I’m Not Pregnant But I Think About Baby Names Every Single Day


I am not pregnant. I have never been pregnant. Yet I think about the names of my future children every single day, sometimes multiple times a day. And I’ve been doing this for years and years and years.

Because I’m a freak. A freak about names. I love them. I love thinking about them, talking about them, reading about them, looking up stuff about them, making lists of them, putting them together in different combinations. Basically, give me all the names all the time. When I was in middle school, I even attempted to write a name book. This entailed my taking a bunch of name books out of my local library and basically plagiarizing them, but I think I got to like, the L section of girls before I gave up. I was dedicated, even as a child!

There’s nothing I enjoy more than when a celebrity gives birth, if only because YAY I GET TO FIND OUT WHAT THE NAME IS. If I see an article pop up on People.com called “You’ll Never Guess What The Actor Who Played Corpse #2 on SVU Last Week Named His Baby!” I will happily click on it, every single time. The royal baby’s birth and naming was basically like my Super Bowl. The whole North-or-Kaidance thing in regards to Kim and Kanye‘s baby took up way more of my internet time than I’d like to admit. And all those Huffington Post name lists that seem to be published every few days? Yup, I’m all over it. If it’s name-related, please pass it this way.

And, oh god. The Baby Name Voyager? The Social Security Baby Names section? Swistle’s baby name advice? Don’t even get me started on that stuff. I can easily lose hours of my time playing around on those sites, looking at the trends, debating the popularity of my personal picks and puzzling out how and why so many people are so dang boring with naming.

I know a lot of people who abhor nontraditional or weird names, but I tend to like the pure unadulterated creativity of parents who name their kids stuff like “Moxie” or “Rainbow,” even though I wouldn’t really name my own child that. I’d much rather hear about a kid named “Banjo” than one named Matt or Emily, although of course classic names are classic for a reason. My taste is aligned with the kind of quirky, slightly old-fashioned names that are trendy with parents right now, so it’s not like I think my kid is going to be so OMG SPESHUL with his or her name, when the time comes.

You’re not going to see an Elizabeth or a Robert come from my loins, that’s for sure, although if those are your or your children’s names, no offense is meant. It’s just not my style. I like names that are recognizable as names, but not necessarily something you’re going to hear in every preschool class in three years. I also like names that have familial or other personal significant to the parents, like the place names director Ron Howard gave his kids as middle names. Basically, my taste can be summed up as “Different but not different enough that a kid is going to be ashamed or confused about their name.” Think like…Clio or Amabel or Gareth, that kind of thing.

I spend an inordinate portion of my daydreaming time (which I imagine I will have considerably less of once I become a mother) wondering what THE NAME will be, the name I’ll actually settle on for my first child, whether I give birth to him or her or become a mother in some other way. I have a shortlist—I mean DUH I have a goddamn short list. Nope, I’m not sharing with the internet because obviously—but I don’t think me and my partner will fully decide until we see the baby’s face. Naming an entire human is a big fucking deal, after all.

I guess that’s part of the reason why names and naming has always been so compelling to me. I mean, it’s YOUR NAME. It’s a big deal! A huge part of your identity, whether you like it, hate it, or don’t care very much one way or the other. So many different factors go into naming, including culture, history, family, language, religion, personality, personal experiences…it’s fascinating to learn about how and why people make these decisions for their children, and occasionally, even themselves.

I am in my late twenties, so pretty much every friend I have is either pregnant, thinking of getting pregnant, or enduring life with a newborn. So I get to spend a lot of time talking about names with people, snarking via Gchat about the latest boring moniker some girl I went to high school with gave her baby, or making long lists of possible names for babies soon to be born or conceived. And I love every minute of it. Also, my work as a doula brings me into contact with lots of pregnant people and brand new babies, so that’s even more nameness to feed my never-ending appetite for naming!!

I know there are other name nerds like me out there, name people who post daily on baby name forums and have spreadsheets full of potential names lurking on their hard drive, both parents and non-parents. Where are you, my friends? Can we make a club? Do you want to make a collective name blog and somehow take steal all the traffic from BabyNameWizard and BehindTheName, becoming rich moguls in the process? Can you help me find a way to feel fulfilled in my name love without having 5739000 children?

Photo: Getty Images/Julia Sonenshein

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  • Sarah McHone-Chase

    Oh my. I think I wrote this. I mean, this could have been written by me. This is me, all over. We are the same person now.

  • DatNanny

    A club? Or should we have some sort of support group?

    Hello my name is DatNanny and I obsess about the names of children I am not currently pregnant with.

    I have my list, and sometimes I try to mention names to boyfriend who doesn’t quite understand that this is something I think about way too much and that I sincerely want his input so I can make firm decisions. For children we’re not having anytime soon.

    But I won’t join your club if it involves any talking about my favorite names BECAUSE THOSE ARE MINE, BACK OFF, INTERNET NAME-THIEVES.

    • http://healthybabybody.com/ Gemma Hudson

      I’m glad I’m not the only one with this obsession! ;)

  • http://mother--bored.tumblr.com/ Aimee Ogden

    I started this discussion with my husband about two years before we started trying for kids (which I think showed admirable restraint on my part). We went through half a dozen “THIS IS THE ONE!!” names for our daughter before settling but our son’s first name is literally the only boy name in the world we could both agree on …

    • waffre

      Upvoted because I could have wrote your first sentence, including the parenthetical.

    • waffre

      Ew, bad grammar. I could have *written…

  • talaricg

    omg… you are my name-obsessed spirit person. I literally could have written this article, and am so glad i’m not alone. me and my husband are not trying to have a baby, and have no children…. yet i have had about 900,000,000 conversations with him about future baby names. I write baby names out on lists (along with potential middle names to see how they look together, obviously). I think i need to have approximately 17 children in order to assign all my favorite names. it’s an embarrassing obsession.

    When my friends (pretty much all of whom are either moms, or pregnant) get pregnant, and I ask them if they have name ideas, and they’re like no, nothing we really love yet- i’m SO CONFUSED. how is this not something you have planned out? And don’t even get me started on the people who have un-named babies for days because they can’t agree on one (we have a couple of people we know in this camp too).

    • waffre

      I have my master name lists on google docs so they’re available wherever I am.

  • Jen

    Good to know I’m not the only name obsessed crazy person out there. I will definitely join your club!

  • pixie

    I love looking up names and name meanings because I have this idea that I’m going to write a book one day. And by that I mean, I keep starting to write a story, get names, ideas, plot lines….and then stop writing after a few pages because I ran out of ideas or decide it sucks and start over with something else. Lather, rinse, repeat.

    • LadyClodia

      I have so many unfinished stories and characters that I’ve come up with over the years that it’s a bit depressing. Some of the names have stayed with me for 20+ years, and I always enjoyed coming up with the names. It was a bit weird to find out that I didn’t like any of those names enough to actually consider giving them to my own children. Maybe because there really aren’t repercussions for a fictional character having a specific name, but a child has to live with it.

    • pixie

      Yeah, a lot of names I use I probably would never name my own kid, no matter how cool I think they are.
      I’m currently attempting a futuristic story with characters named Rainnboww Fethyrr, Justys Kartyr, and other names like that (and to them those are normal names) lol. It’s making my spell check go a little crazy with the red underlining.

    • LadyClodia

      I’ve had that problem with the red underlining too. If it’s a name I know I’m going to be using a lot, then I add it to my dictionary in my word processor. It makes it a little less distracting to write since most of the angry red lines are gone. :)

  • Kay_Sue

    I have had children, but now, when I have absolutely no intention of ever having any children ever ever again (*stops to light candle to every deity she can think of and the Flying Spaghetti Monster*), I’ve developed an obsession with baby names too. My older son I was distraught over picking out The Name. I mean, they carry that for the rest of their lives, it’s kind of a big responsibility, right?

    My younger son, I dreamed it. Two years before he was conceived. Baby names are so weird.

  • http://www.twitter.com/ilikeswears Dusty

    I’ve always imagined naming my future daughter after my grandmother, but two months into my pregnancy I decided against it. Then it took almost 4 months to come up with a name my husband didn’t hate. I’m all about the non-traditional names, he’s all about ensuring his daughter doesn’t grow up to be a stripper because we named her Rebel. Men. Go figure.

  • Lena

    I LOVE baby names. I use to ready Ask The Name Lady every week, I hate it when names I like become popular (no Olivia for me) and keep a list of names that work in several languages for when the time comes.

  • Unforgettable

    Oh I totally have that same condition! Only, instead of baby names, it’s cocaine.

    • candyvines

      I’m like a chocoholic, but for booze! – The Onion

    • Jezebeelzebub

      it IS a helluva drug.

  • LadyClodia

    I like names, but I’m not obsessed, and I really had no idea how hard it was going to be to name my actual children. Well, not our older son, my husband knew what he wanted his first name to be right away, and I easily picked out his middle name. We had the hardest time trying to come up with a name for our younger son, though. I didn’t want to be that person, but I was, and I was very snobby about what names I would even consider. I had a lot of criteria that I wanted to meet with his name, and then it was finding something that we could both agree on. I did have a girl’s name picked out that I would have fought for, but I was completely unprepared with another boy’s name. It all worked out in the end, though.

  • Sam Inoue

    I love names. I love hearing other people’s kids names. I am always fascinated by how people pick names, even names I wouldn’t have picked often seem cuter when the parents explain them and get so excited. I already had custody of my niece Aisling when I had my kids so I wanted their names to match, thats how we ended up with Faye and Ronin, kinda Irish flair but can be pronounced in Japanese :)

    • candyvines

      Faye is my very favorite girl name :)

    • Sam Inoue

      Thanks, it was my stepsister’s middle name so I knew I would use it :)

  • Guest

    So I’m not the only one? I would join that club! I’ve been naming kids since I was one. Only recently have I gotten my husband involved but I don’t think he fully realizes that I’ve already named all of our not-yet-existent children. It is just too much fun trying to pair first-middle names and picturing all of our names together. Very weird but I love it.

  • http://www.twitter.com/ohladyjayne allisonjayne

    Indeed…that’s one of the reasons I am…well annoyed isn’t the right word but you know how a lot of folks now find out the sex of the baby and then name it (and tell everyone the name) while it’s still in utero, and then the baby is born and then it’s kind of anti-climatic (unless they change their minds I guess or if the tech was wrong about the sex) because, well, there’s just nothing that interesting about a new baby…assuming it’s all healthy and whatnot, there’s really just the weight (which isn’t that interesting) and maybe there’s an interesting labour story or something…Anyway that was a super run-on sentence but yeah.

    • candyvines

      I’m struggling with this! We know we’re having a boy (there is a Y chromosome hanging out in my blood – so no mistakes) and we know exactly what we’re naming him so it feels weird or sneaky to keep it a secret. I guess we’ll just tell people if they ask. I’m a pretty terrible liar anyway.

    • http://www.twitter.com/ohladyjayne allisonjayne

      I do understand why folks do this…like I said, annoyed isn’t the right word…it’s just like, oh, ok when the kid is born.

    • FormerlyKnownAsWendy

      Hey, I was just thinking about you because of the fake nail article earlier today. Sorry to randomly jump on and ask…but wasn’t it you who was trying to quit biting her nails and I gave a tip about fake ones? Were you able to succeed? (Sorry if I’m thinking of the wrong person).

    • http://www.twitter.com/ohladyjayne allisonjayne

      That was me! good memory. I did do the fake nail thing and it helped. I’m not fully ‘cured’ but I’m working on it. :( I might need to put the fake nails on again because they really did help….they were just driving me crazy a bit (and I kept losing them in really inopportune times..ugh!). Thank you so much for the suggestion!!!!

    • FormerlyKnownAsWendy

      The pink hair in the picture helped! And I think it’s a bit like any addiction, you may quit, but it’s always gonna be a temptation. I don’t really bit mine any more but if I crack one for some reason or I don’t paint them (which is what I moved to after the fake nails step), all bets are off. Glad I could help!

    • Larkin

      One of my best friends and her husband kept their baby’s name a secret until after he was born. I think, if hubby and I go the biological kids route, we’ll do the same thing. If people don’t like the name, they tend to give you grief or try to convince you to change if they know it before it’s on the birth certificate… but if it’s already your kid’s name, they’re more likely to keep their judginess to themselves.

  • G.E. Phillips

    This is also me, and I’ve been this way my whole life. When I was little, my dream job was to be the person who got to name all the Cabbage Patch Kids…..Eh, who am I kidding, that’s still my dream job.

  • waffre

    Can we be friends? I don’t have kids yet but I too am obsessed with names. I’d describe my naming style as “archaic” — Adalbert and Philippa are on my list (Although I don’t know how usable Adalbert is, realistically. Philippa is easier since it has a well-known bearer right now). I think one of the reasons I think about it so much is that I married someone with a noun for a last name and it’s hard to find names that don’t sound utterly ridiculous with it — plus I have a big family so it’s hard to find names I like that are both non-ridiculous and don’t conflict with other family members’ names. Also my spellcheck doesn’t seem to recognize either Adalbert or Philippa. Or “spellcheck” for that matter o.O It seems to think Phillipa is okay, though. I think that spelling looks weird.
    It’s interesting to see all the positive feedback on this article. I didn’t realize there were so many other people who just like names!

  • Elisa Probert

    When/if I have any kids I have their names chosen, based on my husband’s and my parents. Take the middle name from one of our parents of the child’s gender, make it the first name. Take the first name from the other and make it the middle. Done. Though I am altering the name slightly. Anna instead of Ann, Garrett instead of Garry. And we’re NOT using my dad’s middle name, no how no way. Gibb is not a name to stick some poor baby with.

  • Itpainsmetosay

    This is me to a T. I do this all the time and have a list of about forty names that must be be used. So glad there are other people with my brand of crazy.

  • http://carrie-murphy.com/ Carrie Murphy

    OMG all these comments are so fun! Except for the cocaine person, you can GTFO.

    • Unforgettable


      but Eve said I can stay as long as I behave

  • Sarah

    I feel ya. I’ve been doing this since I was about 4. My friends think I’m insane because I talk about baby names constantly. But they’re so interesting to me! A name says a lot about parents.

    • Guest

      Thankfully, my friends are almost as bad as me. My one is constantly asking “you had a baby right now, what would you name it? boy/girl?” I love that!

  • Jezebeelzebub

    I was going to give my girl an awesome, kickass name that NOBODY IN THE WORLD HAD. She was going to be THE FIRST ONE EVER.
    And then I named her “Caroline”.

    • http://carrie-murphy.com/ Carrie Murphy

      Caroline is my name. Well, my FULL name. I’ve never gone by it and never plan to. I hated it when I was a kid but I think it’s ok, now.

    • Jezebeelzebub

      I’m glad you’re okay with it…. I hope my kid doesn’t hate her name at any point, but if she does- OH WELL. I didn’t name her that because I thought it sucked. If I had wanted to name her something that sucked I would have gone with Nermal.

  • Geogirl

    Soul mates! I named all of my children well before they were conceived. Now that I’m done having children, I satisfy this urge by naming imaginary pets and plotting our witness protection names.

  • Jallun-Keatres

    <—- Fellow name lover.
    It was so hard coming up with a username that separated me from all the other names I give myself! BTW Jallun and Keatres were supposed to be brother and sister (J the girl and K the boy) in some story I wrote once. Prime name-making right there.

  • PrairieCoast

    Oh it is so nice to know there are kindred spirits out there! I spent countless hours pouring over my mom’s old baby name book as a child. I had a little pink notepad for my girl name lists and little blue notepad for my boy lists. We also had a “name your pet” book, which was awesome because we lived on a farm and there were usually 10-20 kittens to name each summer (they usually ended up with people names, though). Since my son is too young to pick out names for his toys, I take great pleasure in consulting our baby name book and naming each of his stuffed animals and dolls for him. I am currently pregnant with our second (and hopefully final) child and I am over the moon excited that I can force my husband to talk about names with me for the next several months. It’s going to be rough once this one is born and named…where will I direct my name obsession then?

    • Pumplestilskin

      This amused me because we own a dairy farm with registered Holsteins. We have a baby name book just for our cows

  • CW

    I hope that your future husband is more indulgent than mine was. I was able to convince him to go along with a name I liked for our son, but he vetoed every single suggestion that I made for a girl’s name. He was stuck on ’70′s and ’80′s names so our two daughters have names that make everyone mix them up with mine (my name is popular now but was very unusual back then).

  • Elisabeth

    I have been obsessed my whole life. I was the only 2nd grader bringing a baby name book for silent reading time. I recently had my second, and last, baby and I have depression over never getting to name another baby. Where do I go from here!?

    • AP

      Pets with short lifespans. Those goldfish and tetras might not last long, but at least they’ll die knowing their name was lovingly chosen based on their personality.

  • Alicia Brooke

    I dislike children and will never have any but I do this all the time. Ingrid and Jolene for girls and I like Roger for a boy because I think that that goddamn alien on American Dad is consistently the funniest thing I’ve ever seen. Yes, I would name a child after a tv alien; if that’s not a reason to take my reproductive rights away, then nothing is.

  • PYT

    I am the exact same way. The names of my future children are very important to me, but my husband thinks that the names are irrelevant until we are expecting. I would talk about potential names with him nonstop if he’d let me. I mean, they’re what we go by our entire lives, how we are identified, they are important.

    One of the names I really love has gotten a little more popular than I’d like, but I honestly can’t imagine not using it. I’m going to stick with what I love, regardless of what others are name their kids. The names I like aren’t unique or spelled differently, they lean more on the classic side.

    I like names that will never go out of style. Some of them are used more than others, Elizabeth, like you mentioned, is a lovely name but is consistently very used. Robert is not as common though. Not many baby boys are being named that in recent years.

    • arrow2010

      Do you honestly think your parents were obsessing about your name 24/7?

    • PYT

      They argued about mine for the last few months of my life, actually. I was just saying I like to talk about names. There’s no need to downvote me, or mention my parents. This whole post is about liking baby names, and discussing them.

      If you didn’t like the subject matter, you shouldn’t have clicked to read it. It’s a harmless thing to do, talk about baby names, and if that’s the worst thing I do, I think I’m alright. I don’t blame my husband for not wanting to talk about it all the time.

    • Guest

      *before my birth, not of my life. Not sure why I said that. I made it sound like I was a ghost typing or something.

  • Swistle

    It’s fun/fascinating, isn’t it? One of my main reasons for starting the name blog is that I was done naming babies but not done with baby names.

  • kelsey

    This! All day, every day! My friends don’t get it. My family doesn’t get it. My guy doesn’t get it. Thank you for being my people, internetz. I got my first baby name book in 6th grade and was carrying it around elementary school to the shock and horror of those classmates who noticed, “YOU’RE PREGNANT?” Nope. Just a junior name nerd.

    I wish I could find the countless journals I filled with the most hilarious choices; those lists would be priceless. I’ve always written stories, though, so I can still remember the gems I loved in middle school–Stormy, Tempest, Rayne, Cutter, Lucan, Jagger. How the times have changed. Even then, I felt those names were glorious for fictional characters but too outre for real babies. Between 1999-2003 I swore my first daughter would be Alena May. Ugh. I wish I could slap 1999-me. After more than a decade of cultivating name knowledge, I despair of anyone using placeholder middle names. Why would you use Anne or Rose or Marie or Lynn just because it “sounds okay”?

    I’m still a few years off from fulfilling my biological prerogative, but I still think about baby names every single day. I check in with NameWizard and wring my hands while my current top picks slowly climb out of obscurity. I run names past my partner just so I can worm them into his head. Every time one of our friends announces a pregnancy, I come up with a 10-most-likely list and secretly share my predictions with my best friend. When they announce a name months later and bff rechecks the list, more often than not I totally nailed it. It’s not psychic, it’s just name science. If you know a person, you know what they are likely to choose. If I get the first AND middle names, I totally get a cookie.

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