What’s Wrong With Pamela Redmond Satran’s Recently Recommended Names?

Take a look at this list of recommended names taken from articles written by Pamela Redmond Satran in recent months. See if you can figure out why each name could be annoying, frustrating or downright harmful to the children of Nameberry readers unlucky enough to be given these names. If you get stuck on any one of them, scroll down. Under the list of names you’ll find a short list of baby-naming don’t’s that quickly explain what parents (and experts) should consider when picking (or recommending) a name.

Some of Pamela Redmond Satran’s Recently Recommended Names:

Betsan, Cabe, Kaius, Neri, Macsen, Macson, Camber, Sender, Effa, Gerty, Mertilla, Tulsi, Sula, Hebe, Kitty, Maelys, Blue, Carola

Quick List of Baby-Naming Don’ts

1. Avoid names that make negative impressions. (Detroit is a bankrupt city. that is “uncool,” right now, like Chris Christie and A-Rod. Blue comes across as “depressed.”)

2. Avoid names that come across as weird or confusing. (Kaius, Neri, Betsan, Cabe, Tulsi, Sula, Macsen and Maelys come across as random collection of letters—which don’t seem much like names. I call them “alphabet-soup” names. Mertillla is weird and clunky.)

3. Avoid names that have negative or confusing meanings. (Blue means “depressed.” Sender is “someone who sends something.” Camber is “a slightly arched surface.” None of these three capitalized words seem much like names.).

4. Avoid names likely to encourage teasing or bullying. (Detroit is going through bankruptcy. Effa sounds like a reference to the “f-bomb.” Gerty rhymes with a well-known slang word for feces. Neri will be called “Neri Christmas.” Sula will be called “Sula Does the Hula.” Hebe is a derisive term for Jews. Blue easily lends itself to, “Why so blue, Blue?” Kitty will be called, “Here kitty, kitty!”)

5. Avoid names that are difficult to spell. (Kaius is tricky to spell. So are Macsen and Maelys–along with most of the names I call “alphabet- soup” names because it’s hard to guess what the “correct spelling” of these names might be.)

6. Avoid names that are difficult to pronounce. (Kaius can be tricky to pronounce; is it KAY-us or KIE-us or KAY-oss? Carola is a German name that should be pronounced ca-ROLL-ah and the “r” in the second syllable needs to be “rolled.”)

7. Avoid names that aren’t “versatile” i.e., that don’t provide good options for both formal and informal occasions. (Most of the “alphabet- soup” names like, Neri, Tulsi, Betsan and  Cabe don’t make formal impressions. None of these names are likely to impress when they appear on college or job applications.)

Most parents intuitively know that the name they give their baby is one of the most important decisions they will make before their child is born. Many parents think about this decision carefully (and obsessively) and weigh hundreds of options in the (roughly) seven months after they find out they are expecting. Most parents and experts are familiar with the practical list of baby-naming dont’s I’ve listed above.)

However, it doesn’t seem to have occurred to Pamela Redmond Satran to give these issues even a minute of thought. Her list of recently-recommended names creates the impression that she doesn’t care about the effects of the names she recommends on the children of the million or more expectant parents who read her articles each month on Nameberry.com and in major-market newspapers and national websites like The Huffington Post which reprint her articles. Conceivably the total number of people reading her articles in all media may add up to several million.

Sooner or later, her readers, her colleagues at Nameberry and the publications and websites that reprint her articles will understand what readers of this post now understand. And when that happens, things will change. I hope you can see I’m not being “snarky.” I’m calling your attention to a serious problem that needs to be addressed. I hope you’ll let Nameberry or the newspaper or website on which you read Satran’s articles know what you think.

2 thoughts on “What’s Wrong With Pamela Redmond Satran’s Recently Recommended Names?

  1. I just came upon your blog (linked to another baby name blog). As a ‘name enthusiast’ since the 1960s I am familiar with your name and have one of your books in my collection of baby name books. When I saw that Nameberry is one of your topics of discussion, I immediately took notice. As a mother of 9, nana of 17 (ages 29 – 3) and great-nana of 3 (ages 4 and 4 months), with another on the way, I strongly second that parents should be encouraged in every way to think about how any name — and most especially an unusual name — will work — or not — for their child, throughout his or her lifetime. We’re in a time of “unique” names and “creative spellings” and fan magazines that are all about “baby bumps” and “what [outlandish] name this “star” or that named his/her baby (soon to be forgotten as the popular media moves on to the next bump/new baby).

    Thus I agree with you that those who are considered “baby name experts” (with Satran and Rosenkrantz at or near the top of that list) have a responsibility to their followers to give the most accurate information they can about the names they discuss and introduce and/or promote. Misinformation can influence parents to give up favorite names or opt for a name that might cause their child to be set apart from other kids in a less than positive way.

    A case in point: four years ago in March 2010, Pamela Satran had an article called “The Elite’s Top 50 Baby Names” in The Daily Beast. She declared that Henry and Charlotte were the #1 names. The article went viral. I follow names closely and some of my family have consulted me when looking for the best name for their expected baby. I had encouraged a son and his wife with the choice of Henry (instead of Hayden) to pair with older sons’ names David and Jonathan (both family-related names). Now I was hoping they wouldn’t see this article and be discouraged by this ‘news’ that Henry was soon to be a #1 name. However, my strong suspicion was that Satran had used data from Nameberry — showing which names her followers were looking at — and was calling those rankings the favored names of “the elite”. Eventually she admitted to that on Nameberry, but I — and others? — who pushed the issue of honesty in reporting naming trends were blocked from making any further comments on this website.

    Meanwhile expectant parents who had come across the article were rethinking their name choices. An expectant mother writing to Swistle for name advise explained that their favorite name for a daughter, after two traditionally named sons, was Charlotte “but Charlotte (dh’s favorite) is rapidly rising in popularity, and it was just named the #1 Elite Baby Name (whatever that really means)”.

    I hope my response helped encourage this mom to use their favorite name: “No need to worry about Charlotte being the “number one elite baby name”. The article “The Elite’s Top 50 Baby Names”, published on March 10 in the online “The Daily Beast”, gives misleading information. While the writer talks about “elite” (read very well-off) parents and their preferences for elite schools, elite pediatricians, etc., the accompanying list of baby names relects the top 50 names NAMEBERRY (the author’s website) users looked at most during the months of Jan./Feb 2010 and are NOT the names the “elite” or any other specific socio-economic group are naming their babies, in rank order.

    “While Charlotte, like many current baby names, may be more popular in certain areas of the country, for the entire USA it ranked only 87 in the most recent SSA stats (2008). Baby name stats for 2009 will be released this Friday, and while it’s likely that Charlotte will move up the chart a bit, it won’t be #1.

    “I see no reason not to use Charlotte if that’s your favorite name. It’s a lovely name and not even in the top 50.”

    The parents later sent an update: they named their daughter Charlotte.

    I too have enjoyed Rosenkrantz and Satran’s books. When it came out, “Beyond Jennifer and Jason” wowed me with its new approach to baby naming. I have some of their other books too. Rosenkrantz and Satran are talented writers and their books have expanded expectant parents’ ways of looking at names. But keeping up with their daily Nameberry blog and frequently writing catchy articles for online opinion websites may be more pressing than putting together a baby name book. It seems to me that sometimes they are trying too hard to be THE baby name experts and feel they must continually come up with ‘new’ baby names and ‘hot off the presses’ baby name data for their readers (and editors) to exclaim over, even if the name suggestions are questionable, even if the data is misrepresented.

    • Dear NanaPatricia,

      Thanks for taking the time to share some of your concerns about Nameberry. I particularly liked this paragraph from your comment: “I strongly second [your idea] that parents should be encouraged in every way to think about how any name — and most especially an unusual name — will work — or not — for their child, throughout his or her lifetime. We’re in a time of “unique” names and “creative spellings” and fan magazines that are all about “baby bumps” and “what [outlandish] name this “star” or that named his/her baby (soon to be forgotten as the popular media moves on to the next bump/new baby).”

      I also liked this paragraph: “It seems to me that sometimes they [Satran and Nameberry writers] are trying too hard to be THE baby name experts and feel they must continually come up with ‘new’ baby names and ‘hot off the presses’ baby name data for their readers (and editors) to exclaim over, even if the name suggestions are questionable, even if the data is misrepresented.”

      Satran and her colleague Aela Mass write articles in which they recommend names so unusual they were used by 10 or less names the previous year. They call those names “forgotten” or “neglected” or “unusual” because they are so infrequently used. Names like that have been neglected or forgotten for a good reason: they may be too weird, too esoteric, too unrecognizable, too hard to spell or pronounce and simply too darned unattractive (like Mertilla, Drusilla, Annourilla, and Lugretia).

      Writing about these awful names doesn’t change the fact that they are awful. Unfortunately, writing about the names dangles them in front of readers as though they are attractive names worth considering. That strikes me as irresponsible, because these names are likely to punish the children of their readers who were foolish enough to give these names to their babies.

      And why do Satran and Mass recommend these names? Probably, as you suggest, to give them some new names to write about every week or month. Aela Mass recently claims to have found the names Legretia, Drusilla, Alaric and Annourilla, while walking her dog through a cemetery. (Maybe she walked her dog in ancient Rome.) The names she claims to have found on gravestones are dead and there’s no need to “revive” them so they can be used by parents on real, live babies in the 21st century.

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