Why Unique Names Can be a Hassle: Research Report

This article is based on the results of a survey I found on BabyNames.com. The findings provide perspective on popular strategies for selecting names.

Unique Names Can Create Problems:

Many parents seek a unique name for their baby (perhaps in the belief that a unique name may make their baby feel special). To find a unique name, they either choose a name that is relatively uncommon or they modify a common name by changing the way it’s spelled. Unfortunately, these strategies can lead to problems. The survey results indicate that:

  • 33% of respondents feel their names are unique.
  • 36% of respondents report that their names are often mispronounced.
  • 71% of respondents complain that their names are often misspelled.
  • Not surprisingly, of those respondents who describe their names as unique, the majority complain that their names are often misspelled and/or mispronounced.

While there can be a benefit in having a unique name, there are corresponding problems: Unique names that are difficult to spell and pronounce are a daily source of annoyance to most children. As a result, many children with unique names wish their parents had considered these practical problems when choosing a name for them.

Positive vs. Negative Impressions:

I strongly suggest that parents selecting a name for a baby give careful consideration to the image or impression names convey. The survey findings on this subject are very interesting:

  • 33% of respondents feel their name doesn’t make a positive impression.
  • 25% of respondents don’t like their name.
  • 33% of respondents would like to change their name.
  • 50% of respondents use a nickname.
  • 17% of respondents use a name other than their given names (such as their middle name).

I created 5-Star Baby Name Advisor to give parents a way to predict how other people would perceive the names they are considering. Some names (like Michael and Meredith) project images of attractiveness and competence while other names (like Bertha and Elmer) project quite the opposite. When I meet people who have changed their names, the most common reason is that they didn’t like their original names. When I probe, I usually find that they were given a name (like Wanda or Sylvester) that, as our research indicates, don’t create favorable impressions.

Importance of a Choosing an Appropriate Name:

I think one key survey finding may understate the importance of selecting an appropriate name: Although 42% of respondents feel that their name has influenced their life, it is my belief that the lives of the other 58% of respondents may well have been influenced by their names too (either based on the way they feel about their names or the way others feel about their names) in ways they can’t verbalize.

© 2009 Bruce Lansky
All rights reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced without proper notice of copyright.

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