I thought I invented that name
A user comment on the Namipedia page for the boy's name Baylen:
"I started playing around with name endings and thought I 'invented' Baylen. Guess not. Two years ago I went to Pensacola, FL for work. There is a street named Baylen as well."
Baylen is the given name of hundreds of American boys, including a son of NFL quarterback Drew Brees. It's also a rare surname, and an occasional alternate spelling of the Arthurian knight Sir Balin (though not "the French version" as another reader wrote on that page). So obviously that mom didn't "invent" the name.
Or did she?
When parents create a name they've never heard out of raw materials, haven't they gone through the process of invention? Does the fact that another family 100 miles (or 100 years) away chose the same name really change that? Or perhaps invention is the wrong concept. Perhaps names are "discovered." After all, there are only so many different short, attractive combinations of sounds and letters.
It's not as if the inventor of a name gets a patent on it. In fact, many names arise independently in multiple languages, and we acknowledge all of those origins as equally valid. Nobody insists that we designate a single culture as the "inventor" of Nina. So does it even matter whether that mom was the inventor of Baylen, or whether it has other, older roots?
In fact, it does matter to many families, a lot. The reason is meanings.
Parents often invent a name themselves, then paradoxically go hunting for its origins. I've mentioned before that I regularly get the question, "I made up this name, can you tell me what it means?" For some of these parents, a traditional origin helps legitimize a name choice, to themselves or to skeptical relatives. To others, a linguistic meaning -- even one discovered after the fact -- has a near-mystical significance, a connection to a child's future character. And still others are simply curious about the name's meaning, even when they've chosen it for meaningful reasons of their own.
Unfortunately, this search for a name's roots sometimes takes you farther from its essence. Consider these comments, from the Kayna page:
"We 'invented' this name by combining the child's grandmonthers names: KAY & NAncy (Kayna). After extensive web searches we have found that it is listed as an Irish / Cornish word meaning 'A saints' name.'"
First off, the parents seem to have taken the dictionary-style definition a little too literally. The "Cornish word meaning 'A saint's name'" is actually a reference to a particular saint venerated in Cornwall: Saint Keyne. The 5th-century St. Keyne (pronounced "Cane") was born in Wales, and her name is believed to come from the Welsh element cein/cain, meaning "beautiful." Keyna is one variant of Keyne, and Kayna could easily be a variant of that.
So after the false step at "Cornish word," you could plausibly say that the name Kayna derives from the Welsh for beautiful. But how can you say that this particular little Kayna has a Welsh name? We know the true source of her name: she was named for her two grandmothers, Kay and Nancy. That's a lovely origin, brimming with family tradition and love. Good Saint Keyne strikes me as a red herring in the search for true meaning.
I don't think that creative namers should have to look to the outside world to define their own creations. Perhaps the wisest perspective I've seen is that of the father of a young Brayson, who filled in the "Meanings and History" section on the Brayson name page:
"The history of the name Brayson is in the making!"