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How to Choose a Baby Name You Won’t Hate Later

A few simple tests to try.

You already know the basic rules of baby names. For instance, you didn’t go “celebrity unusual.” You’re not Pete Wentz, so your child will not be Bronx Mowgli. We salute you. But baby names can go south in many ways you may not be aware of in the moment.

Have you, for instance, considered the initial test? Otherwise, your beautiful little Hannah Aileen Grant could be called Hag for the rest of her life. Speaking of kids, have you thought about how much nickname-potential your baby’s name might have? Little Julian could quickly become the Family Jewels if any clever grade schoolers make a leap. 

Now, there’s no name that’s completely safe. Nor should there be. What we’re saying is, it’s smart to put your baby names through a barrage of tests to minimize any glaring red flags. Like, say, the tests below. Of course, if there’s a name your heart is set on, no matter the results you get below, then stick with it. Try as you might, there is no satisfaction-guaranteed baby name. We can only do our best to minimize our kids’ chances of being bullied and legally changing their names once they move out and hate us.

1. Consider the Initials and Monogram

Do the first letters of the first, middle, and last names spell anything? If your last name starts with an S, then you may want to start with something other than Ashley Susan. Oh you thought of this? Have you considered the formal monogram, where the last name appears in the middle, bigger, with the first and middle names on either side. Then again, maybe saving the cost of little Faith Tina Anthony ever wanting anything monogrammed with F.A.T. is something you consider important.

2. Ask: Does it Confuse When It Collides with the First Letter of Last Name?

Give it some thought. Jonas Salk had to cure polio for people to stop thinking his first name was Jonah.

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3. Run the Name Through a Clever Grade Schooler

Yes, kids will bully other kids in the schoolyard for any reason. At the same time, you don’t want to give them all the help they could ever need to get started. To figure out how quickly a name could morph into playground fodder, give your favorite name(s) to a clever 10-year-old you know. Ask them how many nicknames they can come up with. If he generates 10 in less than a minute, keep looking. 

4. While You’re At It, Play The Rhyme Game

Because Shelly might be smelly and Doug plays with slugs, but Drew, at least from word on the street, eats a lot of poo.

5. Perform The Email Test

Does the first initial spell anything when joined with your last name? William Anchor sounds like an awesome choice — until it gets him assigned wanchor@whatevercollege.edu and he has to look for a job with it.

6. Check For Up-and-Coming Celebrities and Sports Figures

If the name you want is uncommon and there’s a match with the breakout new star of the L.A. Lakers, a new Kardashian baby, or the 22-year-old model currently dating Drake or Bieber, this person could very well become an annoying celebrity that everyone in the future assumes you named your child after. Just think how many parents of Kylies and Kendalls neglected to perform this test 10 years ago and regret that decision now.

7. Consider Any Smart Assistants or Upcoming A.I

Alexa is a beautiful name. It’s also a giant pain in the ass if you find yourself calling it aloud near Amazon’s clever home assistant. Just think: In a few years, she’ll likely be even more present than she is now. This means that any time someone calls her name — or someone calls your daughter’s name — frustration will occur. Unless, that is, little Alexa is a whiz at trivia and/or great at setting kitchen timers

8. Check for Overpopularity/Trendiness

Of course you shouldn’t care what other people think. But your kid may not be as strong as you. So, just to be safe, Google “most popular baby names” and consider avoiding the ones at the top of the list. Kids never want to be the only student at school with their name. But they don’t want to be in a class where five other kids respond when the teacher calls it, either.

You might also want to avoid popular names that have appeared out of nowhere. They tend to wane quickly in succeeding generations. So yes, Braden and Jaden are trendy now — as are Aiden, Caden and the assorted other –dens — but they will nail your child to a specific generation faster than those emails you received last week from Esther and Marvin revealed that they were not sent by millennials.

To top it off, maybe Google “baby names people hate” and, for your child’s sake, at least consider reconsidering Neveah (Heaven backward), which perpetually tops the list along with (yep) Jaden or Braden for the boys.

9. Ask: Is it Google-able?

I have an un-Googleable friend named Faith Will. For her entire adult life, searches for her name have come up empty. The only good thing is the constant reminders she receives that her faith will move mountains. (Also, if she ever does anything horrible that makes national news, potential employers may not find out.) So Google the full name you want for your child and see what happens.

10. It Only Matters What You Think

This is the easiest, but most important, test. If you love it, hopefully your child will, too. Surprisingly, this is not a test everyone puts their favorite name through.