Saturday, January 19, 2013

How to Name Your Baby

I always love to hear the rationale for people's baby-name choices — especially if there's an interesting family history behind them.

Some friends of ours recently named their daughter June. What a perfect choice. It's simple, cute, unassuming — and yet barely in the top 500 in 2011 (the most recent year with SSN data available). That means young June will largely have the name to herself.

I've been trying to start a revival of a similar name, Jane, for a while. With that one, people perceive it to be overly common and bland, even though it currently ranks below names like Kenzie, Maliyah, Adalynn and Audrina.

June is definitely spunkier than Jane, despite being just one vowel off. And I like its classical roots: It's a more feminine-sounding variant of Juno.

June isn't quite a century name — it peaked in the 1920s — but it otherwise shows exactly the pattern you want to see (better than Jane, in fact). It spiked in the early decades of the 20th century, with a modest comeback over the past five years. (You don't want to pick a name with no signs of recovering. That probably means you've chosen a "Bertha" or "Gertrude.")

In the case of our friends Ellen and Jim, they named their daughter after a great-aunt who served as a midwife in Liverpool after World War II. Ellen and Jim relied on midwives to deliver baby June, so the moniker completes a perfect little loop.

Ellen also is a fellow naming geek, so she checked rankings and charts to help make the decision. (Frankly, I'm shocked when people don't do this.)

I could see June climb the charts in the coming years, perhaps along the lines of what Violet and Ruby have done.

That's always a mixed blessing for someone who picks the name early in the pattern. You want your choice to be validated, but maybe without popping up in every preschool class.