The Cost of Giving Baby a Bad Name

by Linsey Knerl on 9 October 2007 44 comments

Americans (and many other cultures) have always enjoyed the artistic license of being able to name their children whatever they fancy. Many parents start naming their son or daughter the day they learn of their child’s conception. Others wait until days or even weeks after “Baby” is born to research the namesake they are about to gift to their child. But sadly, many decide to just make up a name, inspired by a name brand, favorite movie, or spring break weekend. And many of these names are just bad. When names are in poor taste, the cost can be higher than estimated. Here is a look at how the wrong name can bring a lifetime of expense.

 

Reading, Writing, Remedial – Unless there is a cultural or genealogical meaning behind your child’s 14-character first name, you may want to reconsider. Children faced with the daunting task of learning to write their uncommon and unpronounceable name may be turned off to learning altogether. Four and Five-year-olds already understand peer conformity, and they may become understandably envious of their classmates with simpler names. (Have you ever given thought to how large younger children write at first? Nothing is more embarrassing than having to hyphenate your own name because it won’t fit on line one of the Big Chief writing paper.)

 

Cooties – Teasing is bad enough these days without the added pressure of having no one able to say your name or hecklers rhyming your name with a bodily function. The child with six adorable first and middle names may have ended up being teased anyway, but why chance it? (And while avoiding all teasing is impossible, it is a great feeling to be proud of your name!)

 

The Logistics of Length – I have a relatively short name, yet I can sympathize with unnecessarily long given name victims. Applying for a driver’s license, putting a name on a sports jersey, or even just having a locket engraved can be more difficult than needed for someone with a bad or lengthy name.

 

Land of the Free – When children reach the age of majority in the U.S., nothing prevents them from having their name legally changed. While we can’t always foresee or prevent a child from simply tiring of a perfectly sound name, we can give them the best opportunity for keeping their name by being thoughtful in our choices. If you have even a slight hunch that the name you have picked for your new baby may some day clutter up the legal system, move along, please.

 

If you are dead-set on a unique name for your child that may cause any of the problems above, consider a nickname for logistical reasons. I certainly don’t advocate a strict adherence to the top 20 baby names of 2007, but you can usually have a sense for these things. If too many of your relatives give you a raised eyebrow, or the delivering physician asks for the pronunciation and/or spelling of your new baby more than four times, it may be time to go back to the drawing board.

 

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Guest's picture
kav122

My son's name is Xavier...it is not too long, it is not too complicated--I think that anyone that sees the name has a general idea of how to pronounce it--and it is not "made up." We named him after St. Francis Xavier. However, EVERYONE seems to have something to say about his name--"Wow! He's gonna have a hard time spelling that!" or "That's a big name!" Personally I don't think six letters is too difficult. I think it is a strong name and it suits his personality. I never wanted to saddle him with a burden of a name, but I didn't want to name him a common name either. Sometimes I wish that people could keep the comments to themselves, though. I mean, we didn't name him on a whim & it is annoying to hear the same comments over and over. Anyway, his last name is much worse than the first name :0)

--kav122

Guest's picture

i take it you're a Viazcán by marriage? just curious our last name is so rare that any time i find someone with it i just have to ask where they are from an all that stuff. hope to hear from you maybe an email? ricardo_viazcan@hotmail.com

Ricardo Viazcán

Guest's picture
Wesa

This article hits close to home for me. I'm the third in my family to have Wesa (sounds like Lisa) for a first name. It wasn't until I was in my late teens that I finally accepted my name and the inevitable misspellings or mispronunciations that comes with it.

Guest's picture

My parents gave me a nickname when I was a child- Ronni- and I was never addressed by my full name. The day I started Kindergarten I couldn't find my nametag because there wasn't one for Ronni and I didn't think to look for Veronica.

Plus it's a boy's name.

I don't know what their thinking was- four syllables and eight letters would bee too cumbersome for me in elementary school, or they wanted to avoid Archie and Veronica jokes. Either way, Ronni caused far more problems for me than I think Veronica ever would have. I don't use it anymore at all now that I've moved away, but I'll never shake it back home and with family.

Guest's picture

My name is Shyra. I'm named after my aunt, who was named after a character on a radio soap opera; my grandmother guessed at the spelling. It's pronounced like it's spelled/spelled like it's pronounced, but G-d forbid anyone figure that out.

I was a shy child, so having a name that starts with the word "Shy" was tough. I like the name now, though it's still a challenge for some people.

Julie Rains's picture

What a fun post! My warning to naming parents is that the name you think is going to be unique b/c right now there are no or few ____ (Brittanys in the 80s for example) ends up being a wildly popular name later. I wonder if there is a way to predict that...

Simple names can confuse people though (and I'm moving on to last names now though I could see parallels in first names); my last name stumps people all the time: Raines, Reins, Reigns (my fav), and Ryans are some misspellings.

Guest's picture
Guest

Ugh.. what passes for an article these days. Let's see what the author is advocating here..

1. Conformity: Your kid's name better be very simple otherwise he will develop insecurity

2. Instead of teaching kids to appreciate other cultures and backgrounds, be afraid that your kid is going to teased for his name that is going to scar his confidence.

3. Using a name that doesn't fit on a jersey is a bad name? Is this what passes for selecting a name. How much shallower can it get? How about naming a kid with just single alphabet - A,B,C.. maybe his grades would reflect the name

4. Of course, if have to give a hard name, then give a nick name. That is convenient. Have you considered what happens if kids start asking what the real name is? For example, if somebody asks TJ Houshmanzada his name, and TJ replied 'John'. Ugh..

I know this is a free speech issue that we can write whatever the hell we want, but think twice before you start teaching your kids conformity and familiarity. It kills curiosity.

father of two..

Guest's picture
husband-Linsey

This hasn't been mentioned as of yet, but the author's own kids have unique and or created names and had all of the above spoken to us at the time the names were decided for our children. Kylin (and middle name) and Matthias were the two names that others say oh how neat or beautiful now, but at the time they were named we took some real grief!

Guest's picture
Jill

I dwelled and pondered and tried to come up with a first name for my daughter than noone could rhyme (I was called Jill Dill Pickle for too many years for this not to bother me - kids will find a way to do the most awful things to names). I also didn't want something anyone could abbreviate, though it still happens. Now she only has to worry about them demolishing her last name.

I think the worst were the judgemental people who always asked what you would name the baby after it was born while you were still pregnant, then draw judgement on it and tell you it wasn't a good name because of this thing or that thing. I ended up saying the most outlandish names to them (and they typically fell into the category of the discussion here). I think one of them was onimatopia if it was a girl and constantinople if it was a boy, of course there were many others - ha! Of course, it made everyone all the much more happy with the name we ultimately chose to use.

Guest's picture
Miranda

To the guest that wrote reply number six above:

That was an unnecessarily harsh response.

The author wasn’t preaching conformity or devaluing cultural uniqueness; she was simply saying that there is a point at which a name can move from “engagingly different” to “pointlessly difficult” and parents should keep that in mind (parents might feel like getting creative with their children’s names, but the children are the ones who have to live with the results).

Linsey Knerl's picture

The article was a lighthearted look at what could be a serious and/or costly for a child in the future. I see many, many parents picking names from out of nowhere because they are whimsical, only to find that it is a hardship for the child. This is obviously an issue for quite a few people, and sometimes people get so excited to be creative, cool, or different when picking names that they don't think ahead to the consequences.

I have known people who have named their children after musicians, vehicles, television programs, etc.

Some very real names are listed here: http://www.notwithoutmyhandbag.com/babynames/11.html

and include: Velveeta, Vodka, Loinsworth, Kynda (last name "Boring"), and LaPleasure

This kinda goes beyond the appreciation of culture, free speech, or artistic value. (And I'm sorry if you are named either of the above names.)

Legal name changing is a thriving business, mostly due to the fact that parents are often careless when thinking of how a name will affect their child. The consequences in terms of financial or emotional hardship is a unique perspective I chose to take when including it here on a personal finance blog.

And as far as the jersey name delimma: I am free to take artistic license with my metaphors just as any parent is ultimately free to name their newborn baby boy Scatman .

My children's names are unique enough, and we do get a few questions about them. But I don't think you can hardly compare Micah (my son's name) with Mayonaisse (seriously.)

 

Thanks for your feedback.

Andrea Karim's picture

I'm really glad that my parents chose "Andrea" for me. It's not unusual, but it's not terribly common, either. Best of all, it doesn't rhyme with anything. Mind you, "Dickson" really more than made up for the mockery-free nature of my first name.

To be honest, I'd rather have a strange name than a simple one. I don't think that kids with strange names suffer in terms of literacy - if anything, they might be more driven to learn to read and write so they CAN write their name. I remember struggling to write "Andrea", mostly because I had trouble getting the top of the first A "pointy" enough to satisfy my teacher. I worked on that for hours, and was thrilled when I finally got it right.

I doubt my kids will have normal names - I was pretty pissed off when Julia Roberts took Hazel and Phinnaeus, as those were my two favorite baby names. :)

Guest's picture
Barbara

Awhile ago, I fell into a discussion with someone who worked in an HR department of a medium sized company. This woman talked about how it throws her to see unusual names on resumés, and how too many hiring managers assign "strangely named" people to different races, genders or cultures without meeting them first, and hence, make a preliminary decision on hiring them or not. It was a conversation that always stuck with me.

As for my name, I'm a 5th generation down my mother's side of the family to be named Barbara, and not only is it rare to find someone my age with my name, but family legacy is something to be proud of :-)

Guest's picture
Guest

It isn't uncommon to run into people who make judgements about other people before meeting them. In fact, the "talking stain" advertisement so popular in 2008 attempts to make light of these poor mis-giuded folks (who are usually named something invariably common like Linda or William, with apologies to Linda's and William's worldwide of course).

Having been around for more than a half a century, I've also seen my share of these folks and watched them pass up on perfectly wonderful opportunities in friends, family and workmates because they reacted to a name or a facial feature or the car someone came in or the weather that day or the shirt on their back or ... well you get the picture. Frankly I wonder how these poor folks make it through a normal day with their insanity intact.

Anyhow, the old adage in re to not judging a book by it's cover seems to have been lost in some folk's mindless devotion to the "New York Minute". To them, I say, "Get a life." To the rest of us poor slobs that have to deal with them, I say, "Good luck and have a great day, eh!"

P.S. No. My sur and given names are quite common. But I never let that get me down or hold me back. ;-)

Guest's picture
Paula

I have a common short first name, and kids still turned it into "Pewla" When I had my kids, I was careful to pick names that couldn't easily be turned into pejoratives, and that had a choice of nicknames. However, both my birth last name and married last name are often mispronounced and misspelled,couln't do anything about that.

@Katie: how often does Xavier get called EX-avier?

Guest's picture

I don't think the stigma of an unusual name is what it once was, what with all the Nevaehs and McSomethings running around. Lots of kids have names that are just randomly made up, are brand names, etc. There have been hundreds of babies named Lexus and Armani. And if your child is going to be made fun of, it will happen. A pretext will be found.

But people should think about the ramifications of the child living with the name, and should place that consideration over their own need for creative expression. I think a balance can be found most of the time.

I track this phenomenon (badbabynamesverified.com) and my pet peeves are names with pretentiousness, or with creative spellings. Spelling idocy (example: Paysleigh) represents a very amusing dilemma for the new parents. They just HAVE to jump on some bandwagon and join in a trend (like Nevaeh) but they can't stand the thought of being "unoriginal" and so they misspell the name (this is already happening with Nevaeh, and it's ludicrous given that the entire justification for the name is that it's heaven-spelled-backwards.)

On the author's kids' names: I see Matthias and think mah-TEE-us, a common European name. Others might think of mah-THIGH-us. So to me that's a great name with the slight problem of pronunciation ambiguity. Kylin is "eh" to me because I don't like made up names, but I have seen far, far, FAR worse. And I like that it's pretty clear how to pronounce it.

Guest's picture
Katie Viazcan

haha! That is actually how we pronounce it...that is how I have always heard St. Francis Xavier pronounced, and also Xavier University. I didn't even realize that many people prefer "Zay-vyer" until after he was born. That said, my brother calls him Zay-vyer, we call him EX-avier, my husband's family calls him Javier *spanish speakers* and some people call him Xavy. I think that when he gets old enough he can decide what he likes best. But I prefer EX-avier.

Guest's picture

Veronica,

My neice is called Ronnie too! I would rather call her Veronica but she goes by Ronnie -- I assure you, though, it doesn't ring any negative, masculine bells for me. It's just that Veronica is so pretty by itself.

Andrea Karim's picture

Yeah, I always thought it was EX-avier, too. Reminds me of the Cabbage Patch Kids, and has always been one of my favorite names.

The HR issue is one to think about, though. I can imagine that working against people, although it's really sad that anyone with a different name should struggle to get a job - maybe that will change? I imagine that the first Aarti's and Chen Li's had that problem during the early tech boom days - HR departments learned to get over the fear of the "foreign" names back then; they can do it again.

Guest's picture
Jennifer

I think npeople think topo much about the issue. People do connect names to identity, and so we should be careful of frivolous or very strange spellings, perhaps, but an unusual name is often something to be proud of later in life. The number of letters and/or difficulty of spel,ling a name should not be a consideration at all, as the child should npot be starting school without already knowing how to write and recognize their own name. As for teasing, determined children will find a way to make ANY name rhyme with a body part, even if it takes force. Better to teach kids to ignore teasing than to have a schoolyard full of John Smiths.

Guest's picture
Snit

I can't wonder who these people are that tag pretentious names on their kids. I’m a college prof and have come across more than my share of mundane Xanders and Danikas as well as near-genius Jacks and Jills. I'm giving my kids solid, easy-to-pronounce names that are ready to be filled by their own unique personalities and talents, not the other way around. Fancy names, like fancy clothing, set up huge expectations of an individual that a person, in the end, may just not be able to live up to.

Guest's picture
Snit

I can't wonder who these people are that tag pretentious names on their kids. I’m a college prof and have come across more than my share of mundane Xanders and Danikas as well as near-genius Jacks and Jills. I'm giving my kids solid, easy-to-pronounce names that are ready to be filled by their own unique personalities and talents, not the other way around. Fancy names, like fancy clothing, set up huge expectations of an individual that a person, in the end, may just not be able to live up to.

Tannaz Sassooni's picture

someone here mentioned than when looking to name their kids they looked for names that couldn't be shortened. where is the fun in this?! i went to school with a family that did just this -- their 3 girls were erica, jenny, and lisa. but personally, i love shortened forms and nicknames, and have had tons of them: tanny, tata, t, tbird, naz, nazzle, snazzle, snazz, tannazie, and of course the beloved Big Toe Naz. yes, kids (and adults) will find all sorts of ways to mangle names, but this is part of people establishing relationships, and to me, most of the time, is a good thing.

(of course, don't get me started on the topic of people mispronouncing, misspelling, and just plain forgetting my name. but you can't blame my parents -- how could they know revolution was going to push them out of their country a year after i was born!?)

Ed O'Reilly's picture

I put a lot of thought into my children's names and they are, in my opinion, unique. Their first names each mean something more personal and family-related, but their middle names are a little more esoteric – meaning, that the name itself stands for a specific idea (if that makes sense, without giving too much info away).

Guest's picture
mike k

my son's name is "jackson monster alexander ". we call him jack. he will not know his middle name until he turns 18. then he can do with it what he wants. named him because he is 150th percentile and was natural birth. ouch

StructuralPoke's picture

Someone was looking for a way to try to identify trends in baby names. Go to this link -- it's pretty fun to play with.

http://babynamewizard.com/namevoyager/lnv0105.html

We decided on "Andrew" -- not Andy, maybe Drew if it has to be shortened. We like the full version of the name. My thought was if I was going to call him Andy, I'd have named him Andy... 

 

 

Guest's picture
Lorna

I speak with 50 years experience. It takes a lot of maturity to accept an unusual first name . Mine is only 5 letters long , but no one ever gets it right the first time. And please I only wish I had a quarter for everytime someone has said "oh like the cookie".

Guest's picture
Amy

My parents didn't like having long names in kindergarten (Kathleen and Patrick) so they specifically gave my brother and I short names (Scott and Amy). I thought this list was funny because it was EXACTLY their thought process. My boyfriend and I were picking out hypothetical baby names, and his rules were pretty much the same as your list. We came to a truce on Jeremy.

Guest's picture
sylrayj

Before my son was born, we thought about some possible names; however, we both wanted to *see* him before we gave him his name. It turns out he wasn't the name we were considering! I'm pretty sure my name isn't quite _mine_... it's almost the same as my mom's (which happens to be a common name) so I get called hers regularly, and it's unusual the same way my sister's is so I get called hers infrequently. I've only ever seen one other person with the same name; I wonder if it has any reflection on why I so often feel disconnected with others.

Xavier's parents named him based on who he is. Both of my kids are named based on who they are. They don't need to grow into the name. There is some flexibility too, for when they're examining their lives and want to encourage one aspect or another.

And I'm sorry, but some names put a burden of implication forward. "Timmy" and "Bunny" don't sound as purposeful as "Derek" and "Mary". Which preconceptions are you willing to leave upon your child?

Guest's picture
Vicki

Fifty years ago, my husband's parents were ready to name their first-born son Ian (not my husband, whose name is Clay, but his older brother). Mom's older brother George, ever the jokester, told her a few weeks before the birth that the name was going to be a curse for the boy, because he'd be taunted and mocked by bullies with the phrase, "Ian's peein'!"

As a result, they reluctantly chose to not go with Ian, but Howard Alexander, and nicknamed him Sandy (which I still haven't figured out why a nickname that is customarily female would be a better choice than Ian). Anyway, fast-forward to 1993. I'm pregnant with my first son, and knew how much my mother-in-law loved the name Ian, so I told my husband, "Hey, I'd like to name him Ian, for your mom's sake." Zowie - he was thrilled, she was thrilled, father-in-law was thrilled, and, for a few weeks, so was I. But THEN, in the dark, wretchedly hormonal recesses of my mind, Uncle George's prediction five decades earlier doomed the name for me. As the day of delivery grew closer, I imagined more and more frequently my beautiful child being the victim of playground abuse and shame.

Meekly, I told my husband that I was chickening out because I couldn't go through with saddling my baby with a name that rhymes with urination. I think I made the right choice, but I still like the name. And we went with the name Chase for him instead, which presents a whole other set of opportunities for teasing (although nowhere near as embarrassing or vulgar as Ian's Peein').

Guest's picture
Guest

My son Ian was born in April 1996. Put your fears to rest about child harassment. I don't know what part of the country you live in, but hear in Oklahoma the biggest problem is not the kids making fun of his name, but how Okies mispronounce his name. It drives me crazy when we're sitting in the doctor's office and the say Ian (eye-on).

John in Oklahoma

Guest's picture
Pattie

If you heard my grandson's name you would think "Ian", however my son and wife went with the Gaelic spelling. It was to have been E-O-I-N but somehow got on his birth certificate as E-I-O-N.

Not hard to say or hear, but the kid will be spelling his name for others until he is old and gray!! We adjusted, but were a little taken aback before he was born.

Guest's picture
DivaJean

We named my son Matteo- and with our Italian surname, the name is like a movie mobster or one of the Sopranos. He's African American. It should be confusing enough years from now when he send resumes around for jobs.

One of his nicknames in our family is "The Spiciest Meatball."

Guest's picture
Guest

I with great thought named my first born Stuart due to it's origin meaning "steward of the house" as my husband had just took a powder & it looked like me & baby were on our own. Fast forward to his teenage years where to my great dismay he takes on the moniker of "Stu" which brings to my mind memories of a very large red headed drunken football player from my college days! Certainly not who that precious bundle of 8 lbs 12 oz was ever destined to be in my eyes. Oh well - My name is Tari (like Teri, Terry, Terri etc) so everytime I give the name I am always asked is that with an I or Y to which I reply yes because it just takes to much time to correct them unless it's very important, which of course it never is because if it was they would know how to spell & pronounce my name. And yes - I did have trouble early on with a stupid teacher who didn't belive me when I told her how to spell my name & that I could write myself.

Guest's picture
Guest

My husband's name is Guillaume (pronounced Gee-ohm) which is the French version of William, just as Guillermo is the Spanish version. He was born in Quebec, and I assume his parents never realized they moved to the states.
I have never seen so many people improperly spell and say a name in my life!

Usually he gets called "Geelaamii" (rhymes with salami)
or Gilliam (rhymes with William)

Even when we spell it out for people they end changing all sorts of letters for no apparent reason.
When he graduated from college he put down "Guy" (which is a nickname for his name, although he prefers the full version) as his name on resumes. I thought people might be intimidated, or assume his English abilities were less than perfect. A few went sent out with full name and we never heard back...I wonder if his name played a role.

Anyway, he's very proud of his heritage and would never want to change it.

Guest's picture
Christie

My Papa decided to name me Cinnamon in honor of an actress on telly. Luckily, my mother had more sense, and called me by a shortened version of my middle name. So, I went by Christie.

I get comments every time I show my i.d. It's not so bad but my twin sister's name is Nickolle!!!! I got the shaft. lol

However, it gets worse. I married my second husband who is amazing, wonderful, and lovely, but his name is, wait for it, Blaze.

So, you can bet your bottom dollar I gave my son a normal name that cannot be shortened or really rhymed with. Connor. Short, simple, sweet.

Guest's picture
Linda

People who hear my name try to make it into Wanda or Belinda or Melinda or all kinds of other derivatives, but the thing that gets me the most is my last name. It's Early. Like early in the morning. If I say it I have to spell it for them. If they see it, they mispronounce it! Why? Just because it's capitalized? I don't know, but it confuses them. I think if somebody is going to play with your name, they're going to play with it. I'm 44 years old and I still get Early jokes. I've learned if I joke back they stop. Just yesterday I was a few minutes late for a meeting, they laughed and made a comment. I replied with ,"Doesn't matter when I get here, I'm always early." They laughed and stopped teasing me. I just adopted a child whose name sounded like an illegal drug, I changed it. Be thoughtful about the names you give your children and teach them how to deal with the teasing the rest of the folks are going to give out.

Guest's picture
Guest

Our last name is odd enough that we went with a simple first name for our child.

But the resume issue does resonate. My child and I play a game sometimes -- I can almost always guess the race of his classmates by the (frequently remarkable) complexity of their first name. I hope by the time they are sending out resumes that the world has changed enough that no employer will make judgements or care.

Guest's picture
Father of two

I guess I was unnecessarily harsh in my previous post. But, I am just tired to meeting too many Johns and Jacks. I actually find it wonderful when I find kids who have unique sounding names, even if they are difficult to start with.

What has always worked for me is that I work with the kid to get his name pronounced correctly. Most often than not, the kid remembers me the next time I meet him.

Actually, this applies to adults also. In this fast paced society, it is often good to pause and understand the diversity the earth has created for us to appreciate.

Of course, I didn't know about the bad baby names website. I couldn't agree on some of the names just because we know they are brands.

Guest's picture
th

I'm not against unusual names, but I see horrible names/ name combos daily & I just can't help thinking about these poor kids' futures: twins names America & Americo, sisters named Chanda & Chanta Lier, Awesome & Sexy (oh yes, I saw that lovely name this morning. How do people think that anyone will respect these kids (or adults)?

Xin Lu's picture
Xin Lu

This is an old thread, but the worst name I know of is from an manager from my old company.  His last name is Wiener..and he named his daughter Scarlett. 

Guest's picture
Guest

A good thing about having a name that sucks is that no one will want to steal your identity.

Guest's picture
Jen

I have experience with both sides of the fence. My name is Jennifer and I am bummed to have such a common name without much flair. However, my mom almost named me Charity Charise which makes me cringe so I guess I shouldn't complain.

My husbands given name is Oisin (oo-sheen) and he stopped using it when he was about 7 because kids called him 'Oh, ****' (I didn't use that word at 7!!!) and no one could spell or pronounce it. Apparently it's a popular name in Ireland. His parents thought it was beautiful and his mom still defends her choice even though everyone calls him Sean now.

When we had our twins, we didn't have solid names until I was almost 7 months pregnant. I really liked the name Waylon but didn't want the Waylon and Willie reference (we live in Texas) and now my husband tells people we almost named them Waylon and Willie which IS NOT TRUE!! It was Waylon and Devon. We went with much simpler, easy to spell classic names, one of which is pretty popular now much to my chagrin. But they are solid names that suit them and even though we use the shortened versions they can use their full names later whenever the mood strikes them.

My brother's middle name is Baskerville, which is a family name and although he was teased a bit, I've always thought it was a cool name to have and since it was his middle not everyone knew it. Plus, "basketball" isn't much of an insult. We do call him 'Bubba' which he tells new acquaintances rather sheepishly. ;)

Guest's picture
Joanna

arrival times Tj,fact that theand only realizes it
homogeneous poissonarrival times