The following is an article that we thought we should share by Lionel Beehner and printed in USA Today, November 18, 2012.
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Too many choices; too many drawbacks. Names, like fashion, go in and out of style.
Thank you, Uma Thurman. The actress named her new baby— this is true — Rosalind Arusha Arkadina Altalune Florence Thurman-Busson.
Hollywood has a long tradition of foisting upon babies names such as Banjo, Moxie and River. Politics, too, has been a godsend for goofy monikers such as Tagg or Tripp.
As a new dad, the whole process reminded me of just how stressful I found naming our new baby son. Was it always like this?
Amazon.com heaves with books providing parents with advice. But the books only further play on our neuroses. The zillion parenting websites are also patronizing. (Top baby names for “future achievers,” according to MomsWhoThink.com? Andrew and Addison.)
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Remember when …
Things used to be simpler. The top baby names for newborn boys and girls in the 1880s were John and Mary. The only thing that changed half a century later was that Robert dethroned John for most popular boy’s name. Today’s top-trending baby names are Sophia and Jacob. Or, if your area code is 212, they are Isabella and Jayden.
Too many baby names these days feel lifted from a bad Bravo reality show or broken Tom Cruise marriage.
The evolution of baby names mirrors that of corporate branding. Just as iconic names such as General Electric or IBM have given way to Pinterest and Zynga, John and Mary have made room for Moonbeam and Zuma. It was only a matter of time before you could outsource the naming of your baby to Corporate America. Earlier this year, Groupon offered parents the chance to name their child Clembough for $1,000.
Names, like brands, go in and out of fashion. You have to think about how it shortens, and also the potential for schoolyard cruelty. Marcus was ruled out because my wife didn’t like Mark (or the pharmaceutical-looking Marc). My wife liked Oscar, but then I reminded her of my last name, which rhymes with wiener. She was fond of Irish names such as Caleb and Seamus, whereas I preferred old Hebrew names, like Saul and Zev. But my wife found them too old-timer-sounding. And neither of us is Jewish.
Not too precious
Too many names come off as overly self-conscious or precious. We also worried about monikers that sounded like good pet names (Lazlo fell into that category). I wanted unique — after all, I have siblings named Reggie and Jacinta — but not too unique, for fear of coming off as pretentious. I always had a soft spot for the end of the alphabet. Some friends of ours stole Xavier, so that name was out. Wesley had a nice ring, and it also shortened nicely to Wes.
After my wife gave birth, I remember her looking up at me as our new son clung to her chest, crying. “Wyatt?” she asked me. I smiled and nodded. A few days earlier we had been watching The Daily Show and noticed the name of the correspondent Wyatt Cenac. And so Wyatt Owen Beehner was born.
The name, of French origin meaning “water,” was ranked 66th by BabyCenter.com. Here’s to hoping it never cracks the top 10.
Lionel Beehner, a fellow at the Truman National Security Project, is a member of USA TODAY’s Board of Contributors.
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