12 March 2012

The Name Game

The natural progression of pregnancy-related questioning goes something like this:
  1. When are you due? / How far along are you? 
  2. Are you finding out the gender? / What is the gender? 
  3. Do you have a name yet? 
Accordingly, I think it's worth my time to share what we're considering in picking a name for our daughter. 

First, let me give a little background. Going into the pregnancy, I was probably more excited about picking a name than anything else. For years, I have made George play the baby name game in which we each spout out potential names while rejecting or approving each name. It was a lot of fun until there was a speck on the screen and rice-sized embryo in my uterus that would one day walk around with the name. So, until we found out that we were having a girl, we really didn't discuss names. Since knowing her gender, however, the pressure has been on. Looking at all of the decisions involved in preparation for a baby, I believe that the name is the most significant. 

So, what's in a name? A lot. They last a long time and make a big impression. No pressure, right? Uh huh. 

Below, in no particular order, are some things that George and I are considering: 
  • Popularity, especially during a particular time period. There are names that are common across decades and even centuries, but other names are extraordinarily trendy for a short time before fading and leaving holders of the name with a date stamp. Ideally, I'd like to find a name that is known but has never been so trendy that it's associated with a particular time. For this reason, I'm skeptical of any name on the top 100 list (for US or New Zealand) and won't even consider names in the top 25.
  • Gender specific versus unisex. How many times have you wanted to refer to a person (client, potential employer, potential employee, etc.) with the formal greeting of Mr. or Ms. So-And-So but you couldn't do it because it was unclear whether the person in question was a man or woman? Apparently my experiences with this situation have made an impression on me because, although I generally avoid gender specific clothes, toys, and the like (more on this in a separate post), I would like to find a gender specific name for our daughter. 
  • Professionalism. Would you be comfortable with your doctor having this name? How about your pilot? We want our daughter's name to allow her to be taken seriously. If she decides that she needs to be a punk rocker, she may need to find herself a stage name. 
  • Ability to age. The name we pick will have to be applicable to a baby, toddler, young child, adolescent, teenager, adult, and elderly person. In other words, it'll need to grow with her.
  • Spelling and pronunciation. We'd like to find a name with a clear spelling and pronunciation. I've witnessed professors actively avoid calling on students with difficult to pronounce names. Our daughter will have enough trouble with her surname and whatever accent she develops that we'd like to avoid spelling and pronunciation confusion. 
  • Compatibility with surname. Of course the first name has to jive with the middle and last names and, perhaps more importantly, directly with the last name. There are theories about first names with a certain number of syllables matching well with surnames of a different number. I think it's easy to over think this one. While we'll try to find a name that doesn't come out sounding too harsh when mixed with our surname, I think we'll have to be a bit flexible given our three-syllable surname. 
  • Nicknames. A lot of names can (and will) be shortened or altered to a common nickname. We'll either try to prevent it with a name that can't be shortened or choose a name with a nickname that we can tolerate (all the while waging a battle to have her called by her given name). 
  • Initials and monograms. Of course, we'll need to be mindful of what her initials and monogram spell. 
  • Close associations. When family members or close friends or colleagues have a particular name, it may be best to avoid it. We're implementing this one on a case-by-case basis. 

Do we have a name yet? We are quite certain that we have a middle name. After yesterday, we have a strong contender for first name. We'll likely continue to discuss names and go into her birth with an intended name and a few back-ups so that we have options in the event that she does not look like her intended name. And, no, we will not be sharing the name until she is born. Some friends gave us the advice that people are less likely to be critical (at least openly) of a name once it's tied to a particular human being; we think they're right. You can rest assured that we are taking the naming process very seriously, and hopefully our daughter's name will serve her well. 


Janie said...

Great post. Some of the issues you mentioned I never thought about but they are oh-so-true! And I don't want to know ahead of time. It is a parent-matter only.Pleasant searching!

ALKS said...

I forgot to mention that we also have to keep in mind how a name is likely to be pronounced both in the US and in New Zealand, as some names get drastically different pronunciations.

And, before any name makes it to the short list, we run searches in Google and Facebook to see if someone already has the name and what connotations a name might carry. Oh, technology.