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Choosing baby names

Basic rules

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 it’s the most important. Obviously the parents must like a name but you don’t choose a name without considering who it’s for ... you wouldn’t call a boy "Sue".

2. Don’t make any final decisions until the baby is born
There’s a high probability you’ll change your mind, don’t 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 can’t give a child a name that one of the parents doesn’t like. Likewise the parents are the sole arbiters of the name, other people can suggest but they can’t 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 she’ll 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 it’s middle name. As this scenario is highly unlikely, it’s 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 isn’t the person.

7. No names used by friends and family
Again optional, and really just a practical thing to avoid confusion.
Of course you’re 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, it’s best to avoid similar sounding names, or even ones that start with the same letter.
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 it’s 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 don’t 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 there’s anyway to turn a child’s name into something bad, they will do it. So don’t give them a head start.
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 rhyming slang).

Of course it’s not always possible to see everything that can happen: Veronica Deidre was named before the term VD came into use ... now replaced by Sonya’s 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: there’s nothing wrong with "Amanda" (for example) and that’s 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 wasn’t that bad. However use of that name will create an impression in a person’s mind. Likewise Scarlett, though this is not quite so ingrained.

Choice of name is also very important in your child’s 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 child’s 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 (that’s you) are ignorant.

Middle names
Middle names can be used to satisfy issues with names that one parent likes and really want to use but the other doesn’t. Make it the middle name. Of course there can be more than one middle name but here again it’s important to consider the future, too many becomes a serious issue when filling in official forms and might generate resentment in the child.

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 father’s first name becomes the first son’s 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: You’re not choosing a baby’s name, you’re choosing a person’s name, they just happen to be a baby at the moment.

Each person involved (parents and siblings only) make a list of all the names you like individually, split into boy and girl (if you don’t know which it is yet).

Combine the lists

Parents remove any name they don’t like

Make sure all the spellings are correct

Test each name with the family name. Say it many times, say it in different ways, remove those that don’t work

Check for any that have bad nicknames or the initials do something that’s bad, remove them

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 don’t work.

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.

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.

When the baby is born decide which is the right one.