The Baby Name Game

I’m always amazed when parents (-to-be) are able to agree on the name of their impending child many months ahead of time. I know two expectant couples, both due to have daughters in August, who had names ready (boy and girl options) even before they knew the sex of their baby. They make it seem so simple.

For me (and consequently for Sean), it’s a many-step process. With our firstborn, once we knew he was a boy, I combed through the entire male half of the baby name book (a big one – I think it was 100,000 names in total) and wrote a long list of names I liked. Then it was Sean’s job to do some initial veto work, then we let it simmer, then we looked again at the short list and did some more culling… you get the idea. I have a need to be thorough, so I don’t miss the perfect name.

As a teacher, I have very specific criteria for choosing a name.

  • I can’t have taught several children with that same name.
  • I can’t currently be teaching any child with that name (and as a planning teacher, I tend to have 6-7 classes’ worth at any given time).
  • I can’t have taught even one child with that name who drove me bonkers.
  • It can’t be a name that a future teacher (or doctor or employer etc.) is guaranteed to mispronounce/butcher.
  • The spelling must make sense, i.e. be potentially guessable by your average human.

Then there are the questions all parents (ought to) consider:

  • Does it sound good with the child’s last name?
  • Does it sound good with the child’s sibling’s name, if applicable?
  • Does it rhyme with anything really obviously bad?
  • Is it associated with any serial killers/skanky TV characters/inappropriate brand names/famously failed pop stars?

And this last one seems like a no-brainer, but there are obviously people who forget to ask themselves…

  • Is it actually a name? Or is it a random phrase that can only be considered freakish on a person?

All of these criteria hinge on Sean’s and my belief that it’s really important to think of the child. As in, imagine how he or she will feel with that name. You can’t control whether they will love their name or not, but it should be a name you would enjoy having yourself – otherwise, it’s not fair to inflict it on your child.trans The Baby Name Game

At my last ultrasound, the technician was a very kindly, chatty woman. She asked me what names we were considering, and I hedged, not ready to expose our possibilities to the opinions of strangers, but I told her our firstborn son’s name. She approved of that one. (When they meet him, people often say something like, “Great name! You don’t meet a lot of those,” which is exactly what we hoped for. It’s solid, not too common, but not bizarre. Fits all the criteria.)

Then she went on to tell me some of the worse ones she’s heard. Parents naming their children after cars, or beer brands. There was the one boy whose name was Danielle – some poor kid whose mom piped up that it’s pronounced like Daniel, but spelled the Welsh way. (Great example of not thinking of the child. What little boy wants to go through life explaining, over and over, that he’s not a girl, it’s actually pronounced… ah, forget it.)

Then there was the baby – already born, already in possession of a Health Card, whose given name was actually, officially… Kisses. KISSES. I’m sorry, but no matter how smitten you are with your newborn… there’s NO REALITY in which that’s okay.

[I guess I should mention while I’m on the topic… That chatty ultrasound technician was also kind enough to show me something I hadn’t seen at the last scan: my baby’s labia. They’re, like, totally visible. So we have plunged right into the girl name list. It’s pretty exciting territory! See below – back to godawful names…]

What has possessed these parents??

Maybe they were looking for an unusual name and found some of the webpages I found. Along with some very nice-but-uncommon names, and scads of regular names made “unusual” by weird spellings (Brytnie, Natalee, Erykah), I did actually find car names. I can deal with Mercedes, because it was a human name first, but Infiniti? Lexus?? Come ON, people.

Maybe some of them made a mistake on the paperwork. I’m pretty sure that had to have happened with names like Infant and Unknown – maybe even Unique. Otherwise… I’m really sad for those children.

Maybe some of them think along the same lines as Kisses’s parents – they want to express their love, but again, they’re NOT considering the child. Would you want to go to a job interview or apply for a mortgage with a name like Promise, Mystery, Miracle, Precious, Heaven, Luxury, Misty, Princess, or Treasure? Lovely concepts, most of ‘em, but I wouldn’t do that to my kid. And I guess there are parents who see it as more legitimate if they change the spelling – Fantasi, Destini – but I’m pretty sure this technique achieves the opposite effect.

Maybe these parents are simply celebrity wannabes, since we know celebrities take the cake for weird names. Obviously Gwyneth Paltrow’s daughter Apple springs to mind, but I actually think it’s one of the decent ones. Lots of people are named for plants/trees – apples are pretty and delicious – why not?

The choices that offend me are the ones that have no resemblance to actual human names.

Jason Lee named his kid Pilot Inspektor.

jason lee

Penn Jillette named his kid Moxie Crimefighter.

penn jillette

Bob Geldof and Paula Yates named their kid Fifi Trixibelle. (Okay, that one does resemble a human name – but it resembles a poodle’s name way more.)

bob geldof paula yates

Frank Zappa named his daughters Moon Unit and Diva Thin Muffin.

Frank Zappa

Shannyn Sossamon named her kid Audio Science.

Shannyn Sossamon

No. No no no no no. I don’t care how famous or stoned you might be. I don’t care how funny you are. Your child is not a joke, a toy, or a pet. If you love that particular string of syllables so much, change your own name. Don’t inflict it on an infant with no say in the matter.

(If you read this and conclude that I have no sense of humour, too bad – I’m not sorry.)

And that’s what I have to say about THAT. Rant over.


13 thoughts on “The Baby Name Game

  1. Carrie says:

    How do you feel about “Faloolah Gertrude”? This is what my brother nicknamed M inutero, and I would graciously gift it to you if you’d like to use it!!!!! 🙂

  2. Quinnsies says:

    Someone told me about a girl in her class named La-a. It was pronounced…wait for it…Ladasha.

  3. Auntie CL says:

    i applaud your lack of sense of humour regarding naming one’s child!!! just the very place humour is counterindicated.

    other things to consider:
    – what will be the nickname other people are likeliest to use?
    – what is the meaning of the name? (Eliot=gift from God, Luke=Light, Ann/e/a=Grace … Dolores=sadness, Tristan=sadness)
    – would it sound ok as for example, Prime Minister?

    …and i won’t bore (or frighten) you with the appalling names i have encountered in the parent-child programmes i have taught; you have definitely found some of the most bizarre examples – one rather wonders whether the parents would rather the stork brought them a pony/car/appliance/technician/dog/toy/etc. poor kids.

    • diblog says:

      Yes, you’re absolutely right. Nicknames are important, and meanings too – I like some pretty names that don’t have the greatest meanings. You wouldn’t want to curse your kid. And I guess anyone who works with lots of kids hears some strange (unadvisable) ones. Oh dear.

  4. Mama says:

    Wow, nicely-named Diana, somebody raised you right! (And for anyone who’s wondering, we named her Diana about a year BEFORE Prince Charles met and got engaged to Lady Diana.)

    • diblog says:

      I AM nicely-named! I wasn’t as sure when I was a kid (I think I wanted a name with a double S, like Vanessa or Cassandra or Jessica, for some reason) but now I’m glad to have the name I have. Well chosen, parents, thank you.

  5. Shannon says:

    Great post! I also recently blogged about this (… I’m one of those crazy people who has my little man’s name picked out well in advance, but there are several on the back burner just in case he comes out looking nothing like it. I do confess, we really loved the name Beau until someone pointed out how easy it would be for other kids to tack a ‘ner’ onto the end of it. We didn’t even think of that! But that’s an innocent mistake and thank goodness it was pointed out to us! I came across some horrible names when I worked at Indigo and felt so sorry for those people!

    Congrats on your baby girl! Your blog is always a great read 🙂 Louise got me hooked on it. Cheers

    • diblog says:

      Thanks for reading, Shannon! I’ve been meaning to visit your blog for ages, since Sean really enjoys it – and now I’ve been over there and I can totally see what the fuss is about. Congratulations on your baby boy! Our babies will have to hang out sometime. 🙂

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