Things We Considered When Picking a Baby Name

3 minute read

Things to consider when picking a baby name

I feel like some women have their kids names picked out in middle school, but I was not one of those women. Deciding on a baby name was hard and it was probably the only baby decision that Aaron and I made ourselves. We didn’t want to bring our friends into the decision because inevitably someone knows a “Morgan” who was “weird in 4th grade” or an “Eva” who “ate paper” or a “Joe” who “spread ketchup all over this pretzels and stuck them in his ears”. But early on we had a short list of things we wanted to consider in addition to whether we liked a name or not.

  1. How does the name sound with your last name?

    We started off focusing on the first name and we came across a few we really liked, such as Owen, Logan and Noah. But when we finally said it out loud with our last name it came out like a tongue twister. We immediately had to cross off half the names on our list.

  2. Is there an obvious way to make fun of the name?

    Of course, we want to teach Max to embrace his individuality. But that being said, kids have to deal with so much these days that we wanted to make sure there there wasn’t an obvious way to laugh at his name. True that when kids want to be mean they can come up with anything, but we did our best to minimize this (we hope!).

    We also considered the initials in the traditional order (first, middle, last) and first, last, middle to make sure it didn’t spell out anything weird.

  3. How popular is the name?

    Aaron and I have opposite experiences with this one. My name is Bernice and I have never had another Bernice in my class let alone met another Bernice my age. The most common thing I hear is “so and so’s grandmother’s name is Bernice”. In fact, when I was in high school there was a Hoveround commercial(a motorized wheelchair company) where a woman named Bernice makes it to the top of the Grand Canyon. There were probably times when I was younger that I wished I had a more common name like Becky, Emily or Sarah, but as I’ve gotten older I love and embrace the uniqueness of my name.

    While googling names, we came across a really interesting article by Nate Silver, statistician and editor-in-chief of the FiveThirtyEight blog, that analyzed the popularity of names. He tracked the age of living Americans with a given name using data from the social security administration. The article is a fun way to explore names no matter if you are currently trying to come up with a baby name or not. For me, this table particularly interesting:

    Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight - How to Tell Someone’s Age When All You Know Is Her Name: Oldest Female Names

    To get an idea about the popularity of a potential baby name we used Wolfram Alpha. Wolfram Alpha is a computational knowledge engine that uses externally sourced data to compute your query. It can be used to query complex mathmatical equations, but it can also be used to query really fun and random things. As an example, here is the output from the query “Max given name” from the month M was born.

    Wolfram Alpha - Popularity of the name Max on January 2015

A few other Wolfram Alpha queries (check out this page for more detailed examples):

  • Compare the popularity of two names: Max given name, Aaron given name (if you want to compare more than 2, just separate with a comma)
  • See how your body composition compares to others: female, 33yr, 5’7”, 125lbs
  • Compare cities: Richmond VA, San Francisco CA

What things did you consider when picking a name?