What do you think about…

Or You’re Going to Call Your Baby What? (Part 1)

About this time last year, we started to get serious about the whole baby name thing. We had a great list for boys, but let’s face it, Jenn was not going to let me name our daughter Strong-O. So we started down the path that all expectant parents eventually wander onto — the one that leads to that section of the book store titled “Baby Names.” It’s a horribly stupid section where books truly can be judged by their cover. 90,001 Baby Names always trumps 40,000 Baby Names that Work For You! And who would waste their time with The Absolute Best 1,000 Names for Your Baby? Only those that can’t count. (In the spirit of full disclosure, I’ll admit that we bought a baby name book — but not one with a numeric title.)

You also have to be careful not to hang out there too long because all the quiet murmuring will drive you crazy. Not at first, but eventually you will wake up screaming, the faint whispers of “Jacob? no… Olivia? no… Ryan? no… Madison? no… Genevieve?… Tatum?… Deandre?… Deandre?… Deandre?…” still echoing in your head.

We were driven by one overriding principle – not another Jennifer. That is to say, not another name that occurred with the same frequency as Jennifer did for babies born back in the 70’s. Our guide was the Social Security Administration – specifically the Popular Baby Names database that aggregates the top 1000 most frequently occurring names for every decade of this past century. (Since 1990, you can see the breakdown for each year.)

If you visit Most Popular Names of the 1970’s, you’ll see that smack at the top of the list is Jennifer. It was the most popular name of the whole decade, and that explains why there were always between 3 and 25 Jennifers in every class from Kindergarten to High School. Jenn didn’t want our daughter to have to go through that sort of identity dilution. I was more fortunate; Benjamin was only the 42nd most popular.

The names that we were initially drawn to were somewhat disappointingly at the top of the 2002 list. In retrospect, it isn’t that surprising; those names probably seeped into our heads because they were popular. At any rate, we tried to delve a little deeper with the ultimate goal of striking a balance between an unique name and an albatross.

As we discovered, it’s difficult to decide on a name in a vacuum. It’s even worse to start asking other people.

Coming tomorrow: Well, then how about…

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13 Responses to What do you think about…

  1. John says:

    Funny- I was thinking about Trixie’s full first name – Beatrix – just yesterday, because a namesake – Beatrice – is a favorite character of mine in Dante’s Divine Comedy.

  2. jennifer says:

    Oh do I feel the pain of “jennifer”. i was born in 1971 and my dad thought he was being original by suggesting jennifer lynn. needless to say, he was not. i remember trying to decide what to name my daughter and thinking the exact same thing as you guys. i did not want to go the brittany or tiffany (or jennifer –lol) route either. anyway, i now have a 4-year old callie grace. and i think trixie is probably one of the cutest names around. 🙂

  3. RandomGenericName says:

    We don’t have kids yet, but lately we’ve already been talking about what names we like for children. I’ve noticed that some names that seem so cute for a baby boy just don’t seem to work for when he becomes a grown man.

    I’ve also noticed that when talking with a stranger who has a baby I usually end up asking “What’s his/her name?” and then whenever they respond, I usually say something like “That’s beautiful!”
    I guess whenever you’re looking at a baby and you hear it’s name, you can’t help but love the baby and the name that goes with it.

  4. Jennifer says:

    I am another Jennifer Lynn, product of the 70s. I will never forget how in 4th grade there were 4 Jennifers in my class. There were 3 variations of Jennifer available (Jennifer, Jenny, and Jen) and the fourth Jennifer (me) had to go by a nickname not of her own choosing, “Pinky.”

    My husband has an unusual name so he came from the opposite side of the issue, he wanted something that wasn’t too different. We decided on Katrina, it’s a family name and we can call our daughter Katie as a child and Katrina as a very acceptable grown up name.

  5. hannah says:

    Yeah for Trixie! The only thing I don’t love about her name is the guilt it inspires in me for naming our daughter “Sophie.” I mean, I love her name, but so do too many others. Every time I hear someone else on the playground calling “Sophie” and it’s not MY Sophie, I cringe. How dare my unique and one-of-a-kind girl be forced to share her name w/so many others. Trixie will not have this problem. We shoulda gone w/Luna or Mira or one of our other made up names . . . Unfortunately, next baby will have to make up in name strangeness what Sophie lacks. Welcome Jeronimo Flaxseed Feierman . . .

  6. Iowa Dave says:

    Wow, Hannah. We’re expecting, and have been considering Sophie (in fact, my wife’s dead set on it). Now, if I know her, I won’t be able to change her mind. I can only try. Gently, now…gently…

    Actually, I remember kind of liking it that there were lots of Davids in my class in the 70s. As I recall, the other Davids were popular so maybe I felt I could argue that I was too.

  7. “Beatrix, call her Trixie” was on the short list for our little girl. It’s such a great name! We ended up going with Hazel. That’s a love it or hate it kind of name – generally my mother’s generation and older hates it and our generation loves it . . . or at least pretends to love it.

  8. Dave says:

    my wife and i are expecting our first child. we know what the first names boy or girl will be and for the middle names we are very, very close to agreement. while we intend to find out the sex of the baby and tell everyone, i strongly do not want to tell anyone the names in advance of the birth. my wife thought that was weird but has given in on this point.

    did anyone else not feel strongly about keeping the sex of the baby secret, but at the same time thought that saving the “identity” of the child for a birthtime announcement would be very special? i know i look forward to greeting the family in the hospital and saying “you have a grandchild and her/his name is “xxxxx”.


  9. Cynthia says:

    We also kept our baby’s name a secret, even though we had decided on it a month before she was born. We actually had a Beatrice/Pia debacle (yes, that is what it is now called) when we mentioned some names we were thinking about to our families and they, well, disagreed with our tendencies. So we determined that we weren’t going to tell anyone what the name was until the baby was born and the paperwork was done. Too bad for them. It worked out great.

    It is much easier to criticize a hypothetical name than your actual grandchild’s name. We should have used this strategy from the beginning.

  10. Bill Brown says:

    We went with more traditional names for our two daughters: Annie and Kimberly. If we had a boy, I wanted to go with Henry or Scuben (a smashup of Ruben and Scott: my wife thinks it’s nuts and the kid’s nickname—Scoobie—would probably get him teased mercilessly).

  11. Lennon's Dad says:

    Obviously, my son’s name is Lennon and we went through the complexities of deciding “how” unusual we wanted to get. Odd as it sounds, we accepted Lennon because even though it is not a traditional name, it “sounds” like a traditional name … if that makes any sense. We kept the name a secret, frankly in part to avoid people trying to talk us out of it. I was pleasantly surprised at all the positive reactions (even behind my back .. i hear the stories~), particularly from my parents.

    We also had the entire “nickname, no nickname, force no nickname” debate (I do NOT want anyone to call him “Lenny”, but if he’s old enough and decide he likes that better, than it’s his call), and I hope Trixie will learn to appreciate the effort and uniqueness, just as i pray Lennon will. Keep in mind that those first few years of school, every teacher will call out roll call with her as Beatrix tho~

  12. Angie says:

    I had my daughter in 84 and led off the Ashely wave:) She is now a mom herself with 2, a girl Wynter Gwenivere and a boy Phoenix Cobain, if there is another with the same name in their class when they go to school it will be a miracle!

  13. We had the same concern you did, and were also going through the SSA webpages to make sure we had no disasters that way! Nice to see another parent doing that.