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Baby Name Regret for the New Millennium

Eccentric names may seem like a good idea at the time, but parents could sing a different tune as they watch their progeny go through life sounding like a tech product.

Would you name your child Taco B.M. Monster, Thinn or Espn? Those are just a few of the strange appellations found on lists compiled by Babycenter.com and Deadspin

Another website, Gawker.com, calls the trend toward unusual baby names "terrifying," and notes: "You can listen to the English language screaming for help as these parents cobble together letters and syllables that have no place being near one another."

Babycenter's 2012 list of odd monikers includes Jury, Yoga, Fedora and Leeloo for girls -- and Ball, Drifter, Hippo and Haven'T for boys. (The website apparently missed Mission Hospital's first newborn of 2012, Zeus.)

Against that backdrop, writer Abi Cotler O'Roarty explores the phenomenon of "baby name regret":

My youngest child was called in to see the doctor, but I didn’t realize it at first because her name was mispronounced. I cringed. It's Kyra with a long "y" not a short one.

On another occasion, we went to a neighbor’s tea and my daughter's and my name were both misspelled on the table place cards. Why did we spell hers that way, I think. Why didn’t I learn from my own name?!

What I’m experiencing is known as name regret and it’s not fun. For me, it’s merely an occasional spelling issue, but some parents torture themselves for months or longer after having a child, wondering if they should’ve picked a different name. I had a friend with a daughter named Bohdi, an adorable name in my opinion, but she mulled the idea of switching her to Cinnamon, even into the girl's second year. The latter name appalled me. To me, where there’s a Cinnamon, a drink on a cocktail tray isn’t far behind.

But the naming thing is personal. Some parents don’t reveal their choices until the baby is born, just so they don’t have to field opinions. We tried that with my first. Because it was really only our parents whose comments we couldn’t handle, we ended up telling friends not family -- until my esthetician announced the name to my mother-in-law at the shower, assuming she knew. You can  imagine how well it went down with that sweet woman when she realized “Everyone knows your names but us!”

Research has shown that the hand-wringing over names is neither minor nor unwarranted. A British study of 3,000 parents released in 2010 suggests one in five parents regrets the name they chose for a child. According to another study, boys with “girlish” sounding names like Ashley or Shannon are more likely to have behavioral problems in class. Also, it’s been found that people have preconceived notions about which names sound lower in socioeconomic status and they treat people with these names differently, especially in school.

This year, several names jumped higher on the popularity list which will undoubtedly lead to name regret for some. These include Siri, Mars, Mac and Luna. Three of those sound to me like tech products, and the fourth evokes the eccentric girl from Harry Potter. I can hear it now, “Academics aren’t Luna’s strong suit, but all her teachers say she is just such an individual!”

Last weekend, a woman posted a picture of a baby on Facebook, saying, “Hashtag Jameson was born at 10 oclock last nite. She weys 8pounds and i luv her so much!!!!!” Apparently this, finally, has gone too far for people and the negative and absurdist chatter has been flowing ever since.

In my opinion, many first-time parents make the name decision without the ability to look forward into the child’s life and the environment into which they’ll take the name. I’m sure I did this too. It's much like when I chose a pediatrician with excellent credentials while pregnant, but once I actually had another tiny person with me and saw how clinically the doctor related to her, I regretted my decision. I realized I’d forgotten to bring my daughter's needs and wants into the equation. This was understandable—given that until that point I'd really only made decisions for myself, not others.

On the flip side, parents who look too far to the past may be dooming their kids to names that bore and fail to leave a mark. Bets have already begun on names for the Royal baby-in-utero in the UK. Not that it’s a tough pick—most of them include some combination of Charles or Elizabeth. This very imaginative pool is sure to encourage individuality in the new century.

Still, I’ll take a good solid Charlie over Hashtag any day. About the current boom in odd naming, comedian Dean Obeidallah on cnn.com writes, “While I don't want to rain on creativity, let's be honest -- these weird names are more about parents showing off their 'cleverness' than about finding a name that fits the child. It's not like the parents got to know the child first for a few months and then said, 'You know this baby really is a little Siri.' "

Obeidallah goes on to say that if parents are allowed to saddle these future grownups with such names as Apple and Mars, the kids should be allowed to call their mom and dad by any name of their choosing. On this, I think I’ll let him have the last word. It’s just too fun for me to consider kids looking through a crowded store for their parents, calling out at the top of their lungs, “Angry Birds, You Tube, where are you guyyyyyyyys?”

Cindee McCallister January 01, 2013 at 10:24 AM
When I was a social worker in Philly years ago, one of the families on my caseload had a child call Argarine. It was such a strange name, I just had to ask how she came to name her that. The mom said she couldn't figure out what to call her and happened to look over at the kitchen table that had a box of margarine on it! Oh, that poor child. You just wonder. My mom on the other was great with names, particularly with matching first & middle--and she had lots of practice with six kids: Cindee Carole, Linda Elaine, Deborah Dawn, Merle Meredith & Kristin Victoria. Thanks Mom! Cindee
JB January 01, 2013 at 10:27 AM
I loved the name Brittany & gave it to my firstborn daughter in 1987. How could I have known that millions of other parents would select that same first name for their newborn baby girls?!?! In retrospect, I wish I'd named her Schuyler Lake, after the beautiful town where my Dad grew up in the early part of the 20th century. Not many girls would have had that name, and it would have been a beautiful moniker.
Charles January 01, 2013 at 02:20 PM
I had a tenant several years ago named Cream. Her sister was named Strawberry. I worked with a chick named Sandy Beach.
Penny Arévalo (Editor) January 01, 2013 at 04:38 PM
We gave my daughter an unusual name, and i haven't regretted it for a second. (to protect her privacy as a minor, I won't use it). It's beautiful and exotic and fits her to a T. But we did give her a "normal" first name so she'd always have to option of sounding ordinary. Turns out, there's nothing ordinary about her, so we don't use the first name at all. I would have sincerely regretted had we not given her the name we did.
Al Gore January 01, 2013 at 09:10 PM
I grew up with a different name. I never met another child with my name. I hated it. I was asked many times "what kind of name is that?" And then there were the jokes and the rhyming it with other words. My sisters and brothers all had what I call "white bread" names, but I was stuck with this stupid name. When I entered High School I had all the teachers call me by my middle name. I used my middle name on my Drivers license, checks and all legal documents that I sign. No one calls me by that first name my parents gave me. Name your kid a normal name. Don't make them go through growing up and being bullied about your stupid choice of baby names.
Kathi January 01, 2013 at 09:30 PM
I think their is a difference between unusual & weird. Creative, unusual names that still sound like a sex-appropriate name are different than hashtag or the like. It seems that a lot of Black parents pick unusually creative names but most of them are just that--creative & often are very pretty names--for the girls. It also probably helps if the name isn't too hard to spell. I met a family who didn't even know how to spell their baby or toddler's name. They had to pull out the birth certificate. Hopefully the learned before the kid tea he'd school age.
Paige Austin January 02, 2013 at 02:05 AM
I know a nurse who helped deliver a baby girl, and when it came time to fill out the birth certificate, the parents explained that they were calling her 'Satin' like the cloth. However, they insisted on spelling it 'Satan,' and there was no talking them out of it. As a reporter, I covered prisons, and I once met an inmate named Christmas Ruby. Some might snicker at that name, but it made me smile. Whether or not her parents turned out to be any good as parents, you have to know that when that girl was born, her parents must have thought she was the best thing to ever happen - like Christmas morning and a precious gem.
Julia H January 02, 2013 at 03:51 AM
I heard a story of a woman with a first name "La-a"....she got very upset when people didn't pronounce it as was intended, which was "La-DASH-uh". Personally, I agree that the spelling and pronunciation shouldn't be too incongruous.
C M January 02, 2013 at 05:47 PM
Personally, I'm not a fan of gender neutral names or using a name currently associated with the opposite gender (usually a "boys" name given to a girl). Why create confusion for people who see the name of the person before they meet them, not just as a child, but their whole lives. I have personally experienced confusion a couple times at first, even when the child was right in front of me...there is a stage in elementary school and even into junior high, where hair styles and clothing styles aren't an obvious give away. Boys with longish hair and girls with shortish hair can easily be mistaken for girls and everyone wears hoodies. As far as giving a child an unusual name, some are wonderful and creative, others only work if you are lucky enough to have a child who turns out to fit the name. When you choose a name you have imagine it fitting the child, not just if they are charming, but what if they are simply ordinary or if they have trouble fitting in. Picture the name on an obese child or one that struggles in school, or is very shy, or a tomboy or a bookworm or gay or has an emotional or physical issue or disease. Will the name be an extra burden as they make their way through childhood?
Penny Arévalo (Editor) January 02, 2013 at 06:16 PM
Gender neutral names, such as Taylor and Ryan, have been around for at least 20 years now. I bet some post-graduate student out there has studied what the impacts of giving both boys and girls these names.
Shripathi Kamath January 02, 2013 at 06:38 PM
Did one of the parents resemble this person? http://bit.ly/UIuSnc
Shripathi Kamath January 02, 2013 at 06:42 PM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-1BJfDvSITY
Penny Arévalo (Editor) January 02, 2013 at 06:46 PM
LOL, I was totally thinking of that song. My middle name is Sue, and I'm not sure it's served ME well either!
C M January 02, 2013 at 10:11 PM
Penny, true, some names have been around so long that they are now considered "girl" names (Ashley for example). I'm sure there have been studies and perhaps the majority of the time the name is not a factor or maybe it's even positive, but if I had been named Riley, for instance, and a Riley of the opposite gender had been in my class, it would have been embarrassing to me. In fact, a nickname for my first name is gender neutral and I didn't like being called by that nickname for precisely that reason. So for me when it came to naming my children that was something I took into consideration. I'm not saying naming your child a gender neutral name is wrong, but you just need to really think it through.

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