Saturday, October 24, 2009

What's in a name?

I've been spending a lot of time on the message boards at lately. One of my groups is all women who are due in the same month as me. One of the hot topics seems to be "what do you think of this name?", or, "is this name getting too popular?", or, "Name poll please". And really why not? Picking a name for your baby is a completely personal, permanent decision that will affect your child for the rest of their life.
Of course I have an opinion on the whole naming your kid thing. I find picking a name extremely difficult. Not just to pick one I like, but one my husband likes and one that doesn't have a negative effect on either of us from past associations (ex-boyfriends, ex-girlfriends, ex-friends, ex-students). Yes, ex-students is the one that affects me most. I've been teaching for 11+ years. In that time I've worked with a lot of kids and have a lot of name associations. It's because of this that I have some advice for parents to be when it comes to naming your child.
First and foremost, pick a name that you absolutely love. You will be hearing it a lot.
Then try it out. Call it out loud a bunch of times. Say it fast, say it slow. Does it say anything to you that's different than you originally intended? Here's an example. I taught a girl named Sonata once. Pretty name, pretty song. Now try saying it fast. Do you hear what I hear? "Snot-a". What about the name Tierney? Looks pretty, sounds pretty. Do you hear anything else with it? What about 'tyranny'? Maybe not what you had in mind at first?
What about middle names and initials? Sometimes they spell words. Be careful what you are unintentionally spelling. Did you know that Michael J. Fox's middle name is really Andrew? He used a "J" instead of an "A" because he didn't want to be called Michael, a fox.
Think about nick-names too. Is the name you love going to get shortened into something you or your child may grow to hate?
What does the name mean? Is that important to you? I love the name Mary, but Mary means bitter. It makes be think twice about using it. Does your name have a meaning at all? Think of Suri Cruise. That is an example of a made up name. There is no meaning (unless you want to attach one to it). Or does your name mean something or associate with something that your child may not enjoy? I've taught a Pagan. Maybe her parents are pagans, but will she be? Delilah is a very pretty name gaining in popularity these days but I think Rachel on FRIENDS said it best, "my daughter's a biblical whore". (or something to that affect - before settling on Emma).
Speaking of which, how much does media and celebrity come into play when naming your child? I've taught Mariahs, Shanias, Kobes and Kieras. Emma was extremely rare before Emma was born on Friends. We're starting to see Maddox and Shiloh thanks to the Pitt-Jolie family.
How about popularity? Does that matter to you? I grew up as one of a few Kris's. Mine's Kristen. I've been Kris, Krissy, Kristi and Kristen over the course of my life so far. I was known as Krissy D. in school to differentiate me from Chrissy N. Had my brother been a girl he would have been one of many Jennifers that came out of the '70's. Jennifer is the most popular name among my friends. They survived it.
In my teaching career I've seen the wave of Ashleys and Jessicas. The Nathans and Ethans. I've had classes with 4 Brandons and variations similar (Brendan, Brayden, Brennan). Right now we're seeing the effects of girl M names - Makayla, Madison, Mackenzie, and Megan. Most classes I teach have at least one Aidan version (Jayden, Cayden, Brayden, Bayden, Kaydan, and Zayden - both male and female). And J's are usually Josh or Jacob. Many girls right now are Kira, Kiera, Kayla, Kara, and Kayla. Not sure where the name you love fits? Ask a teacher friend. Check popular names list (and check multiple spellings - Makayla doesn't usually make the list but when you look at all the spelling possibilities, it's one of the top ones (McKayla, Michaela, Mackayla etc).
And about spelling. Does spelling count? Well, do you want your child going through life spelling their name? Or, having someone not knowing what they said? I've had one Micheal in my career. I can imagine how often he says not Michael (traditional) but Micheal (made up spelling). Maybe he just goes by Mike by now?
And think about things like pre-made items with your child's name on it (mugs, piggy banks and bike license plates). Can you find your child's name in there? Does that matter to you? Do you think it might to your child?
How much does family influence matter to you? Are you prepared to defend your choice should your parents (or his) hate it? Or, do their objections make sense. Are they thinking about your child and how they will live with the name you want to give them? Maybe their objections are genuinely valid? Are you able to stand up to your own when they think they have found the perfect name for your child? My Nana was so sure and so insistant that we call our second child David. Nothing wrong with the name David, in fact we know lots of them, just not the name we wanted for our son. One thing to remember when it comes to family and baby naming, they've already had a shot at naming their kids, this one's yours.
And do you love the name you love so much that you are okay with keeping it no matter what? One my husband's good friends and his wife have a little boy 2 months older than our oldest son. Both boys have the same name. We had picked it and fell in love with it when I was 4 months pregnant. I couldn't believe that they had the same name all picked out. Oh well, 2 little boys who are extremely loved are growing up with the same name and sometimes they play together.
I'm just waiting now to see what happens with these next round of babies. You see my counterpart on this site, Jill and I are both pregnant (again at the same time - round 3). Our oldest kids are 7 weeks apart, our seconds are 7 weeks the other way around and now her next one is coming in Nov. and mine in Feb. We both have 2 boys and I'm just wondering if these babies are girls. I have a girl name all picked out and have for a few months now. Wouldn't it just be funny if she beat me to the punch? (although if she sticks with the "A" theme it won't happen). For the record I currently have no boy name picked out, but my husband has one he loves.
When it comes to naming your kids, it is up to you. You love what you love for a reason. So let it be. And let it be what it is. These are just tips and things to think about that I've learned and thought about along the way.
To find out more about naming your baby check these sites out:

-Find name meanings and store your favorites in a name basket -

-Name generator with suggestions for first and middle names that go with your last name -

-List of most popular names by countries around the world -

-List of the most popular baby names in Canada, 2007 -

-Tracking the most popular baby names since 1879 in the USA -

1 comment:

  1. I totally had name association issues from teaching. Any name - boy or girl - starting with KEN was OUT.

    I LOVE the look of your site! Totally cool graphics! I'm following you from the MBC Under 100 Club. I look forward to reading more!




We'd love to hear from you. Email us with your feedback, suggestions and general blog love at