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Despite the recent flurry of unique celebrity-baby names like Banjo and Pilot Inspektor, last year, most Americans gave their offspring traditional names. But parents drawn to the less tried-and-true may wonder how (or if) a child’s name might shape his identity and future. According to Los Angeles therapist Deborah McMahon, M.F.T., there’s plenty of power in a name. For example, she says, “having a difficult name to say adds difficulty to a person’s life. Names are one of the biggest causes of harassment of children.”
>>Creating acceptance Still, if you are set on an unusual name for your child, it is possible for him to not only accept it, but to take pride in it, says Nancy Irwin, Psy.D., a Los Angeles therapist who stresses the parents’ role. “If children see their parents as confident people who show respect to anything or anyone out of the ordinary—a funny name, a big nose, unusual attire—they will have a much greater chance of not being negatively affected by an unusual name,” she says.
>>Do names determine destiny? Some parents hope to influence their child’s future identity by selecting particular names. However, this can create unrealistic expectations. “A parent who wishes for an artistic, graceful daughter might choose the name Allegra,” says Pamela Redmond Satran, co-author with Linda Rosenkrantz of Cool Names for Babies (St. Martin’s Press, 2003) and Beyond Jennifer & Jason, Madison & Montana (St. Martin’s Press, 2004). “If the child is indeed artistic and graceful, the name might prove an inspiration, a confirmation of who she feels she is,” Satran says. “But if she likes baseball more than ballet, she might feel burdened by the name and shorten it to Allie.”
>>What to watch out for Is a name easy to spell and pronounce? What are its nicknames? Will the whole name form an unfortunate acronym (e.g. Paul Inness Green)? Is there an unavoidable negative association with it? How does it sound with the last name? Is it going to grow with the child or sound unprofessional when he’s an adult?
No matter what name you choose, you may want to follow a strong recent trend: Waiting until your baby’s birth to reveal what it is. — P.G.
Most popular names in 2003*