The pitfalls of offbeat baby names debunked

May 17 | Guest post by Jennifer
Hello my name is
Photo by Daquella manera, used under Creative Commons license.

My daughter's name is Ophelia. She also has two middle names plus a ridiculously difficult to pronounce Italian last name. I know what you might be thinking: THAT POOR KID. How will she ever learn to spell her name? How will she even remember all of her names? Won't she always have to spell it for other people? Kids are going to make fun of her in school. She'll be an outcast. What about a nickname?

I've heard the objections before but I've always loved unusual names so nay-saying never really had an impact on me. However, I have felt that if I planned to give my own child an unusual name it was my duty to really, truly examine those objections. Would giving my kid an unusual name really damage her? Would it turn her childhood into a string of memories she will eventually hope to forget? Am I being selfish and simply forcing my own contrariness on her? I considered each of these carefully and here's what I came up with.

It's too hard/long for a kid to learn to spell

If you've spent any time around young children you know that their name is their identity. I once worked with a two-year-old boy who would toddle around, repeating "I'm Toby, I'm Toby, I'm Toby," without rest. Kids love telling people their names, learning to spell them and practice both often. So is having a long name a challenge for a child to learn? You betcha. Is that a bad thing? Hell no! Since a kid's name means so much to them, they're willing to work extra hard to wrap their minds around it. The diligence and repetition of learning to spell and write a long name only gives them more time practicing vital skills. My daughter has exactly 30 letters in her full name. This kid is bound to be a spelling bee champ, I just know it!

Others will have difficulty spelling or pronouncing it

In the melting pot that is this country, a huge percentage of the population has a name or names that many would consider "difficult." In plenty of cultures long last names are the norm. In others certain letters and letter combinations have sounds that would be unrecognizable to a native English speaker. Many, if not most, people have to spell their name when giving it to someone else for the first time. Rather than being a lifelong burden, I see this as simply a fact of life. Even if my daughter's first name was Jane, her last name would still inevitably trip people up. Most parents wouldn't dream of giving their child an alternative last name because theirs was hard to spell. First names are no different.

They will grow up to be outcasts

I grew up with perhaps the trendiest name of the 80s: Jennifer. Jenny I got yo numba! (Tommy Tutone, anyone?) My husband, Robert (Rob) has one of the most traditional names given to boys. I'm the kid that chopped her bangs into a spiky poof the day before her fifth grade class picture. Rob's the kid that wore Hawaiian shirts every day of his high school career. We both had incredibly "normal" names and we both were huge dorks. Just as giving your kid a common name doesn't guarantee their adolescent popularity, neither does giving them an unusual name cement their fate as the kid who eats paste. Their identities are shaped by their names but they are not limited by them. An "Electra" can be quiet and shy. A "Dudley" can be a Romeo. A name serves as a foundation for an identity but the kid decides the rest.

By: Daniel LoboCC BY 2.0

It's cruel/selfish for parents to give children offbeat names

As cheesy as it sounds, the names I gave my daughter are a gift. Her first middle name was given to her in honor of my dear aunt that died a year and a half before she was born. Because I knew the two of them would never meet I wanted to give her something permanent of her great-aunt's. Her second middle name is my maiden name, a name that is now shared by my husband and myself as our own second middle names. It's an essential part of her family tree that should be reflected in her name. While I concur that it might be selfish to want my name and my aunt's to be carried on, I can honestly say I did not give them to O to coerce her into my own brand of eccentricity. I think this is the case for all parents, whether they choose an offbeat name or a more traditional one for their child. In naming our children we try to give them a foundation, some history and maybe a little creativity. There's nothing selfish about that.

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  1. Our son, Atticus, also has two middle names, making his full name quite the mouthful. And of course we got a number of raised eyebrows and far too many "oh, that's interesting…Where'd you get a name like that?" questions when it was announced (seriously, people; ever pick up a book?). Now that we're expecting yet another little one, we're looking again at unique names, but this time living in a far more conservative city and we're not looking forward to the backlash. Your post arrived at the perfect time and helped reiterate all the reasons I love long, unique names and why I should ignore the judgmental nay-sayers. Thanks!

    17 agree
    • Atticus is a great name! "Ophelia" has an obvious literary namesake too that people loooove to bring up. I was a Lit Major in college so I know pretty much every theory about the character in Hamlet. Some think she was just a tragic heroine, others think Gertrude killed her, some think she's a feminist icon…When we decided on the name I just had to push all of that aside and admit I loved the sound of the name and its meaning ("helper") and that was enough.

      Good luck with your next offbeatling's name :)

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      • Some people think Gertrude killed Ophelia? Seems like you'd really have to read between the lines for that one.

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        • I tend to agree but then again that's pretty much what Lit majors do: spend 4 years reading between the lines.

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          • So true! For me, being a lit major kinda spoiled reading trash novels just for fun for awhile. Now I can suspend my critical mind long enough to get through the Twilight series, but that little voice in the back of my head is still sneering at the weaker points of the books.

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      • I used Ophelia as my pen name as a teen. Great name. I would have loved to use it but my husband was not a fan. Instead, we used another Shakespearean name for our younger daughter, Cordelia.

        It's odd, I thought people would think of the reference to "King Lear", but that has rarely happened. I get many more asking if it's from "Anne of Green Gables". :)

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        • My first reference is King Lear, my second the deliciously evil cheerleader from Buffy the vampire slayer…
          Not sure what that means about my frame of reference *grin*
          it sure offers interesting possibilities as rolemodels for your daughter *more grins*

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          • My daughter's name is Cordelia and it is cause I got the name from Buffy the Vampire Slayer who then later appears on Angel, but I did know that it was the name of the youngest daughter in King Lear…who *SPOILER* gets killed by her sisters….>_> <_<

            I like it cause for a nickname we call her Corie, or Cordie

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      • My son is Atticus Fox plus my maiden name plus his surname! So I TOTALLY hear ya!! We live in the UK as well, and I have yet to meet anyone that likes his name apart from my husband. Pfft! However in France and the Netherlands I have met people that think it's wonderful, so ha! take that, stuffy Brits! 😉

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    • NPR just did a story on how it's the traditionally conservative parts of the country where trendy and offbeat names are popular, and the liberal parts of the country where traditional names are popular.

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      • Interesting! I live just outside San Francisco and I've noticed a lot of unusual baby names.

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      • This makes perfect sense. Look at the Palins.

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      • That's interesting. I as liberal as they get and named my son Carl.

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    • I loooove the name Atticus! I tried to get my hubster to agree to name our soon to arrive kidlet that, provided it's a boy. Sadly, he shot down that and Elias.

      • I babysit an Elias! I had never heard it until I met him, but it's a nice name!

        • Elías (Elijah in Spanish) is very well known here in Spain (there aren't a lot of them, but no one would ever have to ask you "what did you say?", I think probably because of the biblical origin) but it's also a last name, as in Toni Elías, my fave motogp rider. 😀

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    • My husband and I have an Atticus Wilco :) We live in a neighborhood with a lot of 70+ year olds, who love his name!

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    • My maiden name is a mouthful. So much so my mom just gave me a first name and my middle name is my moms last name. Where I grew up it was traditional to have two first names. I eventually learned that I could sing my last name to to the tune of the Mickey Mouse Club – m-u-n-i-o-s-g-u-r-e-n. never misspelled it after that. Later on I found out my best friend uses it as her password!

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    • My maiden name is a mouthful. So much so my mom just gave me a first name and my middle name is my moms last name. Where I grew up it was traditional to have two first names. I eventually learned that I could sing my last name to to the tune of the Mickey Mouse Club – m-u-n-i-o-s-g-u-r-e-n. never misspelled it after that. Later on I found out my best friend uses it as her password!

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    • Oh my gawd, I have wanted to name a kid Atticus every since reading "To Kill a Mockingbird". I think it's an awesome name.

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      • Omg! That's how my husband's whole family learned to spell their name! (and honestly, me too!) f e r, n e y, h o u g h!

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    • Atticus is actually one of the top "chart climbers" this year with 574 baby boys named that in 2011 in the US. :)

    • I love the name Atticus! If my youngest had been a boy, that was one of the names on my short list. Instead, she was an Amber hehe.

  2. I always love discussions like this because my son has four middle names. Whenever anyone asks what his whole name is my husband and I both kind of giggle to ourselves and then tell them, but if you ask Jasper directly he'll very proudly tell you the entire thing, complete with spelling out K-A-L-O-I, which he'll probably have to do his entire life. I'm SURE at some point he's going to be like "Whaaaaaaaaaaat did you guys do to me?!" but for now he digs it. :)

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    • My father in law's full name is Thomas Allen Aloysius Joseph Arthur Knapp and my best friend growing ups mom was Susan Ann Maria Mary Bishop.

      my kids *love* to tell people about grampa and obviously I have never forgotten Nikki's moms name. I think they are cool.

      1 agrees
      • I love the name Aloysius. I rarely ever see it, and when I do it's usually on the older generation. We need more baby Aloysiuses!

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    • Every time I tell someone my name, for any documentation type thing, I say it and then spell it out immediately after. It's just an reflex now. He'll probably keep doing it too.

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  3. As long as the name could be paged overhead in Wal*Mart without invoking snickers I think it's okay to name your child anything you choose. I like the point about a child loving their name and learning it. True!

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    • I hope one day my daughter says the same, Amethyst. I named my daughter Anemone, and I still worry that she will resent it for being a tongue twister. I, however, think it's an absolutely beautiful name, so I try to not second-guess myself too much. Articles like this and comments such as yours definitely help. :)

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  4. We adopted my son at birth and both us and his first parents really wanted to be involved in the naming process. It was a difficult process, but we ended up with our son having a very long name (3 middle names) that is too long for most forms (ex: social security). While I feel really great about his names giving him a tangible connection to both of his families, I'm a little nervous about whether it will end up being logistically difficult for him as he gets older. I hope that he feels good about it and recognizes it as an artifact of being so loved and wanted by so many people, but only time will tell.

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    • We've had the same worry. We'll actually be getting our son a passport soon, so I guess we'll figure out if his many names are going to be an issue then. If I remember I'll try to come back to this comment and let you know how it goes!

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      • We actually did get a passport, but got a passport card at the same time. According to their policies, the 2 names must match, but the passport card has a limit of 15 characters for the first and middle names, which was not enough for us. They gave us the choice of keeping the full name, but not getting the passport card, or using a shortened version on both. We opted to use his first name and first middle name on both since we did want to have both available. So, now his passport has a slightly different name than his birth certificate and social security card, but we though it might give him some flexibility. We tried to find pointers from adults with 3 or more middle names on how to make things as smooth as possible in a place where the norm is 1 middle name, but have not found a whole lot. I do love his full name, so I hope that these logistical issues don't overshadow that.

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        • OOH good to know!! For school and stuff we plan to use just his first name and first middle name, so it's great that we can do that on the passport.

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          • The only official forms we've had to fill out so far have been the birth certificate and health insurance forms. The insurance company decided on their own to just use her middle initials.

    • I grew up with two last names (no hypen) to honor my paternal grandmothers maiden name. So all my paperwork and forms get filled weird. When ever I go into an office I've never been I usually tell them to check under under first last name, second last name, last name last name, and last name- last name. Yeah, I get strange looks. When I was in college my financial aid forms were filled under last name-last name, my bursar's office forms were filled under first last name, my student affairs forms were filled under second last name. Then I totally throw people off with my ordinary first name that is spelled unusually. It gets complicated but I'm more then used to it and I actually enjoy explaining my long confusing name.

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    • Girl with ridiculously long legal name here.
      Truth be told, I have had trouble but since my "nickname" is comically common I kinda like knowing my little "secret" identity of coolness.

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      • Same here! My last name is hard to spell and my nickname isn't a shortened form of my real name. I hated my first name (and my 2 middle names) growing up, but now I kind of like having a "secret" name.

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    • I have three middle names, and although I love they way they sound, they have been a problem when filling out forms as an adult. I had problems recently proving I was my child's mother because my Drivers licence and passport only have my 1st middle name, and my SS card has all three. I also include my three initials in my signature, so it was a huge hullabaloo to explain that I'm just one person. Some government institutions won't believe that my 2nd and 3rd middle names are real middle names. Because of these problems I chose to give my daughter only one middle name, although I would have liked to give her more. But I wouldn't change my name. I'm sure your child will find a way to work it out, even though it can sometimes be tiresome.

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    • If it makes you feel any better, I have NO middle name and growing up that caused problems too, especially for those older, inflexible computer programs.

      Also, I have a friend whose last name has a forward slash in it : K/Bidy. It's pronounced "Kerbidy". It's common where he comes from but it's caused him a small amount of grief here in the US ( and online ).

      And yet… neither one of us has elected to change the situation! Viva la difference.

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      • I don't have a middle name wither, but it always felt like something was missing. I always felt like people's middle names are what makes them unique and special.

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      • Where is the person with the slash in their name from? I'm so curious!

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      • I LOVE not having a middle name! Most people find it unique and when I was little I loved telling people that. One name is enough for me and my parents felt that adding a middle name was going to cuase issues between different sides of the family as to what it should be.

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      • None of my aunts on my father's side had middle names; it was family tradition in the Carruthers family that the girls had no middle name at birth and took their maiden name as their middle name when they were married.

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  5. My biological parents named my Ejypt, which my adoptive parents changed to Jennifer. I grew up LONGING for a unique "hippie" name, and tried on so many growing up. When I finally settled on a nickname of Jennifer, I learned what my original name was and it fit so well that I almost cried.

    While I understand why my parents changed it, I wish they hadn't. At almost 30 I have grown into my own version of Jennifer, but it would have been nice to really feel at home in my name.

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  6. I think this is just brilliant!

    We are parents to a Caesar, a Mercutio, a Severus Danger and our daughter, Samara has two middle names – we always get the "Your children are adorable, but THOSE NAMES!? Sheesh!" comment. They love their names {for now at least}, we love the stories behind each of them, and we have no regrets. :)

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  7. My son's name is Kilwich (kill-wick) and I didn't hear the end of it when we named him. But he is 8 now and loves his name. If he ever decides he doesn't want to go by it, he always has a normal middle name (Jared) or KJ as initials to go by.

    1 agrees
    • My poppop-in-law said about my nephew (4) recently, "When they first told me they named the baby Aidric, I thought, now what the hell kind of name is that? But then you get used to it and now, it seems to really fit him."

      So time creates converts.

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  8. I got ridiculous levels of hell for my name growing up — the teasing was epic, which is one of the big things we see people worrying about for unusual names.

    I'm named Jane. Doesn't really get much more basic than that.

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    • My middle name is Jane, after my aunt. I love it, and was never teased for it because the kids were more interested in my cool/weird (depending who you ask) last name. (Pupping)

      But my aunt was teased mercilessly growing up. Mostly involving Tarzan. Also, my mom's name is Nancy, which is pretty basic. She got teased a lot too. The favorite for her was Nanny goat. Kids can be mean, but interesting names are not the cause.

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  9. YES. I love this! Our toddler is Nola Imogene, and the meaning behind her name is two-fold. Nola is in honor of our favorite city, New Orleans, and Imogene is after my dad's mom. But her name together means "In the image of royal birth." And I LOVE it!

    3 agree
    • My toddler is Nola Luv! Nola my husband chose and Luv is my own middle name. I love the name Imogene.

    • I have always dreamed of naming a daughter Imogene! I love seeing others use it. :)

      • One of my sweet nanny-babies is Imogene, and Enid. I love love love both names, and unusual names in general. I have 4 names, and I go by Emma Kate. my husband has a very generic name, he's on board for a one of a kind name :)

  10. We had a really tough time choosing our daughter's name. Greek tradition dictates that we give her my MIL's name, but that?, was so not going to happen. We wanted something that flowed well with our long last name, that could work for an artist or an executive, and that didn't have a "weird" spelling because our last name does. In the end, we chose to honor a favorite,newly widowed aunt and named our baby girl Georgia Jane

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  11. Whenever I hear someone indicate that a child's name will damage their future. I think "You know Barack Obama is doing pretty well."

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  12. My husband and I couldn't pick a name until about a week or two before our daughter was born. For months we made list after list only to shoot them all down. I finally put something up on facebook asking for suggestions and my cousin suggested Cassandra, he said it was a combination of my Alexandra and the hubz Christopher. We loved it and we both new we wanted a special middle name and picked De La Paz, meaning 'of the peace'. My family hated it and his just seemed a bit confused by it, but we knew it was perfect. Now when people meet her and are amazed that she doesn't cry/fuss and sleeps through the night we know we made the right choice. We know people will mistake it for her last name, but my maiden name is now my middle name so I feel her eventual pain.

  13. Ok, so… obviously some names are lovely and simply not used enough (like Ophelia) but does anyone think naming a child after a character be going too far?

    Just wondering, because I've married into the surname "Walker" and would love to have a Lucas or an Anneke Skye Walker in the family…

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    • My married name is Walker as well and when I was pregnant my mother-in-law kept trying to convince us to name our son Luke Skye.

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      • We alllllmost named our son Kenobi. Ohhh man. I am all about character names! :)

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        • My best friend longs for a boy she can name Obadiah Juan… Character names are awesome.

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          • Awesome names are a big part of the reason I'm a fiction writer. I can use ALL my favorite names, and no child of mine will be teased for being named Mordachai!

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    • I think character names are fine. There are many character names that are becoming more and more popular. But I think when you turn the name into a gimmick, it's less about the child, and more about the name. My mother works in an elementary school and a kid was named Axel Rose. The kid hated it. I think if you wanted to name your child Luke or Lucas (to match his last name Walker) or Kenobi or whatever, that's awesome. But I think the other way is like those names "Harry Pitts" or "Crystal Chandelier" might be too far.

      1 agrees
    • My son's name is Zen Vader Vaughn "Last Name"!!! So I'm all about the star wars names.

    • Some names that are now quite common and normal started out as character names.

      Off the top of my head, Wendy (from Barrie's Peter Pan) and Jessica (from Shakespeare's the Merchant of Venice) were both made up by those authors.

      If enough people call their child Kenobi maybe it will be normal too!

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  14. My sons first name is Epic. When I told everyone what name I had chosen for my baby boy I got all sorts of judgemental comments and told over and over again that I need to think of a new name. Seeing who he is, he definitely fits his name.
    He has a boring last name that is easy to spell, and that's going to be changed shortly to an even more boring name. He has a middle name of Darwyn that was his grandfathers, who passed away before I got pregnant.
    I grew up as Kayla. BORING! Most common girls name, at least where I live it seems. But I was the girl with a bright red side mullet, who had a tattoo at 14 (thanks to my tattoo artist dad), who listened to metal, was (and still is) a vegetarian, hippie, tree hugger. I was far from boring and common.
    I get that the name that you chose for your kid may have some sort of impact on his or her life but its a tiny little thing. I chose my kids name being I am a huge dork and at the time I was pregnant I ate nothing but poutine and played Left 4 Dead, yelling "thats so Epic" or "Epic fail" every three seconds. The word Epic became everything I knew… so really when thinking of names it just seemed to work, plus I think it would of been more harmful if I named my kid Poutine. Just saying.

    3 agree
      • THATS AWESOME!!!! 😀 I didn't think any one else would ever name there kid Epic lol

    • I agree that Poutine would be more harmful, because I might EAT YOUR BABY. OMG Poutine… yum.

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      • I keep coming back to this comment to read. I break out in giggles every time.

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  15. Oh jesus, our biggest name obstacle is my father-in-law. Other people can hemm and haw all they like but he makes jokes and my husband caves. We were going to name our son Günter because my husband loved it, especially the umlouts. In Baltimore, where we were living at the time, sure our kid would have had a hard time. But we were moving to Cleveland where there is a huge diverse population of various cultural backgrounds and religions and the name would have been fine here. We ended up with Everett, which I totally love, but it wasn't the first choice. Now for our hypothetical third child we're talking about naming a boy child Kimball because my husband loves it. My FIL makes faces. I just want to yell SHUT-UP. For goodness sakes our last name, which is hyphenated because that's how my inlaws roll, is constantly the butt of jokes and causing people to ask me if that's REALLY my last name. Kimball is like Adam by comparison.

    • I know a lot of people refrain from announcing the name until after the birth. Maybe you can convince your husband to do the same if he comes up with another "unusual" name. Then take a picture of your father-in-law's face when you tell him! That would be EPIC!

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    • My middle name is Yvonne.I hated it growing up. Guess why? I got the most grief about my name from my SIBLINGS.
      And Yvonne is only slightly unusual.
      (I do love it now, and have decided that my siblings were merely jealous because their middle names were plain.)
      From my memories, and struggles with my own name, I have this to say: If your child is uncomfortable with the unique name they were given, at ANY stage of life, and even your explaining to them the story, reasons, and wonderfulness behind it cannot reconcile them to it, ask them what derivation of the name they would be more comfortable with. They may grow into being call Xenobia after a few more years, but may just want to be called Bia (or even Xia!) for a while.
      Also, if someone repeatedly refuses to respect this wish (I had a grandfather and brother who were not kind to my names), take the time to champion your child and respectfully request that this person honor this sensitive issue for as long as need be.
      (I'm eyeballing that Father in law, lol.)

      AMAZING idea to keep name choices to yourselves until after it's legal. Amazing. Don't give someone the opportunity to talk or mock you out of what you feel is right.

      3 agree
  16. Both me and my sister have unusual first names, Chantel and Shaina, and we both have two middle names because it's a British tradition and my parents are from a British colony. We've always loved our names and the fact that they are unusual. I don't always have space for both middle names on documents and people can't spell or pronounce it easily, but I wouldn't want an ordinary name. I'm still making unusual name choices now, choosing to keep my last name when I married and favoring unusual names for my non-existent children who will have hyphenated last names :)

  17. My daughter's name is Brigitte, and we constantly have to inform people that, no, it's not pronounced Bridget. It's actually a common German name that runs in my family. I can understand people think its pronounced the French way, as is Brigitte Bardot, since they are spelled the same, but neither pronunciation has the "D" sound in it. If I wanted the "d" sound I would have named her Bridgitte, which I have seen around.

    So people think I gave my daughter a difficult name, but it's really not if you don't insist on adding letters that aren't there.

    (ps- for those curious, it's pronounced Bree-git-ah. The only reference I've found is that one of the daughters in The Sound of Music has the same name. We do call her Bree as a nickname.)

    1 agrees
    • I believe there is also a Brigitte (with the same pronouncation) in the second Princess Diaries movie (She's one of the maids I think)

    • Love the name! Our first choice girl name is Liesel, also from the Sound of Music. It goes beautifully with our German last name.

      • I hope you go with Liesel! My mom aaaaalmost named me Liesel, then went for Kaitlin instead.

    • I used to work for a Brigitte and she pronounced it "BRIG-uh-tee"… when I met her I had already read her name tag and assumed the woman introducing us was saying it wrong, lol. It doesn't seem to be the French or German way, but she signed the cheques, so I was happy to go with it 😉

      1 agrees
    • My little sisters name is Bridget (which no one seems to be able to spell or pronounce either) and her favorite doll growing up was one picked up in Iceland that she named Brigitte.
      I love both names!

  18. 2 middle names is normal in my family, so when people asked why we gave our son 2 middle names I was confused as to why we would only give them one middle name haha.

    My husband and I really wanted to give our son a name that would be a bit unique so that he wouldn't have the same name as someone else in his classes, etc. As my husband puts it "There's already enough Daves in this world" (Dave is his name). I have a bit of an unusual name (Robbi) and I have always loved it. People sometimes mistake it for Robin or Bobby, but I think that happens with most names anyways. Our son is named Epic, and is mistaken for Eric, so he might be stuck correcting people. And if he turns out not to like it, he has two other names to choose from :)

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  19. We got a lot of odd looks when people would ask what we were planning on naming our daughter – Ripley, after Sigourney Weaver's character in Alien, who was one of the first really strong female leads. After my placenta calcifying and her needing to be induced at 37 weeks, her passing the non-stress test, the stress test (meaning she was up for going through labor after I was told there was a 65% chance of needing a c-section), being born with one push, and passing all the test needed to get out of the hospital, despite being 5lbs 5oz – which is a few oz shy of when they normally let babies out… my OB told me "she's a tough kid, you named her right." She's two days shy of three weeks old and our families have really embraced her name. And in my sleep deprived state, it's fairly easy to tell people "thank God you're not her mom, then" whenever they say "I wouldn't have named her that."

    1 agrees
    • What an amazing story! I love names with ties to strong fictional characters, and you can't do better than Ripley.

    • What a great reply! After hearing some reactions to our future-hopeful-hypothetical baby name list, I'll have to remember that one!

  20. We got a lot of odd looks when people would ask what we were planning on naming our daughter – Ripley, after Sigourney Weaver's character in Alien, who was one of the first really strong female leads. After my placenta calcifying and her needing to be induced at 37 weeks, her passing the non-stress test, the stress test, and passing all the test needed to get out of the hospital, despite being 5lbs 5oz – which is a few oz shy of when they normally let babies out… my OB told me "she's a tough kid, you named her right." She's two days shy of three weeks old and our families have really embraced her name. And in my sleep deprived state, it's fairly easy to tell people "thank God you're not her mom, then" whenever they say "I wouldn't have named her that."

  21. Honestly, it doesn't matter if your name is off-beat or uber-trendy; kids are cruel and will find a way to make fun of it if they want to. We went middle of the line with our kids' names (Desiray, Emmett, and Damien) because I lean towards odd and hubby leans toward normal, and they are all names that we've heard before but *hopefully* won't have duplicates of in school like we had (Jessica and Zachary).

    • This is so true. I have a brother named "Neal" which is like one of the most boring names I can think of. But we still picked on him by singing, "Neal Squeal Banana Peel" (I still, to this day, have no idea how we found that insulting, but it was). My youngest sister Laura was mocked with "Laura Snore-ah, pants on floor-ah" (Again, it makes no sense).

    • So true, I am Elisabethe, and grew up Lizard breath all my life.

    • Hi, Jess!
      Kids can be totally cruel, no matter what your name is. I got called "paper mache" all. the. time. in grade school.

  22. I grew up with an "unusual" name that I constantly had to correct people on or spell out for them, and I'm no worse for the wear. I never, ever wished for a different or more "normal" name, so I didn't give it a second thought when we gave our daughter the name Medea. I love names with a story behind them, and I think Medea has a great one.

  23. "Their identities are shaped by their names but they are not limited by them."

    This is so, so true and I really love this piece.

    I grew up a "Cherish" along with a very rare and unusual surname. I am the only person on record to have ever had my first and last name as a combo.
    I can honestly say that I was never bullied or picked on because of my name. The assumption that you automatically will is just something thrown up by people who want you to feel as insecure as they do.
    But I did always feel like I had to do something special with my life, or else my name would be wasted. Being the only person in the whole world with my name gave me something to live up to.

    Because the most wonderful thing about Tiggers is that I'm the only one.

    5 agree
    • Same here with the unusual last name! I'm the only Jamie MyLastName on record, so I am DEFINITELY keeping it when I get married.

      • The flip side of this is that being the only X on record gives you no privacy online. My husband was the only person in the world with his name and then got in trouble with the law when he was 21, and that shows up instantly if you google his name. We've since changed our last name to something so bland that he actually got someone else's paycheck his first week at his new job!

        1 agrees
  24. I love this article! My first name is Heather and my life-long friend's name is Natahna (pronounced NAH-tah-na not Nathana). Tahna may have to tell people how to pronounce and spell her name, but she has never come across someone with that same name (I can meet someone in a similar community and they'll say "Oh you're Tahna's friend," and I'll never have to say "Tahna who?"). She's a very unique warm person and I think people associate her name with that. On the other hand, people always know how to spell my first and last name, but because Heather is so common for my generation, I've always been known by my full name (and there are at least two other people in my province with the same full name). I really feel like I had to work for my name to represent my identity, but I think Tahna had to work to be comfortable living up to her name. All kids work really hard to figure out their identities and they'll find one no matter how common or uncommon their names are.

    My only tests for picking a name for our kid is that it's not too common, it won't hold them back from any careers, and that we like it. I want my kid to be able to become a crown prosecutor or a rock star without having to change their name.

    3 agree
    • I've never really felt like my name is really "me" but there aren't exactly a lot of nicknames you can get with it. Plus, my dad has never even met a Heather in his life and then there were three in my class.

      Beyond the substitute who couldn't pronounce my VERY NORMAL last name (or my first for that matter), there were at least 5 other girls with my same first-last combo in my area (ones who had, say, the same doctor, the same orthodontist, at least two who were in the same hospital system, etc.). One of them had the same birthday as me, but 8 years younger. Another one even has the same middle name. After being a teenager suffering from weird tiredness and having vitamins from an unmarked pill bottle forced on me every day, my pediatrician asked how the cancer treatments were going. It took a lot of tests and convincing for me to believe that they had just mixed up my chart on the way into my room that day.

      I have an ex whose name is unbelievably common, and to top it off his birthday is, no joke, 5-6-78. His social and DL #'s? BOTH also ridiculously sequential. He's like a walking example form.

      So, even with a totally normal name, I'm used to having to do things like give my full first-middle-last and birthdate, and have them confirm things like address and social when normally all policy dictates is checking first and last and maybe birthday. It's really common for people to say "oh, that's not your record" and have to confirm more information. I would certainly rather my kid have to endure some teasing and spelling their name constantly than run the risk of being so common that their records get mixed up.

      4 agree
      • I completely relate when you say you don't feel like the name suits you – I think that's a common feeling with a common name. When I was a teenager I wanted to go by Abby as an adult, and I may use it when traveling because Heather is only really pronounceable in the Germanic/Anglo worlds. So if you want to feel like it's more unique, go to Southeast Asia because very few people will be able to pronounce it.

        Additionally, I was chronically un-nicknameable, which doesn't help. My brother is the only person who calls me Heath, not even my husband does. Sometimes when he is being really sweet, he'll call me Heatherbelle, which is adorable, but absolutely no one else calls me by a nickname. They just slide off me. So maybe the name fits me better than I think?

        I also agree with not giving my kid something super common. I follow name stats for our top choices pretty closely because while we want something uncommon, we want it to be classic and pronounceable.

  25. Kids with so-called "normal" names can have a hard time too. My name is Nicole, and I was one of three Nicoles in my class in high school. And, I grew up in the 80's – Purple Rain, Prince, and the infamous song "Darling Nikki". Nothing like being in 8th grade and having guys sing to you about masturbation.

    Don't hesitate to name your child something offbeat because they might get teased – the "normals" get teased too..

    3 agree
    • My word yes! I got teased as a Sarah. SARAH!

      1 agrees
  26. Ugh. My first name has an unusual spelling, and my last name could be a first name, so I always have to spell it all out. My son has an ordinary name but I hate comments about how a name will be too long or difficult to spell. Or better yet, warnings that your child will be confused if you have a different last name. I feel like asking those people if they suppose children are idiots!

  27. Ugh. My first name has an unusual spelling, and my last name could be a first name, so I always have to spell it all out. My son has an ordinary name but I despise comments about how a name will be too long or difficult to spell. Or better yet, warnings that your child will be confused if you have a different last name. I feel like asking those people if they suppose children are idiots!

    4 agree
  28. It's such a fine line to walk IMO when you want a more unusual name. Personally, I WANT to avoid the odd looks, and the thoughts of "oh what were they thinking??" (Celebrity baby names come to mind there). I grew up with a last name that was hard to spell and pronounce; I think 1 person ever got it right the first time. I hated it. Also, kids are cruel and will take any opportunity to make fun and insult someone over a name. I got it all the time for my first name (Laurel) and my last. Now that I'm an adult, I think my parents did a good job of giving me and my siblings names that were not very common, that have not become too common and yet are not at all unusual. They're just nice.

    For my own children, I really really DID NOT want common names. I didn't want them going to school, saying their name, and then having other kids pipe up "hey that's my name too!". I want them to be different. We thought we got it with my first daughter – we named her Zoe. However, as soon as we named her, we discovered it actually was common. DANG! However, it fits, because it means "vibrant and full of life" and she was born with heart defects, so we figured she'd better be vibrant in order to make it! Her little sister is Astrid. Now, that's a name that's still uncommon, but yet we get so many comments on how cool a name it is. Win for the parents!

    I also subscribe to the idea that names should balance out – easy first name odd last name, odd first name with easy last name.

    I don't think it's odd to have multiple middle names – it's a good way to honor special people in your life, and it's only an issue on forms.

    1 agrees

      I love having a weird name, even when it got made fun of. My son is Tycho and I have to help with spelling and pronunciation and I totally don't care because it is awesome, whatever.

      4 agree
      • I love yours because of White Oleander (the book, not the movie lol.) I would have used it after reading the novel but was already on a roll with all Irish names.

    • I am trying so hard to convince my guy that we need to name a child Astrid. He's afraid that mean kids will call her Assturd. Sigh. It's such a beautiful name though!

      • OMG I LOVE the name Astrid! Love. Do it.

        1 agrees
        • Yay for the Astrid love!!! The day she was born, I called up a friend of mine who happened to have been raised abroad. When I told her the name, she said "oh that's a very common name in Holland!". If she goes to Holland she'll be common, but not here. But seriously, everytime we tell people her name we get a lot of comments on what an awesome name it is. My ex husband had a friend who said his uncle had a girlfriend who was an Astrid when he was a boy. He had a crush on her, and ever since then he thought Astrid was one of the most beautiful names for a girl. :)

          1 agrees
          • My kids all have Irish names and it's the same. They're always the only one at their school but from what I've heard not unusual anywhere in the UK or Australia.

      • Haha, that was something on "The Office". Michael misspelled "Astrid" and greeted a new child as "Assturd".

        1 agrees
      • Probably! LOL But something equally offensive will be concocted regardless..

    • Astrid is a wonderful character-reference name to have nowadays, thanks to How to Train your Dragon and Fringe. =)

      1 agrees
  29. I've been going back and forth with my husband about name our second child. Our sons name is Xavier Dante. My husbands name is the same name of pretty much every male in the family, which is Jorge but spelled the English way ( george) unlike the rest of the ecaudorians in the fam jam. Anyway we opted NOT to name our son Jorge also.
    For our second child we have chosen Bowie Irene if a girl and have not chosen a boy name yet.

    1 agrees
    • I'm gonna have a Bowie Violet (if this pregnancy is actually a girl like I think)! When my husband and I got married 5 years ago we went back and forth on if I'd take his last name or he'd take mine– we both had rather long last names and I didn't want to hyphen. His convoluted German last name had a lot of special meaning to him and pride, and I wanted us to have the same last name so I agreed to take his last name and he agreed to let me name our kids with the understanding that if we ever had a girl she would be named Bowie.

      I'm a huge fan (have the Aladin Sane lighting bolt tattooed on my head) but aside from that I just think it's such a cute name. I was shocked when my mom didn't throw a fit, but she loves it too.

      (I like Rhett for a boy but my husband isn't as much of a fan. I don't know why I'm getting such strong girl vibes… maybe because we only have a girls name picked out?)

  30. And with so many spelling options, it isn't like normal names are all that "normal" anyway. I went to school with 2 Ashleys and and an Ashleigh. Katherine or Catherine can be Katy, Katie, Kat, Cat, Kathy or Cathy. I absolutely LOVE my uncommon name (Rosalie) and there are still a billion ways to spell it (and I've seen about all of them). I learned how to spell it just fine, and I have to spell it out just as often as my friend Ashleigh. I was made fun of in school, not because of my name, but because kids are jerks. Good for you for sticking to your guns! Maybe not in middle school, but someday your kids will be so thankful for their names. I know I am for mine.

    1 agrees
  31. I grew up HATING my unique name Portia (por-sha), and to honest, I still really don't care for it. The amount of time I've spent correcting people on spelling, pronunciation, and guffawing at dumb car jokes amazes me. My partner's name is Mike, simple, no jokes. We gave our kids simple but not super common first names (Max and Cleo) and longer more interesting middle names ( Beowulf/ Clementine). I felt like giving them a name common enough that it will have been heard as a first name and a middle name with flair would give them the choice to figure out how they wanted to be called when older.

  32. I always get people looking at me weird when I tell them my daughter has two last names, that aren't hyphenated. No, she doesn't have two middles names, she has one middle name and two last names. My husbands first last name (he was later adopted), and my last name. She is our child and therefore should share in both our family names.

    So what I'm saying is, I totally feel ya on the whole "weird name" objections some people throw around. I've heard them all by now.

  33. When people see me with my white mother, they always assume that she gave me some "new age" name because she was a hippie. Little did they know that my dad is Indian and my name is actually quite traditional! "Offbeat" is just code for "unfamiliar" here.

    1 agrees
  34. I've thought about this off and on. Unlike most of the comments, I'm not hugely into offbeat names.

    I grew up with an odd pronunciation (the Danish version) of a name that was way more popular than my parents expected. Apparently it was a trend. In my elementary and high school time (in a small town), I knew 5 other girls with similar names, only one of them the same pronunciation. I got tired of correcting pronunciation. I tried out an alternate spelling when I was in grade 5 and promptly discovered that was worse. So I've stuck with my name. I like slightly odd names but I also would want something that is fairly pronounceable and easy to identify because I've spent my entire life correcting people about my name and it is not something I enjoy. I get wrong pronunciations, wrong spellings, completely wrong names based on a couple letters of similarity. Not the highlight of my life. I've also gotten in trouble previously for NOT correcting someone. Yes, my name is my identity but when almost nobody gets it right it can also feel like a burden for some of us. My hubby and I both have easily pronounceable last names, even if we still have spelling issues so something slightly outside ordinary but not too far would work for me.

    1 agrees
  35. Fun fact: Anyone can change his/her name! I changed mine at the age of 22 (but not because I hated my given name, which was unusual and I miss sometimes). So I find it strange when people make the "oh, your poor child" comments. That child can make up his/her own mind later, but for now, the parents get to make the decisions, which is what being a parent is about.

    • Some cultures expect the child to choose/solidify their own name upon reaching adulthood.
      I love that idea!

      3 agree
  36. I don't buy the "spelling rule", because kids are typically damn proud of their name, and will memorize it as soon as they can, and once they learn to write it…they write it on EVERYTHING. This was my experience from my mum's daycare. It was always easy to tell which kids had just started kindergarten!

    Our main name rule was "could this baby grow up to be the Prime Minister?" If we could put the words "The Right Honourable" in front of the name and have it sound good, then we had a winner!

    5 agree
  37. I love unique names and when I found out I was pregnant with a boy my husband insisted we use a Scottish name. I wanted an uncommon name but something that was easier to pronounce and easy to say. We picked Wallace under the agreement that he would be called Ace. We don't often tell people his full name because either they don't understand where we get Ace or they want to call him Wally. His middle name is Lier to pay tribute to my maiden name, Boutilier. We think Ace is a badass name and if he ever wants a "grown up" name he can switch to Wallace. Now, I just need to convince my husband to let me call our future daughter Zsa Zsa. Can I get some support on this one?

    1 agrees
    • This might not help your case, but we named our cat Zsa-Zsa. =)
      She is GORGEOUS, sweet, kind, loving, forgiving, obedient, and playful.

      3 agree
  38. I have an unusual first name (Remy) and so does my little sister (Kyrie). Seems like my folks couldn't give her a normal boring name after me. Yes, we both have to spell them out for other people. But they're not very long, and the unusualness makes living in a world with so many other people a little less confusing. (There were two other Remys in the school district I attended, although not in my year — but there are no other people with my first and last name or my sister's in the country. Probably the world. We are ALL the Google results. :) )

    Now, something I did resent was that both of us were given our mother's last name as a middle name, and we didn't get "real" middle names. I have therefore thought a lot about appropriate first-middle combinations for hypothetical children of mine. particularly if they decide to drop the hyphenated last name and use just first and middle (stage name, pen name, easier legal name).

    1 agrees
  39. I have an incredibly normal short easy to spell name and I constantly have to spell it for people!

  40. As an Alyssa, I grew up HATING my name-no one knew how to pronounce or spell it (except fans of Who's the Boss) and there were NO pencil cases or bike license plates or t-shirts with my name on it. Oh, the tragedy…

    Now? You can't throw a stick without hitting another Alyssa. (Not that I recommend throwing sticks at children. Unless they really have it coming.) That's something the naysayers (and those hoping for ultra-originality) should keep in mind; trends change and the unique little snowflakes may not be so later in life.

    But seriously. Buy your kid personalized stuff. It's traumatizing. :-)

    4 agree
    • BWAHAHAHA! Yes, I wanted a personalized license plate or mug or keychain SOOOOO bad. (I still look… but between Rhonda and Renee there is nothing. And I've never met a Rhonda.)

      My parents got us wooden letters and blocks and stickers and let us make our own beaded necklaces where we could pick out the letters. Once at Disneyland we got souvenir hats where your name is stitched on when you buy them. And Chinese brush paintings we saw done right in front of us (we both still have those, 20 years later).

      • But you have a SONG! That's infinitely cooler. :-)

        I also treasure the few things I have with my name on it. My mom even made me a t-shirt quilt and the centerpiece is the airbrushed "Alyssa" from tank top we got when I was five from a skeevy carnival.
        Had Etsy existed when I was a child, with its wealth of personalized items, I would have fallen over dead from excitement…

      • That's what etsy is for!! Get your stuff CUSTOM personalized!!

    • Hahaha, this always bugged me as a kid, too! I could find things with "Cara" on them, but never with a "K". My brother, Erik, had the same problem.

      I do like unique names, though, My qualms with my name as a kid were that it was unusual enough that I couldn't find personalized stuff, but it wasn't so unusual that I never met other Karas. I always wished it was more one way or the other. Either a common name, or something totally weird.

      Anyway, I like it okay, now. No major trauma. I do always have to spell it for people, though.

      1 agrees
    • Oh I know! I can never find Laurel! It IS traumatizing! (oh wait once I did find it on a tiny license plate keychain thing.)

    • Isn't this why the internet exists? Ok, you can't find it on the turning rack in the store for instant gratification, but you can still get one.

      I'm in the Army of Amandas that was let loose in the 80s, and I'm all for unusual names. I err on the side of old is new again myself, but more power to everyone else out there with the Epic and Atticus and Ophelia and everything else.

      Now to convince my husband that Dorothy isn't only for old ladies. I've already lost the Alistair battle to an R middle name. (living in the UK and our last name begins with S. You spell it out.)

    • My middle name is Alysse, which confuses the heck out of people. "Alice?" No, Alysse. "How do you spell Elyse with an A?"

  41. I am Lacey Jewell JoLynn Jean, plus my confirmation name, Gwen, so I can speak from experience on this. I loved having all these names. My friends in high school would try to learn all of my names and of course we'd sing it to the tune of "John Jacob Jingle…" I'm named after my grandma, mom, dad, and aunt. I was heart broken when I got my SS card and driver's license and could only fit one middle name. Now that I'm married I threw my maiden name in there too, but again only have that and my last name on my ID and SS card :-( No one would ever know that I have this long, cool name unless I tell them or they see my birth certificate.

  42. Our baby was born just 5 days ago, and we named her something really offbeat- Selkie Jubilee. And her last name is both our names. We are proud her name, and regardless that some people think her name is "Suklie" or "Silkie", we love it- and correcting people is nothing. She will be proud of her name. It has a story behind it. Not many people have it (if at all).

    2 agree
    • Does the story behind "Selkie" have to do with seals?

      3 agree
  43. Plus, honestly, name trends change as you grow.

    I had met ONE other Sophia before I turned 20 or so, and she was a poodle. People constantly remarked on the unusual oldschool romantic-ness of my name. And then … little Sophies all over the place! It's been in the top-5 baby names for a few years now, I think last year it was even #1. There are tons and tons of baby Sophia/Sophies where before there were none.

    I like to say they are my minions.

    And despite the popularity, Sophia still has the "f or ph?" issue, so even though there are a gazillion of us, now, we'll be telling people about the middle part forever.

    It's all good.

    2 agree
    • This is how I felt in 1990 when Ariel (a name previously reserved for A) Jewish dudes or B) girls with hippie parents) became popular thanks to The Little Mermaid. Suddenly, there were all these little Ariels running around everywhere!

  44. In my high school class of 150, there were 4 other girls with my first name (not quite Jennifer in popularity, but close!). My last name growing up was a colour, spelled like the colour. People still constantly asked me how to spell one or both.

  45. Our son is Benson Jordan (middle name is from Green Lantern). Our daughter is Elliottt Lane (Lane as in Lois). We either have people love it or say it is cruel to give our daughter a boys name or something like 'oh' with a shocked look on their face 'well at least you can call her Ellie". With both names early on I just knew it was right and people were even more surprised that if I ended up having a boy the second time we would not name him Elliott. It is a perfect for for our daughter :)

    • I went through a phase of wanting to name a daughter Eliot in college, I like it!

  46. im a jessica.. and im always one of 5 or so… and im always correcting people " no no, im not jennifer im jessica"

    even with normal names you have issues.

    1 agrees
    • My parents renamed me Jennifer Jessica, because they liked both and "couldn't decide "…so annoying!

      1 agrees
  47. My name is Andrea. I have to spell it out for people ALL. THE. TIME. Might as well have been something more unique.

    * To be fair, at least nothing rhymes with "Andrea", so there was no good way to mock it. Of course, my last name (Dickson) was fodder enough.

  48. We are expecting our first, and we are going with family first names (Avalin or Stephen), and two middle names. The first middle name is a literary character (Clare or Fletcher), and the second middle name is my maiden name. I also made my maiden name a second middle name when we got married, and it's important to me for our children to share it, too. It is sometimes challenging to have two middle names, but I think it's oh-so worth it.

    • Just have to say: I've never heard the name Avalin before and now I'm in love with it!

  49. I "only" have two middle names, and it wasn't a big deal legally. Both were on my SS card, but only one could go on my drivers license. Of course they made me use my first middle name, which I hated as a teenager, and then that meant it was the one on everything. I've also been married twice and retained my maiden name as a middle name, so anytime I have to fill some out that asks for all previous names, I need half a sheet of paper. :)

    The only thing I didn't like was that my parents also gave me a third middle name, which isn't on the birth certificate. I didn't care when I was little, but as I got older it embarrassed me because no one understood when I saidd it and it always turned into a long conversation. I tried just omitting it, but my mom would always mention I'd left it out, making for an even longer conversation.

  50. My daughter is Megan, and I've spent the last 16 years spelling it for people. Really? It even gets mispronounced from time to time. Really?
    She's named after my grandmother, who was Peggy, and I had no idea until months after she was born that it was so popular. (#12 in the US in 1996.) I might have picked something else if I had – although her dad would certainly have voted down anything too 'odd', and I really LIKE the fact that she has my Nana's name.
    She's currently decided that Megan is boring, so she calls herself Siobhán Willow. It suits her.

  51. My parents went and named me Wendy. I love my name but I grew up a girl named Wendy with reddish hair and freckles. It was a nightmare. There was a lot of teasing that happened, it is something I laugh about now. Just don't EVER call me Wendy-bird.
    Once I have children I most likely will pick an unusual name, theres nothing better than being the only one with your name in your school!

    1 agrees
    • I get insanely jealous when I meet other Auroras, with the exception of meeting Princess Aurora at Disney, whom I was named after. It was something I never had to deal with growing up, and it happens rarely, but when it does, I seethe. =D

      • I'm the same way with Valerie. It's not so uncommon that people don't know it, but I never had to deal with another one in my school, and I loved that. I have a "You stole my name! Go pick another name!" reaction whenever I see another Valerie.

  52. We are expecting a baby in a few weeks. if it's a girl she'll be named Emmalyn Dahlia. Everyone I've told that to so far has needed me to repeat it at least 3 times. We figure if it bugs her when she's older, she can introduce herself as Emma.

    If it's a boy, he'll be Jasper Corbitt. Jasper is from my family and Corbit from my husbands, and they both go back 3 or 4 generations. I didn't think it was strange, but the Corbitt has gotten some odd looks.

    1 agrees
  53. My boyfriend and I named out daughter Dexee (was going to be Dexter is the baby was a boy, but we had a girl and weren't too keen on Dextra so Dexee it was). I actually got a nasty anonymous message telling me that her name was going to f*** her up, that people would have to ask her to pronounce it her entire life and that she would be the laughing stock of her school! I was like…Whaaaaaat??? We live outside of D.C….huge melting pot…I have a friend named Nazia…and other than accidentally calling her Dixie, how many ways are there to pronounce D-E-X-E-E. Well that turned into a rant. Anyway, people are funny. Offbeat names are awesome!

  54. I'm also a Jennifer an wanted something different for my kids. So I now have a Josephine Alexandria Anne (nickname Jo) and a Henrietta Elizabeth Pearl (nickname Henetta; cause thats how her 2 year old sister says it). The middle names are fairly common- but are after family members an the first names are hopefully somewhat original, so they at least don't have 5 or 6 with the same name in their class anyway.

  55. I had an usual name thats now become quite popular… Except I was named after my grandfather. And it was spelt "Alana", and pronounced uh-lar-nuh, everyone wanted to spell it Allannah and pronounce it ah-lah-nah. Then there was being called Banana… And my last name WAS terrible. Lets just say that I was once told my first name should have been Headeth so that I would be listed in the school directory as dick head.

    The second I turned 18 I changed my name. I still have to correct people on how to spell and pronounce it, but I finally feel like my name is MY NAME, rather than what people call me. And I get told a lot what a lovely name it is :3

    Theres really no predicting how a name will turn out. Worst comes to worst, the kid changes their name, and hey, maybe youll find out that it suits them perfectly! My mother was sad that I was changing my name but she agrees that my new name is vastly more me than Alana ever was.

    (I also changed my middle name to her maiden name, and chose a whole new surname for myself. It gets a bit confusing to explain that my parents and I all have different names, but MY name is perfect for me now and I love it. )

    • I've mentioned this on another name post, and I'll mention it again: I have a very unique name, which I love. My sister has a very unique name, which she hates, and her daughter has a very plain name, which she hates and plans on changing. I knew a girl in college who, when she was a child, was so upset over her birth name that her mother legally changed it when she was seven. There's really no way to predict how your child is going to react to their name, whether it's normal or offbeat.

      1 agrees
  56. I had an usual name thats now become quite popular… Except I was named after my grandfather. And it was spelt "Alana", and pronounced uh-lar-nuh, everyone wanted to spell it Allannah and pronounce it ah-lah-nah. Then there was being called Banana… And my last name WAS terrible. Lets just say that I was once told my first name should have been Headeth so that I would be listed in the school directory as dick head.

    The second I turned 18 I changed my name. I still have to correct people on how to spell and pronounce it, but I finally feel like my name is MY NAME, rather than what people call me. And I get told a lot what a lovely name it is :3

    Theres really no predicting how a name will turn out. Worst comes to worst, the kid changes their name, and hey, maybe youll find out that it suits them perfectly! My mother was sad that I was changing my name but she agrees that my new name is vastly more me than Alana ever was.

  57. as a person who has a very unusual name, "ambra" which is very uncommon in america. I hated having this name as a child. i've gotten used to it as an adult but it sucks not having anyone ever pronounce your name right. even worse was my maiden last name, which i won't divulge here, but it's very long and french. my family pronounces it untraditionally, so no one ever stood a chance at pronouncing it right on the first try. I will tell you, with some embarrassment, that I did not know how to spell my last name until i was about nine. just some things to think about.

    I really don't enjoy having a name that no one has ever heard. everyone grows into their name, but I would really think about all these things. as a child, my name was a great source of insecurity

    • Oh heck, I had one of those maiden names too.
      From Luxembourg. There it was common like Smith.
      Here? Not so much.

  58. Even simple last names pose problems. My last name is New, a bonafide real word in the English language and I'm constantly spelling it for people. It's just too simple.

      • My last name is the word "English" and people ask if it's with an "I" – so strange. It's also confusing when traveling.

    • My last name used to be Hill. And I had to spell it every single time. I also have a really common first name, which I also always had to spell. Its less annoying to have to spell your last name for people when it is actually hard to spell!

      4 agree
      • I agree… sort of. My maiden name is pretty unusual, so I would say it, then spell it. Then launch into a five minute conversation because the person would say "that's odd, how do you pronounce that?" And even with a concise explanation, people would still be unable to pronounce it, all the while I'm trying to steer them back to business… man, I've wasted so much time explaining how to pronounce that name.

  59. I've got an very unique first name, one that's so rare and so easily identifies me that I must use a pseudonym on the internet if I have any hope of anonymity. I know exactly one other person with my name, and that's the person I was named after. Do people mispronounce or misspell my name? Sure. Do I care? Nope.

    I also happen to work in a school. I see kids with all sorts of names every single day. We've got a diverse group of kids. Some have names traditional to their ethnic group which are rare in the US. Others have typical names but with weird spellings. There are kids who have words for names.

    You know what I've learned? People care and they don't. When you first here your friend is name his newborn girl "Ever" or that your sister has picked "Camdyn" for a boy you may think that's silly. But if that same "Ever" or "Camdyn" is your friend, coworker, or relative that's just their name. You don't judge your friends about their names, so why judge them about their kids' names?

    3 agree
    • the only person I've ever met with my name is also the person I was named after, and i only met her once.

  60. I have an unusual name that is really well known and heard but not used. What to know what it is? Tabitha. Only now there seems to be more and more Tabithas around but growing up I was the only one except for the girl in bewitched (and i've still not actually met another, but some friends know another). I get called Tab by everyone though.

    When it came time to name my son, I tried to follow the same rule – Unusual but Not. So he got Griffin, which is not that common as a first name in australia but seen around as a last name or company/street etc.

    Edited to add: He gets called Griff by everyone (a nice easy nickname was part of the name criteria since my nickname has become my name in a way)

  61. I don't like my first name, not because it's so common, but because of my abusive mother. I can't hear it without thinking that I'm in trouble, so everyone just refers to me as 'Mish', 'Mishi' or 'Mishka'. My partner tends to go by the nickname his late cousin gave him when they were kids, it's even his gamer tag.
    We named our daughters after female characters that we like and gave them fairly normal middle names just in case. Our eldest is Jadzia (ST:DS9) and our youngest is Kaylee (Firefly/Serenity). Their names suit them and their personalities, which is exactly what we wanted.

    The only problems that we've had are mispronuniciations (mainly as Jezeniah or Jaziah and Kylie), but the girls aren't bothered by them. They just smile and say their names again.

    2 agree
  62. I have the unusual first name of Tunuviel. I had my share of teasing as a kid but never about my name. I always like the way my name segment apart. The biggest bummer when I was young was never being able to buy the "personalized" things in the store.
    Since I'm named after a Tolkien character but am not a Tolkien fan the only really irritating thing is getting trapped in countless conversations with hardcore Tolkien geeks who want to tell me all about my namesake and all the other characters associated with her.
    I'm a drama teacher now and my students always call me by my first name and never bat an eyelash.

  63. Surprised there are no "Megan"s yet. There were 6 in my kindergarten class. I've switched to Meg because there seems to be less. I'm giving up my last name, White, and I wish I could give it to my child as a middle name, but I've always struggled with it sounding racist. At the park, etc, it's always sounded wrong shouting "where are the white kids at?" and "time to go, white kids!"

    also, yes, I go by Meg White. no, I cannot drum. but on the plus side, you can't find me on google. :)

  64. We had similar issues with names when deciding what my youngest should be named. We had a girl name picked out, Elodie, and my husband let the name slip at a company party only to be berated by some random chick about how he shouldn't consider naming our child a name that is similar to a more popular name. He came home with doubts about our awesome name and I told him that EVERY name is annoying. His name is Nick and I asked him how many times he has been asked to repeat his name or have it misspelled. All the time. And the whole nickname thing is lame. My name is Marissa and there is no legit nickname. I've had some people try to shorten it to Mar, Mari, Issa, Mariss…. but all were forced. We ended up having a boy and we picked his name after my water broke and we were at the hospital. His name is Ivan Ferris. Ivan was our winner on our geeky spreadsheet voting thing and Ferris is from Ferris Bueller's Day Off… hubby's fave movie.

    My older son is Mateo Archer. I picked Mateo from a baby name book and it turns out that my great-great grandfather was named Timateo. AND if he hates it later, he can go by Matt… no biggie. His middle name is Archer because he is a Sagittarius. I'm not into astrology, but he was 2 days old with no middle name and it sounded awesome and I love it. Today he is a kindergartener and a handful of kids have trouble saying his name or they call him Matato or Tomato or Potato, but he doesn't really care. He likes his name. :)

    • Can I just say how awesome it is to see that someone else has done the spreadsheet voting thing? 😀

  65. I grew up surrounded by forest, pitchulli, aurora, hopi, echo, neon, and sisters named maryjane and poppy.
    My name is Anna. Plane jane name, extrordinary life and personality, just saying.

  66. As someone who has both an unusual first name (for where I am at least) and a very hard to spell/pronounce last name I can say it can actually be pretty hard for a kid. My first name is Sheena, and while this seems pretty straight forward I spent my young life clarifying my name.( I still do in fact, I have picked up using the phrase "As in Sheena of the Jungle, or Sheena Easton, or Sheena is a Punk Rocker" but that is neither here nor there.) Combine constantly having to tell people that no, my name is not Gina, or Tina, and does not shorten to Sheeny, with a horrifically French last name with two silent S's and as an introverted, kinda quiet child… I Hated it. I wanted so badly to be named something easier. Now that I am older I love my name. My name is totally awesome. But I suppose a thought to keep in mind that while we are naming our children, it is the kids that will have to bear the brunt of matters, not us. And while the teasing really does seem to be a bit of a myth, the problems that can accompany a unique name are a possibility.

    • While I can understand your point, I think there's only so much we can try to predict about our kids. How were my parents to know that by giving me one of the most popular names of the decade that they would be condemning me to feel unoriginal? How were they to know that despite how very ordinary a name it was, other kids would still find a way to morph it into an insult? True, a child with an unsual name could grow to resent it like you did. Or it could be a huge source of pride for them. There's no way to know so a parent simply has to make the judgement call. That being said I don't think the odds of giving your kid a name they will love are any higher if you choose a more "normal" name.

      Oh and if it makes you feel any better, I have named Sheenagh. Same pronunciation as Sheena. See, could be worse :)

      1 agrees
  67. Both our kids will have to spend time spelling out their names if for no other reason than my husband's surname seems to be hard for people to spell (although it seems pretty obvious how to spell it to me!). And our son definitely… his first name is after a Lithuanian great-grandfather, and as far as we know, no one else ever had this name, and his middle name is after another great-grandfather, this time Hungarian. But we just call him Ziggy. :)

    1 agrees
  68. As a super hippie my dad fought hard to name me Storm, my mom said no way lets name her Courtney. She seriously regrets that choice to this day! Apparently Storm would have fit my childhood attitude perfectly. She is now totally on board with the names picked out for upcoming baby. Hendrix for a boy, or Jona Marley for a girl (short for Jonathan, not pronounced Jonah). Not sure if Jona Marley will be first name or first and middle…

  69. My doctor phoned to give me blood test results- of tests I didn't have done, one being a positive pregnancy test- Another Lauren with the same last name at the same surgery. I must say I have enjoyed buying odd items with my name on it: key chains, toothbrushes and such but a slightly more unique name would be better

  70. I grew up with a fairly unusual name for the time, Alexia . But when I got to the sixth grade there was another girl in my class named Alexia. So to cut down on confusion I always went be my nickname Ali. There are some friends and even relatives that only know me as Ali. When I grew up and started working I went back to calling myself Alexia. So when I met my husband he knew me as Alexia and refuses to call me Ali. I think unique names are a gift. They give character and flavor to those who are gifted with them. I have two daughters now with very unique names, ones you won't find in baby books and are hard pressed to find the meaning of – Cedella and Isora. Cedella can't quite say her name yet so she calls herself Ella. Isora is just a couple months old but so far we call her either Izzie or Zorie. When they are old enough to ask I will tell them why we gave them these names and hope that they love them. If not they can go by their middle names Michelle and Rose.

  71. We decided to name our son Cailan, we're both big gamer nuts and loved the name when we heard it (Dragon Age: Origins, though watching King Cailan get all smushed is a little sad now). Plus it's apparently Gaelic, which my Irish boyfriend loves.

    But oh man, have we gotten crap for it. It's WAY TOO GIRLY. Because every "unisex" name eventually turns into a girl's name only.

    1 agrees
    • I've never understood the whole "unisex=girl's name" thing myself… Anyone remember when Lyndsey was a guy's name?

      1 agrees
  72. I was blessed with an offbeat middle name, Wren, so I gave it to my daughter as her first name. I love it!

  73. My formal name is Elizabeth, but I've always been Betsy. My parents decided on that one before I was born. My grandma thought I should be Beth and gave us things that said "Beth" on them, but my parents held strong, and I'm glad. I had a lot of "Betsy Wetsy" as a kid, especially from my brother. Now the only problem is people don't hear me right and call me Becky all the time. But other than that I love my name and almost never come across other people named Betsy. I like that it's unusual, but easy to pronounce and spell and sounds (to me anyway) a bit old fashioned and domestic. I've been told it fits me very well.

    • I'm Becky and I get Betsy all the time! I even get called Betty a surprising amount… and tell me, how many 20-something Bettys do you know?

  74. I LOVE my weird name! I'm Miacoda (my-a-co-da) and my middle name is White fawn. It leads to a lot of funny conversations when i meet new people. lol I also convinced my husband weird names are great so our daughter is Sohaleia Elm. :-)

    1 agrees
  75. Okay, I have a question: Both of my grandmothers were born and raised in other countries (Spain/Puerto Rico and Belgium). One grandfather's first language was Polish, raised in the US by Polish immigrants.

    If I were to name my kid (either first or middle) a very Spanish/Polish/French name do you think it would be disrespectful to someone who is in fact from one of those countries, like cultural appropriation? Like in a "Why has this American girl given her son "Jose" for a middle name?" kind of way. I don't see a problem with it, Jose (for example) was my great-grandfather's name. My husband thinks it would be weird or maybe disrespectful though. Thoughts?

    • It's good that you're being considerate about appropriation. One way to avoid the issue is to pick an actual family name, like Jose. That way s/he's named in honor of a specific person that you have an actual connection to. You could also just pick a random name from one of those counties and just say, "my *family member* was from there" if asked. My only warning with that would be to be extra careful that you know how to pronounce it in the native language. Third option, you could pick a name that would work in any of those languages like Maria. Just some suggestions.

  76. Ophelia! That's the name my husband and I plan on using when and if we have a girl. My son's name is Armstrong Jameson V. Armstrong was a last/middle name from his side of the family, and I loved the idea of it being a first name. The middle name isn't from his side of the family, but from his heritage. While his name isn't hard to spell or say, it is a little different than Tyler or Matthew. My family had a few questions at first about how we came about with his name, but I'm sure they've come to accept it, or they're hiding it very well. haha.

  77. I love my name, but the thing I dislike about having an uncommon first name combined with an uncommon last name is privacy. If you type my given name into Google, EVERY result is ME. In fact, the first hit in Google is an address and phone number! Thank goodness they are out-of-date.

    I do have some safety concerns that anyone can find out so much about my life – like where I work and which races I've run – with just an internet connection.

  78. Thank you for this article. I'm a feminist in an inter-cultural relationship so my child's going to be saddled with four names: a first name (has to be pronounceable in both languages and a family name), a patronymic, my partner's last name (very long and foreign), and my last name. People have been very negative about the whole four name thing. I've really appreciated reading about everyone's positive experiences with their own long and unusual names. Thanks Offbeat Mama!

    2 agree
  79. I have a hyphenated first name and two middle names and I LOVE IT!! I love having an unusual name. My sisters, mum and I all have the middle names "Olivia Rose", but they both get another individual middle name because they are younger than me. My brother's both share "James" as a middle name with my dad, as well as having their own individual middle name as well. Our different names are like our family identity. I plan on carrying on the middle name tradition and I hope my kids do the same.

  80. I know this is incredibly off-topic, especially given the awesomeness that is your article, but OMG I thought my fiance and I were the only weirdos who were going to use my last name as a second middle name for both of us! We have gotten nothing but cocked eyebrows in the past when we told people that he was changing his name as well.

    Thank you for proving that we are not alone in wanting to do this. Also, good for you for naming your little girl the way you want to!

    • It was our compromise since neither of us really wanted to give up any of our names or hyphenate. So we each took one from each other and called it even. I've always found it a difficult predicament to be in; wanting to share a last name as a family but not wanting to choose one over the other. I like hearing how different families make it work :)

  81. My middle name is Hitomi (pronounced He-toh-mee). My Japanese mother actually gave me a Western first name, so my dad wanted me to have a Japanese middle name. Even though it is an endless source of confusion/ribbing, I love my middle name! It's part of me. I think the kid makes the name more than the name makes the kid.

    1 agrees
  82. My parents are pretty "on-beat" people but chose to give me an unusual name which I have always loved.

    We chose an "offbeat" name for our daughter, now five and will do so for any additional children. If we ever have a son, we plan on naming him Arthas Riou, after characters from mine and my husband's favorite video games, we don't have another girl's name set in stone yet. (Rinoa Kerrigan maybe?)

    Although my daughter is still learning to spell her full name (it's long) and most of her preschool teachers had a difficult time with it, it's never been a problem.The kids don't seem to think anything of it and we've gotten more compliments than complaints.

    1 agrees
  83. My baby daughter's name is Týr .. pronounced "tier" or "tear" (like when crying) I hope teasing doesn't start in a few years, but it's an Odinist name and my hubby chose it. My 14 year old holds the name Lillian, after her great great grandmother. Great name, VERY uncommon these days, though.

    1 agrees
  84. interesting ! I thought I made my daughters name up "Appolina" but i guess a few women have it ? Her middle name is Blossom so we call her Apple Blossom … :))

  85. My baby daughter's name is Tyr.. pronounced "tier" or "tear" (like when crying) I hope teasing doesn't start in a few years, but it's an Odinist name and my hubby chose it. My 14 year old holds the name Lillian, after her great great grandmother. Great name, VERY uncommon these days, though.

  86. My sons both have very old names – Antonio and Isaiah, not too out of the ordinary. Even though we live in South Texas, people always mispronounce Antonio. And no one can spell Isaiah! People tend to call him Isaac too?! His middle name is Adan (Spanish for Adam) and alot of people confuse it for the common name Aiden (which is a great name, but we know too many of those).

    I'm sharing just to show that people have trouble saying & spelling traditional names too! I've seen some really awesome names on here!

    And we still get our fair share of why didn't we name them after this person or that person or wow, i really thought you'd give them some out there name, u know cuz i'm so offbeat.

  87. If we're having a girl, we want to name her Tiger Lily. I've been stuck on that name for years but I'm terrified our "normal" parents and siblings are going to slaughter us over it.

  88. My real first name is the very common name (at least in my age group) that a certain pop singer has and has four wildly used spellings – two T's or one T, and -any or -ney – as well as several others that are a bit more off.

    I have to say that being asked how to spell your name every single time sucks. My plan is that any child I have will have a name that is not in the top 50 names or so for the age group but a name that most people in the community know and that has one standard spelling, like Joel, Blake, Mary, Ellen, etc.

  89. I love the name Ophelia! My best friend's daughter is Ophelia Bleu. She was almost Sophia but opted for Ophie because the former was too popular, and I'm so glad she did! I definitely prefer offbeat names, although I am partial to traditional spellings no matter what the name.

  90. We're naming our little one Beckett Myrlen after the playwright (I'm a big fan) and the middle name after my grandfather. I'm getting loads of eye rolls and he's not even born yet. PLUS he's getting a hyphenated last name. And you know what? I'm excited! He'll probably go through a phase where he hates it, but so did I. My name is Reagan and my last name is also weird. I had to explain my name throughout my whole childhood, and it helped to build my confidence – now it's a name that I truly love and helps me stand out in my circles. I'm all for offbeat names!

  91. My name is pretty common (there's alot of Tanya's pronouncing their names Tonya), but the spelling is unique. Hell, my whole name is unique! My dad loved the name, but hated the spelling so I grew up with Tohnia. I get it pronounced TOH-NI-A, and TOH-HIN-YA alot from people, and after I tell them the correct pronunciation: TON-YA, they always follow up with "I've never seen it spelled that way!" It took some growing into! I spent years wishing I had a more "normal" name. But now I love it. My middle name is my Chinese name, and my last name is Dutch. I get alot of weird looks when I fill out forms because of my name AND because i'm a Christmas baby. But i'm the only Tohnia Yun Zeeman I know! My dad and mom continued the odd name tradition with my brothers (Daryk Lok Zeeman and Brant Tien Zeeman). Our middle names reflect our mom's heritage (Chinese) and our last names show our Dutch side (dad). I grew up with Onion as a nickname though!

    I want to name my kids interesting names also. I love Anjuli for a girl (it means gift in Sanskrit), and Anakin for a boy (I love Star Wars!). I taught an Anakin swimming, and i've always loved the name. Failing that, I love the name Zachariah.

    1 agrees
  92. My first name was pretty uncommon where I grew up, and the other Cassandra's I met usually pronounced it kah-saun-dra instead of kah-sand-ra. I was usually pretty indifferent about my name until I became a teenager than I REALLY loved having a somewhat different name. I did usually get called Cass instead, but never Cassie, my mom was adamant about that because she thought Cassie was a strippers name. Although, my family did have permission to call me Cassie as long as it was Sassy Cassie or Gassie Cassie. There is a case where my peers never made fun of my name, only my family. When I was little I loved being a little rebel and pointing out the bad word in my name.

    Once I had a music teacher in elementary school who called me "Casandra-clause" around Christmas time and I thought it was soooo hilarious and liked the attention! I secretly wanted everyone to call me that in December.

    My middle name is January, and I've always loved it! As a kid I thought it was great to tell people, I was proud of it. And now I wish it was my last name instead of my middle name because I still like it so much.

    1 agrees
  93. Awesome post! :) Our first baby was born May 9th! We named him Addis, middle name Jude (Beatles fans). We absolutely love his name and feel it suits him so well. We can't imagine him with any other name. It's worth it to go with what feels right over what others think.

    • Just wanted to say, I grew up in a town named Addis. We called ourselves the Back Addis Kids, haha.
      Also, I was always called Tori in school because the teachers always glanced over my name. And of course I was always sung the Hey Tony song. I still don't feel like it's my name. It's almost like I have to remind myself of it, it's strange. I've only known one other Toni though.

  94. I'm naming my daughter after one of my favorite video game characters, Romani, and she will also have two middle names. Most of the comments I've gotten about the name are either "that's interesting…" or "that's pretty and unique!" most people like it though, I hope she'll love her name as much as I do :)

  95. I agree 1X10^9% about the 'they wont be able to spell it' or 'nobody else will know how to spell it'.

    Firstly my name is 3 ACTUAL ENGLISH WORDS crystal dawn badger and i am FOREVER spelling it for people; my point; no matter how 'common' they will always have to spell it for people.

    Second my mom didn't name my oldest-younger-sister the beautiful family name that she had chosen (Quaintance) because my grandmother told her that she would hate it and be teased and never be able to spell it. Ten years later she decided to use it for my (now 10 year old) youngest-younger-sister; and she LOVES it and everyone else loves it an honestly kids learn to spell words (that they don't use every day) much longer than 10 letters all the time.

    Third. I think there are 'bad' unique names tho; for example Candida (yeast infection), Mirena (IUD brand), and Vagena.

  96. also…I'm going through these posts for ideas! =D

    1 agrees
  97. So excited to read all the awesome names everyone has come up with! When I first found out I was pregnant (about a year ago) I had a girls name which I've been in love with for ages -go figure, we had a boy! I had no idea at all for boys names. My husband kind of wanted a Junior, but he is Eric and I am Laura, and neither one of us ever had less than 2 other Lauras or Erics in our classes, so I was determined to go unique. I never felt like my name matched my personality (which is why I adopted the nickname LaLee in middle school which has still stuck among close friends). My husband (my poor, poor, patient husband) perused over 200,000 baby names and came up with a list of 12 which we narrowed down to one we both loved: Rhys (which we pronouse Reese). It's normal enough that it shouldn't hinder his aspirations, but unique enough that he can be an original. I chose the Welsh spelling because I really wanted to somehow connect his name to my British heritage (since all the men in my family are Anthony or William, which are a bit boring). And we gave him my husband's offbeat middle name (his mother's maiden name) which is Bishoff (Bishop in German). So there you have it, we have a Rhys Bishoff :)

    Surprisingly, my father who is perhaps the most traditional of anyone in our two families loves his name the most! We do sometimes get confusion over pronunciation and whether or not he's a boy or a girl, but like someone else said, kids take pride in telling people their names! Also, as I am training to be a pastor, I sometimes get asked by other clergy why we didn't give him a biblical name. Ezra was high on our list, actually (because we love the name), but he was kind of a xenophobic jerk, and I wouldn't want our kid to feel like he was named in honor of someone who is remembered as the prophet who condemns intermarrying with "foreign women."

    Hilariously, someone actually asked us if we named our son Rhys after the actor who plays Gimley in LOTR. Now, my husband likes to think that we did.

  98. My son's name is Knox Daschel. We get two replies, "ooh, I love it!" or "oh, that's interesting". I don't care, I love his name. Which by the way, is taken from a mountaineer my husband admires and the middle name is from the Incredibles movie. We think he is our mountaineering superhero.

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