One cool part of running the In Name Only blog is getting to talk about baby names with some of the top naming experts in the country. And I love nothing more than chatting with Laura Wattenberg, the lady behind the super cool Name Voyager tool, and author of The Baby Name Wizard, now in its third edition.
What's new in the latest version? You'll find, of course, updated stats on each name, but also new naming maps of the United States show the distinctive styles of boys' and girls' names you'll find in each state, from "Preppy Cowboys" to "Romantic Flourish" names. A name that's rare in the rest of the country can be surprisingly common in your own backyard. Each name entry also includes a new section called "In the World" that lists the associations most likely to come to people's minds when they hear a name. Those associations could be people, like reality tv judge Simon Cowell, but also phrases, products or titles, like "Simon Says." That real-world context helps paint a fuller picture of each name.
(Want to know more? Check out our Mom Must Read blogger Kristin Kemp's review of the updated version of Baby Name Wizard!)
I interviewed Laura to get a few pointers for anyone looking for a little help in the baby naming department:
So many parents today are worried about picking a name that's too popular. How can parents avoid that?
We all wish we had a crystal ball to predict the next hot name. Unfortunately, the sad reality is that the only way to make sure that the name you choose won’t become popular is to choose a name you don’t like, that feels really boring to you.
Rather than just looking at a ranking, you should look at Name Voyager, to see in what direction a name is going. If it’s been pretty steady for past decade, or if it’s already heading down, it will probably keep going that way.
What's your take on the creative spelling trend? (We're talking Aiden, Aidan, Ayden, etc.)
It’s easy to fall into trap that if you spell it differently, it’s going to be different. But it’s still going to be the same spoken out loud. Some kids love having creative spellings, but most just end up frustrated that everyone gets their name wrong.
What baby name advice do you think is most important for parents to consider?
Choosing a name has become more difficult. The more choices you have, the harder it is to know that you’ve chosen right. But as long as you love the name you chose and it brings a smile to your face, it doesn't matter that there’s another name out there.
It's important to stay positive, and focus on what you love rather than getting too caught up in the competitive drive to choose a unique name. That's easier said than done, though! Once you have a short list, try to "narrow up" to a choice by thinking about what delights you about the names, rather than "narrowing down" by finding fault. (You can read more about her baby name strategies here.)