How do you name a baby in modern times?
February 23, 2023 12:43 pm
I’m having a baby in a couple of weeks’ time, but it’s not the thought of sleepless nights and endless nappies stressing me out; rather, what do I call them?
One thing is for sure, it won’t be Karen or Donald. According to a recent survey, they’ve never been so unfashionable. The parenting website, BabyCentre, reports that names common among the Baby Boomer generation (see also Nigel, Cliff, Deirdre and Sheila) are so undesirable, they’re at risk of becoming extinct. Hardly surprising, I suppose. It’s been years since “Donald” only conjured up innocent thoughts of a duck. As for “Karen”? Immediately unlikeable.
A teenager in the noughties, I shan’t be taking inspiration from my generation’s cultural touch points either. Carrie and Britney are also out of style, as is Shania which, ahem, don’t impress me much.
“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other word would smell just as sweet,” Shakespeare’s Juliet famously said. Except, well, it wouldn’t. Names are important, crucial in fact. They can be indicative of class and social status (how many Sebastians do you reckon there are at Eton?). They can build a career; would Madonna be a global icon if she wasn’t called Madonna? An unfortunate nickname can stick for years – just ask my childhood friend Guffy Luffy (he broke wind at school just that once).
My own name has come in handy on more than one occasion when corresponding with tradespeople over email. Assuming I’m Mr Frankie Graddon, rather than Ms, I find I get a far less patronising response. It has also tripped me up; I’ve lost count of the times I’ve checked into a hotel room only to find size 10 slippers and a shaving kit.
For children growing up in the current influencer era, their names are potentially their future fortunes – and by that I mean social media handles. A cool-yet-relatable moniker is surely more likely to help secure that #sponcon over one that’s easily forgettable. Perhaps Gwyneth was on to something when she called her daughter Apple. I mean, that’s an iPhone collaboration just waiting to happen.
Am I overthinking it all? Maybe. Deciding on a name for my soon-to-be bundle of joy is feeling more fraught by the sentence. However, it’s not overstating it to say that naming a child in 2023 feels more weighted than ever.
Aside from the above issues, parents need to be considerate of gender politics. We live in an age where gender fluidity is widely discussed and non-binary public figures are helping to break down traditional parameters. Opting for a gender stereotypical name is starting to feel as outdated as dressing girls in pink and boys in blue. So, are unisex names the woke choice? According to BabyCenter, gender neutral options such as Stevie, George and Eden are growing in popularity.
Then there’s the prevalence of cancel culture to be wary of. It’s no good calling your offspring after your favourite author/musician/actor/sportsperson lest said celebrity makes a major faux pas and is banished from civilised society. Spare a thought for all the kids called Elon right now.
Speaking of whom, the tech billionaire is a cautionary tale for being too clever when naming a baby. Back in 2020 he and his girlfriend, the singer Grimes, called their son X Æ A-12. One can only imagine the ribbings on the first day of school.
In fact, though ten-a-penny in my corner of North London, avant garde names might not be the wisest choice. Earlier this year, Kylie Jenner posted an explainer of how to say her one-year-old’s name to her Instagram feed, presumably after one person too many got it wrong. (It’s Aire, pronounced Air, in case you were wondering.) Call me boring but I can’t imagine growing up with a name that requires an instructional video is terribly fun.
So, how do you name a baby in modern times? With the countdown on before I need to make a decision, I can’t say I’m any closer to a solution. Perhaps I’ll go for something tried-and-tested – Frankie Jr does have a certain ring to it.
Frankie Graddon is a freelance fashion journalist