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The Baby Name Wizard, 2019 Revised 4th Edition: A Magical Method for Finding the Perfect Name for Your Baby Paperback – May 7, 2013

4.3 out of 5 stars 605 ratings

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

“Baby Name Wizard” Laura Wattenberg takes a unique research-driven, analytical approach to understanding names and style. Through her book and website, she has helped countless thousands of parents find the perfect names for their growing families.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Why Is This So Hard?
It’s not your imagination. Choosing a baby name really is harder today than in your parents’ and grandparents’ times.
Over the past generation, we’ve experienced a naming revolution. We’ve moved from an established pool of “normal” names to a wideopen, anything-goes name culture, with a premium on creativity and uniqueness. And that means pressure.
To put it in numerical terms, back in the 1950s, about 80 names were enough to account for the majority of American boys and girls born. Names like Michael and David were super popular with every demographic group in every corner of the country. By 2017, it took 504 names to cover half of boys and girls. The typical American baby received a statistically uncommon name, often one specific to his or her community. In other words, there’s no longer such a thing as a “normal” name.
That makes the process of choosing vastly more difficult. Having a wide-open choices sounds like freedom, but in practice it can be a trap. Imagine ordering a meal in a restaurant where the menu is 20 pages long. The more options you have, the less certain you feel, and the more your expectations rise. Surely, you should be able to find something that’s not just good, but
perfect. Even after choosing, you may be left with doubt and tempted to second-guess your decision. Sound familiar, baby namers?
In the realm of baby names, that wide-open choice is particularly significant. Choosing from a restaurant menu is just about pleasing yourself. A name is also a signal to others. Back in the heyday of Michael and David, or John and Mary, or even Jason and Jessica, you wouldn’t draw a lot of conclusions about most individuals from their names. They were just wearing the standard American baby name uniform. Now that we’ve done away with uniforms, name choices send stronger signals. Looking at a class list of Eleanor, Oakleigh, Santiago, Jazzmyn, Declan, and Messiah, we can’t help but form mental images. In this environment, even naming kids John and Mary makes a statement.
What’s more, in the modern world where so many interactions are virtual, names are bearing a bigger burden of first impressions. From email to dating and ride-sharing apps, our names are becoming our entire calling cards. A bevy of studies have shown that people respond differently to digital messages depending on the names attached.
So that’s what you can explain to your grandparents when they wonder why you’re making such a big deal about choosing a name. It has gotten harder, and it matters more. Now here’s what you can do to depressurize the naming experience: follow a path.
Notice that this book doesn’t proudly promise more name listings than its competitors. (“100,000 BEST Names for Baby!”) You’re looking for a needle in a haystack; the last thing you need is a bigger haystack. Instead, BNW tries to help you find the small set of names that speak to your heart.
Start with a few names you really like. Look them up, see what sibling suggestions are listed for them and what style categories they belong to. Start to get a feel for what they have in common. If you and your partner start off with different tastes, look for areas of overlap. You should find yourself zeroing in on a group of great names. And the way a great name becomes a perfect name is by belonging to your child
A Note on Popularity
A generation ago, there were no baby name popularity statistics. Whether parents wanted unique names that would set their children apart, or fashionable names that would help them fit in, they had to guess based on their own experience. Today we have far more information. We can check rankings and popularity curves, and try to project where a name is heading.
It turns out that nobody wants to be #1. Armed with rankings, many parents now rule out names that have climbed too high on the popularity charts. They’ll reject anything ranked in the top 10, or even the top hundred or top thousand. They want a name that’s special, not ordinary; one that their kid won’t have to share with anyone else in her kindergarten class.
If fear of popularity has you crossing off all your longtime favorite names, let me try to offer some reassurance.
First and foremost:
popular just means well-­liked. Nothing more. The name Emma climbed to the top of the charts because across the country, people from all walks of life really, really like the name Emma. Having a name that people respond to so positively can be an advantage. The fact that others may share that name doesn’t make the name, or the person behind it, any less special. Just ask some people with super-common names, like Michael Jackson, Jennifer Lopez, and Elizabeth Taylor.
Secondly, be aware that even a #1 name isn’t what it used to be. Today’s top names are only a fraction as popular as Michael and Jennifer used to be, and even those hits didn’t approach the heights that John and Mary used to reach. As recently as 1980, 22 different boys’ names were each popular enough to be borne by at least 1% of boys. Today, not a single name reaches that threshold. In our new creative naming world, truly “ordinary,” super-popular names have essentially ceased to exist.
Yes, popularity does matter. It’s part of each name’s unique style and identity, and helps define its place in our culture. But don’t stress too much about the rankings. These days, you can find high-impact, highstyle names at every ranking level.
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Product details

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Harmony; NO-VALUE edition (May 7, 2013)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 544 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 0770436471
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0770436476
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 1.55 pounds
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 5.48 x 1.28 x 8.15 inches
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.3 out of 5 stars 605 ratings

About the author

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LAURA WATTENBERG is a writer, researcher, and software designer who developed the name analysis software after becoming frustrated in her search for names for her two daughters. She lives in Winchester, Massachusetts.

Customer reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5
605 global ratings

Top reviews from the United States

Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on May 26, 2022
Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on August 21, 2022
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4.0 out of 5 stars Decent book
By Kimberly on August 20, 2022
I bought this book 3 years ago to name my daughter. While we did find a name in it, it definitely seems to be a “one and done” sort of book. We didn’t even flip through it that much, but recently got it back out to name our second baby and it is falling apart so bad it’s actually difficult to use. The binding is absolutely terrible. Weird thing to have to comment on, i know.. but i’ve never seen a so gently used book fall apart so easily.
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One person found this helpful
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Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on July 28, 2013
4 people found this helpful
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Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on April 27, 2022
Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on May 25, 2022
Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on July 26, 2021
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4.0 out of 5 stars Bought “new” got “used”/Book itself is great
By Amazon Customer on July 26, 2021
I bought this book “new” and ended up with a used book?! It has pages dog eared and highlights throughout. If there weren’t highlights I wouldn’t mind, but that’s something I can’t get rid of! I would appreciate a refund of the difference I paid for a “new” versus “used” book.

BUT - the book itself, I absolutely LOVE it so far!! Very well done!
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Top reviews from other countries

Jennifer Harding-Leach
2.0 out of 5 stars Two Stars
Reviewed in the United Kingdom 🇬🇧 on September 14, 2016
One person found this helpful
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4.0 out of 5 stars Just what I was looking for!
Reviewed in the United Kingdom 🇬🇧 on May 31, 2015
One person found this helpful
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Ellie 🪐
4.0 out of 5 stars The most informative baby name book
Reviewed in Canada 🇨🇦 on August 6, 2022
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4.0 out of 5 stars The most informative baby name book
Reviewed in Canada 🇨🇦 on August 6, 2022
The Baby Name Wizard does so many things similar books don't: the amount of information listed for each name is huge. For example, the popularity graphs (take note: these can look very dramatic) and the "sisters and brothers" feature. Additionally, near the end of the book are lists of name styles such as "brisk and breezy" and "mythological" for readers to search through, enabling them to find new names based on categories they like.

Cons: A few notable names are left out, although the selection of names is generally good. Meanings are absent as well, which may or may not be important to you.

However, the Baby Name Wizard does so many things right that these cons are insignificant. And who could forget the book's humour? This is very easily worth a read.

(Note: I was sent the wrong edition, the 2013 one instead of the 2019 one. This doesn't affect my rating though, since this was the seller and not the book itself.)
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5.0 out of 5 stars It’s okay
Reviewed in Canada 🇨🇦 on July 4, 2019
One person found this helpful
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5.0 out of 5 stars Fun book!
Reviewed in Canada 🇨🇦 on January 28, 2019