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.

“Please Don’t Give Your Baby a Weird Name” by Shalini Miskelly

“Please Don’t Give Your Baby a Weird Name” was written by Shalini Miskelly, a Guest Blogger for Baby Center.  I’d very much like to encourage you to read the whole article, which is why I am providing you with a link that will enable you to do just that.

But before you click on the link, I’d like to tell you why I feel strongly that parents thinking of giving their unborn son or daughter an unusual name should consider Shalini’s plea on behalf of shy and introverted children. As you may know, my perspective on names is fairly practical: What kind of impression does the name make? Is it easy to spell and pronounce? Is it versatile enough to work in both formal and informal situations? All these perspectives create a very strong bias against names that are likely to make your child’s life more difficult instead of opening doors and smoothing the way for your child.

But Shalini’s personal dilemma has been exacerbated by the fact that in addition to having a strange-sounding,  unfamiliar given name, she also has no middle name to fall back on. And her surname is confusing; it could easily be confused with “Miss Kelly.” (No, Shahini Miskelly is not Irish.). It’s very hard for parents and friends to imagine how difficult an unusual name–that comes across as strange or weird or confusing–can make life for a shy and introverted person. So, if you’re an expectant parent who is thinking of giving your child an unusual name please, please, please read Shalini’s guest blog post and save your child a life-time of unnecessary  anguish.

I’d like to give credit to Nancy’s Baby Names for writing about Shalini Miskelly’s plight in a way that enabled me to find her blog post. I often go to that website to find poignant and perceptive stories about names.

P.S. I scheduled this post for New Years Day as a sort of “resolution” for parents who may not realize that unique (aka weird) names can traumatize shy, introverted children.

Dear Bruce, I Noticed You’ve Been Writing A Lot About Nameberry; What’s Up with That?

Dear Bruce,

Q. I noticed you’ve been writing a lot of posts about Nameberry. What’s up with that?

A. I write about Nameberry’s articles for the same reason I write about notorious celebrity baby names. Let me explain:

People pay a lot of attention to what celebrities name their babies. I enjoy using outrageous celebrity baby names as “teaching opportunities.” I also like to use charming celebrity baby names for the same purpose, although I don’t find them quite as often. Why? Because many celebrities seem to care more about attracting attention to themselves by choosing outrageous names than picking names that will work well for their children over a lifetime. (As you may know, that’s my main concern.)

Nameberry seems to be one of the leading sources of baby-name advice. My impression is that one of their main concerns is the “fashion” aspect of baby naming. Many of their articles have titles such as “Baby Names on the Rise,” “Hot Baby Names,” “Cool and Unusual Baby Names,” and “Neglected Namesake Names.” In other words, they often write about “what’s hot” and/or “what’s not.” Many of the names they feature are “on the rise” or “hot” because of a celebrity tie-in (a rising actor, model, or athlete) or a media connection (a hot TV show or movie). And some of the names they feature are “neglected” or “forgotten” but are implicitly  ready for a comeback, based (I suppose) on a strong belief in their writers’ ability to influence or predict naming trends in the future (aka hubris).

I read Nameberry’s articles because I’m curious about how pop culture affects baby-naming trends. I think their writers are very good at discovering and disseminating information about the latest trends. However, I’ve noticed two practices described in some Nameberry articles that disturb me.

1. Nameberry implies that “hot” names and names “on the rise” are appropriate for use without considering their meanings or the suitability as role models of the celebrities, athletes, TV shows or movies connected to the names. They ignore the fact that many celebrities have personal or professional lives that may become“train wrecks” in the future which could damage the impression made by their names. And they ignore the fact that many TV shows and movies have bizarre plot twists and sequels that could change/damage the impression made by the names associated with them.

2. Nameberry implies that dusty old esoteric names, which before the article was published were “rarely used” or “forgotten by time,” are now ready for use as a name for your child (immediately after the name has been featured in a Nameberry “neglected names” article.) More specifically:

Nameberry’s “Names on the Rise” articles suggest that rising names are implicitly worth considering. But when pompous titles such as Major, King, Messiah, and Prince showed up among the fastest-rising names on the Social Security Administration boys’ list in May, I felt the need to warn parents that those titles placed an impossible burden on their children. They’re not kings or messiahs and they never will be. Nameberry didn’t discuss that issue.

Nameberry’s “Hot Names” articles focus on celebrities in the news and implicitly suggest that the heat celebs with these monikers generate in the media make the names worth considering for your children. But notice what happened to the appeal of names such as Paris, Britney, Lindsey, Miley, and Lance after bad news about such-named celebs hit the media. I feel the need to warn parents to avoid names of current celebrities with whom they’re currently smitten. One scandal (drinking, drugs, sex, domestic violence or worse) could forever wreck the names’ appeal and hurt your child’s self image in the process. Nameberry seems unaware of this risk.

Nameberry’s “Cool, Unusual Names” articles feature names that were selected for ten or fewer children in the previous year. The clear implication of these articles is that because rarely chosen names have appeared in a “Cool, Unusual” Nameberry article, they’re suddenly “cool”—as if by magic. I’d argue that these names have been rejected by the American public for good reasons, which I’m happy to spell out if doing so warns parents away from choosing oddball names such as: Hebe (a name bigots use to bad-mouth Jews), Leda (a woman who, in Greek mythology, was raped by Zeus, who took the form of a swan), or Carola (a German name that’s difficult for Americans to pronounce—see my “Dear Bruce” article about this name). These are some of the “cool, unusual” names that Nameberry recently recommended.

Nameberry’s “Neglected Namesake Names” article (I’ve seen only one) features esoteric and obscure names that seem to come from a different century—when they might have been less unattractive than they are now. When Nameberry dusts them off and features them in an article, the implication is that they’re now ready for use. I feel the need to let parents know that their children are likely to be embarrassed or teased for having such “lost in time” names as Effa (a four-letter word that calls to mind another four-letter word that starts with “f”), Gerty (a name that rhymes with a word for excrement that starts with “t”), and Mertilla (a name that sounds like “Myrtle” as in “Myrtle the Turtle”—which is what she’ll likely be called). These are some of the “neglected namesake names” that Nameberry recently recommended.

As you can see, I have a philosophical disagreement with Nameberry and with self-centered celebrities.  Nameberry  focuses on the fashion of baby naming (regardless of the effect of the names on the children). Likewise celebrities like Kim & Kanye choose names that will generate attention for themselves (regardless of the fact that the names are also likely to embarrass their children).

By contrast, I remind parents to think carefully about the effects their child’s name will have on him or her. I ask parents to consider: How will kids in your child’s kindergarten or high school class respond to the name? How will blind dates respond to the name? How will college admissions officers and personnel directors respond to the name? My goal is to remind parents that the name they give their child is primarily for their child’s benefit; not for a laugh the name may get on a TV-talk show when the celebrity announces it or the “ka-ching” sound Nameberry “hears” when website views of their  articles cause advertising dollars or other fees to flow in.

My reach is extremely limited when compared to that of either Nameberry or celebrities. I fear the power of celebrities and baby-name “fashion” pundits to influence naive young parents to choose names that will embarrass their children or subject them to teasing. So I speak out and use a combination of common sense, parenting know-how and humor in a quixotic attempt to counter their influence with expecting parents to the extent possible.

P.S. I’m not the only pundit who had the guts to say that North West was a bad joke when Kanye West mentioned it on the “Tonight Show” to Jay Leno, and a worse joke (on his daughter) when he actually picked North West as a name for her. But I seem to be the only pundit who is reporting that the “emperor” (in this case, Nameberrry) “has no clothes on” when they write and promote articles recommending awful names  likely to be a burden to or harmful to children.

I enjoy ridiculing the most outrageous naming blunders made by celebrities and by Nameberry (and other pundits, like Belly Ballot). It’s fun for me and fun for my readers. And that’s why I’ve been writing a lot about Nameberry, lately. In my view, a large percent of the names they recommend are awful. And Pamela Redmond Satran (who writes most of the articles I’ve criticized in this and other posts) has just (as of 1/1 8/14) written yet another “Cool, Unusual” article containing more ridiculous and harmful recommendations for 2014. Nameberry sent it out to the media. And Huffington Post reprinted it under their prestigious banner.

When that happens, an amusing “fashion” article turns into a real psychological and social problem for the children who are given those outrageous names. I doubt that publishing harmful baby-naming advice is in the mission statement of either Nameberry or Huff Po. Sooner or later, they’re going to hear about this issue from their readers.

Dear Bruce: You Said Carola Might Be Hard to Pronounce; I Agree.

Carola: I read your post about “Nameberry’s List of 100 Cool, Unusual Names” with great interest. You singled out Carola (my given name) for comment. You said the name might be difficult to pronounce. I agree.

As a little girl, I was not fond of my given name, Carola. I’m glad people used my nickname, Lola, which was very easy for Americans to pronounce. I was sent to boarding school in Germany after eighth grade for one year. When I arrived, I discovered that my given name, Carola, was not as unusual as it was in the States. There were at least six other girls named Carola at Heimschule Kloster Wald (my boarding school), but I told everyone to call me Lola!

FYI, Carola is pronounced ca-RRRROLE-ah (short a, long o, short a, emphasis on the second syllable–and  the r is rolled). As you can see, this name is difficult  for most  Americans to pronounce properly (unless they speak German fluently).

Bruce: Thanks so much for letting me know how to pronounce Carola. Truth is, I had no idea! In my post about Nameberry’s ”Cool, Unusual Names” article I listed several possible pronunciation options. Unfortunately, all of them were wrong. If I ever  meet someone wearing a badge at a conference announcing her given name as Carola, I will ask her how to pronounce the name before making a fool of myself. Thanks also for letting me know that Carola was a common name in Germany, when you went to school there. Thanks for telling us that you much preferred your nickname, Lola, to your given name, Carola, both in America and in Germany where Carola was a common name; both when you were a child and now that you are an adult.

As you may have noticed, the Nameberry article I was commenting on recommended 100 cool and unusual names which had been given to 10 or less girls in 2012 in the United States. The point of my blog post was that there are likely to be some very good reasons why names are only given to 10 or less people. The idea of claiming that 100 names used by 10 or less people are “cool” seems absurd! Your comments explain why that is true in the case of Carola. It’s a fine name for people living in Germany, but it can  be difficult for Americans to pronounce properly. I get the impression that the only people who call you Carola are the people at the Department of Motor Vehicles, when it’s time for you to renew your license.

It may interest you to visit my “Cool Names for Girls” Page on Ranker.com. Why? Because Lola is one of the coolest names on the list (of about 35 names). Based on what you’ve written, I doubt that you would expect to find Carola on that list. And you’d be right. (The only people who think Carola is a cool name are the people at Nameberry.)

Nameberry’s List of “Neglected Namesake Names” Are Neglected for Good Reasons

I was very impressed by Linda Rosenkrantz’ introduction to her “Nameberry’s Neglected Namesake Names” article, which accurately describes her premise:

“If you scan the annals of distinguished women in American history, culture and science, you’ll find that a surprising number of them had distinctive names as well, names that could provide unique-ish choices with interesting back-stories. Several of them have a funky, fusty period flavor that may or may not appeal. What do you think?“

Here’s what I think: Even though Rosenkrantz has picked 40+ namesakes who are “distinguished women in American history, culture and science,” almost all of the names “have a funky, fusty period flavor” that could make them very uncomfortable and burdensome to contemporary American girls.

In fact, I only found a few names that might not prove embarrassing or provoke teasing for girls born in 2013-14. And before I list them I want to be clear that inspiring names don’t have to be “cool.” They just have to avoid being so uncomfortable, awkward and clunky for contemporary girls that any possible inspirational value will be lost when your daughter abandons her high-minded name and tells you she won’t answer to it any more.

I raise this issue, because so many (if not most) of the names on this Nameberry list seem likely to be burdensome to contemporary girls. Here are some of the names that come across to me as the least uncomfortable for daughters in 2013-14.

-Alta (The fact that Alta is also the name of a ski resort in Utah may help the name. However Alta means “high.” Which might inspire your daughter when she reaches high school, in a bad way.)

-Asta  (This was the name of William Powell’s clever dog in “The Thin Man” movies. Don’t be surprised if your daughter barks when Mommy calls her to dinner.)

-Cathay (This is what Brits used to call China. I prefer China to Cathay, I suspect Cathay will prefer Cathy—or China to Cathay.)

-Marita (It’s not so bad if you shorten it too Marta.)

-Marvel (It would help a great deal if you call her Marvy; I’m afraid Marvel is too difficult for anyone to live up to—like Messiah, but less so.)

-Romaine (Wikipedia lists three historical personages, one woman and two men, who have used this name; I’ve never heard of any of them. But this is my favorite name on Rosenkrantz’ list. Probably because I’m partial to Romaine lettuce.)

Remember, these are the names I like best on the “quadruple N” list. (I wouldn’t recommend any of these names.)

That done, here’s a very short list of some of the most potentially burdensome names on Rosenkrantz’ list. I ask you to read these and then click on the link and read the complete list of “Nameberry’s Neglected Namesake Names.”

-Effa: (This name will be a huge source of embarrassment as soon as Effa hits high school when the “F-word,” “F-bombs” and “Effing” are in common parlance.

-Gerty (Unfortunately, she’ll be called “Turdy Gerty.”)

-Mertilla (And Mertilla will be called “Myrtle the Turtle.”

-Penina (It you love this name, call your daughter Penny and never mention the name you put on her birth certificate. She won’t move out of the house until she applies for a learner’s driving permit and finally sees her “given name” on an official document. She and her friends will think the name refers to the male sex organ.)

I could go on and on and on, but I’d rather end by addressing Linda Rosenkrantz’ premise. What’s the point of promoting names (however noble) which contemporary American daughters (including your daughter) are likely to dislike. If you already have a daughter, please, please, please read Nameberry’s list of “Neglected Namesake Names” to her. I’m not sure if she’ll break out laughing or suddenly start hugging and kissing you to thank you for giving her a “normal name,” instead of a neglected namesake name.

Like Rosenkrantz, I’m a big advocate of picking names that will inspire your child. (See my article on that subject.) I just re-checked my list of 17 “inspiring” names and estimate that about 14 out of 17 would be more comfortable for contemporary boys and girls than most, if not all, the names on the NNNN list.

High-minded parents may like the idea of picking names which will inspire their children; but if, instead of inspiring your daughter, the neglected namesake name you pick makes your daughter feel bad about herself, giving your daughter a name that’s been “neglected” for good reason will have turned out to be a huge mistake.

The names on the 4N list prove that kids with clunky names can succeed. So does Barack (Obama), Lyndon (Johnson) and the Johnny Cash song, “A Boy Named Sue.” But that’s not a good reason to give your daughter a neglected namesake name or to call your son Barack, Lyndon, or Sue.

Nameberry’s List of 100 Cool, Unusual Names Should Come with a Warning

In the last few weeks Babble released a list of 20 “cool and “unusual” names which had been selected by Nameberry.  I responded by pointing out that more than half of the names were silly, impractical, or unpopular for excellent reasons (which calling them “cool” didn’t magically eliminate). I think it’s extremely difficult to find any cool names that were selected for ten or less girls last year. But I didn’t publish a list of 100 “cool, unusual names” that were used on ten or less girls last year. Nameberrry did, in an article written by Pamela Redmond Satran.

I don’t see the point of these articles. Most of the names on their list seem to be unpopular for one or more very good reasons (which I will demonstrate below).  But Nameberry keeps publishing lists of supposedly cool names, so it must be working for them. I’ll single out twelve of the names from Nameberry’s latest list to demonstrate that referring to flawed names as cool doesn’t make them cool. I think you’ll agree that many of these names should be printed with a caveat: “Warning: These Names Are Unpopular for Good Reasons. They May  Cause Your Daughter Embarrassment, Teasing, Poor Self-Image or Frustration.”

Afra: If parents don’t keep Afra’s hair cut extremely short, she’s likely to be called Afro.

Blue: New York is my favorite city but it doesn’t work as a name for children. Blue is my favorite color, but it doesn’t work as a name for children, either. Why? Because blue has a strong association with “the blues” also known as “feeling blue” and “depression.” Why give your daughter a name that will be a “downer” every day of her life?

Carola: How should this name be pronounced: car-OH-la? carol-ah? or carol-ay (like Dallas Maverick shooting guard Monta, pronounced MON-tay, Ellis)? It’s a name that invites mispronunciation.

Clementina: I suppose Clementine was too “popular” (because it was used by more than ten people) so they looked for an old-fashioned name that was even less “popular,” and they found one. Clementina is the diminuitive form of Clementine, so it’s appropriate either for use when Clementine is very young or if Clementine grows to womanhood and is less than 5 feet tall in her stocking feet.

Domino: This name calls to mind Domino’s pizza and one of my all-time favorite R&B recording artists, Fats Domino. Neither association will be much of a plus for your daughter.

Ginevra: This Italian name was the name Leonardo da Vinci chose for one of his paintings (“Ginevra de Benci”) However, it has rarely been used anywhere but in in Italy since then (except as the name of a young socialite F. Scott Fitzgerald met in college–Ginevra King). The name looks and sounds like a misspelling of Geneva.

Hebe: This is a very unfortunate choice, because hebe is pejorative term for Jews (like kike). How on earth did this name get past Satran?

Hero: Hero doesn’t sound like the name of a human being. Actually, it’s a literary term that refers to the protagonist in a work of fiction. And, the word, hero, also refers to a submarine sandwich (a long roll of French or Italian bread filled with a variety of cold cuts, meat balls, lasagna or hundreds of other possible fillings). No matter what the filling is, a hero sandwich does not provide either a feminine image or a healthy, nutritious image for your daughter. In fact, it brings childhood obesity to mind. If you like that idea, you could also name your daughter Sugary Softdrink (your last name goes here).

Kitty: It doesn’t take much imagination to picture friends and enemies calling her, “Meow! Here….Kitty, Kitty!” It’s hard to take someone named Kitty seriously. (You wouldn’t name your child Puppy, or Froggy, would you?)

Leda: In Greek mythology, Zeus took the form of a Swan and raped Leda. Now there’s a noble, inspiring image for your daughter to keep in mind every day of her life. (How could Satran have “picked” this name for inclusion on a list of “cool” names?)

Maelys: This Welsh name is particularly hard to spell and pronounce. What’s the point of including a name that will present annoying practical problems for your little girl every day of her life?

Timea: Here’s another puzzler: How do you pronounce this name: TIM-ee-yah? tim-MEE-ya?  timmy-AH? or TIME-ah? Any way you pronounce it, no one will know what the heck you are talking about.

I could go on; there are so many awful names on the list. The people at Nameberry seem to spend a huge amount of time scrounging through the “garbage dump” of worn-out, discarded, unpopular names looking for diamonds in the rough. If they said: “Here are some unpopular names that haven’t been used for years. Take a look, maybe you’ll get some fresh ideas.” Knowing the names are tainted, you might want to consider making some changes:

-If you like the idea of picking a color name, switch from Blue to Violet.

-If you think Kitty is too juvenile (or likely to cause teasing) switch to Catalina.

-If you think Maelys is too difficult to spell, change it to May, or Maya.

But if you believe Nameberry when they call the names “cool and unusual” you may make the mistake of giving your daughter a name that ten or less people in the U.S. find appealing enough to use.

By calling these discarded, outmoded, unpopular names “cool,” Nameberry is doing their readers a huge disservice. They are practicing a form of alchemy. (You may recall that alchemists claimed to have a secret process for turning base metals into gold and silver.)

Here’s Nameberry’s process: They sort through more than 10,000 names that were given to 10 or less girls last year. Pamela Redmond Satran picks 100 names she likes best and features them in an article in which she describes them as “cool and unusual” Then, as if by magic, 100 of the most unwanted names have been transformed into “cool names.” And the reason I call this a “disservice” is that so many of the names will be unpleasant for your daughter to live with for the reasons listed above.

I suspect Nameberry is one of the most successful sources of baby name punditry in the U.S. Just a few weeks ago I praised an article written by Nameberry’s Linda Rosencrantz, which brilliantly traced the evolution of nicknames from John to Jack and from Margaret to Peg. What a wonderful service to expectant parents!

However I don’t think that calling unpopular, unused, and unwanted names “cool” is a wonderful service to anyone (and it may eventually damage Nameberry’s credibility). I have provided you with a link to Pamela Redmond Satran’s complete article so you can look at all 100 names used by less than 10 people last year and contemplate how many of the rarely-used names would be a pleasure for your daughter to use and how many are likely to impress your friends. (FYI,  Nameberry defines a “cool name” as one that will impress your friends.)

Calling unwanted names “cool” doesn’t make them “cool.” But it may trick some Nameberry fans into giving them to their daughters. Unfortunately those fans are most likely to figure out they were tricked after they announce the names, when their friends say, “Really?” or “You must be kidding!”

Last week I wrote: “Has Nameberry Lost It’s Cool?” It has been one of my most popular recent articles. Now, I’m not the only person who wonders whether Nameberry knows the difference between awful, unwanted names and cool names.

Has Nameberry Lost Its Cool? You Be the Judge.

Nameberry has a new list they call “20 Cool and Unusual Names.” I’m listing some of those names below, so you can consider whether any of the names would be “cool” for your baby girl. FYI, I found Nameberry’s list in an article on Babble by Aela Mass, a woman who couldn’t stand her given name when she was young. I can’t imagine why a woman whose unusual name had caused her grief would promote Nameberry’s latest list of unusual names, most of which don’t strike me, remotely, as “cool.” Here they are. What do you think?

Aliz: If you replace the “z” with a “ce,” you’d have a classic girl’s name. If you leave it as is, you have what looks and sounds like a “mistake.”

Aberdeen: Nice name for towns in Scotland, Australia and South Dakota (and for a Scottish football team);  but not so much for a baby girl.

Amorie: Amory Blaine was the protagonist of Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night. Amorie is the female form. It’s not as bad as Aliz, Neri or Tulsi. But, if you’re looking for a name that means or implies “love,” why not go with Amy? You might recognize these song lyrics,  “Once in love with Amy. Always in love with Amy.”

Bette: This name was cool back when Bette Davis was a major movie star—in the late 1930’s and 40s. Now the name seems neither cool nor unusual. “Dated” would be a kind way to describe this name.

Blanche: This name was probably cool back when “A Streetcar Named Desire” was on Broadway (in 1948).

Carlisle: There are probably hundreds (or thousands) of towns with this name in English-speaking countries. It’s a nice enough place name, but I don’t think it sounds much like a girls’ name. In fact, it sounds more like the last name of the guy who coaches the Dallas Mavericks. (Rick Carlisle.)

Christabelle: Poor kid, she’ll probably be called Jingle Bells or Christmas Bells her whole life.

Eulalie: It’s a name-book neighbor of many other laughably uncool and seldom-used names (for good reason) like: Eunice, Eudora, Eufonia and Euphemia. How can a laughable name possibly be cool?

(Up to now I’ve gone name by name down Nameberry’s list. But I think you get the point, so lets skip to the strangest four names left on Nameberry’s “Cool and Unusual” list.)

Neri: She’ll be called Neri Christmas until she gets tired of the “joke” and converts to Judaism. (Jews are more likely to tease someone named Haman.)

Reeve: This was the surname of one of the worst Superman impersonators ever, which makes it appropriate for girls how?

Sula: I found this information from the Babble article helpful, “this name hasn’t been on the charts since the early 1900s.” It’s comforting to know this strange name has been kept out of circulation for years. And Nameberry wants to bring it back; why? I have no idea, but it will make the day of some high school jerk who can amuse himself by calling her “Sula Does the Hula” and watching her face turn beet red, before she starts crying.

Tulsi: I guess Tulsa wasn’t unusual enough; so Nameberry picked this rarely-used combination of letters (and called it a “cool and unusual name”).

Of course, I understand that Nameberry is mainly interested in the “fads and fashions of names.” So, on some level they provide entertainment by reminding us that baby-naming trends rise and fall, like hemlines. But some of their recommendations are so bizarre, in an uncool way, I think they’re as ditzy as Apple, North (West), Blue Ivy and Moon Unit.

Nameberry is extremely clever at discovering which stars and starlets are behind big changes in the Social Security Administration’s top-1,000 popularity rankings. By contrast, I look at fast-rising names like Major, King, Messiah and Prince and warn parents to avoid these “pompous titles” which their kids can’t possibly live up to. We’re doing two different things. And both are valid. But when Nameberry labels a list of names “cool and unusual,” they need to stock that list with cool and unusual names. If most of the names seem either common or uncool or both, they haven’t done what they set out to do.

But what bothers me more is when they use the word “cool” to describe names more likely to be a burden than a pleasure for children to live with. That made me wonder what Nameberry means  by “cool”? On their website, Nameberry uses this line to introduce their list of “cool names”: “Baby Names All Your Friends Will Think Are Cool.”

That definition is OK with me. But can you imagine any of your friends becoming jealous because you picked Aliz, Neri, Reeve, Sula or Tulsi for your baby girl before they could give one of those awful names to their baby girl?