9 Rules for Discussing Names
Andrew or Aaron? Kelly or Kimberly? Claudette or Clarisse? Identifying the right name for your child can be a harrowing experience, and the closer you get to the due date without an agreement, the more stressful it can become. These nine tips will help you find the name that makes you nod in thrilled agreement, with time to spare.
1. Keep an open mind. This is the cardinal rule. Be open to each other’s suggestions – to your flights of fancy and free association, to names that come out of leftfield that you aren’t even sure are names but somehow hit a nerve. The name conversation isn’t the kind you’ve embarked on before, at least not seriously, and you’ll probably discover quite quickly that it’s a conversation loaded with emotion. The best thing you can do for each other is to open your mind to whatever possibilities arise. Use the funnel technique: Start broad, use lenient guidelines, and narrow the discussion over time. This way, you won’t rule out any names prematurely, and you’ll also allow for new, previously unconsidered names to pleasantly surprise you.
2. Don’t tell anybody the ones you’re considering. You might figure that bouncing your ideas off others will prove illuminating – at least until the fourth time you hear someone say, “Oh, I don’t like the name Stuart. My friend’s cousin’s brother-in-law once sat behind a guy with that name in second grade, and he was a total jerk. Different spelling, but still.” You might even want to devise fake names reasonable enough that people (like your parents) won’t be suspicious or frustrated when you disclose them. Don’t say, “We’re considering Vartox or maybe Pinocchio,” to be coy. When you announce the name after the baby arrives and ask what happened to the earlier ones, tell them you don’t remember those names ever being part of the discussion. Another reason to keep the lid on your favorite names is that you might have one you like but that you’ve decided to save for your next child. If you go telling everyone within earshot, you have only yourselves to blame if others decide it’s a good name, too.
3. Give yourselves a deadline. The due date is fast approaching, and your shortlist still contains half a dozen names. Others have told you not to worry because, once the baby arrives, it will be perfectly obvious which name best suits them. Ignore these people.
4. Browse the books and the Internet. You may feel it’s not natural to use some anonymous person’s suggestions for names, but one you haven’t thought of, maybe the ideal one, may jump out at you from the pages of a book, and there’s nothing at all wrong with that. As long as your baby gets the name that fits them best, does the source matter?
5. Don’t limit yourself. Names evolve, fluctuating in popularity, going in and out of fashion, and making their way through various regions and ethnic groups. There is no rule dictating that a particular name can only fit certain contexts from one generation to the next. So don’t relegate your searches only to “names for Jewish children,” “Popular Asian names for the 21st century,” or “Biblical baby names.” You merely want to find a name that resonates with you and that you can imagine your baby carrying around with pride and confidence. So don’t worry if the name seems out of context or unusual to your particular demographic. Think about this: It was probably thought outlandish the first time someone named their baby Madison, but in 2001, it was the most popular girls’ name.
6. Don’t get caught up in boundaries. Most parents start with precisely the same guidelines: a name that is a) distinctive, b) without being overly trendy, and c) that doesn’t lend itself to teasing or embarrassing nicknames. So what happens if a name suddenly strikes you as the one even if it doesn’t fit neatly within these parameters? Go with it. First, names are only as distinctive as the people who own them. Second, “trendy” is a constantly changing concept. Third, it doesn’t matter what a child’s name is – friends (especially boys) will find funny monikers whether the name lends itself to one or not. The bottom line? Trust your instinct – it’s always the best guide.
7. Don’t be too quick to discard. You might find a name completely wrong the first time you hear it – six months later, it may seem perfect. Consider how often your opinion on other topics changes over nine months. As the pregnancy moves along, you’ll come to feel closer and closer to your developing baby, and this may change the way you feel about certain names. So keep doors open as long as you can.
8. Honor thy father and thy mother – but honor thy baby first. Certain familial pressures will accompany the naming of your child. Consider yourselves lucky if you’re not subject to plenty of this kind of thing: “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if he were named after so and so? But we don’t want to influence your decision.” Though it would be nice if you could please everybody, you can’t. There’s only one baby, and they can only take on so many names. So concentrate first on finding a name that suits you, then on finding one that suits everyone else around you. In the end, everyone will be happy that the little bundle arrives safe and sound.
9. For Pete’s sake, have fun with it. Your partner may come up with names you find perfectly ridiculous. Don’t get frustrated. Enjoy the process, and learn to laugh about the names you disagree on, just like you’ve learned to laugh about other disagreements. You’re discussing what will be the most important, most enduring part of your emerging child’s identity. It should be celebrated!