One in Five British Mothers Regrets Her Child’s Name

When I read the title and reading line for the article Amelia Hill wrote in The Guardian: I guessed that the leading cause of “baby-name regret” was caused by picking a popular (e.g., top-20) name and then realizing how many other parents had made precisely the same choices.

Here are two fragments from the article that explain when and why parents begin regretting the names they have chosen:

-“The main reason for regretting the name was that it was too commonly used (25%).”
-“23% began to regret their choice when their children first started nursery or school.”

Why do so many parents fall into the trap of picking highly popular names for their children, (even though naming experts strongly recommend against that)?

Once you are pregnant, you start reading articles and books about baby names (which contain lists of the most popular names); and you also may start reading the birth announcement section of your local newspaper. Your ears are likely to perk up when friends and relatives start talking about their new babies. And when you notice new parents pushing baby strollers or carrying babies in slings, you go over to have a closer look. If you’re lucky, you might even be invited to hold the baby. Naturally, you ask the baby’s name, and say something nice about the baby and its name.

Pretty soon you realize that your interest in anything related to babies is giving you a “good feel” for names and which ones you like. Every time you meet a cute baby and “like” the name you are adding “data” to your very own baby-name “research project”—which includes your feelings about the names of cute babies you’ve cooed over or bounced; the names of babies your friends, relatives and neighbors have just announced; and the cute celebrity babies photographed in “People” and “Us.”

At some point it may dawn on you that the short list of names you are actively considering for your baby includes half of the top-10 list published every year by the Social Security Administration (or the agency in your country that publishes official name statistics).

How can newly pregnant parents avoid picking names they may wind up regretting, when they find out how popular they are? It helps to start your name search by making a list of names you like. They could be names of famous people you admire (e.g., Lincoln and Eleanor) names of characters in books or movies you love (e.g., Scout and Starbuck); names of your favorite actors or Olympic heroes (e.g., Simone and Bolt); names common in the language you studied in high school (e.g., Natasha and Ivan); names of your favorite foods or wines (e.g., Brie and Kale); names of your favorite places to vacation (e.g., Kauai and Siena); or names of relatives you want to honor.

By picking names that have meaning for you, you won’t be sidetracked by falling-in-like with names currently used by your friends, relatives and acquaintances and by the popular names in announcement lists and the media.

About Wildly Popular Names—Like Jacob

Just read an interesting article by Laura Wattenberg, proving (with the aid of convincing charts) that usage of an extremely popular (#1-rated name like Jacob) peaks when it achieves #1 status and fairly quickly thereafter begins to decline in usage (presumably as people decide against using the #1 name because it is “too popular”). The point she makes is that you shouldn’t give up on using a name you love–because usage will decline—even if the name remains #1 in popularity. And, her conclusion does make sense for people who don’t realize why they are hanging on to the name as though it were the only name in the world good enough for their baby.

Here’s a completely different interpretation of Laura’s charts. Don’t pick a name that has just climbed onto the top-ten list. It is already very popular and might get even more popular. So popular there will be other Jacobs or Masons or Liams or Jaydens in your son’s nursery school, kindergarten class and college class. And don’t forget the reason everyone “loves” these names: they keep seeing the names mentioned in birth announcements, in articles about the most popular names and in kiddie parks where it seems every other mother is calling her baby–and using the name they “love.”

“Hot” names are like “hot” stocks. If your hair stylist (or barber) touts either a “hot stock” or a “hot name” forgetaboutit! If everybody else likes it, you don’t really like it. You just wish you had bought the stock or picked the name about three years ago (for your first child) before it was discovered by almost every mother (and her stylist). By the time a name is on everyone’s lips it’s time to start looking for a name that every other mother in the park is not bragging about.

Popular Names Are Not Nearly as Popular as they Used to Be (Back in the 1880s or the 1950s)


The ten most popular boys’ names in 2010 accounted for only 10% of all boys’ names;. But back in the 1880s, the top-ten boys’ names accounted for 40% of all boys’ names—according to an article in LiveScience magazine, written by Stephanie Pappas. Here’s another statistical insight from the same article: Until the 1950s, half of the baby girls had names that were among the top-fifty in popularity. Now only twenty-five percent of baby girls have top-fifty names.

The article goes on to discuss some of the most popular boys’ and girls’ names in recent years. I found it quite interesting.