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What’s In A Name?

(Part I, Three-Part Series)

Face it — we’re branded at birth. We emerge from the womb with features that influence how others perceive us, from day one until the last. A birth certificate is the next defining brand moment. Because a name is such an indelible part of one’s identity, selecting a baby name creates high parental anxiety: Is the name too unique? Is it difficult to pronounce? Will I suffer baby name remorse?

The impulse to give your child a name that expresses his or her heritage is entirely understandable; the same goes for giving new life to the name of a cherished relative. But since the names we give our children brand them from playground to workplace, naming deserves undivided attention.

Naming isn’t what it used to be: The once-simple task of coming up with a moniker has become exhausting. These days it’s about wanting your child to stand out from the crowd. While parents cringe at the idea that their child could be the third “Jackson” in their class, they also don’t want the name to be too different.

Data from the Social Security Administration, which tracks baby names, validates this. Whereas only 5% of babies had names outside of the 1,000 most popular names in 1950, this number surpasses 25% today.

There’s also a growing body of research that indicates names can impact one’s success. That’s right: choosing the wrong name can impact academic and career success, and also influence behavioral issues.

We want to give our kids better chances of everything, from excelling in school to climbing the corporate ladder. In this three-part blog series, I interview prominent baby-naming experts as well as academics and psychologists who explore correlations between baby names and future success. In the third post, I curate a list of resources and online tools for baby naming and more.

Ready to do some name-storming? Consider the following as you contemplate baby names:

1) Keep it short and easy to pronounce. In a New York University study,researchers found that people with easier-to-pronounce names often have higher-status positions at work. 

2) Consider how the first and last names sound together. Alliteration (like Sophia Sopher) is a too matchy, and rhyming names (like Dwight White) are a definite no-no. If your last name is already long or complicated, you may want to go easy on the first-name syllables.

3) Take nicknames into account. Consider both the long and short versions of your child’s name —your child may pick up the nickname regardless of your preference.

4) Honor tradition. Many opt to name their child after a meaningful family member. Compromise is the “name” of the game here. Get creative with the way you use family names and contemplate combining them. For example, if his mom is Olivia and yours is Rose, try Olivia-Rose!

5) Inclined toward unique names? If originality is important to you, check out the 100 top baby name list — and then choose something else. Just be careful about going overboard, as an extremely unusual name can bring your child unwanted attention.

6) Analyze the meaning. Parents often choose a name with a special meaning. For example, you may feel mixed about Anya until you learn it means “bringing goodness.” Another source of inspiration is ethnicity (Celtic, Greek, etc.) or historical associations, like a president or celebrated artist.

7) Oh, the places your child will go! There has been a rise in first names that have traditionally been the name of a city or country. Madison and Charlotte, for example, were among the top 20 baby names for 2017.

8) Are initials all that? Yes! Consider what your child’s initials will spell. You certainly don’t want your daughter or son’s initials to be YUK. Also of note: Those who use their middle initial are perceived as more intelligent (European Journal of Social Psychology, 2014).

9) For history buffs. If you like old names, check out historical cemetery websites.  One such site is National Historic Landmark Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, NY. It was one of the first rural cemeteries in the U.S. and is home to 560,000 permanent residents, including Leonard Bernstein, Charles Ebbets, baseball legends, artists, and inventors.

10) Public vs. private.  If you have intrusive and opinionated friends or family, you may opt to keep the name a secret during pregnancy — simply tell them you are undecided. 

11) Consider a well-chosen middle name. Many of us end up taking on our middle name because we dislike our first name, so choose well.

12) Names that age well. Naming experts agree that when you pick a name, imagine your child in a professional situation. A name that suits an adorable baby — like Trixie — might seem ridiculous when your child is an adult. 

13) Consider how sibling names sound together. Make sure that the selected baby name “sings” with his or her siblings by saying the names together. And avoid matchy names like “Jack and Jill.”

14) Are you an avid reader or film buff? Consider naming your baby after a character from your favorite book or movie. For example, Demi Moore and Bruce Willis named their daughter Scout after the child in “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

Be sure to check-out Part 2 tomorrow as I turn to baby naming experts for more name-storming.

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