Cutesy, made-up, or creatively spelled names...

Sometimes, I look at the top 1000 names and wonder whether expectant parents actually realize that their child will one day be an adult and, God willing, an elderly person. I'm sorry, but as "cool" as they are, I really cannot imagine a grown-up Kody or Brylee. I just cannot imagine a person with such a name being taken remotely seriously in adult, professional life. Which is the stage of life that we all spend the most time in, like it or not. Do you think this is the sentiment of each generation, or are names today genuinely devolving into superficial fabrications which are measured for value simply by how they look and sound? Everyone wants to be unique by choosing these names, which ironically creates a societal situation wherein nobody is unique. These names really just speak to the superficiality of our modern culture and how self-obsessed everyone seems to be. It's not your name, it's the child's! I would hate my life if I had to see the name Brylee on my resume. Kids named John and Mary have the "weird" names today, it seems. Go cute, unique, distinctive (what have you) if you want, but at least go with a name which has history and legitimacy. Am I right? Maybe this post sounds like a broken record, but are names getting just... dumb? With all the endless spellings of these names, it must be horrible for kids learning to spell, write, and make sense of phonetics. And it must be hell on teachers.


March 8, 2014 1:20 AM

Well, I sort of agree and disagree at the same time. There are some names out there that I don't especially care for. I'm not sure if kre8ive names bug me as much as names used over and over again. But think of all the Elizabeths centuries ago through today. That is why there are so many nns for it - Eliza, Liza, Beth, Liz, and on and on. Also, Bill, Will, Jack, Jimmy. Everyone in the class named John, William, Elizabeth, Mary - but I like all of these. I also like some older names that are coming back - Hazel, Louise, Ava, Beatrice/Beatrix, etc.

I remember in the late 80s and early 90s if I found someone expecting, I would be like "Will it be Jason or Justin for a boy, or Crystal or Ashley for a girl!" Not bad names, just everyone was using them! Back then, I wished someone would name a child Isabel - but now see what we have! I still love the "Bell" names, though.

People of my age knew a Misty, Tammy, Tammie, Tami, Bambi! Funny I haven't met someone with any of those names in years, maybe they changed them! The androgynous names at the time were Kelly/Kelley, Terry, Terri, Terrie, Tracey/Tracy. A unique name may have been Chanda, Elisha (yes, girl), Leisel.

Then you have the creatives - Ashleigh, Ashlee, Krystal, Jaxon, etc. of the last few years.

At one time, maybe a Donna or Charlene was a "unique" name. I have a Journey in my family - yes after the band - and not after - well - a journey. I know a very nice young lady in her twenties named Sunshine.

When a little Brylee is putting her name on a resume - it probably won't seem weird to future employers at all.

As far as spelling, what about Katherine, Katharine, Catherine, Kathryn? Is it Cathy with a "C" or Kathy with a "K"? Or is it Kathie? Or Katy or Katie, or Kate or Cate. None of these are weird names - but all spelled differently - and not new.

So, yea, some names and/or spellings - too many kids with the same names make me a bit crazy at times, but what are you gonna do? Get your congressman to put a bill out there?

How do we decide what is unique in a good or bad way? I like the name Hazel and it is certainly a "real" name. I wouldn't want my young friend Sunshine to be known as anything else - I would not have named her that, but that is her "real" name.

It would be interesting to ask the teachers out there what makes them the most crazy.

1) A class where half the kids have the same name - variations or not

2) "Weird"

3) Pronunciation - is it Ann-dree-a or On-dre-a or On-DRA-ah

4) Anything else?

March 8, 2014 5:33 AM

What drove me most crazy in my teaching career was names like Alicia where there are many accepted pronunciations, that were common enough that I'd had prior associations who pronounced it one way or the other. As a visual learner, and because I was teaching at the college level and had sometimes may quite big lecture classes, it was maddening to keep track of, and it made me really not look forward to calling those students names to have them retrieve their papers.

The same name (or same sounds) repeating also made me a little cranky, mostly because there are SO MANY names out there, and it just became hard to keep the names straight. Conversely, I loved weird, distinctive names because they were always so easy to remember -- that person got to be the only Valentin or Sherezade in my memory banks. And I loved weird, distinctive names that were so not my personal style, too -- it was just so practical and helpful to have names be unique identifiers of the student among the hundreds I sometimes dealt with at a given time.

The worst is when these two phenomena combined and there were multiple Alicias in the class and they pronounced it different ways. Abandon all hope of ever getting it right.

March 8, 2014 10:55 AM

Since my students were all adults, I called them by surname with honorific.  Never had to pronounce their given names at all.

March 8, 2014 5:56 PM

I had this system at my undergraduate alma mater, and I would have preferred it, but in this extremely casual environment it was just not going to go over well. I already stood out enough for wearing heels and blazers rather than zip off hiking pants to teach!

By mk
March 8, 2014 7:02 PM

I would have hated that system because most people can't pronounce my surname right, some even after I say it.

Most teachers I know prefer the "odd" names over having to keep track of multiple students with the same first name.


March 8, 2014 7:44 PM

My first year of full-time teaching, I taught tech writing in an Institute of Technology.  This school attracted many Iranian students (in the days of the Shah before the days of the Ayatollahs).  Two-thirds of the students in my tech writing classes were named Mohammed combined with an assortment of Persian surnames.  Fun for me!  One of the students once thanked me for learning all of their names with correct pronunciation--apparently the rest of the faculty didn't bother.

By mk
March 8, 2014 1:45 AM

I think every generation thinks this. when today's babies are adults it won't seem odd because it will be the norm for them and anyone hiring them.

March 8, 2014 5:36 AM

You'll really enjoy the "Twas Ever Thus" feature on the British Baby Names blog, which chronicles EXACTLY the same handwringing concerns about creative and unprofessional names not being taken seriously for far earlier generations.

By mk
March 8, 2014 7:00 PM

I love it! And exactly shows that times change and every generation has a "what wrong with kids these days?" moment.

March 8, 2014 10:50 PM

(Thanks for the link! I hadn't encountered that blog before.)

It's proof that there really is nothing new under the sun!

Spelling variation (in names, and until relatively recently, in everything else) goes back as far as literacy itself. The difference today is that each variation is set in its own little stone by the respective parents, instead of changing according to the whim of the writer. (William Shakespeare wrote his own name a bunch of different ways.) Changing fashions in names, and people complaining about the innovations, are also nothing new -- 17th century Englishmen were already complaining about the surname-name fad. (Bad ideas aren't always new ideas!)

Closer in time, in the 1930s when parents were putting Betty and Billy on the birth certificate, the new grandparents complained that the names wouldn't age well -- but for us, Betty is an old lady name, and we don't expect it on someone who still has natural hair pigment left. I know it's hard to imagine, but there will come a time when Kody and Brylee will likewise seem geriatric. As for how they'll look on a resumé, Brylee will hardly seem immature to a hiring manager if she's named Brynnlee herself...

By EVie
March 9, 2014 1:42 AM

Even the ancient Romans were always complaining that everything these days has gone to hell and things were so much better back in the days of our ancestors. I'm sure that when some of the younger generation of Romans first started adding a squiggle to their C and spelling Caius as Gaius sometime around 230 BC, the older folks were all clutching their pearls and screeching O tempora! O mores! 

(ETA: yes, lucubratrix, thanks so much for that link—I didn't know abou that site, and it's great!)

March 10, 2014 3:23 AM

Hee, EVie, thanks for the good laugh!

And I'm happy that I brought the excellent BBN site to attention of people who didn't know if it. The Twas Ever Thus feature is my absolute favorite, but the entire blog is really thoughtful and well-put-together, and I'm glad you all enjoyed it!

March 10, 2014 3:25 AM

This is my most favorite, a precursor to Nevaeh if there ever was one:

March 22, 2014 11:00 PM

That is great.

March 20, 2014 1:40 PM

Exactly! When I think of the grown women I know named Sherri, Tracy, and Betsy, among others, I see them as professional competent women. But I can only imagine what *their* grandparents thought about the ability of those names to "grow up well." 

March 8, 2014 8:23 PM

Great feedback, everybody. :)