For many years I was in the stage of life where everyone was getting engaged and married. In the last year or so, that has transitioned into the stage where everyone seems to be getting pregnant and having babies. Dave and I are happily “childfree by choice,” so we won’t be joining in on that particular adventure, but it’s still exciting to see close friends and loved ones (including my little sister, Elisabeth, and my best friend, Sara!) begin their journey into the realm of parenthood.
However, I have noticed a trend that is, to be blunt, disturbing. And that is the trend of giving babies completely outlandish names so that the parents can feel edgy, unique, and special. It is quite a cruel practice that has nothing to do with the little human coming into the world, and everything to do with narcissistic parents that have no regard for the fact their child will have to live with this name forever.
I can already hear you say, “But Lydia, you’re not a parent, so you can’t weight in on this.”
Au contraire mon frère.
I don’t have to be a doctor to look at a bone protruding from someone’s leg and know they are hurt.
I don’t have to be a pilot to look at a plane engulfed in flames and know something is terribly wrong.
And I don’t have to be a parent to hear a ridiculous baby name and know the parents are narcissistic jerks.
To be clear, I don’t have an issue with uncommon names — but there is a clear line between uncommon, and ridiculous, inappropriate, and plain old made up.
“Oh, Euridyce, thats’s such an interesting name….are you from Greece?”
“No. My mom studied abroad in Greece a few decades ago. I think she was trying to relive her glory days when she named me.”
It seems like a lot of parents are choosing increasingly obscure names from different countries. And I get that there are situations where it makes sense: like if the child is born overseas, or if the parents immigrated from that country. I have military friends that conceived and gave birth while stationed OCONUS, so it makes sense they would give their children Italian or Belgian names to pay homage to where their kids were born and raised. Plus, they chose names that were versatile enough that their child wouldn’t be ridiculed when they move back stateside. Think more along the lines of Luciana and André, not so much Beronia or Adalgiso.
With that being said, it raises a major red flag when the parents use obscure names from cultures they only have a fleeting connection to (or no connection at all). I know people that visited a particular country over a decade ago, or have a distant branch in their family tree from somewhere exotic, and they chose names based on that. And not somewhat common names like Callum or Fatima. Oh no — they had to dig deep for the names, which seems very pretentious, and even a bit like cultural appropriation (which isn’t a term I fling around often or lightly). I mean, I’m not about to go name a baby Lành because I studied abroad in Vietnam. Or Katoka because some of my ancestors were from Hungary. Or Ikiaq because I spent so much time in Alaska. Visiting a place, or having distant relatives who lived in a place, or even just finding a place fascinating, is not a good enough reason to pick an obscure name from that place. And it especially doesn’t give parents the right to stick their kid with a name that carries no real significance for that child, and only serves to make the parents feel more cultured than they really are.
And can we just agree that the world doesn’t need another white kid with a Middle Eastern or African name?
Made Up/Combined Names
“Your name is Pony-Sam?”
“No, it’s Aponisan.”
It’s one thing to name your dog some weird, made up name. It’s something else entirely to do that to a baby. A human baby. A human baby that will someday be a human adult, and be saddled with your name choice for all of time, regardless of who they grow up to be.
I understand that Shakespeare coined many names that are now popular in many countries and cultures. And given how easy it is today to publish every fleeting thought all over the internet, it’s not surprising that many people think of themselves as great literary laureates. So they in turn decide to invent names just like the great playwrights of old.
Let me be clear, dear. William Shakespeare you most certainly are not.
We get it, we get it, you and your spouse consider yourselves to be very unique and special. So you want your baby name to be a reflection of how unique and special you think you are. And heaven forbid you pick a name like Isla* or Siobhan* — those are not unique enough! Let’s go with…Imjexve! And this is where we all facepalm. You can make up an origin, you can make up a meaning, but we all know the truth: You dragged your hand down the keyboard and stuck some vowels into the resulting jumble.
If I were to Google your baby name and get a big fat “No results found,” or a “did you mean to type: (insert something else here)” that does NOT mean you have succeeded — unless your goal was to look like an illiterate moron. If I Google your baby name and the only results are obscure characters or locations from a video game (Hello there Darunia from The Legend of Zelda), it most certainly does not make me think you are cultured and intelligent and creative. It makes me think you need to get out more.
And while we are at it, can we please stop combining multiple names together or tacking on random prefixes and suffixes? I get that maybe you want to honor multiple people. Your dad is John, your mom is Veronica. Joronica is not an appropriate way to honor them. Jude* is a nice name. Andrew is my brother’s name. Juderew is abominable. And believe it or not, I’ve seen people steal baby names from friends and family members and claim it’s ToTaLlY DiFfErEnT because they changed it slightly. Guess what: taking someone else’s baby name and then “putting a spin on it” doesn’t make you clever. It makes you a thief, and an incredibly unoriginal one at that. IYKYK.
(*Isla, Jude, and Siobhan are actually on my baby name list should Dave and I accidentally get pregnant, so don’t go stealing them! Or “half stealing” by sticking a stupid suffix on and making the name Isladora or Siobhania or Judevan.)
“Time for roll-call class: Are Luke and Leia here? Alice and Edward? Ron and Ginny?”
Children are people, not billboards for celebrating your fandom. Projecting your personal interests onto another human, and in such a permanent way, is incredibly immature, self-absorbed, and not even remotely appropriate for caregivers of another human.
Remember back in the 2006/2007 range when there was a surge in Twilight themed names? Bella, Edward, Alice, and Jasper all spiked towards the top of the list when it came to baby name popularity. Even Renesmee became a thing around 2008. When you meet a kid with a Twilight name, it’s pretty safe to assume their mom got pregnant in high school.
I’m a major Harry Potter fan — I think that’s a franchise with staying power. But even I raise an eyebrow when parents name their kids Hermione, Severus, and Hedwig. I think Harry Potter names are great for pets — who wouldn’t want a dog named Sirius, or a cat named Minerva? I am also a huge advocate for Harry Potter nursery decor and onesies. I mean, have you even seen the Pottery Barn Kids ethereal bedding collection or the watercolor Hedwig pajamas and onesies? I have bought those onesies for all of my pregnant friends, and if anybody gives me the green light I’ll literally buy them every item from the bedding collection. Test me on this.
Anyway — decorating a nursery based on your fandom or putting your baby in onesies related to your hobbies and interests isn’t an issue, because babies don’t care. It won’t matter to your baby boy if his whole nursery is Star Wars themed, and your baby girl won’t even realize she’s in a “Future Hogwarts Student” onesie. But as they get older, they might care. Your energetic, matchbox car loving little boy might really want a Lightning McQueen bedspread rather than a Pokemon one. Your girly little princess might want to dress like a ballerina every day, and fight against the Gryffindor outfit. The beautiful thing with decor and clothing is they can be changed to reflect your growing humans interests — their name, however, is there to stay.
Imagine naming your daughter Hermione, and she grows up to (gasp) dislike Harry Potter. But now she is subjected to a lifetime of Harry Potter jokes, Harry Potter gifts, and Harry Potter themed parties because you projected your personal fandom onto her.
Don’t get me wrong — there are a lot of names that appear in popular franchises that aren’t exclusive to said franchises. You shouldn’t feel like you have to avoid the name Luke because of Luke Skywalker, or Alice because of Alice Cullen. But don’t be that weirdo naming your twins Fred and George, or using names that are *only* associated with your fandom, like Kylo Ren.
Basically, just let your kids grow up to be whoever they want to be, and develop their own interests and hobbies. Don’t pigeon hole them by sticking them with a name that’s only applicable to your fandom.
“Is…Air Wrecker? In class today?”
“It’s pronounced ‘Erica,’ my parents just spelled it Airwrecka.”
Look, I really don’t have an issue if people adjust the spelling for a name. And there are a lot of names that can be spelled different ways as is. Brittany and Brittney. Lindsay and Lindsey. Zoe and Zoey. That’s not the end of the world. But for the love of all this is good, don’t get out of control with it. You’re just setting your kid up for a lifetime of irritation — and no decent parent would willingly do that to their kid.
Imagine you have a pretty common, normal name. Like Tiffany. But your parents, being so clever in their own minds, change the spelling to Typhanie. You’re going to spend your entire life having to spell your name over and over and over again to random call center agents and receptionists and teachers and doctors and…literally every person in every situation where someone is required to write down your name. And it’s not just “My name is Katie, but with a C instead of a K.” It’s the entire dang name.
And I understand there are some names out there that are just difficult to spell. Example: One of my good friends named her little girl Poesie, which is the French spelling. It’s obviously different than plain old Posy, but it’s beautiful and easy enough to explain. Then you have Siobhan, which is on my baby name list. It’s pronounced like Sha-vonn, and a lot of people choose to spell it as Cheveon in order to make it less complicated. But the name has become common enough in many cultures that people aren’t as thrown off when they see it in the original form.
So all that to say: don’t shy away from a name you love just because the spelling is a bit unique. But don’t take a name and intentionally make it more complicated than it needs to be.
Names That Don’t Stand Alone
“Thank you Faniola. Or do you prefer to go by Fanny?”
“Please, no, just call me Nola. My parents intended for the nickname to be the most used name.”
I will never, ever, ever understand why parents name their children something if they don’t want their children called by that name. Or if there are obvious nicknames they don’t want people using. You can’t control the nicknames people choose — as my mom learned the hard way. She named my sister Elisabeth (specifically with the Old King James spelling with an “S”) and wanted her nickname to be Beth, since my mom doesn’t like the names Liz or Lizzy. But guess what? My mom can’t control what other people call Elisabeth. And growing up, about 50% of everybody we met called her Lizzy. Liz vs. Beth isn’t the end of the world, but imagine naming your kid Camaroon but only wanting him to go by Cam, and getting annoyed when he inevitably gets the nickname Roon or Roony. Or naming your kid a name you personally don’t even, like Gertrude, but thinking it’s fine because you’ll give her a pretty nickname. Wake up! Just give your kid a nice name to start with!
Okay, okay, so this is Lydia’s opinion on baby naming. She doesn’t have kids and probably never will, so it doesn’t matter what she thinks. Right?
Very true! My thoughts don’t really matter. But the name you pick for your kid does matter. You can go out and name your baby Shamalamadingdong or Goonaloonaboona and that’s your choice. It doesn’t impact me (aside from giving me a good laugh). But it does impact your kid, and if you’re letting your ego negatively impact your child, then you’re a bad parent literally right out of the gate.
But then again, bringing new life into the world is all about you, isn’t it?
And you might think they you are soooo clever coming up with these bizarre names, and people might leaves comments on your Instagram like “What an interesting name!” or “I’m not surprised you guys would pick such a unique name!” Man, they must really think you are so creative and cool. Right?
Trust me when I say, they do not like the name (even if they say they do). They are immediately going to their partner or friends and saying “You will NOT believe the absolutely bonkers baby name they chose…” So if your goal was to get people talking about you, congrats, you have succeeded. But at the expense of your kids dignity.
Let’s take a look at what some people across the world think of the outlandish baby name trend:
- “To be perfectly honest, I see those parents for what they are: narcissists who lack foresight.”
- “I don’t have a problem with names that are different or unusual, but I think that there’s definitely a line between ‘different’ and ‘ridiculous’, and unfortunately a lot of parents simply don’t care about that line.”
- “The parents look like idiots, but it’s the children who ultimately suffer the most.”
- “Naming their child wasn’t about the child, it was about them. Naming their child was an opportunity to show everybody how ‘unique’ and ‘special’ they are.”
- “I cringe when I hear all the stupid ‘clever’ names that have been hung on kids necks these days.”
- “It is nothing more than a very immature parent screaming ‘look how ironic and cool I am!’ it’s thoughtless and rather cruel to the kid.”
- “That they are treating their children as though they were toys or playthings; not thinking about the dignity or respect they will never have.”
- “Mommy and Daddy are living in their own little world. They are not thinking about how the child will feel as they grow up having to endure the mockery of having such a name.”
So there you have it. The outlandish name fad is definitely not a good one. You might think you are so clever and special and smart to pick such a far out, made-up name — but nobody else thinks you are cool for choosing that name. They think you are an egomaniac that had a kid for attention.
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