I love your baby’s name
here is something about me that is probably not surprising in the least: I love weird baby names. pilot inspektor? awesome. banjo? pretty damn adorable. zuma? totally works for me. I’m not sure I would want a name that sounds like a punchline (north west, tu morrow) but I would embrace being called moxie crimefighter or cricket. and I will never understand why people disapprove so strongly of apple.
perhaps a little more surprising, given my grammarian leanings, is the fact that I am fully on board with the creative spellings or invented names that are repeatedly maligned in web columns about “what not to name your baby” or “americans are getting worse at naming babies.” first of all, there is an unpleasant tinge of racism, classism, or both to those complaints. I don’t understand how you can embrace liberal, anti-racist ideals and then turn around and criticize made up names. second, I like those names. even if some of the urban legend names like lemonjello and orangejello are real, they don’t seem worthy of ridicule. lemonjello has a nice sound and cadence to it — it’s like angelo but with a little more zing — and there are so many good nickname possibilities. lem! monjo! even jelly roll would be an adorable nickname for a chubby baby, with a pretty great namesake behind it.
I also don’t believe that any particular type of name is going to lock in your child’s fate from day one. you can be a stripper with any name. you can be a supreme court justice with any name. people who tell you otherwise are just revealing their own judgmental prejudice. if you were okay with the idea of someone named mitt or newt being your president, you really can’t say anything about the implausibility of a president blaze. plus, don’t you think that when today’s kids — who are presumably used to having peers with a variety of distinct and interesting names — grow up, they’ll be well equipped to handle the idea of, say, the honorable brylee alexxis johnson? give the kids a little credit.
trendy names are fine with me. I think aidan is a lovely name. I think jayden is a lovely name. maybe it’s not timeless, but is there something so wrong with having a name that belongs to the era in which you were born? if it’s okay to be part of the collective consciousness about things like food trucks, shoes, or rock bands, it should be okay to like the same names as your neighbors. disliking things just because they are popular seems like an endlessly frustrating exercise.
having opinions about specific names or even styles is completely reasonable, of course, whether due to aesthetic reasons or past associations. my own reaction to most of the names we considered was similar to my feelings about most parts of the country: not where I would choose to settle down, but I’m glad they exist. “that’s a beautiful name!” I said, many times, “but it doesn’t sound like the name of my child.” the nice thing is, there are enough newborn babies in the world — truly, probably in brooklyn alone — that all those beautiful names won’t go unused.
I think I wrote this entire post just so I could say this: let’s stop being bitchy about baby names. let’s embrace our preferences, but in a style that’s more ramona quimby than bill matthews. let’s take it upon ourselves not to make assumptions about parents who prefer the spelling jazzmyn over jasmin. let’s appreciate the names we like, and not get so worked up about the names we don’t.
… and feel free to test my resolve in the comments, but I really do like most of the names that get maligned by tastemakers. I also like most of the names that are popular with the hipster set. and I love the one-of-a-kind names that I’ve encountered on some of my students, including the names with accents, apostrophes, or multiple Qs. there’s something to be said for a little flair!