There’s a reason the most popular baby names are, well, the most popular – it’s because they’re good names that lots of people like.
As much as we want our children’s names to be as unique as they are, we can’t help but gravitate toward the names we like, and sometimes those just happen to be the ones everyone else seems to be gravitating toward too.
With all the Emmas and Noahs of the world, is it wise to add another one to the mix? The knee-jerk reaction is that those names (and the rest of the country’s top choices) are too popular, and we should steer clear lest our little ones be lost in a sea of Sophias, or relegated to being “Jackson H.” or “Jackson with the Red Hair” or “Big/Little Jackson.”
But if you find yourself drawn to a certain name, it’s worth paying attention to that preference, even if everyone else you ask thinks it’s “too trendy.” Because first of all, it’s no one else’s business. You should pick a name because you love it, because it feels right, because it sounds good, because it appeals to you on a deep level – and if your chosen name fits all those criteria, then to hell with the naysayers. They’ll get used to it.
If you’re still a little apprehensive about whether your name choice is too common, there are a few reasons why having a popular name is not as bad as you might think.
– Your child will always find their name in every souvenir shop they visit – it’s easier to find a T-shirt or mug that says “Nicholas” than one that says “Geode.”
– When you give your kid a common name, they’re far less likely to be burdened by constant mispronunciations and misspellings (unless you spell it in a very unconventional way).
– A 2012 study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology found that people with easy-to-pronounce names are evaluated more positively than people whose names are harder to sound out.
– The Internet sometimes makes the world feel smaller than it is. Prior to Google, you may never have met more than a couple of people with your kid’s name (let’s say it’s Liam). But these days, a simple search instantly reveals hundreds, even thousands of other Liams out there in the world – and even some who share your kid’s middle and/or last name, too. So your first inclination is to freak out because there are so many people with that name, but consider how grand the scale actually is. Your Liam still might be the only Liam at daycare.
– A 2017 study in the APA says that our appearances change to look like our names – i.e., to more closely fit the cultural expectations and stereotypes that go along with certain names (which is why you may wanna second-guess calling your kid something edgy like Rager). But with a name that’s very popular, there are so many different people bearing the same name that it’s hard to narrow it down to one stereotype. So maybe in this case, your kid’s common name is more like a blank slate.
And there are plenty of ways to make a popular name work for your child …
– You can always alter the spelling if it makes the name feel a little more special. (However, Emmaleigh will definitely get more misspellings than Emily because they sound the same — see point #2.)
– For every uber-popular name, there’s a similar-sounding but far less used option. Kaylee, for example, was #84 on the popularity charts at last count; Kayla was #138. John was #27; Gianni was #528. Make a list of the possible alternatives for the name you like, then pick the one that feels the most unique.
– You can choose a common name with multiple nickname options. A Katherine, for example (#105 on the popularity charts at last count), could be Kate, Katy, Katie, Kati, Kath, Kat, Kathy, Kathie, Kit, Kitty … many variants, each with its own flair, that can make the name a little bit more personal.
– There’s always the option to name your child the popular name you love, but choose a less-popular middle name. Your little Ava Wren can go by her middle name if she despises being one of ten Avas in her class or, in the future, at her workplace.
The bottom line is, you name your child something that speaks to your heart. Period. And if it’s Oliver or Charlotte or any of the other names that are on fire lately, so what? Chances are it’ll speak to a lot of other hearts, too. Obviously, it already has.
Your kid will still be one of a kind, even if his name makes him one of a million.
Find name inspiration, from the popular to the obscure, with Scary Mommy’s baby name database.
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