Your child is born with identity: their nationality, genetics, cultural background and economic status are all inherited from you, their parents, but we tend to pin all that on their pending name. “Will a Jackson want to be a judge?” “Is a Prue someone you’d want to hang out with?” “Is Sarah going to be cool in 2040?” It’s unlikely any of these characteristics will be determined by your kids name. It will depend on their personality and your parenting (much harder). What is important for your kid’s development is that you give them a name they will say with confidence. Luckily, there are so many ways to get this right, but also a few ways to screw it up. So here’s a guide to the former.
Be on the lookout
You know how when you’re after a new pair of trainers, you notice the brand and style of every pair of trainers you pass on the street? It will be the same with names. A colleague will mention having lots of nieces and nephews, and you’ll find yourself asking each of their names (in full), you’ll notice the names of characters in shows and start clicking on articles titled 30 Totally Unique Names You’ve Never Heard Of. You’ve got time and this is one of the few areas of creativity and control in pregnancy, so enjoy exploring what names are out there. Jot down any you love in a notes app and ask your partner to do the same.
Not one for leaving it to fate? Gotcha. There are a number of baby name apps that work like Tinder: you and your partner each download the app, swipe right on names you like and potentially match with your partner, then you’ll have an automatic shortlist of names you both like. Baby Name and Kinder seem to be the most user-friendly. There are, ofcourse, endless lists of unusual/traditional/popular/unisex/royal/hipster baby names just a Google search away and each year the most popular baby names list is dropped around September. This is a must-read as it will be the names of the kids in the classroom with your own. Shortcut: for years now the top spots have juggled between Charlotte, Amelia and Olivia for girls and Liam and Oliver for boys. More traditional places to find names? Hit up that cousin with the Ancestory.com subscription and search your family tree, your favourite books, movies or corners of history for names that have special meaning to you.
What to avoid
Baby names come down to preference and taste, and we encourage you to do you! Just make sure you’ve considered everything. Names from popular culture will always be connected to the origin and it’s time, e.g. Khaleesi, Rey, Saint. Unusual spellings and non-English pronunciations will take some explaining, first from you and then by your kid. It might be annoying when it’s said or written incorrectly, but the world is changing, perseverance pays off, and patience is a virtue. Conversely, picking the most popular names might mean they are one of five Amelias in their year, or referred to as Amelia B. or Amelia S. like contestants on The Bachelor. But again, that’s nothing a good nickname can’t fix. The sweet spot for a fuss-free name seems to be something between a less common name with a conventional spelling and a popular name that isn’t used at epidemic level or connected to someone or something uber famous.
Try it out
When you find names you like, put them with your last name, and potential middle names, and write them down. Then, go all love-struck teen on it and get doodling. See how they look written out in uppercase and lowercase, with different titles (Mr., Mrs., Sir, Pro. etc.), in block lettering and bubble letters (kidding, but you could). Then check the initials: L.O.L might be a cute name easter egg, but F.M.L ain’t. Next, say them outloud and get a sense of the flow: Poppy Jane Steer sounds nice but Greer Eve Steer is a mouthful. Rhyming names invite teasing: Belle Pell, Ben Wren, Mark Clarke, and doubled suffixes can be a mouthful: Lily Daily, Jackson Grayson, Ginnie Bernie as they ain’t the easiest to say. Matching prefixes are a different story, as they roll off the tongue: Bonnie Button, Teddy Thomas and William Wright.
When you’ve got your shortlist, Google each and check your innocent new bub isn’t going to share their name with a serial killer from the ‘30s, porn star from the ‘80s or a small but popular arms dealership in America. You should also Google famous people with the same first name, as people will always associate a name with the most famous person of that name, and it’s not always obvious. Hillary, Rihanna, Justin and Abe are all great names, but they’re all connected with very famous people. Nothing wrong with that, but it’s good to be aware as you’ll most certainly be asked if you're a big fan.
Consider keeping it under your hat
Baby names are so personal, and everyone has an opinion, but less so once the baby is born. If you’re shopping around for a name and want to see what people think, brainstorming with friends is lots of fun, but if you have a name you love and know you want to use it, consider keeping it to yourself until your baby is here. By then the name is attached to a gorgeous little person who, even if they just sleep and feed, totally makes it their own, so no one is going to tell you they don’t like it. Keeping it to yourself also ensures no fellow pregnant friend “steals” it, nor will you think they did. It also prevents pressure or opinions from family members, particularly about if and what family names should be used. Overall it saves you from a lot of feedback that you might find overwhelming and simply don’t need. You’re the parents, do your due diligence, and go with your gut. After all, you’re going to be the ones saying it constantly, in various tones, for the rest of your lives.