Choosing baby names
Before you start choosing names you need to agree basic ground rules,
once agreed these will help to ensure you choose a good name for your
child that everyone, including them, is going to like.
1. Remember who the name is for
This is rule number 1 because its the most important. Obviously
the parents must like a name but you dont choose a name without
considering who its for ... you wouldnt call a boy "Sue".
2. Dont make any final decisions until the baby is born
Theres a high probability youll change your mind, dont
put anything in stone until the baby is born.
3. Either partner has the right to reject any name
Very important, this has to be done on an equal footing. You cant
give a child a name that one of the parents doesnt like. Likewise
the parents are the sole arbiters of the name, other people can suggest
but they cant reject.
4. No one else is allowed to pressure you into (or prevent you from)
using a name
Of course if Aunt Heliotroba says that shell put £1 million
into a Trust fund if you call the child by her name, you have to give
it some serious thought. Perhaps make it the middle name, or use it as
the first name and call the child by its middle name. As this scenario
is highly unlikely, its not comething you need to worry about.
5. No names used for pets
Really, children can be cruel, and will be cruel to anyone called "Fido".
6. No names of former partners
This is an optional rule as long as both partners are entirely happy with
a name, after all the name isnt the person.
7. No names used by friends and family
Again optional, and really just a practical thing to avoid confusion.
Of course youre free to ignore these ground rules, but make sure
you have some to avoid arguments.
How does it sound
An important consideration when choosing a name is how easily it flows
off the tongue. When you are looking at a name try saying it in combination
with the family name. Does it work? Is it easy to say?
There is a balance to be had, if you have a short family name like Smith,
a first name that has more than one syllable, like Raymond. While longer
family names, like Hambleton, work well with short first names like Zoe.
There is also the question of origins and combinations, Nerys and Norbert
Strazewski (a combination of Polish and Welsh, and a real example) sounds
odd because of the difference in ethnic source. Not all combinations sound
weird but it should be considered.
This also demonstrates the issue of siblings names, its best
to avoid similar sounding names, or even ones that start with the same
Alliterative names should be avoided: "Leila Leigh" is not a
good choice. It may sound like fun when you choose it but remember, the
child has to live with it.
Common vs uncommon
Everyone is an individual and its nice if they can have individual
names, but you have to draw the line somewhere "Peanut Smith"
might be unusual but the child is going to have a nightmare at school.
Check the common names list to see what names you should be avoiding,
particularly if you have a common family name. For example, Callum is
currently very popular for boys, so if you use it you could find him in
a class with five other Callums.
But dont go to the other extreme of choosing something utterly
ludicrous, like "Razor".
The best thing to do is to check the data on what are the most common
names chosen at this Government website in the UK - see the references
on the left of the menu:
Nicknames and abbreviations
Children can be very cruel and if theres anyway to turn a childs
name into something bad, they will do it. So dont give them a head
Check the initials: Sonya Teresa Downing and her sister Sarah Olivia.
Check the words meanings
How the parents of Sean Lamb and Edna Cannon missed the obvious is
beyond understanding. James Riddell ("Jimmy Riddle" is cockney
Of course its not always possible to see everything that can happen:
Veronica Deidre was named before the term VD came into use ... now replaced
by Sonyas abbreviation, STD.
You just have to do the best you can.
Thinking about the future
Rule #1 of the basic rules is the most important: Remember who the name
is for. Someone might like the name "Rosebud", but how does
that fit a woman of 30? A cute baby name is going to be a nightmare for
a child of 10, never mind when they grow older.
It might seem old-fashioned but sticking to sensible, less common names
is the safest route: theres nothing wrong with "Amanda"
(for example) and thats a name that works at any age.
Certain names have very specific stereotypes attached to them: Jezebel
sounds like a good name (Hebrew names have never lost their popularity)
but is associated with a very badly behaved woman although she
really wasnt that bad. However use of that name will create an impression
in a persons mind. Likewise Scarlett, though this is not quite so
Choice of name is also very important in your childs education:
If you choose something complicated you are setting your child up for
failure in school. From an early age your child will need to be able to
recognise their name and learn how to spell it.
Deciding on "clever" variants of common names (Jayne) means
that all through your childs life people will misspell their name
and possibly mis-pronounce it. There have been plenty of Deannas in the
world (pronounced Dee-Anna) such as the singer Deanna Durbin. But it is
commonly misspelt (Diana) and mispronounced (Dean-a).
Then there is the question of the parents misspelling it, this is a delicate
issue but, for example, Niall is not spelt Nile. Make sure you are spelling
it right otherwise your child will not only have people "misspelling"
the name (because they spell it right) but they will also think the parents
(thats you) are ignorant.
Middle names can be used to satisfy issues with names that one parent
likes and really want to use but the other doesnt. Make it the middle
name. Of course there can be more than one middle name but here again
its important to consider the future, too many becomes a serious
issue when filling in official forms and might generate resentment in
Some families have traditions of naming, and you may feel compelled to
adopt it. Some are less restrictive than others. One example is where
the fathers first name becomes the first sons middle name.
This is unobtrusive.
If you feel compelled to give the first son the same name as the father,
make sure that you call them by their middle name to avoid identification
problems in the future.
How to choose a baby name checklist
Remember: Youre not choosing a babys name, youre choosing
a persons name, they just happen to be a baby at the moment.
1. Each person involved (parents and siblings only) make a list of
all the names you like individually, split into boy and girl (if you dont
know which it is yet).
2. Combine the lists
3. Parents remove any name they dont like
4. Make sure all the spellings are correct
5. Test each name with the family name. Say it many times, say it
in different ways, remove those that dont work
6. Check for any that have bad nicknames or the initials do something
thats bad, remove them
7. Imagine the child is 10, try out the name, does it work? What about
at 20? 40? 60? The baby will only be a baby for three years, only a child
for 15 years, they will be an adult six times as long as they are a child.
Remove the ones that dont work.
8. Are any of them difficult to spell? Is the child going to be able
to recognise their own name quite quickly? Will they be able to spell
it? If any of the ones you like are tricky, you should really think hard
about using them.
9. Search the Internet and find out how common the combination of
the names and the surname are you could score them based on number
of hits found.
10. When the baby is born decide which is the right one.