Thursday, March 26, 2015

6 Naming Rules that Make Me Go "Huh?"

Fellow name enthusiasts, I like you guys. You enable my obsession, after all. But sometimes the things you say make it seem that do I put this delicately...have a tendency to overthink things. Take, for instance, "how to name your baby" posts that I see time and time again. They're designed to be "helpful," I suppose, but they're more of a window into the values of the people who wrote them if you ask me. In the interest of providing a variety of opinions, here are some common naming "rules" that I have very different feelings about:

1. "A name is off limits once a celebrity uses it for their baby."

Um, why? Do you live in Hollywood? Do you know this famous family personally? No? Then this should not be a concern at all.

Part of the reason this "rule" exists is because people are worried that a name will shoot up the popularity charts once a famous person uses it. In some cases this is true, but it's not like Shiloh immediately became the new Sophia after Angelina Jolie gave it to her daughter. Becoming a top 100 name is a process that takes years if not decades. Another thing I hear a lot is the worry that all of their friends will believe that the namer is copying the celebrity. If that happens, just explain that that's not the case. If they still don't get it, then you need better friends.

If you love the names North, Shiloh, Valor, or Esmeralda, use them. Don't worry so much about the little people in the TV.

2. "The last letter of the first name should not be the same as the first letter of the middle/last name, otherwise it will be too difficult to pronounce."

Say this name aloud: Christopher Robin. Did you have trouble with that?

Don't get me wrong, sometimes the same sounds together can be a problem. But this "rule" is not ironclad. It's more of a case-by-case guideline. So don't just assume. Say the name aloud a few times.

3. "Children should be given names that will help them succeed in the corporate world."

Okay, great! Here's my suggestions: Li, Hiroshi, Mohammed, and Arjun. ...What? That wasn't what you had in mind? Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't realize that they had time machines in the 1950s.

4. "Rule out names with bad childhood associations because you'll never get over them."

Again, not necessarily true in all cases. I always roll my eyes when people say that a name is bad because it was given to a Disney villain (Ursula comes to mind). I love the name Marceline even though I vaguely remember that a girl named Marcy bullied me in second grade. Perhaps this depends on how good your memory is. But if that kid that barfed on you when you were seven is enough to keep you from a name you love then you have a problem with grudges.

5. "Make sure that a traditional/formal name is on the birth certificate as an 'insurance policy.' You can always call them whatever other name you want."

With all due respect to other name bloggers and those who have done this with their own kids' names (I know this is a fairly common thing to do), but I believe this advice is misleading and unrealistic. I also thinks that this "rule" comes from the fear that a unique name is going to hold them back in some way which, as we see time and time again, isn't always a concern based in reality.

Here's why this tactic almost never works: parents don't get to pick the nicknames. That's up to the child and his peer group. Therefore, the only guarantee that a child will be called something is to make it his real name.

If you just love formal names with a myriad of unusual nickname options that's a different, and completely valid, thing. If you just like traditional names with a history, that's also valid. But the push for "serious" legal names is counter-productive when you really just want to use the unique name.

6. "Family honor names should automatically trump all other names."

No, that is definitely not true for everyone. And depending on the family, this could lead to more drama and regret than it's worth. I don't even believe in fulfilling the obligation with a middle name if that's outside of the parent's comfort zone. Or, let's just call a spade a spade, if it's outside the mother's comfort zone. More often than not, it is the father and the father's family that is invested in the honor names. Not everyone values tradition, and that should be given equal respect.


  1. Great points! I've pondered most of these too.

  2. "But if that kid that barfed on you when you were seven is enough to keep you from a name you love then you have a problem with grudges." True words of wisdom!

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