As with many expectant parents I've known, a feeling not unlike "buyer's remorse" struck my wife, Gwen, and me just as our doctor announced the sex of our baby-to-be. Don't get me wrong -- we were overjoyed that the ultrasound showed a healthy girl. But suddenly we were questioning a decision we thought we'd settled years before: namely, the name.
Was our choice too traditional? Too safe? Too boring? Was the name that seemed right five years ago -- even five days ago -- still the one we wanted? Why did our dream name for a girl seem to lose its luster just as the dream was about to become a reality? And even scarier: What else might we name her?
"It's not all that unusual for parents to question their initial choices -- especially these days, when more parents are looking for distinctive names," says Barbara Kay Turner, the Redding, CA-based author of four baby-naming tomes. "They want something that's unique, something personal that distinguishes their child in a world where too many things are impersonal."
Perhaps this helps explain the rash of eJennifers and Jeffrey.coms born in northern California before Y2K's Nasdaq crash. (Let's just hope the kids are all right.) In fact, Turner notes that more parents than ever are creating inventive names: changing traditional spellings (Cameryn, Jaxon), varying common names (Travis begets Tavis, Kenneth becomes Kennan), or combining different ones (merging Mary and Shawn into Marshawn, joining Alexa to Anne for Alexanne).
She also identifies globalization and the ubiquity of the media as strong influences on current trends. (Shania and Charlize are gaining popularity, for example, as are names from other cultures, like Ramón and Than.) Turner also notes that parents are beginning to scour the history books for antique inspiration (Jenna, Hedra, Beryan). "It's one way to search for a new name among old ones," she explains. At the opposite extreme, her most recent book, Baby Names: A New Generation, presents, among others, exotic suggestions culled from science fiction.