Picking a baby name is almost as hard as gestating and birthing the actual baby. (Calm down, I said almost.) You spend hours poring over online baby name databases, and your partner can hardly see you behind that towering stack of naming books.
But simply choosing a baby name isn’t the end of it. Before actually giving it to your baby, it’s important to road-test it in real time. Make sure it meets a few important criteria. Make sure it won’t ruin your future child’s life with heinous nicknames or inescapable associations.
Here are a battery of tests that you can put your chosen names through to see if they’re really worthy of your little person.
The Barista Test.
Go to your favorite coffee shop. Order using that name. Is it written the way you want on the cup? Did it seem difficult to understand? (Bonus: If the results are disappointing, at least you’ve got coffee.)
The Playground Test.
Or mall … or crowded auditorium … or fast-food ball pit. Whatever works, you’ll inevitably be yelling the kid’s name in all of them at some point. When you holler out the name, do people look at you as though you’re spewing some sort of ancient spell?
The Translation Test.
Google Translate can be your best friend when finding out whether your baby’s name means something unsavory in another language.
The Slang Test.
Along those same lines are names that can be slang words. Anybody living in the contemporary U.S. knows better than to name their kid Dick, but what about Willy – another slang word for penis? And even if you think Fanny is an adorable nickname for your little Frances, it’s a very crude reference to the female anatomy in England.
The Rhyming Test.
The First/Last Test.
My son is Cameron Scott Templeton. Sounds great together – but when you take out the “Scott,” you get Cameron Templeton. And though it isn’t terrible, the last two letters of each name are the same, which almost makes it sound like I was trying to rhyme (I wasn’t). Most of the time, he goes by Cam, which sounds better with our surname. Make sure you say your preferred name with the middle taken out. Obviously I speak from experience here.
The Title Test.
How does it sound with an official title in front? Do The Honorable Paisleigh Rynae Smith, or Dr. Bunny Adkins, sound like someone you’d trust in a position of power and authority?
The Google Test.
Simply Google your kid’s potential name (in quotes, so you get an exact match) and see what comes back. If it’s stuff like a serial killer or a stunt-pulling YouTuber, you may wanna rethink your choice.
The “Can You Repeat That?” Test.
When you tell people your baby’s planned name, do they ask you to repeat it? Say “huh?” Frown and lean closer as though they’re not sure they heard properly? This is what your kid is going to have to deal with for the rest of their life, so take that into account.
The Popularity Test.
You want a name that isn’t, um, painfully uncommon … but you also don’t want your daughter to be one of six Emmas in her class. That’s where the Social Security Administration’s ranking list of the top 1,000 baby names comes in handy. Check it out and avoid naming your kid something overly common.
The Meaning Test.
Is the meaning of your baby’s name important to you? If so, you may want to double check that it isn’t one of these otherwise-great names (like Brennan and Cecilia) that have less-than-stellar meanings.
The Spelling Test.
Ask family and friends (and strangers, if you’re not worried about anyone thinking you’re off your rocker) to write down your child’s name after you say it. Is it often misspelled? Do you have to say it more than once for clarification?
The Monogram Test.
Could you monogram your baby’s initals onto a towel or a backpack or something? If those initials are something like T.O.E., B.U.M., P.I.G., or A.S.S. … time to reconsider.
The Pop Culture Test.
The name Khaleesi has risen in popularity since Game of Thrones hit TV. Yes, people are naming their daughters Khaleesi. That’s fine for now, while the show and books are still hot, but what happens when their popularity wanes? Also: Is it a celebrity’s name? That should be a hard pass. If your last name is Lopez, maybe you want to re-think naming your little girl Jennifer.
The Middle Name Test.
Most people have a first and a middle name, so if you’re using both, ask yourself this: Is one of them relatively “normal?” If your little Algernon Daniel doesn’t fancy being called by his unconventional first name, he can always go by the more-mainstream middle. But if he’s Algernon Burnsleigh, he doesn’t have that comfortable choice.
The Pet Name Test.
We love our pets like family, but we don’t really want to name our family after them. Luckily, Rover.com keeps a running list of popular pet names, so your kid won’t get confused at the dog park.
The Nickname Test.
If you name your daughter Katherine, people are inevitably gonna call her Kath. Kathy. Kat. Kate. Katy. Kit. Kitty. If you’re okay with this, fine – Katherine it is. But if you don’t want to spend hours of your life shrieking, “IT’S KATHERINE!” then you should probably fall back on a second choice.
The baby name you choose is going to be not only an important part of your child’s life, but a critical part of his or her total identity — the first impression on everyone they’ll ever come in contact with. So yeah, it may feel a little strange to holler out an as-yet-unborn kid’s name at the playground, or ask your sister-in-law how she’d spell it … but just consider it practice for all the other weird stuff you’ll have to do throughout your kid’s lifetime. Because fishing in their noses for boogers and having to say things like “We don’t put spoons in our butt cracks” is temporary, but the name you give them lasts forever.
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