It seems that I know of quite a few people that have recently given birth to a child or will be giving birth soon. With these new bundles of joy that have either arrived, or will be arriving soon, the eternal struggle of our time has come full circle for these young parents: “What in the world do we name this new baby?”
Fear not, friends. For the better part of my life, I have found myself to be a connoisseur of names. I remember countless hours of my youth spent at the kitchen table dreaming and scheming of the next great name for a human. With that strong history, I am sure both my wife and my mother can attest to my creative, or at least unique, take on names. And of course, If I had more talent and time, I believe I could no doubt author one of the more definitive books on the subject. But given I have short supplies of both, I will just give some helpful pointers.
When it comes to names, I have learned that there is no good “one size fits all” policy. Sure, it should ideally be easy to spell and easier to pronounce (your child’s future teachers and employers will thank you), but really that is where the rules end. When it comes to names, creativity rules the day. But even the greatest creations need some sense of boundaries. In order to be of service to you, kind reader, here are some good rules of thumb when it comes to names.
It’s not helpful to name your children after recent natural disasters. It is best to check the retired names of hurricanes, typhoons and cyclones from the National Weather Service. If the name is recently retired, best not use that name. There is an exception, if your child was conceived during a snowstorm/blizzard and you want to name your child after the made-up names the Weather Channel gives to snowstorms, that is a sentimental possibility. Just remember, others will do the same. It’s also very helpful to remember that children are inclined to live out their name; it’s better to name a little girl Sunny rather than Stormy.
I am often asked about my thoughts on foods for names. Generally, it’s a bad idea to name your child after a baked good, boxed meal, vegetable or a cut of meat. However, exceptions can be found in fruit — Lemon and Peach are both perfectly acceptable.
Famous people are who are dead can provide inspiration. However, people in the past who have caused terrible pain and destruction are generally not good ideas. Biblical figures can be good as well, however, it still a risk. Minor prophets such as Malachi, Zephaniah, Haggai, etc., may elicit a strange look.
Living people provide a much greater challenge. While there are certainly living people around us that can provide good names, it is important to recognize that bad things may still befall this person. PeeWee was a great name until an unfortunate incident soiled the name.
Cities are wonderful inspirations for names. In fact, my own children are named for two towns merely by accident, I am told. Southern names are particularly helpful. Names like Savannah, Charlotte, Alexandria, Austin and Dallas are all beautiful names. However, realize that some cities are not named well at all. Places and names to avoid are mostly in the west. Truth or Consequences (New Mexico) and Butte (Montana) probably wouldn’t make great names. Midwestern names are bit a of a crapshoot; Troy and Sidney are solid names, Wapakoneta not so much. That being said, I do believe Sandusky would be a great name for a young boy.
Here is some advice for large families: just consider numbers for kids numbered five and above. I know I couldn’t keep all the names straight after five, especially if I had more than five. So just give them a number. It would sound like, “Hey Joe, Sally, Mark, Peter, Five, Six, Seven and Eight! Get over here and clean this room!”
Well, I hope to all those parents expecting their new bundles of joy have at least found some good inspiration here. Happy naming!
William “Bill” Lutz is executive director of The New Path Inc. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.