Why You Might Want to Ask a Few People What They Think of Your Potential Baby Name

At the park today I met a little girl who I thought at first was named Cheryl.  Cheryl, I thought, there’s a name you don’t hear very often, especially not on two year olds.

But then, as her parents extolled the virtues of their preschool and how glad they were that the two year old class was being split in two, because there really is such a difference between a 24 month old and a 35 month old, I realized they were calling her Feryl.  Or perhaps they’re big fans of Old School and they named her after Will Ferrell?  You know giving your kids last names as first names is very stylish.

Yes, Ferrell.

Or, as I heard it, Feral.

They named their darling baby Feral.  And they’re trying to pass that name off as something classy.  America, I have no words.  My dad has this theory that when a kid turns 13, she or he should be allowed not to change his or her name, but to legally change his or her parents’ names, so that if you find your parents have named you Feral, you can name them, oh, I don’t know, Untamed and Wild, so you all match.

33 thoughts on “Why You Might Want to Ask a Few People What They Think of Your Potential Baby Name

  1. I know a couple of children for whom that name would be completely appropriate – namely, my cousin’s two bratty-a**ed offspring.

  2. I hate it when people take a basic name like “Emily” and spell it “EMILEE” or something like that. The kid will spend their life correcting people.

    Feral? Thats just plain mean.

  3. When little Feral bites her first toddler during a disagreement at the Babar endcap at Davis-Kidd, and then a sales clerk, and then the trunk of the cunning papier mache Babar display, I hope her parents will figure out that names are destiny.



  4. I imagine your guess about Ferrell (or Farrell) is probably closest, and it’s probably the mother’s or grandmother’s maiden name, or maybe even someone’s father’s first name.

    I am really really skeptical about last-name-first kind of names – even aside from the unfortunate homonym potential. You name your little boy something ponderous and surnamish like Ferrell, odds are likely he’s a Jr. or a III, and you’re fostering either a love or hate of patrilineage – something I myself wish folks would calm down about. Name your little girl something ponderous and surnamish like Ferrell, and it’s kind of like you’re practicing an early, front-loading version of the marital name change…. any way you cut it, she’s still taking some dude’s name. Why not give her her own?

  5. I knew a girl whose parents thought kids ought to be able to choose their own names, when they got to be about 10 or so. So on the birth certificates, her given name was “third child.” However, the parents had to call her something for the first 10 years, so they called her Vicky. When she was 10, she chose to be named Elizabeth, and her folks may even have had it changed legally (I can’t remember because I was only 12 when I met her and not concerned with these niceties). It sounded so cool, except that her parents, through habit, didn’t call her Elizabeth and she kept right on being Vicky to them.

  6. Heh… I know a version of that experiment in which the parents (one of whom was my psych prof in undergrad) didn’t name their daughter anything at all, hoping to avoid impressing a gender on her. I have no idea what they called her. She called herself Bubblegum until she was a preteen, at which time she switched to Jennifer.

  7. I know someopne who named her girls Pootie and Tootie. Different, yepsolutely! But different isn’t bad. That’s not what I would have called them, but I appreciate that people would like their children to have names that are as unique as the children themselves.

  8. Oh god, I have seen some horrific names in my time:

    I went to school with twin daughters of a biracial couple. The girls’ names: Ebony and Ivory.

    I once briefly worked with a Candy Cain.

    And my dad swears there’s a lady he works with who named her kids (phonetically) Oar-Ahn-Gel-Oh and Leh-Maun-Gel-Oh; spelled Orangejello and Lemonjello.

  9. Ah, the urban legend. Those baby names via dolphin spread like the gospel truth in Memphis. Though my mom swears (really!) she had a patient named Gina, which was short for Vagina.

    On a similar note, I’m very thankful for the argument (one of many) that took place between my mother and my father regarding my name. The woman was certain she was having a boy–blue room with blue curtains, blue bathtub, the works and together they decided on Jason. However, when I arrived penis-less, they had a discussion. Obviously, I could not be named Jason. My mother wanted to name me Venetia. My father liked Susan. Somehow, the twain was Lesley. I feel very fortunate.

  10. I was waiting for the Orange Jello one

    Worst I can think of is one of the foster kids we had – named Perrier after the water.

    My parents picked my name (and my brothers) over tequila before they were even engaged. I have two middle names because of this. But, a few shots later, well, it could have been much worse.

  11. Yeah the jello one always sounded suspicious to me.

    The first two examples though are actually people I know. Ebony and Ivory didn’t have it too bad because neither name is (on it’s own) a particularly bad name. It’s only when you look at both names together and combine it with the fact that their parents were biracial that it seems a little wrong.

    I second sistasmiff’s comment about out of the ordinary spellings of ordinary names. I have a name a bit like that, and I’ve actually had people copy it off a printed document incorrectly.

  12. We got so much unsolicited baby naming advice that we decided not to tell anyone what the names would be until they were born. I had to get special dispensation for my 90 year old grandmother to find out ahead of time.

    My pet peeve is twins with the complimentary names. Hate that. Ours are not similar in the least. But we did give my son his mother’s maiden name as his middle name.

  13. I have a ‘baby name’ list that I started compiling years ago from the birth announcements in our local paper. I should start a blog with just those; the mind boggles at them. Really, you should see some of them.

    On a related note, one of the girls I was with this weekend mentioned that her son was going to their homecoming next weekend with a girl whose name was ‘Gibson.’ FIRST NAME. A GIRL.

  14. My pet peeve is people who use names taken from other languages without knowing whether they have strong male/female connotations. I do a major double-take whenever I meet a female Ariel (numerous), Alyosha (only a couple of these) or Akiva (only once, but still…). I’m not saying that one mustn’t cross up gender expectations about names. But doing it on purpose is one thing, and doing it by accident is just cruel to the child.

  15. I named my daughter Mychal. far as i know, she doesn’t hate me for it. We inserted the Y to make the gender more obvious. Funny how this gets people’s hackles up.

  16. “any way you cut it, she’s still taking some dude’s name. ”

    That’s just simply not true. Not every woman marries. And not every woman who marries takes her husbands name.


  17. But many girl children born take their fathers’ surnames. So even if one of those girls grows up to never marry, or keeps her given surname upon marriage, it still was a dude’s name before it was her name.

  18. We named our daughter Cady. Phonetically unexciting. Etymologically subversive of the patriarchy since anyone asking about that “funny spelling” gets a history lesson on Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

  19. In Freakonomics, Stephen Leavitt discusses the siblings Winner and Loser (I don’t think they were twins but can’t recall). Winner ended up in and out of prison and “Lou” led a pretty good life — law enforcement or something like that.

    Georgia — what’s dumb about the name Track is that he was named after the sport season. I once had a boss named Trigg. It was a family nickname.

  20. I’m constantly correcting people with my name. It’s not even that hard to say, really.

    One name that I hate is Branwell. I read a book where this kid was named Branwell. Everyone called him Bran, which made me think of cereal.

    There was also a book with a dude named Montgomery Montgomery.

    Haha, most kids’ parents probably did this to name them:

    * Step 1. Locate random state on map that, despite all efforts to the contrary, is not a name of a person.
    * Step 2. Replace all consonants with similar sounds.
    * Step 3. Buy lozenges. You’re throat’s going to get mighty sore with all the explaining and defending calling your kids Centukki and Mesheghan.

  21. I never met another person with my first name until I was in my 20s, and grew up thinking that name belonged to me; I was that name. Now the name is as common as dirt and every time I’m in the grocery store I’m brought up short by a woman calling out my name in an angry kind of way–I turn around and she’s after her kid. I’ve had to get over myself (at least in that arena).
    But don’t I recall another thread on this blog in which people took down the grammar police? I guess one (wo)man’s language use is another’s nightmare…. I myself am going to be driven around the bend if, Aunt B, you never learn the difference between lie and lay, because every time you say you are laying around, I picture hens on nests.

  22. I like Avery — it was on our list for the first kid but my spouse said we weren’t cool enough. Brice/Bryce is okay — I’ve met at least three (two Southerners and a Canadian) but Cale? I keep thinking of the leafy vegetable. Silly. Do they go in A-B-C order?

    College Prof — a long time ago we gave B shit about grammar and spelling. But perhaps it’s time for a refresher?

  23. One of my husband’s fraternity brothers gave his kid a name from anime. And I know a lot of Kaylee/Caylee/Cayleighs (but no Nevaehs). These tiny people are going to have to use these names professionally some day – I wish parents would consider whether a name would suit a business card or a name tag as well as a onesie.

  24. Um, College Professor and Shill, I think you’ve neglected to see that I have addressed your concerns about my inability to distinguish “lay” v. “lie” by moving to a region of the country where no one knows the difference!

    I’m surprised you’re not more enthusiastic about the genius of my plan.

    The only sad part about it is that in order to get regional dispensation for “lay” and “lie” I had to give up my surety about when to use “affect” v “effect” which I used to never have a problem with and now am all the time wondering if that’s the right one.

  25. Eh, when all those Nevaehs are out in the business world, it will be a name commonly encountered in the business world. I mean, take everything you think about Nevaeh and transpose it back in time about 60 or 65 years, and imagine yourself thinking it all about the first person you meet who names a girl Hillary — but now, no one blinks.

    Signed, one of three sisters all given names our parents fondly hoped would be a tad unusual but which turned out not to be

  26. Now the name is as common as dirt and every time I’m in the grocery store I’m brought up short by a woman calling out my name in an angry kind of way–I turn around and she’s after her kid.

    That happens to me too. My first name was very common growing up, so at some point I got sick of being one of two or three in my classes, so I switched over and started going by my middle name (which I prefer anyways and is less common). But now that name is apparently getting more common and I hear it out only to look at see that somebody is talking to a toddler.

  27. Aunt B,
    I swear I do admire your genius strategy of locating yourself where no one knows the difference between lie and lay, but you know I can’t give up my unreasonable hope you’ll want to publish some stories someday. And those NY editors do know the difference.
    Affect/effect? I can’t tell you how college student usage has destroyed my ability to tell the difference–between too, too much!

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