You never really know how many people you hate… until you have a baby.
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 7 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
Related post: Shit, I Chose The Wrong Name For My Kid
You know, 9 months is a really long time to come up with a baby name. But apparently, not long enough for me.
Because when my daughter was about a month-old, I looked down at that sweet, scrunched up face and thought, “This baby is absolutely, definitely not a Presley.” Oh, man. We gave our kid the wrong name.
But I said nothing. I just figured I would get used to it. Presley just needed to grow into her name. Or I needed to grow into it. Or something.
My husband, along with our family and friends, would call her Presley and I would just bristle in silence. Although in all fairness, you really can’t blame them because that was her name. I pretty much just called her “the baby” or sometimes tried out names like Lila or Harper when no one was around.
And then one day, I ever-so-casually mention to my husband, “Hey, what do you think about us changing Presley’s name?”
And he looks at me like I am CRAZY because our daughter is 6 months-old now. But he knew I was crazy when he married me so isn’t this really his fault?
After debating this issue for two MORE months, we finally start calling her a new name when she is 8 months-old. Yes, 8 months-old.
This kind of thing happens to everyone, right?
So that’s how “Presley” became “Summer.”
I totally stole the name Summer from the now-canceled Fox TV show, “The O.C..” Sure, some people name their kids after famous sports stars or silver screen legends, but I personally think characters from cheesy teen dramas are more the way to go.
Unless you’re a newlywed, legally changing a name is not easy in this post 9-11 world. At least not in New York City. They wanted to make sure my child wasn’t a terrorist or perhaps changing her name to try to avoid some kind of prison sentence, debt or IRS investigation. Now I can’t account for every moment when she’s napping but I think she’s led a pretty honest life so far.
It took six visits to civil court to officially change her name to Summer.
On one visit, I sat in the courtroom and each person got up to request his or her name change.
There was Woo Wo who wants to flip things around and change his name to Wo Woo.
There was a transvestite who wants a more feminine name.
There was an Asian man who wants to change the first names of his 5, 7 and 11 year-old kids so their first names sound more American.
And finally, a woman who wants to change her name but couldn’t tell the Judge whether her middle initial “H” stood for Harriet or Hazel. She simply can’t remember anymore.
And I suddenly realized two things…
1. Being a judge in New York City must be one hell of an entertaining job.
2. And it turns out, I’m not so crazy after all.