These days, it seems like many parents-to-be have one mission when it comes to naming their baby: make sure it stands out. Even standard, traditional names get the “standout treatment” via creative spellings, which is why we end up with Jesykkah and Emaleigh instead of Jessica and Emily.
The idea is that with a unique name, a person will be memorable; not just another face in the crowd. The parents’ intention is never to saddle their child with a lifetime of explanation and embarrassment. But for every person who loves and embraces their unique name, there’s at least one who would change theirs in a heartbeat, as we’re reminded of by a Reddit poster with a name that, well, you don’t hear every day.
“Hi, I’m Petal Flora, and no one takes me seriously,” she writes.
She goes on to outline the woe that bearing such a unique name continues to present. “I’m going into academia and am currently in doctoral school, and I hate the fact that people often don’t take me seriously after hearing my name. When my name is on a roster of some sort, people assume that I’m a child, because it’s a childish name.”
Petal implores prospective parents to consider not only their kids’ childhoods, but the fact that they may someday be a part of the corporate world. “Please think of the fact that your child may be a professional someday where their name is heavily associated with their work…Imagine your proposed name on a business card, or as the author of a book, or the name of a performer. If it’s difficult to believe or take seriously, maybe you should consider another name.”
Cue the chiming in of other Redditors who are going through life with less-than-conventional names. “My name is impossible to pronounce and there are only three of us total in the U.S.,” writes one. “Not to mention everyone calls me by a nickname I hate more because my name is ‘too difficult’ to learn how to pronounce. I despise my name.” And another cuts straight to the chase: “Please think about your child’s future when choosing names. It has ruined my life.”
A wider-than-ever range of baby naming options (thanks, Internet) and a focus on individualism and self-expression (thanks, society) might be what leads parents to choose names that will raise an eyebrow … or several. Some have even pointed to “personal branding” as an influencing factor, meaning that people choose unique names in hopes that it will be easier to secure a web domain or social media handle or even a personal name trademark. Those parents are obviously looking to their child’s future, as Petal Flora so wisely advised, but less to the academic or professional side and more toward the hopes that they’ll snag a career in pop culture.
Yes, your child always has the option of changing their name in adulthood in case they become, say, an accountant instead of the next big social media influencer, but at what cost — literally and figuratively? Depending on where you live, a legal name change can be a lengthy and expensive process. A hassle at best, a complicated undertaking at worst.
You might fall in love with a unique name, but before you slap it on the birth certificate (and, thereby, your innocent and unsuspecting babe), take a little while to toss it around, so to speak. There are all kinds of ways to give the name you’re considering a test run before committing to it in the real world, and it’s wise to do so. Because no matter how much you like the name, you won’t be the one handling the reactions to it for the rest of your life.
One commenter in Petal’s Reddit thread comes up with an idea that’s pretty brilliant, TBH: “If you’re considering an unusual name for your kid, try going by that name for a while and see how people react.” And another proposes an equally-smart “boardroom test” — if a name sounds better in a bar than a boardroom, think twice about giving it to your child.
Yet the truth is, not even choosing a conservative, widely-used moniker will guarantee that your kid will be happy with it. As another Reddit commenter — who says that her common name was shared by ten other people in her grade — points out, “Don’t go to the extreme and name your child Sunshine Honeybear, but recognize that naming your child Johnathan Mathew doesn’t mean your child will love their name either.”
If Dr. Marijuana Pepsi Vandyck (yes, that’s her actual name) has taught the world anything, it’s that having a unique name doesn’t have to hold you back or be a detriment in any sort of way; the woman is a badass. But your child’s personality will have a bearing on whether they proudly own their quirky name, or cringe every time they hear it spoken in public. And since there’s no way to predict that, your safest bet is to walk the middle ground with a name that’s not heard everywhere, but familiar-sounding enough to be out of the “weird” category (see our picks for girl names and boy names that fall under this umbrella).
After all, you don’t want your questionable baby naming judgment to be the topic of a Reddit thread some day.
For help with baby naming — from traditional to practically unheard of — check out Scary Mommy’s baby name section!