How to Overcome Baby-Naming Anxiety

I just read a charming article by blogger Melissa Dell who struggled with the task of finding a name for her child–so much so that she became extremely anxious when the copy of 100,000+ Baby Names she ordered did not arrive.

Her article illustrates how she and her husband used my book to discover names they liked and call them to each other’s attention–so they could focus on names they both liked, which they would then discuss.

They took turns spending time with my book and highlighted names on pages they marked for each other’s attention. Then they traded the book back and forth so they could look at the highlighted names and initiate discussions about them.

Melissa’s article helped me understand the value of a book like mine in comparison with searching for names online. I’m happy to report that Melissa and her husband found 4 names they both liked, but they have not made a final choice yet. I’ll update her article when I find out which name she chose (and why).

I should probably mention that her article contains a number of photos to illustrate how they used the book.

What’s in a Name? Answers to 7 Questions.

I recently answered some baby naming questions for Alicia at Bottle Poppin’ Mama.  Check out her questions below and feel free to leave one of your own in the comments.

  • How do you conduct your research in compiling this list of names?
  • What are your most popular Boys & Girls Names predictions for 2016?
  • What do you think of the gender neutral naming phenomenon?
  • How influential are celebrities/pop culture when it comes to naming children?
  • Why do you think we are seeing a resurgence of more classical names?
  • How do parents rate the importance of a unique name/unique spelling?
  • What is a good approach to deciding on a name for a child when family members can’t agree?

To read my answers check out “What’s In A Name?” at Bottle Poppin’ Mama.


When You Ask Friends For Feedback About Names You Like, Do You Worry Someone Might Steal Your Best Name?

Nancy’ has a wonderful post called “When Did Baby Name Stealing Begin?” It’s wonderful because it includes a video clip from an episode of “Sex in the City” in which Charlotte and her three friends go to a baby shower for a woman named Laney, whom Charlotte believes stole the name Charlotte has been planning on naming her first baby since she was 11 year’s old.

It may interest you to know that I advise pregnant women to consult their best friends for feedback about the names currently high on their lists. Last week, I wrote a post about Kristin Cavallari, whom I advised to study the eyeballs of friends when she mentions baby names she is considering. Eyeballs function like lie detectors. Mouths may lie; eyeballs don’t.

But when I tell women to consult their friends, ” I sometimes get this response: “When I was pregnant with my first baby, I consulted my friends. One of them liked one of my names so much, she stole it and used it for her baby. Next time I hear that story, I’m going to ask: “What better proof could there be that you’ve come up with a winner?”

Think about it this way:  No real friend would steal a name. So any “friend” who wanted to steal your best name would no longer be your friend. She’d be an ex-friend. And being ex-friends, you wouldn’t run into each other often. So the damage done by her theft would a lot less than the service of validating your best name.

So, don’t use theft as an excuse to avoid discussing your best ideas with your best friends. And definitely do click on the “name-stealing” article so you can watch the “Sex in the City” clip (from 1998). It may surprise you to discover that the stolen name in the clip is not the greatest name on earth; it’s a name Charlotte fixated on when she was 11-years-old.

Dear Bruce: How Can I Talk My Son Out of a Name I Hope they Don’t Give My Grandchild?

Q: I hate a name my son is thinking of naming his baby. How can I talk him out of it?

A: If you want to have even the slightest chance of changing your son’s mind, accept the fact that naming their baby is the prerogative of your son and his wife. It’s not your call. Accept the fact that they will pick whatever name they like and that you will live with their choice. (Fighting a passive-aggressive battle about a name you don’t like is juvenile and undermines your credibility as the “adult in the relationship.”)

Next, change the way you frame the issue. Saying you “hate”‘ the name they are considering sets up a cataclysmic life and death battle. Instead, say that the name they seem high on “never would have occurred to you.” Notice how that lightens the stakes and implies that nuclear weapons won’t be used to settle the matter.

The goal of “talking your son out of” the name he likes is highly unrealistic. Lower your sights and lighten your rhetoric accordingly. Describe what you’d like to accomplish as: “introducing a different perspective,” or “planting the seed of a different idea.” See how that language is much less “win/lose”–hence much less “threatening?”

(Time for an anecdote: I had a relative who always had to be “right”–about everything. Although he was smart enough not to verbalize what he was thinking, what was running through his mind as he argued passionately for his point of view was: “I’m right. You’re wrong. You big dummy!” When he started arguing, people sensed he was trying to run over them with a bulldozer and leave them flat as pancakes in the middle of the road. So instead of considering what he had to say, most people would dig in stubbornly and cling to their initial position for dear life.)

Can you see how a “bulldozer strategy” like the one my relative used is the least effective rhetorical strategy possible? And now that I’ve told you this anecdote can you see why using language like “introducing a different perspective” or “planting the seed of a different idea” is much less threatening and confrontational and might open the door to change, if only because your son might be curious to discover what your new “perspective” or “idea” might be.

Now that you’ve increased the odds that you and your son will have a productive discussion, you are ready to provide some new perspectives and new ideas in the  form of blog posts I’ve written about a variety of issues that might be causing a conflict between you and your son. (Psychotherapists call it “bibliotherapy” when they “prescribe” books for their patients to read.  So perhaps we should call this approach “blogotherapy.”

If your son is considering a name that is highly unusual and may come across as strange, weird or uncomfortable, suggest he read “Why Unique Names Can Be a Hassle.” It describes a research project that asked people if they liked their own names. Many respondents who had been given unusual names didn”t like their names for a variety of good reasons.

If your son is considering a traditional name that seems boring or humdrum to you, suggest that he read “How to Find Charming, Uncommon Names for Your Baby.”

If your son has picked a name you think is for “losers” and you would like to steer him towards a name that will help his child succeed in life, suggest he read “How to Come Up With a 5-Star Name  for Your Baby.”

If you think your son has picked an “outrageous” name similar to names selected by celebrities, suggest he read “10 Mistakes That Have Caused The Biggest, Baddest Baby-Naming Blunders.”

If your son has picked a name so popular there are likely to be more than one child with the same name in your grandchild’s kindergarten class, suggest he read “How to Pick a Unique Version of a Popular Name.”

When you realize your son has made up his mind about a first name “that never would have occurred to you,” change the subject and suggest he read “Middle Naming: How to Pick a Useful Middle Name for Your Baby.” (One of the main purposes of a middle name is to act as a “back-up name” should the first name not work out.)

By using a blogotherapy strategy, it is no longer you against your son in a winner-take-all confrontation. You really are providing a new perspective in the form of articles I’ve written which may shed some new light on the subject. And that’s really all you can hope to do.

“Everyone is Obsessed With Baby Names” in Glasgow, Scotland

In a column published in the Glasgow Evening Times, Rachel Loxton writes about a friend of hers who is pregnant.

Rachel’s friend is starting to deal with “bump touching,” (Friends see the bump. Friends touch the bump.) But there’s another, more troubling issue: “Everyone is obsessed with baby names.”  “If another person gets upset over a baby name…I like, I’ll scream.” Rachel’s comment. “When it comes to baby names prepare to be judged. Everyone has an opinion and they’re not afraid to say it.”

Apparently author Katie Hopkins has been on TV promoting her book (The Class Book of Baby Names)–which essentially boils down to criticizing parents who give babies names Katie Hopkins thinks are “down market” (Brit-speak for “lower class”).

I realize I could be accused of the same thing, but my targets are usually celebrities or fans who try to mimic celebrities’ self-indulgent behavior. I advise parents to pick names that will work well for their children; rather than names that call attention to the parents’ need for attention (e.g., by naming their children North (West), Moon Unit, or Pilot Inspektor).

If the theme of baby-naming stress in Scotland strikes a chord, you might want to check out an article I wrote about Katie Hopkins a few months ago, when she was causing “baby-naming stress” in Ireland.

What Children’s Names Say to Teachers about Children and Their Mothers

Katie Hopkins is making waves in Ireland with a new book called The Class Book of Baby Names, which describes the personality characteristics that often accompany popular names.

I thought it might be interesting to highlight some of the book’s findings which should be relevant to North Americans teachers who are calling roll and getting first impressions of their new students; and to North American expectant parents who are thinking about what to name their babies.

Below I am quoting from a recent article in the Irish Examiner written about Katie Hopkins and her new book by Caroline Delaney. I want to point out that some of the names which have an unruly, lower-class image in Ireland may not have the same image in North America. For that reason I will only use quotes which mention a small number of Irish names which come across in pretty much the same way in North America and Ireland:

“A child’s name is the first impression you have. That impression is usually validated by the mother standing behind it. It isn’t just the child’s name, is it? It is the manner in which its mother yells it across the playground,” Hopkins says.

Hopkins is scathing about the name Ashlee: “Show me an Ashlee. I will show you a large mum in leggings and with a [large U.K. discount chain] bag twice the size of her latest baby.”

A few teachers interviewed for this piece declined to be named, but said they had preconceptions about names. Many of the names they listed as potential troublemakers were altered spellings of more typical names. Poor Kacee, Brandii and Ashlee may be lovely girls, but they have to work extra hard to prove it to some teachers.

When pressed further, these teachers said they feared that parents who broke with tradition in naming their children would also bend rules on drop-off times, neatness and homework.

As it happens one of the questions I am often asked is what I think about names with unique spellings (like Brandii). The first thing that comes to mind is that parents who pick those names seem to think that having a “unique name” will make their children “unique individuals,” as if by magic. I also mention the inconvenience and bother of having a name that is rarely spelled right and often mispronounced. To the tell the truth, I don’t usually say that a name like Kacee, Ashlee or Brandii is a tell-tale sign of lower social class. Why? It’s a comment that’s likely to create bad feelings (because it’s often true). That’s why Hopkin’s book is making waves in Ireland.

One reason I’m so interested in this subject is that back in 1990 I wrote I wrote a pioneering book called The Baby Name Personality Survey based on a large-sample survey conducted by co-author Barry Sinrod that provided research-based personality profiles for 1,400 popular names. Although the profiles mentioned names that created an aristocratic image (like Montgomery) and names that created a blue-collar image (like Arnie) we carefully avoided anything that might come across as “hurtful” (to the extent possible).

I’ve retitled that book several times over the years. Much of the survey information is now available in a The 5-Star Baby Name Advisor, which uses the research to suggest names that could benefit your child and names that could be a hindrance. Needless to say, characteristics of names that are likely to be a hindrance include: names which create negative impressions, names that are difficult to spell and names that are hard to pronounce.