The pitfalls of offbeat baby names debunked

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.

Comments on The pitfalls of offbeat baby names debunked

  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!

    • 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 πŸ™‚

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

          • 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.

      • 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”. πŸ™‚

        • 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*

          • 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

      • 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! πŸ˜‰

    • 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.

    • 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!

        • ElΓ­as (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 ElΓ­as, my fave motogp rider. πŸ˜€

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

    • 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!

    • 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!

    • 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.

      • 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!

    • Atticus is actually one of the top “chart climbers” this year with 574 baby boys named that in 2011 in the US. πŸ™‚

    • 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. πŸ™‚

    • 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.

      • 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!

    • 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.

  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!

    • 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. πŸ™‚

  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.

    • 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!

      • 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.

        • 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.

          • 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.

    • 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.

      • 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.

    • 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.

    • 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.

      • 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.

      • 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.

      • 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.

  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.

  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. πŸ™‚

  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.

    • 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.

  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.

    • 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.

  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!

    • 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. πŸ™‚

      • 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 πŸ™‚

        • I cared for an old darling lady named Enid, I’ll never forget her, for me it’s a special name <3

  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

  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.”

  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…

    • 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.

      • We alllllmost named our son Kenobi. Ohhh man. I am all about character names! πŸ™‚

          • 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!

    • 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.

    • 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!

    • This is entirely my own take on it but I think it depends on the character. My sister considered the name Anakin for a boy and I was very against that (I know it’s not my decision, but we’ve always been very honest with each other) just because Anakin Skywalker was not a good person, to put it mildly. (And she was definitely thinking of him and not Anakin Solo.)

      She also considered Lyra for a girl, after the lead character of the His Dark Materials series and I loved that idea.

      On a similar note I’m a bit unsure about all the people naming their kids Daenerys or Khaleesi after the character in Game of Thrones because the story hasn’t finished yet and given how everything else in that story goes (plus family history) she could easily end up being an insane megalomaniac villain.

  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.

  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 GΓΌnter 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!

    • 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.

  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 πŸ™‚

  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.)

    • 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 πŸ˜‰

    • 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 πŸ™‚

  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.”

    • 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).

    • 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.

    • 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!

  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.

    • 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.

      • 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.

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