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Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Choosing a baby name

Having a baby has to be one of the most wonderful experience in one's life. It's what life is about, after all. And of course, choosing a baby name is one of the great pleasures new or expectant parents get to experience.

Naming your baby is a huge responsibility, of course. After all, it could have life-changing consequences – setting your baby (child) up for social acceptance, school yard teasing or ridicule. Will your little one be a 'plain' Jane, a 'rock-solid' Jack, or a 'far out' Star Burst? Or perhaps you could combine two at opposite ends of the spectrum – effectively giving your child the ability to choose which name they're known by in future years as they grow older.

With celebrity being the new royalty, celebrity baby names are increasingly finding their way into 'normal' society. The wonderful Baby Name Voyager allows you to plot the history of name popularity over time from the 1800s from figures compiled by the American Social Security Administration (SSA). Using the tool, try entering the baby name of your choice and see graphically the number of boys and girls who were given that name. Try a few celebrity baby names and you'll see how they match the fame of the celebrity – for example 'Halle', 'Kylie' and 'Emerson'. Shiloh doesn't show up on the radar just yet, but I'm sure there will be an increasing number of babies named after Brad and Angelina's new arrival.

My partner and I recently became parents (again) and went through the process of choosing a baby name. The first name was pretty set in stone – whether boy or girl, it had to be Freddie for reasons of family tradition. In our case, this was passing on a name from previous generations to the new one. Using family names in this way is a wonderful way to keep ancestors alive down through the generations. If you don't want to use them as forenames, perhaps think of them as middle names.

Following the ultrasound scan, we discovered that our new baby was a girl. We were thus presented with the fact that her name would always seem unusual (for a girl) – which was partly the reason we love it so much. We wanted to make sure that she'd be happy with her name, so we decided to balance it with a pretty, feminine middle name. We spent weeks mulling over the options and scoured lots of baby name tools on the web.

One of the best that we found was at parenting.com. Their baby namer not only allows you to search by name, but also by all sorts of fantastic categories including 'celebrity', 'pop culture', 'the classics' and 'imaginative'. Once you've narrowed your selection down to an individual name, parenting.com gives you the meaning and origin of the name as well as the popularity rank over time. Again, the site uses data collected by the SSA.

Of course, it is useful to draw up a short-list of your favourites. The parenting.com baby namer helps you do this by allowing you to maintain an online favourites list that you can keep up-to-date until the big day arrives.

But sometimes when the little one arrives, the name at the top of your list somehow doesn't seem right. This happened with our first child – she just didn't look like her name. But inspiration kicked in and we plucked a name out of the air that we'd never even considered – and it fits perfectly.

So, on 31st July 2006 our little one duly arrived and she was given her two names – Freddie Amelia. One a bit quirky, one traditional and feminine. Interestingly, plugging both names into the Baby Name Voyager shows that the names are complementary in their popularity – head on over and see for yourself.

Whenever you're choosing a name for your baby don't be too daunted. Use the online tools that I've mentioned to help you out. And remember – despite the importance of the task rest assured of one thing – you're the best people in the world for the job!

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