Seven Best Tips for How to Choose Your Child’s Name
Congratulations! Now that you or your partner peed on a stick (maybe several if you are like me think peeing on sticks and making magic via modern chemistry is FUN) and you are having a baby! The point is a bun is in your oven and settling in to cook. You have many responsibilities ahead of you but one of the more enjoyable ones is selecting the moniker to attach to those ten tiny toes and ten tiny fingers and adorable eyes and mewling new baby cries. Whether you share this task with the other parent or it is up to you alone, here are a few tips to help make it a successful venture from brainstorming to birth certificate.
1. Family Heritage – Bestowing an Honor or Saddling a Tradition
Family names can be a very nice way to honor a family member whether they are living or deceased. The names tend to be more traditional and have stood the test of time. It is hard to go wrong with a family name though some names have passed out of popularity for a reason. If you really loved your Grandma Mildred, perhaps consider naming your daughter Millie or your Great Grandpa Buford could have a child named…. well, I don’t know what to do with that. My point is, just make sure you are the one initiating the honor and you are not being bullied into it. You and your child will be stuck with this name for a while.
2. Trendy Names – Hot or Not
Although I might be putting a date on myself if I say that when I was going to elementary school the “hot” names for girls were Jennifer, Jessica, Melissa and Amanda and for boys it was Matthew, Christopher, Michael, and James. Kids with those names had to be identified with their last initial or last name. I always felt bad for them. While my name is not an odd name, it is one that has never even made it into the top 100 here in America. If you find a name and find in the top ten list, consider that your child may very well be one of the many with the same name. If you really like the name and are fine with that, no worries. If that thought displeases you, continue searching for another name.
3. Spelling – It Counts!
I hate to dispel the myth that changing the spelling of a trendy name, suddenly makes it “unique”. Nope, it doesn’t. If you are still pronouncing it the same, then at most you have a name “derivative” of the original. Many name derivatives exist, often they evolve into an entirely new name but recent years have seen derivatives evolve ONLY into “creahteevily” spelled names. What are you are left with, is a life time of you and your child correcting the pronunciation of their name and spelling it, especially over the phone, and them cursing you as they age for not giving them a name with proper spelling. If you choose to go this route anyway that is fine, but hold your temper when people cannot pronounce the name you gave your child. Or when your child feels the need to create a cringe-worthy YouTube video just tell people how to pronounce her name, as this young lady did - don't say I didn't warn you!
4. Middle Names as First Names
I do not for the life of me understand why parents will give a child a first and middle name and then from day one or nearly day one insist on calling them by their middle name. If you prefer the “Middle Name” make that the “First Name” and save your child and future classmates, coworkers and system administers hours of frustration as they look from the wrong name in the endless systems of technology which insist on classifying people by their given names. Save your child endless awkward moments, possible confrontations with law or frisking by TSA agents when they pause too long upon being asked “What is your name” and they have to think because the name on their government issued ID is not the name they go by or refer to themselves as. Society is not the same today as it was before. Save everyone some hassle and name your child the name you actually want them to be called.
5. Nick Names as First Names – Use With Caution
This is something which if carefully thought out can make a very refined and sometimes more unique version of a popular name or could go very wrong and leave your child forever stuck bearing a juvenile version of their name even at 40, 50, 60+. For example, Billy is an adorable little boy but probably not who you want as your lawyer - you want William Jones, Esq. Lizzie’s smile brightens every room but probably not who you want as your cardiac surgeon, you want Elizabeth Smith, MD. On the other hand naming your son Sam instead of Samuel or your daughter Kate instead of Katherine, those are names which they can take from birth through adulthood and set them apart. They are more unique than their more common origins and done right, can be a clever way to set them apart from the masses when going with a popular name.
6. Getting Greedy
There are just so many names and you like tham all, you can’t decide which to go with so, you give them ALL to your kid! Consider the ever popular standardized test, #2 pencils and those little bubbles you have to fill out. Elizabeta Lila Marie Johnson-Foreru is going to be too tired to complete the rest of the test after just filling out her name portion at the top! Decided to hyphenate that last name when you married? Nobody will argue with you there, but consider the length of your child’s first and middle names when filling out that birth certificate. Enough said!
7. Blending Names
So you are having a baby and can’t decide whether to name the baby after your mom’s grandma or your dad’s grandma OR you want to name the baby after your mom and your husband wants to name the baby after his mom, not being able to decide you opt to blend two names. Depending on the names, whether each can lend a portion that goes together - this can be a beautiful compromise. But a word of warning – attempting to combine two opposite gendered names – say the Mom & Dad’s names can often lead to one hideous sounding name. You’ll know it’s hideous when you tell people and they say, “Oh, how interesting!”. Here are some examples of names that would work. Girls: Laureen and Sharon = Shareen. Boys: Henry and Erik = Henrik. And an example of combining a boy and girl name and how it doesn’t work. Boy & Girl: Donna and Todd = Tonna or Dodd (uhh, no!)
Well, there you have it. Go pick a name for that baby and remember the kid is stuck with it until they can legally change it! When in doubt - practice shouting it in the house and see how ridiculous it sounds. Better yet - go yell it at the park and see if any other parents give you funny looks or if 5 kids turn around. Then you can see if you have a keeper! Good luck!