Tuesday, February 3, 2009

What's In A Name?

A lot of people I know have been having babies lately. (Purely a coincidence, I'm sure) and that's gotten me to thinking about baby names. As with most things, I have a very strong opinion on this topic and since this is my blog, I'm going to share it with you.
I've given a lot of thought to naming children--after all, I've named six of them myself. (With a little help from my husband.) It's a huge responsibility. You are tagging and identifying that person for the rest of their life. The name is usually the first thing given in conversation when you meet someone. It makes a big difference if you introduce yourself as "Alexander" as opposed to say, "Scooter". Whole different first impression.
Every year a list is produced of the most popular names for the previous year. But you don't need to check the list to see what's popular. Just stand at the edge of a playground and yell, "Ashley!" or "Megan!" See how many come running. (Of course this scientific test can be marred by the fact that you might be picked up by the police because you're a grown adult loitering around a children's playground. But that's your business.) It's funny though how popular names can change over the years. The Dylans and Ashleys of today could become the Miltons and Gertrudes of yesteryear.
It always bugs me when people try to show their creativity in naming their baby. You want to be creative? Take up painting. But don't saddle some poor kid with a name like QueegQueeg because you like the letter Q and think it gets a bum rap.
Some people think a couple of vowels adds up to creativity. I once knew a family where the wife was named Tracy. but she spelled it Treacy. Because an extra vowel makes it special, I guess. Their daughter's name was Raechael. Yup. Rachel with a whole lot of extra vowels. That's not creative. All you've done is consign your child to having his/her name misspelled for the rest of their life. Or pronounced in weird ways. Either way, it's not so much creative as it is cruel.
You see, there's a Good Unique you can give in naming children and then there's a Just Plain Wrong. And it's a fine line between the two. I once heard a comic define it this way: Good Unique is when you call your kid and he's the only one that comes running. Just Plain Wrong is when he's running because he's being chased.
And then some people aren't that creative. That's why we have a lot of Bobs and Janes running around. But did you ever notice that the more plain the name, the more likely the family is to carry it on to the fourth and fifth generation? Take Bob Jones for example. You get a college named after you and I guess it's not that big a deal that your name is rather plain. But now they've carried that name for generations. When you have to go into roman numerals in order to spell out your name, maybe it's time to go in a new direction.
Of course, some people are clever and creative. They'll give their child a perfectly normal first name and then slip the creative choice in as a middle name. That's why so many people just put a middle initial instead of the whole name. They're ashamed of their parents' creativity. Again, take up painting. It's less painful and there's definitely a lowered risk of having to pay therapy bills for your children all their lives.
And finally, there's the trap we fell into. We gave one of our children two middle names. Of course we had a good reason for doing this. When our second son was born, we wanted to name him after two different people. But we didn't want either name to be the first name. So we gave him our own choice for the first name and gave him two middle names. Try filling that whole name out on a small form! In addition, we did that because "who knew if we'd have any more boys." We've since had three more, for a total of five boys. Toward the end we got real close to stealing one of Luke's middle names and giving it to someone else.
So there you have it. Play it safe. Extra letters do not mean true uniqueness. It just advertises that you're poor at spelling. And remember, that child you name today will be naming your grandchild tomorrow.


  1. Ditto! You hit the nail on the head! One of my pet peeves is destroying the gender of a name or using "unisex" names. You see the name Chris or Taylor and you have to wonder - girl or boy? I have a cousin that named his daughter Chase. If we ever have any kids, my desire is to use Bible names for their first name and famuly names for their middle ones.

  2. It is so funny now in tv when they announce the name of the baby of such or such celebrity. Do they think because they are rich, other kids are not going to beat up their kids because of the names they choose? Apple, Madox, knox,Ever Gabo (seriously it is a kids name), Harlow, Ignatius.....
    Btw, ladies I had to find those names in the google celebrity baby blog, I could not remember all of them. But I wonder how many stupid regular people would call their kids Shiloh or whatever just because they are fans of the particular celebrity mom/dad....


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