The Moniker Manual

January 13, 2009 12:00 AM by

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By Linda Childers

After I saw the first ultrasound of my son taken when he was the size of a small dot at 10 weeks, my husband and I began affectionately referring to him as “Peanut.” Although we never actually planned to name him after a groundnut, we didn’t realize we were actually trendsetters. It wasn’t until this past July—when General Hospital actor Ingo Rademacher christened his firstborn son Peanut Rademacher—that we realized we’d inadvertently chosen a hip moniker.

“We depend on celebrities to set the trends for our own baby names, with such recent high-profile choices as Maddox and Violet rocketing up the popularity charts,” says Pamela Redmond Satran, co-author with Linda Rosenkrantz of The Baby Name Bible; the new book, Cool Names for Baby; and the website, www.CoolNamer.com. “Celebrity baby names have somehow become more interesting than the stars’ personal accomplishments.”

Farm It Out
Fortunately for parents who are grappling to choose the perfect name, Satran and other authors offer comprehensive books and interactive websites that can make the name-selection process easier. Others, including Eric Reyes and Whitney Walker, authors of The Perfect Baby Name and its accompanying website www.theperfectbabyname.com, take their services one step further and can be retained as baby-name consultants for a fee.

For a personal consultation starting at $50, Reyes and Walker teach couples how to break down the sounds and rhythms in their last name and match them to complimentary sounds and rhythms in a first name. Couples can either use the book and website themselves—or hire Reyes and Walker as consultants to do the work for them. They’ll go through the lists of names that match a surname and highlight the ones they think parents will like based on an initial phone interview.

For $95, Jennifer Moss, author of The One-in-A-Million Baby Name Book, offers expecting parents a half-hour phone conversation in which they describe what they are looking for in a name. For those who would rather do the work themselves, Moss offers a free website, www.BabyNames.com. “I brainstorm names with parents and give them name options and guidance, but I don’t actually name the baby for my clients,” she says. “That’s a personal choice, and parents need to pick a name they love and feel good about for their child.”

For the best experience and outcome using a baby-name consultant, Moss advises parents to provide the most information possible including your and your husband’s ethnic origins, religious affiliation, family names, and any names you’ve already ruled out.

The top naming experts’ share their tips for choosing the right one:

Jennifer Moss recommends:

• Look at your personal family history. Are there any naming traditions in your family or your husband’s? For example, Brad Pitt recently named his infant son Knox, after Pitt’s maternal grandfather, Hal Knox Hillhouse.

• Consider spelling and ease of use. “A girl named Gennyphir is destined to have to explain and spell her name for the rest of her life,” Moss cautions.

• Use the introduction test. Take the list of names you’ve chosen and introduce yourself as your child, “Hi, I’m Susan Jones.” Which names sound the best to you out loud? And how would the name look on a business card? “I had one couple who considered naming their daughter Pixie,” Moss says. “Cute name for a small child, but I asked what would happen if she grew up to be a CEO?”

Eric Reyes and Whitney Walker advise:

• Break down the sounds and rhythms of your last name and match to complimentary sounds and rhythms in a first name. For Childers (pronounced CHYL-durz), it breaks down like this: CH, long I, L, D, UR, and Z. Reyes and Walker suggested that I start with the long I list, because it’s the prominent vowel sound in my last name. The long I list would have names like Iris and Eli.

• Avoid names that end in the same sound that your surname begins or ends with.

• The couple also advised me to choose a one-, two-, or three-syllable name with the accent on the first syllable, rather than on second as in Nicole or Michelle, so that the rhythm compliments my last name.

Pamela Redmond Satran says:

• Consider the balance of syllables when choosing a name for your child. “Kyle Jefferson Reed makes a stronger statement, than Kyle Blake Reed,” Satran says. “Also, a sequence of 2 two-syllable names, or names with similar endings, can sound quite static, as in Ethan Aidan.”

• Trust your instincts about names that appeal to you and your partner, and only divulge your name choices to a few discreet friends or family members.

• BabyNameBible.com features a function called The Alternator for parents who like a name but feel it’s overused: Select the name and find a list of similar names you might like even better.

Going With the Crowd
According to the Social Security Administration’s list of popular baby names, Jacob is the most popular name for boys, as it has been since 1999, and Emily the most popular name for girls, as it has been since 1996. Newcomers to the Top 100 list of names for boys were Adrian, Colton, Nolan, Cody, Preston, Jeremiah, and Oliver. Kaelyn, Reagan, Maria, Sadie, Callie, Adriana, Sienna, Lila, and Alana were newcomers for girls.
“Nature names, such as Meadow, are currently very trendy,” Satran says. “Double L-starting-syllable names such as Lily and Lolita are also catching on, and many moms are opting to use their maiden names for their babies.” Parents are also considering the names of maternal or paternal grandmothers that would otherwise be lost in history, she adds.

The End Name
Naming your baby is one of the first big decisions you will probably make as parents. Your child will be saddled with whatever name you choose for the rest of her life—no pressure there—so take your time, do your research, and go with your gut. Little Hazel or Phinnaeus or Apple or Moses will thank you for it later.

Linda Childers is a California-based freelance writer who decided to name her son Nikolas, using the Slavic spelling of the name.

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