By Barbara Freedman-DeVito
Choosing a baby name is an important job, so make your children feel important by letting them help you name the new baby. After all, you’re not the only one who’s having a baby – your whole family is ! Use the process of naming the baby as an opportunity to get your other children involved in and excited about their new brother or sister, and make the process fun. Try a little humor, with wild list-making sessions that may eventually lead you to the perfect baby name that will fill that vacant space on your family tree.
Here are some of the points, both serious and silly, that you can encourage your children to consider when sifting through the thousands of possible baby names that are floating around out there. I’ve added a few sample names, from appropriate to absurd, to make your children laugh and enjoy the name choosing process, and to get your whole family thinking.
First of all, don’t choose a first name that is SO odd and unusual that, as your child grows up, his or her friends will endlessly make fun of it. Perhaps “Sassafras” or “Tintinabulation” are not the best name choices. On the other hand, you may not want a name that is SO common that every third child in the playground has it, too. Of course, what is “too common” changes every few years. When I was a child in the early 1960s, every other kid answered if someone called out “Bobby” or “Joey.”
You might also want to avoid a baby name that is so up-to-the-minute and trendy that it may sound ridiculous by the time your child hits kindergarten. I’d think twice before naming a baby “Megabyte” or “Bloggy.” Then again, if the name is VERY old fashioned, that can also lead to taunting by other children. How would you like to be in the third grade and be named “Horatio Cornelius” ? Other old fashioned names, though, such as Rachel and Sarah, never seem to go out of style.
Sometimes a name sounds really cute on a tiny baby, but inappropriate on a mature adult. Should anyone have to go through life as “Dimples” or “Pinky” or “Bitsy” ? Still, there are other names that may suit a serious bank executive, but sound too somber for a toddler – take “Harold Thaddeus” or “Mildred Hortense,” for instance. Shoot for some sort of middle ground between cutesy-pie babyish and dour fuddy-duddy.
You may also want to avoid names, or combinations of first and middle name, that have a very strong negative association with a particular person or event in history, like “John Wilkes” or “Lee Harvey.”
Consider the spelling of any baby name that you and your children like. Will it be so difficult to spell or to pronounce that your child will be condemned to a lifetime of seeing and hearing people mangle his or her name and having to endlessly correct them ? As a case in point, I might have been named “Ides” (pronounced “Ee-dess”) but, luckily for me, my parents dropped the idea for fear that I might wind up being called “Ides” (as in “Beware the Ides of March”).
After all of the “don’ts” I’ve mentioned, how about some “dos” for your kids to ponder. Maybe you’d like to name the baby in honor of a special relative, past or present, or a close friend of the family. Think about all the people in your life who’ve been dear to you. You may even choose to show respect for a famous person you really admire.
Another possibility is to celebrate your ethnic roots by choosing a current or traditional name that comes from your family’s cultural heritage, or some branch of it, if your lineage blends several different ethnic backgrounds.
How about naming the baby for a book or movie character that you and your children love ? Perhaps a little “Harry” or “Dorothy” is waiting to be born. (Possibly a tiny “Pinocchio” or “Thumbelina,” although those may be a bit extreme.)
The meanings of baby names are a popular element to consider. You could begin with a special meaning, like “beloved” or “gentle” or “courageous,” and then see what names stem from those words. Different languages and cultures can lead you to various name choices, all with the same specific meanings. If you want to avoid negative meanings, however, I suppose that “Picklepussia” would be out of the running.
You may want to use a particular letter of the alphabet as your starting point. If you’re expecting a baby girl you might, for example, list every girl’s name that you can think of that begins with the letter V – Valerie, Victoria, Veronica, Violet, and so forth. For a more novel approach, how about drawing from all the first names that contain six letters – Joseph, Daniel, Joshua… or seven – Matthew, Malcolm, William…
If you find a first name that you all like, consider its variant forms, too. For example, Christine might also lead you to Kirsten, Christina, Kristen, or Crystal. A potential baby Mary might wind up being named Miriam, Marion, Maryanne, Marie, Maria, Marilyn, or Marlene.
For any name that you all like, try it on for size and live with it for a while. If you name the baby Melissa, will she end up being called “Missy” or “Mel” ? Think of all the nicknames that any given name might spawn and be sure that you can live with the nicknames, as well as the full version of the name. Avoid inadvertently negative nickname-producing names. Don’t name the baby “Smellonius” if you don’t want him to be called “Smelly” by his schoolmates.
Once you’ve arrived at a short list of first names that you, your spouse and your children can all agree upon, look at each name within the context of the full name that it will be a part of. Find a first and middle name that suit and go nicely with each other, and with the sound of your last name. “Ernesto Casimir Jones” might not create the most pleasing effect and “Calliope Bathsheba Schmidt” may not quite roll off the tongue.
Test lots of combinations of your family’s favorite name choices until you hit upon the perfect one. Then be sure to examine the resulting set of initials. You don’t want to give your baby a beautiful and well thought out full name, only to later discover that the monogrammed handkerchiefs will read “P.I.G” or “Y.U.K.” or “D.U.M.” So avoid the likes of “Philip Ian Green” (alias “Pig”) or “Yelburton Uriah Keep” (commonly called “Yuck”) or “Doris Ursulla Martin” (a.k.a. “Dumb”).
If your favorite name passes that test, next imagine it as it will be used by different people on different occasions. Using John Q. Public as an example, let’s look at all of its forms: John Quincy Public, John Q. Public, John Public, J. Q. Public, Johnny P., J.Q.P., J.Q., and even “J.P. loves S.A.” carved on a tree. Explore every possibility for any inadvertent gaffs.
Picture your chosen name as it will appear in various real life situations: how will it look on a school register ? on a diploma ? on a resumé ? in the oval office ? What impression will it create ? Will it sound dignified ? snobbish ? flakey ? classy ? friendly ? pretentious ? dumb ? What would you like to shoot for – interesting and harmonious, but neither too weird nor too dull ?
Once you’ve found a combination of names that can pass muster and meet every criteria set forth, and that you’re all just crazy about, there’s one more factor to consider. How does this new name go with those of your other children ? Imagine shouting down the street to call your kids in for dinner, or listing your children’s names on a government form, or signing a holiday card. Do you really want that birthday card to your favorite aunt to read “Happy Birthday, Aunt Emma ! Love Terry, Jason and Tondaleo” ?
If you can jump over this final hurdle you’ve done it ! You’ve found the perfect baby name for that little someone who’s soon to be a part of your family, and your children will be more enthused about the baby’s arrival if they’ve helped you choose that name. It will truly be THEIR baby, too.
Make the process as lively and amusing as you can to get them into the spirit of it. For each point that I’ve mentioned, encourage your kids to draw up long lists of possibilities, including silly lists. Let them have fun and get all of their wildest name suggestions out of their systems, too. Create your own “name the baby” games, such as “What would we name the baby if we were Martians ?” “What if we’d lived 300 years ago ?” “What if the name had to end with the letter ‘a’ ?” Use your imagination, and your kids will be sure to use theirs, too. That perfect name is out there somewhere, you just need to find it.
Have fun !
Visit Barbara Freedman-DeVito’s website at http://www.childrensclothingbabyclothes.com for baby clothes, children’s clothing, matching family clothing, and gift items decorated with her colorful and amusing artwork for kids. Barbara is a professional storyteller, teacher and artist.
Name the new baby .