7 Deadly Sins of baby-naming

Although they may sound like the recipe for a summer beach read, these words might also describe the challenges you face when naming your baby.
By Amanda Elizabeth Barden

If your boyfriend wanted to name your son Floyd, would you break up with him? Some people might think calling it quits because of a moniker is extreme, but others might argue that calling a baby Floyd is unforgivable. Reasonable minds can differ, but when Kirsten FV Binder of Chicago found herself in a heated argument over naming a hypothetical baby Floyd, it was the last straw and she decided to end the relationship. She simply couldn’t stand to stay with someone who had such terrible taste in titles.

Deciding on a name for a baby can easily invite high doses of drama (even when the baby exists only in theory!), but it’s not inevitable. Read on to learn about the Seven Deadly Sins of baby-naming and how to avoid them.

flowertreePride
Pride is an exaggerated opinion of your own ability and importance. When you’re naming a baby, remember that someone else will have to live with your choice forever. Don’t let pride get in the way of making a good decision. Instead, keep the end goal in mind: choosing a name your baby will love for a lifetime.

If you’re feeling especially selfless, put the choice in someone else’s hands. When Kasey Woods of New York City and her boyfriend couldn’t decide between her favorite name (Morgan) and his favorite name (London), they asked their family and friends to make the decision for them. At their baby shower, the couple explained the dilemma to their 50 guests. (To be fair, they were careful not to let guests know which parent preferred which name.) They agreed to go with the winning name—no matter what it was. The results? London won out. Despite it not being her pick, Kasey was thrilled and these days can’t imagine calling her daughter anything else.

Greed
With hundreds of contenders out there, there is no need to be greedy or steal other people’s favorite names before they have a chance to use them. If you know that your sister has been planning on naming her son Isaac since the sixth grade and you happen to beat her to the delivery room, avoid temptation and refrain from stealing her long-loved label. Regardless of whether you think you have dibs on the name, eliminate potential drama and avoid hurt feelings by choosing another appellation for your babe. Your son won’t want to have a name that instigated a family feud, and baby name theft can’t be good for your karma either.

Envy
Thou shall not covet thy neighbor’s baby name. There is no need to look longingly at names that are already claimed when there are so many alternate options remaining. If you love a name that is already “taken,” try making a list of the things you like about it to help you find other choices with similar qualities. For example, say you love the name Charlotte, but your best friend beat you to it, using it for her own daughter. Instead of pining or pouting, make a list of reasons why the name appeals to you.

  • It’s traditional.
  • It’s feminine.
  • It has multiple nickname possibilities.
  • It’s the name of a city, which is great because you’ve always had a thing for geographical names.

Then search for names that fit into as many of your criteria as possible. Some good alternates for Charlotte include Adelaide, Carolina, Virginia, Geneva, Georgia, Abilene, Augusta … See? There are loads of worthy names out there. It’s possible, in fact, that the title you choose will be so fantastic your BFF will actually end up envious of you.

Gluttony
Gluttony is the sin of excess, and too much of a fashionable baby name trend can be a bad thing. If your name choice raises more eyebrows than smiles, you might not be doing your baby any favors. Kia Morgan Smith of Atlanta wanted to avoid names that would stereotype or pigeonhole her children. It was important to Smith that any name she chose would look sophisticated on a resume, opening doors rather than closing them. Certainly, there are plenty of examples of people with unusual names who have succeeded—Madonna, Beyonce and Oprah come to mind—but it bears considering whether the name you pick will help or hurt your baby in the long run. Here are a couple scenarios to consider before making your decision:

  • Picture the name being called out on the first day of school. What kind of reaction might it get from a teacher or classmates?
  • Consider how the name will look on a college application or resume.
  • Imagine the name with various titles in front of it: The Honorable [name], President [name], Dr. [name], Professor [name].

Anger
The most common Deadly Sin committed while baby-naming is anger. Parents say all the time that they fight over baby names. Kate Frishman of Bowling Green, Ohio, confessed that she and her first husband fought for two months straight over names because they had a style conflict. He liked traditional names, like Mary Margaret, and she liked more modern-sounding names, such as Brianna and Alexandra. Eventually they compromised and landed on Joanna, which was as “exotic” as her hubby was willing to go.

Sometimes fights extend to other family members too. Nina Carp of South Florida had just brought her newborn son home from the NICU when her mother-in-law announced that if, at the baby’s bris, Nina and her husband did not choose the Hebrew name she preferred she would not have anything to do with Nina, her son or their baby. Yikes! To make matters worse, Nina’s husband gave into his mother’s demands and Nina felt betrayed. (As Nina pointed out, he is now her ex-husband.)

What can you do when tempers start bubbling over? Remember that the most important person in the equation is the baby, not the arguing adults. It helps when parents realize that they are a team—whether that means they work together to come up with a compromise or stand united against friends and family who overstep their bounds.

Lust
Still carrying a torch for an old flame? If so, be forewarned that naming a new baby after that former love is typically not a good idea. Most parents simply aren’t comfortable with the idea and frankly, it’s hard to blame them. According to an interview with Australia’s Daily Telegraph, model Miranda Kerr named her son Flynn Christopher after her boyfriend Chris, who died when they were teenagers. Although hubby Orlando Bloom assures he doesn’t mind a bit, it’s safe to venture that he is the exception, not the rule. If you have a good reason for wanting to name a new baby after a former love, be open and honest about it with your partner, examine all the pros and cons, and ask yourself the following questions: n How does your partner really feel about it? n How will your child feel about it? n How will the old flame and his or her family feel about it? When running through these questions, be honest about whether there is potential for the decision to spark jealousy or disappointment now or in the future. What seems like a good idea today might not feel the same five, 10 or 15 years from now.

Sloth
Baby names last a lifetime, so this is no time to be lazy. Do your homework now in order to avoid regret in the future. Kim Higdon of Louisville, Kentucky, and her husband had an agreement. If their baby was a boy, he’d get to name it; if it was a girl, she’d have the honor. After Kim gave birth to their daughter, she was rushed into surgery and her husband named the baby … the wrong name! He remembered that Kim wanted to call the baby Katie, so he wrote Kathleen on the birth certificate. But it was supposed to be Katherine, after Katharine Hepburn. Kim wasn’t angry with her husband since he’d made an honest mistake, but she was disappointed because she didn’t find out until it was too late to change it. They still call their daughter Katie, but better communication could have prevented this slip-up.

When contemplating names, it is also wise to consider whether the name has embarrassing nickname potential, unflattering monograms or undesirable associations. Lori Narlock, of Napa Valley, California, admitted that she has some regrets over naming her son Joshua. Joshua is a terrific name and she loves it, but when said aloud it sounds similar to a local casino the family passes by on a regular basis. If she had made the connection beforehand, she likely would have chosen something different.

When Diana Rohini LaVigne of San Francisco set about naming her biracial daughter, she wanted an Indian name with a strong ethnic identity that would also be accessible to people who are not familiar with the Indian language. She didn’t want her daughter to have to repeat her name to strangers only to have it mispronounced time and again. For each of the names they liked, Diana and her husband used two tests with non-Indian family members to see whether it satisfied their criteria. First, to see whether the name was easily understood, they said the name once over the phone and asked their relatives to repeat it back. If the relatives mispronounced the name, they crossed it off their list. Second, they had relatives look at the name and read it out loud to see whether the name was easy to pronounce without any hints. Again, they eliminated anything that was mispronounced. By doing this, they were able to find an Indian name they loved—Anoushka—while ensuring that their daughter would not be subject to a lifetime of frustrating name conversations. You get only one chance to name your baby, so cross all your T’s and dot all your I’s in order to avoid future disappointments

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