When Every Name Seems Wrong: We Don’t Like Any Names!

Last week we discussed some tips on what to do when every name seems wrong. How do you apply these steps in real-life? Read on.

Real World Application When You Don’t Like Any Names!

You and your other half are expecting, and you have poured over baby name books, looking for the perfect name, but after looking at thousands of names, none of them seem right.

Usually this occurs in the following situations:

Situation: 1. You and/or your partner firmly believe the right baby name will jump out at you and shout, “This is it!” The sky will open, light will shine down from the heaven and the angels will sing.

Situation: 2. You have at least two older children and you used all of your favorite names. Perhaps when you named your older children, Situation 1 was your reality, and therefore Situation 1 may also apply.

Situation: 3. This baby is a surprise. Situations 1 and 2 may also apply. Since you weren’t thinking about having a baby, names were the last thing on your mind, but now you find yourself faced with the task of finding the right name.

In most cases, this is a classic case of managing your expectations. Instead of aiming for love-at-first-sight, consider love-at-second (or third, fourth, fifth, etc.) sight.

The story behind this child’s name could be a case of love that had evolved, like other compelling love stories. My daughter’s name was a case of love-at-first-sight, while my son’s name I didn’t love at first, but I love now. The right name will find your baby.

Once you have accepted that this child’s name may not be love-at-first-sight, what’s the next step?

Step 1: Pin Down Your Name Style

Determining your priorities will help you narrow down what kind of name you want. Name style won’t be the first priority for all parents, but in this situation, everything else will hinge on pinning down your preferred name style (or styles).

The Baby Name Wizard is very helpful for determining name style. The book has three key chapters that are, in my opinion, the most valuable parts of the book. Two chapters are on “Name Snapshots,” one for girls (chapter 8.) and boys (chapter 9.), and another chapter is on “Name Style Families” (chapter 10.).

To use this handy reference, I suggest first looking at the “Name Snapshots” and from there; list all the names you like. This will be your master list. You can do this with your partner or you can each make separate lists to compare later. I suggest basing your list on names you like on other people’s babies, keeping in mind whether you also like the name on a child and an adult.

Next to each name snapshot is a list of style families. Some names fall into one style family while others fall into multiple style families. When you add a name to your list, make a note of all style families.

Once your list is finished you will hopefully see that many of the names fall into one or two style families. If your master list is all over the place, with names from seemingly every style, there are a couple of things you can do:

  • One option is to start ranking names, with one being your favorite, and two being your second favorite, etc. Among your highest ranking names you will decide your preferred style family.
  • Another option is to move on to step 3 and cut names based on other priorities. This contradicts my first suggestion to put name style as your first priority, but may be more manageable than ranking a list of 25+ names.

However you choose to narrow down your preferred style families, I suggested keeping a maximum of two or at most three style families. One style family is ideal, but we all have complex tastes. Once you have a list of preferred style families, remove any names from your master list that do not fall into those style families.

Step 2 (Optional): Expand Your List Based on Style Family

Step 2 can be skipped if you came up with a master list of 20+ names that you really like in Step 1, and feel confident one of your baby’s names is on that list. If however, after doing the last step you find you only have a list of 5 names and you aren’t sure the right name is on that list, expanding the list again may be necessary.

Referencing your preferred style families, look up each “Style Family” (chapter 10.) in The Baby Name Wizard, and add any other names to your master list you had overlooked in Step 1.

Step 3: Pick Your Final Contenders

At this point, you should have a good master list. To further narrow down your list, decide your other priorities. Ask yourself; is the baby’s last name easy or difficult to work with? Do you have other children or plan to have more children? How important is it that your children’s names “go together”? How important is individuality vs. fitting in? Have you picked an honoring middle name? How important is it that the first and middle name “go together”?

Here’s an example of how a hypothetical family may narrow down their list (complete Step 3.):

Scenario: Amy and Dan Smith are expecting their first child and don’t plan any more. They live in Kansas. They know they are having a girl, and Dan teaches 3rd grade and knows a lot of children, often hearing the same names over and over. Here is their priority list:

1. Name Style: The Smith’s decided they liked The Baby Name Wizard’s “English” Style Family to honor their English heritage, and listed these names from that family:

2. Popularity: Because their last name is very common, the Smiths decide to limit their list to names outside the top 300, which eliminates (based on 2010 rankings):
Amelia #41
Charlotte #45
Chloe #9
Eliza #240

3. Coordination with Last Name: While Smith is fairly easy to work with, the couple decides names with strong S sounds don’t sound as nice with Smith, especially names that end is S (or the S sound). This eliminates:
Beatrice – the names almost run together

4. Coordination with Honoring Middle Name: Amy wants to use Margaret as a middle name in honor of her Grandmother. The remaining names are listed together with the middle and last names.
Amabel Margaret Smith
Camilla Margaret Smith
Gemma Margaret Smith
Imogen Margaret Smith
Petula Margaret Smith
Zara Margaret Smith

The couple feels all the names go well enough with the middle and last name. The combos are a little M-heavy, but the couple likes that. Consequently this doesn’t narrow down their list, which is now at six.

Six is not a bad number. They could take this list to the hospital or think about the names for the next few days, but the Smiths decided they would like to cut at least a couple more names.

They decide to add a fifth item to their priority list, which is really just a preference, not a deal breaker:

5. Fits-in With the Locals: Most of the names on the list aren’t terribly difficult to bear, but this couple considers that they live in a small mid-western town with many older neighbors who are among the last to embrace new trends. Because of this, they decide some of the more exotic names may be difficult for their child to bear.

The couple decides based on these criteria to drop Imogen. Many of the older neighbors may mispronounce Imogen as IM-O-JEAN. Petula is very pretty and may go back on the list, but for the time being, the couple suspects the name may stand out too much among their child’s peers. Zara is another name that may go back on the list, but is moved to the back-burner, while the couple decides how likely Zara could be confused with Sarah.

At this point, this hypothetical couple has a good working list of: Amabel, Camilla, and Gemma. Petula and Zara are on the backup list. With these remaining names, relying on gut feelings is not only OK, but advisable. This couple is satisfied that they are close to picking the right name for their baby.

They decide to check out some name forums and blogs to get opinions on their finalist names. Amy creates an online poll. 🙂

Readers: What name would you pick for the fictional Smiths?

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  1. I liked all the names that the “Smiths” chose – although I love the name Zara, and who cares that it’s very common, but Zara Margaret just seemed a combo that was slightly “off”.

    Camilla seems to be the front runner at present. I’m not sure why Cordelia was dumped, but that would have been my preference. Cordelia Smith sounds lovely and not difficult to cope with.

  2. mr. donut says:

    i think imogen is a good name. the im-o-gean pronounciation is pretty. and amabel is ugly. it looks like a misspelling of anabel. i say no to it. (‘o’) < donut


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