Have You Considered Giving Your Child a Gender-Neutral Name?

I read a VOA article by Katy Weaver that changed the way I thought about naming in general and middle-naming in particular. Katy wrote about how gender identity doesn’t have to be in a name.

Parents are increasingly using gender-neutral names for boys and girls. Gender-neutral names can have the effect of giving girls a “stronger” persona and boys a “softer” persona–which can be good for both genders.

Here are the top-ten gender-neutral names from the 2016 Social Security Admin. popularity survey: Charlie, Finley, Skyler, Justice, Royal, Lennon, Oakley, Armani, Azariah and Landry.

If you’ve read my annual-trend reports you’ll know that girls are increasingly being given names with an “a”-ending (like Ava) or a soft consonant-ending (like Abigail or Harper)–and less of the most popular girls’ names have “i” or “y”-endings (like Zoey). “A”-endings and soft consonant-endings come across to most people as stronger than “i” or “y”-endings for girls.

At the same time, more of the most popular boys names use soft consonants like Liam Noah, and Mason–instead of hard consonants like Michael, Luke and Jack. It’s not surprising that parents are giving boys names that sound softer at the same time they are giving more boys gender-neutral names like Riley and Charlie (both of which have “y”and “i” endings).

So just as the trend towards stronger names for girls and softer names for boys is playing out on top-ten lists, it makes sense for parents also to consider the use of gender-neutral first or middle names for children of both genders. Not only are gender-neutral names stronger for girls and softer for boys, they also allow parents to give their children a choice about how they want to come across to others (based on how they feel about themselves).

In articles I have written about middle names, I have suggested that parents use middle names as a way to give children a choice about what they want to be called. If parents want to give their child an unusual first name, they should consider giving their child a less challenging middle name.

One of my younger brothers decided to abandon his first name, Andrew, and switch to his  middle name (Mitch) when he was still in elementary school. I waited until I was in graduate school to switch to my middle name.

Millenials are a lot more accepting of gender differences than my generation was, so it makes sense to give children a choice of names, one of which is gender-neutral. That gives children an opportunity to select a name that represents how they feel about themselves at any point their lives.

One way to provide children with gender options is to choose names for them that are rich in nickname variations. For example, Alexander and Alexandra have variations children of both genders can choose from as they grow older, including Alec, Alix, Ali, or Zander. When you’re using a baby-name book, look for names that have a long list of variations.

To help you in your search for appealing gender-neutral names, check out the latest edition of my book 100,000+ Baby Names.

Pamela Satran Hides 15 Usable Names In a List of 100 Mostly Unusable, Rarely-Used Names

I have no idea why Pamela Redmund Satran would want to scatter (in effect hiding) 15 usable names in a long list of Rarely-Used Boys’ Names most of which are problematic for any child who gets them. Why? Because they will strike many as cartoonish, odd, off-putting, old-fashioned, ancient, strange and/or unrecognizable.

Here Are 36 Examples of Problematic Names That Aren’t Used Much Any More for Good Reason:

Cartoonish names: Linus, Abner, Casper, Waldo, Kermit, Homer
Odd names: Basil, Eamon, Vladimir, Boaz, Wolfgang, Caspian, Cosmo
Off-Putting names: Benedict, Enoch, Valentine, Ambrose
Old-fashioned names: Archibald, Woodrow, Clarence, Cornelius, Alistair, Thaddeus, Rupert, Randolph, Phineas
Ancient names: Obadiah, Esau, Horace, Horatio, Leander, Ignatius
Strange, Unrecognizable names: Ozias, Osias, Amias

Why would Pamela Redmond Satran choose to hide 15 pretty good names among such a long list of mostly unusable, unusual names. Maybe the idea of discriminating between names that will strike most people as usable and names that will strike most people as unusable is not in her job description. Or, maybe she’s penurious and likes the idea having someone like me organize and edit her list, without paying me a penny.

Here are the 15+ Usable Names Satran Tried to Hide:

Grey, Gray
Glenn, Glen

Notice, I didn’t say these were great names, but I think you can use them without too many problems. You may think Finnian is old-fashioned or odd. But if you’re familiar with “Finnian’s Rainbow” (a great Broadway musical) you’ll probably think the name is charming and if you go for cool nicknames, Finn is a winner. I also like these nicknames: Dash for Dashiel, Cliff for Clifford, Harry for Harris, and Monty for Montgomery. BTW, it helps to know that Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery (a Brit) defeated the Germans commanded by “Desert Fox” Erwin Rommel at El Alamein.

But Clyde is cool as is.  It was made cool by Warren Beatty who played bank-robber, Clyde Barrow, in “Bonnie & Clyde” and by Walt (Clyde) Frazier of the New York Knicks who stole baskeballs the way Clyde Barrow stole money. Batman and Robin were a great team and Robin pulled his own weight. And if you’re an aficionado of single-malt scotch whiskey, it’s hard not to like the name Glen as in Glenlivet, Glenfiddich and Glenmorangie.

I probably like Grey because of Grey Advertising, Grey Goose and “Grey Gardens.” If you’re looking for a color name, Grey is more nuanced than, say, Red or Blue.  I’d use Grey if my last name started with a “G.” Grey Gordon. Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?  But, to be honest, I prefer Gordon Grey. I suppose I like Gordon because it goes well with Grey, if that happens to be your last name. Grey Goldberg? Maybe not. I’d suggest Gary Goldberg, but Gary isn’t on Satran’s list.

Can you see how baby-naming is about finding exactly the right name–with the right meaning, the right sound and the right vibe? Take your time; it helps to weigh all your options over a seven or eight month period. Here’s an important take-away: Never look for names in a list created by someone who doesn’t care enough to sort out the most usable names from the least.





Nameberry Getting Back On Track with 101 Names That Are Not Too: Popular, Trendy, Unusual or Weird

It may be difficult for some readers to believe I am happy to praise Nameberry’s latest list of names—announced in the Kansas City Star, but it’s true. All the boys’ and girls’ names come from the middle of the  SSA top-1000 list ranking from about 400 to 700.

Gone (and not missed) are recommended lists of names that are too unusual, too weird, too hard to spell, and too hard to pronounce that were staples in many of their recent articles. Also gone (and not missed) are recommended lists of names that were too dependent on here-today and gone-tomorrow, media glitz.

I think you’ll be surprised to find out there are plenty of names in their latest article with energy, spirit and charm, found in the middle of the SSA top-1,000 list, that are worth considering for boys and girls, like these:

Girls’ Names to Consider: Carolina**, Camilla**, Colette, Dana***, Dylan****, Francesca*, Lana, Marina, Meredith, Serena*, Sloane*, Sasha*

(*names on my list of “Cool Names for Girls”; **names on my list of “Interesting and Unusual Sochi Olympic Names”; *** my daughter’s name; **** my son’s middle name.)

Boys’ Names to Consider: Alec, Archer, Cullen, Davis, Flynn*, Kieran, Mitchell,  Nico*, Raphael, Rhett*, Russell, Tobias**, Wilson, Winston

(*names on my list of “Cool Names for Boys”; **names on my list of “Interesting and Unusual Sochi Olympic Names.”)

Of course a list of names selected from the middle of the top-1000 names runs the risk of being a little too safe and boring. So it’s not surprising that Nameberry has included some boring, odd, or old-fashioned names, on their latest list, which I’ll call to your attention below:

Boring, Odd, or Old-fashioned Names for Girls I Found on Nameberry’s List:  Ada, Cynthia, Claudia, Helena, June, Matilda, Rosemarie and Samara

Boring, Odd, or Old-fashioned Names for Boys I Found on Nameberry’s List:  Albert, Asa, Cyrus, Enzo, Justice, Moses and Nash

P.S. My regular readers know that in the last six months I’ve often criticized Nameberry posts which contained names I thought would be a burden to children, because so many of the names they recommended were “unusual” to the point of being a likely source of embarrassment, teasing and bullying to children whose parents had made the mistake of using names they found recommended in Nameberry articles. However, I’ve also tried to find Nameberry posts I could praise, like this one. It obvious to me that thinking about how names might work for children was not a major consideration in their writing/recommending process.

Although several Nameberry staffers and colleagues sent me comments to complain that my posts were “snarky” and to claim I wrote about Nameberry too often, I continued my campaign to make Nameberry writers more aware that they were creating needless problems for children of their readers.

Regular readers also know I often criticize names selected by ego-tripping celebrities. But I also praise clever, trendsetting celebs whose names strike me as “cool” or “inspired.” In other words, “I call ’em as I see ’em.”

Even though I’m praising Nameberry’s latest article, I think it could have been improved by limiting it to fifteen or twenty strong names. (You might re-direct that criticism back to me for including about 60+ names in my Sochi Olympic medal-winners article. And I’d agree. I’ve already deleted several names I’d hate to get stuck with–like Zan, which means “clown,” and Candy, which is bad for your weight, your teeth and your complexion.)

Perhaps Nameberry had no idea there were lovely names near the middle of the SSA top-1,000 list, so they picked 101 names. More likely they have a “100 names” (or 101 names”) formula to which they felt a need to stick. I hope Nameberry will move away from all the “formulae” that have too-often produced recommendations replete with embarrassingly bad choices in the recent past.

7 Literary Names Recommended by Nameberry’s Linda Rosenkrantz

I enjoyed reading Linda Rosenkrantz’s latest article, which she calls, “7 Newly Popular Baby Names That Have Been Hiding In Plain Sight.” I enjoyed it because she recommended the names of characters from several of my favorite books (including: Huckleberry Finn, Catcher in the Rye, and To Kill a Mockingbird). And because the article was so well-written:

  1. The Concept: In her post Rosenkrantz features seven names with strong literary provenance which have been around a long time and whose popularity has been increasing in popularity in recent years.
  2. The Seven Names: Atticus, Beckett, Dashiel, Holden, Huckleberry, Lincoln and Scarlett.
  3. The Literary/Historical Background: Rosenkrantz explains the importance of the books from which the names come, and she describes the protagonists in a manner that sheds light on kind of role model or inspiration their names might provide for a child.
  4. Why These Names Now: Rosenkrantz references popularity data and media exposure which she uses to “explain” the relevance of the names, now, and provide reasons for expectant parents to consider the names now.

My Take on the Names

Names I Like a Lot: Lincoln and Beckett

Names Worth Considering: Scarlett and Holden

Names with Practical Problems: Atticus, Dashiel and Huckleberry

Atticus: The bad news: This ancient Latin name is stiff, formal and serious; it lacks versatility in that there is no obvious nickname or familiar form  to use when you are tucking your baby into bed or when teammates on the soccer team are chatting after a tough game. It’s likely to be a puzzler for a blind date. The good news: I suppose the name will become more appropriate when your son studies classics or law.                                                                                                                                                                  –Dashiel: The bad news: The spelling and pronunciation of this name are odd and likely to be a source of daily confusion. The good news: The name calls to mind exciting noir mysteries; and, Dash is a definitely dashing nickname. It’s on my list of “Cool Names for Boys.”                                                                                                                                                           –Huckleberry: The bad news: The long form of this food name doesn’t sound much like a name for a boy or a man. It lacks versatility. The long form seems informal and comical. And the nickname, Huck, rhymes with “uck” words that are likely to a source of teasing and derision. The good news: It’s associated with one of the greatest characters in American literature.

Overall: Unlike her Nameberry colleague, Pamela Redmond Satran, Rosenkrantz’s presentation is intelligent, interesting, thought provoking and presents some usable names likely function well for you and your child. But like her Nameberry colleague, Rosenkrantz doesn’t pay much attention to the practical aspects of baby-naming,  which is why three of the seven names are likely to prove awkward for use when you’re calming a crying baby or when your child is chatting with friends on the playground at recess. If a name doesn’t work well for your child, it’s likely to be dropped and replaced by a nickname that works better than Atticus, Huck, or Dashiel. That’s what happens when you don’t pay attention to the practical issues.