Who cares? No pre-baby question matters more than this one: What will you call the kid?
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“Naming a baby is a more difficult decision than many think. This is the one gift that will stick with your child for the rest of his or her life,” says Shandley McMurray, author of Hey Baby! What’s Your Name?
Just a few decades ago, parents had less to debate: the North American pool of names was small, and social rules dictated you named your child after relatives.
Read more: Baby names: Last names as first names>
Then society opened up, and the way we named our kids changed too. Now, everything from our awareness of international cultures to fictional characters to movie stars influence our name choices—sometimes without us even realizing it.
“Few names are a brand new, original idea. Names following existing trends,” says Max Valiquette, a marketing and trend expert with Toronto ad agency Bensimon Byrne who offers naming advice on the new History Television show What’s In A Name?
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So how do you find a great name in the growing thousands of choices?
Baby Naming Don’ts
Worry about playground teasing
“This is not a naming issue: kids are going to get teased no matter what,” says Valiquette. “I got ‘Maxi Pad’ a lot.”
Think your kid’s name will rule his or her life
While name studies indicate boys with feminine names misbehave more, and girls with girlie names take up more traditional professions, some of these conclusions may have more to do with social background than a name itself. “I can’t imagine a name is a factor in determining everything about a child’s future,” says Valiquette.
Pick a name that’s hard to spell
“Erycka is going to spend her life correcting people just to make up for your desire to make a popular name more unique,” says McMurray. (She speaks from experience—no one gets Shandley right the first time.)
Read more: 10 best spelling apps for kids>
Be too cute
Rhyming names (where the first name rhymes with the middle or last) or joke names like Charlie Brown or Harley Davidson are cute in the early days. But McMurray warns they’re a real burden for a child.
Choose a name you don’t agree on
The parent who didn’t like the name at first will probably never come around. “It can lead to resentment in the relationship,” says McMurray.
Baby Naming Do’s
Name fashions come and go, and it’d be nice to avoid being part of a dramatic trend—like the rise of the name Brittany and its derivatives in the 1990s, when it was the 7th most popular name in the US and now ranks around 450th. Be aware of the trends around you, particularly in pop culture.
Learn about names
Dig into the meaning behind the names you love so you don’t use the name Talbot for your son, only to find out later it means “messenger of destruction.”
Avoid the extremely popular
“There’s nothing worse than being Emma B in a class of four Emmas,” warns McMurray. Visit the grocery store and the playground and listen for trends. Nothing wrong with a popular name (they are usually nice names), but choosing something in the top five or ten will mean your child will inevitably meet many others who share his or her name at school now and at jobs in the future.
Decide between traditional and unusual
Each has their downsides. “You’ll never get into trouble with John, James and Jennifer, these names keep coming back. But the challenge is your kids will never have a unique edge,” says Valiquette.
But the biggest “do” of all: go with a name you and your partner love. If others think it too bland, or it’s part of a hip new trend, so what? As long as you like saying it and it looks good written down with your child’s last name, it will be a name you love, just like your kid.