North West. Blue Ivy. Apple. Celebrity baby names definitely seem to be getting more and more unique—and it’s not only happening in Hollywood.
More American parents are steering clear of traditional names and trying to be different, says Laura Wattenberg, author of The Baby Name Wizard, Revised 3rd Edition: A Magical Method for Finding the Perfect Name for Your Baby.
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“There’s no question that names are becoming less traditional,” Wattenberg says, adding that celebrities don’t give their kids crazier names than everyone else— we just don’t hear about the boy next door named Zeppelin. “A good 10 percent of parents are really pushing the limits. There are a lot of names you wouldn’t expect— more parents are inventing new names based on either sound or spelling.”
But is all the creativity a good thing? Albert Mehrabian, PhD, professor emeritus of psychology at UCLA and author of The Baby Name Report Card: Beneficial and Harmful Baby Names, says according to his research, as you select names that are more and more unusual, the attractiveness of the names diminishes steadily. Plus, “some names can increase the chances of being teased,” says Michele Borba, EdD, a parenting expert who specializes in bullying.
Wattenberg is less concerned, noting that unusual names are the norm for the new generation. Still, “there’s a tradeoff," she says. "To make an impact, you’re going to get a few wrinkled noses.”
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Maybe that’s okay. (Who cares what other people think!) But there’s also a happy medium. Wattenberg notes that many parents are making “tiny changes” to popular names to make them slightly different, like changing Madison to Addison. The creative spelling trend is also gaining steam right now, says Lucie Strachonova Wisco, editor of BellyBallot, a website where expectant parents can create their own “ballot” to let friends and family vote on their potential names.
“Parents want a little uniqueness or some kind of difference, so they come up with wacky spellings. The name Jackson is slowly coming back, but we see it very often as Jaxon or Jaxen,” she says, citing “Mykel,” “Audreigh” and “Grayce” as other examples of the trend.
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Mehrabian isn't a fan of the offbeat spelling trend (his research showed creatively spelled names to be dramatically less attractive than conventionally spelled appellations), but says there’s something to be said for the appeal of names that might be slightly different. “There are lots of names in the top 15 or 20 percent that aren’t overused or too bizarre, or made-up names,” he points out.
Either way, it’s a personal choice: no one name appeals to everyone, and no one is going to like every name. Still, Borba has some useful tips to consider:
- Don’t just look at the name; look at the initials. If what they could stand for is inappropriate, think again.
- Consider nickname possibilities. Sometimes they can be a can of worms.
- Make a pros and cons list, or ask a few people for reactions.
- Don’t get too carried away. It’s not just about whether or not you love it—it’s about whether or not it could be hurtful in the long run.