Choosing a name
Naming your baby can be surprisingly difficult. There are so many things to think about - will the name you've chosen go with the family name? Is it likely to go out of fashion? You may be influenced by many different associations and considerations, but the main thing to remember is that the name you choose is for your baby, and hopefully it will please her throughout her life.
This does influence lots of parents, either consciously or unconsciously. A name can suddenly become very popular - often because of a particular celebrity - and then fall out of fashion equally suddenly, so dating the children bearing it. It's very difficult to predict which will be the “in” names in any given year, although some are always popular and many parents define what is fashionable or unfashionable by their own social set. The annual publication The Top Ten of Everything lists the most popular names for boys and girls in any given year, and the National Statistics Office (www.statistics.gov.uk) has the top 100 names for both sexes over the past five years.
Some people like old, familiar names and shrink from new, invented, or imported names; others prefer to choose something that is meaningful to them and the time in which they live.
Parents often choose names because of their association, rather than their particular meaning. Meaning tends to play a much smaller role in the Western world than it does in some other parts of the world.
Personal associations can have a positive or negative influence. Some people like to name a child after a friend or a family member - a much-loved grandparent, for example. You won't want to use names you associate with someone you don't like. Godparents are sometimes honoured, and public associations might include royalty, celebrities, pop singers, and film and television stars. Place names, too, have begun to be used if they have particular meaning for parents (Brooklyn, Phoenix), but take care when combining these with surnames (Brooklyn Bridge) to avoid your child being teased. Characters in books and films can also inspire parents and some parents like to name their children after characters in popular television series such as soap operas.
For many people, a name can conjure up a particular image or character and they may expect children to fit or suit a name. As this can influence the way a child is treated, and consequently how the child responds, children may well grow into the names they're given. Other names, such as Patience or Faith, can reflect the parents' desire for the child (usually female in the Western world) to possess particular virtues, and were first introduced by the Puritans.
Some first names are inspired by where a baby is conceived or something that happens around the time of the birth. These can include time of birth - Noël or Natalie for a Christmas baby; month names such as May, June; Dawn or Eve for the actual time of birth.
Names after family traditions
Names that have been passed down through a family from generation to generation were at one time the automatic choice for many parents, especially for a first-born. If the traditional name was masculine, it was sometimes feminized for a girl (Thomas, Thomasina), especially if there was no male heir. These customs have lapsed in recent times, leading to many traditional family names being dropped, although they are sometimes used as a child's middle name.
Some families, particularly among the aristocracy in Scotland, and in the American South, used the mother's maiden name as the first-born son's given name. This appears to be dying out, although the maiden name is still given as a middle name. Because of this custom, surnames such as Russell, Howard, Cameron have become normal as first names, particularly for boys. Couples who are not married or in which the woman prefers to keep her maiden name sometimes like to give the mother's surname as the child's middle name.
Many parents choose names for their children that work together, although few go as far as the Victorians. Some parents like all their children's names to start with the same initial, although this can cause confusion with letters and official documents.
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