So unless you’ve been living under a rock, yesterday the English royal family welcomed a new baby, a little girl, and the media attention stopped focusing on when Kate was going to drop the baby, and started on what she was going to name her. There are bookies filling up with odds on different names, from the traditional to the not so traditional (I’m not sure Daenerys Windsor will quite work out so well). Twitter feeds are wall to wall royal baby. I must admit, I’m a bit curious myself. A name is interesting; its rarely just a passing whim when you’re imposing it on your child for life. So what is involved in name selection? It’s really not as easy as some people make it look…
When I was pregnant with E, I looked at baby name books and websites. There was a generator online where if you clicked that you liked the sound of a certain name, it would bring up similar ones. I wasted hours, especially since for most of my pregnancy I was sure I was having a girl. Eventually we came up with a shortlist of three names, and on the day we just picked the one that sounded right. It worked out, he’s certainly grown into his name (and the second runner up got thrown in as a middle name).
Here’s some things you need to look at when picking out a baby name – 10 things to keep in mind.
1. You have to pick a name you both like.
This sounds easy. Believe me, it’s not. Not only do they have to like the sound of it, all exes and their associates names are for the most part out. I did regret my exes with lovely names quite a bit when I was pregnant. Similarly you realise how many people you don’t like or who annoy you when you’re trying to pick out a name. I’ve heard it’s tougher still for school teachers; apparently there are “bold children” names to be avoided!
2. Try not to be too fad-driven.
I am pretty sure that Elsa is going to be fairly high on the name list next year especially with family’s where there are little girls already. Similarly naming after favourite pop stars/movie stars/characters from books must be done carefully; while names like Adele are fairly timeless, calling your child Coolio probably won’t win you much favour with them when they hit the teenage years.
3. How many in a class?
This one might not matter much to you, but it is something to think about. Certain names pop up on the name lists every single year without fail; and without a doubt if you have a few friends with small kids it’s very likely they’ve used at least one of them. Jack, James, Daniel, Conor and Adam are the top five boys names (with Jack staying in the top five since 1998 and most of these names being in the top five for a few years at least) and Emily (constant favourite), Sophie, Emma, Grace and Ella are the top five girls names. There’s a good chance that if you name your gorgeous newborn one of these names that they will not be the only one in their class/circle of friends with that name.
4. How patriotic to be?
Through my entire pregnancy I was sure I wanted an Irish name (despite no Irish names making the shortlist, I’m seeing a flaw in the plan). Having studied Celtic studies there was a rather long list, most of which were vetoed on grounds of child cruelty and the basis that nobody would ever, ever be able to pronounce them. There are some gorgeous ones out there to choose from; looking at my friends list on Facebook alone I’ve got a Muireann, a Síomha, two Áines and a Sadhbh. All gorgeous, all thoroughly messed up when they hit a Starbucks counter. For the boys there are some great choices as well (says she in hindsight), some of my favourites are Fionn, Aodhán and Daithí. And with all those lovely choices, I went for Eliott. Yeah, patriotism.
5. How does it sound with your surname?
Some names fit with surnames, others don’t. I was never, ever going to get away with calling my child Brian, because fitting it with my surname would just be cruel. Similarly, if your surname is Bush, try to avoid a daughter called Rose, and other such mixtures. It’s also worthwhile doing the bully check – it’s not nice to think about, but try to make sure there’s nothing mean that rhymes with the full name – kids are cruel, it’s best not to give them their initial material. We rejected one name because it sounded like a law firm when we said the full name out loud. Also watch out for their first initial and your surname – there are some very awkward combinations out there (see these for some to avoid).
6. Say it out loud.
Practice saying it in multiple different voices, in normal speak, yelling it up the stairs, etc. You are going to be using this name a lot, so make sure you’re comfortable saying it over and over, and loud. You will at some point wind up roaring this over a playground/across a carpark/down the aisle of the supermarket, so try not to add the name to a list of things other parents will be looking at you and thinking about.
Some people like nicknames, other people really don’t. And some people, regardless of how many times you insist that you use the full version of the beautiful name you spent weeks thinking about and picking, will go for the shorter version and use it as a nickname. Make sure that when this happens (it’s really not an if, there’s always that one person), that it’s not an embarrassing nickname, and that it might be something the child would be comfortable using. Just because you hate it, doesn’t mean they will.
How to not be one of the many Jack or Sophie clones in the class? Spelling it differently of course! This can create a whole problem set of it’s own – a year on and I’m not entirely sure my extended family knows we spell Eliott with one L and two T’s – it was our personal choice, but he’s not ever going to find a pen with his name on it. This is going to be an issue with the Gaeilgóir names already, but if you use an unusual spelling for your child’s name, do prepare to spend most of their childhood (and them to spend most of their life) correcting people on their spelling or pronunciation.
9. What does Google Say?
You might be madly in love with a name, but a quick google search might change your mind. It’s always best to know before the ink is dry on the birth certificate whether or not your tiny baby shares a name with a serial killer, porn star or just plain horrible person. Think ahead 20 years to job interviews, college admissions forms and them introducing themselves to potential employers. Might be an idea to check it’s legal as well (not such an issue in Ireland, but some governments worldwide are cracking down on what you can and cannot call your child).
10. Go With Your Gut.
If you love a name and it’s passed all of the above checks (or enough of them), it still might not pass the in-law test. If you and your partner both love the name and feel it suits your child, it does not matter who else does or does not approve. Just nod, smile and ignore any disapproving comments – it is your child’s name, it’s none of their business.
What other things are needed to be kept in mind when picking a name? How did you go about picking your child’s name? Let me know in the comments.
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