What’s in a name? Er…well, everything, really! Of course your little bundle of joy is the sweetest, most beautiful thing you have ever seen and you want to choose a name that reflects his/her individuality, spirituality, uniqueness and all-round special-ness.
But wait a minute!
Remember that the unique baby name you choose will help define junior’s life – how they are viewed and accepted – for many, many years. What sounds cute and original for a 5-year-old, may not sound so funky for a 15-year-old…and what about a 55-year old?
Time was when only celebrities could get away with unique baby names (Zowie Bowie, Dweezil and Moon Unit Zappa, etc), but in the modern world, individuality is more prized than ever before, and increasingly, this starts with our names. Great idea – but don’t allow a flash of a self-indulgence to condemn your child to a lifetime of problems; it’s reported that a Chinese couple named their child “Saddam Sars” to mark the current world events at the time of the birth! I just hope it means something nice in Mandarin, or Cantonese!
This probably wouldn’t have happened in Germany, where names can only be registered if they recognizable, do not ridicule the child and are gender specific. Perhaps there is at least one Chinese child in the world, who will grow up wishing he/she were German!
So – assuming you are not German – what should you do if you want to create a unique baby name, without creating too many problems? Here are some tips and some warnings to make the process less painful:
1. Anagrams: try creating an anagram of an existing name.
2. Father and Mother: try using derivatives of one of the parents’ names, or a combination of both. Alternatively, how does the mother’s maiden name sound as a first name?
3. Telescoping: try dropping letters from another name or a word, until you get a nice-sounding unique baby name.
4. Spelling: an unusual spelling of a common name creates uniqueness. However, remember that your child will be condemned to a lifetime of “…that’s David spelt D..A..Y..V..I..D…” conversations.
5. Pronunciation: another trick is to pronounce a common name in an unusual way. But this can also lead to a lifetime of corrections and explanations – as well as teasing and accusations of pretentiousness.
6. History: do some research into names that were popular in previous eras, but have become less so.
7. Family History: are there any unusual baby names that can be used to honor family members or ancestors? But beware family politics…
8. Nature: many names come from the natural world, particularly flowers (e.g. Rose) and it’s a great source for unique baby names (e.g. Gwyneth Paltrow’s daughter Apple).
9. Geography: another useful source of great names – grab an atlas and start searching. David and Victoria Beckham called their first son Brooklyn, which many people think is a cool-sounding name. However, it’s reported that the choice was made because that’s where conception took place. Hmmm, imagine a lifetime in which your name is a constant reminder of your parents having sex! Eeeuuuuww!!!
10. Celebrities: famous people with slightly unusual names are a common source of inspiration. There are lots of teenage “Kylie”s running around the UK since Kylie Minogue’s arrival on the music scene at end of the ’80’s, and her recent resurgence, will have created a second wave of them. And I’m sure many little “Be’yonce”s have been popping up over the last few years. The only problem is that names like these very soon begin to sound a little silly and “wannabe”.
11. Foreign Names: consider using a foreign version of a name, e.g., Pedro, instead of Peter. Or try using a name from a completely different culture.
12. Nicknames: try using a nickname e.g. Angie, instead of Angela or Angelina. However, make sure the name is will pass the “age test” – see number 17 below.
13. Middle Names: a great way to accommodate individuality when naming your baby, is to combine a common first name with a unique second/middle name. The benefit of this is that your child can avoid embarrassment throughout his/her life by ignoring it of keeping it hidden.
14. Initials: when you have settled on some baby names, check that the initials aren’t embarrassing. This is an easy trap to fall into and can lead to a lifetime of misery. “Zina Indigo” are may be nice sounding names for your lovely daughter, but make sure your surname doesn’t begin with “T”!
15. First Name-Surname: check how the selected first name combines with the surname. Make sure the two names do not create some something recognizable, to prevent a lifetime of teasing. Also, check the rhythm of the two names; a different number of syllables in each name usually flows much better. Avoid rhyming the 2 names at all costs or your child will hate you forever!
16. The loudness test: try saying the name softly, at normal pitch and shouting it very loudly. You may be surprised at the results.
17. The age test: try to visualize your child with the name as a baby, as a teenager, as a young adult, a mature adult and as a senior citizen. A name can create completely different perceptions of the individual at separate stages of life.
18. The meaning: the final test of the baby name that you choose should be to check its meaning (if any). Don’t leave your child open to getting a nasty surprise later in life.
Whatever unique baby name you decide, don’t fall into the trap of self-indulgence. Remember, it’s not about you, it’s all about your child. Your grand design to celebrate the uniqueness of this new human being, may eventually lead to a lifelong, desperate desire for conformity and anonymity. Even Zowie Bowie eventually changed his name to “Joey”…