What does your baby name choice say about you?
We all love a new baby name, but what does your choice say about you?
Risk Avoiders: Classic is cool right now – so if you’re drawn to traditional baby names such as Oliver, Amelia, Jack, Harry or Emily, then you’re currently bang on-trend. But while the Prince George and Princess Charlotte effect continues to influence parents’ choices, there’s also a comforting desire to maintain the status quo. Yep, elegantly conservative is the new badass. ‘Parents are choosing names that they hear circulating from other people, or from the media, and deciding that they like the sound of them – fitting in is, for now, better than standing out,’ says Ella Joynes, co-author of Baby Names 2016 (£6.99, White Ladder). Sara, mum to Thomas, six, Emily, five and Harry, two, chose a traditional name for her firstborn. ‘Of course, then I had to follow suit with the other two,’ she says. ‘All three names reflect my own taste, though; I don’t dress “out there” and my home is decorated in a classic style. I don’t feel the need to make a statement through my children just to be fashionable – after all, they have to live with their names for life.’ According to baby-naming expert Linda Rosenkrantz of nameberry.com, your own name often influences whether you choose a ‘safe’ name for your baby. ‘Most mums with unusual names themselves can go either way, depending on whether they enjoyed having a distinctive moniker or hated it,’ she says.
Rule Breakers: Ah, but what if you fancy traditional with a twist? Then you fall into the ‘rule breaker’ tribe – comfortable about being creative with a trusty classic. Putting your personal slant on a popular name is one of the reasons why the top ten names for both boys and girls account for only 12 per cent of all registered names. Why? Because the ONS counts each spelling and hyphenated name as a separate entry, even if it’s essentially the same name. But while it might be alternative to have your Emily as an Emeli, switch George for Gorje or create a cool double-up like Lili-Mae, bear in mind that you’re going to be spelling that name out loud… like, for ever.
Emotive Choosers You know the saying listen to your gut? Well, this is the mantra of emotionally motivated name-pickers. In the same league as love at first sight, parents who name their baby this way dismiss trends or traditions and just go for it on the basis that it feels right. Regardless of whether Jessica Alba went into hospital with a shortlist of favourites, her second daughter was given the name Haven after being delivered in her amniotic sac. ‘When I was in recovery, we still hadn’t chosen her name,’ she recalls. ‘Cash picked her up and said she came into the world in her “safe haven”, and it clicked right then for both of us.’ Laura, mum to Ania, four, also chose completely from the heart. ‘My grandfather is Polish so I wanted a little nod to the ancestry. We looked at loads of Polish names and some, like Augustina, we felt were a bit much. Then when my husband suggested Ania we knew instantly it was perfect. It means Grace, and it seemed so, so right for her.’/p>
Strategists: If the ‘feelers’ sit at one end of the spectrum, at the other end are the ‘planners’. If you’re a planner type, you don’t leave this naming lark to a hunch when you’re love-struck and bleary-eyed on a hospital bed. No, you have it nailed early. Very early. Take Coleen Rooney: her Kai, Klay and Kit hat-trick must surely have been seeded when Wayne was still kicking his football in the back streets of Liverpool. Because if you’re a strategic namer, you think about this stuff way before you’re pregnant. Your name research is diligently done and thought will be given so it works optimally with siblings’ names (including possible future siblings!), and you’ll be constantly sense-checking it with a middle name and surname. Bethanie’s choices for her children, aged three and two months, were just that. ‘My husband and I chose the name Frankie as a revival of the more traditional Frank, which we considered a confident and solid name – characteristics that we hoped our son would possess, and indeed now does. The name Sassie came to me before I even knew that I wanted children, then my husband and I agreed if we ever had a girl we had to call her Sassie. Plus we love that our daughter might possess a bit of sass. The ‘ie’ endings on both names was his idea. Without sounding all K Kardashian, he likes that my name ends in ie and that our children’s names reflect that.’
Gender Smashers: If you’re the type drawn to unisex clothes and gender-neutral play for little ones, then names that transcend traditionally masculine or feminine stereotypes will appeal. Choosing Tracy for a boy or Owen for a girl clearly states, ‘I refuse to put my baby in a gender box’ while adding a quirky touch to an otherwise fairly tired name. Hollywood can, in part, be credited for hotting up the trend and indicating a more equal and gender-fluid approach to society. Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively named their daughter James, and Facebook daddy Mark Zuckerberg chose Max for his baby girl.
Class Climbers: No matter if you flunked your A levels, had a hodgepodge of dead-end jobs and you still save up your coppers in a piggy bank – your tot’s going to be a high-flyer, yes? And rightly so – who doesn’t want the best for their offspring? Depending on how it sits with you, ‘naming up’ (ie, giving your newborn a posher name than anyone else in your circle of family and friends), might well be a sneaky way to propel your baby up the class ladder, giving them smarty-pants appeal too. Sure, Juniper, Van and Piper are cool but, says Nameberry’s Pamela Redmond Satran, it’s Abraham, Charles, Harriet, Frances and Ruth that automatically sound clever – although whether that eventually translates into moving among the upper echelons of society is anyone’s guess.
Global Wanderers: As any travel junkie knows, a love of the big wide world doesn’t wane when a baby comes along. You might have to hang up your backpack and put away your passport for a while, but naming your child from the map – think Alaska, Vienna, Aspen or China – ensures your wanderlust lives on, and may indeed inspire a what’s-beyond-the-gardengate attitude in your little adventurer. City-named babies such as Florence and Paris can be a cute reference to shared explorations or even a homage to where you did the deed (you have Brooklyn Beckham to thank for that trend). Picking a name that has international connotations is also a natural choice for couples with a melting pot of cultures. Kulwant, who has just named her two-week-old son Chilli, says, ‘My partner and I wanted a baby name that wasn’t religious or modern, but global. We’re a mixed-race couple – Indian and English/Malay – so we wanted our child to have a universal name. Most of our friends love our unusual choice, but I’ll admit that our parents probably would have preferred something more traditional!’
Family Followers: It takes an iron will to go against the wishes of your family – especially if generation after generation has opted to play ball with each other in the baby-naming game thus far. Apparently the Queen puts her foot down when newborn princes and princesses are being named. Well, would you argue with HRH? But it’s not just pressure that makes us parents conform – there’s something about a new baby that knits a family together, and the bigger picture of looking to your lineage can feel important and special. Kirsten’s three-year-old son is called Nikos after her husband’s father. ‘His family are Cypriot, so a baby takes on the grandmother’s or grandfather’s name,’ she says. ‘I wouldn’t have necessarily chosen that baby name, but actually I do think it’s lovely to be a part of that longstanding tradition.’
Hipster Spirits: A name that’s the right mix of achingly cool but not too try-hard is the holy grail of baby name-hunting. With a creative spirit and a strong sense of what you like and dislike, naming your child gives the world a glimpse of your taste. Arlo, Zeke, Prue, Ezr or Sybil are current winners, but if your desire to be unique is totally overwhelming, going off-piste with a made-up name or really digging the archives to resurrect an old, ignored good-un, is standard behaviour. ‘If you’re a dress-your-kids-like-evacuees-and-make-them-play-with-vintage-toys type, try your local cemetery or bingo hall for antique inspiration, such as Edith, Ethel, Stan or Betty,’ jokes Alex Manson-Smith, co-author of You’re So Mummy (£12.99, Penguin) and mum of two boys, aged six and three. ‘I was going through a Brat Pack phase when I named Emilio – and Xavier was originally going to be called Blaise. I loved it written down, but when spoken it made him sound like one of the Gladiators. Naturally, I thought I was being massively original with both of them, so was miffed when someone in the playground said, “Oh, my best friend’s boys are Emilio and Xavier.” You can’t win!’
Baby Branders: You can blame the celebs, you can blame the internet, but the newest approach to baby naming is thinking of your child’s name as their future marketing tool. In an age where a unique online identity actually matters, smart parents are swaying it in their tot’s favour. At awesomebabyname.com you can search for a baby name based on available domain names, to get them ahead of the game. Beyoncé and Jay-Z have gone a step further, trademarking Blue Ivy Carter’s name to them, for use with baby products and music. Chartered psychologist Dr Sandra Wheatley believes that, in Western society, more and more parents want to give their children a potential public persona they can use to shine. ‘It’s too late for us now because we have our names, but the names we pick for our children are a reflection of our hopes and aspirations for them,’ she says. ‘What we want is for them to stand out from the crowd.’