The ultimate sibling-naming challenge

Jun 16th 2008



Most parenting tasks get easier with experience. Those baby bathtubs and 100-snap pj's don't look nearly so intimidating the second time around. But one key parenting challenge actually gets harder with baby #2, and even harder with #3, 4 and beyond: choosing a name.

Perhaps you used the only two girls' names you could agree on for your daughter's first and middle names. Or your son is named Mason, ruling out Cason...and Macy. Or maybe, once you named two girls Gabriella and Isabella, you felt the need to stick to flowing, feminine names for girl #3 so she wouldn't feel too different from her sisters. Each name you choose shrinks your universe of future options.

So imagine the challenge facing the Duggar family of Arkansas, expecting their 18th child. The first 17 all have names starting with J, which defines their universe of options as J names that won't be confused with...

Jackson
James
Jana
Jason
Jedidiah
Jennifer
Jeremiah
Jessa
Jill
Jinger
Johannah
John-David
Joseph
Joshua
Josiah
Joy-Anna
Justin

This seemed like a perfect challenge for my NameMatchmaker, the name-savvy program I use to help choose sibling name suggestions for the Baby Name Wizard book. Revving up the program, it quickly became clear that the Duggars' divergent approaches to boys' and girls' names would be a stumbling block. Faced with reconciling Joshua and Jeremiah with Jinger and Jessa, my NameMatchmaker got a little depressed. When I stuck to boys, though, things looked brighter. After tweaking some settings in the Matchmaker, these are the best bets:

1. Jared
2. Jacob
3. Joel
4. Jonas
5. Jaron
6. Japheth
7. Jericho
8. Judah
9. Jefferson

As for girls...tough call. Ruling out names starting with Jan-, Jill-, Jess- and Jen- plus feminine versions of the boys' names limits your options, while ruling in creative spellings and neologisms makes everything more unpredictable. Here's what the Matchmaker ultimately came up with:

1. Jeanna
2. Jodie
3. Jeannine
4. Jemima
5. Julianne
6. Jocelyn
7. Jordana
8. Jaclyn
9. Jerusha

As I say, a tough call. And naturally, choosing names is the least of the many challenges of raising 18 children. But it's a compelling challenge for name-loving people. Can you come up with your own list of names you'd pick for 18 kids...remembering that you pick names one at a time, assuming each may be your last?

2007 Baby Name Pool: All Hail Miley!

Jun 11th 2008

Most years, you can pull together a competive entry in the Baby Name Pool in a lot of different ways.  This year, though, one name crushed all others in its mighty paw.  The name Miley scored so high -- coming out of nowhere to rank #278 -- that anybody with a Miley-free ballot was out of the running.  Luckily, 43 eagle-eyed name spotters did pick Miley, making this a high-scoring and competitive pool.

The top scorer had a powerful 1-2 punch of Miley and Kingston, putting him out of reach of the rest of the field.  Yes that's right, him.  The #1 namer of the year, "Eric," is one of our esteemed male readers.  (Tell that to the men in your life, and maybe their competitive spirit will drive them to enter next year!)  I'd love to tell you more about him, but he's...shy.  Or enigmatic.  Or maybe playing hard to get?  OK, OK, he's just not answering my emails.  Regardless, a big round of applause for our mystery man.

The second-place honors go a reader who blew away the field with her "falling" picks.  Picking falling names is a tricky business.  Unlike the fast risers, you can't count on the headlines.  (Think of how the name Katrina rose after the hurricane.)  You have to tease out something subtler: what people aren't talking about.  Reader "Blythe" tabbed Talan and Akeelah, the #1 and #2 fastest falling names of the year -- the only one of 500 entrants to pick either of them!  Another round of applause, if you please.

And now, on to 2008.  I don't know about you, but I'm already looking out for this year's likeliest big movers.  Any early ideas?

Why Not, indeed?

Jun 7th 2008

One of the most popular sections of The Baby Name Wizard book is the "Why Not?" list.  To describe it, I'll quote myself:

"The names below are a hodgepodge of different sounds and styles, with only two things in common: they’re perfectly good, and hardly anybody uses them."

I recently sat down to update the list, hoping to find more underused names that could be pleasant surprises.  I've added quite a few, but I've had to delete some too.  Some I simply thought better of, but others have outgrown the category.  In the three years since I wrote the original list, nine of the names have been "discovered."  They're not necessarily common yet, but rising fast enough that they can no longer be considered hidden gems.  So I prepared to discard those names...and then I stopped.  The more I looked at them, the more they started looking like a whole category of their own.  See what you think:

Boys:
Asher
Finn
Grady
Jude
Lincoln
Rowan

Girls:
Lila
Lucia
Luna

The nine names are all ranked between #200 and #400.  They're traditional but have never been truly popular.  They're on the way up, but still sound interesting.  In short, this is a group of names captured at the brink of popularity, the ultimate fashion peak.

So based on these examples, what are the next hit names?  For girls, the pattern is crystal clear.  Name like Lana, Lena, Lyra and Lydia are good bets to rise.  For boys, look for names balanced equally between first name and surname like Graham, Finley and Pierce.