Aug. 14th, 2011

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These are all my personal opinions, of course; yours may vary.

1. Names should have some dignity. This does not mean they should be traditional (though my personal inclination is for traditional). Apple, for instance, has a certain dignity, or Sparrow. Khloe does not.

2. The more unusual, complex, and/or difficult to pronounce the last name, the more traditional, simple, and straightforward the first name should be. My kids have a short but nearly unique last name (their great-grandfather made it up) that is not easy to pronounce when you read it, or to spell when you hear it. Their names are both traditional and nearly everyone can spell them. Conversely, if the child's last name is White, or Smith, you should strive for a less common name, lest your child one day receive bizarre misdirected emails continually. When in doubt, Google your name combination and see how many hits come up.

3. Meaning is great in a name, but "I liked the sound of it" is fine as well. Deep personal meaning can excuse some oddities in naming choices. You do not get a pass, however, if you argue that you named your child Mercedes because you adore the automobiles. A Mercedes named after a beloved grandmother, a fascinating ancestor, or a saint all are fine. You child will, one, day, ask why you named her that (often as a result of a school assignment) and you need an answer that is not embarrassing.

4. Obviously foreign names should not be used unless the child has a close connection to the culture of origin of the name; the exception is in number 3 above, meaning. WASPy parents should not name their kid Dimitri unless Dimitri was the father's college roommate and best man. On the other hand, if the parents are a Chinese-American man and a woman from Florence, I think Francesca Chang is an awesome name.

5. Be aware of how your chosen name ranks in the Social Security statistics, and also in your local community. You may choose to name your daughter Emma and your son Jacob, but you are not allowed to be surprised that these are very common names. (This is especially a problem with firstborns; before having children oneself, one tends to not know much about what people are naming babies these days. In some circles, a name ranking quite low on the Social Security charts turns out to be very common; this is especially true if you are a hipster.)

6. If there is a standard spelling for a name, do choose it. You may choose a well-documented alternative (Clare for Claire), but you must not be surprised when people spell the child's name wrong. "Creative" spelling is Right Out (see number 1, dignity).

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