Picking the Name(s)!


I think one of the most exciting parts of learning you’re expecting is the realization that you get to pick a name for the little guy/girl.  The entire universe of baby names is yours to choose from, and it’s fun to think about the endless possibilities.  Then the realization starts to sink in that whatever name you choose, your child is going to carry with them for their entire lives.  You realize that the name you select for your child can impact the way the world sees them and the way they interact with the world.  And finally, you realize that the name you select is going to say a lot about you as a person and a parent.  It’s going to be a signal to everyone about what you as a parent care about and what you want in and for your child.

I don’t really love the Freakeconomics trend in economics, but the chapter on baby names from the original book has stuck with me. Economists Stephen Levitt and Stephen Dubner try to disentangle the impact names can have on the future of the child.  I don’t remember the exact details of the original text other than they find a family with children named “Winner” and “Loser.”  In the book, Winner becomes a loser and Loser becomes a successful member of the NYPD (disclaimer, this may not be a 100% accurate representation of original, but that’s the general idea).  When I was looking for a copy of that story I found this brief paper discussing the class association with different names. Similarly, this short article lays out some problems with current name trends, and how ridiculous the spellings are becoming (warning: a bit crude).



And these issues matter to us as parents.  Speaking for myself, I feel an overwhelming sense of responsibility to select a name that my child won’t resent me for, that people won’t make fun of them about (although I am convinced young children can find reason to make fun of any name), while still giving them their own identity.  So when Michelle and I found out we were expecting we started a short list of names, a couple for boys and a couple for girls.

AND THEN WE FOUND OUT WE WERE HAVING TWINS!   Oh boy, talk about a double heaping of responsibility. It was tough for me to keep thinking about names when we didn’t know genders and had to potentially come up with two girls names, two boys names, or one of each.  So we took a brief break.  But now that we know we know we are expecting girls, we are back on the Name Game Train.  A couple of considerations that were important to me personally:

  • My initials are D.D.D, and everyone in my immediate family’s name starts with a D.  Unfortunately, Michelle ruined this fun trend so this isn’t a consideration.  That said, it was kind of fun and something that ties our family together might be cute.
  • We would like to avoid a name from the top 10 most popular lists.  Not because I have a problem with the names in and of themselves, but because I always found it tedious when I was in a class or camp with a bunch of people by the same name.  This always led to nicknames, at which point you should have just given your kid the nickname instead of their real name.
  • We also want to avoid a super uncommon/unique name.  Again, not that I have any real problem with unique names and spellings, but I would like to pick a name common enough that teachers, new acquaintances, and their future boss don’t have trouble puzzling out how to pronounce it. Nothing more stressful than being a teacher on the first day of class trying to figure out how to pronounce a child’s name correctly.
  • We would like to incorporate some homage to our families. Especially Michelle’s since she took my last name. And since my Mom is gone, it would be nice to do something to honor her as well. With twins we have a better chance of doing so for both sides!
  • We would like the first name, middle name, and last name to sound good together.  Of course this is mostly subjective and a matter of repetition, but the way names look and sound as a whole is something we are definitely considering.
  • We would like to avoid cultural appropriationA lot has been written about this. While I find it a bit silly, especially in the US where we pride ourselves on multiculturalism, I think it wouldn’t be kind to our future children to stick them with a name that’s usually associated with a cultural group of which they are not a member.

Other than that, we just wanted names we LIKED.  That still leaves a huge list of names left to explore.  Michelle purchased The Baby Name Wizard book as a starting point. I relied on web searches and eventually landed on the Social Security Administrations list of popular names.  This website is awesome because it allows you to search by year, decade, and state.  It also allows you to track the popularity of a name over time.  I found myself looking for names ranked between 50-150 for recent popularity, as I felt this range is where you’re not going to wind up with three children with the same name in every class, but also they will be common enough the teacher won’t struggle to pronounce it.

We have come up with a short list of names that we really like. We are currently trying them out over the next few weeks to make sure they work for us.  However, we won’t be sharing them yet, and might not until they actually arrive.  As all parents eventually realize, EVERYONE has an opinion on names.  For now, the only opinions that matter to us are our own, so we will try to avoid sharing to avoid the criticisms and “helpful suggestions” that inevitably follow.


6 thoughts on “Picking the Name(s)!

  1. As a child, I liked that my name was different and that it had 3 sets of double letters, something no one else I knew could claim, but I wished it had a letter that fell below the baseline so I’d have a “cooler” signature. I got that by becoming a Drayer. The name Charlotte, was so rare among my age group that I didn’t find another Charlotte my age until I was a college student when there were 3 of us in the outfield at an anthropology majors softball game/picnic in the state of Wisconsin in the summer of 1971. Now there are baby Charlottes everywhere! Finally! I retire and my name becomes popular!


  2. Good call keeping mum on names. 🙂 Oftentimes the baby’s personality upon arrival will provide the final determining factor. We look forward to their arrival.


  3. Derek, great read. The next PhD should be English. (U of Iowa #1 creative writing program in the nation!) Maybe you could share an office with Patrick.

    Liked by 1 person

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