shutterstock_139708273The search for the perfect baby name has gone to extremes I could never have imagined. In a recent navel-gazing New York Times piece, the stakes appear to be life or death to some of these parents.

What’s in a name? What isn’t, these days? Baby naming has become an industry — with paid consultants, books, Web sites brimming with trend data, and academic studies exploring correlations between baby names and future success. The once-simple task of coming up with a monogram for the baby blanket has evolved into a high-stakes exercise in personal “branding.”

Listen, I love baby names. I know a lot of people love baby names. I could talk about them all day long, debating my own preferences and yours.  But I like talking about names – meanings, spellings, bad experiences you’ve had with someone of the same name or griping about reasons I can’t use a name I loved since I was little. This piece however, reads more like a novel, with mounting tensions at every turn.

And so many prospective parents feel paralyzed, trying to find the elusive name that is exotic yet not bizarre, classic yet not pompous, on trend but not trendy.

“All this evaluation is not just overwhelming, it’s contagious,” said Page Rockwell, 34, a freelance project manager in San Francisco.

ZOMG what are we going to do if we don’t name the baby the PERFECT name?????? The author blames everything under the sun as the reason parents are sending themselves into a tizzy over the ideal utopian baby name.  Most of the culprits (baby naming websites, the SSA baby registry, Pottery Barn) involve the internets, because let’s face it everything bad is originated, ends, or is perpetuated on the world wide web.

Another reason cited is smaller families, which means MORE PRESSURE.

Now, most urban professionals I know limit themselves to one or two, which perhaps adds to the pressure to make every name count. Many of us are also starting families at a later age, with perhaps more time to consider the potential long-term consequences of a child’s name (thanks, “Freakonomics”). One friend struck “Kaydence” from her list when it failed the future-Supreme-Court-justice test.

He doesn’t, however, simply call out insane parental delusion and unhealthy competition.

Another friend, who works on Wall Street, is so conscious of overlap with other parents that he has broken down the list of possible names for his forthcoming baby into trader-speak categories like “momentum stock,” “oversold” or a “value play.”

Looking beyond the

[Social Security Administration]

Top 1000 was not enough for Jenn Lewis-Gordon, a waitress in Lakewood, N.J. She and her husband crossed off any name that had been used more than 100 times in the entire country in the last year. This left “Ptolemy,” “Bombay,” “Thursday” and “Ocean,” as well as “Atlas,” their ultimate choice. “I feel as though he’ll be less likely to be a follower if he starts out from the beginning being different,” Ms. Lewis-Gordon, 35, explained.

I get it to some extent. Having grown up with a name that none of my U.S. peers share (it’s spelled Carinn, but pronounced Corinne), I know first-hand the advantages and disadvantages of having a unique name that isn’t bizarre. I never minded that people call me “Karen” upon our first meeting or that even good friends spell it incorrectly at times. I always liked my name and I liked that no one else had it. However, I would never be this extreme about it.

My parents struck gold with their perfect balance, but their success was inadvertent. They simply named me after a little girl my mom babysat when she met my father. This was the root of the factors we used in naming our children — we picked something we both loved and had meaning to us. If you follow those simple rules, I don’t think you could possibly go wrong.

(photo: Andrew Scherbackov/Shutterstock)