Monday, July 19, 2010

Some Commentary on Baby Names: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

If you read this blog, you probably realize that I feel very strongly about baby names and the reason for naming a baby well. I love baby name books and truly believe that a person's name influences their life.

I am also a fan of etymology and words in general. I think spelling is important and strongly support the teaching of spelling and the maintenance of language.

That being said, these two things create a passion for baby names: the good, the bad and the ugly. This transcends backgrounds and borders of all kinds. Choosing a baby name affects a child, and this has been proven through psychological studies. As such, I enjoy studying names, and although my commentary may be snarky, there is truth and interest behind the things that I say.

Here's a quote from that sums up my thoughts: "Psychological research has shown that people view some names as more desirable than others, associating some with success and others with a tendency for failure. It is thought that people transmit these character expectations via subtle verbal and non verbal communication which then affects the way we perceive ourselves and consequently the way we act." For example, a child named Starlight may act out more than a child named Kate, because her name is more unique.

Here's the thing - I believe that you do not want to saddle your child with a name that he or she will most likely be embarrassed to share with others, or that no one will ever spell right. Even with a common name, like Abigail, misspellings occur. Why select a common name with an uncommon spelling? In my example a two posts below, I highlight the name Mechele. If you enter this name on, the name does not exist. Is there anything fundamentally wrong with it? No. But would Mechele have an easier time explaining her name to people and finding personalized items if her name were to be spelled Michelle? Yes, she would.

Think about sending out resumes. According to, "A recent study shows that people with "white-sounding" names are 50 percent more likely to get a response to their resume than are those with "black-sounding" names." I am not saying this to sound negative towards anyone - this is simply a fact that has been studied. I am simply quoting those who have done the research. I am not saying you should not choose a baby name that you love due to its ethnicity. However, it is important to consider your child's future. When all people have to go by is a name, your naming choice becomes a very big deal.

Baby name discussion goes way beyond a blog like this one. There are websites, like Baby's Named a Bad, Bad Thing, dedicated only to this type of discussion. Unique baby names, like Princess TiƔamii, child of Jordan and Peter Andre, become a major topic to linguists who focus on baby names and naming convention. In this article, it is discussed that the name Princess sets up high expectations that the child may not be able to meet, as well as creating a strong chance of ridicule for the child.

France circumvents the bad baby naming convention by limiting the choices of baby names to names on an approved list created by the government. Yes, this limits creativity, but it also avoids giving some French children advantages (or disadvantages) over others simply based on their given names. Denmark does the same, in support of protecting the children and the conventions of the country of Denmark.

I'm not saying that the whole world should limit the available names for children. After all, names do evolve over time. Edith was once a common name, and Nevaeh was virtually unheard of twenty years ago. That being said, consider your child, not just yourself, when selecting a baby name. Israel and Michael are both acceptable names. Isreal and Micheal are tougher to deal with. Olivia and Miley are growing in popularity. Ahlyvia and Meighleigh might get frustrated with their misspelled names. There's nothing wrong with a name like Serafina, Cristina or Alexia. While one is Italian, one is not spelled in the most popular manner, and one has only gained recent popularity, these are all real, acceptable names. Why not step outside the box for a creative, yet realistic name, rather than going so far outside the box that you've run a mile, hopped a fence and landed in a ditch?

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