You named the baby WHAT???

How to Name a Man

As you may know, Baby #5 is going to arrive in our household some time soon. Consequentially, we’re trying to finally choose names. But let me clarify something, because in contrast to the many baby name sites that parents-to-be frequent, we are not choosing a baby name. We’re choosing names for an adult.

I find it strange, truly strange, that there is such a focus on naming babies, because really they’re not going to be babies for very long. As I browse the web for interesting name ideas I see a lot of suggestions for names that are cute, or names that are trendy, or names that are “unique” or names that are spelled differently. For an example of that last option, Michael has been one of the most popular names in America for the past hundred years. At the same time, back in the 1950’s the name Micheal, an obvious misspelling, was also in the top 100 most popular boy names. In fact, that particular misspelling has ranked among the top 1000 most popular names since at least 1880.

You named the baby WHAT???Obviously I’m speaking in generalities, because people naturally have very different ideas about what names appeal to them and what qualities they want in a name. In fact, I’ve known people who deliberately misspelled the names of their children, just so they would be “unique” or who invented a name out of whole cloth. Regardless of some of these choices, all too often the priority seems to be finding a great name for a baby instead of a great name for an adult. A name that is “cute” or “precious” or “sweet”. But let’s face it, our children will be adults much longer than they will be children, and they deserve names that will fit them then, not just for the first few years of life.

Their names will affect what people think of them, and they will affect their opportunities and chances for success in many ways. The names you give your children can be one of the best gifts you will ever bless them with, and can do much to define who they are and who they will become.

Here, in short, are a few qualities that Mrs. Hatter and I look for when we choose names for our children:

1. A real name. No made up mash of semi-random syllables, or weirdly spelled almost-real names for us. No celebrity style attention seeking names, either.

2. Names with a strong meaning, and preferably a strong story as well. We pick Biblical first names for all our children, and they are all named after incredible characters. Name meanings are fluid and sometimes we find several meanings associated with a given name, so we choose the meaning we like best.

3. Names that sound good. I don’t mean that they should sound trendy, but that the entire name should flow well, without awkward glottal stops between first and middle names,or end syllables that slur into the next name. We spend a lot of time saying names we’re considering, because it’s going to be said many times by many people and we take pride in the names we craft.

4. Nicknames are important. There need to be some good nickname options that we’re okay with, and can allow our kids to express their individuality and preferences. Towards this end we try to choose middle names that can stand in their own right, so the kids have the option of going it instead of their first name.

Obviously not everyone picks names in the same way and with the same qualifications, but if you’re in the market for baby names remember that your child will be stuck with it for a very long time. Pick something suitable for an adult. Living down a strange name is a difficult thing to do. Living up to a name can be difficult as well, but I know exactly which problem I want my children to have.

Proper names are poetry in the raw. Like all poetry they are untranslatable. - W.H, Auden


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