Baby naming practices will never not be interesting (*COUGH* sometimes horrifying) to me. I mean, legitimate researchers actually routinely study what people name their children because, you know, anthropology and stuff. Unusual baby names, let’s discuss.
Parents who give their kids unusual baby names (I say weird, you say unique, whatever) usually have some pretty honorable intentions, although I don’t ever think I can get behind naming your sweet little newborn Spurgeon. I’m talking to you, Jessa Duggar. I get wanting your kid to stand out from a crowd. We love our special little flowers! I don’t get cursing them with a lifetime of confusion and blank stares when they introduce themselves.
Baby naming trends are usually divided up by region. If you live in the western US, don’t be surprised if you see 5 little girls named Lucy and an equal amount of boys named Liam in your kid’s kindergarten class. Those are your top baby name winners of the last year and both are fine with me.
I can get behind Lucy and Liam because those sound legitimate and normal. It’s the McKylies, Zeniths, Titans and Traegans I have a hard time with, because, and I’ll be real here, those kinds of names sound not smart to me and probably the majority of people they will come in contact with.
Yes, I am being judgmental and no, it’s not my place to tell you what you can and can’t name your kid. Both things I fully recognize and admit, but hear me out anyway. An unusual baby name will very likely affect your child negatively both now and in the future, and I’ve got research to back me up.
Like it or not, people make assumptions about a person based on their name, kind of like how I just did. It’s called a hidden bias and we’ve all got them. This Freakonomics podcast on the topic of unusual baby names will blow your mind.
“A 2012 study led by Eryn Newman from Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand, shows that the easier your name is to pronounce, the more trustworthy people will assume you are. And the reverse is also true—the more complicated your name is, the more untrustworthy you will seem.” – USA Today
Essentially, this researcher asserts that our brains have a harder time processing unfamiliar information and that simple and familiar names are easier to recognize and process, making them more likable and trustworthy. Information that’s difficult to process can signal a danger warning in the brain. People with more familiar names are generally rated as more likable.
These hidden and unconscious biases can potentially affect your child on both a personal and professional level which to me, raises red flags all over. Life is hard enough without saddling your kid with an extra layer of red tape. Everyone who comes in contact with your child could be making potentially unfair assumptions about them based off their name alone, which isn’t fair. Think middle school, college applications, job interviews and more. Your kid’s weird name has the potential to rain on their proverbial parade for the rest of their life!
Some people routinely change their given names to avoid these kinds of biases and better their odds of landing job interviews and improve their public perception. Celebrities and immigrants are just one example. People with foreign sounding names are often received with an air of distrust simply because their name is hard to pronounce. Is it fair, no. Does it happen all the time? Indeed. Is it discrimination? I’m sure at times it definitely is. And then there’s celebrities who are notorious for name changes meant to improve their likability and recognition. Thomas Mapother? You might know him better as Tom Cruise. Demetria Gene Guynes or Demi Moore, which is easier on the ears?
My name isn’t super common and I’ve always liked it well enough, but I’ve also had to spell it out entirely over the course of the past 35 years and that’s been mildly annoying too. You should have seen how badly announcers would massacre it when I played high school sports, ugh! When I had kids for myself, their names had to be easy to spell and and obvious when it came to pronunciation, the fewer syllables the better, I felt like I owed them as much. You live and you learn, right?
I’m not saying you need to only stick to tradition and trends when it comes to naming your kid, I am saying that it might benefit you to save that unusual baby name or unique family name you love so much and use it for a middle name instead. Or, if you feel you must, come prepared with a solid nickname they can use as backup.
We’re all going to mess our kids up and make their lives difficult in one way or another to be sure, but I like to think we don’t do it on purpose.
Names can either open doors, or shut them, so when it comes to baby names it’s probably best to proceed with caution and rely on tradition instead.