Our first two sons were easy to name: Wolf is directly named for one of Hubby’s Scottish ancestors, Bear has a name from my Germanic line, and his middle name is Norwegian in remembrance of my ancestry and Hubby’s mission there. Both of their names are strong and traditional, yet have several nickname options. The newest son is proving a little more complicated, but I'm sure we'll hammer something out in time (it's mostly a question of whether I hammer my preference into Hubby or visa versa!)
I have a few rules (just a few) when it comes to names for my kids, and since this is a topic that comes up all the time among expectant parents, I thought I'd share them with you.
- It needs to be gender-specific. It should be possible to tell from just their name what gender they are—I hate it when someone introduces their yellow-dressed baby as Madison or Taylor or Braxton and I have no idea if I should then refer to the child as ‘he’ or ‘she.’ On more than one occasion I have seen a written name and wrongly guessed the persons gender. (In an age of androgynous clothing and haircuts, a gender-specific name is all the more important!) Please, for the sake of anyone who will ever interact with your child, just do the nice thing.
- The second point goes hand-in-hand with the first. It should be easy to pronounce the name when you see it written, and at least relatively easy to spell the name if you hear it pronounced. I have two sisters whose names are drawn from foreign languages. The sister with the Russian name has taken it pretty well—no one can pronounce it or spell it, but she likes having a unique name and takes it in stride. The sister with the Spanish name hates it and refuses to use her full name—she’s found a shorter (phonetic) nickname and uses it exclusively. If you pick a common name like Julie, please don’t spell it Juhlee, because nobody is ever going to spell it right and it’s just not worth the frustration. I run into this as "Jenni with an I" (rather than a Y or an IE) and it's a pain. Trust me, this kind of originality is overrated.
- Keep it off the top ten list. Trust us as a couple who both have popular names (Dave and Jenni), it’s annoying to always have 2 or 3 or 4 classmates/co-workers who have the same name. Familiar names are good, but those super-popular, super-trendy ones? Naw, I avoid those.
- On the other hand, if you have your heart set on some unusual name or eclectic spelling, save it for the middle name, ok? Really, if the child adores it they can go by their middle name when they’re older (I know lots of people who do), but do them a favor and let them have a nice normal name too. I also have a thing about planning on calling kids by their middle name too…I mean, if you like that name better, just put it in front, you know? Two of my brothers go by their middle names and I don’t think either one of them likes it. BUT, do give them middle names! Even a couple if you like! It gives them choices. I was not given a middle name—I have legally added one.
- Nicknames are inevitable, but they shouldn’t be the legal name. I have always hated that my full name is Jenni rather than Jennifer. Yes, I know there are ten million Jennifers, most of them born within three years of me, and my parents wanted me to have something original; however when it comes to things like wedding announcements or business cards, it’s nice to have a formal name. Jerry may be an acceptable name for a comedian or a custodian, but when you’re a heart surgeon do you really want the sign on the door to say “Bobby Smith MD”? Our former president may have gone by “Bill” but I’ll bet you that the official placard under his portrait in the Smithsonian says “William.”