When it comes to naming a child, no two people will ever agree on the same list of excellent names. What one person thinks is fabulous their spouse will find ghastly, and couples are often surprised that their soul mate has an entirely different idea of appropriate monikers for the new arrival.One of you will have dreamed of naming the child after your angel mother and that will turn out to be the name of your spouse’s greatest enemy all through high school.
Thus couples scour books and ancestry charts, credits of movies, even street maps. And they finally come up with the very best name they can agree upon. In-laws, friends, and possibly the child himself may cringe, but most parents do their best to assign a noble name that will wear well through the life time of their offspring.
Popular names go in waves, and many couples pick trendy names ofthe current maternity crowd. Thus, if a woman named Peggy moves into your ward, you can bet she’s in her 50s or 60s, but definitely not in her 80s, and not in her 20s. She comes from the same decade as the Marilyn’s, Barbara’s, Carol’s, Shirley’s, Margarets, and Bonnies.
My parents were a bit older than average when I was adopted, and thus I was given the name Joan, a name really belonging to that crowd-- women a generation ahead of me. It meant I would be the only Joni in my peer group, which actually worked out fine and eliminated the duplication I would have encountered had I been one of the many Lisa’s, Julie’s, Linda’s, or Debbie’s of my own era.
Remember the 70s and 80s? Little boys born then were often named Michael, Christopher, Jason, Eric and Brian. And the girls were commonly named Jennifer, Amy, Melissa, Michelle, and Sarah. Of course, these babies then grew up and are having babies of their own, eagerly embracing the current trend toward Aiden, Jackson, Mason, Liam, Jacob, Ethan, and Noah for the boys, and Emma, Sophia, Chloe, Olivia, Ava, and Madison for the girls.
But despite our best efforts, a hurricane, an infamous mistress, or a political buffoon comes along with your child’s name and your best intentions are dashed against rocks. Heard of any baby Monica’s or Katrina’s lately? There’s really no way to insure against crazy nicknames, either. You can carefully choose a name without blemish and your kid will get called “Stinky” for years, all because of a gaseous moment in the 3rd grade.
We named our third son Cassidy, a name you might think belongs only to females today. But when we chose it 23 years ago, there were no girl Cassidy’s. Our obstetrician had insisted we were having a tiny little girl and we were all set to honor Bob’s grandma, Cassandra, with a new Cassandra we would call Cassie. Out came a nearly ten-pound boy, and though we tried out various other names, looking at him to see if he fit “Christian” or “Parker,” it was only the variation, “Cassidy,” that made him smile. So we went with it. And then, five years later, TV host Kathie Lee Gifford named her new baby girl Cassidy. The name caught on for girls and we spent years explaining to doctors’ offices and school personnel that Cassidy is a boy. Today he’s a 6’3” man who jokes about it, feels fine with it, and goes by “Cass” occasionally.
It’s tough to find a boy’s name that won’t someday be usurped as a girl’s name. Taylor, Cameron, Jordan, Whitney, Charlie, Blake, Courtney, Leslie, Madison, Ashley, Morgan—they all began as boys’ names. Short of naming your son Clyde or Elmer, you take the chance that almost any name you give your son could suddenly be a female celebrity name, and forever feminine in the eyes of the general public. Although I think my husband is safe with Bob, as long as he doesn’t start going by Bobby.
Still, there are a few guidelines I’d like to share that can at least reduce the odds of disaster. First, don’t get overly creative with the spelling. Creativity is a grand thing. I lecture about it, I believe in it, and “creative” is the trait my two eldest sons chose when asked to describe me in one word to a newspaper reporter. But it’s like seasoning—a little goes a long way. And it’s probably best used in the arts or in problem solving, not in devising offbeat spellings of otherwise fine names. Chloe is a beautiful name, but if you put “Klowey” on her birth certificate, your child will have to spell it a zillion times for every person she meets. Even unusual names are fine, but stick with tradition when it comes to spelling. (And if your name is Lindzee or Jorja please do not write and say it’s been worth every second of explanation. I still say it’s an unnecessary inconvenience—for both parties).
Run it together to see how it looks online, in this computer age. Do you really want the word SEWER to leap out visually whenJesse and Werther are put together to form jessewerther? Likewise, if your last name is Lyman don’t name your son Doug. It will become douglyman with “ugly man” popping out to the reader’s eye. This is no time for carelessness, so check the initials as well. I know a girl whose initials spell GAG and a fellow whose initials spell DUM. Not a kind trick to play on an innocent baby.
And speaking of tricks, stay away from joke names. This may seem obvious, but why do we keep hearing about Saran Rapp, Ima and Ura Hogg of Texas, I. Rob Banks, and Formica Dinette? Just because a song says a boy named Sue was all the stronger for it, don’t give in to the rhyming name, the silly name, or the famous criminal name. It’s hard enough to get ahead in life without having a name that works against you.
Honoring relatives is a lovely idea. But, after staring at genealogy charts until my eyes crossed and I had to start all over, I do wish my dad’s side hadn’t gone James-John-James-John-James-John for so many generations. Bob and I decided to honor his brother Ken, by inserting his name into the middle names of our last two children (Nicole’s middle name is McKenzie, for example).