Naming a human being is no paltry task. For some parents it’s a fun and exciting mission, full of possibility and the whittling down of lists of long-held favorites. For others it can seem almost like a chore— especially when you’re feeling uninspired or can’t seem to agree with your partner about what the newest member of your family should be called. It’s a deeply personal, sentimental, not-to-be taken lightly decision. But it doesn’t have to be drudgery. With a few aids to help give you a kick start, your babe on the way will have a proper title in no time.
Pamela Redmond Satran is the co-creator of the wildly popular site Nameberry.com, a place where parents-to-be (or any other name enthusiasts) can go for copious lists of names, opinions on name selections, name popularity information and more. Satran weighs in on some of the FAQs that crop up when parents begin selecting baby’s future signature.
Where do I start?
At the outset with your partner, each make a list of names you love and then swap. Rather than going right for yes or no, use the lists as a jumping off point to find out more about what you’re looking for in a name. The names we love—and dislike!—can say a lot about our feelings about family, our ethnic background, gender identity and ourselves. It can be helpful to explore those deeper issues instead of talking about only the surface subject of names.
I love a name that my partner hates.
What do we do? There should be some veto power and an effort to find a name you both can be happy with, even if it’s not the first choice for either of you. But if you are really at odds over names, try to figure out the deeper feelings behind your choices. In the end, you may just need to take turns!
Are there any “don’ts” when it comes to naming?
Don’t let yourself be pressured into choosing a name you don’t want. That’s the biggest cause of baby name regret. And don’t namenap! If your friend or cousin has always wanted to name her first child Susannah or Sebastian, it’s not fair to swipe the name before she has a chance to use it.
How will I know when I’ve found “the one”?
You’ll just know! Or maybe you won’t. A lot of parents today are more comfortable testing names they like with strangers on forums like those on Nameberry.com than with family or friends, whose judgments might sting more or might have a personal agenda. It can be good to get advice on a name’s popularity or trendiness, on whether people can pronounce or spell the name, and gauge the image of a name by people’s reactions online.
I chose a name and signed the birth certificate, and now I regret my decision! What should I do? If it’s early enough in the process—the first six months, say—a name change might be in order. Why stick with a name that doesn’t feel right? If you’ve missed your window of opportunity and your baby already recognizes her name, try finding a nickname you feel better about.