Kim and Kanye’s Callous Baby-Naming Publicity Campaign Continues

I just received four news reports about the latest in Kim and Kanye’s successful campaign to turn the future birth of their baby into valuable publicity for themselves. In my last note, I suggested that North (a name proposed by Kanye) was so bad that Kim should veto it and then they could claim that the rumor was a spoof on over-the-top celebrity baby-naming ego trips.

Well their over-the-top, ego-tripping publicity campaign continues. Now it’s Kim’s turn to propose silly options:

  • Giving the baby a name that begins with K: Khrist (Christ spelled with a K).
  • If the baby is a girl, naming her Easton West. (An idea that is almost as silly as North West.)

No, they are not “spoofing” the self-indulgent practice of celebrities who give their babies ridiculous names. They are escalating the concept of using baby names for publicity. Now, both Kim and Kanye are doing it. Fact is, they are implementing a well-planned and highly successful publicity campaign using the tactic of proposing silly names for the baby they expect in July.

And they continue to receive millions of publicity impressions every time they come up with another ludicrous  name. Although they are not the first celebrity couple to use their babies’ names to increase their own notoriety, they have raised the “art” of baby-name publicity exploitation to new heights.

Some publicists believe there is no such thing as “bad publicity.” I suppose that’s true for celebrities who don’t care what people think of them–or what their child will think of them when he or she winds up  with North West, Easton West, Khrist West or some other embarrassing name.

When most people hear about celebrity babies with outlandish  names, they say, “What were their parents thinking?” Now we know what Kim and Kanye are thinking. They are proposing lame baby names so people will wonder whether they could possibly be so clueless and callous as to actually use them. Based on their behavior to date, the answer appears to be: yes. And because people believe they just might pick a ridiculous name for their baby, their publicity campaign is racking up huge exposure. People are wondering, what will they come up with  next? Not because they think Kim and Kanye are creative and funny; but because Kim and Kanye seem so desperate to do anything for a mention in the media.

Unfortunately for Kim and Kanye, their campaign works precisely because they’ve convinced the American public they think picking a loony name for their child would be funny. They still don’t seem to understand that the joke is on them. They seem determined to lead the list of celebrities who are famous for their bad judgment. And in that respect, their crazy campaign is working.

© 2013 Bruce Lansky
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Dear Bruce: Is it better to select a popular name or a unique name?

Dear Bruce,

Is it better to select a popular name or a unique name?

Bruce: When you’re expecting, you notice the names parents have chosen for their babies when you read newspaper birth announcements or meet parents with small children. The more often you notice certain names, the more you may consider selecting them for your child. There are benefits to selecting popular names: they often make positive first impressions, most people can spell and pronounce them, and they don’t sound “weird.” Unfortunately, your child may not like sharing his or her name with other children in daycare, at the playground, or on her soccer team.

Many parents think their children will feel unique and special if they have an uncommon name. But it’s often hard to find an uncommon name that will make a positive first impression and won’t cause lots of practical problems for your child, making him or her wish you had chosen Jacob or Emily instead. However, if you consider your favorite vacation spots, your favorite cheeses or wines, or your favorite musicians, artists, or sports heroes, you may come up with a charming unique name if you first test it on friends and acquaintances to avoid disappointment.

If you’d like to submit a question, please leave it in the comments section here.  

© 2013 Bruce Lansky
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What to Name a Baby Girl Whose Last Name Is Smith (According to Tom Wolfe)

I’ve been reading “Back to Blood” by Tom Wolfe and enjoying the trip (to Miami). If you’ve read “Bonfire of the Vanities,” you know that Wolfe is quite the savant about WASP social mores—including  naming practices. Here’s what he has to say about girls who come from families with plain Jones last names like Smith and Johnson.

“Swell Anglo families with common names like Jones or Smith or Johnson had a way of giving their children, especially their daughters, romantic or exotic or striking first names like Serena or Cornelia or Bettina or else Old Family Lineage first names like Bradley or Ainsley or Loxley or Taylor or Templeton, Templeton Smith.”

See the difference just the right two or three syllable name can make with a plain Jones last name like Smith or Johnson?

© 2013 Bruce Lansky
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A Mindful Approach to Baby Naming

I recently read an interesting article about mindfulness in the “New York Times,” called “In Mindfulness, A Method to Sharpen Focus and Open Minds.” I’d been introduced to mindfulness when I met a “mind/body” expert at the Mayo Clinic to find alternate methods for dealing with health problems that most doctors couldn’t get a handle on.

Here’s a simple explanation of mindfulness from Janice Marturano, founder of the Institute for Mindful Leadership: “Intentionally paying attention to the present, nonjudgmentally.” That strikes me as an excellent approach for parents to use when searching for just the “right” name for their baby. As you narrow down the search to a list of names worth considering, try a mindful approach.

Think each name and say each name out loud, first all by itself; then with your last name. Slowly savor the thought and feel and sound of each name as you think about:

  • the “vibe” each name sends out
  • any thoughts or feelings you experience
  • any associations you have with each name, as you think about: famous namesakes, people you know, literary characters or writers,  or movie characters or actors who have each name
  • how the name sounds when you say it (and how it sounds when you say it together with your last name)
  • what kind of person would have a name like this
  • what kind of person you think your child may become
  • how you’d feel calling your child that name to come to dinner, when you tuck him/her into bed at night, or on other occasions
  • how you picture a child with each name meeting new friends and teachers on the first day of school, on a blind date, when applying to college or a job (this will help you think about the impression each name makes on others)
  • how you would like the name if you were a baby being born in 2013

And, to give you more insight about first impressions, it can help to ask friends, relatives, and children what they think when they hear each of the names you are considering.

In other words, “get into each name” and give each a chance to show you what it can do for your child and for you. By doing that, you will be giving each name a fair opportunity and you will enjoy thinking about the benefit and pleasure your child may get from each name—and the pleasure you may get from each name.

If your objective to pick a name is to find one that will be a pleasure for your child and for you, a mindful approach can help you focus on these issues in an open-minded way.

© 2013 Bruce Lansky
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North West: The Name Kanye West Is Contemplating for His Baby Boy

Yesterday I received three news reports from different sources about the name Kanye West has been considering, in public, for the baby he and Kim Kardashian (aka “Kimye”) are expecting in July.

There are two issues that merit discussion: the “jokey” name he is contemplating, and West’s candor about his completely un-serious approach to the process of baby-naming.

  • reports that “Kanye West and Kim Kardashian like to think of themselves as trendsetters.”
  • reports that “the rapper wants to show his sense of humour by naming the tot North West. A source told ‘The Sun’ newspaper: ‘Kanye’s ego is something else…'”
  • “International Business Times” may have the most realistic take on speculation about “Kimye’s” baby boy: “But naming the baby North could just be a joke West is trying to play on fans. He’s also reportedly planning on naming his new album “I Am God,” something else Kardashian might have a problem with. As of now he’s just toying with the idea.”

So we don’t really know what “Kimye” will name their baby boy. What we do know is that treating the matter as a big joke, trying to establish “trendsetter” status by picking a ridiculous name, and injecting parental ego into the naming process is bound to produce a ridiculous result that will be a millstone around the child’s neck for life.

What has attracted me to this issue (even though it may be a prenatal joke) is West’s admittedly jokey and self-indulgent approach to baby-naming which can also be deduced from “What were they thinking?” names other celebrities have given their babies over the years from Apple to Dweezil to Pilot Inspektor and Zuma Nesta Rock.

If Kim doesn’t put an end to the farce by vetoing North West, I’ll have to give it two thumbs down. (Because the joke would be on Kanye, Kim and North.) However, if it turns out to be a purposeful spoof of everything that’s wrong with celebrity baby-naming, and, at the last minute they give their boy a reasonable name, I’ll applaud their joke and their judgement.

© 2013 Bruce Lansky
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How to Find Charming, Uncommon Names for Your Baby

If you’ve decided against selecting a time-tested traditional name for your baby, here are some ideas for finding cool, uncommon names in odd places (like a travel guide, a restaurant menu, a TV commercial or an art museum). Although picking an uncommon moniker for your child increases the risk of winding up with something that creates a “What were you thinking?” or “You must be kidding!” response, you just might discover a name that turns out to be highly memorable and appealing—thus earning you credit for your creativity and daring.

If you’re willing to pick a safe middle name in case Eureka or Ypsilanti are judged a flop as soon as your friends and relatives see the birth announcement, choosing a cool, unique name for your child can be a big plus for both the child and the parents. Your son Hudson and your daughter Monet may be the envy of all their classmates (as well as their classmates’ parents who will want to meet the pair who picked those charming names).

How do you find charming names like that? Follow this three-step procedure:

  1. Look for names in odd places: a world atlas for place names, TV commercials or print ads for brand names, art museums for art names, menus or cookbooks for food names and baby-name books for uncommon forms of common names, bird or flower guides for nature names. (Did you know that 100,000+ Baby Names has more than 600 lists of names to help parents generate cool, off-the-beaten-track ideas?)
  1. Once you’ve come up with a list of names that are worth considering, spend some time thinking about what they would be like to live with (for your child and for you). Try to narrow your choice down to a few “keepers.”Of course, there’s one more step—putting whichever names you like together with your last name (and any middle names you’re considering) to see how they all sound together. Don’t forget to check out the initials too. Some initials are just plain cool, like P.J., J.P., or K.C. Cool initials give your child another great fallback. It’s like having another middle name—without the clunkiness of actually having two middle names.

Now let’s take a look at a variety of potential names to see if we turn up any you’d call “charming.”

Place Names

For Boys: Chad, Frisco, Hudson, Reno, Rio and Santonio

For Girls: China, Georgia, India, Kenya, Siena, and Skye, Virginia

Practical Considerations: Most of these names are recognizable enough to be quite easy to spell and pronounce. Most of them also paint a picture (that is, either charming or memorable—or both). I can imagine a difference of opinion about the “charm factor” for China, India, Kenya, Hudson and Reno. But I doubt many would find Rio, Siena, Santonio or Frisco problematic with regard to charm.

Food and Spice Names

For Girls: Brie, Cinnamon, Ginger, Olivia, Pepper, Saffron and Sage.

For Boys, Herb, Huckleberry, Macintosh, Oliver and Sage

Practical Considerations: Olivia and Oliver are variations of Olive and both make a positive impression and work well as names, as does Brie for girls. Ginger and Pepper both create a “spunky” or “spicy” impression for girls.  Sage is more of a gender-neutral name which can work equally well for either gender. Herb is a rather old-fashioned name and, of course, the “H” isn’t silent. In my opnion, the shorter variations of Huckleberry (Huck) and Macintosh (Mac) work better for boys than the longer versions.

Color Names

For Girls: Amber, Blanche, Cinnamon, Cocoa, Ebony, Ginger, Ivory and Raven

For Boys: Russell, Rusty

Practical considerations: Color names can be a blessing when you’ve put off picking a name until you are cradling  the baby in your arms. Color names can help you describe your child’s most striking physical attributes (such as hair color and complexion) in a name that can break a tie and “seal the deal.” (Notice that several spice names also work as color names.)

Brand Names

For Boys: Chevy, Harley, Levi, Lincoln and Stetson

For Girls: Chanel, Kia, Macy, Mercedes and Sierra

Practical Considerations: Most people are familiar with these brand names, so spelling and pronunciation aren’t likely to cause problems. However, these brands will probably appeal to people on different ends of the socioeconomic spectrum, in different parts of the country, and with different tastes. Chanel, Mercedes and Lincoln are more upscale; Macy appeals to the broad middle; Levi, Stetson and Sierra appeal to folks who may live out west or enjoy country-western music; Chevy is an “All-American” brand and Kia is a zippy brand that appeals to folks with modest bank accounts or with a “green” sensibility.

Ten or twenty years ago, many parents who shopped at Wal-Mart and Target chose Tiffany as a name for their bouncing bundle of joy, perhaps to project a more upscale image. You don’t need a 7-figure income to pick a million-dollar name.

Art Names

For Boys: Calder, Jasper, Hockney, Leonardo, Raphael, Rockwell, Sargent and Stuart

For Girls: Hartley, Mona Lisa, Monet and Stella

Practical Considerations: There’s a risk in choosing an “arty” name that won’t be immediately recognizable to most people. However, many of the names on the list above are familiar to most people. Who has not heard of the Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, Monet’s water lilies, Calder’s colorful mobiles, Norman Rockwell’s poignant illustrations for “The Saturday Evening Post” and Georgia O’keeffe’s mesmerizing close-ups of flowers and iconic southwestern images.

Alternate Forms of Common Names

For Boys: Geo (a short form of George), Lucky (a familiar form of Luke), Rafa (a short form of Raphael), Ringo (a Japanese name meaning “apple”)

For Girls: Nita (a short form of Anita and Juanita), Rita (a short form of Marguerite and Margarita), Cielo (a Spanish form of “Heaven”), Colette or Cosette (French forms of Nicole)

Practical Considerations: Most of these names are easy to spell and pronounce. Both French names (Cosette and Collette) make a literary or arty impression. Cielo not only sounds beautiful, it means “Heaven” in Spanish. And Nita is like Rita, a short Spanish form of names ending in “nita” or “rita.” The boys’ names are mainly short forms of names that are more religious, arty or stodgy. Most are informal and fun. Of course, it may be hard to imagine Ringo, Rafa and Lucky as classical composers, Ph.D. candidates or members of a prestigious law firm.

Last Names of Famous People

For Boys: Beckham, Lincoln

For Girls: Anniston, Lennon, Harlow

Practical Considerations: Here’s a way to find charming, uncommon names. I recently added Anniston, Lennon and Harlow to 100,000+ Baby Names when they landed on the top-1,000 girls’ list. Ditto for Beckham when it landed on the top-1,000 boys’ list. Lincoln, of course, is the last name of a famous president which just moved onto the top-100 boys’ list at #95. It’s not exactly “uncommon,” but it’s not too common, yet, to use. Did you notice that Anniston is not exactly spelled the way actress Jennifer Aniston spells her last name? Parents who selected it for their daughters presumably added the extra “n” so Anniston could function as an updated version of Ann, a girls’ name that has been used in English-speaking countries for centuries.

Nature Names

For Boys: Ash, Clay, Cliff, Forrest, Jasper, River, Robin, Sage

For Girls: Gale, Heather, Ivy, Lily, River, Robin, Sage, Stormy, Violet, Willow,

Practical considerations: Here’s another effective way to find charming, uncommon names. In the process of compiling a list of boys’ and girls’ nature names I noticed that this category provides an excellent source of gender-neutral names.

I hope that reading this post motivates you to consider other off-the-beaten-path name categories such as: literary names (e.g., Webster)  sports names (e.g., Kirby)  and celestial names (e.g. Orion).

© 2013 Bruce Lansky, © 2015 Bruce Lansky
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Dear Bruce: What is “baby name regret” and what causes it?

Dear Bruce,

What is “baby name regret” and what causes it?

Bruce: Parents who receive negative feedback when they announce their baby’s name may regret the choice soon after making it. However, sometimes it takes a couple of years (or perhaps a decade or two) before a parent discovers that the name they selected was a mistake. You may have selected a very formal name (like Honor) but discovered how awkward it sounds to calm a crying baby Honor because there are no endearing nicknames for that name. You may love the name Elizabeth, but hate it when your daughter is called Beth. Conversely, a name like Missy may work beautifully when she is young, but she may wish for a more “adult” name to put on her college application. Dick may work well—until your son finds out how mean his friends can be when they use that name for teasing. The best way to prevent baby name regret is to consider the practical consequences of selecting the names you like best.

If you’d like to submit a question, please leave it in the comments section here.  

© 2013 Bruce Lansky
All rights reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced without proper notice of copyright.

When Children Don’t Like the Names on Their Birth Certificates

You will appreciate the convenience of having a solid middle name as a reasonable back-up the day your child decides he or she doesn’t like the name you’ve chosen.

Sources of dissatisfaction are many and varied. Maybe the name:

  • is too often misspelled or mispronounced;
  • is too uncommon and comes across as strange or weird;
  • is so popular, several other children in your child’s class answer to the same name;
  • is too boring;
  • makes a strange or negative first impression;
  • has a literal meaning that is either negative or misleading (for example, a child named Raven with blond hair and a fair complexion);
  • doesn’t have enough formal and informal options that would enable the name to “change” as the child grows up;
  • is a constant source of teasing;
  • or simply doesn’t fit the child.

While choosing a unique, uncommon name can result in many of the problems listed above, choosing a “safe” traditional name can produce a different set of problems. That’s why choosing an attractive middle name that goes well with your last name is a smart move. (Picking a “political” middle name that doesn’t work well as a safety option can be a huge mistake.)

Recently, Uma Thurman named her daughter Rosalind and added four “middle names.” Six months later, she calls her daughter Luna, which was not one of the middle names she gave her. Her daughter is too young to have complained. Thurman must have figured out that none of the names on her daughter’s birth certificate worked quite as well as Luna. (If you’ve read my article on that topic, you may remember I described the four middle names as “alphabet soup.”)

If you or your child has an “aha” moment and decides that the first and middle names don’t work, you need to take action to prevent your child from taking even more radical action (like changing his name to Rocketman). Here are some strategies to try:

  • Come up with different forms of the chosen name; for example, Liam is a short, Irish form of William. Luna is actually a short form of one of the “alphabet soup” middle names Thurman originally came up with (Altalune). In comparison with the original four “middle names” she picked, Luna, though highly unusual, is a major improvement!
  • Try a name-book neighbor, a name that may sound or look similar to the name you’ve chosen but which has a different “vibe.” A young woman with a very popular name, Sara, told me she was tired of it. I came up with Syrah and she’s been a happy camper ever since. In a recent article, I mentioned that a money manager thought his given name, George, was too dull and stodgy. He happily switched to Geo.
  • Many parents pick beautiful names like Alexander or Alexandra and then forbid the child (or the child’s friends) from calling him or her a different version of that name. Big mistake. The beauty of a versatile name is that there are many versions of the name that can be used as the child grows up. Enjoy the fact that your child (or your child’s friends) have come up with a version of the name that they like using.

Guide the process of selecting an alternative name, so it doesn’t go too far astray. Better Alex or Alec than Tralala or Zoot.

© 2013 Bruce Lansky
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Dear Bruce: What is “birth announcement letdown” and what causes it?

Dear Bruce,

What is “birth announcement letdown” and what causes it?

Bruce: Birth announcement letdown is a term I coined to describe what you feel when the name you’ve selected produces disappointing feedback when you announce it to friends and relatives or to people you’ve just met. You’re in big trouble if people groan or say, “You’ve got to be kidding.” You’ve made a strange choice if people ask, “What?” or “Come again?” You know people are being polite if they remark, “Oh… that’s a nice name.” And you know the name you’ve chosen may one day irritate your child if (after receiving a printed birth announcement) people ask you, “How do you pronounce that?” or if (after being told the name of your baby) they ask you, “Is it a boy or a girl?” or “How do you spell that?” Imagining how people may respond to your child’s birth announcement should motivate you to do your homework to avoid making a disappointing choice.

If you’d like to submit a question, please leave it in the comments section here.  

© 2013 Bruce Lansky
All rights reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced without proper notice of copyright.

How to Pick a Name That You and Your Child Will Enjoy

When I wrote the first edition of “The Best Baby Name Book in the Whole Wide World” back in 1978, there were about 120 pages in the book. In a couple of hours, you could read the introductory material about what to consider when naming your baby, and then browse all the main listings (pausing to read the derivations, meanings and variations for names that appealed to you).

Now I have written “100,000+ Baby Names,” which contains ten times as many names plus more than 600 lists of names to help you generate interesting new ideas. I wouldn’t suggest that anyone should “read the entire book, page by page.” The method I suggest involves generating a list of names you love, and then narrowing down the list based on how well the names might work for your baby. Instead of reading the book from cover to cover, you can use it to create a list of names based on your preferences. Of course, there’s no reason you can’t browse all the main listings too.

Step One: Making a List of Names
Make a list of names to consider by writing down your answers to the following questions.

What country are your parents or grandparents from?
What holidays, rituals and traditions are most important to you?
What might your baby’s personality be like?
What might your baby be like physically?
What will be your baby’s astrological sign?
Where did you conceive?
Where did you go on your honeymoon?
Where do you like to vacation?
Where will your baby be born?
Who are your heroes?
Who are your favorite artists?
Who are your favorite athletes?
Who are your favorite authors?
Who are your favorite biblical characters?
Who are your favorite celebrities?
What are the names of your favorite celebrities’ babies?
What are your favorite flowers?
What are your favorite gender-neutral names?
What are your favorite places to visit?
Who are your favorite military leaders?
Who are your favorite mythological characters?
What are your favorite boys’ and girls’ names from the list of most popular names over the past 100 years?
What are your favorite boys’ and girls’ names from the most recent list of popular names?
Who are your favorite opera composers and stars?
Who are your favorite relatives?
What are your favorite rocks, gems and minerals?
Who are your favorite singers?
Who are your favorite presidents?

Then check the lists we’ve created which offer appropriate names in each of the categories that are important to you, to find even more names based on themes that interest you.

Now that you’ve written down a list of names to which you have a strong personal connection, it’s time to consider other factors. Write down the spellings or variations of the names that appeal to you the most. That will give you a longer list of names to consider.

Step Two: Narrowing Down the List

Now it’s time to narrow down your list based on practical considerations, so you can decide what names are most likely to work well for your baby. Ask yourself the following questions, and rate each name based on the answers.

Popularity: Is the name so popular there will be many kids in your child’s class with the same name?
Uniqueness: Is the name so distinct it will come across as weird?
Sound: Does the name sound good alone?
Fit Last Name: Does the name work well with your last name?
Nicknames: Do you like the nicknames or variations your child is likely to be called?
Image or Impression: Do you like the image or impression this name conveys? Will it be positive or negative?
Famous Namesakes: Do you have a positive or negative impression of the most famous namesakes?
Spelling: Is the name likely to be misspelled often?
Pronunciation: Is the name likely to be mispronounced often?
Gender: Does the name clearly indicate your child’s gender?
Initials: Do you like the initials the name forms with the middle and last name?
Meaning: Is the meaning positive? Is it appropriate?
Traditions: Does the name fit your religious or ethnic traditions?
Versatility: Are there a variety of formal and informal versions of this name available for use?

Don’t be surprised that the list of names you initially created has shrunken greatly when you started to imagine the practical issues that would confront a child with each name on the list.

Step Three: Making the Final Choice

Now list your top five boys’ and girls’ names on a piece of paper. With your partner, rate each other’s top five names based on the above questions. Through informed reasoning, you now have the top possibilities. Now all you have to do is make the final decision.

More advice on how to choose a name for your baby, along with a listing of more than 100,000 baby names, complete with origins and meanings is available in Bruce Lansky’s “100,000+ Baby Names” (Meadowbrook Press, $12.95 where you buy books).

© 2013 Bruce Lansky
All rights reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced without proper notice of copyright.