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