Babies on the brain

By Mark Skoultchi

August 26, 2008

I know six pregnant women right now – so baby names are a popular topic. They are fielding suggestions from all sorts of different sources (my cousin’s three year old son came up with a brilliant name for his in-utero sister: Avalina Shoppinglist.) The baby-naming conversation always makes me think of my parents’ struggle to decide on a name for my sister.

Twenty-two years ago, when my mom was about eight months pregnant with my sister, my parents threw a party. They had a huge chalkboard in the hallway that had originally hung in an elementary school classroom, and asked the guests to write down some suggestions for my unborn little sister. Had it been left up to the party-goers, she might have been named Chi-Cha, Cayenne, Polyester-Cloroxa, Banana-Rama or Quasar-Pulsar. My sister was born and my parents couldn’t settle on on the right name for two weeks until finally “Baby Girl” was named Tessa. “I could have used a naming expert,” my mom said recently.

Had my parents know about the three golden rules of baby naming (defined by Catchword’s resident baby naming expert, Burt Alper) they might have pursued a slightly different path in naming my sister. In short, Burt suggests keeping the naming candidates to oneself during pregnancy (feedback is generally all negative before birth and all positive afterwards) and narrowing it down to 2-3 names before the birth (but not deciding beforehand). He also warns against naming your baby what you wish you had been named.

The challenges people face in naming their children are not unrelated to those found in coming up with company names and product branding. The name you might pull out of the blue as the most distinctive and beautiful has certainly been thought of. A name that’s too popular won’t let your company, product or child stand apart from the crowd. On the other hand, having a highly unusual name that no one understands (Polyester-Cloroxa?) or that is difficult to pronounce or spell can be equally problematic. So it’s a big decision either way – but the aforementioned naming rules should help, and you can always give your favorite naming experts a call.

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