June 10, 2015

How to Find The Perfect Baby Name(s)!

I have had a love for baby names ever since I was practically a baby myself. I suppose it all started with how much I disliked my own name growing up. I know Maigen (btw, it's said may-gen, not Megan or Meegan or Mygen) is a beautiful name but I quickly realized it was hard for people to pronounce correctly, no one knew how to spell it and it drew unwanted attention to me as a shy child. I dreamed of having a simple name like Annie, Emily or Katie, like my sister.

I finally embraced my name in college and started following baby name blogs to build a nice cache of choices long before I even dreamed of having kids of my own. I have a great ability to predict what will eventually become popular names.  I fell in love with Emma, Olivia, Sophia, Ava and Ella long before they were common (there's a reason for that though, read more about the 100 year rule). I obviously like classic, pretty, flowy names and after watching every name I loved reach higher popularity I knew I was going to have to dig deeper when it came to naming my own.

We knew we didn't want anything too common but not too out there either. There's nothing wrong with a popular name but  having grown up with a "made-up" name I can tell you that's no picnic either. There is something to be said for originality though and for not having your child be one of four girls with the same name in her class. In 9th grade I had a Jessica F., Jessica B., Jessica C., Jessica I., Jessica N., and Jessica S. and they were just the ones I had classes with. We also had numerous Carrie/Kari/Kerries, Amandas, Katies and, of course, Jennifers. They envied me and I envied them. I knew I needed to avoid this so that meant some of my favorites (Ella, Ava, Madelyn and Olivia) were off our list before we even started.

Nowadays it's easier to give your baby a unique name that's not popular and you don't have to go all the way to the other end of the spectrum and make up a name or modify an existing one to do so. That said, the hard part is finding a name that both you and Dad like, that you can see your child grow into and that is easy enough for the rest of the world to pronounce and spell. We had the added fun of trying to come up with two names that fit the bill. So how exactly do you do it?

Baby Name Books

The old school way that is quickly going the way of other paper products what with so many resources on the interwebs. While looking I did refer to a few that I've had for years (again, I was obsessed long before I even met CJ). My favorites were Cool Names by Pamela Redmond Satran and Linda Rosenkrantz which is chock full of great ideas and 20,001 Names for Baby which gives pretty detailed information on name meanings and usage. I also bought a copy of The Baby Name Wizard by Laura Wattenberg when we got desperate. This is a great combo of the above books with great ideas including name "snapshots", sibling suggestions, tips and tricks for choosing a name and a pronunciation guide. She also included a a look at baby name trends and a great breakdown of names by any type or style you could imagine such as Bell Tones, New Classics, Nickname-Proof and Short and Sweet.

Baby Name Websites

Modern baby naming is almost more difficult with the number of naming sites cropping up everywhere. It's almost like when you go to a diner and sit down to order from a menu that is 12 pages long. There is so much to choose from that it's hard to narrow down a few choices let alone pick just one. That said the ability to find just about any name ever used is pretty awesome.

Baby Name Wizard - This site, run by Laura Wattenberg, the Baby Name Lady herself, is full of great ideas and tools including the Name Mapper (currently under construction) which tells you where names are the most popular, the Name Voyager which explores baby name trends through time and the NamiPedia which gives a more detailed look at a name as well as personal anecdotes from people who have or who used the name.

Nymbler - Another amazing resource from Laura Wattenberg, Nymbler allows you to input your choices and then generates similar names based on sound, style and spelling. It's where we found the Juliette to our Vivienne!

Nameberry - This UK based website is full of information. They break names down into really fun lists like Angel names, Geek-Chic names, Nature names and Video Game names. The forums are very busy and a great resource for more ideas. Although many of the names they cover have yet to cross the sea into popular usage over here if you're wanting to be really unique you will likely find your dream name here!

Apellation Mountain  - Abby believes that every name has a story and she's here to help you learn all about them. Her Name of the Day series spotlights newer gems and classics and covers the history, etymology and cultural usage of a name. I love reading her descriptions of names and can spend hours just scrolling through her site.

What A Lovely Name  - A lovely little interactive site where you can choose which qualities you would like in a name and they generate a list for you! I didn't discover this one until writing this blog but I wish I had found it while still pregnant!

Social Security Administration - Weird right? Who would think the government would be a good place to find a baby name. This is one of the best though as it can tell you a lot about the popularity of a name over time. Every year they list the most popular names in the country for that year but it also goes all the way back to 1879 so you can definitely use it for some ideas. Once you've chosen a name you can also go and find out it's ranking throughout history.

I came across our short list the other day and was surprised to see some names that I'd forgotten all about. CJ really liked Penny (think James Bond) and Hazel and I was in love with Eleanor and Lila. We settled on boys names pretty early on and were going to use Miles Thomas and Eli Charles. Vivienne was picked after my cousin mentioned it was one of her favorites. It was kind of like that scene on Friends where Rachel steals Monica's baby name (Emma!). As soon as she said it something just clicked and I knew that was one of my girls' names. I felt awful for taking it but she swears she doesn't mind.

Juliette came and went and came and went on our list. We liked it after Nymbler suggested it but weren't sure how much we did until one of our last ultrasounds when the tech pointed out that we could do J for baby A and V for baby B. I loved that and the fact that they go together without being too matchy. Of course now they go by Jules and Viv (or Hooles and Lion) most of the time! I do take pride in the fact that I chose a beautiful "sib-set" and that my name choices are admired in the baby name community!

How did you pick your baby names?


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