Naming your baby can be a daunting task. After all, it's literally how they'll introduce themselves to the world in person and on résumés. You need something you can coo to an infant, shriek at a teenager and whisper softly as you massage your temple when their offspring are careening around your home during the holidays screaming at full volume because evidently there are no rules at their house.
But the days of cribbing names off relatives, repurposing a last name or blending your partner's name with yours are gone. No, you need to brainstorm something entirely new that speaks to your unique child and the life they'll carve for themselves in the world. Something with flair that's not disconcertingly ethnic.
Immigrants have been modifying their names since they started streaming through Ellis Island, while those dispossessed of their homelands and cultures have been creating their own names since, well, America's founding fathers started dispossessing them. But for some of us, this is all new territory that is somehow also shrinking underfoot as our peers scramble to snag all the good names. And once you come up with one, you have to worry about your cousin snaking it because she's due a month earlier. No need to induce labor ahead of schedule — there is an untapped motherlode of names to hoard. Honestly, you might need to think about more children.
Don't be afraid to take some risks with your progeny's name. After all, there's a 30 percent chance your kid will either rename themselves the summer before high school starts or start DJ-ing and abandon the name for a jumble of numbers and letters that loosely resembles a brand of cereal anyway. Let these suggestions inspire you!
Asia, India and Paris are not the only locations that lend themselves to girls' names. What about Bolivia, Latvia or Tazmania? If you say it over and over again, Micronesia sounds both exotic and tech-related. You always liked Montana? Minneota is right there. Dakota may already belong to starlets but North Dakota and South Dakota are free! Let's not forget all the places that can be abbreviated to Stan, like Kurdistan and Turkestan. The West Coast alone holds some manly options like the hip Portland, the noble Oxnard and the Casanova-smooth Fresno.
Parents have been coming up with edgy nature names since Heathcliff, but just because Rock and Sierra are already out there doesn't mean you can't still make a land grab. How about Chasm for a boy and Echo for his twin sister? Hunter is already popular but the gentler Gatherer has yet to break through. Slough, Basin, Isthmus and Fjord have their rugged charms, as do the formidable Glacier and Tundra, but think hard before you go with Butte.
Were you hoping for a Bible name? Sorry, they're all taken. Even the obscure ones. Used to be your kid would be the only Shiloh or Keziah in school, but no more. Expect your child to swap lunches with little Nebuchadnezzar in a few years. But if you're set on a religious name, look into heretical texts and alternative spellings that include punctuation.
Naming your baby is also a great way to remind people you read. But you want to let them know you've read since high school, so learn from the Willis family and skip Scout. And stay away from any characters still in play — no spoilers, but parents of all those little Daenerys girls are in a bind. Where can you turn for something with cultural caché that isn't problematic? Dead female authors who aren't Ayn Rand are a good place to start as they're unlikely to have married anyone underage or to have biographers digging around in their histories for unpleasant facts. Take Ursula Le Guin, who made up names all over the place, like Ayeth and Heleth. Are those characters you'd want your child saddled with forever? I don't know, there are a lot of those Earthsea books and they're hundreds of pages each. I'll be frank, this category seems like a lot of work. Maybe go with music and name the kid Bowie. Everybody likes Bowie.
What about plucking a name from stuff that's already been named, like paint colors or fonts? The latter has some excellent offerings: Bookman, Garamond and the spunky Socket for boys, and Lucida, Verdana and Trebuchet for girls. There's even the less gender-bound Futura, Tahoma and Courier. Throw in Sans and you've even got a middle name.
Keep an open mind with this last group and consider that cheese is largely uncharted territory beyond, say, Brie. Forget, for a moment, the waxy rinds and ripe smells and imagine your tall, handsome son Stilton, Roquefort or Emmentaler walking at graduation. Or your daughter Chevre, Raclette or Fontina crossing a tennis court to shake her opponent's hand in victory. It will all be thanks to you, really, to the distinctive name you gave them to carry as they stride through the world, heroes in their own tales, carrying the banner of the proud moniker you chose. Like Camembert.
Jennifer Fumiko Cahill is the arts and features editor at the Journal and prefers she/her. Reach her at 442-1400, extension 320, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @JFumikoCahill.
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