The Complete Book of Baby Names:
A Conversation with Author
The Complete Book of Baby Names different?
There are a lot of baby name books on the market. Could you tell us what makes
While this book has 100,001 names, including meanings and origins, and several fun lists, it also includes information to help parents organize their thinking to make the baby-naming process much easier—and a lot more fun.
You devote a full chapter to modern naming trends. Can you identify what you consider to be the single hottest naming trend today?
Parents are searching for names that are a bit different and sometimes even unique. This stems from wanting their children to have their own identities and wanting them to stand out in classrooms full of Michaels and Emmas. As a subset of this trend, we see several parents looking to their own family trees for “old-fashioned” names that have sat on the bench for so long that they are now considered cool and sophisticated. In this way, parents are both creating a family connection through the name and giving their children a name that will distinguish them from their peers.
Your book includes an amazing 276 lists of different types of names, ranging from Disney, to country singers, to FBI agents’ names. How did you come up with so many lists?
Because I wanted these lists to be fun, I tried to encompass as many enjoyable and interesting categories as I could that would spark the interest of a broad spectrum of people. Therefore, there are categories spanning popularity, sports, foreign names, literary figures, occupations, entertainment, and politics, among many others.
Your book includes several chapters aimed at helping parents choose a baby name, including what not to name your baby. What do you think is the single biggest pitfall in choosing a name?
Probably the biggest pitfall in baby naming is not thoroughly thinking a name through before making the final decision. What might sound cute for a toddler may not transition well into adulthood. Or perhaps a name sounds wonderful but has a negative meaning or association tied to it. It’s best that parents view a name from every angle before bestowing it on a child who will have to carry it throughout his or her life (or at least until he or she is old enough to legally change it).
Besides your informational chapters and your special lists, you also provide thousands of name definitions, including meaning, origin, and variants. What can a parent do if they start feeling overwhelmed by all the choices?
Parents should decide first what is important to them in naming a child—before browsing through the thousands of names. By deciding with your partner the aspects that are significant in that perfect name, the list has already been narrowed before it has even been created—plus, this helps to cut down on the number and intensity of any arguments that may occur later in the process.
You devote some space to the topic of middle names. Do you feel this is a tricky area for some parents?
Some parents choose to forego the middle name altogether, while others will give two, three, or sometimes even four middle names to their children. The tricky part comes in when parents decide on the middle name(s) before the first name. Suddenly, they are trying to work around a name that simply isn’t going to be used very often. If parents remember that the middle name is the bridge between the first and last names, then it will be a much easier process.
Do you feel, as some people do, that a name can literally affect a child’s destiny?
While a name is certainly important in that it affects a child’s self-esteem and also the first impressions of others, I don’t believe that it directly affects a child’s destiny. Of course, specific associations are made with particular names, but that doesn’t mean that if you name your son Romeo, for instance, he is guaranteed to be popular with the ladies. I believe that a child’s personality and the choices he or she makes throughout life determine his or her destiny.
One of your chapters is entitled “The Attributes of a Perfect Name.” If you were to give three top attributes, what would they be?
Probably the most important attribute of the perfect name is the meaning. This doesn’t necessarily mean the actual definition of the name, but instead what the name means to the parents—having a solid reason for choosing a particular name. Perhaps there is a family or religious connection or a fabulous story behind the name or even simply the time and effort spent searching for that one name. A child’s name should allow him or her to feel special. Second, the name should be one that carries over into adulthood well. Of course, the child is always going to be the parents’ baby, but a name should look just as good on a resume as it does on a kindergarten report card. Third, the sound of the name is an important attribute. Your child’s name will be said aloud too many times to count throughout his or her life, probably most often by the parents. The name should be one that is pleasing to hear and say to both the parents and child.
Do you have any special thoughts about the process of choosing a baby name that you’d like a reader to take away from this interview?
Above all else, I would like parents to understand that the choice is theirs alone, even though they may feel pressure from family, friends, and even society. I truly believe that if parents take the time to choose a name that they are proud of, their children will take pride in that name as well.