It’s no secret that I love unusual names. Having grown up sharing my moniker with thousands of girls my age, I longed to be Hepzibah. Or Elodie.
And yet more popular picks can make for great names, too. Friends of ours just called their darling daughter Emma, and it got me thinking.
So here are Ten Good Reasons to call your baby Ethan or Emma, Hannah or Jake.
10. Popular names tend to be great names with universal appeal.
I might like her lots, but Hepzibah is probably never going to make the Top Ten. Read through any list of popular names, though, and surely you’ll find many that appeal. How often have you heard – or said – something like this: “I love the name Olivia. Too bad she’s so popular!”
9. They’re easy to spell.
Unless you decide to name your daughter Emmalie, one advantage of a common name is rarely having to correct others. Plenty of us wear cumbersome last names. If you’re constantly spelling Niedalkowski, maybe having a first name like Ava is a good idea. And if you’re crossing cultures, sticking with a simple pick can be wise, too.
8. Repetition is rarely necessary.
Try this exercise. Call your daughter Clio. Introduce her to someone new. Hear new person say, “Hi, Chloe.” Politely say, “Actually, she’s Clio.” Repeat a bajillion times.
This probably wouldn’t happen with Josh or Hannah – we expect to meet children with those names. Yes, everyone will eventually remember that your son is called Eben, not Evan or Ethan or Benjamin. But be prepared to smile lots until that happens.
7. Even a #1 name is less popular than it ever was in prior generations.
There is not a single girl called Emily enrolled at my son’s nursery school. There are no boys called Jacob.
In 1907, over 5% of boys were John and more than 5% of girls were Mary. In 1977, nearly 4% of boys were named Michael, and over 3.5% of girls were called Jennifer. Today, a mere 1% of all children born each year receive the most popular name, and the percentage will probably continue to drop.
6. Some of the most popular names might still sound novel.
Name your daughter Jennifer today, and odds are good she’ll be the only Jenny in her class. “But,” you protest, “I knew so many Jennys growing up! I want something unusual. Like Addison.”
As it happens, Addison is rising fast. Add in spelling variants, and she’s almost certainly headed for the Top Ten. But today’s parents certainly didn’t grow up with an Addison, and that might be all that matters.
5. Some of the most popular names might be truly enduring.
If you love the classics, why not use Elizabeth and James for your children? Sure, they’ll know others with their name. But they could hop in a time machine and probably meet another James or Elizabeth throughout much of history.
It’s hard to argue that Sarah or David is trendy, even if they’ve recently been popular.
4. Some trendy names endure.
Madison is probably going to sound dated, and all of those Jaydens? Some day their names will scream thirty-something and, eventually, octogenarian.
But others age gracefully. Amanda and Kenneth are far from their heyday, but remain perfectly reasonable – even sensible – picks for a child.
3. Some kids embrace being one of many.
I met a Kate who grew up with a best friend called Katie. They loved having the same name, even mashing it together to call themselves the Katie-Kates. There must be similar stories on every playground in America.
Just because I hated growing up as Amy N. doesn’t mean your child will mind being Josh T.
2. There are no guarantees that an uncommon name will stay that way!
The year is 1991. You choose the stunningly unusual Isabella for your daughter.
Fast forward to 2007, and every time you call your teenage daughter’s name at the mall, a dozen preschoolers turn. (Your teenager, of course, does not answer, because you’re embarrassing her.)
1. Your favorite name might have meaning.
Maybe you’ve always wanted to name your daughter Emma, after your favorite book. Or maybe William was your beloved grandfather’s name. If that’s the case, their popularity doesn’t matter one bit. The name will always feel just right.
What do you think? Would – or did – a name’s ranking in the Top Ten stop you from using it?