Some parents struggle with their chosen names, never quite knowing what to do with them. Lastly, I don’t recommend “bundling” a baby name until a few weeks before your intended baby’s due date.
That way, as the days, weeks, months, and years tick by, you can tinker with the name in your head and quietly give yourself a second chance. Think of it this way: Baby’s name growing into a teenager is a rock concert you never thought you’d be able to attend.
After studying thousands of first names for my book The Name Game, I can tell you which names sound beautiful and give you plenty of options to tinker with before the tuning fork clicks into place.
But since the book’s release, I’ve watched several new parents scramble to make initial decisions and have left disappointed once more. So, I’ve compiled my advice based on my years of interviewing new parents, researching trends, and consulting linguistic experts.
Names like Madison and Reagan spark optimism, as do those in the vein of Britney, Kelly, Sophi, Shiloh, and Madison. Depending on your gymnastics skills, you can use musical elements to help you decide: pump your eardrums with the tune of the moment: do so-and-sos like Britney Spears when thinking of a baby name, or do so-and-sos like Taylor Swift when considering a sobriquet.
As my friend Katie Robertson recently told me, listening to Taylor Swift (or Carly Rae Jaspen) while naming your child will be uniquely therapeutic and help you build a fence around your precious little rock: “It helps you put a little safety net around them because songs like The Bodyguard help you feel connected to someone.”
And while you’re at it, why not find temporary solace in a song that has already taken a life of its own? Casey George was no paragon of class, but Happy Now! by the alpha-dog herself, Taylor Swift, will help you feel better in no time.
It’s only a matter of time before these names make their way into everyday vocabulary, with Millennials opting for more complex, heart-shaped names. As Sarah uploaded to TikTok at the end of 2020 and wrote in national magazine Vogue: “It’s what we’re calling ourselves these days, after all. More grown-up baby names.
A promise of generational stability. Maya is throughout the first wave of first names, shifting between several combinations. Names are starting to pivot toward something more solid and stable. To be a grown-up is to be expected.”
Then there are names as fun as Ava, Ruby, and Zoe.
Many blame it on a lack of a woman in the field or an industry looking to diversify its ranks.
Non-parents, on the other hand, seem blissfully unaware of a real issue. To them, the practice of naming babies is nothing more than a fun exercise in matching sappy baby names with sentimental values in matching birth certificates. They would never dream of disrupting that immersion by lobbying state capitals, resigning from government posts, or filing class-action lawsuits.
For these observers, I think we can all agree that sobriquet issues seem a bit sinister. To that, I say, “Screw the elites; they can’t touch me with that handbag!” I stand by that to this very day. Until people like me gain influence over naming trends, we stay out of the crosshairs — for now.
Before we get started, a quick recap, name trends of the 19th and 20th centuries aiming to fulfill classical statuary and formal norms while also meeting consumer demand.
Back then, you also needed an official surname to bolster your claims to heritage and class. Nearly all legal requirements for first-language-assigned titles also came with formal characteristics and pronunciations.
Names typically emerged from the streets or oohs and aahs of everyday speech.
In essence, you needed a knack for cooing and winning to secure a baby name that scored high on the naming scales.
The process often began with parents selecting culturally relevant monikers that transcended their family’s importance and identified their child with membership in a tribe or bloodlines.
The process often began with parents selecting culturally relevant monikers that transcended their family’s importance and identified their child with membership in a tribe or bloodlines. — Henry Jenkins
Eventually, runaway bride trends caught fire and became increasingly popular. Still, gentility and refinement remained in short supply for the next century. For example, there’s something undeniably dour and upper-crust about Emily, Evelyn, Eleanor, or Delilah (to choose only three of dozens of Emily, Evelyn, and Delilah baby names). The Emily and Delilah monikers are among the top-10 most popular baby names in the US simply because they’re so dour!
Common trends include Elizabeth, Grace, Sarah, Abigail, Sophia (Hey, it’s Elizabeth again), and Eleanor. They provide a sense of calm and order to an otherwise chaotic world.
These trends also already seem culturally relevant: friends with similar baby names like Mary, Chloe, and Madison already evoke an optimistic, social butterfly persona, while Olivia and Harry evoke a baby-making powerhouse.
Ouch. This happens to one of my friends, too. As a result, she leaned heavily on a relatively unknown Scottish name created for her beloved granddaughter: Niamh Cúige Tonebhoy. And bless her heart, she’s been thriving since. It can be good baby name.
I can empathize. As the son of two lawyers, I spent my formative years immersed in the minutiae of the English legal system. After graduation, I worked as a corporate lawyer for four years in New York amid a sea of complex, international corporate transactions. From that vantage point, I witnessed first-hand the emotional and financial toll legal work exacted on professionals worldwide.
As such, I realized how important it is to stick to proven baby name options and avoid runaway emotions. Sure, any name can be tempting, particularly when given to a sparkling, stamp-collecting, order-taking baby. But you can’t go off the rails without thinking first about the immediate ramifications.
And you don’t need to suffer in silence to reap the rewards of finding an excellent, enduring baby name, whether you go with the cheeky suggestion of your child’s nanny or the politically incorrect one of a local politician. Letting your precious pick dictate your baby’s name can be a form of feminist parenting. Women should be the ones creating children’s names, after all.
But here’s the thing: bestowed names lend themselves to a certain magical aura. Come up with some catchy rhymes and easily pronounceable words, and the world will be yours. They feel right, somehow. And while I can appreciate the orgasmic feeling a name produces with its first syllables clinking together, it’s foolish to expect a baby name to have a singular impact on your life.
It’s like putting a belt around your child’s waist and calling them your every name-request alter ego.
Here are a few names (in no particular order) that carry a particularly unique sting.
Baby: I don’t know my origin story. My real name is country-pop singer Sergi Santos. I chose it because it was my penultimate choice in school and implied I would one day become a singer of some note. He was also thinking about the baby name. But years later, I realized I was being too ambitious and took it back.
The name stuck, and I changed it at the last possible moment. I never saw a bright. Sure, my hipsters-rouser brother probably bought it as I flirted with the idea (probably before the second bout of hipster embarrassments, in which I moved out of his Brooklyn brownstone and promptly fell out of favor with his female friends). But that’s only because my original choice generated so much excitement.
Comment: Perseverance tends to bode well with stubborn people.