What's in a Baby Name?


My husband and I had good intentions when we chose to name our firstborn, Caitlin. At that time, no one on this side of the pond had ever heard of it. And even if they had, they were only familiar with the Gaelic spelling. Years later, Caitlin is one of the most popular girl names, with multiple spellings abound. In a crowded room, more than one head will turn at the sound of our daughter's name. Its overnight popularity is proof that name trends come and go, and public opinion changes quickly.

Three kids later, I reflect on the reasoning behind the naming of my three children. Although I suspect it's not much different from any parent's experience, here's what swayed my decisions.  

Does it sound okay? Saying your baby's name out loud is the true test of compatibility. First, middle and last names should flow as one. In my mind, that means shorter first names should be paired with longer last names, and vice versa. Likewise, first names that end in a vowel don't always sound right with a last name that begins with a vowel. These things mattered to us!

How does it look on paper? One day, your baby’s name will show up on a resume, a driver's license, and a diploma. His signature may even be famous. I like a name that stands out in written form.  

Is it too unusual or overly popular? Many people with common names know what it's like to have three other people with the same name in their third-grade class. These are the Megans and the Matthews of the world, and they vow to name their own child something unique. On the other hand, something too unusual could be difficult to pronounce or bring unwanted attention. It helps to strike a balance.

Can a name be different without being weird? Some celebrities are pushing the limits with baby names like North, Cricket, and Breeze. Different may be good, but weird could open your child up to ridicule and attention she'd rather avoid.

Do you want your child to have a nickname? Some names adapt to nicknames more readily than others. We chose Caitlin as our girl’s name, in part, because it rarely gets shortened, and it seemed equally appropriate as both a teenager and a grandmother.   

Do the initials pass the tease test? Make sure the initials don't spell out something undesirable, and don't forget that the first initial of the last name stands out on a monogram.

All things considered, my daughter still likes her name. Granted, she tires of spelling it out when asked, but I'm fairly certain she wouldn't trade it for anything else. And one day, perhaps, it won't be common anymore!

Photo by Minnie Zhou on Unsplash

by Lori Murray