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The Do's and Don't of Baby Naming

 

Long before you hear the first heartbeat or see the first sonogram, naming your baby might be what makes the pregnancy - and the person growing inside you - feel real. But of the approximately 5,000 first names in common use in the U.S. and the infinite number you could invent, which will you give your mystery child?


mom writing a baby name want list

Naming is your first big parenting choice - welcome to 18 more years of personality-molding decisions. Day care or home care, TV or none, bangs or no bangs? These are tough choices. But bangs grow back, while names are (or are meant to be) permanent.

Luckily you have nine months to find the perfect moniker - one that sounds good when you coo it, yell it or hear it intoned at a graduation ceremony. And one that will fit a 50-year-old with a beer belly as well as it does a sweet newborn. To help you get started, here are some Do's and Don'ts. Happy naming!


Do
  • Consider what your child’s initials will spell. Because we failed to think about her hyphenated last name, my daughter’s initials are PMS. So far her wild mood swings have lasted six years.

  • Try alternative spellings. Changing an "i" or an "e" or doubling a letter can breathe fresh air into an overused name. In 2007, Hailey was the 23rd most popular girls' name in the U.S., while Haley was 76th and Hallie was 523rd. The downside? You’ll be hard pressed to find a “Hallie” key chain.

  • Think about how the first and last names will sound together. Alliteration (Jaiden Jenkins or Emma Evans) can be silly, and rhyming names are generally best for storybook characters (Amelia Bedelia). If the last name ends with a vowel, the first name probably shouldn’t if you want to avoid one long mishmash. Short first names sound good with longer last names and vice versa, but a long first-and-last name pairing can be a mouthful - just say Engelbert Humperdinck!

  • Take a stroll through your local graveyard or visit a historical-cemetery website if you like old names. You might find some doozies that have yet to be discovered and popularized. We spotted Roggar, Emey and Emeline during a quick online trip.

  • Keep your chosen name a secret if you're a pushover and have meddling friends or family. And if your mother is particularly opinionated, don’t ask her advice - when she inquires, just tell her you're still undecided. Better to fib than end up with a name you didn't want. Can't lie? Feign a contraction to distract her.

  • Remember that you can make people happy with a well chosen middle name. Need to honor a relative? This is a good place to do it. Appease your spouse? You didn't go for his suggestion of Hubert for first name, but you can tolerate it as the H. in the middle. An unusual name might even be the pinch hitter your child chooses for himself during the probably inevitable phase when he doesn’t like the first name you gave him.

  • Accept that it's perfectly valid to veto a name because that annoying girl in third grade always had her finger up her nose and you will forever associate Elizabeth with nose-pickers. And honor your partner's preferences, too - your favorite name might bring to mind a creepy babysitter or childhood pet.

  • Pore over here the current 100 most popular boy names and girl names. It’s the pregnant woman’s equivalent of online stock watching.

  • Check out some name books. One fun read is “Beyond Jennifer & Jason, Madison & Montana: What to Name Your Baby Now.” It has handy categories such as “So Far In, They’re Out” (which might break your heart) and “So Far Out They’ll Probably Always Be Out” (think: Gail, Barry).

Don’t
  • Feel pressured to register your baby's name before you leave the hospital if you're undecided, and do not assume you can just change the name later if you change your mind. Meg Ryan was mercilessly mocked when she told Oprah Winfrey, “I already had to change her name - I thought she was Charlotte and she's just not. She’s a Daisy.” Feel free to wait a few days post-birth to get to know your baby (hospitals will pressure you to decide on a name before going home, but actual state deadlines vary). Trust us, your little one won't wind up in therapy talking about how her parents left her nameless for almost a week.

  • Name your baby as a way to tell the world all about you. The name is the baby's, not yours. Diane Keaton named her kid Dexter, which wouldn’t be that bad, except that the kid is a girl. That quirky Diane, we’re meant to think. Moon Unit Zappa? That Frank was one crazy guy! Airy-Fairy names can be a handful to live with. What if Aurora wants to be an oil tycoon when she grows up? Then again, if your gorgeous and talented child becomes a star, he can transcend any name.

  • Worry if your chosen name is the name of a popular celebrity or fictional character. Four years ago when we named our daughter, we worried that everyone would connect Phoebe with the "Friends" character. In fact, the show is quickly fading from our national consciousness and kindergarteners have no idea who Phoebe Buffay is.

  • Pick a name that rhymes with something kids find funny. Unless you've conceived a future six- foot-two tower of rippling muscle whom no kid would be fool enough to tease, don't name him Tucker.

  • Pick a name that rhymes with "Maiden" if you want your son to be the only kid looking up when the teacher calls on him. There's a big trend lately toward names like Jayden, Aiden, Caden, Braden, Zayden, and Haiden, plus all their alternate spellings (Jaiden, Kaden, Braydon...).

  • Select a name that, as the government of New Zealand advises, is "unreasonably long" or “uses punctuation marks, brackets or numerals.” Weird names have become so trendy there that they are now illegal under New Zealand law. And the law is being enforced. The courts recently ordered parents to rename young Talula Does The Hula From Hawaii.



 
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