Monday, July 14, 2008

The name game, round 2

Looking back, I think Jeremy and I were really lucky to find a name we both agreed on as whole-heartedly as Miriam. This time around, it's been a bit trickier to find that perfect match, perhaps because there are three of us now: not only does the name have to appeal to both Jeremy and me, it has to jive with Miriam, too. I don't mean her little 2.75-year-old opinion; the style of whatever name we choose for Sasha 2.0 can't totally clash with what we've already established.

And as helpful as Eric D. Snider's advice on the subject may be, I found I needed a little more guidance.

Fortunately, there's an awesome lady out there who can help: Laura Wattenberg, the
Baby Name Wizard. I wrote about her in this post, but recently I've been spending more time on her website, trying to figure out some great candidates for Sasha 2.0's real name. She also has a book, published in 2005 (but with a new edition forthcoming, I understand), which I picked up at the library here in Middlebury. At first, I thought it couldn't really give me anything that her website didn't already provide, but I was wrong.

For one thing, a physical book format makes for easier perusing if I feel like just flipping through the pages. In addition, her book includes wise, sound naming advice, brief looks at upcoming trends in the world of baby names, and lists of names organized by style.

This last section of the book is what really sets The Baby Name Wizard apart from other baby name books. Not all of us - in fact, do any of us? - go into the baby name search thinking, "well, I really want a name that starts with L," or, "a name with an Italian origin would be nice." And yet, that is how the majority of baby name books and websites are organized.

Instead, after a more traditional (but still innovative) listing of baby names, A - Z, separated into boys and girls, Ms. Wattenberg gives us tons of insight into what she calls Style Families. That way, if you want a name that is nickname-proof (or conversely, if you are set on a certain nickname and are looking for a full-length name that goes with it), or that ends in -en, or a last-name-first name, you can flip right to that section, read all about it, and peruse an extensive listing of such names. It just makes so much sense!

That doesn't mean the alphabetical listings are no fun to look through, though. Ms. Wattenberg has an excellent eye for insight into naming trends, and conveys the information in a concise, witty manner. And she goes way beyond "insights" like, "Gaelic for 'exalted one.'" For example, here is her entry on Misty (not a name we were considering, I swear, but it's right next to Miriam in the book):

"Forgive me, all of you fine, blameless women who were named Misty back in the 70s, but this name has now returned to its rightful realms: horses and strippers."

And, just for another example, Jessica:

"Everything parents have always loved about Jessica still applies. It's a delicately feminine name with Shakespearean heritage and a peppy nickname. It's an impeccable choice, but not one that will attract much notice - Jessica's been so popular for so long it gets taken for granted. Less common lacy classics include Marina, Tabitha, and Veronica."

So true, and so helpful.

Another unique feature of The Baby Name Wizard is its sibling name suggestions. These are names that are similar in style and feel to whatever name you're looking up, and can lead you to other name possibilities. Fortunately, there is a digital version of this sibling name tool: Nymbler. You just type in a few names that you like, click a button, and the program generates a list of names that you are also likely to prefer based on origin, style, and popularity. Here is what one click of the Find Names button gives me with Miriam, Veronica, and Cora as input (you can click more times to get a new list of names, and X the ones you don't want to reappear):

Even if you're not in the market for a baby name, Nymbler is almost as fun as the Baby Name Voyager to play around with.

All that said, I think Jeremy and I finally have a strong name candidate or two for Sasha 2.0. We'll just have to wait until she's born to make it official, and also hope that we don't change our minds before then.


JackJen said...

When the time comes, we'll be referring to your post. We feel like--between the two of us--we had so many caveats that there was only ONE name left! And we used it with Ian! So heaven help us when it's time to go through the process again.

EXCELLENT research, Bridget.

Bridget said...

Jen, one more thing I loved about Nymbler is that I could plug in names that I would never in a million years actually use on my child (or that Jeremy would never in a million years allow), and still get great recommendations. It's like risk-free trial naming, or something.

Liz Johnson said...

I loooove all those tools. I actually can thank Nymbler for suggesting the name that we are most likely going with. Thank you for pointing those out to me forever ago!

baby boy said...

I like to open a phone book and look for names.

Britney said...

I guess I’m a “namer”, too.

I’ve spent many thrilling hours perusing baby name books/websites (pregnant or not). I’ve never tried Nymbler, though. One of my favorite sites is We decided on Stephen and Emily for our kids, because we wanted names that matched our English, traditional surname. Had I married, say, an Italian, however, I think I would’ve happily named my son Lorenzo.

This is weird, but I even remember talking to you about fave names way back in 6th grade. I think Alistair was in your top ten?

Bridget said...

Hahahahahahaha. I wouldn't be surprised, Britney. In fact, every once in a while I come across a name in a baby name book that I totally remember loving at age 11 or whenever. Some of them I actually do still like, but when you add in a husband's input, it usually doesn't work out. In any case, I'm glad there's other name-junkies out there.

Kristen said...

I'm a name junkie too. I have no idea when we'll be having another baby, and it probably won't be soon, but I am constantly listening and looking for names I like. And it is really important to have names that fit together in a family. You can't have Jessica and Storm. Or Enrique and Scott. My apologies to the mother I may have just deeply offended. Now I'm on my way to Nymbler to have some fun.


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