I thought I knew all the basic “rules” of baby naming. But when I read Bhadra Kamalasanan’s article, I realized there are a few “pitfalls” I hadn’t considered. So here is Kamalasanan’s list of pitfalls and how to avoid them, with a focus on providing examples for each. (By the way, I’m purposely using Kamalasanan’s topic headings and examples–except when no examples are provided.)
- Attention-Seeking Initials. Kamalasanan uses Bhumika Chaudhary as an example of an “initial problem.” However, few North Americans would be troubled by having B.C. as initials. I can see how that might suggest “Before Christ,” but that’s not likely to be a major source of embarrassment. Probably a more appropriate example would be B.J. (an off-color expression which perfectly illustrates initials you don’t want to inadvertently give your child).
- A Lifetime of Correcting People. Kamalasanan cites Anyta as an example of the kind of name that will cause spelling problems that are likely to be a constant source of annoyance to your child. For example, every time Anyta gives her name to a bank clerk, a new teacher or a hospital nurse, it would be more efficient to introduce herself as “Anyta with a y” than to correct the inevitable misspelling. However, I would been much more impressed if Kamalasanan had also suggested that parents avoid names whose pronunciation is likely to be mangled. For example, the correct pronunciation for the Irish girl’s name, Siobhan, is sha-VON. (Go figure!) I’ve written a post about Irish names that are almost impossible to pronounce correctly, unless you’re an Irish baby-name expert.
- Embarrassing Email Addresses. This is one “pitfall” that I haven’t written about (and neither has anyone else, as far as I know). There are two ways that email addresses are commonly created. If your child’s email address is created by putting the initial of his first name in front of his last name, then Frank Arty’s email addresse would be firstname.lastname@example.org. However, if your child’s email address is created by putting the initial of his first name after his last name, than Frank Arty would have nothing to worry about. But using this second type of email address, Ron Bone would have big problem (pun intended), because his email address would be email@example.com. Since it took me about 15 minutes to come up with two examples to illustrate this “pitfall” Kamalasanan has warned us about, I’d guess the likelihood of coming up with a name for your child that produces an embarrassing email address is about one out of a million. That explains why nobody but Kamalasanan has written about this “pitfall”—as far as I know. Unfortunately Kamalasanan doesn’t provide any examples, so we’ll never know if this is a common problem or was simply added to “pad” Kamalasanan’s brief list of pitfalls.
- Knotty Name Pairings. Kamalasanan has discovered another pitfall I wonder about. I’ve written about sibling names that go well together (for example names, from the same ethnic source), but Kamalasanan warns about names that don’t sound well together when you, for example, call both of your children to lunch. According to Kamalasanan, “you don’t want it to sound like a wild [call] from the jungle”. Because Kamalasanan gives no examples of any two names that would sound like Tarzan’s “African yodeling,” I think North Americans can safely dismiss this “pitfall.” Conceivably this may be more of a problem in languages other than in English. So if the names your neighbors call their children at dinnertime sound like “calls of the wild” avoid giving your children those names and/or take Kamalasanan’s fourth pitfall seriously.
- Over-Popular Names. As soon as you’re expecting, you start to notice parents pushing baby prams or carrying their baby in a sling or back pack. And you have to know the name of each baby you see. You read the baby announcements in your local paper and the names you like best turn out to be among the top-ten boys’ and girls’ names in your neighborhood or on your block or in your newspaper market. Kamalasanan recommends you avoid picking a top-ten name for your baby. I suggest you avoid a top-25 name. That way, you’ll pick a name you actually love rather than a copy-cat name you think you love. (Another way of making this point is that if you think you love a name that is on the SSA top-ten list, it may not be “true love.” You may have been influenced more than you know by the personal survey you have been conducting.