12 rules to pick the perfect name for your newborn baby
Nick Winter is a blogger, web developer, and dad based on the west coast of the United States. When he and his partner Chloe Fan had their first child in 2015 they had the big question every couple faces when a baby is on the way: What name do we pick for our child?
But Nick was not your average dad! “I downloaded the entire Social Security name database, which has all 93,600 names that have been used at least 5 times in one year since 1880–everything from John and Mary to Aaqil and Zyree,” he explains in a blog post.
Using this data, Nick developed Bantling, an algorithm that helped him to boil down thousands of possible names using 12 easy rules to follow:
Names that sound too much like other names were penalized by the system since people will have a hard time spelling them. Something like Katie, as in Hollywood actress Katie Holmes, would be out of the question since it could easily be confused for Catie, Cathy, Kathy, etc.
Names that can be pronounced in two different ways or have Rs in there were also don'ts for Nick and Chloe. Saoirse Ronan is a good example. The star of Ladybird talked on The Ellen DeGeneres Show in 2016 about the hard time she has with her name and explained that Saoirse “rhymes with inertia”.
Names that were very old-fashioned or too trendy also lost points in Bantling. This can be subjective. Ethan is a good example of an old-timey name that suddenly became popular in the past two decades. According to US census data, 97% of Ethans in the country were born after 1989. One exception ahead of its time? 'Boyhood' and 'Before Sunset' lead actor Ethan Hawke.
Names that are particularly rare were penalized by the algorithm. Something like Kanye has been made a household name thanks to musician and Kim Kardashian's ex-husband Kanye West. However, it would certainly raise a few eyebrows from other parents at the daycare center.
However, picking a name that is too common isn't a good idea either. Just ask British comedian David Mitchell, pictured here on the right in an episode of his sitcom 'Peep Show'. Mitchell has joked in interviews that he shares his name and surname with a politician from the Conservative Party and the author of 'Cloud Atlas.'
Names that are too religious, specifically too Biblical, were also dropped by this Seattle couple. Oprah Winfrey was originally named Orpah, after a biblical character mentioned in the Book of Ruth. However, people kept saying it wrong, and “Oprah” stuck. Not everyone has the luck to make their name stand out, though!
One of the rules set by Nick Winter is that names can't have too many letters or syllables. After all, you have to admit that 'Lady Gaga' is far catchier and much easier to write down than 'Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta.'
Bantling also penalized names that aren’t easy to spell out loud. Believe it or not, this can be a problem even for celebrities. Singer Liza Minnelli famously had “Liza with a Z,” a humorous and memorable song to spell out her name.
Names that also had shorter nickname versions were ruled out. Why go with Benedict Cumberbatch when Ben Cumberbatch works just as well?
Names that were nicknames of longer names were also left out by the algorithm. Hollywood actor and Angelina Jolie's former husband Billy Bob Thornton surely isn't too happy with this rule.
Nick's partner Chloe is Chinese, so it was important their child's name would be easy to pronounce for native Chinese speakers and would respect both parents' cultures. It's been a common practice among Asian performers in the past to adopt a Western name to reach out to a bigger audience. Disney's Mulan star Liu Yifei, for example, used to work by the name Crystal Liu.
Names that were ambiguous with gender were also voted down. This rule can be tricky since names and society evolve. Quite a few names derived from English surnames, such as Taylor, Madison, or Parker used to be seen as unambiguously male a few decades ago. Nowadays, there's little doubt that Taylor Swift is probably the most famous bearer of her name.
In the end, Nick and Chloe picked around 3,650 names, and then they shortlisted the ones they liked from each other's list. After testing them out, they were left with 15 names, then four, and finally two: Hazel for a girl and Max for a boy. Baby Max was born in July 2005.
But wait, isn't Max breaking a few of these rules? Well, you have to remember that guidelines can help you make up your mind, but different things work for different people. John and Mary might work for some parents, Aaqil and Zyree to others.