It's a big decision: What to name a little baby who just landed on this very overpopulated Earth?
Sure, it's easy if you hew to tradition and christen little Peter, Paul or Mary the III. But most moms we know want a name that's, at once, cute, special, nice-sounding, sweet-smelling, not too
weird, and something everyone else in A.P. Montessori isn't named.
Then a funny thing happens, as any child of the '80s who was named Jennifer or Michael can attest: Somehow, mysteriously, in any given year, every parent on the planet chooses the Same. Damn. Names.
We were curious: First, how does that happen? Is it in the water? Nefarious marketing? Or, can we blame Angelina? And -- more helpfully, if you're about to pop out your own little bundle of unnamed joy now or in the near future -- what shouldn't
you name the kid, to ensure little it stands out?
So we asked the experts: Laura Wattenberg is the creator of The Baby Name Wizard
and Parentdish's "Ask the Name Lady
"; and Pamela Redmond Satran has not only authored 10 books on names, she shares all that know-how on Nameberry
Two things they both agree on: Naming your kid something no one else is isn't easy -- and, if you're curious, there are monikers that should be off your list
"A lot of these are names that parents are interested in now because they're not
seeing them on the Top 1,000 list," says Satran. "They're not visible in kids that are in kindergarten now, but five years from now they're going to feel epidemic."
So, how does it happen? The truth is no one knows, but pop culture can breed same-named kids faster than Drosophila.
"A great example, looking to the past is 'Madison,'" says Wattenberg, "which was not a girl's name at all until the movie 'Splash
.' This beautiful mermaid looks up at the street name in Manhattan and says, 'My name is Madison.' A generation later it's a girl's name. Bang."
But the weirdest part, she says, is the way we all unwittingly become name lemmings: "It's amazing. There's no company out there putting millions of dollars into advertising to get us to name our daughters 'Miley.'"
Which, by the way, made the Don't list -- twice -- but not for the reasons you think. Herewith, in no particular order, what not to name a kid this year, or next:
"'Twilight' is the perfect storm when it comes to baby names," says Wattenberg. "First of all, it's a huge cultural phenomenon, but it's also aiming directly at the people who are going to be having babies in the next 10 years. Today's 17-year-old is getting her sense of baby-name style stamped."
Emmett, Kullan. Kellan. Really, the name of any "Twilight" character -- or an actor who plays one. "These were also in the top 10," says Wattenberg. "It's a huge circle of undead coolness."
"Another name that just a few short years ago was really cool and creative," says Wattenberg, "and Sarah Palin nixed that. One of her kids is a Piper." Politics aside, it's really the vowel sound you should eschew. "The hot sound that is going to trap people is the long 'I' sound," she says. "Long vowel sounds are really in right now, and the 'I' is coming up as something that people haven't used as much."
Wyatt. Lilah. Aidan. Miles. "Names like that you're gong to start hearing a lot," says Wattenberg. "All of these names are climbing together."
Blackballed twice -- for her long "I" and
her ending "lee." "There's a whole raft of names ending in 'lee' that are moving up the list. You can really spell a lot of these names a lot of different ways," says Satran. "The parents are trying to be innovative, but there are so many names with that quality, they all run together."
Kaylee, Byley, Paisley
"It's one of the most searched names on my website," says Wattenberg. "It's a name from the 'True Blood' vampire mysteries
." And the old-fashioned nickname for Susan, it turns out, has all the makings of a hit: "Your recipe for a pop culture name phenomenon? You have a movie or a TV show with attractive young people who have supernatural powers," says Wattenberg. "'Bewitched' launched names. 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer,' even 'Charmed' -- which wasn't even a very popular show."
Sookeh, Snooki (because we said so)
"They've both been number one names, and they're still in the top five and have been for many years," says Satran. "Parents kind of get that they shouldn't use Emma or Emily because there have been so many for so long, so Emiline, Amelia, and even for boys, Emmett, is really leaping up. You're trying to be different, but it's not very different, so the result is just more kids."
Pretty much any name that starts with "Em"
Aka, Mrs. Borat. "It's been really thanks to Isla Fisher, but also thanks to its similarity to names that are short and start with vowels," says Satran. "That name came from nowhere. It's gone from obscurity to overplayed in 10 seconds flat."
"It's one of those names that can be spelled a lot of different ways, and people have an impulse to make it, quote, different
," says Satran. "But it all goes back to Malia and the Obamas."
"Isabella became number this year," says Satran. "That's a name that, like Sophia and Olivia, appeals to a lot of people for a lot of reasons. It's classic, but it's feminine, it's distinctive, but it's strong. It appeals to WASPs and Hispanics. It can be Jewish or Christian. For a name to be number one, it has to have appeal for many types of parents."
Arabella, Anabelle. "The name 'Isabelle' was was already popular, but Stephenie Meyer made it more so," she says. "Now parents are looking to Arabelle, Anabelle -- just to get that 'bell' feeling."
And, really, any of what Satran calls the new "tough boy names." "They're a weird combo of really hardcore macho-ness and futuristic or reinvented maleness," she says. They differ from traditional guy names like Frederick or George, but also diverge from what she calls "androgynous male names," like Logan or Connor or Jordan that are sometimes used for girls. "Those have a softer male image," she says. "These are new, they're different, but if anything, they're macho."
Colt, Gunner, Riker, Rider
10. Anything With an 'X'
"I blame this on Angelina Jolie," says Satran, who points out that all three of her boys have 'x' names: Maddox, Pax and Knox. "People have copied that, or unconsciously jumped on this trend." What attracts them to the 'X,' she says, is the fact that it feels irreverent and cool. Why you might want to nix the 'X' factor? "I think," says Satran, "it's a trend that's going to feel dated by kindergarten."
Jax, Jaxson (with or with or without the "S"), Paxton
"The last ones I would say are 'LL' names," says Satran. "This is a classier trend. A lot of these are old-fashioned names, and that "double L" is lovely, but there are going to be a lot of them."
As for what's still unclaimed, for boys, at least, you can always try Landon or Lionel or Iker or, well, Kaka -- "I don't think America is ready for soccer names
," says Satran. "Here, I'm not seeing it so far."
Carrie Sloan is the editor of Lemondrop. She was not named after the movie of the same name -- or so she thinks.