Baby Names

What's in a name? Way too much where babies are concerned.

According to the Wall Street Journal, parents are obsessing over what to name their kids. They're hiring consultants, applying mathematical formulas and software programs and even bringing in nutty spiritualist types.

One couple hired a pair of consultants to draw up a list of suggestions based on "phonetic elements, popularity and ethnic and linguistic origins."

One woman paid a "nameologist" $350 for three half-hour phone calls and a personalized manual describing each name's history and personality traits.

Another spent $475 on a numerologist to see if her favorite name had positive associations, whatever the heck that means.

Why the obsession over child names? One baby-naming expert says that we live in a market-oriented society. That by giving your kid the right name — the right branding, if you will — he or she will have a head start in life.

Oh, brother.

Look, I know these parents mean well. I know they're trying to do what is best for their kids. I know they think a special name will help the rest of the world know how special their kid is.

But they're doing more harm than good.

Take one couple. Mom and dad went to great lengths to come up with this name: Beckett. The name sounds reliable and stable, says the proud dad. The "C-K" sound is very well regarded in corporate circles, he says. The hard stop forces one to accentuate the syllable that draws attention to it, he continues.

But he overlooked a very important consideration: Beckett is going to be getting wedgies well into his 40s.

 I'm no expert on child rearing, but, it seems to me, if you want to give your kid a leg up in life, it's better to give him a simple, traditional name, not one that stands out.

I'm 45, at the tail end of the baby boom, and here are the names of my high school friends: Tom, John, Jeff, Bill, Bob, Rich and Tim. We had one Clint and he has a brother named Reid, but that was as daring as things got in those days. Any of these are good names for boys.

As for girls, why not use my sister's names: Kathy, Krissy, Lisa, Mary and Jennifer. How about Lauren, Linda, Elizabeth or Sandy. Or, if you want to get bold, go back a few generations to the early 1900's: Gertrude, Helen, Ruth, Margaret and Beatrice (my grandmother).

The reason why is simple. If you really want your kid to be special, a name is not going to do it. Your kid is going to have to earn it. She is going to have to work hard and sacrifice. She'll have to try and fail and eventually find her place — find whatever she's good at — and then work harder to develop her talents.

It will be easier to do that if she is humble — and it will be easier for her to be humble if she doesn't have some goofy name that makes her think she's precious and special and God's gift to the universe (such as Nevaeh, which is heaven spelled backwards.)

It's nobody's fault that we're screwing up kids' names — we're screwing up a lot of things. We're doing it because we're able to. We're able to because the American experiment has produced untold wealth — we're free to shift our focus from trying to subsist, as our parents did, to fretting over what to name our kid.

We have to knock it off. 

I was lucky my parents named me Tom. That is my dad's name, too. I knew early on I had to live up to it. With such a name, I never took myself too seriously — I knew I wasn't the center of anybody's universe. I turned out half decent as a result. And I never did get a wedgie.

I doubt things would have turned out that well if my name was Zayden or Michelle or Gilad.

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  • Guest

    Contrived and phoney names from a generation that thrives on contraversy and disassociation with something bigger than "me". Permanence, and Kinship are not trademarks made in China. Members of this society are fed a different gospel. When attending a banquet, go seat yourself at the head table and fight for the spot. That's how you will garner wealth and notoriety. The next generation will dare to be different and discover the name Joe and Mary.

    Goral

  • Guest

    My mom was reading the classic novel "Ramona" by Helen Hunt when she was pregnant with me, and loving the heroine's name she gave it to me.  I grew up hating it because it was so unusual, and gave myself numerous other "cooler" nicknames.  I was always the most unpopular geek in school.  But as an adult I came to discover that it was pretty neat to have a different name.  It never made me think I was anything special; I worked hard to earn my rewards.  But I have come to enjoy the fact that whenever I leave a phone message I rarely have to leave a last name…and they always know who called!   

  • Guest

    A comment we get a lot……"Are ALL yours kids names from the Bible??"

    Even Father pastor:  "Jude Augustine??  Couldn't you find some snazzy soap opera name?  You had to reach back to an old saint?" ;)

  • Guest

    I agree with Tom to a point.  A name does matter, but not in the way the "market" suggests.  Biblical examples abound regarding the importance of names starting with the naming of the Christ.  "He will be called "Jesus" for he will "save his people".  Isaac was so named because Sarah laughed behind the tent wall. Essau, means the "ruddy one".  Abraham, Sarah, Paul, and Peter all had their names changed to reflect their new covenant relationship with God.  John the Baptist's dad even lost his speech for daring to question the name chosen for his First Born Son.  Therefore, choosing the correct name, or rather following God's Will in the naming of a child, is an important duty to your child.

    My husband and I have had the privelege of naming many children.  It is always a fun process which results in a name that reflects who we are as parents at that moment in time and, in a way, brands (to use Tom's word) our kids as belonging to God.

    The children's names reflect family heritage, biblical heroes and saints.  Some names hint at where we were on our spiritual journey, our love for rhythme and sensitivity for sound.  One child's name stands as a beacon of hope against the crumbling World Trade Center towers. 

    For instance our family's Scandanavian heritage resulted in the name Kirsten for one child.  Her middle name was to be Marie-Therese after the Blessed Mother and The Little Flower.  However, she was born on the night of the opening ceremonies of the Lillihamer Olympics in Norway.  A Finnish cross country skier parading by was named "Marja", the Finnish equivalent of "Marie".  Therefore, my child's middle name became "Marja-Therese".

    Kirsten, my fourth child, was to have been named "Rebekah" after Isaacs wife:  "And there was the Beautiful Rebekah coming to the well to draw water", my husband read many a night to our children.  After a bible study of Genesis I could not name a child after the coniving Rebekah!  However, 2 years later, upon reflection, I realized that God works His plan through fallen people. If Rebekah was good enough to be the mother of Jacob and the grandmother of the Tribes of Israel, who was I to reject her?

    One son carries a double first name:  those of his father and grandfather.  Another is named after the musical King David.  (This child happens to be a pianist too, is a strapping teen, but tempered with a Servant's Heart.)  It turns out he was aptly named.

    Another was born on the Feast of the Annunciation.  Luke Gabriel seemed appropriate!  Plus he stands as a reminder of God's Incarnation as a one celled human being thereby elevating and perfecting human life at all stages.

    Most poignantly, is the child I named in utero after the attacks of

    9-11-2001.  As I sat in my 15 passenger van about two weeks after the attack, I tearfully cried  out to God, "Why are we bringing more children into this God forsaken world?"  He clearly answered that all children are a sign of hope.  That the victory has been won in the crucified and resurrected Christ, by Jesus (for he will save his people).  My 8th child became Lydia Hope. Lydia was St Paul's first convert and a strong woman in her own right. Plus she was a merchant of purple clothe and I love purple!  Hope reminds me to always rejoice in the hope that is ours through Christ Jesus.  Despair is of the Evil One.

    I do not know what my new little girl will be named.  However, I am certain that she will be branded as belonging to Christ through Mary!

    Got any Catholic baby name books for me to peruse? 

    Now I must go tend to baby Grace!

  • Guest

    Goral,

    I wish I could be as succinct as  you!

    Thanks!

  • Guest

    Yes!  Even though Shakespeare asked "What's in a name", we know that the ancient Hebrews, for instance,  realized that a name was pretty significant.  the best-known example:   Jesus' name means "Saviour" — pretty appropriate!  Smile  I wince sometimes at the cutesy-poo, soap opera names parents inflict on their newborns.  My own Christian name is Patricia.  As a child, I was called "Patsy", and grew up hating that.  Later I began to insist on being called "Pat", and found out that Patricia actually means "Noble lady" Cool!   Naming a child after a saint will provide an opportunity to grow in faith by becoming acquainted with the specific saint (iin my case, Patrick), and taking the saint as a role model.  What kind of a role model does a name like "Tiffany" or "Kyle" provide?  BTW, my husband's name in Tom, as well.  AFAIK, he didn't get many wedgies at school either! Laughing

  • Guest

    What were my parent's thinking? They were Jehovah's Witnesses and then they went and named me Mary Elizabeth!  Surely God was intending me to become Catholic all along. LOL!

  • Guest

    CoolI agree with elkabrikir … names are important when they are given for the right reason, but care should be taken to not label a child with an inappropriate or difficult name just for the sake of trying to be "different" or "original".  I was named after one of my dad's old girlfriends so I know what "inappropriate' means and, as a business-owner, I think I've seen every spelling of Ashley / Ashli / Ashlie / Ashly / Ash-Leigh, etc that I might ever want to see.  Elkabrikir expressed my opinion on this matter perfectly … so all I can say is DITTO!

  • Guest

    Denise "….May we come to share in the divinity of Christ who humbled Himself to share in our humanity."

  • Guest

    Sorry, first post didn't come out. I think as Catholics we should stick to naming our kids after saints. Names like Andrew, Matthew, John for boys; Elizabeth, Mary, etc for girls. If you want to get brave, maybe Sixtus, for a middle name of course ;-)

    Denise

  • Guest

    Thanks for the fun article. My husband and I didn't make lists or open books. We decided to just discover those names that settled in our hearts and took hold. Surprising what turned up! In hindsight I'm thankful we took that approach and as it so happened our son Andrew was born on the feast of St. Andrew, our son Peter was born within three days of the feast of St. Peter and Paul, and our twin girls Nina and Eva were due on the feast of St. Nina (a 4th Century Saint who evangelized Iberia) although they came three months early. After Eva died, Nina took her sister's name thus becoming Nina Eva-Melissa.

  • Guest

    God loves you .

    My wife Sharon (from Sarah, the Princess, of course) and I named our daughter Helena, in the Old World expression with the ‘a’ sound on the second ‘e’. She was named after a wonderful great-grandma she would never meet this side of heaven. And, it is taken from the ancient Hellenic (meaning ‘of light’) word for ‘light’. When she was a baby I would lullaby her with Cardinal Newman’s soft hymn of profound trust, ‘Lead Thou, Kindly Light’.

    Now a Mom, Helena wonders about trying for more kids so she can have a Leah to go with her Rachel; a manner both wondrous and dramatic for linking sister to sister. Not really a religious person, still, these two names stick in Helena’s head (and heart?) like a mild compulsion. I would dearly love to see Rachel hold her little Leah in her lap, Helena of the Light leaning over their persons.

    The Testaments are rife with great and powerful names; the Church martyrology has another gold mine of them; every family has old, dear, tried and true names. These are the only ‘expert help’ we need on naming each wonderful child of God.

    Remember, I love you, too

    Reminding that we are all on the same side – His,

    Pristinus Sapienter

    (wljewell @catholicexchange.com or … yahoo.com)

  • Guest

    Leah,

    you have a beautiful name!

    I'm sorry for the loss of your little Eva.  How beautiful that her name lives on in her twin!

    Pristinus Sapienter:  We've thought of "your" name Helena over the course of several girls.  Maybe we'll finally see the "light" this time!

  • Guest

    We named our son after an uncle of mine. 

    My uncle's name is Charles, but since my wife is originally from Chile, we named our boy Carlos, and my uncle Charles was very Ok with that!

     : )

     

     

  • Guest

    Mary Kochan

    I've thought exactly that about you: "How did that Jehovah's Witness little girl get such a Catholic name ?!?!?"  Smile

     

     

  • Guest

    Elkabrikir, you were succinct in your second comment, thanks. It's in the name: Frank and to the point, my grandfather's by the way. Most of us spell our surname and our street. Why in God's name (sorry) do we want to spell our first name also.

    Goral

  • Guest

    As an OB nurse – I've seen my share of unusual names: Orange'jello & Lemon'jello (twins), Meconium, Nosmoking (no smoking!), and Placentae. Makes me cringe to think of what little Meconium is going through in school!

  • Guest

    Great article!

    It confirms my own bias about finding a guy called "Butch" going around and later finding out his name is "Wellington Farquar" or something.

    We had lots of Bill, Bob, Tom, Jim, Nancy, Carol, Sue and Karen names when I was a kid in school.  I can't even find these names in grown-ups now. Where'd they go?

  • Guest

    Tom, Tom, Tom.  Where DID you go to school?!  Tsk, tsk.

    My oldest daughter will be 45 in the autumn, so I know exactly the time you mention.  Every other kid born in my vacinity was being named some form of Kelly (Kellie, Kelli, Kellee, etc.) or Tracy or Jody (same "forms"), not because they were "In" names but because–literally, because–they were "unisex" names: you couldn't tell by the name if the kid was a boy or a girl!  My daughter went to several different schools, and I'd go in and ask how many were "Kelly", "Tracy" or "Jody" and, invariably, only one or two other children, besides my Susan, did not raise their hands!  Johnny Cash to the contrary, I wanted a strong, feminine name for my daughter…..and she is a strong, feminine, practical woman.

    Dearest Elkabriker, I'd be shocked if you chose a "cutsey-poo" name (you don't strike me as that kind of woman), but here's the clue I always used in picking a name: How is this child going to feel about his/her name when he/she is 75?

  • Guest

    Cooky,

    my funniest naming experience came when I was pregnant with my first child and teaching Global Studies in an inner city middle school.

    I had written "Latvia, Lithuwania, and Estonia" on the board.  Some girls came in and said, "Ah!  Them's beautiful names, which one you gonna pick for yo baby?"

    Needless to say, she was named and called Elisabeth after St Elisabeth of Hungary, and given her grandparent's last name as her middle name!

    I still get a good chuckle out of their sincerity!

  • Guest

    As for those who have choosen to employ and pay various "name experts", PT Barnum had it right when he said "There is a sucker born every minute."

    As funny as it is, it is also really quite sad to see a group of people so without any kind of a rudder that they don't even know how to choose a name for a child.

    It reminds me of when the comedian Jackie Mason remarked – on the recent popularity of the Chinese philosophy and art of Feng Sui – that we in the western world and the US in particular, who once managed to put down the nazis, put a man on the moon, and later beat the communists, have now become so post-modernistic and sensitive that we don't even know how to arrange our furniture.

    ¡LOL!

    Of course there is nothing wrong with the art of Feng Shui, or with asking for ideas about what to name a child.  Put to actually lack the confidence that we could read a book and do these sorts of things ourselves is in itself telling.

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