Monday, August 11, 2008

what's in a name?

I think now that August has hit it's fair to say the countdown is on. I have maybe 6 more weeks to go before hatching, and STILL we are almost totally blank as to what to name this mystery baby.

A friend of mine just had a baby boy, and she and her husband are at a total impasse as to his name. He'd like to name their baby after his brother, who committed suicide last year. She does not have the same rosy memories of this brother from childhood, and so primarily associates that name with the sad end of his life. And so the debate continues . . .

How much does a name affect a child's life? It's amazing all the criteria that come into play when choosing a name. Instinctively I think most parents want it to be 'cool' or 'unique' or something this new little person can feel proud of or inspired to live up to.

'How about naming the baby X?'
'Nope. That's the same name as a: former boyfriend, girlfriend, friend who went bad, loser in school, poorly made automobile, lesser State of the Union, city with high crime rate, etc.'

And OF COURSE you have to check for potential rhymes, to try and preempt and hopefully eliminate future school yard nicknames.

Katie and Alexander are both named after specific people, for specific reasons. #3 is giving us - probably mostly MOI - fits. The few names I'm coming up with that I like I am drawn to just because they sound 'cool,' and not for any other specific reason.

Does a person's name really matter for their future success in life? The authors of Freakonomics would argue no. Previous researchers attempting to measure the perception of different names sent out identical resumes, with either traditionally white names or more immigrant or minority-sounding names. The 'white' resumes always garnered more interviews. However, using regression analysis on data collected from birth certificates in CA from 1961 onward (data included obvious things such as gender, race, birth weight, name of parents and marital status, as well as zip code and method of payment - indicating socio-economic status - and education level) Levitt (Freakonomics, an economist) and Fryer (researcher who studies race) found a different result. (For a brief overview, check out this link from Slate.) While a person with a 'white' name fares better on average economically than one with a 'black' name, this is NOT due to the name itself. 'The kind of parents who name their son Jake don't tend to live in the same neighborhoods or share economic circumstances with the kind of parents who name their son DeShawn.'

The parents, or circumstances of the parents, matter, not the name. So I guess I can go with 'Tongue Depressor,' or 'Magnet,' safe in the knowledge that it's not the name that will mess my child up, but ME! :)

post script: I forgot what fun NAMETRACKER is. Just pop in the name you're curious about, and out pops a chart of popularity for the last century or so. Someone should have checked 'Alexander' and caught that total spike that peaked around 1990. If we can make the nickname transition to Xander before school starts, we'll be ok. :)

7 comments:

Stephanie F. said...

My father-in-law, a psychologist, had some serious worries when we told him we were going to name our son Kane. He didn't want him to get teased. And he worried about what kind of association it would have with Cain. Like he's going to kill his brother??? Kane is my mom's maiden name, and her family is great.
I totally stress about naming a baby. Are they going to like it? Will it fit their personality?
So anyway, good luck!
I like Madison & Claire. Boys names are too hard, I used my two choices with Asher & Kane.

MiaKatia said...

Ohhh Magnet is a great one ;) I guess it is good to know that I am going to be the one to mess them up and not the crazy name I pick out! I can't wait to show this post to Forrest. I have a boy and a girl name picked out for our "next" child. He HATES both, but I am dead set on both of them and I am pretty sure I will get my way. How is that for pushy ;) I think we were at Red Lobster (I can't get enough when I am pregnant, at least past the morning sickness phase) when we decided the names for both of the kids. Maybe a good date night out will help get the name noodle going.

Mo said...

I would give my opinion on the whole baby naming fiasco, but I've been told I am an utter failure in that department. My dad literally grumbles every time I use my girls' names. Apparently I have a nasty habit of bestowing upon my newborns names befitting 80-year-old women. Still, I forever will defend the virtues of classic names (like Katie and Alexander I might add - well done!) that haven't gone out of style in centuries. Keep us all posted! If you do want any potentially geriatric suggestions, let me know. Since we were forced to stop at two munchkins, I do have a couple of names in the hopper I am more than willing to share!

azufelt said...

We picked out all 3 of our names at or the nite before our delivery or hospital stay. #3 was quite the surprise since we did have a boy name picked, but not much for a girl, we were quick on our toes though.

I did think the other day of a boy name that I will use if we ever have a son (we don't have many more shots, if any!) But it shall remain unspoken for now, since I highly doubt TJ will go for it.

I don't think a name though can make a person more outgoing, or shy... I do believe it has more to do with their surroundings and upbringing than their name alone.

Disco Mom said...

yeah, don't worry, kat, it's totally you that's going to mess up your kids.

i like mia's story and i think you should name him or her red lobster, works for either gender. and you're lucky, almost anything sounds great with "young."

of course i say there's nothing wrong with "cool" names, or 80-year-old lady names, for that matter. while it's lovely to name a kid after someone, they can still feel proud of their name just because you gave it to them. i grew up a little annoyed having such a common name but the good spelling saved me, and i still really owned it because i knew my parents liked it so much. when we named hazel, it being such an old-fashioned name, many people asked if it was a family name, and i always answered, "it is now!"

also i was really pissed when someone told me i couldn't name our 2nd daughter ginger because then she couldn't be an executive someday. wanna bet? (after you kiss my butt...) what the...? anyway, she IS ginger and she can be whatever she wants to be because she's got awesome parents, so there!

so my naming rules, since you did not ask for them, are:
1) has to basically spell like it sounds
2) has to be a real name or at least a real word that's not too much of a stretch as a name (DANGER pushed it too far - yes, you and I both know someone who named their kid that)
3) cannot be in the top 20 for the year on the social security (or any other) list. now this is just my personal thing, always having many "carrie"'s in my classes and stuff. i'd like it to be fairly uncommon for the time. (i'm begging, begging you to not go with sophia, olivia or alexis for this reason!) ok, really i try to avoid the top 500 for the year but never say never.
4) the gender should be pretty obvious from the name - no boys named kelly or shannon, please, and no girls named ken or danny.

yeah, so like are you asking for name suggestions or what? because that's fun.

anyway, i don't think you should reject a name you really like because it doesn't have enough "meaning." you really liking it could be meaningful to the kid. you're the one that's going to have to say it 6 million times so pick one you like the sound of.

when my sister was pregnant last year our other sister found a funny blog post about baby naming, and the comments were just as funny. i will find it and send it to you, maybe you'll get some ideas.

MiaKatia said...

Zoey being such a popular name is one of my biggest regrets with naming Zoey. I wish her name were more unique and also not a name of a Disney tv character. I think all parents should be warned to watch tween TV to eliminate names when naming kids. But that being said I love her name for her and it really fits her and her personality.

kat said...

another friend told me that her husband's brothers got all in her face because she DIDN'T name her daughter after their mother. HELLO! since when do boys even CARE about the name? ;) and if they want to name a kid after their mom, shouldn't they go ahead and do that with their OWN kids? people are silly.

ginger can't be an executive? that's just stupidity. one of the coolest gals i know is named ginger, and she does quite well, thank you very much.

younce, i basically have the same naming rules as you do, except that i obviously don't check the popularity charts. :) none of the wacky spelling/mixed gender nonsense for me. nor cars or states (virginia doesn't count, because the state was named for the PERSON, and not the other way around) nor random nouns.

margaret and i were chatting today about how much easier it is to shoot down names than to come up with good ones. so YES, by all menas, i'm looking for suggestions, but just know that hyper-picky kat will have her pot-shots at the ready. :)