A Baby Names Rant

So, let’s talk baby names.

My husband says that I am a “baby names elitist,” and it’s probably true. I am very opinionated about what makes a good name vs. a bad name. I seldom share these opinions with expectant parents though, because my philosophy is, their baby, their choice.

That said, this blog is my own personal soapbox, so these are my likes and dislikes when it comes to baby names:


(1) I do not like names that are currently trendy and popular. On the years that my siblings were born (in the 70s and 80s), these were the ranks for their names: #3, #3, #25, and #5. Worse, my mother wanted to name me Jennifer when I was born in 1982. Jennifer was the #1 girls’ name in America from 1970 until 1984 (!). It was as if my parents had made a concerted effort to be as unoriginal with their names as possible. Thankfully, my father rushed to enter my name onto the birth certificate while my mother was delirious from giving birth, and I became the only one of my siblings to receive a name that was not in the top 100. Six years later, my sister Jennifer was born, the name having dropped all the way down to #5 by then.

BTW, I wanted to name one of my little brothers “Beau” after She-Ra’s boyfriend, and I almost had my way. Unfortunately, they decided to let my grandmother name him, and she picked out something much more common. “Beau” became his middle name. “Beau” was #308 for baby names that year. Sorry, bro. I tried!

So, I feel sorry for all of the Isabellas, Emmas, Abigails, Sophias, Jacobs, Michaels, Jaydens, and Aidens currently being born. Sorry, kids. Your parents were lacking in creativity!

(2) I do not like diminutives as given names. Babies are meant to turn into grown-ups someday, and their given names ought to sound like grown-up names. So it should be James instead of Jimmy, William instead of Billy, Michael instead of Mike or Mikey, Abigail instead of Abby, Robert instead of Robbie or Robb (we’ll get to Robb with two Bs in a minute!), and Katherine or Katelyn instead of Katie.

(3) I do not like weird spellings for perfectly ordinary names that already have established spellings. I have a niece named Rosealine and a nephew named Robb, and I cannot for the life of me figure out why their parents couldn’t have simply named them Rosaline and Robert. It doesn’t look trendy or cute; it just looks like the parents didn’t know how to spell, and it means those kids are going to spend the rest of their lives correcting people on the spelling of their names. My nephew is going to be saying the words “Robb with two Bs” for the rest of his life.

UPDATE: My SIL explained to me that “Robb” was her grandmother’s maiden name or something. That makes a bit more sense. I think it’s cool to honor a relative like that, but that it was probably a bad idea to give him that for a middle name and make that his given name because his first name is just too damned common in the family to use.

(4) This is unique to my family, which has a lot of Mormons in it, but I don’t like Book of Mormon names as given names. If Nephi or Ammon or Moroni ever leave the Mormon church, they’re stuck with a name that marks them as Mormon for the rest of their lives. Sucks to be them. (Thankfully there are hardly any named women in the Book of Mormon, so weird Book of Mormon names for women are practically non-existent. There’s Sariah, but that sounds almost normal.)

(5) I don’t like the patriarchal convention of naming firstborn sons after fathers. DH is the second-born of identical twins; his twin got his father’s first name as a first name and DH got his father’s middle name as a middle name. The twin has now had a son, who also got his first name and a different middle name (Robb, which is what they call him by). I think it’s fine to honor relatives by naming children after them (I gave DD a middle name that is also shared by my mother and sister), but this convention dictates that, no matter how many daughters one has first, it’s the son who gets named after Dad. Why? Because girls are apparently not worthy of carrying on Dad’s legacy, and mothers apparently are not worthy of having legacies to be carried on. What kind of a message does that send to our daughters about their worth as women?

I also don’t like this convention because it perpetuates boring, common names. Michael, John, and William would have fallen out of the top 20 ages ago if it weren’t for all of the people passing on these tired, overused names from father to son.

(6) I don’t like the practice of not giving girls middle names because “her maiden name can be her middle name when she gets married.” Because you know, a woman isn’t a whole person until she gets married.

(7) I dislike “Ann,” “Marie,” “Lynn,” and “Elizabeth” as middle names for girls. “Grace,” “Clare,” and “Jo” are also a little on the common side.


(1) Hero names. I would totally love to give a girl the middle name Brontë. (If you don’t get it, watch this here):

I don’t plan on doing it anytime soon because I can’t think of a good first name to go with Brontë, but gods, I would love to do it.

(2) Names from fiction, comic books, poetry, etc. My daughter’s name is Harley, and I want to name my next daughter Ivy because then I will have Harley & Ivy (from the Batman series). DD gets pretty darned excited whenever she sees Harley Quinn in a video game or television show. “That’s me!” she exclaims.

(3) Unusual names. They can be foreign, they can be classic names that are being revived, they can sometimes be outright made-up names, so long as they won’t socially stigmatize the child, I’m good with them.

(4) Names with rhythm. The whole name should just sound good when pronounced. If it sounds clunky at all, I won’t use it.

(5) Names that sound classy and/or noble. Not that I put Harley in this boat; Harley was more “fun and flirty.” But I also totally dig names that sound elegant or regal.

(6) Names with some kind of connection to the past. I do like honoring relatives; I just think people could get more creative when honoring relatives with common names. For example, if you want to honor Aunt Anne, why not Annelise?

(7) Names with cool meanings. Renata (Latin: reborn)? Love it. Oriel (Hebrew: God is my light)? Adore it. Bridget? (Gaelic/Celtic: exalted one, goddess, powerful)? Fantastic.

Thus ends my name soapbox for tonight.

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