Doing Life Together

BabyWhen Shakespeare asked,  “What’s in a name?” the answer is, more than you think.

Many years ago, I worked in a very poor school district and noticed a number of the children had unusual names. The most unusual was a girl we called Phamalie –at least that is what her name sounded like. But when I met her mom at an open house, the mom told me she didn’t name her child -the hospital did. Her name was spelled FEMALE.

The  mom couldn’t read and did not understand that the wrist band around her newborn was not her name. Sad, but a true story. By the way, FEMALE was a delightful child!

“Unusual” names are usually chosen, not assigned by a hospital. When Kim Kardashian named her baby “North” it was hard to imagine cuddling a tiny baby and calling her that name, but hey, to each her own.

And 2014’s list of unusual baby names is no exception. According to, a baby naming website, we had these names: Awesome, Savvy, Majestic, Wise, Handsome, Boss, Captain, Couture, Eliminate  and Halo! Yes, Eliminate–you don’t have to be a psychologist to wonder what the impact of that name may be someday!

So why do parents choose these less than traditional names?  Is there any fall out from having a name that reminds you of one direction or sounds more like an adjective?

One reason we see these unique names has to do with popular media and celebrity. In 2014 we saw a rise in the names Katniss (Hunger games), Hazel (The Fault in Our Stars) and Khaleesi (Game of Thrones).

But does calling your child, “North” or “Katniss” have any impact on their adjustment in life? From studies, children with very unusual names do worse academically and are less popular in school. Also, when they go to college, they have a higher flunk out rate. An bosses are not always impressed and may throw out their resumes.

Think about it, if you know nothing  about a person but his/her name, the name influences your initial impression. Certainly, getting to know a person can change your impression,  but why would you want to put an obstacle in the way? On the positive, you might easily remember the person because of the unique name.

If you choose an unusual name,  a team of researchers notes that the easier the name is to pronounce, the more positive you feel about that person. So “North” just might work.

While some studies suggest that the impact of an unusual name is only minimal, I would argue that naming your child sets the stage for how the world will see them and how they will cope with whatever the name brings. That could build resilience or problems.

When we named our kids, we thought about how those names could be made into teasing, nicknames, sound on a resume and be introduced to a school class. In the end, we decided to go more traditional to make it easier on the kids. It wasn’t about us, but about them!

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