Baby names: there is no right way to pick a name

Distinctive, popular or easy to spell… choosing your child’s name is fraught with complications, as one dad reveals.

Anyone who has ever decided to get a tattoo will be half way to knowing how hard it is to pick the perfect baby name. Like getting inked, your baby’s name is forever (or ’til they can legally change it at 18), but unlike a tatt you can’t cover it up with clothing. You are marking someone for life, so you want to make it perfect, but you can’t and here’s why.

You cannot predict the future

The worst thing that can happen to your baby’s name is that someone can come along and ruin it. You may meet a very unpleasant person who has your baby’s name, or popular culture might ruin it for you. 

Legions of innocently named Jon Snows are now having “You know nothing…” shouted at them in the street thanks to Game of Thrones. See also Forrest, Homer, Damien and Clarice. My wife’s name is Adrienne, and despite the spelling difference I am at times tempted to give it my finest Rocky impersonation: “Adriaaaaaaaaaan!”

On the other hand, the name you choose for your child might get a positive spin from movies or TV, like the boost Luke received from the Star Wars movies.

You can’t control popularity

We tried to give both our kids’ names the Goldilocks test – not too common, not too weird – but as first-time parents you rarely hang around with other kids. That comes later when you spend what seems like a lifetime loitering around kids’ parks waiting for your kids to hurt themselves – and you might meet a lot more Aidans or Jordans than you ever thought possible.
boy smiling on swing

Unusual versus just plain weird

My name is Paul, I understand the burden of a too-popular name. My parents get a D-minus for originality and for my whole high-school life I was referred to by my surname, as were the other 25 Pauls in my year. I longed for a more interesting name but on the upside Paul is very easy for people to spell. Someone named Makayla will have to spell her name for the rest of her life. So will Mikaila. And Micayla. And poor Mackaeluh. Throwing extra letters at a name does not make it better. 

Kids are more creative than you at nicknames

It is probably the first test we give a name: what nasty spin can the schoolyard bully put on it? But though you might think it is impossible to lampoon your choice of name, be prepared for creative spins you didn’t think of. My eight-year-old has ruined my favourite song by The National, Sea of Love. He turned the lyrics, “Hey Joe, sorry I hurt you, but” into “Hey Joe, sorry I hurt your butt” without even breaking a sweat.

There is no perfect baby name

But there is a perfect baby. Yours. And you will forget all about the baby-name stress once you hold your little person – and a whole new range of stresses present themselves.
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