Last week the Social Security Administration released the list of the top baby names of 2010 (Click here). Not many surprises if you’ve been in a preschool classroom lately. This got us thinking over at Welcome baby Care about how we name babies and what goes into the names we choose for our children.
Theodore Roosevelt said, “The one thing I want to leave my children is an honorable name.” ‘Name’ in this sense might be a metaphor for character and reputation, but it is worth considering on the literal, child-labeling level. Is the name you’re planning to bestow upon baby a name that is setting him or her up for honor and strong character or is it the latest celebrity trend? Commentators, seeing the influence of pop media culture on the naming of babies, wondered when ‘Snooki’ was going to make it onto the list.
In ancient custom, names had potent meanings. To give a child a name was more than a way to differentiate one from another, or summon them to the hut for dinner; the name bestowed an identity—a reputation that would precede them. The hope was that the child would grow into the honor and identity of their name.
In Jewish families, children are given the name of a deceased relative. Naming a child, “after nobody,” isn’t a consideration. Names are tightly tied to tradition, family, and history. The names tell a story or invoke the memory of a loved one. The name keeps tradition alive.
The SSA has a fun tool for browsing names. You can enter any particular year and get the list of top names. I’ve heard of authors using this tool to find for names for book characters from a particular era. You could name a character born during WWII ‘Brittany’, but ‘Linda’ or ‘Patricia’ is more fitting. Parents can use this tool to help brainstorm baby names. What are the names that have endured? What are the names that you associate with honor and respect? What are the names that were once trendy but now dated?
Barack Obama said, “My parents shared not only an improbable love, they shared an abiding faith in the possibilities of this nation. They would give me an African name, Barack, or blessed, believing that in a tolerant America your name is no barrier to success.” Agreed, but I believe he meant that to have a name of non-U.S. origin would not invoke prejudice. What might invoke prejudice are some of the trendy-cutesy overdone monikers you see on the list (I’m not naming any names).
If you’re expecting and getting ready to name your baby, what’s influencing your decision? What are the stories behind your children’s names? Share with readers in the comments below!