My girlfriend and I like to talk about baby names.
Some people think this is strange, since neither of us is planning to have children anytime soon. But I think that baby names are one of the perfect small-talk topics, and not just with the person you love.
- Every day, we see and hear dozens of names, whether they belong to the people around us, people featured in the news, or characters in books and movies.
- Names have deep emotional connections for us. When we meet someone who shares a name with our childhood best friend — or a childhood bully — we often view that person differently as a result.
- Choosing someone’s name is a massive responsibility. Names change the course of our lives; they influence how people perceive us, and how we perceive ourselves. (The introduction of this book explains some of the ways that name selection can go wrong.)
- The average American will eventually choose two names for their own children, while also weighing in on the names of grandchildren and the children of friends.
Names aren’t just interesting to talk about — they have serious practical importance for the lives of our future children. As a discussion topic, it beats the hell out of the weather.
* * * * *
The sad thing about baby names is that too many of them are boring.
There is nothing wrong with naming a child something like Ethan or Olivia. Common names are an easy choice, and not at all risky. Even if your Ethan has two other Ethans in his third-grade classroom, he’ll probably grow up happy and healthy.
But I think parents who default to something common are missing out on a tremendous opportunity.
After all: Why give your baby an ordinary name when they could have a badass baby name?
I am working on a baby name book unlike any other baby name book ever written.
Most baby name books list thousands and thousands of names with very little context, save for sweeping statements about a name’s meaning in the original language or “spiritual importance”.
This is silly. For one, the internet has much better, more thorough lists than any book can manage. For two, my name is Aaron, which technically means “prince” or “exalted”. Not one of the thousands of people I’ve met in life — even the Jewish people who knew the name’s “official meaning” — has ever remarked on this. Meanings don’t matter.
Things that do matter about a name:
- How does it sound when it rolls off the tongue?
- Does it have some embarrassing or silly nickname people will use instead?
- Which personal characteristics will people assume are held by a person with that name?
- Which famous people, historical figures, or fictional characters have the same name? That is, what associations will the name carry for the people who meet your future child?
I may be missing something, but those seem like the obvious important reasons.
(I’m assuming you have no obligation to name the baby after a dead relative or something like that. Familial honor, and other strong associations with a particular common name, are perfectly valid reasons to choose that name.)
* * * * *
The Badass Baby Name Book contains one hundred names: Forty for boys, forty for girls, and twenty gender-neutral.
The names have been chosen with the intention that the life of a child given one of the names will be more badass than otherwise would have been the case. The people around them will notice them more closely; their name will evoke an expectant raised eyebrow, or slightly parted lips. They will be thought of as a natural leader for projects and expeditions. If they write a book, they will not need an “interesting” pen name. They will be able to buy the .com domain for their name, and they will come up first in any Google search for their name.
The Badass Baby Name Book will go far beyond simply discussing the “meaning” of a name, or the name’s ethnic origins. The book will, instead:
- Tell the stories of heroes, warriors, scientists, and other notable people who share the name.
- Discuss middle names and sibling names that suit the name in question.
- Walk parents-to-be through moments in their child’s life that may come to pass because of the child’s name.
Are you starting to see the appeal?
Wonderful. In that case, you should read the first entry I’ve written for the book, on the controversial but elegant “Salazar”. May all your babies grow up to be badass.
Postscript: If you’d like to read another piece about how names influence the world, try this one.