Let’s talk baby names … because really, picking a baby name is tougher than it seems!
Which is kind of surprising actually; at least for me. I’ve had a list on my phone of favorite baby names for YEARS. Long before I was even thinking about having kids. I mean, I knew in theory, that someday I’d want kids; but certainly, I wasn’t picking a baby name for any reason other than, “Oh, that’s a cute name!”
Now that we’ve named two girls, I think I can admit that naming a baby is not exactly easy. The truth is, when you name a baby, there are so many competing factors. It actually goes way beyond cute names. And picking a baby name for a second baby, at least for us, proved even harder than the first. The number of baby name texts that were exchanged between hubby and I over the last year was almost laughable. I’m pretty sure I’d pitch the same few names over and over, hoping he’d suddenly fall in love with one of my picks. (For the record: he eventually did. Persistence for the win!)
So I thought I’d share just what goes into picking a baby name, the 7 thoughts that went through our heads when naming a baby, how we chose our own girls’ names, plus a bit about our own names and where they came from.
PICKING A BABY NAME – HERITAGE
Take advantage of your family tree. If you look way back at all of the old names, you might find some gems and/or inspiration. For us, we have a strong family tradition – on both sides (his and mine) – to name children after relatives who have passed away. We use the first letter. It’s a big honor, and all of the grandparents, Aunts and Uncles, etc. really take it to heart. In some ways, I sort of relished in the fact that our name choices were limited to a handful of first letters. (Scarlett Everly was named after my Bubby, Selma, My Great Bubby, Ella, and Mike’s Grandma, Elaine; and Emmeline Harlow was named after Mike’s Grandma, Elaine, an my Grandpa, Harry.) But then you can also feel pretty pigeonholed into picking a name that must start with “P” or “C” or “J” or “K” and so on. And then of course, you can hurt a family member by NOT using the name they’d hoped you’d pick to name your child after. Or there might be a name you’d love to honor, but it’s the hardest possible first letter to find a decent name for, and suddenly you’re considering a name you don’t otherwise love. And that’s your child’s name. Forever. You should adore it. It’s all a bit complicated and emotional.
PICKING A BABY NAME – POPULARITY
We also struggled with the possibility of naming either of our girls something too popular or too cliché. Mike, a.k.a., Michael, my husband, had one of THE most common names growing up. His mom loved the name at the time, and as it turned out, so did a whole lot of other parents in the 80s and 90s. At one point, there were SIX Michaels in his class. I guess that’s how trends work. I have a slightly funkier name – my parents changed the “A” in “Alexis” to an “E” and I became “Elexis;” “Lexi” for short. (My mom knew she’d have a “Lexi” thanks to the movie, Ice Castles. 😂)
We knew we wanted something different, but “different” these days is kind of the same. It seems like everyone is into old-fashioned or unusual names right now. My hubby calls them “hipster names,” ha. There will probably be six “Jacksons” or “Sophies” or “Lennons” in the graduating class of 2036. And truth is, I’m a sucker for those names with the traditional spin. I found myself Googling the popularity of all of these names, only to cross a name off the list that I genuinely liked because it was wayyyy too popular the last several years. (Pro tip: check Nameberry.)
PICKING A BABY NAME – NICKNAMES
Maybe I’m too anal, but I really wanted a bigger/stronger name for our girls, that also had a cute nickname. I fell in love with the name “Scarlett” pretty early on for our first daughter, but in retrospect, a nickname like “Scar” might not always work. We do shorten it to “Scar” sometimes to this day, and I often call her “S” as well. (I probably watched too much Gossip Girl.) I LOVED “Em” and “Emme”, short for “Emmeline,” our second daughter’s name, so I felt confident with those nickname options. I think we might just be a family that shortens names.
You can also run the risk of a bad nickname. Mike was especially wary of choosing a name that could be turned into a taunt. Any name that could possibly be made fun of in any way, shape, or form – that was a big no-no for him.
PICKING A BABY NAME – SIBLINGS
I can’t be the only crazy person who wanted our kids’ names to work together … can I? I have a bit of a thing for names that have a little history. I’m a sucker for Gone With the Wind, and I always loved the way Scarlett O’Hara’s character was written. I’m also a total bibliophile, so naming a daughter of mine after a famous protagonist seemed so fitting. Emmeline Pankhurst was a British political activist and leader of the British suffragette movement who helped women win the right to vote. Ummm, awesome.
It mattered to me that our girls’ strong names fit with one another. I couldn’t very well give one girl a bold, classic name, and the other a short, spunky name. Needless to say, a few names were taken off the list because they didn’t flow well with our first daughter’s name.
PICKING A BABY NAME – MIDDLE AND LAST NAMES
Does the first name you’ve chosen work with his or her last name? And what about the middle name? It all needs to flow. And not be too much of a mouthful. We sort of failed that last bit; our girls both have silly long legal names. But I held firm on wanting both of our girls to have my maiden name as ONE of their middle names, and I couldn’t resist giving them each special middle names, with meaning, so two middle names it was.
PICKING A BABY NAME – ASSOCIATIONS
Last but not least: the weird associations we have with names. Goodness, our hangups ruined many a good name! My friend Amy recently shared such a funny truth about baby names:
“You know what’s a hard task as an expectant parent? Picking a name for your child. Aaron and I don’t agree on many names, someone always knows someone from their friends, sister’s fourth grade class that picked their boogers, etc. with that name and no one likes a booger picker. 😂 Seriously though, how can we let one person ruin a name for us forever?! I’ve had bad French fries and good ones, but I keep ordering them! 🍟🍟”
We’ve had the same problem; over and over again. We turned down so many names because of one weird memory associated with that name. It’s madness, I tell you.
I read this great quote on Cup of Jo:
My friend Nora told us a funny way to analyze names: The Blind Date Test. Pretend someone is setting up your college-aged child on a blind date. They’d ask, “Hey, want to meet my friend Toby?” Now think: How would you picture that person, just based on the name? Would you want to meet them? It’s a surprisingly good way to get a feel for the name, don’t you think?
But then, everybody’s answer would probably be different.
You can also gain inspiration from favorite songs, poems, books, and movies. A lot of names from those things special to you will probably provide tons of positive thoughts, and quite possibly, the idea for a great name.
PICKING A BABY NAME – TECHONOLOGY
Get this … there’s an APP for that! Seriously. Apparently, there’s an app called Babyname. It’s basically Tinder for picking baby names! Both parents get the app and then you swipe left/right for no/yes. When you both like the same name you get a “match!” Sort of wishing I had heard about this just a few months sooner.
How did your parents choose your name? Were you almost named something else?
If you have kids, how did you decide on their name(s)? Did you have any crazy hang-ups about names you could and couldn’t use?
Photo by Annie Watts Photography for Glitter, Inc.
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