Here’s a fun open thread for halfway through the week: Let’s talk baby names!
Readers, how did you choose your kids’ names? We’d love to hear any and all name-related anecdotes — including partner or family member conflicts about your ideas…
Kid & Baby Names: Let’s Talk About It!
Here’s some questions to start us off:
- What was the inspiration for your kids’ names?
- What was your preference: classic? unusual? a family name? a name with a particular meaning?
- Do your kids’ names lend themselves to particular nicknames, and did that figure into your decisions?
- Did your experiences with your own name affect your choices?
- For readers with more than one kiddo: How are your children’s names related; e.g., did you choose a “theme”?
- Did you share your choice(s) with friends and family before you gave birth — and if so, what feedback did you get?
- Here’s a question for you elder millennials/younger Gen-Xers (and beyond): Did you choose something that was a popular name for babies when you were growing up but isn’t common today? (For example, my son’s name was among the top 20 most popular boys’ names in the ’80s, but now he is the only one with that name in his entire grade — and school, I think.)
- Have you ever regretted one of your kids’ names, or even changed it? For those who have older kids, have any of them changed their name, either officially or otherwise?
Pictured at top: Etsy is full of these baby name cutouts! The pictured one is available for purchase from seller EngravedHappyism (with lots of customizations, including fonts!) for $28.08.
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Syllables and Kids’ Choices…
This post was inspired by a call Kat and I had the other day. In the personal portion of our call, she said that her younger son, who’s 9, has decided he now only wants to be called by his full first name (three syllables), and not his nickname. With apologies for the additional name-vagueness here, I told her I thought it was interesting that my 12-year-old’s three-syllable name, which has at least two possible nicknames, has always been his strong preference. (Interesting tidbit: Coincidentally, Kat’s older son’s name can be a nickname for a shorter form of my son’s name.)
So, that led to today’s discussion — and somehow, our only past CorporetteMoms post about naming kids was this post about deciding on your children’s last names, with perspectives from four moms. It prompted a great discussion, so here’s to another chat about names and everything that comes with them!
The Most Popular Baby Names by Decade (Just for Kicks)
Finally, because these lists are so interesting to browse, the most popular names by decade, according to the SSA’s baby names website:
- Top Names of the 2010s (Noah/Emma)
- Top Names of the 2000s (Jacob/Emily)
- Top Names of the 1990s (Michael/Jessica)
- Top Names of the 1980s (Michael/Jessica)
- Top Names of the 1970s (Michael/Jennifer)
- Top Names Over the Last 100 Years (James/Mary)
Readers, do tell! How did you choose your children’s names?
I have a superstition that names shape personality, so I chose a strong, spunky name for my daughter. We loved both the name and its common nickname. My one regret is that we mainly called her by the nickname when she was little, so now she hates her actual name.
On our boy list we weeded out a lot of names that sounded like bullies.
We also had names that my husband vetoed because they were “bully names.” He had strong feelings about “locker stuffers” and “locker stuffed.”
Same – my friend and I once agreed that a name someone else had recommended to her sounded like a “preppy r*pist” and we couldn’t come back from that.
My husband and I had a hard time with boys names because we wanted to rule out names that belonged to people we didn’t like and I’ve met so many obnoxious men. Fortunately we had girls.
We actually had to rule out our favorite boy name because in addition to being the name of a poet and a musician we loved, it was also the name of a school sh00ter.
It was the first thing that popped into my head because I don’t really know the names of post-Columbine school shooters. They’re too common now and it’s not as shocking as it was then. Which is so depressing.
Boston Legal Eagle says
My boys have classic names that were probably one and two in the charts in the 1950s. I wanted names that were recognizable and easy to say and spell, and nothing too “trendy.” We call our younger one by a nickname, although there is another nickname for it that I don’t like so we may have shot ourselves in the foot there. I like my older’s full name, so so on the nickname. My husband and all of his brothers go by short nicknames so we’ll see. Middle names were family name for the first and random for the second, although I like the combination of the first and middle name initials and could be another nickname.
I think their names fit them and no regrets.
I am a real traditionalist. I wanted plain, classic names, and official names given as full names even if nicknames were planned from the start. I do have higher standards for girls names: I want full names that can sound strong and serious (Anne, Claire, Eleanor), and avoid anything sort of frilly or precious (think Amelia, Daisy, May, nicknames as full names). It’s really important to me to make sure my daughters have a name that I can imagine being announced at a med school graduation or as the next Supreme Court nominee or at other dignified and serious events: I do actually think different names get treated differently and it’s one thing to use a cutesy nickname informally but another if you have no other option to use but that cutesy nickname.
I hate this attitude. It’s also racist
It’s racist for a white person to give their kid a non-white name. So what is racist about giving a white child an adult white name instead of a juvenile white name?
There’s no such thing as a white name.
I dunno, all the people complaining about this discussion seem to think there are “white” names.
None of the people ‘complaining’ are talking about white names, Anonymous. It’s mainly you.
The objections are literally all about the assumption that the entire discussion is racist and a “white name” is SCOTUS material.
Because it’s racist to suggest that only “adult white names” belong on the Supreme Court and other prestigious jobs (and untrue, just look at KBJ).
No, it’s not. It’s about serious versus cutesy, which applies in any culture.
Preferring classically European names does not mean you have higher standards than other people. Also, please ask all the South Asians how their names sounded at med school graduation.
LOL, right. Pretty sure Asian-Americans are over-represented at law and med school graduations.
I realized the “LOL, right” reads as sarcastic but that wasn’t my intent. To be clear I’m agreeing with Anon at 3:45…
I like names with a long history, classic and somewhat timeless. For my daughter, I wanted a name that was feminine and strong, with lots of nickname options, of varying ‘cutesy-ness’.
We chose Elizabeth. She gets called the full name and a couple of different nicknames.
The only thing I slightly wish it had was an easy gender neutral nickname option in case she wants to explore that at some point.
It was also important to me that my kids had “full names” rather than nicknames-as-given names, even though we call my boys by their nicknames 90% of the time, and I picked the names partly based on liking the nicknames. I get what (I hope) the OP means, even if the phrasing was inelegant.
I mean that there are really baby-ish cute nicknames we can use for her as a baby like Zizi or, sort of medium sized names like Elsie or Lizzy, and more adult sounding nicknames like Beth or Liz, and the full name is also very useable and doesn’t feel overly formal. As she grows up, she can decide what sort of vibe she wants in her name and adapt for different areas and phases of life as she chooses.
I also like that there are several variations of Elizabeth in my family history (English and German) that I can tell her about, as well as lots of strong Elizabeths in history. Elizabeth Blackwell is high on my list.
oops, I misthreaded! this was meant for the one above.
I love the name Elizabeth and its myriad nicknames, if it weren’t my MIL’s name, I would have pushed for it for my daughter, but I didn’t want to invite any hurt feelings from my mom.
We sort-of-accidentally named our daughter after a dog my husband’s family had when he was a toddler.
I named my daughter the same name as my MIL’s cat. No regrets, I love the name, so whatever. Now that cat is known as “Lily Cat” (not real name).
I’m planning to solicit Seafinch’s advice on baby names when the time comes, hopefully this year :) Seafinch, you once described liking “classic, pan-European” names and that’s exactly what I need with our family background.
Overall, I love classic names that can be found in any decade, but that never become SO common that they’re everywhere. I also love names with a clear spelling and no confusion on pronunciation.
Any time! I have highlighted baby naming books from when I was 14 and just named my fifth and can honestly say that we love all of their given names as much now as when we started 13 years ago.
They have an evil Bond villian surname so we think they can get away with a bit more grandiose than maybe otherwise. They all have three given names and all three, in each case, are honorifics for grandparents, great grandparents, and in most cases multiple honorees per name but in most cases a slightly different version. I.e. all three of my girls are named female versions of male relatives’ name. One son is named first after my FIL and husband who have the same name as men in the family have had since the year 1100 but called my his middle which is a German version of my father’s name and his middle is the same. My newest son is named a very meaningful saint’s name that has a meaning that is also the position held by the family in the German Imperial Court. They are mostly Latin or Greek derived and found in a number of European languages but skew slightly German. None are in the top 1000, all go by various nicknames but switch pretty seamlessly back and forth.
Interesting post. The comments are very Euro-centric. Not a criticism of the commenters in any way, but their references to ‘classic’ and ‘traditional’ mean one very specific thing that I don’t relate to.
I noticed that too!!
Our goal was “ names familiar in English that are also not important names in other religious traditions, for which we haven’t met anyone we don’t like.” We are Jewish so that meant eg not names of apostles, not Diana or Athena, etc. We ended up with two names coincidentally of my preschool classmates that are very basic, Hebrew origin biblical names. So they probably meet the very white sounding criteria these other commenters noted.
It is so bizarre that you ruled out Diana and Athena because they are associated with a religion – are you talking about ancient religions not widely practiced? Why did that matter to you at all? Why not just say you wanted a Jewish name?
I think it’s super inappropriate for you to tell a Jewish person that it’s “so bizarre” they ruled out names associated with another religion. Let’s trust that people know their own religious and ethnic traditions and that adherence to these traditions varies by family. Good grief.
Hi- we ruled them out because they are specifically the names of foreign gods. We were totally fine with non Jewish names and had many on our final list, like Henry, just ended up with the biblical ones in the end.
Presumably these commenters are white. They are not allowed to choose names other than white names.
More Sleep Would Be Nice says
+1 – I always feel this way with this question and typically scroll on by. Glad others are here, too. None of the names listed as “classic” here are classic in my circles.
I guess I define classic as having a long and lasting usage in my culture. Something that will be generally familiar to people with similar cultural references. Classic is relative. I am European, with family from two countries with generally related languages, so my version of classic is very Euro-centric.
I can only define classic for myself. Perhaps some thing like Irina, Min-Joon, or Francisca would count for other people. I don’t have the references to know if they’re equivalent or just names I have seen multiple times that seem to have history.
There are lots of beautiful names with history across the globe. And that’s not to say that a name has to be classic in any culture to be a lovely name, it’s just what I gravitate towards.
We’re considering converting a family surname into a first name for our second. It’s easily spellable and pronounceable, but sounds like a trendy variation of a popular 80s name.
I’ve been meaning to post here asking what y’all think. Will they always be “Emily, I mean Emery”? Will they always feel like they have an old lady name?
There is a story in our family going back generations about a man who saved the life of one of our ancestors. The man’s surname is used as the first name for a boy in every generation. It causes a lot of confusion, so our generation decided that the tradition would end with us.
In your situation I’d be concerned about the trendiness. Will it be too cutesy or dated when your child grows up and needs to be taken seriously.
My husband and I picked a girl’s name in the super early stages of dating. At the time it was popular, probably top 20, but not SUPER trendy. It absolutely blew up in the intervening years and was the #1 baby girl name the year our daughter was born. Once I was pregnant and we found out it was a girl I wanted to pick something different, but he was too sentimentally attached to the name and he won in the end. As soon as she was born I was glad we didn’t change it. We’d talked about her by name for years, and then she was here and it just felt right. And we do use a fairly non-traditional nickname, like Ollie for Olivia instead of Liv or Livvy, so she has some uniqueness in that regard.
I have an uncommon family name that’s hard to spell and pronounce and I HATED it. So it was important to me to have a simple, easy to spell and pronounce (for English speakers) name for my daughter.
If you can’t imagine a Supreme Court Justice being named anything except your boring white names you mustn’t have noticed Ketanji.
THANK YOU. My kids have classic white person names but the “is this a name for a future Supreme Court justice” standard feels so racist to me.
I think the “future Supreme Court justice” comment is about the name being adult v. juvenile, not the name being white v. non-white. As in, a juvenile white person name is going to create an uphill battle for an adult who wants to be taken seriously.
+1. That’s how I’m reading this. When naming our kids, we purposely picked names that would sound appropriate for an actual adult. It had very little to do with being classic, or whatever.
Maybe that’s the intent of the commenters here, and I do agree with the idea that if you want to call your little girl Susie you should name her Susan and just use Susie as a nickname. But there are definitely (many) people in the US for whom the Supreme Court name test is a racist dog whistle.
I would love to see a whole generation of girls named Ketanji, Elena, Sonia, Ruth, and Sandra on the “does this sound like a Supreme Court justice” principle. Not Amy, though.
Poster at 1:33 says
Ah hmm I was the person who originally made the Supreme Court comment. I myself have an extremely ethnic, hard to spell, hard to pronounce name that is not uncommon in my culture but very unknown in the US. In my opinion, as much as I dislike the challenges of my name, it also does sort of sound powerful or influential in formal settings when pronounced correctly. My childhood nickname does not (which would be something comparable to using “Bitsy” for “Elizabeth”). I am very glad I was not named my nickname. That’s really all I was trying to say, apologies for not more thoughtfully pausing on the example names or the general interpretation of my comment – I see how it could be offensive to others, which was not my intent.
Thanks for elaborating!
This comment is proof that Anonymous at 3:27 is the one making a racist assumption.
I agree as well. This was about Sophia versus Coco/Tiffy/Bunny, not Sophia versus Ketanji.
More Sleep Would Be Nice says
Or a POTUS with the middle name “Hussein”
Or the entire diaspora of African and Asian names at a med school graduations. Priya, Minh, Obi….
That is why that post above that says “something for a SCOTUS justice or at XYX event” is implicitly racist. It’s erasure and also implying euro-centric white names as proper in the echelons mentioned.
As a WOC the whole white is right thing is something that we’ve dealt with a lot – trust me – from how we look, to what we’re called, to the food we ate at home growing up – I won’t give details of the laughs I got in 4th grade when telling everyone we had Indian catering and pizza delivered for Thanksgiving vs. the traditional meal. So glad things have changed since then!
Not saying this to be a troll, but just something to keep in mind.
On the other hand, when I was growing up in a major West Coast city in the ’80s, I was taught that “white is wrong” and that your Thanksgiving dinner was something to be envied!
Ohhhh, now I get it. Somebody’s big mad that they had to live in a diverse community. Poor you!
It must be nice to be so much better than everyone else.
It really is.
More Sleep Would Be Nice says
I think this comment was made in the spirit of the last part – and thank you for that. It’s a great menu! Who doesn’t want pizza and saag paneer? (Also if you haven’t had actual saag paneer pizza, it is life changing). TBQH my White DH prefers a good lamb curry our kebabs as our Thanksgiving “main”.
I know where I live now (my home city) my childhood experience is rarely the case anymore – it is now boasts a majority non-white population. I think of this often when I hear about folks very diverse Thanksgiving menus. :)
This feels very “people are racist against white people too.” Fwiw I have white kids in a very “woke” area and they’ve never been made to feel that white is wrong.
I’m not the person who made that comment but it really just seemed to me that you couldn’t have too frilly of a name – Bitsy, Birdie, Muffy — so NOT classic WASP nicknames — or like the white mommy bloggers who are naming their kids wackadoodle things like McKenna. (McKenna isn’t even that crazy, but I’ve seen some real doozies.) Lakynn is maybe the one i’m thinking of (other options were Taylee, McKarty, Nayvie, and Maylee)…
We found ours on a random low budget tv show. It was the characters last name but also an uncommon and old school first name. It was the only boy name we agreed on and coincidentally it was the same first letter as 3 of baby’s 4 deceased great grandmas and husband is Jewish. Middle name is the other great grandma’s first name initial and also a tribute to her genetic lineage. Husband is atheist Jewish fwiw so deceased relative is common
A sibling’s kids are both named after Star Trek characters.
I was in an airport and I heard a mom call out “Kaylee! Inara!” and I chuckled.
We’re Jewish but no one in either of our immediate families adheres strictly to the dead relative thing so we had complete flexibility on initials. We are prohibited from using names of living relatives though which sucks because I loooove the name Talia for a girl and my BIL is a Tal.
Realized I was multitasking too much and type husband is Jewish twice. Long day at work. Regardless we lucked out with the initial.
My kid is named after two of his great-grandfathers who were from a non-English speaking European country. First name works in both languages as is, and middle name is that language’s variation of the name. Both names are “old-fashioned” and first name is not overly common.
We went with very traditional European names. My husband is from Spain and I’m French, and we wanted names that are classics in all 3 languages (the third being English). They have the English version/spelling of their names on their birth certificate since we live in the US.