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Naming Etiquette:What's In a Name?
Issues of baby etiquette can surface even before you give birth to your child, and one of the most important is naming etiquette. The name you choose will affect not only your child, but also everyone else—from friends to teachers to significant others—who has to say your child's name in the future. With that in mind, we have listed some of the most popular and effective naming strategies below.
For many years, "creative" child names such as Piper, Scout, Apple, and Phinnaeus were primarily the province of pretentious Hollywood actors. Since the American middle class has risen in affluence and feelings of self-consequence, however, there is really no reason for anyone to forego the pleasure of giving their child an artistic name.
The secret to "creating" a good name is to let your mind go completely blank, as though it is a clean, bare tablet unencumbered by intelligence or taste. Then, once your brain is utterly empty, name your child the first thing that pops into your head. Pear, January, Studebaker—the weirder the name, the greater its "artistic" statement.
Currently, the most fashionable naming strategy is to give your child a location rather than a name—Brooklyn, for example, or Ireland.
When picking a place-name, it is best to stick with first-world locations (Kuala Lumpur does not carry quite the same social cache as, say, Venice).
Ultimately, the point of a good place-name is to grant your child a sense of self-importance well before they've achieved anything on their own. With luck, your child will live up to this glamorous image, and one day may even outstrip their namesake in global notoriety.
DID YOU KNOW?
Paris Hilton currently has a higher recognition factor among teenage Americans than does Paris, France.
ADDING E'S TO A NAME
If you want the comfort of a popular name but would like to add a splash of creativity, try taking a name that ends in Y and end it instead with EE. Ashlee, for instance, instead of Ashley. If you feel that this is not unique enough, go ahead and add more Es. There may be another Ashlee or two in your daughter's class, but she will most likely be the only Ashleeeee.
If you would like your child to become a stripper, it is best to pick pseudosexy names such as Misty, Savannah, Essence, or Cherry Pie. If you've already chosen a normal name but think you might want your child to be a stripper, you can always consider replacing the last vowel in the name with "ique." Monique and Angelique, for instance, make excellent stripper names, as does Larrique for a boy.
WHY ADDING "LE" OR "LA" TO A NAME DOES NOT ACTUALLY MAKE IT MORE CLASSY
Adding French articles to American names—LaDonna, for instance, or DeShawn for a boy—has long been a way for everyday Americans to indicate a certain cosmopolitan sophistication. Since our break with the French over issues of foreign policy, however, such naming strategies have become less, shall we say, au courant. The good news is that these unpatriotic French articles are quickly being replaced by the addition of genuine American articles. Today, for instance, if you want your son to be very successful, it is an excellent idea to name him "The Donald" instead of just Donald.
DID YOU KNOW?
There has never been a stripper named Eunice.
FANCIFUL BOY NAMES
One time-tested way for young boys to build character is to be humbled and even, occasionally, physically assaulted by other kids. These experiences instill an inner resolve, a desire to escape or surpass one's peers that can ultimately result in great professional success. A good way to ensure that your son gets this kind of head start is to allow your wife to name him without any kind of masculine supervision. Aubrey, Tristan, and Remi are all good examples of fanciful names; Avery, Gideon, and Puck should also elicit a few blows to the head during your son's formative years.
Occasionally, new parents want a baby name that will be just plain annoying to friends, family, and nearly everyone else with whom your child comes into contact. In this case, it is a good idea to name your child after an already overexposed celebrity or literary figure. Holden, for instance, makes an excellent annoying boy name, as does Britney for a little girl.
Suppose that you are out at a dinner party full of prospective parents, and one of the other parents makes the mistake of letting an enticing prospective baby name slip. There are three questions to ask yourself when preparing to purloin the name:
1. Do you actually care about the individuals in question? You may have a few friends in common, but honestly, would it bother you at all to incur the wrath and lifetime enmity of these people? If not, go ahead and poach that name.
2. Can they be bought? It is possible that these people are in financial difficulty and could be bribed into giving up the name.
3. Would your child be able to "take" their child? Make an honest survey of your physical gifts as a couple—height, strength, punching power, etc.—and try to estimate how your child would one day fare in a physical altercation with his or her unwilling namesake. If the answer is "not well," you may want to consider a different name.
At least for the first few years, your baby's actual name will be almost irrelevant—she will be referred to instead by a variety of nicknames. There are reputations and fortunes to be made on baby nicknames that stick—Tiger Woods, for example, would probably not have a hundred-million-dollar Nike contract were he referred to as Eldrick—so do not take this task lightly.
The trap most parents fall into is relying on cliched nicknames, which should be avoided at all costs. You can begin your cliche cleansing by abolishing all uses of the word "Boo," whether in its singular, doubled, or compound forms. Boo, Boo-Boo, and Petey-Boo are all different and all equally lame.
Try also to stay away from the "Four Ps" of cliched nicknaming: Peanut, Pumpkin, Precious, and Princess.
Instead, see if you can come up with a nickname that is in some way indicative of your child's character: Gobbles, Screech, Pukie, The Little General, Sobs-a-Lot, and The Enemy of All Sleep are all good examples of personalized nicknames.
FRIENDS AND FAMILY BOX
What If You Hate the Name?
When you dislike or are lukewarm about the name in question, a good way to avoid ill feelings is to utilize a pleasant but noncommittal response. A simple but not overwarm "all right," for instance, can deliver just the right mixture of support and ambivalence. Similar semisupportive phrases include "That works," "I could see that," and "Is that a family name?"
If the name is truly ghastly, you may want to opt for a more obviously double-edged response, such as "interesting" or, in dire circumstances, "wow." To anyone who actually wants your opinion, this makes it fairly clear that you loathe the name. But for those who are simply determined to go with a bad name, such a response allows you to avoid giving offense while nonetheless withholding any real approbation.
HYPHENATED LAST NAMES
When both members of a couple keep their family names, there will inevitably be a debate as to what the baby's last name should be. The most obvious compromise is to hyphenate the last name, but this is a good time to remember that baby etiquette extends also to the babies themselves and that it is ultimately the child who will grow up and have to fill out DMV forms with a name like Anastasia Bugatti-Saperstein, have Bugatti-Saperstein on the back of her basketball jersey, and perhaps most difficult of all, have to introduce herself as "Bugatti-Saperstein" thousands upon thousands of times. Sometimes it's best just to pick a name and go with it.