What’s In a Baby’s Name?

Being pregnant is many things. Anticipation. Anxiety. Excitement. And with pregnancy comes a host of exhilarating and exhausting questions. What will the child be like? Who will he look like? What will she be when she grows up?  If children are our greatest natural resources, can I somehow harness that power to fuel my hybrid car?  Is it wrong to put NyQuil in their bottles to get them to sleep through the night? And perhaps the most daunting question: What will we name our baby?

We live in a culture where distinctiveness and individuality are highly prized.  And the race to make a name for one’s self begins with just that: the growing trend of unique baby names. A name that no one else has. A name that shouts, “I am a rare and beautiful flower!” A name that says, “My parents are cruel and horrible people who have saddled me with this embarrassing millstone around my neck for the rest of my life.”

Let’s call a spade a spade here. This whole movement of made up, unique names is completely out of hand. And I’m not talking about names that aren’t used anymore but are still real names, like “Otis” or “Gus.” I’m talking about the “I-created-this-name-using-randomly-chosen-Scrabble-tiles” school of baby naming.

We’ve all seen them. Suddenly we have names with prefixes in them. (“Hi, I’m McKendra!”) Punctuation is dropped in willy-nilly. (“My name is Adri’ana!”) Letters are capitalized with no rhyme or reason. (“That’s ‘BreAnna’ with a capital ‘A’!”) Or my favorite — parents who give their children real names, but insist on a completely nonsensical spelling (usually with the letter “y” thrown liberally around) to make them “different.” (Staycee, Nycholle, and Mychel, I’m looking at you.)

Here’s what you’re doing when you name your child in this manner. First (and not to be too blunt), but you look kind of illiterate. Maybe opt for a nametag that simply says, “Hooked on Phonics didn’t really work out all that well for me.” Secondly — and I say this having an unusual last name — you burden your poor child with a lifetime of having to correct people’s mispronunciations and misspellings. Believe me: having to walk Customer Service through, “No, no…that’s ‘S-h-a-apostrophe-q-u-e-n-d-r-e-a'” for the 8th time is no way to spend your life. And lastly, studies have actually shown that people with “unique” names are offered fewer jobs and fewer follow-up interviews than people with simple, old-fashioned names, even when they have the exact same qualifications. Condoleezza (Conddolleeza? Condollezaa? Condolences?) Rice has a Master’s Degree, a PhD, and 6 honorary doctorates.  And admit it – you totally rolled your eyes the first time you heard her name.

The irony is that there is a sudden glut of these unique names, which ruins the whole “unique” idea in the first place.  “Caitlin” was new and exciting when society had a meeting in the mid-90’s and suddenly decided it was a name.  But now try walking into a school and calling out “Caitlin” (or “CateLynn” or “Kaitlinn” or “Katelyn” or “Caitlyn” or “Caitlynne” or “Kaitlyn”) without being mobbed by a gaggle of rambunctious 7-year-olds.  Some of which are probably boys.  (Would you really be surprised at this point?)  Yes, “Kaeitliyn” is this generation’s “Jennifer.”

I’m not saying you shouldn’t be able to name your baby anything you want.  Go for it.  Drop a hieroglyph in there for all I care.  I just wanted to gently take you aside and discuss the issue, because it appears no one is telling the Emperor he has no clothes.  Just be aware of future consequences and societal changes when you pick a name for your precious little bundle of joy. It’s not the name that’s going to make them unique; it will be who they are that’s going to make them unique. Just ask Moon Unit Zappa.

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5 Responses to What’s In a Baby’s Name?

  1. Cathy Duhm (Stevens) says:

    What’s not fair is when you have a semi-normal name and it continually get’s mispronounced because the nurse, customer service agent, or car repair man has been corrected so many times by the “unusuals” that they are scared to assume normal is right!

  2. Totally. I’m sure you get, “So is that spelled “Ca’athee”? 🙂

  3. Dianne Westra says:

    OK Todd, as common as “Jennifer” is, I chose it as a name sake verus popularity:):)

  4. Lisa S says:

    I have a couple of friends who spent years and thousand$ on IVF to have two wonderful boys, one of which they named Sam and the other David. After so much effort to conceive, I couldn’t believe they would be so boring. 🙂

  5. Wendy says:

    Best (worst) name ever: La-a (pronounced LaDasha)

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