The Politics of Baby Names

Bad Baby Names

Awhile back Lerin wrote the following about baby names:

I haven't even had the baby yet, and I am already hearing that there are concerns for what I may name my child, and controversy over whether there has been a previous "claim" to a name or not, both in my circle of friends and in my family.

In the nicest, most charitable way possible...I just want to say...the names we love are not original or unique, and we don't get to "claim" them. I honestly do not have an issue with anyone who wants to use one of "my" names, but I don't want that person to then be upset if I decide to still use it. I promise, I will have absolutely NO hard feelings if one of my friends or family members uses the names Madeleine, Sophie, Isabella, Clare, Benedict, Paul, or any variation thereof.

I never realized how political naming a baby could be until Marathon Girl became pregnant with our first child. Suddenly family members and friends were telling us names they wanted to use for their future kids. Though we weren’t asked not to use them, the implication was that they wanted to. (We didn’t use them but it had nothing to do with their requests. It came down to a fact that we didn’t want those names for our own children to begin with.)

A couple months back a member of the congregation Marathon Girl and I attend came up to us and said that she wanted to name her soon-to-be-born baby Molly and hoped that would be okay with us. Last time I checked there were thousands of people named Molly, including one of my cousins, and we certainly didn’t feel the need to ask any of them if it was okay to use their name. (For the record, she ended up giving the baby a different name.)

Last time I checked, you (thankfully) couldn’t trademark or copyright a person’s name. There are thousands of people with the name Emily. Emily’s a great name. Does it really matter if there's one more?

Unlike most celebrities, Marathon Girl and I actually take the task of naming our kids seriously. This usually means, to Marathon Girl’s chagrin, that we usually don’t narrow it down to two names – the name we like and an alternate in case we change our mind after we actually see what the kid looks like – until a week before the baby’s born.

I know in some families it’s a tradition to name their kids based on certain nationality (Irish, for example), have all their names start with the same letter, have the same middle name, etc. Marathon Girl and I have no such criteria.

In fact, when it comes to naming our kids, I will only object to names for four reasons:

1) I knew someone with that name who I disliked or had a bad experience with in the past. The last think I want is to have my kid remind me of him or her.

2) No gender neutral names. That means no Gene/Jean, Riley, Micah, Carson, Pat, Alex, Cameron, Emerson, Harley, Jaden, Jamie, Jordan, Morgan, Parker, Sklyer, Dakota, or anything like unto them –including alternate spellings

3) No weird Utah names. There’s a strange tendency to make up names in the Beehive state or give common names inventive spelling. I don’t know why. It’s a quirky Utah thing. Though quirky is sometimes good, most of the made up names are usually horrendous. So our kids will not be named BeVan, Alverta, Ra Vae, VaLoy, LaVaughn, Celsey, Kadon, or Earlette. (To generate your own, unique Utah name that will make you feel right at home in Utah, click here.)

4) I don’t want the kid named after me. Part of my reasoning is selfish. I like being the only Abel Keogh in the world. But the main reason is that I had two friends that were named after their dads. It caused a lot of identity confusion when making phone calls, receiving mail, etc. My life’s hectic and confusing enough as it is. The last thing I want to do is add to it.

Though I’m not going to reveal the five names Marathon Girl and I have on our short list for soon-to-be-born baby, I do promise that they meet the above standards and won’t upset any friends or family.