25 Cloyingly Unique Baby Names, AKA the New Parental Status Symbolcarolyncastiglia
This recent essay in The New York Times, “Baby Names That Shout Out I Am …’,” shows exactly how obsessed modern yupsters have become with finding annoyingly unique baby names for their children. The author, Alex Williams, goes on at length about how his friends and contemporaries having children search high and low “trying to find the elusive name that is exotic yet not bizarre, classic yet not pompous, on trend but not trendy.” To his credit, Williams is a skillful writer and is able to mock himself and this phenomenon even while he participates and holds this baby-naming game in high esteem.
However, no matter how self-aware anyone obsessed with picking the most perfectly precious pearl of a name for their soon-to-be-born brilliant renegade graphic designer/non-profit leader/indie folk star/feminist stripper is, there’s no way for them not to come off looking like a jerk. Case in point, Williams writes:
It does not help to know that even if you unearth the perfect curio, it won’t remain yours alone for long. As with great, undiscovered taquerias, word about the latest hot underground names spreads quickly, meaning trends in names rise and fall as quickly as hemlines.
Now that I think about it, “Great Undiscovered Taquerias” is kind of a swell name for a baby. Underground might work, too, even though it’s a bit obvious. But Hemline … now there’s a moniker! You’d call him Hem for short.
Williams notes that among certain well-to-do and socially striving folks, choosing a rare, ringy name is less about creativity and freedom and more about assigning status to their unborn heir. He says, “The once-simple task of coming up with a monogram for the baby blanket has evolved into a high-stakes exercise in personal ‘branding.'”
Here are just some of the ridiculous names dropped in the article along with their meanings and use, plus my own commentary. Names in pink are for girls, those in blue are for boys and green are unisex, although almost all these names are so silly and have such little gendered history, they’re suitable for a child of either sex:
Amory 1 of 25
Meaning: "home strength"
Use: F. Scott Fitzgerald called the hero of his first best-selling novel, This Side of Paradise, Amory Blaine.
Living people with this name: Amory Lovins, an American physicist and environmental scientist.
Comments: Looks too much like Armory. I keep searching for the missing r.
Arya 2 of 25
Atlas 3 of 25
Bombay 4 of 25
Meaning: In 1534, the Portuguese captured Mumbai and called it Bom Bahia, meaning "the good bay."
Use: British spelling/name for Indian city of Mumbai, the largest city in India. Bombay Company (home furnishings), Bombay Sapphire (gin).
Comments: If you can deal with the imperialist overtones of the name, go for it, you royal thing, you!
Brecken 5 of 25
Living people with this name: Brecken Rivara, hula hoop artist.
Comments: I have a friend named Bricken, which I always thought was a unique and beautiful name. Brecken sounds Irish (it is) and Scottish (it is). Don't be Brecken your neck to find something more original than this.
Caerwyn 6 of 25
Cosmo 7 of 25
Meaning: "order, harmony, beauty"
Use: Cosmo Kramer from Seinfeld, nickname of both the drink and the magazine Cosmopolitan
Living people with this name: Cosmo Baker, DJ.
Comments: Even though Cosmo means order (as in "the cosmos"), I can't imagine a kid named Cosmo being anything but wild. It just sounds fun.
Cree 8 of 25
Meaning: Native Americans of the Cree tribes were great warriors and travelers.
Use: The English word Cree comes from the word Kristineaux, which French fur traders used for the First Nations people near James Bay.
Living people with this name: Cree Summer, actress/voiceover artist.
Comments: Also spelled Cray, which is just cray.
Daxton 9 of 25
Meaning: From a French town that dates from before the days of the Roman occupation.
Use: Dax from "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine"
Living people with this name: Daxton Swanson, football player with the Indianapolis Colts.
Comments: Dax is a pretty dope nickname. Daxton also sounds like a rich kid, so if you're trying to manifest wealth (or you already have amassed it), this is a good name choice.
Emi 10 of 25
Meaning: "Blessed with beauty"
Living people with this name: There are lots of Japanese citizens of note named Emi. In Japan, Emi is a girl's name. Williams listed it as a boy's name in the Times.
Comments: Sounds like Amy, looks like Emmy, have fun naming a boy Emi! Just tell everyone it's French.
Enzo 11 of 25
Meaning: "home ruler"
Use: Enzo is an Italian given name derivative of Heinz (diminutive of Henry). It can be used also as the short form for Lorenzo or Vincenzo.
Living people with this name: Enzo Perez, Argentinian soccer player.
Comments: Enzo! Now you have a baby name! Enzo now you are happy! Arya?
Esosa 12 of 25
Izan 13 of 25
Use: Basque in origin (boys), French and Hebrew (girls)
Comments: Izan down, Izan down the road. Don't you carry nothin' that might be a load and just Izan down down down down the road!
Joah 14 of 25
Use: Four times in the Bible.
Comments: I don't know, uh, but if you name your kid Joah he will probably tell everyone his name is Joe. Unless you live in certain parts of Brooklyn/Austin/Madison/Portland/Seattle. (Which would all be great names, by the way. See this post about Hipster Baby Names.)
Krish 15 of 25
Meaning: "dark, attraction"
Use: Lord Krishna, the eighth incarnation of the supreme god Vishnu in Hinduism
Living people with this name: Krish Prabhu, president of AT&T Labs and CTO of AT&T, overseeing AT&T's global technology effort and innovation strategy.
Comments: If you're Indian or Hindu, go for it. If you're white, this just sounds like the way Liza Minnelli or Sean Connery would pronounce Chris.
Major 16 of 25
Maxton 17 of 25
Sounds like Daxton, but it means "the greatest," like Major. No one has this name. Get over yourself.
Nanou 18 of 25
Meaning: "One who is graced with God's favor."
Use: Derived from the name Ann.
Comments: Your daughter won't understand why all the olds around her keep sticking their fingers in their ears and saying, "Nanou Nanou," but you will. CAN YOU LIVE WITH THAT?
Obadiah 19 of 25
No. Just stop. I won't allow you to do this. It's not fair. Unless you're going to ship him off to live on a farm, city boy, now you're just being a jerk.
Ocean 20 of 25
Meaning: "large, salty body of water"
Use: Atlantic, Pacific, Frank
Living people with this name: Ocean Sharp, nice woman from Indiana
Comments: Ocean Sharp says, "I hated new settings where I would be introduced or my name would be called out loud. The first day of school was always nerve wracking for me. Kids as we all know can be terribly cruel." Sea? Not a Majorly good idea to name your kid Ocean. So Arya? I mean Willya? (Short for Willyum.)
Ptolemy 21 of 25
Meaning: "my parents don't love me"
Use: Claudius Ptolemy, a Greco-Roman writer of Alexandria, known as a mathematician, astronomer, geographer, astrologer, and poet of a single epigram in the Greek Anthology.
Living people with this name: Ptolemy Tompkins, writer.
Comments: Don't name your son Ptolemy. He'll pthank you lapter.
Roman 22 of 25
Safi 23 of 25
Meaning: "Pure" (Arabic and Swahili)
Use: According to Parents Connect, Safi is a boy's name, but Williams refers to it as a girl's name. The Arabic phrase "Safi al-Din" means religious purity, so that's fun.
Living people with this name: Safi Bajwa, VP Content Strategy & Services at John Wiley and Sons
Comments: If you want your daughter to feel pressured to be pure the way Elizabeth Smart did, this is a great choice.
Selby 24 of 25
Thursday 25 of 25
Now look, for the record, I don’t really have a problem with the creative naming of children. If you really love a weird name, you should name your child that beloved weird name. What I object to is the bourgeois appropriation of creative naming as an upper middle class status symbol, when made-up names (neologisms if you fancy, huh) in the black community have been mocked relentlessly for years. I hate that it’s “ghetto” to call your kid LaQuonda if you’re black, but if a white person names their child Quinoa it’s refined. (Or unrefined, as the case may be.) I hate that rather than choose a name with meaning, these obsessive parents are trying to choose a brand that reflects how hip and clever they are. As one commenter on the article put it, “There’s something vaguely narcissistic in needing your child’s name to be unique and thus a reflection on your cleverness. What’s wrong with naming your child a name you like, whether or not it’s popular?”
More from Carolyn on Babble: