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Choosing the Right Name for Your Baby

(FeatureSource) - What's in a name?

Many expecting parents may ask themselves that very question. Choosing a baby's name is an involved process.

Bruce Lansky, North America's leading author of baby name books - such as "Baby Names Around the World," "The Baby Name Survey Book" and "The Very Best Baby Name Book in the Whole Wide World" - discusses how parents can make the naming process as easy as possible.

"Over the last few years I've noticed that parents are increasingly selecting uncommon names," Lansky says. "Some parents are 'customizing' common names by modifying the spelling or pronunciation. Some parents are even going so far as to make up new names. For those reasons, my most recent baby-name book, 'Baby Names Around the World,' has 50,000 names to choose from plus tips on how to customize a name or make up a new name."

Customizing is not the only trend in naming babies, Lansky says. "Girls are often given names that used to be thought of as boys' names. Now there's a large number of names that could be described as 'androgynous' in that they are commonly used for boys and girls - names like Terry, Chris, Pat, Cameron, Dana."

Although custom names are creative and uncommon, parents should customize with caution.

"Some names that parents customize or make up give off weird vibes," Lansky says. "For example, a name like 'Moonbeam' or 'Tulip' will create the impression that the child might be goofy or weird. Those names create the impression that the parents are also goofy and weird. Think of all the negative attention that will result, including the endless teasing by peers, who can be very cruel. Why make life miserable for your child when a well-chosen name can give him or her a head start?"

Even if it doesn't give off negative vibes, an unusual name could be frustrating. "Customized names are usually difficult to pronounce and spell. Before you decide on a customized name, think how many times your child will have to correct someone's spelling or pronunciation," Lansky says.

To avoid such troubles, Lansky urges parents to go back to the fundamentals, many of which are the opposite of what is currently trendy.

"Pick a name that most people are familiar with. Pick a name that can be spelled and pronounced easily. Pick a name that doesn't lend itself easily to teasing. Pick a name whose nickname you like. Don't keep the names you are considering a secret; share them with your friends and relatives to get their reactions. Pick a name that gets a positive response rather than groans. Pick a name with positive image associations."

Often times, names conjure "image associations" or mental pictures.

"For example, when you hear 'Elvis,' you probably think of Elvis Presley. When you hear 'Adolf,' you probably think of Adolf Hitler. And when you hear 'Madonna,' you probably think of the singer/actress who popularized that name," Lansky explains.

Even if the name does not allude to a famous person, it still holds an image association. "Michael" and "Meredith" have positive associations. Some names, like "Elmer" and "Bertha," do not have such positive associations. "I suggest that parents pick a name that gives off good vibes," Lansky adds.

Lansky stresses that image associations are more influential than one may think.

"On the first day in school, the teacher does a roll call. The only thing the other students know about a child is what he or she looks like and what his or her name is. Kids are likely to form a quick opinion from just those facts. When your child applies to college or for a job, the admissions director or personnel manager will judge your child by his or her name and what's on the application."

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Image associations affect the workplace as well. "Consider this scenario: You manage a radio station and you're looking for an advertising salesperson. Several females apply for the job: Bambi, Sara, Chris, Priscilla. Who do you think will do the best job? Well, Bambi sounds flaky, Priscilla might be too prissy or delicate, so that leaves Chris and Sara as the most realistic candidates. In summary, parents should understand that people often do judge a book by its cover, so it makes sense to give your child a name that will be an asset rather than a liability," Lansky says.

Lansky's "The Baby Name Survey Book" (Meadowbrook Press) is an excellent source for parents who are interested in names and their image associations.

"In this book, we present the results of a survey of more than 100,000 people. We asked them what they thought of when they heard various names, and we printed the results in the book. If parents wonder what people will think of their baby's name, they can look up the name in that book."

Image associations and customized spellings aside, choosing a baby name is a difficult task for couples. "One of the darnedest things about naming a baby is that it's a job that can take nine months to complete," Lansky says. "You and your spouse will find yourselves reading name books and birth announcements. You'll talk about names with anyone who will listen. Because it is an important decision you'll make together, I suggest that you treat it as a relationship-building exercise."

Lansky emphasizes that both parents should agree on the name. "I suggest that both parents draw up lists of names and that the final choice only be made from a third list of names that both parents like. That way, both parents will feel good about calling the baby by its name. You'd be surprised how many parents insist on calling the baby by the name they proposed rather than the name on the birth certificate. In other words, do what you can to enjoy the process of naming the baby, and make the decision jointly."

Courtesy of FeatureSource>

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