Note: Several years ago I wrote and published “The Very Best Canadian Name Book.” Naturally, it sells mostly in Canada. I wrote the article below for a Canadian website. I doubt if it’s ever been seen “south of the border,” but I’m sure there are millions of Americans who were born in Canada or who visit Canada and have a special feeling for the country. (Count me in the happy visitor category.)
If you’re looking for a name with Canadian “roots” for the baby you’re expecting (or the baby you hope to have someday), consider the idea of picking a Canadian “place name” (the name of a Canadian city or town, body of water, or mountain). Place names can provide an interesting (and patriotic) alternative to traditional “Jacob and Emma” names more commonly chosen by parents. To quickly find out if this idea appeals to you, browse through the list of Canadian place names I’ve provided below.
Cities or Towns
Girls: Brooks, Celista, Courtenay, Fernie, Joliette, Nicolet, Regina, Surrey; Boys: Brandon, Duncan, Dryden, Estevan, Merritt
Girls: McKenzie, Mercy; Boys: Burnett, Dawson, Hudson, Walker
Girls: Alouette, Azure, Brunette, Nicola; Boys: Benson, Cameron, Fraser, Perry, Trent
Girls: Lajoie; Boys: Decker, Duffey
Girls: Sarita; Boys: Bond, Frederick, Owen, Parry
Girls: Celeste, Garnet, Isabel, Luciana; Boys: Bryce, Forbes, Hector, Odin, Palmer, Steele, Temple, Thor
Now that you’ve looked over the list, if you like the idea of picking a Canadian place name but don’t see the perfect name for your child on the list, you might want to hunt down a Canadian road atlas to find a lot more names with Canadian geographic roots.
Let’s discuss some strategies for making a wise choice. It’s important to find the balance between a unique, out-of-the-ordinary name and a name that’s so different, it’ll make people wonder, What were they thinking? (That’s the reaction most people have when they look at a list of names selected by celebrities for their babies.) Notice that I overlooked some obvious place names, like Alberta (a province), and instead chose a number of out-of-the-ordinary names like Decker and Lajoie (lakes) as well as Bond and Sarita (sounds). These names are unusual, but can work well as a person’s name (in addition to being the name for a city or lake or mountain). They’ll reflect well on you for having made a savvy choice and will reflect well on your child because they’re likely to make a favorable impression on his or her behalf.
I left out certain Canadian places that wouldn’t work well—names that are unlikely to: come across as suitable for a person, reflect glory on the parent who selected the name, or make a positive first impression for the child. For example, it’s hard to imagine anyone naming their baby Moose Jaw or Medicine Hat—even an attention-craving celebrity.
You’ll need to keep in mind that you’re diving into the deep end of the “baby-name pool” when you consider names that are unlikely to rank among the 1,000 most popular names and which may rarely, if ever, have been used as names before. When you go outside the pool of popular baby names, it’s risky to base your decision solely on your own views and those of your spouse/partner or your extended family. You need to ask yourself (and others) what kind of first impression the names you’re considering will make. It helps to poll kids, young adults, and old-timers so you can quickly get beyond that small circle of friends or relatives who are dying to influence your baby-naming decision. Talk about the name with people you’ve just met as well as with people you’ve known for years. When you mention the names you have in mind, study your respondents’ body language. Are their tones of voice, facial expressions, and pupil sizes reinforcing or contradicting the words they’re saying?
If the responses you get are mostly positive (based on what people say and don’t say), you just might have accomplished what many parents fail to do: picking an appealing name that reflects your Canadian roots which you and your child will enjoy using every day.
© 2008 Bruce Lansky
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