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  • Choose A Name

    By Laura Wattenberg

    “So, have you settled on a name yet?”

    As the clock winds down many parents find themselves surprisingly stumped, still searching for the perfect name to express their tastes—and satisfy the whole family. A name choice encompasses fashion and tradition, values and dreams.

    Whether you’ve talked yourself out of your favorite name or debated your partner to a standstill, try these strategies for getting past some common roadblocks:


    You want a distinctive name for your daughter. She’s not going to be one of five Jennifers in her class. But now it turns out that Abigail, your cherished favorite, is a top-ten name!
    Don’t toss aside that beloved name just yet. A popularity rank doesn’t tell the whole story. First off, there are no “Jennifers” in this new generation—no names you’ll find in every classroom. Parents are naming more creatively, so even the number-one name today is only a fraction as popular as the hot names of past generations.

    A name’s impact also depends on the way it blends in with the sound of the times. April was a popular choice in the 1970s and 1980s—more popular than the name Kristin. But Kristin feels more common because it traveled in a pack of similar names (Krista-Kirsten-Kristi-Krystal). A name with a unique sound, like April, can stay fresh despite its popularity. If the name you love does travel with a pack (Jaden-Braeden-Hayden-Kaiden), don’t despair. Remember that “popular” simply means well liked, so people are likely to respond well to the name and to your child. .


    As the birth date looms closer, a name dispute can turn combustible. Ratchet down the hostilities by taking pen to paper. Go to separate rooms and each write down your six top choices. (No, writing Eleanor lix times doesn’t count.) Then trade papers and each choose the two names you find least objectionable. That’s your short list.

    Give a game effort to agree on one of the short-list names, If you can’t, use it as your reference point for a compromise. Break down what exactly appeals to you about each name. If he likes the gentle grace of Olivia and she likes the exotic uniqueness of Xanthia, look for a rare but delicate alternative (Lavinia, Raphaela).


    A full name can be like a little line of poetry with rhyme and meter. You may choose a name you love, only to test it out with your surname and find it falls flat. (Middle names are no solution; they’ll quickly disappear from your daily usage, leaving the awkward combo to last a lifetime.) If your compositions aren’t working, try putting the names aside for a moment and focusing purely on sounds.

    Cast about for some common word, no matter how silly, that sounds good with your last name. Try looking around your kitchen and saying result out loud: “Grinder Anderson?” No thank. “Banana Anderson?” Hardly. “Licorice Anderson?” Hmm…silly, but catchy. Now look for names with a sound pattern similar to Licorice (like Nicholas). At the very least you’ll consider some new possibilities–and lighten the mood.


    Okay, forget the checklists and popularity charts. Here’s a one-step plan to a name you can feel good about: imagine that it’s you starting out life. Knowing everything you know about the world, what name would you want representing you? A name you would feel confident bearing is certain to make a fine welcome gift for your child.

    Laura Wattenberg is the developer of name analysis software and the author of The Baby Name Wizard.

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