What’s in a Name?

Once a matter of tradition, choosing a name for your baby has now become a competitive event. Whether it be obscure, newly minted, or an unusual spelling of a common name, the race to come up with the most unique name is on, but is this really the time and place to flaunt your apparent creativity?

As with all trends, the celebrities did it first. On the surface this seams reasonable, these are people who have devoted their lives to their art, of course they are going to come up with something creative to call their offspring. Though beneath this seemingly narcissistic act, one must wonder what it would be like to live in the shadow of a famous parent while trying to live up to a name so trendily unpopular.

Records show that parents started giving their children uncommon names around the end of World War II, but the practice didn’t hit trend status until the nineties and has been gaining momentum ever since. The popular belief today is that giving you baby a unique name will help them stand out from the crowd and give them the best possible start in life. Recent studies and statistics tell a different tale.

A recent survey of British parents has found that not only do ten percent of children dislike their tailor-made name, but ten percent of parents have also come to dislike the unique name they choose for their child. A third of parents reported feeling frustrated with the high frequency of people struggling to spell and pronounce their child’s name correctly. If you’ve ever experienced a large amount of people having a hard time with your unoriginal name, just image how these kids are going to feel. What’s worse is, twenty percent of parents polled said that their child’s name has caused problems for that child a school. In fact, fourteen percent of children with abstract names have requested a name change before the age that they can legally change it on their own.

Identity is a large aspect of healthy human psychology, for a child, their name is a big part of their identity. It is too early on in the trend to tell how having an unusual name will influence a child’s development, either positively or negatively. The general speculation is that a fashionably-unfashionable name really only works if the person it belongs to can live up to it. I speculate that these names really only accomplish what the parents intended to do when they applied the unique brand to their child if the name is by literal definition – unique. When every kid in the kindergarten class sits down with rare name, who among them is truly unique?

My personal taste is for old-fashioned names that were once common but have lost their presence today. By the time I have a child to name, and little Betty and Johnny are sitting in a room full of Paisley, Paxton, Petunia and lets not forget Rylie, Rileigh, and Rhylee, the tables will be turned and they could be the ones with the odd names. Though I could follow tradition and give my child family names, naming my son after my father and my fiancé’s father…. I can see it now, sitting down with his teacher as she looks me in the eye and says, “Mrs. Harrison, I’m afraid James Dean isn’t playing well with the Rylie’s.”

When it all comes down to it, the rising of this trend in unique baby names begs the question: would that which we call a rose, by any other name, really smell as sweet?