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What Should I Consider When Choosing Baby Names?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 22 September 2016
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Choosing baby names is a difficult task, and one which your child will live with for the rest of his or her life. Unlike pets, which you can keep for some time without naming, the pressure is usually on to name a child as soon as he or she emerges into the world. Most parents select baby names ahead of time, or make a list of names they think they would like to use. There a number of things to take into consideration when choosing baby names including gender identity, future life choices, cultural issues, popular names at the time, and ways to honor or pay tribute to relatives. Luckily, a large number of lists of baby names can be found on and off the Internet, along with meanings, to help you with choosing baby names.

Many parents say that gender is of paramount importance when choosing baby names. Some names are obviously gendered: not many women are named Pete, and few men are called Charlotte. Parents who choose to learn the gender of their child ahead of time may want to compile gender appropriate names, or think about gender neutral names. A growing number of parents are acknowledging gender fluidity as an important concept for young children, and feel that gender neutral names, clothing, and activities allow children to develop their own personalities, rather than feeling forced into cultural roles.

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Future life choices are also an important think to think about when choosing baby names, especially eccentric ones. Many people born with names like Sunshine Starlight are later forced to change their names to Mary Jones, to better fit in with a corporate or academic culture. By giving your child a unique name, you may be preventing him or her from pursuing personal dreams, and subjecting the child to teasing on the playground. When choosing baby names for your child, think about how the child will have to explain his or her name: “It was my grandmother's name” sounds a great deal better than “my parents were hippies.”

Cultural issues and current popular names are also important things to take into account when choosing baby names. If you are thinking of choosing a name from another culture, think about the meaning it has and whether or not it will pose difficulties for your child. Aisha may have been a loyal wife of the prophet Muhammad (Peace be Upon Him), but it is also a popular Black Muslim name that might cause some awkward questions for a Chinese child. If your child is adopted, you might want to consider a name which celebrates the culture from which the child came to give him or her a deeper connection to the homeland. You should also think about popular names and the situations those can cause: do you want your child to be “Lindsay” or “Catherine?” If you want to celebrate your own ethnic heritage with a name like Bronwyn, Xiuxiu, or Idowu, by all means do so.

Many parents also think about beloved relatives or godparents when choosing baby names. Naming a child after a parent or much loved relative is popular, and helps your child to feel connected with his or her family. When naming a child after a living relative or godparent, it is polite to request permission from the older person who had the name first: most people will agree with pleasure to having a namesake. When naming your child after a dead relative, if that relative has a surviving spouse or children, confirm that this is OK. It is also generally not advisable to name a child after a close dead relative, such as a sibling or previous child.

It is also extremely important to think about how your child's name could be corrupted or nicknamed, especially on the playground. Try to avoid names which could be used in hurtful rhymes, or mocked by other children: if your family name is Hunt, for example, you may want to avoid calling your male child Michael. Most children have a nickname, which may turn into the name they use for life: Charlie for Charles, for example. If you find a particular nickname distasteful, do not use a formal name which can be corrupted into that nickname, because it invariably will be.

Ultimately, your child may choose to reject the name you have carefully thought out for him or her at a later age. There are a number of reasons for this, and parents should not take them too personally: it is extremely difficult to name a young human being, especially a baby. Babies are blank slates which could develop in any direction, and sometimes a name simply does not match an adult personality or gender identity.

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burcinc
Post 2

I think celebrating your own heritage by naming your baby an ethnic name is great. But I do think that the child should also have an alternative name that is more common for the country and culture you are living in.

I'm saying this because I often meet students from Asia. When I ask them their name, they say things like "Sally" and "Bob." They tell me that it's so difficult for Americans to pronounce their names that they have taken on American nicknames for ease.

I feel sad that they aren't able to use their real name, but it also makes sense, because the culture and language is very different. That's why I think that keeping an ethnic name as a middle name and a more contemporary English name as a fist name is a good idea for families with other cultural origins. It will make the baby's life a lot easier in the future, don't you think?

discographer
Post 1

In my culture, every name has a meaning and it's very important to select baby names that have positive and favorable meanings. People believe that the personality of the child will actually take after the name she or he is given.

My name, for example, means a baby girl deer. It fits me nicely because I'm a female and petite.

So if the names you are looking at have meanings to them, you should check them out first. I have met a couple of people so far who are male and have my name. Clearly it didn't occur to their parents to look for the meaning of the name.

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