Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Has Baby-Name Analysis Gone Overboard?

A few months ago, I stumbled across a baby-naming blog called Swistle: Baby Names. It’s quite something. The entries mostly consist of people writing in for baby-naming advice to a woman named Swistle, who dispenses friendly guidance.

Swistle’s suggestions are usually pretty good (hey, she promotes the name "Elliot"). But the best part is the people who write in. They invariably have absurd rules for their baby names, a self-important attitude and a penchant for referring to their husband as “hubs.” (As far as I know, I’m the only man who has ever read the site.)

The first name is just a small part of the equation. Swistle is hit up for plenty of middle-name advice as well, and then people want to make sure the names aren't too popular, "match" the names of the child's siblings and create appropriate initials. For instance, "SAW" won't work because it's too reminiscent of the horror-movie series. (Considering the fact that we accidentally named our son "Elliot" and "E.T.," we clearly didn't pay enough attention to this ourselves.)

The site is a window into the desperate search for meaning that people want for their names. A woman will defend her use of the name “Emma” (currently vying with “Emily” as the most popular name in America) by saying she chose it nine years before she became pregnant after reading Jane Austen (wow, original). Another says she wants to use “Grace” for her child’s middle name because it came to her in a dream. (It also could have come to her because it's seemingly the middle name of every girl born in the United States since 1985.)

But I really shouldn’t pick on people using common names. The alternative is far worse.

Here’s a sampling of letters to Swistle:
We are expecting our 4th child October 25th and are going crazy trying to figure out a name. My other kids are Cameron Jakob (boy), Brayden Nickolas (boy), and Addison Mackenzie (girl). I feel strongly that we should keep the naming pattern of ending in the letter "n" and having 7 letters, paired with a middle name with a "k" in the middle, but we are not agreeing on anything. I like Teaghan or Karigan Viktoria for a girl.
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I need help saving our unused boy name from being stolen! My brother and sister in law are due with their first child in the middle of October and want to use our boy name.
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We are pretty much decided on the girl name, Jubilee Lynn Skinner. However, the boy name have proven to be quite difficult. Here are some contenders: Orrin, North, Radnor, Goodwin, Tennessee.
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My hubby and I have debated the name Rilea (RYE-Leah) Elizabeth as a name for a future daughter. Does this sound like a normal name? We are both teachers, so this is one of the few names not wrecked (or sweetened) by past students. But, being academics, we are hoping to have a name that could also sound educated without being stuffy. [The response from a commenter: "I was surprised to read that both you and your husband are teachers. I would have guessed parents with just high school educations might come up with this name."]
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Our 3-year-old is named Allegra Grace, last name Watson. Early on with this pregnancy I felt strongly that this one have a name that was, well, strong, possibly with a reference or connection to the sea, and not overly crazy feminine. I really want a name that isn't popular, but that people can pronounce.
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I'm due September 24 with our fifth baby - gender unknown. Our others are Liberty Skye, Eden Rayne, Sterling Blaine, and Ruby Alexandra.
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My husband likes:
Maximus Areilius
Mac Austin (to be called Mac Mac) He really wants the initials to be M.A.C but it is not an absolute necessity.


It's not like I can claim superiority over these people. I too have done a TON of online research to help choose our girl's name — a choice that will no doubt disappoint relatives or just leave people thinking, "Enh."

I wonder if the Internet isn't leading people to overthink their choices. In the old days, you didn't really know if you were choosing the most popular name in America (you just knew you liked "Jennifer" or "Jessica" or whatever). Or you just used a family name. Back then, did any of those people (or their children) really regret their choices?

Compare that with now, when you have to name your son "Caspian" because you want it to match your daughter "Marin."

2 comments:

Kasey said...

Nick, this is awesome. My sister has a 2-y-o boy and they are expecting a baby girl next month (just like you two! although I don't have a clue when you guys are due). They're having a hell of a time trying to find a girl name they both like. She loved this post! Also, the person who wrote that first sample issue (7-letter/ends in "N"...) is beyond lame.

Nick said...

Ours is due in January. So that means we can steal whatever name your sister chooses!