Time for baby naming advice: spelling counts edition.
Yup, after a quiet summer, Abby Answers: Your Most Pressing Baby Naming Dilemmas, Resolved is back! We’re talking about the decisions that vex parents during the naming process. They’re the ones debated on baby naming forums, discussed around the kitchen table, argued over text with our friends.
Today we’re talking about a favorite of mine: now that you’ve found a favorite name, how should you spell it?
Confession: I used to be one of those spell-it-right types. But the more I learned about all things onomastic, the more I realized a hard truth: there’s really no such thing as a correct spelling for the overwhelming majority of names.
If you’re like me, I’m guessing there are a few quirky spellings that speak to you, even if you know they might prove confusing in real life. (What are mine, you ask? I’ve long loved Alicyn, and lately I’m all about Xoë. Yes, with the accent.)
All of that means that I think there are good reasons to choose non-standard, slightly outside the mainstream spellings. And I think it’s pretty tough to argue that there are correct and unchanging spellings that must be used!
Baby Naming Advice: Spelling Facts
There are lots of reasons why we have multiple possible spellings, and I’ve written about them before:
- Spelling Counts: 9 Rules for Spelling Baby Names
- In Defense of Isobel and Aiden: Ten Reasons to Embrace Variant Spellings
Watch the video here:
Baby Naming Advice: Spelling Challenges
I mentioned in the video that dominant spellings – the most common one – do change. Looking at the current girls’ Top 100 list:
- Zoe long stood at the most popular spelling of the name. But today, it sits at #41 – compared to Zoey at #29.
- The traditional Madeline comes in at #100. But you’re more likely to meet a Madelyn, since that spelling ranks #63.
On the boys’ side:
- Aiden stands at very popular #17, while Aidan has plummeted to #221. For years, the opposite was true.
- While we’re on the -aiden names, #26 Jayden long lagged behind Jaden. But the ‘y’ spellings are preferred, for both Jayden and Brayden today.
Baby Naming Advice: Spelling Choices
Plenty of names have more than one spelling in the current US Top 100. Think about:
- Grayson and Greyson for boys.
- There’s also Jackson, Jaxon, and Jaxson.
- For girls, in addition to the multiple Madelyns and Zoes, there’s more that one way to spell Sophia. (Sofia ranks, too.)
- We have two versions of Ariana in the Top 100, too – there’s also Arianna.
Expand the list to the Top 250 or even Top 1000, and spelling choices abound!
To some this might feel chaotic, even problematic. But standardized spellings are relatively novel, and many of these variations have history aplenty.
Baby Naming Advice: Spelling Help
If it’s impossible to settle on a correct spelling, what’s a parent to do?
- Visit the United States Social Security Administration’s baby names center if you’d like to look into your favorite names’ spellings. It might take some digging, but you can likely figure out which spelling is dominant – most common, at least at this moment in time. If you don’t have a strong feeling about spelling, simply use the dominant one.
- If you’d like to opt for something a little different, consider phonetic transparency. A slightly different spelling probably works just fine if it’s said-as-spelled. So yes to Katelyn, Catelin, and maybe even Caitlenne. But KVIIIlyn? That crosses a line, from let-me-spell-it-for-you to wait-what? (If you’re confused, that’s the Roman numeral VIII in the middle. Which is eight. So that’s sort of like Keightlyn. Which crosses some sort of a line.)
Baby Naming Advice: Spelling
What’s your take on the topic? Have you ever struggled to choose a spelling for a favorite name? Are there certain names that you like only if they’re spelled one specific way?