Kensington Palaces’ announcement of the pregnancy of Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, has had the world guessing as to the Duchesses possible due date and the new royal baby’s gender. Arguably however, the impeding birth has mostly sparked speculation about potential baby names.
The betting public and Bookies may wait with baited breath for the announcement of the royal baby name- but beyond their interest, is the naming of a royal tot really that significant?
Linda Rosenkrantz is Co-founder of the popular name site Nameberry. Linda says, “In a word, yes. Especially since many classic names are now being dusted off and revived. Charlotte, for example, was already growing in popularity before the arrival of the princess, but it is now #7 in the US and #1 in Canada. But while George is #3 in England and Wales, it has not caught on in the US at all. We’ll have to wait and see about Louis.”
When a royal baby name is designated, the impact can be felt across the globe. Sabrina Rogers-Anderson is a renowned journalist and author and is known as a baby-name expert in Australia. Sabrina attests, “Charlotte has been topping the list of most popular names for years in Australia and the royal baby has only made it more popular.”
While royal parents may be strictly confined to selecting names which are historically regal, many non royal families do still encourage the selection of traditional family names. Linda Rosenkrantz explains “Although the tradition is not as strong as it once was—there are far fewer Juniors around today, for example—many parents still want to pay tribute to a relative or friend with an honor name.” Khloe Kardashian, for instance, bestowed the name True upon her baby daughter, as it was a family name on her mothers’ side.
Parents can however face a dilemma when it comes to naming their offspring after ancestors. Some may find themselves in a quandary when they may not love their loved- ones name. Sabrina Rogers- Anderson says, “Family naming traditions can be a joy to some and a burden to others. It can be a lovely way to pay tribute to a relative, but if it’s forced upon you and you don’t like the name, you’re in a tough spot!
For those who find themselves in such a predicament, Linda Rosenkrantz identifies potential compromises. “There are countless ways to play with the name and find a variation you like. Perhaps with a foreign version, a nickname that can be used in full (eg Millie for Mildred) or something that references that person in a less obvious way, such as a place name or even a flower that you associate with them.” If all else fails Sabrina Rogers Anderson suggests, “Use their name as your child’s middle name – inked on the birth certificate and never to be used again.”
While some parents may strive to honour a family member in their baby’s name, others are more reticent. Kim Kardashian West indicated in an interview on the Ellen Show that she was reluctant to name her youngest baby after her deceased mother in law because she felt it was, “so much to live up to.” Sabrina considers this dilemma, “Parents need to feel comfortable with the name. If the mother feels that it carries too many pressures, expectations or negative connotations, she has every right to refuse it. That isn’t so easy when family naming traditions are steeped in thousands of years of history however, such as with the Royals. But Kim certainly has the right to say no to her mother-in-law’s name.”
In another tradition, many religious parents- to- be, may feel a deep longing to select a name which reflects their spiritual beliefs. This was evident when a Papal visit, to Ireland inspired a trend which saw one in ten Irish baby boys named John Paul during 1980. Despite these trends, some parents may still be apprehensive about placing such a weight on a new baby, as to carry the name of a Pontiff. Linda assures however, “I think it’s fine to give an aspirational name, with a lot to live up to, especially naming a child after someone you highly respect.”
In a similar vein some parents bestow upon their child a name which embodies their cultural background. Sabrina Rogers-Anderson says, “Giving your child a name that honours your cultural heritage is a beautiful tradition and many people choose to do it.” This was apparent when Hollywood Actress, Eva Longoria- Baston named her son, Santiago Enrique Bastón. This traditional name reflected Longorias pride in her Mexican ethnicity.
Ultimately, aside from religious or cultural factors, it is of paramount importance that parents select a name that they adore, regardless of others expectations. Linda says, “Parents should never use a name they don’t love. Many people these days don’t publicize their choices beforehand just to avoid such pressure and discussions. They should bear in mind that parents’ and in-laws’ ideas are several decades out of style and they are often clueless about current naming norms. You can try to educate them via an excursion to a playground.”
While some parents may aim to keep family customs alive by choosing a traditional family name, others may go to the opposite end of the spectrum and give their child a name that will be certainly unique during roll call in school.
Many A- list Celebs bestow unusual and unconventional names upon their children. Jason Bateman and Amanda Anka, for instance, called their child Maple. Jim Toth and Reese Witherspoon named their baby girl, Tennessee . While Frank Zappa’s daughter goes by the name, Moon Unit.
Linda Rosenkrantz considers the motivation behind the selection of original and oftentimes eccentric names: “I think it varies by individual. Frank Zappa was one of the first and itlreflected what kind of an outrageous character he was and it happens that his kids, particularly Moon Unit, like their names. With Reese Witherspoon, Tennessee has real meaning for her, as her mother’s birthplace. Maple is not all that unusual—parents in general are turning to nature names—such as flowers, and even trees.”
Sabrina Rogers-Anderson explores this vogue: “It’s a long-standing tradition in the celeb world to choose unconventional names. I believe it’s because their upbringing and everyday lives are generally unconventional, so a bit of a wacky name doesn’t faze them. And when everyone else around you is doing it, why not? It doesn’t seem that strange.”
It is undeniable that celebs have in turn, inspired many mere mortals to bestow unusual and quirky names upon their offspring. Linda Rosenkrantz agrees, “Definitely. The whole naming landscape has changed as parents feel free to be more imaginative.”
Sabrina Rogers- Anderson considers “For a long time, regular people would sneer at strange celeb baby names, but in the past decade it’s become increasingly popular to give children wacky names inspired by celeb baby names. It’s just important to remember that if you’re kid isn’t in the showbiz world, for example if he works at the post office, a name like Deziel-Honeycomb might be a hindrance.”
That said, the bulk of parents do still give their children traditional names. Linda Rosenkrantz says, “The majority of parents have always chosen conventional names. Parents are turning back though to familiar, though long dormant vintage names like Alice and Evelyn. William and James are still #3 and #4 on the national (US) popularity list.”
Sabrina Rogers-Anderson verifies; “If you look at the top 10 names in all English-speaking Western countries, they’re all traditional names. The wacky name trend is still a minority even though it gets a lot of press. The Royals certainly help to keep traditional names alive and in the top 10.”
While there may be disagreements about preferences for baby names, there is a broad consensus and understanding that naming a baby is a huge responsibility. Linda shares this sentiment, “Yes of course, and that is why today’s parents invest a tremendous amount of time and energy in seeking the ‘perfect’ name for their baby, aware that the name becomes the child’s lifelong identity and influences how the world sees him or her.
Sabrina Rogers-Anderson explains, “There’s a huge body of research that shows that unusual names are linked with juvenile delinquency and that people with unusual names are less likely to be hired by employers than people with traditional names.”
Sabrina continues, “Parents should follow their hearts when naming their baby. But it’s important to remember that your child needs to live with their name their whole life, so it’s a good idea to take social expectations into consideration. Studies have shown over and over that people with unusual names aren’t as successful as those with more traditional names. It might not be fair, but it’s the way it is and it’s worth taking into account.”
From a practical perspective carrying an unconventional name can be problematic when it comes to issues such as spelling and pronunciation. This can impact a person their entire life and make everyday tasks such as ordering ones favourite coffee, a minor tribulation. A name may also have negative connotations and inspire nick-names that are difficult to carry in the playground, including abbreviating William to “Billy-No-Mates.” While more unpleasant children may label a Mary, a “Moaning Minnie.” Alternatively bearing the name of a Religious or cultural icon or indeed a beloved family member, can serve as an ideal for a person to aspire to.
Whatever your title and whoever inspired it -carry it with pride and confidence- assured that what is truly vital, is not the name that you are given, but rather, the name that you make- for yourself.
By Paula Logan