You Hate Your Baby's Name -- Now What?

Nov 30th 2014

Stirring Up Baby Names

Originally appeared on The Stir

You've pored over dozens of baby name books, scoured countless sites, and solicited help from friends to find the absolute perfect name for your baby-to-be. You fill out the birth certificate information and head home. But when you get there, you can't help but notice that your baby doesn't seem like a "Sarah" or a "Jed" or a "Hudson." It just doesn't suit him or her. Or maybe you've just come to the conclusion that you really don't even like the name any more.

You're suffering from a case of baby name remorse. It happens. And it's more common than you think.

The question is: What do you do now? 

According to Laura Wattenberg, author of The Baby Name Wizard: A Magical Method for Finding the Perfect Name for Your Baby, finding the perfect baby name is one of the biggest stresses for parents-to-be. The need to be unique, different, and yet still conventional is hard. After revealing a pregnancy, and then the gender, the name is really the last secret parents can keep before the stork arrives. And often times, they struggle with the decision.

"When it comes to baby names, there is too much choice now," says Wattenberg. "And that turns into a perfect recipe for anxiety and regret." With countless choices, the standards of finding a perfect name are higher, and the need to be competitive is increased.

But sometimes, the name you've chosen just simply doesn't match the child you meet. "Some names are just hard for a newborn to live up to," she adds. "That's putting a lot of pressure on a newborn. But remember: If the name does not fit your baby, it might fit your 10-year-old, or your 30-year-old, so don't give up just yet."

But if time goes on and you continue to have that "what was I thinking" feeling about your baby's name, here are some things you can do:

1. Pinpoint why. The first step is to understand exactly why you no longer like the name you've picked. "Often times, parents have chosen a creative name and were dismayed at the reaction they got from family and friends," says Wattenberg. You announce your baby to the world and you're met with some unenthusiastic "Oh's." That's a surefire reason to feel uneasy about the name. Other times, parents find that the name has become far too popular. You may think that your baby Mia or Noah is one-of-a-kind, but chances are there'll be a couple more like-named kiddos in your baby's daycare. That's never a good feeling.

2. Consider a nickname. Maybe your little Christopher is more of a Topher, or your Avery is more of an Avy. Play around with the name and see if the alternatives are more fitting.

3. Use that awesome middle name. There's a reason you've chosen a middle name for your child, and it could be that the second name is much more suitable than the first. This is a great idea, especially when your son is a "Junior" or beyond. Choosing a second name might be the way to go.

4. Shorten it to their initials. Jacob Daniel can be J.D. or Elaine June can go by E.J. Consider abbreviating the names for a more unique spin, says Wattenberg.

5. Introduce a new name as a nickname. Have "New Name Week" at home, says Wattenberg. With older children, have everyone go by a different name for one week. If your child likes it, and you do too, it'll stick.

6. Don't be embarrassed. If you truly feel that the name you chose no longer "fits" your baby, don't wait too long to "change" it, and don't be afraid of what people may think. And don't worry about confusing your child. Chances are, you already use so many names for her (baby, booboo, love, honey, etc.), that throwing one more into the mix won't hurt one bit, says Wattenberg. As far as your family and friends go? "Send them a funny re-birth announcement," Wattenberg says. Take control of the name change and don't be scared to share the good news.

7. Remember: Ultimately, it's your child's name. "There's a point of jurisdiction," says Wattenberg. "Eventually, the name no longer becomes the parents', but the child's." At one point, whether it's when they're three, or 12, the name no longer becomes your property. It's their identification, their title, and their personal self. If they've grown to like it, changing it isn't really an option.

Did you ever regret your baby's name?

20 "Quirky Classic" Names for Boys

Nov 27th 2014


Some parents are tradition-minded. Others are individualistic. But what if you're both? "Quirky Classics" to the rescue.

This group of names is impeccably traditional, with a twist. While most classic English boys' names have a square solidity to them, the Quirky Classics have unconventional contours and a mischievous streak. Many of them feature unusual letters, rhythms, or endings. Their origins, though, are as classic as they come: the Bible, saints, and British history and literature.

These are the names you expect to find on offbeat characters in [LINK] Dickens novels or Harry Potter. They're also the names you should expect to find on the streets of Portland, Oregon, or Madison, Wisconsin. When I analyzed regional name styles for the Baby Name Wizard book's style maps, the Quirky Classics leapt to the top in the Pacific Northwest and Upper Midwest.

Quirky Classic Names for Boys:

Asher

August

Bennett

Calvin

Declan

Eli

Elias

Emmett

Everett

Ezra

Griffin

Julius

Levi

Micah

Miles

Milo

Oliver

Silas

Theodore

Xavier

18 Ingenious Names from the World of Steampunk

Nov 20th 2014


Steampunk is having a moment. If you don't know the storytelling behind the style, you might well wonder what all the fuss is about. Why would anybody wear those ridiculous goggles? And what's with the dirigible fixation? I'm going to try to capture the essence and appeal of steampunk for you in 18 baby names.

First, some quick background. Steampunk is an imaginative genre set in a pre-electric age of steam power and clockwork. Adventuring scientists build, and battle, mechanical creations, even while navigating the restrictive customs of their times. Elements of fantasy are often at play, especially period types like a vampire or gentleman-magician.

Imagine shaking sci-fi and fantasy free of space operas and orc battles -- or shaking Oliver Twist free of his workhouse, with the help of a clever automaton. Imagine a hidebound past full of infinite possibility. Such a world, with rigid etiquette and class structures but without electricity, channels the science fiction imagination in very human directions. The meeting of manners and machines also makes for plenty of humor.

Can we capture all of those contradictory appeals in a handful of baby names? Let's try:

1. Ada. Real historical characters often make cameos in steampunk worlds, and Ada Lovelace is a favorite guest star. The daughter of Lord Byron, Lovelace was a mathematician who is often called the world's first computer programmer. Designing algorithms while wearing a bustle qualifies her as a real-life steampunk heroine. (Ada was actually her middle name; her given name Augusta is also a contender.)

2. Agatha. Agatha has the antique side of steampunk down pat. It's the ultimate old lady name. Yet the name gets a youthful spin in Girl Genius, a comic series with the tagline "Adventure, Romance, MAD SCIENCE!" Young heroine Agatha Heterodyne makes the name Agatha positively swashbuckling.

3. Bram. Bram Stoker's 1897 novel Dracula defined vampires as we know them. His Victorian setting still shapes our image of the bloodsuckers, with their formal attire, impeccable manners, and threats to feminine virtue. It's no surprise that vampires are the favorite crossover creature in steampunk fiction. You can honor them via their creator, with his simple but uncommon name.

4. Briar. You may associate the name Briar with a more traditional kind of fantasy. Briar Rose was the fairy tale princess also known as Sleeping Beauty. But the steampunk novel Boneshaker reshaped the name with Briar Wilkes, who braved a zombie-ridden 19th-century Seattle to find her son. This quiet but tough mom puts some of the thorns back in Briar.

5. Clementine. Clementine, the followup book to Boneshaker, is named for an airship rather than a person. The name nonetheless places you in the novel's Western America setting. Thinking of Clementine as a pirate airship captained by a runaway slave may even help get the "Oh My Darling" lyrics out of your head.

6. Edison. Thomas Edison embodies the spirit of invention, in real life and steampunk fiction alike. The The Wizard of Menlo Park was a larger-than life figure, but his surname doesn't sound showy. And unlike many other surnames, it's distinctly masculine.

7. Hugo. The 2011 film Hugo was a clockwork enchantment with a glowing landscape of brass gears. It showed off the pretty and nostalgic side of an often gritty genre. The name Hugo, in turn, shows off steampunk heroes in their best light. Hugo sounds old-fashioned, even eccentric, but dauntless.

8. Ives. Ives is a variant on the saintly name Yves/Ivo.  While it's old and traditional, chances are you've only encountered it as a place name, perhaps in the rhyming riddle "As I was going to St. Ives, I met a man with seven wives...." Ives boasts strong steampunk credentials in the form of Langdon St. Ives, the Victorian scientist and adventurer of James Blaylock's books. The name itself is both stately and creative, and totally undiscovered.

9. Jeter. Author K.W. Jeter, of Infernal Devices, is credited with coining the term steampunk. To the uninitiated, his name may say "baseball" rather than "clockwork." (Derek Jeter was a long-time star for the New York Yankees.) That's fine, let the sports fans carry on in blissful ignorance as you tinker away in your basement laboratory....

10. Jules. 19th-century novelist Jules Verne is one of steampunk's patron saints. His "scientific romances" like Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea still inspire writers with their blend of adventure, gallantry and steam-era invention. His name captures that blend perfectly. It's an elegant but bold antique, and the sound-alike term "joules" refers to a scientific unit of energy.

11. Phineas. This name, with its quirky gentlemanliness, seems made for the genre. You find a smattering of steampunk Phineases, but the name's real heart-of-steam lies in the similar name Phileas, as in Phileas Fogg and his journey Around the World in Eighty Days. You can choose Phileas instead, but it's often misheard and the nickname Phil is less fashionable than Fin.

12. Sophronia. Sophronia Temminnick, the young heroine of Etiquette & Espionage, attends finishing school on a dirigible, where she learns the proper way to throw a knife while curtseying. And yes, it's okay to laugh. The name's over-the-top formality suits the book's arch sense of humor, and might give a distinctive wrapper to the über-popular nickname Sophie.

13. Sterling. Bruce Sterling is the co-author of the seminal novel The Difference Engine. His name also suggests the British Pound Sterling, and carries a air of affluent poise to suit a top hat and silver-topped walking stick.

14. Tesla. If there's one inventor who can eclipse Edison in the steampunk universe, it's Nikola Tesla. Interest in the Serbian genius has been soaring lately, and his name is popping up in new places, including the baby name arena. This is the most scientific name on the list, but young Tesla will have to contend with Tesla Motors, the electric car maker.

15. Victoria. The Victorian era is eternal in steampunk -- sometimes literally. (Queen Victoria may, for instance, become an immortal vampire and extend her reign into the 21st century.) Her Royal Highness even puts in personal appearances in many stories. She remains resolute in the face of perils, like the constant threat of being replaced by a lifelike automoton. This is a name of dignified, ladylike steel.

16. Violet. Violet is a favorite name of the steampunk world. Its vintage charm is pure delicacy, even as the word suggests "violent" possibilities that make it tougher than it seems. You'll find Violets in books like All Men of Genius and the steampunk-tinged Series of Unfortunate Events. You can even shop for industrial-style corsets from "The Violet Vixen."

17. Watson. The great detective Sherlock Holmes is irresistible to steampunk authors. He shows up, lending his powers of induction throughout the genre. Yet it's sidekick Dr. Watson who has the better steampunk name. It carries the spark of invention, from the moment when telephone inventor Alexander Graham Bell spoke, "Mr. Watson -- come here!"

18. Wellington. This oh-so-British surname harkens back to the Duke of Wellington, the great soldier and statesman from the height of the Empire's power. For bonus points you can use the nickname Wells, as in The Time Machine author H.G. Wells. For double bonus points, Wellington Books is a hero of the popular steampunk series The Ministry of Peculiar Occurences.