Lately there have been a bunch of articles about what your baby name says about you. You, the narcissistic parent. Out to impress. Or maybe the hipster, traditional, or equality-minded parent. Or the parent from an honor culture, deeply influenced by the idea of upholding the family’s reputation.
It’s all nonsense.
Okay, there might be something to that honor culture piece. I haven’t read the original, but the reports indicate that it is based on data. Which makes it very different than so many articles, all effectively titled “Naming A Baby: You’re Doing it Wrong.”
I’m not fond of pigeon-holing others, though I’ll admit that the tendency to do so is sometimes irresistible. Think of the names tossed out in Baby Mama – Wingspan, Banjo. And there are patterns and influences galore, many of which we’re not even aware. We don’t choose our children’s names from a blank slate.
Still, I believe that if you know a child’s name, that means that you know exactly one thing about her parents: you know the name they chose for their child. You can guess, and you might be right some of the time, but prepare to be 100% wrong.
You don’t know if they’re rich or poor, highly educated or barely literate. You cannot guess their politics or religious convictions. Not too long ago, two mothers as different as reality star Michelle Duggar and blogger Rebecca Woolf both chose the middle name Shalom.
What I sincerely hope is that every child’s name is given with love, and every wish for a full and satisfying life. Even the names that I personally dislike can be great, meaningful choices for other families.
And so, on to the news:
- Swistle’s post does a nice job of reminding us that once the baby is named, issues that can feel vitally important tend to fade into the background.
- Call me crazy, but lately I love the sound of Claribel and Clarabelle – sparked by Bree’s Bottom of the Barrel post from the 1910s.
- Angela’s guest post at Nameberry surfaces some great German names. Tilo is the son of design maven swissmiss – a.k.a. Tina Roth Eisenberg – and I’m always surprised we don’t hear it more. With choices like Anneliese and Lorelei getting more attention, how about Hannelore, Soren, and Conrad?
- Clover and Corin, Thorin and Tane. I do love it when For Real goes to California.
- Isn’t Caetana lovely?
- This list of daring middle name candidates from Once Upon a Time Baby Names is rich with possibilities: Caspienne, Hallow, Malachite, Escher, Bayou. Some of them work as given names, too, but even the wildest suggestion seems wearable in the middle.
- Call me crazy, but I am dying to know the names Real Housewife of Atlanta alum Kim Zolciak is considering for her twins (!) due this month. Kim already has daughters Ariana and Brielle, plus sons Kroy and Kash.
- Remember when the Lillian Vernon catalog was the only place to get things personalized? Thank goodness for all of those independent Etsy shops and their treasure troves of unusual, hand-crafted, personalized items. I’m in love with this shop and the Dutch names on some of her designs.
- I completely agree with Nifty Names – why aren’t we hearing more boys called Arlo, Finnian, Ronan, and Louis?
- And another rarity that could be very wearable for a boy: colorful Cordovan.
- Max McCartney is a great name, and the story behind it is even better.
- Aela picks her favorite cool and unusual names for girls., inspired by the original list at Nameberry. Bette is a great pick, and I’m wild about Tilda, too.
- Readers say yes to Arrietty, no to Rogue – and more on fictional girls’ names from Waltzing More than Matilda.
That’s all for this week! As always, thank you so very much for reading, commenting, and being a part of this community.
I love the positive tone of your website, and couldn’t agree more! A name tells you nothing more about the parents other than what they chose as a name for their child. So much goes into naming a child that unless you know the exact story then you truly don’t know! I love that everyone chooses names across the board!
I know two families (they don’t know of each other) who have both chosen exactly the same names for their children. And they are nothing alike!
I also saw someone in the newspaper who had one daughter the same name as mine, and the other was SOOOOO close to my other daughter’s name. Yet from reading about the family in the article, we didn’t seem to have much in common at all (apart from general obvious things, like same ethnicity and nationality which I share with most people in Australia).
“Still, I believe that if you know a child’s name, that means that you know exactly one thing about her parents: you know the name they chose for their child. You can guess, and you might be right some of the time, but prepare to be 100% wrong.”
I think right there you unintentionally explained why I reacted negatively to a piece you linked to recently – the one featuring an American family living in Germany who gave their kids “unique” i.e., unconventional names. I disliked the subtext, which to me seemed to be something like, “look at these ridiculously rigid and outdated Europeans – why, their language laws date back to WWII! If only they could enjoy the freedom we Americans have to name our kids whatever we want. I bet deep down they’re jealous of our ability to give our kids unique names despite what they say.” It’s just as easy to make assumptions about people who are uninterested in finding unusual names for their kids and/or don’t think much of non-traditional names, or who don’t find naming laws particularly restrictive as it is to make assumptions about creative namers. Just as someone who chose an unusual name may or may not have done so because of a desire to be different or counter-culture, someone who chooses a popular or unremarkable name may or may not have done so because he or she lacks imagination or courage, or has been (tragically) socialized to embrace conformity and eschew non-conformity at all costs. I guess I just feel that those who are enthusiastic about their kids’ unconventional names often seem to miss the fact that plenty of parents don’t feel that an unusual name is necessary in order to signal their conviction that their children are unique and special.
Anyway, I appreciate that you have consistently taken the time to point out the flawed logic underlying the seemingly never-ending stream of articles offering superficial commentary on what naming trends say about today’s parents, Abby. And I agree that Caetana is lovely. 🙂
Havoye, that’s a really thought-provoking comment. And yes, I think that’s important to remember. Names like Ava and Logan or Katherine and James can be chosen with just as much love and intention as more unusual names.
One of my hang-ups is that I can’t imagine choosing a name just because I liked the sound. It has to have layers of meaning. (And I’m still delighted when I find new ones – like when I discovered that my daughter’s Name Day is the same as our wedding anniversary.) But plenty of parents choose names for sound and style, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
It’s funny, because I love German names, but my German-born husband finds most of my favorites fussy and musty. So no Trudelise or Torsten for us.
Trudelise? Torsten? Lovely names … maybe in the middle spot?
I clicked and read through each “what your baby name says about you” piece in sequence and then got to “It’s all nonsense” and felt like I could have just saved myself the trouble, lol! In a way I’m pleased that we’re using only family names, because nothing shuts up inquisitions faster than “Oh, it’s an old family name”.
I have had the same issues with German names – finding wearable ones! Unfortunately my last name is also heavily German (Hubby and I are both German), so a German FN + German LN often feels very clunky. I was surprised to see some softer names on that list – love Hannelore!
Kim’s twin names.. I’m thinking Kade & Kruz.
Has she said if they’re boys or girls? I didn’t notice! Kash’s middle name is Kade, so maybe not … otherwise it fits. And yes, I think Kruz is a *great* thought – very likely.
Megan M. says
I love Swistle’s post! I’d forgotten about all the little worries I had about my girls’ names. None of it really matters once the kids are in the world and loved, does it?
I love the name Hannelore. So gorgeous! I was born in Germany but am not technically German. LOL
I love Hannelore, too – I’ve heard it would be considered very dating in Germany today, but I don’t know that for sure. In the US, I think it would be perfection.
I knew a Hannelore growing up and she was the epitome of cool. I’ll always love that name.
Bayou is interesting. Thoughts on it as a given name?
Maybe. I love, love, love Bay …
Thank you for the response! So you think Bay works better as a first name for a girl?
One of the main characters on the show “Switched at Birth” is named Bay. She’s a lovely young woman so it’s easy for me to see this as a fn for a girl. I do like Bay better than Bayou, but that’s more of a sound thing for me.