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Baby Names: Beauty Is In The Ear of The Beholder

Up now on Babble, Paula Bernstein’s take on (baby name book author) Pamela Redmond Satran’s take on the growing trend of naming your baby something a little different. Some of  Paula’s critique rang totally true. Other parts of it, not so much. I liked almost all the names she liked. And I was on board with most of the nixed picks: Jezebel is a lot for a kid to carry. Kermit is really pretty much owned by The Frog at this point. But I can easily get over the Seinfeld association for a name as cute as Cosmo. Especially when they never even called him by his first name. And why not Wally as a nickname for Walden?

Then I saw my kid’s middle name on the list of the dissed.

We middle-named our daughter Lake for a few reasons. As a couple, we  bonded early over our lakeside love, cultivated in long stays at summer camp. We’d always declared ourselves “lake people” rather than “ocean people” and our country house fantasies skewed accordingly.  My lake associations were so calming, I’d often use the image of a nap on a dock in a lake as a visualization technique when I was trying to relax.  And my husband grew up in the land of 10,000 lakes, so his memories ran pretty, uh, deep. Then there was the paint thing. If you’ve spent any time looking at tubes of oil paint, you may have seen the word Lake on a few: Alizarin Lake, Rose Madder Lake. Since I was a kid, I’ve loved the way that word looked in combination with the flowery pigment names. And I liked the idea of my daughter’s creative future being connected to my creative past.

Every time we see her name, we’re reminded on some subconscious (or conscious) level of things we love. Does it matter that other people don’t love them, or even hear them, like we do? Nope.

You name your baby something you think  will serve him/her well in the world, yes. But you also choose a name that reflects what you think is important—and beautiful.  I’m a big believer in the importance of naming. A name can change your life. But naming is about as subjective as it gets. No one’s going to like every baby name. Especially not an unusual baby name. A truism, but people don’t always remember it in the process of choosing unique baby names: The more unique something is, the fewer people it will easily appeal to. They may learn to love it later, but initially, unfamiliarity breeds contempt. So if you pick an uncommon name, expect an uneasy reaction.

If  someone has something not so nice to say about the name you love, consider it an inevitable byproduct of the uniqueness of perception and the diversity of opinion. Other people weighing in on baby names you’re considering can be hugely valuable or really frustrating. It can be inspiring, derailing, bolstering and/or deflating. But the best thing it can do is teach you to not care so much what other people think.  When it comes to baby names (and, later, lots of other important choices you’ll be making about your child)  the only opinions that really matter are the ones attached to the people naming the baby.

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