Baby names range from ordinary to outlandish
Choosing a name for a human being is a huge responsibility, especially considering it's the one word that immediately identifies a person to everyone they meet in their lives and plays a large role in self identity.
Some parents prefer to stick with a classic and / or common name while others have no problem picking a unique moniker.
Famous folks are notorious for picking interesting, unusual and even perplexing names for their little stars. Gwyneth Paltrow's daughter is named "Apple." Gwen Stefani has "Kingston" and "Zuma." And then there's boxer and entrepreneur George Foreman who named all five of his sons "George" and one of his daughters "Georgetta." (He has 11 children total.)
"I think that kids who get saddled with crazy names like 'Apple' should get to kick their parents in the shin when they get older," says Natali Heuss, who has two daughters, Grace and Hailey.
If, indeed, there is a line between uncommon names and those that are just plain cruel, it was crossed in New Zealand in 1999 when a couple named their daughter "Talula Does the Hula From Hawaii." When the girl was 9, she had received so much ridicule from peers that she stopped revealing her name. When this came up during a custody battle between her parents, a judge removed her from their care until they changed it.
However, a lot of parents don't want their child to have the same name as two or three others in their classrooms and pick names that are different but, hopefully, not going to embarrass them when they get older. Of course, it's impossible to gauge what names might lead to teasing because some kids are mean and bullying seems to be at a record high these days.
Bill Bunyan and his wife put a lot of thought into their oldest daughter's name "Scout Elizabeth" and recognized they picked a different first name.
"For child number one we went unique first name, with a classic middle name that could have a bunch of shortened variations, in case she hated us for her name in high school," says Bunyan.
Bunyan says, so far, Scout, who is now 8, likes her name. "I do not foresee her using any of the options her middle name affords her," he says.
Some parents prefer classic names which, according to name expert Jennifer Moss, have been very popular in the past decade.
"Classic, turn-of-the-century names have been extremely popular for girls. I believe they are pulled from grandparents and just a general nostalgia for the old-fashioned, simple and elegant," says Moss, the author of "The One-In-A-Million Baby Name Book" and the founder of BabyNames.com.
For 2011, according to BabyNames.com, the top five girls' names were Charlotte, Sophia, Amelia, Olivia and Ava. The site also predicts whether or not the name will rise or fall in rank for the next year. So far for 2012, Ava and Sofia have been less popular, but Charlotte, Amelia and Olivia are still popular and will most likely appear even higher on the list next year.
Moss says Celtic and biblical boys names have been mainstream for a while. The top five boys names for 2011 were Liam, Noah, Aiden/Aidan, Jackson and Caleb. All are rising in popularity in 2012, with the exception of Aiden/Aidan which is becoming less popular among newborns.
"Natural" names are also in vogue, especially for girls. Names like Rose, Violet, Daisy, Iris, Lily and Willow are more common these days. Moss says it's because eco-friendliness is a worldwide trend.
Milwaukee's Holly Jefferson has three school-aged daughters: Lily, Rosie and Violet. (And her name is a flower, too, mind you). She says she and her husband did not intentionally name her girls flower names.
"First, we picked 'Lily' and gave her a family middle name. 'Rosie' is a family name, too. When we had our third daughter, we didn't want her to feel left out and wonder why she didn't get a flower name, too, so we named her 'Violet,'" says Jefferson.
Moss recommends that when picking a name parents should consider it from the perspective of the child. If choosing an unusual spelling, she believes parents should recognize the fact the child will probably have to spell it for others their entire life.
"If you're really not sure about a name, always use my 'Coffee Shop Test.' Next time you order coffee, use the name you're considering. If the barista laughs (or they can't spell it), go back to the drawing board," says Moss.
Sometimes, parents pick a name that is very common, but they are unaware of it at the time.
"Parents who don't follow baby name trends on the internet hear a name, maybe a couple times, from friends or family and it sticks in their head. A parent may have thought, 'that's unique, I'll use it, too' not realizing that millions of other parents were thinking the same thing," she says.
Whitefish Bay's Kay Erickson Ehlers named her son "Henry" after his great grandfather and had no idea it was about to become a popular boy's name.
"We didn't know it was becoming trendy ... ugh," she says.
In the '70s and '80s, the name "Jennifer" was extremely popular and resulted in two, three, sometimes four girls with the name in one classroom. Moss says that "Jennifer" came into fashion after the movie / book "Love Story" where the heroine was named Jennifer / Jenny.
"I worked with four other Jennifers. I always think I hear someone calling my name," says Jenny Olin-Fox.
Jennifer Rollings Kreese says there was always another Jenny or two in her classroom and that, occasionally, she was jealous of someone with a less popular name. She says having a very common name did affect which name she picked for her daughter, Etta, but overall, she's adapted to being one of the many Jennys out there.
"Come to think of it, I guess I do always put a fake name on waiting lists at restaurants because when my table comes up, there's always a chance that there's more than one of us waiting," says Kreese.
Moss does not suggest naming kids after their parents (sorry, George Foreman) as a first name because she believes kids receive a sense of identity through their name.
"I wouldn't name my son Mel Gibson Moss, for example," says Moss, whose daughter is named Miranda Margaret Moss and therefore has the initials "MMM."
As for naming kids after famous people, she's all for it, depending on how it sounds. Monica Zamzow and her husband, Chris, named their daughter "Hermoine," well aware of the character in the Harry Potter series with the same name.
"I had first seen that name years before in 'The Odyssey' and thought, 'Hmmm, that would be a great, strong, unique girl's name someday," says Zamzow.
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