Oh What’s In A Name?

After you get pregnant, the number one thing people ask you (besides “How are you feeling?”) is “So what are you going to name your baby?”  Some parents-to-be tend to play it safe saying, “We are still talking about options,” which effectively defers the question.  Others excitedly gush about the list of names they are potentially considering.  Is there a right or a wrong way to go about this?  Not really.  However, if you plan on sharing the potential name of your child before he/she is actually born, expect some feedback – and it may not always be positive.

Over the past couple months I’ve found that people have some surprisingly strong feelings about names, and more commonly, about their own name if it’s one that is easily mispronounced or difficult to spell.

The woman who takes care of our office plants is named Marianna (pronounced: Mar-ee-ahh-nuh).  She says she’s spent her whole life correcting people when they call her Mary-Anna or one of the other few possible pronunciations.  According to her,  if you want to name your child something different and unique then you should make up an entirely new name, rather than slightly altering an already common one.

Makes sense.  But nowadays it seems that many parents are going for the originality factor in a name rather than choosing from a more common pool.  Of course others still stick with traditional, oftentimes Biblical, names that don’t quickly become un-trendy or outdated.

Consider also the growing trend of “boys names are not just for boys anymore.”  Rather than choosing a traditionally feminine name, many parents are opting to give their daughters names like Elliot, Ryan, Jordan, Alex, Peyton, or Logan.

Then there’s the whole name-meaning factor.  To me this has been a big one.  I like the idea of naming my child something that has a strong, positive meaning.  Although I must admit I get annoyed when a name I think sounds really nice has  a meaning that is either strange or undesirable.

Earlier this year Jon and I watched a documentary called Freakonomics (really interesting movie) that explored how certain names may effect a person’s life and career.  It mostly compared classic white names to names that had obvious black flair, like Jamal or Shantise.  Not that I’m planning on naming my baby either of those things, but the discussion was interesting nonetheless.

Anyway, these are all the things I’m considering when bouncing around potential baby names in my head.

One thing I have learned from all this talking about names is this: asking your friend or family member what they want to name their future children (especially when those children may not be conceived for another 2-10 years) can be risky.  Why?  Well because what if you hear their potential baby name and decide that you also love that name?  Then what?  Especially if the name is unique, then you may make yourself out to be a baby name thief.  Not cool.

Another thing that’s not cool is to claim a name for your child in advance in an attempt to ward off others from choosing that same name.  That’s called being a baby name keeper and that’s also frowned upon (at least by me).  Shouldn’t everyone have the opportunity to name their child whatever they see fit regardless of other people’s preferences or opinions?

All sarcasm aside, I’m finding that the less I tell people about what I might name my kids, and the less I know about what other people I know want to name their kids, the better.  Although if you are unsure about a possible name, announcing it to a few confidants may provide you with some valuable feedback.  Then again, it may crush your baby name dreams…

CONCLUSION: Baby names…talk at your own risk.


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