7 Things to Consider Before Choosing a Baby Name, According to Experts
Choosing the perfect baby name is deeply personal, but for a handful of experts who specialise in the field, it’s an art. Enter the new fleet of professional baby namers, people tasked with scouring thousands of options to find the best moniker. Sherri Suzanna, founder of New York–based service My Name for Life, says it’s taken years to refine her “discovery interview,” the questions she asks people who seek her help. “Parents often find it difficult to characterise the types of names they like—it’s like asking someone to explain why they like the colour blue or red,” she tells MyDomaine. “So, I’ve developed a variety of techniques to help identify style preferences, naming parameters, and even sources of naming anxiety.”
To make it a bit easier, we called on Suzanna’s expertise to create a simple list for soon-to-be parents. Don’t choose a name before asking these seven vital questions.
Suzanna says one of the key objective criteria when talking to parents about their ideal baby name is popularity ranking—Is the name you have in mind common, and would you mind if many other children share that moniker? According to the Social Security Administration, the most popular baby names in America are Emma and Noah, so parents should consider these options with caution.
Considering popularity rankings could also be important to parents who hope their child will be in the public eye. A Swiss agency called Erfolgswelle checks their client’s preferred names haven’t been trademarked and are different from world leaders and celebrities.
“Imagine the name in real-world circumstances. A name that seems nice on paper may not work well in daily life,” Suzanna cautions. “Lift your name candidates off the page and test them out loud to make sure they can be said with confidence.”
Imagining your chosen name in different real-life situations is vital for selecting a “strong” option, according to some experts. Albert Mehrabian, a psychology professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, goes so far as to argue the sound of some names could sabotage your child’s chance at success. According to Mehrabian’s science-backed Baby Name Report Card, the name Polly scores 12% in the success category and 87% for popular/fun. While few experts agree on a set method, considering your child’s name in a professional and social context could help you settle on the most appropriate option.
Trends come and go, but it’s important that parents realise the decision to name their child is forever. Last year, we saw a rise in European monikers like Lilou and Baptiste, while the predictions for 2016 include boys names for girls (think Blake and Taylor) and tech options. If you’re considering Pixel, Chip, or Siri, ask yourself, Will I still love this name in 10 years’ time? A trend-driven choice could seem dated in a matter of months.
Suzanna points out that for some parents, having a name that can be pronounced by relatives who speak a different language is vital. “If parents want a name that can be pronounced the same way by family in America and Brazil, I need to brush up on my Portuguese!” she says.
Before you settle on a name, consider how your relatives or close friends might pronounce it. For example, ‘V’ doesn’t exist in Spanish, and Japanese natives may have trouble saying names like Lucy and Liam, as their alphabet tends to combine the sound of ‘L’ with ‘R.’
Considering crafting your own unique name? Suzanna advises her clients against inventive spelling for the sake of individuality. “Avoid inventing obscure and convoluted spellings just to be different,” she says. “I’m not referring to recognised alternative spellings—many names have more than one accepted spelling as a result of passing through different languages. I’m cautioning against creating a phonetic spelling just to express your individuality. If you want to be original, better to pick an uncommon name.”
While it might seem obvious, Suzanna stresses that all parents should speak the names on their short list out load alongside their surname. “Pick a name you like to say. You’ll be saying it a lot!” Practice speaking and writing the full name, including any middle name choices, to familiarise yourself with the way it sounds and looks on paper. Ask yourself, Could this name be shortened, and if so, does this nickname still sound appealing?
Have a baby name in mind? Talk to your family, as well as friends or co-workers in different generations to gauge their reactions. A name like Scarlett or Rhett might sound new to you, but it could conjure images of Old Hollywood icons for your parents, or social media stars for younger siblings. While that shouldn’t be a decisive factor, it’s worth considering before making a choice.
Suzanna says she advises clients to listen to their families but to not rely on their approval. “Avoid needless anxiety by expecting all your loved ones to admire your choice,” she says. “Fortunately, names are like songs—they will sound better to your friends and relatives as they become more familiar.”
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