Naming a child is serious business. It’s one of the first major responsibilities of a parent and can have life-long benefits or consequences.

Parents must consider how the name represents their child. Is the name presidential, honorable, bizarre, or trashy? Does it sound like someone who is a CEO or a fish monger – not that there is anything wrong with fish mongers?

A good idea is to practice saying the name repeatedly, because that is exactly what you will do in the near future. Does it roll off your tongue? Do you enjoy hearing it aloud? And if there are siblings, how do all the names sound together? Do you really want to say, “Tom, Tim, Tucker, Tyler time to eat?”

So how do you find a good, solid name that isn’t so unusual that no one will remember it or pronounce it correctly and yet not so common everyone in town has the same name?

The current trend is to choose names that are different from previous generations. Social Security lists the top ten names for 2011 as Jacob, Mason, William, Jayden, Noah, Michael, Ethan, Alexander, Aiden, and Daniel for boys and Sophia, Isabella, Emma, Olivia, Ava, Emily, Abigail, Madison, Mia, and Chloe for girls. The names indeed are different from their parents’ generation but the drawback is that they are so common today that they likely will be in classrooms with peers with identical names.

Throughout the ages parents named their children after relatives. Perhaps my future grandchildren may have names of their ancestors such as Florence, Clara, Walter, or Gus. If they want something more ordinary there were at least five generations of John Doyle’s that has come to an end. They can use both names; John as a first and Doyle as a middle name. Hopefully, they don’t use that name for a girl.

Catholics traditionally named their babies after saints. The goal was to find a name of someone you wanted your child to emulate. You simply opened the Bible. The apostles’ names and Mary and Elizabeth ranked at the top of the list for centuries. Even so, you do have to read the character’s story or you may deal with a Jezebel or Judas.

The Eastern and American Indians name their children after an activity or something they see such as Running Bear, Grinding Corn, and Morning Sun. Today you might translate that practice into names like Playing-Games-on-IPads, Texting Friends, or Speeding-Red-Toyota.

Some parents prefer to create their child’s name. If you enjoy juicy hamburgers you can name your child Jusiamburger. Or if you are a North Side Chicagoan you can forever enjoy shouting your child’s name, Cubbieswin. But note with this method, other people will have difficulty pronouncing and spelling your child’s name correctly.

As a potential parent, you also have to consider the initials. Betty Ann Davis is a nice name but you don’t want your child’s initials to be BAD.

Really though, none of this matters. Whatever name you choose, your child will hate it. They will prefer a shorter, longer, fancier, or planer name. They’ll use only their middle name or change all of it. And if women continue to take their spouses last name, their overall name will completely be messed up. I know of a woman named Shirley who married a man with that last name. She now is Shirley Shirley. Bet her parents never anticipated that.

Maybe the best option is to simply write a bunch of names on strips of paper, toss them into a hat, say a prayer, and draw one out. A child is God’s greatest blessing  so let God choose.

(Photo of Erin, Lisa, Joey. 1982. Photographer unknown.)

©2012, Mary K. Doyle

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