The latest in consulting services: baby naming
Why not get a professional opinion on something that lasts a lifetime?
We hire personal shoppers for clothes, decorators for furniture and trainers to keep us in shape. It seems like you can find an expert for pretty much anything — even helping to choose a baby name, as I found out.
Baby-naming consultants are on the way to Toronto, but they are already doing a whizbang business in trend-setting cities such as Los Angeles and New York.
Pregnant with my second child, I didn’t want to have the arguments over choosing a baby name. The first time around, when I wanted to name my daughter Apple, everyone laughed (this was before Gwyneth Paltrow named her daughter Apple). This time around, I’m having a boy, and I already know the name I want.
But that hasn’t slowed the daily bouts of second-guessing followed by scouring baby name websites.
“More people need a baby-name consultant than they think,” says Laura Wattenberg, author of The Baby Name Wizard, an in-depth field guide to baby names and the founder of the website Babynamewizard.com.
Based in Massachusetts, she’s created a database of thousands of names and hand-coded each to reflect cultural associations and linguistic origins, noting how often a name appears in the bible, TV shows or in birth announcements. She’s spent the past 10 years studying names to help parents and to understand what name trends tell us about our society.
Although hiring a baby-naming consultant, she says, is not the societal norm, by the time people come to her, they are in deep trouble. “Usually it’s due to a marital conflict over the name,” she explains. “Or they think they can’t come up with a name, that it’s an unsolvable problem because each parent is trying to honour someone in their family.”
Names, she says, are really complicated. “We’re all really bad at understanding why we like a name or understanding what the name we chose can mean,” she says. “If we were good at knowing why we liked something then it wouldn’t be so difficult.”
Basically, she says, people choose names based on what they like, but they have no idea why they like a name, except for that it sounds “strong.”
“A baby-naming consultant is not as crazy as it sounds,” she says, after I tell her that two people thought I was insane for talking to a baby-naming consultant. “What? Are people idiots?” asked one. “They can’t come up with their own name for their baby?”
“We care a lot about what we name our child. The name will represent your children for the rest of their lives. People think nothing about hiring someone to decorate a nursery that the baby will use for two years.”
One of the things soon-to-be parents are looking for in names these days are names that haven’t been common in the last 70 years, and nowadays, she says, people are “all about vowels.” When it comes to boys, she says there’s a rise in one-syllable boy names. When I tell her the name I’ve chosen for my baby (Holt — honouring family members), she says it fits perfectly with this trend and also that it has “pure, masculine punch.”
She also says that it’s not easier coming up with a second or third baby name. In fact, it can be even more difficult. “Parents want to be fair. They want to know that they are treating all their children the same and that begins with names. So if you have two girls with pretty or feminine names, they want to know if it’s OK to give their third girl a more androgynous name.”
Another trend relates to people keeping the same first initial for their children. “In the past, people used to match siblings by themes, like flower names. So you’d have a Lily and a Rose. But now they are focused on initials. It shows how much names are more a matter of fashion than a matter of tradition.”
She won’t divulge clients’ names or how much she charges, but she will say her clients usually do insist on privacy.
In recent years, she says, some celebrities have gotten it right and picked names that have “really struck a chord” with her, including Angelina Jolie’s son Maddox and Gwen Stefani’s son Kingston. She also likes the names Seraphina and Violet, the names of Jennifer Gardner and Ben Affleck’s girls.
“Someone came to me a few years ago, frantic. She had ‘Shiloh’ as a chosen name for her daughter, but then Jolie used it. This woman was like, ‘Now we can’t use it!’ and wanted my help. I came up with ‘Harlow,’ and they loved it and had never heard of it. Sure enough, then Nicole Ritchie named her daughter Harlow.”
What’s also cool about getting a baby-naming consultant is that they have statistics at their fingertips. She types in “Holt” for me and tells me that only 52 boys were named Holt in the United States last year. But do not even think about using my name!
Post City Magazines’ columnist Rebecca Eckler is the author of Knocked Up, Wiped!, and her latest books, How to Raise a Boyfriend and The Lucky Sperm Club.