never would have guessed Susannah was so rare). I just hate when people state their misconceptions as facts, clearly having done no research. Anyway, rant over. The main one I think I'm guilty of is 4. I may have some rare names on my list, but I also have some favorites that are climbing fast. So in a few years favorites like Dexter and Penelope may be what everyone is using. :( Sadness.

  2. It seems like you might be ahead of the style curve, meaning, you like names that are not extremely popular right now, but with other like-minded individuals, they will become popular. Penelope, for example, climbed from #946 in 2001 to #200 in 2010, so those who named their baby Penelope in 2001 may be a little sad that the name is now so popular. Dexter is currently on the rise as well, starting at #756 in 2001 and ending at #454 in 2010. But don't distress too much - having a popular baby names does mean the name is very well liked by the majority.
    But yes, without doing research, many might assume a name such as Neveah is "unique," while it is actually #888 (which is not extremely popular, but still well-known, not exactly "unique." I would say "unique" is something extremely rare, and I have dedicated a page on this blog to those names.) Without researching the name, something might come back to bite you later, so to speak. And in my personal opinion, Neveah is very obviously religious, not very subtle. There are Bible names, such as Sapphira, that are much more subtly religious.
    Thanks for your comment!

  3. The woman in the post I was talking about was talking about Nevaeh - which, at #25, is almost certainly not unique. I was surprised the difference in Nevaeh and Neveah was 800 places steep, and I suppose that is a good thing, seeing as Neveah's spelling almost defeats the purpose of heaven spelled backwards.

    Yes, I still hope Penelope and Dexter's rise will level off somewhere. Some of my other choices aren't rising too much. Veronica and Simon, my other top choices, haven't come back in yet so I'll cross my fingers and hope they stay close.

    I just discovered your blog yesterday and I really, really liked the articles. I really only read Appellation right now, but I'd love to find another blog to frequent. Do you take suggestions? I really enjoy reading name spotlights, it helps me figure out what I like and don't like.

  4. Yes, I'd love to do suggestions. Email me at with something like "a name per day" or "baby name suggestion" in the title. No one has asked me yet. (Although I only started writing this blog in August.) I wonder if maybe I should write more advice posts?

  5. I think you should. You seem to be able to articulate your thoughts well and it might help others in the future. I'll send you an email with a few ideas.

  6. These are some really good pieces of Advice, however i would like to point out something about Persephone. "Phone" in Greek does not mean solely to murder, it also means "speech sound" (in words such as "homophone" and "telephone"). And the "perse" part--which the word means "dark blue" in English--comes from the Greek word Persikos--"a Persian." So Persephone doesn't have to have such a violent meaning--it can also mean "Persian sound" or "Persian speaker." Also, she was not the Queen of Death, she was the Wife of the ruler of the underworld and the Goddess of Springtime and Innocence.

    Otherwise, great advice.

  7. I have modified my post on Persephone to reflect your comment about the meaning of "phone." I am sorry I didn't connect the dots on that one. However, I have included more information on Persephone being known as the Queen of the Underworld, and more information on the meaning "to destroy, to bring death" as opposed to "dark blue" from the word Persikos. There is more credible information to support that Persephone comes from "pertho" and "phone" rather than "perse" and "phone." Although "Persian voice / blue voice" is more of a stretch, it could work.