What’s Wrong With Pamela Redmond Satran’s Recently Recommended Names?

Take a look at this list of recommended names taken from articles written by Pamela Redmond Satran in recent months. See if you can figure out why each name could be annoying, frustrating or downright harmful to the children of Nameberry readers unlucky enough to be given these names. If you get stuck on any one of them, scroll down. Under the list of names you’ll find a short list of baby-naming don’t’s that quickly explain what parents (and experts) should consider when picking (or recommending) a name.

Some of Pamela Redmond Satran’s Recently Recommended Names:

Betsan, Cabe, Kaius, Neri, Macsen, Macson, Camber, Sender, Effa, Gerty, Mertilla, Tulsi, Sula, Hebe, Kitty, Maelys, Blue, Carola

Quick List of Baby-Naming Don’ts

1. Avoid names that make negative impressions. (Detroit is a bankrupt city. that is “uncool,” right now, like Chris Christie and A-Rod. Blue comes across as “depressed.”)

2. Avoid names that come across as weird or confusing. (Kaius, Neri, Betsan, Cabe, Tulsi, Sula, Macsen and Maelys come across as random collection of letters—which don’t seem much like names. I call them “alphabet-soup” names. Mertillla is weird and clunky.)

3. Avoid names that have negative or confusing meanings. (Blue means “depressed.” Sender is “someone who sends something.” Camber is “a slightly arched surface.” None of these three capitalized words seem much like names.).

4. Avoid names likely to encourage teasing or bullying. (Detroit is going through bankruptcy. Effa sounds like a reference to the “f-bomb.” Gerty rhymes with a well-known slang word for feces. Neri will be called “Neri Christmas.” Sula will be called “Sula Does the Hula.” Hebe is a derisive term for Jews. Blue easily lends itself to, “Why so blue, Blue?” Kitty will be called, “Here kitty, kitty!”)

5. Avoid names that are difficult to spell. (Kaius is tricky to spell. So are Macsen and Maelys–along with most of the names I call “alphabet- soup” names because it’s hard to guess what the “correct spelling” of these names might be.)

6. Avoid names that are difficult to pronounce. (Kaius can be tricky to pronounce; is it KAY-us or KIE-us or KAY-oss? Carola is a German name that should be pronounced ca-ROLL-ah and the “r” in the second syllable needs to be “rolled.”)

7. Avoid names that aren’t “versatile” i.e., that don’t provide good options for both formal and informal occasions. (Most of the “alphabet- soup” names like, Neri, Tulsi, Betsan and  Cabe don’t make formal impressions. None of these names are likely to impress when they appear on college or job applications.)

Most parents intuitively know that the name they give their baby is one of the most important decisions they will make before their child is born. Many parents think about this decision carefully (and obsessively) and weigh hundreds of options in the (roughly) seven months after they find out they are expecting. Most parents and experts are familiar with the practical list of baby-naming dont’s I’ve listed above.)

However, it doesn’t seem to have occurred to Pamela Redmond Satran to give these issues even a minute of thought. Her list of recently-recommended names creates the impression that she doesn’t care about the effects of the names she recommends on the children of the million or more expectant parents who read her articles each month on Nameberry.com and in major-market newspapers and national websites like The Huffington Post which reprint her articles. Conceivably the total number of people reading her articles in all media may add up to several million.

Sooner or later, her readers, her colleagues at Nameberry and the publications and websites that reprint her articles will understand what readers of this post now understand. And when that happens, things will change. I hope you can see I’m not being “snarky.” I’m calling your attention to a serious problem that needs to be addressed. I hope you’ll let Nameberry or the newspaper or website on which you read Satran’s articles know what you think.

Dear Bruce: I wish you wouldn’t focus on “writing snarky posts demeaning the hard work of other people.”

(Comment from Brooke Cussans about my post criticizing Pamela Redmond Satran’s post recommending “14 Names for 2014.”)

Brooke: Celebrity stylist Rachel Zoe named her new son Kaius in December. That would make it a very cool name to have indeed in many people’s eyes.

Nameberry seems to appeal to a different type of reader than yourself. Not everyone has the same tastes.

It would be nice to see you creating more of your own original content rather than focusing so much effort writing snarky posts demeaning the hard work of other people.

Bruce: Brooke, Thanks so much for writing to make a case for Nameberry’s recommendation of Kaius and to suggest in a very reasonable way that “Nameberry seems to appeal to a different type of reader than” (I do.) “Not everyone has the same tastes.” Well said!

I also think it’s reasonable to suggest I avoid demeaning the hard work of others with “snarky posts.” It’s obvious I need to do a better job of explaining why I write critical posts about a number of Pamela Redmond Satran’s articles, so you will find them convincing rather than “snarky.”

It’s true that I use humor to demonstrate that many of Pamela Redmond Satran’s articles recommend names that are ridiculous and potentially harmful to children. I’m sorry that strikes you as “snarky.” If I’m right, it’s a very serious problem both for children and for Nameberry. I hope after reading this note you will better understand why I write about Nameberry and why it’s important for even one Nameberry employee to understand what the heck I’m writing about.

As a result of your carefulness, I will try to be equally careful about the way I phrase this response.

I explored a number of differences between Nameberry and me in a December “Dear Bruce” post which discussed why I write so often about Nameberry. Nameberry seems to focus on the fashion and celebrity aspects of names. By contrast, I am primarily interested in the potential effects of names on the children to whom they are given.

I hope you would agree that if a name Pamela Redmond Satran recommends in an article is likely to subject Nameberry-readers’ children to teasing, bullying or abuse, it is reasonable for me to warn Nameberry readers about those potentially harmful names.

I don’t get the impression that Pamela Redmond Satran is particularly concerned about the effect of the names she recommends on real, live children to whom they may be given. (In that respect, I’d compare her to Kanye West, Beyoncé and Gywneth Paltrow, who didn’t seem to care how the names North West, Blue Ivy or Apple might affect their daughters).

Pamela Redmond Satran’s most recent post about names she recommends for use in 2014 includes Detroit (which she claims is a “cool” name) and Tempe (pronounced TEM-pee).

You don’t have to be a psychologist to see that both of these names could turn children who are given them into targets for teasing and derision.

Detroit is bankrupt and struggling right now. I doubt many people would call that city, or the use of that city as a name for babies, “cool.” The idea that Detroit might be cool now is laughable, so giving a child that name is a perverse recommendation because it will make children named Detroit laughable. The name Detroit isn’t cool; it’s an embarrassment. And to classmates, the name Detroit is like taping a “kick-me” sign on the child’s back.

Tempe is another recommendation likely to subject children with the name to unwanted derision and abuse. Children find “bathroom words” extremely funny, which is why classmates would find it great fun to tease someone whose name seemed to include a bathroom word in the second syllable (TEM-pee).

I’ve already mentioned three celebrities who have given embarrassing and burdensome names to their daughters. Clearly, use by celebrities does not guarantee a name is safe for use on your children. It’s a lot more realistic for parents to regard celebrity-baby names as “questionable” if they can’t afford to send bodyguards to school with their children to make sure they are not teased and bullied.

There are many government agencies established to insure that products intended for use or consumption by children are safe. But there is no agency monitoring names parents give children. You’d think baby-name pundits would rise as one to protect children. Unfortunately, I seem to be in the minority on that issue. Nameberry’s visitor count is approximately 1,000 times greater than mine. I really don’t know how much one tiny advocate of intelligent baby-naming practices can accomplish. But I do the best I can to change attitudes on this issue. I hope my response will change your attitude.

I go out of my way to comment favorably about Nameberry articles I like. I recently praised a Nameberry article about names meaning dawn (like Aurora). And I raved about another recent Nameberry article by Linda Rosenkrantz about the origin of popular nicknames like Peg or Jack.

I purposely praise insightful, entertaining and informative articles published by Nameberry to make it clear I find many of their articles to be of value and want to encourage them to write and publish more helpful articles and not writing and publishing articles that recommend names which are a disservice to their readers.

What concerns me is when Nameberry recommends names that are likely to subject children to teasing, derision, or verbal (and possibly physical) abuse. I hope that would concern you, too, and other people who work for Nameberry. (Most people would not for a company that is unconcerned about the harmful side-effects caused by products they make or, in this case, articles they write and publish.)

I would be happy to talk to Linda Rosenkrantz and Pamela Redmond Satran about our differences. There’s no rational reason why they couldn’t or wouldn’t take steps to come up with a way to provide baby-name recommendations while avoiding names likely to come across as harmful to children. How can it possibly benefit Nameberry or anyone who writes for Nameberry to become known as a source of recommendations of names that are ridiculous or harmful or burdensome to children?

There must be someone working at Nameberry who shares my concern about names that may subject children given those names to ridicule or abuse. Why not invite that person (or a new hire, if no current Nameberry employee shares that concern) to function as an ombudsman? You’d need someone in that position who cares greatly about children and who has the authority to challenge high-profile writers.

Brooke, I want you to know I write all the posts that are published BabyNamesInTheNews.com myself. And I also have the equivalent of 2 other full-time jobs. About 95% of the posts I write either have nothing to do with Nameberry or are positive about Nameberry.

However, if Nameberry keeps publishing articles that recommend potentially ridiculous and harmful names for babies, someone needs to keep warning parents about them. There would be no reason for anyone to write critical posts about Nameberry if people who work at Nameberry took steps to change the policies which permit (or encourage) irresponsible articles to be written and published.

I can’t imagine that harming children is in Nameberry’s corporate charter. (If it were, nobody would want to work there.) When it is finally understood that the names they recommend are often ridiculous, weird and likely to harm children, I’m sure Nameberry will discover that a responsible approach to providing baby-name advice is in their best long-term interest.

Brooke I hope this response helps you see the benefit to Nameberry of joining forces with me to challenge celebrities and baby-name pundits who act as though they have little or no interest in the effect of names on children. I think most parents join me in describing that attitude as “irresponsible.”

Brooke: Thanks for your response Bruce.

It can sometimes be hard to satisfy the desire to give a child a “special” name, without needlessly causing them a lifetime of problems. We should all want children to have a name they can feel proud of. I hope that when it is my time to name a child I’m able to make a well balanced choice ☺

January 2014 Rankings: Names That Are Cool Right Now

Names that were cool last year, may not be cool this year. These are the names that cool right now. (Note: names marked with asterisks moved up from the rankings in 2013.)

Cool Names for Boys (as of 1/20/14)
1. Finn* (Sources: The Art of Naming, Nameberry)
2. Nico* (Source: Nameberry)
3. Levi* (Source: Bruce Lansky)
4. Chase (Source: The Art of Naming)
5. Matteo* (Sources: The Art of Naming: Nameberry)
6. Taj (Source: The Art of Naming)
7. Hunter (Source: The Art of Naming)
8. Dante (Source: Bruce Lansky)
9. Bronson* (Source: Bruce Lansky)
10. Connor* (Source: Bruce Lansky)

Other Cool Boys’ Names  to Consider: Rio, Rhett, Django, Turner, Cliff, Theo, Flynn, Raj

Cool Names for Girls (as of 1/20/14)
1. Annika (source: Bruce Lansky)
2. Amelia (source: Bruce Lansky)
3. Catalina (source: Bruce Lansky)
4. Cleo (source: Bruce Lansky)
5. Skye* (source: Bruce Lansky)
6. Danica (source: Bruce Lansky)
7. Ryann* (source: Bruce Lansky)
8. Elena (source: Bruce Lansky)
9. Lola (sources: The Art of Naming & Nameberry)
10: Serena (source: Bruce Lansky)

Other Cool Girls’ Names to Consider: Sloane, Harper, Mia, Luna, Mila, Carmen, Camila

If you want to know which boys’ and girls’ names are cool right now, click on the links to see all 48 girls’ names and 52 boy’s names, listed in rank order. Take a second to vote for the names you think should be ranked higher and against the names you think should be ranked lower. You’ll be doing a big favor to other expecting couples looking for names that are cool right now.

If you’re wondering about the sources listed, I started both lists with around 30 names gathered from two websites:  The Art of Naming and Nameberry. I added some names I thought were cool, too. I had a hunch that many of the “cool names” listed on other websites had gone stale and seemed dated.

For a while I seemed to have better intuition about where and how to find cool names for girls than I have about finding cool names for boys. But that’s starting to change. For the very first time, I have four names on the boys’ top ten. I’m starting to get a handle on where to look for new cool names that are going to move up the lists.

So visit our Ranker.com pages to find cool names for your next baby, and while you’re there help your online “neighbors” by voting for the coolest names and against names you think are losing their cool.

Parents Use Online Service to Pick a Name for Their Daughter

Just found an article about parents who used an online service, Reddit, to pick a name for their daughter. What caught my eye were the top two names Reddit chose: Luna and Amelia. I like both choices, a lot.
-Luna was my choice for Celebrity Baby Name of the Year in 2013. It’s also on my “Cool Names for Girls” list on Ranker.com
-Amelia is currently ranked #2 on my “Cool Names for Girls” list on Ranker.com. Courageous Namesake Amelia Earhardt would be a great inspiration to any girl.

These findings suggest the value of my “Cool Names for Girls” list. First of all it’s free. Just click on the link below and check out all 48 cool names I’ve collected from a variety of sources. People who see the list understand the benefit of looking at names that have been ranked by parents looking for a cool name for their babies. Once you see how valuable this list is, I hope you’ll take a second and click on the “like” button for any names you think are cool. It’s a great way to help out other parents looking for cool names.

Are you wondering if there’s a similar list for boys? I thought you’d never ask. Use these links: Cool Names for Girls and Cool Names for Boys.

FYI, Nameberry defines “cool names” as names that will impress your friends. I think cool names will impress your child’s friends as well. Keep those ideas in mind as you search for a cool name for your baby.

12 Unusual and Mostly Unusable Names Recommened by Pamela Redmond Satran for 2014

Last year, Pamela Redmond Satran found 100 rarely used, abandoned names, called them “cool unusual names” and wrote an article suggesting them for use by expecting parents. The fact that many of the names were likely to subject baby boys and girls to teasing or embarrassment was not a factor she seems to have considered. (At the time, I wrote that most of the names “should have come with a warning.”)

I’m writing to let you know she’s been sorting through lists of unwanted, abandoned and unlikely names again and has come up with 15 names she’s suggesting for use in 2014. The good news is: she’s not calling them “cool” any more (except for Detroit*). Instead, she describes them, quite accurately, as “names you’ve never heard of.” Most of her “finds” are quite unusable. But she was clever enough to add three recycled surnames that may be of interest to fans.

Here are Satran’s latest list of  strange old names plus some new ideas:
-6 read like combinations of random letters smushed together that don’t seem much like names: Betsan, Cabe, Kaius, Neri, Macsen, and Macson.
-3 are capitalized words that don’t seem much like names either: Camber, Legacy and Sender
-2 are place names (a bankrupt city and a town in Arizona that few people who don’t live there know how to pronounce): Detroit and Tempe
-1 is a rarely used (for good reasons) variation of a popular name: Isabeline
-3 are surnames of famous people that fans may want to consider: (Lou) Costello, (Rudyard) Kipling, and (Douglas) Macarthur

Why does Satran continue to recommend ridiculous and burdensome names?  Why does Nameberry publish this outrageous advice?  Why does Huffington Post feature this irresponsible information on their website?

It’s impossible to dig up buried bodies and breathe life into the corpses. It’s almost impossible to dig up almost dead names (used by ten or less people in the U.S.) and breathe life into them by writing an article about how cool or charming they are.

It must be a rush for Satran to check out last year’s “resurrection” projects to discover that usage on some of the names doubled, tripled or rose even higher from 10 to 20, 30, 50 or even 100. But it’s not so great if you look at it from the perspective of the children who wind up with weird, almost dead names like Neri or Betsan.

It’s difficult (but not impossible) to make up new names that might catch on using Satran’s approach: “Jaxson is a hot name, so maybe Macson or Macsen might work.” Unfortunately, this example from Satran’s latest post doesn’t work well, because Macson and Macsen don’t look like or sound like “names.”

Why would any parents knowingly doom their children to the teasing and torture of going through high school with these awful names: Cabe, Detroit, Kaius, Macsen, Sender, or Tempe (pronounced TEM-pee)?

*Believe it or not, here’s Satran’s “far out” rationale for suggesting Detroit as a name people should use in 2014: “Detroit has a so-far-out-it’s-gotta-be-cool quality.”

Actually, Detroit is a bankrupt city that is down and out. There’s nothing remotely “cool” about Detroit at the moment. I really hope that city makes a comeback, like Brooklyn did. Maybe one day Detroit will be cool. But it won’t impress your friends your children’s friends in 2014. They’ll be too busy shouting, “You must be kidding! Have you lost your mind?

Research Report: Parents Confuse Their Children’s Names More Often When The Names Sound Alike

According to a new study from the University of Texas in Austin, parents are more likely to confuse their children’s names when the names sound alike. That finding sounds fairly commonsensical to me, so I read deeper into April Flowers’ article about the study on Red Orbit to find out more.

Reading a little more, I found that by “names that sound alike” Zenzi Griffen PhD of U.T. Austin and Thomas Wangerman, PhD, formerly of Georgia Institute of Technology meant: sibling names that start with the same letter like John and James and sibling names that have a similar ending like Amanda and Samantha.

Ouch! Although I advise parents not to pick names that sound too similar, like Jaden and Braden or Emma and Ella, I admit my post called “Naming Siblings” suggests a variety of “themes” or strategies for making sibling names sound compatible… (if you think I’m procrastinating, you’re probably right)… including the idea of picking names that start with the same letter.

Many years ago, I named my son Doug and my daughter Dana. I rarely confused the two names. Neither did my wife. The kids fought like cats and dogs and we could always tell them apart in the heat of battle. One was shouting “She hit me first!”And the other was shouting “He hit me first! (If you think I’m using humor to pretend I’m not feeling defensive, you’re probably right.)

But all kidding aside, it’s easy to admit parents are more likely to confuse John and James (or Johnny and Jimmy) when calling the kids to the phone than would be the case if the brothers were named, say,  Zenzi and Thomas. Of course if Zenzi and Thomas were brothers I’d be amazed. Not only do their first names reflect no common theme, neither do their last names.

So instead of procrastinating even more, I’m  going to take my medicine like a man, learn my lesson, and mix my metaphors while continuing to play for time before I bite the bullet and revise my “Naming Siblings” post to make sure everyone who reads the article is advised to name one of their children Hehitmefirst and the other child Ididn’tdoit which should solve almost every problem.

The names will be thematically related but they won’t sound alike. Unfortunately those names are not perfect. Both kids sound like idiots. It isn’t easy to find perfect sibling names, but a good place to find some ideas worth considering is my revised “Naming Siblings” article.

Common Jewish, German and North-American Surnames Explained

I just had to share this fascinating information about the most common Jewish surnames by Bennett Muraskin with you. But before I proceed any further I need to point out that many of the names Muraskin refers to as “Jewish” such as Schmidt, Bayer, Weber, Ackerman and Snider, (which could have been a prominent “white shoe” law firm that refused to hire Jews back in the 1940s and ’50s, but isn’t ), are also common names in Germany, North America and in other English-speaking countries around the world. In other words, there’s no reason to believe that the names Muraskin refers to as Jewish were or are now used exclusively by Jews.

In his Slate article, Muraskin comments on the history of Jewish surnames and then provides the origin and meaning (etymology) of hundreds of common Jewish surnames. Here is a quick list of famous Americans (and a few fictional characters, just for fun) whose surnames are mentioned in Muraskin’s article (followed by the meaning of their surnames in parentheses): Senator Joe Lieberman (lion or from the tribe of Judah), songwriter Irving Berlin (from Berlin), Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter (from Frankfurt, Germany), scientist Albert Einstein (mason), folk singer Art Garfunkel (diamond merchant), Brooklyn Dodgers’ slugging center-fielder Duke Snider (tailor), Jerry Seinfeld’s” manic friend, Cosmo Kramer (shopkeeper), “The Odd Couple’s” fastidious Felix Unger (from Hungary), comic actor Adam Sandler (shoemaker), prominent Canadian tycoon whose family owned a leading liquor company for generations, Edgar Bronfman (distiller), music/entertainment tycoon David Geffen (wine merchant) and rock ‘n roll producer Phil Spector (school inspector).

In this post I will provide a brief summary of Muraskin’s Slate article. Let’s start with a little history. Jews living in Eastern Europe didn’t have “last names” until they were compelled to do so by the countries in which they lived–a process that began in the 17th century and ran through the 19th century. Until that time, they were known as, e.g., “Isaac son of Abraham” or “Sarah daughter of Rachel.” When  compelled to take surnames, many Jews chose names that memorialized: their fathers’ or mothers’ names; the name of the town their family came from, their occupation, the name of a tribal or local animal or the name of a tree or flower prominent in their neighborhood. Here’s a quick summary of the different kinds of names they chose, complete with examples.

Patronymic Names: A common source of Jewish surnames was the father’s name. Names like Mendelson (Mendel’s son) or Abramowitz (Abraham’s son) reflected this tradition.

Matronymic Names: Many Jewish surnames memorialized the family’s mother. Names like Gold or Goldman referred to the mother’s name, Golda (in effect Golda’s children), Pearl, Pearlman or Perlman referred to the mother’s name, Pearl (in effect, Pearl’s children), ditto for Glick, Glickman or Gluck (in effect, Gickl’s children).

Place Names: Many Jewish surnames indicated where the family came from. Here are a few examples: Heller (from Halle, Germany), Frankfurter (from Frankfurt, Germany), Rappoport (from Porto, Italy), Pinsky (from Pinsk, Russia), Gordon (from Grodno, Lithuania), Bloch (foreigner), Unger (from Hungary), Weiner or Weinberg (from Vienna), Horowitz (from Horovice in Bohemia), Oppenheimer (from Austria)

a) Craftsmen: Stein or Steiner (jeweler), Fleishman (butcher), Sandler (shoemaker), Goldstein (goldsmith), Ackerman (plowman), Spielman (musician), Schmidt (blacksmith), Miller (miller), Wasserman (water dealer)

b) Merchants: Kaufman (merchant),  Wechsler (money changer), Zuckerman (sugar merchant), Garfinkel/Garfunkel (diamond merchant), Kramer, (shopkeeper),

c) Occupations Related to Clothing: Snider or Schneider (tailor), Weber (weaver), Kirshner or Kushner (furrier)

d) Medical/Health Occupations: Aptheker (druggist), Feldsher (surgeon)

e) Occupations Related to Alcoholic Beverages: Bronfman (distiller), Weiner (winemaker), Geffen (wine merchant)

f) Religious occupations: Cantor or Singer (cantor), London (scholar), Resnick or Reznik (ritual slaughterer), Spector (inspector of schools) Rabin or Rabinowitz (rabbi or son of the rabbi)

Personal Traits: Fried or Friedman (happy), Krauss (curly hair), Roth (red hair), Schwartz (black hair or dark complexion), Stark (strong), Springer (lively), Gross or Grossman (big), Klein or Kleinman (small), Scharf or Scharfman (smart)

Hebrew Names: The two most important groups of Hebrew Names derive from two leadership “families” you had to be born into: Cohen (the priestly class), whose contemporary surnames are: Cohen, Cohn, Kahn, and Kaplan,  and Levi (the class of religious functionaries) whose contemporary surnames are: Levy, Levine, Levitt, Levenson and Lewinsky

Animal Names: Adler (eagle); Lieb, Liebowitz, Lefkowitz or Loeb (lion); Hirsch, Hirschfield, Hart or Hertz (dear or stag); Taub or Taubman (dove); Wolf, Wolfson or Wolfenson (wolf); Baer, Berman, Berk, or Berkowitz (bear); Einhorn (unicorn)

Nature Names: Applebaum (apple tree), Mandelbaum (almond tree), Kirshbaum (cherry tree), Rose or Rosen (rose), Bloom (flower), Wald/Vald (woods)

Hebrew Acronyms or Contractions: Baron* (son of Aaron), Katz (righteous priest), Sachs/Saks (descended from martyrs), Segal (second-rank Levite)

I hope you’ve enjoyed learning a little about the meaning and significance of some of names Muraskin identified as Jewish, but many which are also common in Germany, North American and in English-Speaking countries throughout the world. If you enjoyed this summary, please click on the link I have provided above to read the entire Slate article, which contains a lot more examples than I’ve been able to fit into this summary.

*for example ben (son of) Aaron contracts to Baron.