Did you know there is a Baby Name season? Well, there isn’t really. But the Social Security Administration recently released their list of the 1000 Most Popular Baby Names for 2009 (you’ll need to scroll down to the section that says “Popular Names by Birth Year” and select “top 1000”. Also listed are top 100 in each state and top twin names. I love it!) Which means that baby names are in the news these days. Plus there are lots of spring births so that makes it baby name season too.
Baby names are one of my favorite things in the whole world. Like most girls I started picking out names for babies early. I remember my first list at about age 10. My favorite girl names were Yvonne and Yvette (um, yeah, don’t quite know what I was thinking). By the time I was 13 my favorite names were Dana and Dennis. Fortunately most 13 year-olds don’t have babies. So my choices were left to mature. As I got older I got more and more into Merry Olde England. My choices reflected the delve into Jane Austen, Thomas Hardy and the Queen of Outstanding British Names: Georgette Heyer (if you like Jane Austen and have never read any Georgette Heyer, get ye over to Amazon! Her books are lovely romantic trifles. Very sweet and proper and English.) My favorite baby names included Ebenezer (!) and Jemima. But it’s one thing to imagine those names and quite another to actually bestow them on a child who is living in a world of Aidens and Brinleys.
When I got pregnant way back in 1995 the internet was a tiny footnote in our culture and the SSA didn’t have their Master List. So it was very hard to gauge what was popular and what wasn’t. First time parents–even today–rarely have an understanding of what names are actually common since they have very little exposure to other children. For example, before I had kids I loved the named Chloe. To me it seemed unusual and fresh. I had never met a Chloe in my entire life. But it has turned out that thousands of other parents were thinking that exact same thought. There was an explosion of Chloes. There is at least one in each of my kids’ classes. For some reason we didn’t choose it and went with India instead. I have to say I’m relieved.
Some people might not be bothered that there is another child with their child’s name. Or several children, as the case may be. For many years I assumed that everyone wanted to give their child a unique, unusual name. But that is not so. Most people find a name that they like and if it turns out that it’s common, meh, who cares? There is a reason why popular names are popular: they are nice names and that’s why people pick them. I grew up with a common name and I hated it. Hated it! I never wanted to do that to my child. But I also don’t like KRE8IVE names. They’re just not my style. In case you have never noticed, my kids names are over to the right.
Here, in a Venn diagram, is how I pick names:
–Let me just pause here to say that if you have picked any super common or made-up names for your children, don’t worry. I’m not judging you any more than I would judge you for your choice in furniture or shoes. We all like something different, so no biggie. I might call my sister and say something behind your back, but that’s about it. Kidding!–
The cool thing about baby names is that they are the great equalizer. Unlike shoes or furniture or cars, baby names are free. Anyone can pick any name they like (well, not any name). You can pick the same name that Bono gave his child, or the Sultan of Brunei or the homeless lady on the corner. So what a person chooses really says a lot. Because theoretically the world is a parent’s oyster. I love how free that makes me feel.
The name my mother chose for me says that she was utterly clueless about what was popular*. I have the worst of both worlds as far as names go: the super-commonest name of the 70’s (sort of. I was born Jennie. Not Jennifer.) When people yell “Jennie!” I don’t even turn and look because there is always another one nearby. But it is not spelled the traditional way. So I spent my childhood without the personalized pencils and bike license plates that all the Jennys were lucky enough to have. Moral of the story: you can spell your kid’s name any weird way you choose, but it’s still going to sound the same when you yell it across the playground. In the meantime you’ll just drive yourself and your child bonkers having to correct the spelling constantly.
I have so much more to say on this topic (could I get a PhD in baby names? Because I totally would) but Mister is bugging me to turn off the light and go to bed and this post is long enough as it is. Don’t fret, though. I’ll be talking about baby names again next week.
*She made up for it with her next child. My sister’s name is Arianne. I was always so jealous that she could call people and just say her first name. I always have to tell people my first and last name when I call, to differentiate myself from the five other Jenny/Jennie/Jeni’s everyone knows.