If you are pregnant and you have your heart set on a name, maybe you should keep it to yourself.
We had a name picked out if we had a boy when I was pregnant with my son and I confided in a friend because I was too excited not to share. I had a feeling I was having a boy so the name was really meaningful and felt right for our little gender-as-yet-unknown baby.
I told her the name and she said, “Oh that’s a horrible name!”
And the name and all the glory and wonder that I had attached to it was forever tainted by her comment.
We didn’t use that name in the end by the way and she slipped at least three rungs down on my mental friendship ladder.
When he was finally born that name was still the top of the list but it had been poisoned a little. It turned out that he just didn’t suit the name we had picked for him anyway and we avoided the ‘oh you used that name’ kind of awkwardness that could have followed.
So we waited a day or two after he was born. And we looked at him and looked at him, and after a night apart (us in hospital and my man at home with the dogs) we both came up with the same name on the count of three. It was a magic moment.
But naming a child is a serious business and I have come up with 20 ‘serious’ things to consider before the magic happens when your child’s name really sticks. Some of this comes from my experience as a parent but some of it also comes from my experience as a teacher prior to becoming a parent.
Here are 20 little naming steps to follow (or not) when naming your baby
1. Keep it to yourself (your baby, your naming rights, your decision, your fault if other people don’t like it and your annoyance when others ‘steal’ the name or say they don’t like it before you have even used it).
2. Say it out loud.
This kind of runs contrary to rule number one, but you will be saying the name a lot and it needs to fit the rounds of your mouth nicely. You also want that name to always be safe in your mouth (I read that somewhere about what love really means and it resonated with me. The name of the person you love is always safe in your mouth because you will never say bad things of them. Aw.)
3. Look for Acronyms
If you are giving more than one name, have a look at what the initials spell.
4. Read the letters
Read the initials out loud as well as looking at them on the page. Make sure you haven’t just used an acronym accidentally.
5. Read the full name
I have read full names of children that unfortunately read more like a class roll call than a name. In my opinion, names should fit together and sound like they are pairs if you are giving middle names.
6. Listen for a rhythm
Single syllable names are great with single syllable last names but double syllable names paired together can sound accidentally staccato depending on the name.
7. Avoid rhyme
Rhymes are cute in nursery rhymes. Perhaps they are better left there unless you want your child to be teased in a sing song way for the rest of their life.
8. Consider spelling
I am a bit of an old-schooler on this one. If you want to get freaky with spelling and add an X to replace a cks or add a double ‘ee’ to replace a short ‘e’ in a traditional name then you have the freedom to do so. Be warned that your child will forever have to be spelling their name, correcting others and adding ‘mine is with an X’ types of appendixes to standard conversations. This ‘could’ get a little annoying.
9. Don’t go phonetic
An Italian name like Mila, for example, has a long ‘ee’ sound in it naturally. Opting for ‘Meela’ because you think that people will accidentally call your child ‘Miller’ is like a kick in the face to the Italian language and to people’s intelligence in general.
10. Try local
I love exotic names but if you name your child in another language, expect to be asked where they get their heritage from. (Our son’s middle name and both my daughter’s names are Maori because we are New Zealanders and that is a nod to our local heritage though I do suspect that our children will be asked if they are Maori more than once more in their futures).
11. Predict mispronunciation
Have a look at the name you have chosen and try saying it like a munter. I would love for your child to avoid all experiences of ‘munt’ in their full lifetime but, I would also love for them to meet and ride a unicorn across a rainbow. (Munter – nz slang for a person lacking in intelligence who is often high).
12. Read widely
I loved nameberry.com the most when I was name hunting for my children. I trawled numerous baby name books and websites and collated a long list. Reading fiction is also helpful for imagining a name being used in ‘real’ situations though this can also be counterproductive. (I liked the name Dexter but I was reading the Dexter novels and didn’t want to name my son after a serial killer… even a fictitious one).
13. Keep a list
Our naming method was pretty fun. We had two columns on the fridge (hidden when guests came over), Boys’ names on one side and Girls’ names on the other. Each of us had the right to add any name we pleased and similarly, each of us had the right to cross out any name on a whim. The result was a list of names that we knew we both liked without too many discussions needed.
14. Say siblings’ names together
Funnily enough I didn’t think of this one when we were naming our daughter. Luckily enough the names of both our children don’t sound bad together. (Phew!)
15. Leave novelty names for race horses and pets
I am sure there must be a ‘name a racehorse’ scheme somewhere. If you need to use a name that is banked but it is too weird and wonderful for a child, give it to a horse. Or a dog.
Read between the lines though – avoid inflicting a novelty name on your child if you can.
16. Think of themes
Amber, Jade and Crystal. Ocean, River and Reef.
Whatever your theme, either stick with it or don’t do it at all. These either really work or really don’t so thinking about it carefully is wise.
17. Keep the post office happy
Some time in the future you will receive mail for ‘Initial’ ‘Surname’. If you give your children names that start with the same letter – or that start with the same letter as your first name, there is bound to be confusion.
18.Think of tradition
Look through your family tree. Is there a name that could be meaningfully revived? You could try to use one as a middle name if it fits with another name you like.
19. Do your research on what is trending in baby names
We have personal experience here because five of our friends have named their sons the same. Each couple thought they were choosing an exotic and interesting yet not too ‘out there’ name. Now we have to call them ‘X’ the 1st, or ‘X’ of this couple etc.
We were ‘those friends’ that said, please don’t call him ‘X’ because it is going to be really popular.
Try this website for analysis of trends of baby names.
20. Do what you like
Ultimately, it is your baby so naming them is something that is up to you.
This list of naming tips is proudly brought to you by the Round Merino Swaddle Blanket by Outie. (We know what it’s like to go round in circles…)