• Fri, Mar 14 - 3:00 pm ET

Are You There, Moms? Its Me, Idiot How Did You Pick Your Baby’s Name?

mom adviceOkay, so at some point if I pop out a baby or a few, I’m going to have to name them something or other. As the world’s most indecisive person, I’m a horrible candidate for giving someone a name to carry for the rest of his or her natural lives.

When I was a kid, I used to get angry because my two favorite girls’ names were “taken” by my little sisters. As you can tell, I was a bit reactionary. At this point in my life, I simultaneously love every name I hear and hate every single name on earth, so I would imagine I’ll be really in for it when it comes to naming time.

There’s just so much to consider when it comes to naming. Do you go for a tribute and name after someone? What if you end up hating that person over time and then your daughter is stuck with your awful ex-best friend’s first name (actually, some version of this happened in my family–my grandmother was named after my great-grandmother’s best friend and then due to some catastrophic falling out, they re-named my grandma something different when she was a child)? What if you can and your partner can’t agree? What if you love a name but it doesn’t lend itself well to nicknames, and then your kid is stuck with some three-syllable behemoth for the rest of his or her own life? Or maybe you find a name that you both love, but it turns out to mean devil poop in some ancient language?

Talk me through it–what was the process of picking names for your kids? Was it an easy shot or did you stress?

Are You There, Moms? It’s Me, Idiot? is an ongoing series dedicated to helping one very well-intentioned and dumb future-parent learn about the world of childrearing. Click here to see past columns. 

Photo: Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret

You can reach this post's author, Julia Sonenshein, on twitter.
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  • NotTakenNotAvailable

    I was named after a prostitute in a movie and a relative no one liked. The names were mashed together into one single word with two sets of double letters and a capital letter in the middle, and the pronunciation is such that one of my friends called it “the best Jewish hick name ever.” Since I have to go renew my driver’s license next week anyway, I plan to ask if they can do a quickie name change while I’m there.

    • Julia Sonenshein

      My mind is going crazy with possibilities!

    • NotTakenNotAvailable

      Every time I look at it, I cringe remembering my mother’s shrill voice shrieking it across the house at me, so I try to avoid it as much as possible for fear of PTSD-like symptoms. But if you feel like playing games with Google searches, the first half is the first name of the prostitute Jane Fonda played in the movie Klute, and the second half is the titular character who lived in Green Gables. :p

    • Didiguessright?

      BreeAnne. :)

    • NotTakenNotAvailable

      Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner! Only it’s not me, because I’m hiding under the covers, convinced I can hear my dead mother shrieking at me from the afterlife. X(

  • CW

    I was given the same name as my aunt. It’s a nice name, but I’m forever “little ____” within the family. So it was very important to me that my kids have their own unique names within the family. Their names are all variations of family names. Our oldest DD has the feminine of my uncle’s name. Our DS has a variation of DH’s name. Our youngest DD has a name that was originally a nickname of my aunt’s name but is now a name in its own right (like Liam was originally a nickname for William).

  • lizinthelibrary

    Pregnant with our first kid. My husband is from a “only name after relatives, preferably dead relatives” culture. My family has a tradition of family names (though we bend it when we want) so I was willing to go along with that. He has a grandmother Ann and a grandmother Anna, my grandmother’s middle name was Belle. So our little girl will be Annabelle. We’ve lost the last of our grandmothers in the last 18 months so this feels appropriate and made both of our mothers cry when we told them. (Middle name is my middle name which was also my mom’s middle name, oldest daughter tradition.) I do like that we found a name that will be her name and still a family name.
    Of course that is just her English name. The family elders are meeting to decide upon her Yup’ik name which we may not find out for a year or more. And by tradition (a long Native tradition of not trusting the white man’s government apparently) that won’t be a legal name.

  • jane

    I’m Jewish and we’re raising the kids Jewish, but I married into a VERY irish last name. So we basically had two rules. 1. They had to be able to be named to the Supreme Court (will there ever be a Muffy on the Supreme Court? No.). 2. They had to be able to be called for Bar/Bat Mitzvah without it sounding ridiculous (Seamus was right out). Those two rules basically left us with 4 girl names and 5 boy names to chose from.

  • Brittany

    Baby names in this day and age are a little out of control. When naming your future child, do him/her a favor & try to remember that they will be *adults* some day. And that they will also most likely have to spell their name a. lot. So keeping it simple is something my husband & I absolutely agreed on. We chose less common, but still “normal” names that are short & easy to spell. Out last name is already 11 letters long so I didn’t feel like having their full names longer than the English alphabet.

  • Sarah

    When I was born, my mom gave my brother the honor of naming me (as long as it wasn’t too ridiculous), and right off the bat he said “Sarah Elizabeth.” So there ya go. (I love my name though.Wouldn’t change it for the world.)

  • Justme

    I wanted something easily translate-able into Italian because that’s my mother and grandmother’s heritage. But being teachers, my husband and I also wanted something that would be recognizable on a roster, but not terribly common that she would need her last name initial to be called upon. My husband came up with her unique middle name that means “strength” and “champion,” which with two coaches as parents – we want her to have and be both of those things.

  • TheGirlWhoWoreGlasses

    Boy name: Long before kids, we sat around and discussed possible names. Sam was the winner and it suits him perfectly. 2nd child – could not find a girl’s name we agreed on although we did have a boy’s name picked out – Ben. In the delivery room, he suggested Alice, which I didn’t like, but I suggested Allison as a compromise. It fits her perfectly. And we’ve been complimented many times on how nice they sound together

  • TheGirlWhoWoreGlasses

    Boy name: Long before kids, we sat around and discussed possible names. Sam was the winner and it suits him perfectly. 2nd child – could not find a girl’s name we agreed on although we did have a boy’s name picked out – Ben. In the delivery room, he suggested Alice, which I didn’t like, but I suggested Allison as a compromise. It fits her perfectly. And we’ve been complimented many times on how nice they sound together

  • gothicgaelicgirl

    i told my fella if we ever have a child, i’m in charge of the name seeing as he named all FIVE of his kids!

    thankfully he likes the names I’ve chosen in advance =P

  • Abby

    Samuel’s been a name that my husband and I have thrown around since before we were married… it was the one name that we always agreed on (at least until I pointed out that if we hyphenated our last names, a daughter named Arielle Caroline would have the initials ACDC… which made my husband start praying for a girl). Once I actually got pregnant, we started mulling it over more, and Samuel just works really well.

    It took us a LONG time to get to this point, through a lot of struggles with infertility, so the Biblical story of Hannah and her son Samuel was apropos. More than that, though, we liked that characters named some variant of “Sam” (Samwise Gamgee in Lord of the Rings and Samwell Tarly in ASoIaF) tended to be the noble everyman characters–humble but spectacular. And that’s a life we’d like our Sammy to live up to.

    • Ddaisy

      If I ever have a boy, he’ll definitely be Samwise :) (Sam for short, obviously) I’ve had that name picked out since I was 14, and haven’t changed my mind since.

  • http://fairlyoddmedia.com/ Frances Locke

    I have a funny story about my son’s name. Well, not really funny, but I’m going to tell it anyway. For the entire pregnancy we went under the assumption that he was actually a she. We had two sonograms and both times the technician said she was reasonably certain that we were having another daughter. It was all good.

    Then comes the birth and *BOOM* we have a bouncing baby boy. His name was literally the first thing out of my mouth. I said it, looked at my husband, and he just sorta shrugged his shoulders and said “why not?” And that was that. I’m still not sure where I got the idea for the name, but we’ve never regretted it.

  • Allyson_et_al

    We had always planned to name our first child Carter after my grandfather (there are a number of boys and girls in my extended family with Carter as a first or middle name). When my daughter was born, we named her Carter Ann, adding the Ann for my mom, who had died just a few weeks before the birth. She’s a teenager now, and goes by Carter at school, but we still call her Carter Ann at home.
    My son’s name was more of an argument. My husband really wanted to name him John after an uncle, while I favored Jacob. We compromised by officially naming him John, but calling him Jake. (I figured if Jack can be a nickname for John, why not Jake?) His middle name is Frederick, which was totally my husband’s doing.
    The worst suggestion (of many) that we got was from my FIL, who wanted us to name a daughter after his mother. Bertha. I realize lots of lovely, old-fashioned names are making a comeback now, but Bertha is not one of them. Just NO.

  • Celeste F

    I named my daughter after me because I will always be awesome. And I named her after my grandmother, who is dead. No falling out possible.

  • personal

    Dead relatives’ names. We picked and chose a combination of his family’s and my family’s and got some pretty sweet old-fashioned (though oddly popular at the moment where we live now) names.
    I wish we could have had one more child. I’d have loved to have met little Ida Joanna (girl name number 2). :)

  • MamaLia138

    My boy is Sully. Full name Sullivan. I love it! It totally fits his personality. I had about a million girls names I liked and although I wanted a boy, I was dreading picking a boy name. Girls names are so pretty. Boys names are way harder in my opinion. I liked the name because I was a big fan of the band Godsmack and the lead singers name is Sully Erna. I always thought it was unique and cool without being too over the top. The only thing is the word sully means to ruin, or dirty. If he hates it and gets picked on for it he can go by his full name. I wanted something cool (Sully) but didn’t look dumb on a resume (Sullivan). I also played the name game with both names and thought of rhyming words.

  • Elisabeth TheQueen Smith

    I always like the nickname Kate. When I was pregnant with my daughter I told my husband I wanted to name her Catherine so I could call her Kate. he said ‘If you want to call her Kate, name her that’ So with a little input on his side, She’s named Cate.

  • Sarah

    When my aunt was pregnant with my little cousin, she and my uncle couldn’t decide on a name. They put 15 in a hat (literally) and my other cousin picked one out.

  • Jezebeelzebub

    It took forever to figure out a girl name- my ex wanted Vivian, and I wanted pretty much anything besides Vivian. The Divine Secrets of the YaYa Sisterhood and Little Altars Everywhere were sort of a big deal then and Vivian is a character in the books- my least favorite character. So no Vivian for that reason. My ex MIL suggested Destinee, Dymond, and HeavenLee. (I hate her.) In the end, I asked my mother what her second choice was for me, and that’s what we went with- Caroline, Caro for short. Her middle name comes from family tradition. Ruth was my grandmother’s name, and “-Marie” is from my mother’s middle name, which came from her grandmother’s middle name, which came from her mother’s first name… if you can follow that. It gets murky.

    We had a boy name all ready to go, right off the bat. Griffin for his first name, and then he’d have had 2 middle names. Naming kids is hard. I’m better at naming dogs. At least they don;t get teased at the dog park. SO far nobody has come up with a shitty nickname for Caro based on her name, but she’s short and she wears glasses so she gets teased about that instead. My point here being that kids are going to tease other kids because that is how kids roll.

    • footnotegirl

      Your ex MIL wanted her granddaughter to be a burlesque dancer?

    • Jezebeelzebub

      Apparently? I still don’t know what the hell that was all about. I will never know because she is now my EX MIL and has been for a while. And I never ever have to talk to her ever again, and that makes me happy.

  • Sam Inoue

    I had an interesting situation, I adopted my niece a little before my daughter was born so we wanted the kids names to be similar in style. She is Aisling Rae, which has an Irish sound to it but we wanted to make sure the names could be said in Japan. My daughter is named after my stepsister (Aisling’s mom who passed away) she is Faye Ayame, Ayame is Iris in Japanese and my sister was Iris Fay. My son isn’t named for anyone just pronounceable in America and Japan, so he is Ronin and doesn’t have a middle name because Japanese children traditionally don’t so I let my husband win on that :)

  • footnotegirl

    We didn’t stress too much. We each came up with names that we liked and would run them by each other. If either of us didn’t like the name, it was vetoed. After we had a fairly long list, we went in and took out every name that was in the top 20, because I have the most common name for my generation and UGH. So we went into the hospital with about 12 names. Took one look at our daughter and she ‘told’ me her name, because she was absolutely a Rowan (which had been one of the names lower down on the list). I’d been very against choosing a name for her before her birth, as my parents had a name picked out for me and when I was born, mom took one look at me and said “Oh no, she is definitely NOT a Victoria.” But they hadn’t had any backup options, which is how I ended up with Jennifer.

  • Jallun-Keatres

    I’ve written a vlog about it but I chose MK’s name something like this:
    I played an online game. I met a really cool person. Her username had a real name in it (I called her by the other part of her name). The name grew on me. I made my husband say yes to it. I grew a girl inside me. Ta-da!

  • Jallun-Keatres

    Also the way I was named was my mom saw a HORRIBLE made-for-TV movie in the 80′s and loved the lead’s name. Spoiler alert (since I already gave it away somewhere else) my name is Julia.

    • Julia Sonenshein

      what movie! I MUST KNOW!

    • Jallun-Keatres

      It was called “Who’s Julia” or something like that… it was about someone who had a brain transplant lolol

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

    We wanted a name that was common enough that it wasn’t completely unusual/unrecognizable as a name/relatively easy to spell, but not so common that the kid would be one of five with the same name or whatever. A lot of our favourite names are super popular right now (Olivia, Ethan) – we basically nixed anything in the top 10. We didn’t agree on a lot of names. My wife likes hippie names (Sequoia was her number one, I vetoed that because it’s an SUV), I like old-fashioned quirky names (think Bianca, January, Isla). In the end, we just picked a name we both agreed on. Her middle name was decided years earlier – my wife’s adopted, her birth name was the same name as her adoptive mom’s mother, and Jewish folks won’t name babies after people who are still living, so her mom had to change my wife’s name. So now that said grandma is long dead, it was an obvious choice for our kid’s middle name.

    My absolute favourite boy’s name is Tobin, if anyone wants to steal that.

  • TashaB

    We had super-mucho debating. Partner has an extremely common and boring last name, so any very common names were right out (especially after the extra rigamarole we had to go through when buying a home where he had to sign 50 extra papers saying he was not that “blahblah Johnson”.
    For awhile, he wanted to name the munchkin Wilhemina (because Dracula) completely overlooking the fact that our daughter’s name would have been slang for “penis penis”.
    In the end, we settled on the name of one of my favourite literary characters (for any Discworld readers, Granny Weatherwax’s first name), and her middle name is a family name on both sides.
    If we have another girl, we’re all set for a name, but I think we’re going to go through the great naming wars again if we end up pregnant with a boy.

  • Margie

    The oldest is Derek William, named after my grandfather for his first name and his middle name is my husband’s dad’s first name. I always knew I would name my son after my grandfather so that was decided right from the beginning. When we found out we were having a second boy, we were fresh out of names. I’m a huge nerd so if we were having a girl, she would have been Jayna (like Han Solo and Princess Leia’s daughter). We couldn’t agree on anything until I suggested we name him Jayne. My husband replied that if we were going to name our son after a Firefly character it would be Malcolm. It just clicked for both us. We decided to stick with the sci fi theme and his middle name is Tiberius (my husband is a Trekkie). I’m still disappointed I couldn’t name him Malcolm Solo.

  • Jennifer Freeman

    We argued about names for months. My husband, I kid you not, pulled out a book of Icelandic sagas and started rattling off names that 1) would never be pronounceable here in the States and 2) probably aren’t in use in Scandinavian countries anyway. After going back and forth, I talked him into Soren, only to later change my mind on that. Later he moved on to crazy ancient Greek names. He almost had me at Ajax, and I would have taken that if the first 5 people I mentioned it to weren’t quick to respond “Like the scouring powder?”. We eventually narrowed our list to Archer (his choice), Nolan (my choice), Alexander (more my choice but he liked it) and Roland (we both liked this one). We were deadlocked over Archer vs. Alexander, but I finally won out after pointing out my name is tied to a historical figure and his tied to a drunken momma’s boy cartoon character. :) We eventually got to Alexander Soren, which are Greek and Danish, respectively. Girl names? Thank goodness we didn’t have a girl because we were nowhere near in agreement. The closest we got was a Welsh name, Seren, that we were luke-warm on. I wanted Callista or Genevieve, he wanted Ursula.

  • whiteroses

    Our son’s name hit all our major criteria. He couldn’t have a name anyone else in either family had (which is harder than you’d think, since my husband’s family is Catholic and I don’t think any of them have ever heard of birth control), it had to have an Italian equivalent (we met in Italy), and it had to be something he could grow into. It was a total and complete bitch to name him. We had a girl’s name picked out: Amy Elizabeth. Amy is a name I’ve always liked, and it means “friend”- which is what we were for years. Elizabeth is a family name.

    In my son’s case, we’re pretty happy with the name we picked out: Alexander (or Alessandro, for those of you keeping track). His middle name is after my grandfather. That was a hill I was willing to die on. If we ever have another boy, he’ll be named after my father and my grandfather’s twin brother.

  • Lish

    My daughter’s name was easy to pick. Variation on my mother in law’s middle name for her first, my aunt’s middle name for her middle.