Monday, September 18, 2006

What's in a name?

So, as any parent or soon-to-be parent knows, naming your baby is one of the most important things you will ever have to do. It can also be one of the most time- consuming aspects of your pregnancy-- many an expectant mother has been known to pour over countless volumes of baby naming books, in search of just that one perfect name. Trouble is, dad doesn't always agree with mom's pick. So then it's back to square one, rifling through the encyclopedia of baby names.

I live in a neighborhood where there has been quite a baby boom in recent years and I find it more than interesting to observe people's attitudes and etiquette on the whole baby naming process. People really take it seriously.

For instance, one of my neighbors, Diane, denounced my expectant next door neighbor's idea to name her little boy Evan. Diane claimed that Evan was going to be the name of her baby boy someday-- but she wasn't even pregnant yet! So my sweet neighbor, the expectant one, reluctantly chose another name.

Then there was my neighbor Sarah. She loved the name Justin. Loved it loved it loved it. Ever since she was a young girl, she had planned on using that name someday if she were ever to have a son. But the woman next door to her had a baby first and named her son Justin. So, when Sarah had her baby a year later, she felt as though she couldn't use her beloved name. Funny thing is, the woman next door moved across the country a year later so there was no longer a Justin in the neighborhood anyway!

When my other neighbor, Kathy, named her son Riley, the neighbors gasped. Why? Because there as a "girl" Riley a few doors down. Talk about confusing! Now there was a girl Riley and a boy Riley in the neighborhood and the 3 year old in the neighborhood just couldn't comprehend it all!

Growing up, I remember my father was outraged when my mom's brother had "the nerve" to name his newborn daughter Suzanne. Why? Because we had a Susan in our family! I never understood his logic-- they are two completely different names! But I guess they were a tad too similar for his taste, and in the end both girl's were nicknamed Sue so it did cause confusion once in a while (but only at family reunions and stuff).

Still, my own personal philosophy is: name your child a name that you love, no matter what your neighbors, family members or co-workers name their kids. Honestly, if your heart has been set ion a name since the beginning of time, you shouldn't let the fact that someone else named their child that stop you.

Would it be weird if both you and your best friend end up with daughters named Olivia? Maybe a little, at first. But they surely will not be the only two Olivia's in the world. Take any name that you think of, and chances are that somewhat someplace has that name! And while we all want our children to be unique in some way, a random neighbor across the street may not be your neighbor forever, so why be afraid to use a name that they have used? And, as we all know, most kids end up with a nickname, whether you had planned on it or not. So while one Alexandra may be called Alex for short, another Alexandra may be called Lexi.

If you really want to check the popularity of a name you are considering, check out the Social Security's Popular Baby Names record (you can find it on eth social security website). It lists the top 1000 names given and you can do a search broken down by birth year. For instance, in 2005 the most popular name for boys was Jacob. The most popular girls name was Emily. In fact, Jacob and Emily have been at the top of the list for the past several years, so expect to see more than one of them in your kid's school yard some day. That doesn't mean you shouldn't name your daughter Emily, after your favorite aunt, though!

Truth be told, there's enough names to go around for all of us, so let's all try to share and play nice together.

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