The Tragedy Of Naming Your Second Child

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I kind of feel bad for my daughter. Not because there’s anything wrong with her, but just because she’s the second child and she’s been getting the short end of the stick since before she was born.

Take, for instance, the story of how we chose her name.

When you’re pregnant with your first kid, you have all the time in the world to lie around with your spouse discussing the merits of every name in the New Jewish Baby Names book.

Chris: How about Xander?

Me: There was a Xander in my kindergarten class who picked his nose and ate it. What about Zeke?

Chris: All the kids in his class will just call him “Zeke the geek.” Asher?

Me: Nope. Ex-boyfriend. Small penis.

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Chris: Bodhi?

Me: Ex. Not-so-small penis.

Chris: Ethan?

Me: Nah —

Chris: Not another ex?

Me: I would never sleep with someone named Ethan. Which is the problem.

… and so it went, until we finally agreed on Noah. By the time our fetus had a gestational age of 25 weeks, he had a name. No exes, no bad associations, and, as it turns out, not a small penis.

With the Little Lady, on the other hand, we didn’t have time to read the baby name book. There were no leisurely discussions about names; no exciting evenings spent imagining the amazing life our unborn child would undoubtedly lead. Once in awhile one of us would send a random text message to the other tossing out a name idea.

Text Message 1

While picking up Italian take out:

Text Message 2

This went on for nine months. When I went into labor we were no closer to choosing a name than we had been before our daughter matured out of the zygote stage. When people asked us if we had a name picked out, we would say we had some ideas, but nothing concrete. We were going to wait and see, positive that the minute she came out we would just look at her and know right away which name would be most fitting.

That was a great plan. Except for the fact that it didn’t work.

You know what newborn babies look like? Small, withered old people with squinty eyes. A baby doesn’t look like a Zachary or a Claire or a Naomi, and this one didn’t have a penis – small or large – to warrant Bodhi or Asher.

We probably would’ve continued to hem and haw about what to name our second born if it hadn’t been for the hospital staff reminding us every 20 minutes that we had to choose a name for her birth certificate before we could go home. Oh, sure, legally you can take your unnamed child home with you, but then you have to go through all this ridiculous red tape when you finally do have a name picked out. Ain’t nobody got time for that. Especially second time parents.

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Which is how I ended up spending the time that I should’ve been resting and recuperating instead Googling “Jewish girl names.” Finally, after an entire day wasted debating the merits of Sadie versus Sara, my exhaustion got the best of me. At that point I really didn’t care what we named the kid as long as I could go home the following day, sleep in my own bed, and take advantage of the free childcare being provided by my mother-in-Law.

As I recall, the final decision was made like this:

Me: JUST PICK A FUCKING NAME ALREADY! (crying) I’m too tired to care!

Chris: Rose is nice.

Me: Great, fine, whatever. At least it’s easy to spell. Now give me the damn paperwork so I can go to sleep.

I’m not completely sure if she really looks like a Rose. But it is easy to spell, and I’m still too tired to come up with something more creative.

Related post: How (Not) To Name Your Baby

How (Not) To Name Your Baby

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Is it just me, or is it like a freakin’ contest nowadays of who can give their kid the most gag-worthy name? All of a sudden, everyone is “that guy” with regards to naming their offspring. You know, that guy who makes folks roll their eyes or stare blankly when they hear the baby’s “hip” or intentionally unusual furniture- or foreign city-inspired name that is spelled with seven extra consonants and a random apostrophe? Yeah. I didn’t want to be that guy. Don’t you be that guy, either.

So please, don’t:

• Create a new spelling for an otherwise normal name. Why on earth would you intentionally botch the spelling of your kid’s name? People are shitty spellers already. You don’t have to make things harder by taking a perfectly well-spelled name and adding silent letters or superfluous punctuation. Your kid will not be more unique just because you buck the rules of written English and change Mark to Marq. They will not be more mysterious or well-rounded if you spell it S’mantha and not Samantha. They will, however, spend their life correcting people and getting agitated that no-one ever spells their name right, even if the assumed spelling is reasonable (“It’s Mary. No, with four Rs. Yes, M-A-R-R-R-R-Y. God! Everyone thinks it’s just one R!”). Side note: If you change the spelling of a nickname to align it with the real name, I might be able to forgive that. Eg, Catie, instead of Katie, for Catherine.

• Invent a stupid pronunciation, especially for a [relatively] normally spelled name. A friend told me of a girl she knows named Le-ah. No, it’s not pronounced “Lee ah.” It’s not pronounced “Lee.” It’s “Lee dash ah.” You read that right. “Lee dash ah.” The dash in the name is part of the pronunciation. I thought my friend was kidding, but you can’t make stuff like this up. Poor Le-ah is going to be insane by the time she’s 4.

• Name your kid something that is a well-established name of the opposite sex. I’m all for squelching gender stereotypes, but I think there are better ways to do it than by confusing people with your kid’s name. I’m not talking about those borderline names that can go either way, like Terry or Kelly. I’m talking about giving your child a name that is straight up for the opposite sex. I’m talking to you, Jessica Simpson. Maxwell? For a girl? Really? Perhaps you had a great reason for giving your daughter a boy name, but because I don’t know what it is, I am just confused.

• Name your kid a nickname. My brother had a friend named JD. Named JD. It didn’t stand for anything (he’s a Southerner. No further comment necessary). The poor guy got so tired of repeating the line, “No, it isn’t short for anything. That’s just my name,” that he made up a full name for himself. He went with Jack Daniel. Like I said, he’s a Southerner.

• Have a crappy reason for selecting a goofy name. If you want to name your kid Esmeralda Ireland because it was your grandma’s name and grandpa’s birth country, OK. I can get behind that. Maybe the name is weird, but you have a nice reason for choosing it. But if you’re naming your kid Esmeralda Ireland because you like witches and you hope to visit Ireland someday, you’re a tool. You’re also a tool for naming your kid after a random object, place, celebrity, or trendy fictional character (ahem, Edward Cullen).

• Invent a name just to be quirky. My husband and I joked we were going to get on the portmanteau baby-name wagon by combining my grandmas’ names (Gloria + Sophia = Glophia). We high-fived each other for our hilarious originality, but really, with this trend of inventing unique names, the odds are slim that Glophia isn’t already taken. In the end, we had no reason to invent a name, so we didn’t. If you don’t have a reason to invent one, don’t.

Obviously, you can name your kid whatever you want, so really my point is this: if you’re going give your kid a goofy name, have a damn good reason. Or at least a mediocre story.

On a related note, if you’re going to be “that guy” and give your kid an effed up name, don’t also be the guy who refuses to share the name because you’re afraid of negative commentary or feedback. As soon as someone tells me they’re not sharing baby names, I assume the name they picked sucks or will scare people—-and they know it. When you pick a name for your kid—good or bad—own it. Don’t be a puss about it. If someone begins to pooh-pooh your name, cut them off. Who cares if the biggest moron in their high school was Skippy, or the biggest douche was Biff? That’s their experience, not yours. Who cares if your coworkers think Maroon Marmalade is a terrible name as long as you love it. Most people know better than to slam your baby name anyway. Everyone is so damn sensitive nowadays. But on the bright side of the unwanted commentary, someone might actually have a helpful tidbit about your name that you should know before legally assigning it to your child. Like, “Adam Samuel Samsonite? Soooo…his initials will be ASS?” Oh hell no. Thanks for pointing that out, Friend.

Lastly, a little food for thought: When you hear of a kid with a bizarre name, I bet the first thing you think is, “Why would a parent do that to their child?” That’s the important and oft overlooked part: the parent makes the call, but the kid lives with it. Your unusual name choice and alternate spelling are burdens your child has to bear. Maybe they’ll work it like RuPaul, maybe they’ll get shoved in a locker, who knows. Just keep that in mind when you’re deciding which fruit or color to name your kid after.

Related post: Oops, I Chose The Wrong Name For My Kid

Why I Chose Common Names for My Kids (and You Might as Well Too)

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Is there any easier way to judge our fellow parents then by their children’s names? A name is the first thing we learn about a person. It’s how they’re presented to the world. It’s the defining declaration a parent makes when labeling their children. Often, they plan for months – sometimes even years – for the perfect name and we either approve of it, disapprove of it, or, if we’re judgmental jerks (hand raised), make fun of it.

For anyone with even a passing interest in baby names, there’s no better fodder than the countless name lists, round-ups, and slideshows. Each one serves as an indictment.

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The list of the most popular names? They allow us to sneer at the herd mentality of the masses. They let us know who will be in our children’s classrooms, who we’ll see on the playground, and whose pictures will clog our Facebook feeds. Don’t know a Sophia, you will soon! (Of course I know a Sophia and you do too. Everyone is named Sophia.)

Even more fun are the lists of the most unusual names of the year. Those allow us to turn our noses up at the weirdoes who think their children will have a shot at normal life with a very abnormal name. Cheese?  I mean, really? Even this hard-core dairy aficionado can’t believe that 8 sets of parents legitimately named their child “Cheese.”

Before I had kids, I thought it would be best to error on the side of the unusual. After all, as a Jennifer, I have my generation’s “it” name. My small high school class boasted 7 (!) other Jennifers and it’s not even like my last name helps to distinguish me – there are 2 other Jennifer Simons at my pharmacy alone.

I never thought I’d repeat this particular mistake of my parents’, yet here I am, a Jennifer with a child whose name is in the (dreaded) Top Ten. Yes, I’m one of the masses who gave her child a common name. And, after getting used to it, I don’t think it’s a bad thing. Here’s why:

When it came time to choose a name for my son, I didn’t want something too far off the beaten path like these parents who deliberately searched for names not in the top 1000 but I also didn’t want something too trendy, something that would broadcast the decade in which my kid was born. Needless to say, it couldn’t rhyme with “Aiden” and it couldn’t start with a K.

Primarily though, my husband and I had one basic requirement when it came to a name: it needed to have an obvious spelling and pronouncement. This was in part due to the fact that I grew up watching my mother’s frustrations over her name. Not only was her name, Ileene, on the unusual side, but the fact that it was spelled strangely meant that she ended up spelling it out for people on a near-daily basis. Even now, in the age of emails and Facebook when her name is literally written for them, people still can’t help themselves from misspelling it.

So, for our first son, we settled on “Noah,” and my husband (whose name is Matthew, also a fairly popular name) and I unwittingly gave our son the fifth most popular name nationwide for baby boys born in 2009.

I didn’t realize the extent of his name’s popularity until my son went to camp this summer. In his class of 14, there were 2 boys named Noah, 1 boy named Noam and 1 girl named Noa. Granted, Noam and Noa are probably only found in the Jewish dayschool crowd, but still – 4 of the 14 kids had similar names? That’s ridiculous! Initially, I was sure that I had failed my son.

But I soon realized that none of the kids seemed to care. My son was Noah T (he has his father’s last name). The girl Noa was, appropriately, Girl Noa. Each kid grew into their own nickname. My Noah decided he would be Noah T Rex and has begun hulking around, declaring he has sharp teeth and will only eat meat (ok, that’s a different problem we need to tackle).

This summer made me rethink some of my own prejudices about popular names. After all, what’s the point of giving your kid a strange name? Even if you think you’re choosing something totally unheard of, someone else out there has the same thought as you. Even “Cheese,” as unusual as it is, isn’t wholly original – 8 families each thought they were naming their children something one-of-a-kind and what did they get? A weird name that 7 other kids also have.

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Does an unusual name signify a child’s specialness? Whether our kids are named Edward, Sophia, Tuesday, or Atlas, they are all unique. Or Younique. Or Uneek. Well, you know what I mean. And no matter what their name is, each child is a wonderful snowflake full of their own distinct individuality.

Your kid is going to be the same person whether they’re named Jason, Jayden, or Juice (hey, if Apple could be a name, why not Juice?) But which one will get them teased? Which one will they spend their whole life repeating and re-spelling?

There’s no reason to raise eyebrows and complicate phone calls with a name just to prove your child is different. Your child will be different just because they are who they are. Except for those 8 kids named Cheese. Those kids will totally be the most normal, boring kids ever.

20 (Questionable) Ways To Name Your Baby

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Once the lines have settled on the pregnancy test, and your prenatal vitamins are placed prominently on your nightstand, it’s time to choose a name. Shakespeare said, “What’s in a name?” and I’d like to respond with, “Uh. EVERYTHING.”

Having trouble picking a name? Why not try these:

1. Tell everyone within earshot what names you’re considering, so they can shoot them all down and offer their own superior suggestions.

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2. Open a baby name book to a random page, close your eyes, and point. If it’s in the book, it’s gotta be good, right?

3. Name the kid after a pop culture icon who will be obsolete by the time your baby enters preschool. Kardashian, Gosling, and Twilight are great options.

4. Better yet, combine the names of TWO pop culture icons who will be obsolete by the time your baby enters preschool. Kanyeiber (Kanye + Justin Bieber) or Beyoncyrus (Beyonce + Miley Cyrus) for example.

5. Go with where your child was conceived. Sure, “Neighbor’s Pool Table” doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, but oh the stories you could tell!

6. Let the doctor decide. He does this all day long, so he has to have some good ideas.

7. Put a poll up on your blog and ask your readers to vote. Because the internet deserves the power to name your child.

8. Spell out your favorite TV station. Emteevee looks super cute when you write it like that.

9. Play pin the tail on the alphabet. Tape all the letters in the alphabet to a wall, put on a blindfold, and place 5-7 stickers on random letters. Pray you choose a vowel.

10. Let your older kid slam on the keyboard for three seconds and use whatever comes out. Gyjuvyurdtxpijoty for the win!

11. Go the nature route. Don’t do typical nature names like Meadow and Forest though. Choose unique names like Magma or Dung Beetle.

12. Pick a classic name, but jazz it up with some extra consonants and vowels. Daniel becomes Dhahnyiell and Sara turns into Zhszhairrah.

13. Choose a tech-related name. Dotcom, Siri or British GPS Lady could work.

14. Use their name to choose their future profession. Linebacker or Flautist for example. Name it and claim it!

15. Find a meaning you like and choose a name accordingly. I’m certain there are plenty of names which mean “one who emerges from the womb destined to color on walls in permanent marker.”

16. Don’t give the kid a name. Instead, allow him or her to choose their own name as a present on their third birthday. Kids have great judgment skills.

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17. Combine two or three of your favorite elements from the Periodic Table. What about HeNaPb?

18. Do like Prince and just draw a doodle on the birth certificate. You can always pull a Puff Daddy and change it later.

19. Pay homage to your favorite food. I’m a fan of Pho, Ribeye, and Cheesy Gordita myself.

20. Or your favorite drink. How badass would “Michelob Ultra” sound at high school graduation?

Happy naming!

Related post: Shit, I Chose The Wrong Name For My Kid