The name game

How to choose a name your lit­tle one will be proud to own

Mother & Baby (Australia) - - Contents -

There’s not long to go now un­til you meet your baby for the first time. And while you’ve prob­a­bly picked the pram and the nurs­ery colours, there’s one thing you might still be un­de­cided about: your baby’s name. In fact, you’ve prob­a­bly got lists scat­tered around the house, on your phone, and def­i­nitely run­ning around your head, of names that you love. So how do you pick the per­fect one, which not only works for you and your part­ner, but will also suit your baby for a whole life­time? Don’t worry, it is pos­si­ble!

How does it MAKE YOU FEEL?

Do you want to turn your long-list into a shortlist? Your first step is to think about the con­scious – and sub­con­scious – feelings you have about each name. Take a piece of pa­per and write one of your pos­si­ble names in the mid­dle of it. Then scrib­ble down all your thoughts around that name, how­ever silly they may seem. Who does the name make you think of: a fig­ure from his­tory, a celebrity, a char­ac­ter from a film, an an­noy­ing col­league, or some­one you went to school with?

Names can also evoke sub­con­scious thoughts about what a par­tic­u­lar per­son is like. So they may de­ter­mine not only what peo­ple call your child, but also what they think about her, and how they treat her. Con­sider how the name makes you feel. Does it make you think of some­one who is suc­cess­ful, mo­ti­vated and happy? Or per­haps some­one who is a joker or a bit silly?

Also con­sider what nick­names and short­ened ver­sions each name might con­jure. Nick­names can be a good thing, and even give your child con­fi­dence, but only if they’re nice. So have a think about the as­so­ci­a­tions with those too.

This ex­er­cise can un­cover sur­pris­ing as­so­ci­a­tions, both pos­i­tive and neg­a­tive, that you might not even have re­alised you had. It’s then up to you whether all these feelings as­so­ci­ated with a name mean it moves to the shortlist or gets crossed off the list for good.

How pop­u­lar IS IT?

Is the per­fect name for your child the same one that thou­sands of other par­ents have picked out as well? How pop­u­lar a name is can work both ways: some mums are re­as­sured by pop­u­lar­ity – af­ter all, it’s be­cause the name is great! But if you’re af­ter a name that’s more un­usual, it could be a deal-breaker for you. Ei­ther way, it’s a good idea to go through the Reg­istry of Births, Deaths and Mar­riages lists to see what’s topped the baby names for the past few years. Oliver and Char­lotte were at the top of the list in 2016, so while both are gor­geous names, you’re pretty much guar­an­teed there’ll be a few in your child’s class as he or she is grow­ing up. On av­er­age, girls’ names stay in the top 10 for 12 years, while boys’ names re­main there for 14 years. And some are even more pop­u­lar than that: Emily has been in the top 10 for 24 years, while Michael has been a favourite for an in­cred­i­ble 72 years.

Want to know if the names you’ve cho­sen will get more or less pop­u­lar in the next 25 years? You’ll find a tool that pre­dicts a name’s per­for­mance in the pop­u­lar­ity stakes at www.time.com/93911/baby-name-pre­dic­tor/

Say the names OUT LOUD

It’s all very well read­ing your long-list in your head, but to de­cide if the name is go­ing to work for your child, you need to say it out loud to find out how it sounds, and if you’re com­fort­able with that. For ex­am­ple, if Zach and Ge­orge were both on your list, you would need to think about whether you pre­fer the sharp clar­ity of Zach or the gen­tle soft­ness of Ge­orge. Then ask your­self why you pre­fer that sound. Re­search shows that you’re sub­con­sciously at­tracted to sounds you hear fre­quently. For ex­am­ple, if lots of your friends have chil­dren called Char­lie, you might nat­u­rally pick names that have the ‘ch’ sound. And just think of some sib­lings you know; chances are their mums and dads chose names that have a sim­i­lar sound pat­tern, such as Daniel and Matthew.

To de­cide if the name is go­ing to work for your child, you need to say it out loud

Match your SUR­NAME

Like how the names left on your list sound? Now see how they work with your sur­name. Try to avoid first names that end in the same let­ter your sur­name be­gins with, or the names may be hard to pro­nounce. Then write the full name down: what does it look like in black and white? Look care­fully to check that the last let­ters of the first name don’t in­ad­ver­tently form a word with the first let­ters of your sur­name. So you might want to to have a re­think if your baby’s full name would be Sky­lar Sell­ers.

If you’re choos­ing po­ten­tial mid­dle names, do the same check with those too.

Rate your BABY’S NAME

The ex­pert of the baby name game is Al­bert Mehra­bian, a pro­fes­sor of psy­chol­ogy, who car­ried out sur­veys to dis­cover how peo­ple re­act to dif­fer­ent names. Based on his re­search, he de­vel­oped a sys­tem to rate names, giv­ing them a score out of 100 in each of four cat­e­gories. Names that score well in all four cat­e­gories are those deemed most at­trac­tive. Test out the names left on your shortlist:

1 Down the side of a piece of pa­per, write the baby names on your list; along the top of the sheet, write four cat­e­gories – eth­i­cal/car­ing, pop­u­lar/fun, suc­cess­ful, and mas­cu­line or fem­i­nine. 2 Now take each name and give it a score out of 100 based on how it per­forms for each cat­e­gory. It’s your re­ac­tion to, and as­so­ci­a­tions with, the name that you’re rat­ing. A score of zero means you don’t rate the name with that qual­ity at all, and 100 means you as­so­ci­ate it with it very strongly. So for ex­am­ple, how eth­i­cal and car­ing do you think some­one called Rose would be? And how pop­u­lar and fun do you think she’d be? 3 Add the four scores for each name to­gether, then di­vide by four. This gives you a per­cent­age of how ‘per­fect’ each name is.

What are YOUR HOPES?

You’ve spent months talk­ing to your bump, so it’s nat­u­ral to think about what she’ll be like when she ar­rives. But what about when she’s all grown up?

Psy­chol­o­gists think that the name you give her could play a part in her ca­reer choice. Dr Brett Pel­ham, an an­a­lyst for statis­tics firm Gallup, says peo­ple have a ten­dency to fol­low pro­fes­sions that sound like their names, so if you call your daugh­ter Laura, she is more likely to be­come a lawyer. And den­tists are of­ten called, you guessed it, Den­nis.

Turns out, we’re un­con­sciously at­tracted to things that re­mind us of our­selves – when we see a frag­ment of our name, it cre­ates a pos­i­tive as­so­ci­a­tion. It’s fun to think about which ca­reers might match the names on your long-list – and cross off any that are def­i­nite no-nos!

While you’re con­sid­er­ing the fu­ture, think too about whether your favourite names would suit an adult. Go on­line and look on LinkedIn to see if there are any other peo­ple with the same first name, and what ca­reers they are in.

Add a com­pro­mise

If you and your part­ner have dif­fer­ent ideas about what makes a good name, you’re not alone: 75 per cent of par­ents-to-be dis­agree on what to call their baby. One an­swer is to com­pro­mise with a baby­name mash-up. Take both of your favourite

names and write them down on a piece of pa­per. Is there a way of com­bin­ing them to­gether? For ex­am­ple, if your part­ner’s favourite is Ana and yours is Nelly, the re­sult might be the lovely An­nelia.

Road-test THE NAMES

Chances are, some of the names on your list won’t be that tra­di­tional – Thor and At­las are pre­dicted to be pop­u­lar this year. So it’s a good idea to test them on peo­ple to get a feel for the re­ac­tions your child will face ev­ery time she says her name. Make a din­ner reser­va­tion or book a taxi using one of the names on your list – if the per­son on the end of the phone asks you to re­peat it end­lessly, you might want to re­think whether you want your child to face this ev­ery time she in­tro­duces her­self.

Test the names out on friends and family too: it can be use­ful to get other peo­ple’s thoughts on and re­ac­tions to each name. If you don’t want them to guess which name you’ll pick, add a few that you won’t choose to your long-list be­fore you start ask­ing their opin­ions. And think about how you’ll spell the name.

Pro­fes­sor David Figlio from North­west­ern Univer­sity found that chil­dren whose names had un­usual spellings or in­clud­ing punc­tu­a­tion, such as a hyphen, were on av­er­age three to five per­cent­age points lower in exam marks than sib­lings with more tra­di­tional names. One of the rea­sons for this was that teach­ers had lower ex­pec­ta­tions of chil­dren with these names.

Now all these tests should have helped you elim­i­nate some of the names from your long-list, so you’re ready to com­pile a shortlist. But be­fore you ditch that orig­i­nal list with lots of crossed-out names, wait a mo­ment. Are there any names on there that you’re re­ally sad to let go? Be­cause at the end of the day, what mat­ters most is that you love the name. Add those to your shortlist too, and write a fresh copy for your part­ner. Sep­a­rately, cir­cle the names that you each have an emo­tional re­ac­tion to: when you read them, you feel a phys­i­cal pang of long­ing to meet your baby. Hope­fully there will be one or two that you both love.

It’s a good idea to test names on peo­ple to get a feel for the re­ac­tions your child will face ev­ery time she says her name

HELLO, MY NAME IS Ge­orge

DENISE THE DEN­TIST?

ARNOLD THE AC­COUN­TANT?

ISAAC THE SCI­EN­TIST?

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