The unwritten rules (and unexpected challenges) of naming a baby 3 years ago

The unwritten rules (and unexpected challenges) of naming a baby

Paris Raine. That was my first choice. And then I got sense.

Choosing a baby name was something I looked forward to long before I was even sure I wanted babies. In fact, I remember picking out baby names when I was twelve or thirteen – my daughters would be called Paris Raine, Kisa Blue and Cinnamon Coralie. The “e” at the end of Raine was very important. Equally, it was Blue not Blu.

Two decades later, when I found out I was expecting my first baby, I waited until we were past the first scan. Then I bought a baby name book.

I was salivating the first time I sat down to browse through it – 20,000 names to pick from - the joy!

And off I went, delving into lists of names that included…Butter. And Cloud. And Scorpio. And Galaxy. And Snooks. And Psyche. And Tweetie. Seriously – Butter? As a name? I mean, not that the rest of them are great, but Butter Mara?

Maybe this wasn’t going to be quite as fun as I thought it was going to be. And so began the long process of ruling names in and out.

Firstly there’s the whole problem of names that don’t go with surnames. If you have always loved the name Clara, and if you marry a man with the surname Mara, that’s a problem. Similarly, the lovely boy’s name Darragh does not work with Mara. Nor does Conor (think about it).

Then there’s the level of pretentiousness to which you’re willing to go. I felt that not being a Hollywood movie star meant that I probably couldn’t pick Paris Raine after all. Plus location names tell a story, intended or not, so they have to be considered carefully.


The line between unique and “I’ve confused my life with Beyoncé’s” is a fine one.

Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis named their baby girl Wyatt Isabelle, which is of course just fine if you’re Ashton and Mila, but not as easy to pull off if you’re little Wyatt Isabelle Murphy going to the local national school in Borris or Ballycastle or Bray. Rachel Bilson can call her daughter Briar Rose, but doing the same over here is likely to raise eyebrows. And famously, Kim and Kanye chose North for their baby girl – if you’re not a world-famous couple making an industry of grabbing headlines, don’t even think about it.

Then there’s the dibs. You’ve quietly evolved from Starr or Storm to the more mainstream Eva. It’s pretty, it’s timeless, it’s not too common. Perfect! So you tell your friends you like it, and plan to use it for your future (as yet not conceived) child. Dibs on Eva. Fast forward five years, and baby is on the way. You’re still going with Eva. It’s perfect. So perfect, that when your friend has a baby, she calls her Eva. And of course, following the unwritten rule of baby-naming, once someone else has taken the name, it’s gone.

Then there are the future problems you can’t possibly predict. Michael is one of the most common names the world over, and would have been a perfectly safe bet back in the 1960s for Jackson couples everywhere – with no idea that they were giving their sons a moniker that would come to be one of the most well-known in history.

Or imagine how annoying it would be to go through life with a perfectly normal name, only to see it become a source of fun overnight, like Austin Powers? Or to have a very unremarkable name that suddenly become synonymous with big trouble, like Chris Brown? There’s nothing at all you can do to avoid this, other than perhaps giving a name that has different derivations, in case it becomes a cross to bear at some point.

There’s the politics – keeping your chosen name quiet can cause upset – close friends and family may not understand why you’re being coy. But of course there’s a good reason for it. Broadcasting the name before the baby is born somehow gives people licence to comment on it – as though it’s a request for an opinion rather than the announcement of a much-loved favourite name. Criticism stings, especially if it’s the final choice. Whereas announcing the name after the baby is born invites no criticism (well, most of the time…)

Some final points to think about – check the initials, the nicknames, the meaning, and where it falls in the top names this year – you may not mind if it’s in the top ten, but it’s good to know in advance if your child is likely to be one of four with the same name when she starts junior infants.

As for me, my baby days and thus my baby-naming days are over. So, if you want to use Paris Raine, feel free to go ahead. Dibs are off.