What's not to like?
A friend of mine named her son William, called Will. Why? She explained to me: "we said the whole name out loud and thought, 'that sounds like a guy you'd really like.'"
Friendly, likeable, nice. Sounds like an obvious goal, doesn't it? After all, studies show that women and men alike rate niceness as a most-sought-after quality in a mate. But I talk to a lot of parents about names, and the most common concern is finding a name that's distinctive. That's followed by questions about whether names sound sufficiently global or sophisticated or tough or creative or masculine or educated or Christian or Jewish or...you name it. But "likeability" seldom comes up.
It's not just Baby Name Wizard readers. Type "popular baby names" into Google and you get 268,000 results. Type in "likeable baby names" (or likable) and you get absolutely zip, zero. Ditto for "kind-sounding names." We don't seem to be looking for niceness in names as much as we do in people.
Yet likeability is a powerful quality. Imagine for a moment that your son will grow up to pursue a career in sales, or in politics. A name that casts a sunny glow and makes people want to like him and talk to him could be an invaluable asset. And don't most of us, at one time or another, need the skills of a salesman or politician?
Think about a name that makes you smile and feel comfortable with a person. One that makes you want to talk to a new kid at school -- or read an email from a stranger. (In fact, this whole topic struck me after seeing a message from one Sam Apple in my email inbox. I had to click on it immediately.) We all have our own name comfort zones, shaped by our own experiences and the people we've loved and loathed. But most of us share the instinct that, say, a Charlie sounds more approachable than a Sterling.
So why aren't we out hunting for niceness? The trick is that names with broad likeability generally don't sound creative or sophisticated. Most are thoroughly familiar, their rough edges worn smooth by generations of use. And most are casual, including lots of cuddly nicknames. That's not always a fashionable combination. So many parents accept a style tradeoff, sacrificing friendliness for uniqueness or savoir faire. But if sheer likeability is what you're after, here's a starter list of names that elicited warm smiles in a poll of the people in my immediate vicinity. See if you agree...and tell me your own choices:
Postscript: after compiling this list I realized that some namers do indeed place a premium on friendliness and likeability. More on that in a blog to come...