First Names: Do You Like Yours?

I did NOT make this name doodle.

We’re just one week away from finding out our little one’s gender, and then it’ll be time for the big “name that baby” exercise.

I was one of the many Nicoles, Jennifers, Jessicas and Danielles that cropped up during the late 1970s, and I distinctly remember having four girls named Nicole in one of my classes in grammar school, including me. Two or three of us were Nicole C., which was even more confusing for the teacher. When the poor teacher attempted to ‘change’ my name to Nikki for simplicity’s sake, I balked. I wanted to be known by my actual name. I won that round, but to this day, I’m hypersensitive to the fact that there are so many females named “Nicole” in the world. Heck, last week alone I had to share my name with a tropical storm that came up the East Coast and battered us here in New Jersey!

When I was in my early 20s, my friends started shortening my name to “Nic,” and it’s stuck for more than a decade. Even my brother calls me Nic now — I suppose I finally decided that the only way to provide some individuality was to accept this nickname. And it’s fits me 100% better than Nikki!

Mr. Not-So-Frugal’s name is not one of the most popular from our birth year, but it’s nowhere near uncommon, either, despite an alternate spelling.

That being said, I don’t want our child to go through life with one of the most common names out there today, but I find the names we do like are going to put our son or daughter in the same exact predicament. We’re not the type to come up with (or use) an exotic name, such as Sparrow, Pilot Inspektor or Moon Unit — let’s leave that to the brave — or insane — parents. So I’m in a quandry.

I don’t know that my name has helped or hindered me at all. It’s easy to remember and spelled in the ‘conventional’ way. But I feel lost in a sea of other Nicoles that came from my generation, making it no small wonder that I’ve managed to be the only one at my job with this first name for years on end. I suppose most women named Nicole don’t want to be journalists!

It’s be interesting to see if there’s a correlation between first names and career paths. Are more guys named Bob doctors, or are a majority of the Bobs engineers? Is there a majority of Marys in the writing business?

How do you feel about names? Would you give your child an uncommon name to make him or her stand out, or do you play it ‘safe’ with traditional or popular monikers?

31 comments to First Names: Do You Like Yours?

  • Stephanie

    With a name like Stephanie, I feel your pain. There were 6 of us in my graduating class, all using the “PH” not “F”.

    I went through phases where I hated being called “Steph” and now I hate being called my full name due to it reminding me of getting yelled at as a child.

    Whatever name you choose will be wonderful!

  • Carlo

    I was the only Carlo I knew — besides my father — until I worked at Pizzeria Uno. One day I returned from college for the summer and found working there two more guys named Carlo — they were cousins — one Carlos and one Karl. My head spun around so many times it almost popped off. LOL I’ve always liked my name particularly because it was unique. And I HATED when someone, particularly a relative, would shorten it to Carl. Or worse, when some dbag called me Carlos. Ugh! But I always kinda liked Carlito.

    One of my favorite girl names is Annika; it’s uncommon and somewhat lyrical in its sound.

    • Penny

      @Carlito: I like the melodic-sounding names, too — the extra syllables make them sound nicer to me. Must be because we like music so much. =)

  • Patricia

    My older son is Nicholas called Nick. I don’t think he has ever had someone else with that name in school or at work. It is an uncommon name in MS. The younger one is Jake. That is what is on his birth certificate–not Jacob. This was long before the current influx of Jakes and Jacobs. He was born in 1977 and his name is a different form of his father’s name, James.

  • I’ve always loved my name (thanks, mom!) even though it seems to be a popular moniker for dogs too – not sure why, but I’ll live with it.

    The best part about having a unisex name, other than the free razor I got from Gillette for my 18th birthday, is that anyone in my family can use any of my membership cards as long as no one asks for ID. I could never be a Dan, but he can be a Casey and get into the Guggenheim without me!

  • I was usually the only Jennifer when I was young, except maybe one or two others in my grade. I have noticed more and more Jennifers around my age though – and even encountered ones with the same last name and similar birthday (made for some fun times at the student health clinic in undergrad).

    As for names, B. and I have a couple boy and girl names in our pocket for when that time comes. I find we are gravitating towards traditional names – names that were popular maybe 20 years ago – but definitely not the currently popular names. I want my kids to have good, strong names that will sound reasonable if they’re judges or doctors or heads of state. I also want them to have good initials (weird, I know, but I really dislike my initials. They look funny).

    Another rule – no middle names as first names! My dad is called by his middle name – always has been – and it drives him crazy that his parents didn’t just make that his first name.

    • Penny

      @Jenn: I also worry about initials and not sticking our kid with a name that will sound ridiculous to others (especially in a professional setting).

  • Red

    My first name is very common among my generation too. I hated it growing up. In one of my classes in high school, the teacher took to calling the three of us with the same first name, “Red with a C!” Or “Red with an H!” She’d just stick “with a [last initial]” onto our names to tell us apart.

    Then again, I knew many kids who had very unique names that were constantly having to pronounce it for new teachers and spell it out when ordering takeout.

    I think the best thing is to strike a balance. Don’t choose an ultracommon name, but don’t choose one that no one has ever heard of either. There are a few not-so-common names that I really like – like Alexandra (love going by “Alex” for short), Lexie, Landon, Hayden, Audrey… You can find all kinds of uncommon names that wouldn’t make your kid a laughing stock. Good luck!

  • Good to know that you’re putting a lot of thought into this! You have to watch out with famous people’s names because that’s often an unfair comparison. I wouldn’t name a daughter Angelina, for instance, even though it is a pretty name and all. And the way that most people would shorten it – Angie – just doesn’t sound nice to me.

    Funny story: I used to think I had a very odd name, since I was in my twenties before I met anyone with it. And it means “calm and peaceful” which doesn’t fit me at all! And there are tons of characters named Serena on TV, since it’s so exotic-sounding, apparently. That’s something my parents didn’t think through, but my sisters capitalized on when they were teasing me – there was a particularly popular TV show that featured a witch named Serena … ugh!

  • I have a very love/hate relationship with my first name.

    My whole first name is Leslie-Ann (Ann is not my middle name). I began to embrace my name when I cut off the “Ann” part completely (socially, not legally). It is still rare to find another Leslie and I really like that I am named after my grandfather.

    However, before graduating highschool, having the name “leslie” and especially “leslie-ann”, BLOWS! Kids… really aren’t all that creative and I hated my name for a looooong time because of that.

    Now though, I have come to terms with my name and really like it’s uniqueness but too-odd nature.

    • Penny

      @Leslie: I like your name! I’ve also seen the “Lesley” spelling, but I’d prefer yours. Hmm, maybe on the list? 😉

      • Aww, yay! Leslie definitely has the perfect balance between being not-too-common but also not-too-weird. If it weren’t for the whole teasing thing, I’d have no qualms with it. But I’m sure your daughter will be super popular anyway! 🙂

        • Penny

          @Leslie: We don’t find out what we’re having until next week. Kept calling the baby a ‘he’ when I wasn’t thinking, but husband thinks it’s a girl. We’ll soon find out!

  • Oh wait! Wish I could edit. I totally forgot one thing that I really really really really really hate about my first name; that damn hyphen! My legal name, Leslie-Ann, has a hyphen in it. Do not ever give your child a first name with a symbol in it!

    Computer systems get so darn confused! My license says “leslieann” while my credit card says “leslie ann” and then “Ann” gets put as my middle name in the system… In fact, I couldn’t electronically check in on an International flight because the name on my boarding pass did not match the name on my credit card!

    • Penny

      @Leslie: Good point about the hyphen. I’ve also seen some odd things happen to guys who have a “Jr.” suffix — it’ll get combined with the last name and show up on mail and things like John Smithjr. This happens to my brother a lot. We’re not going the “junior” route, though!

  • Nikki

    I do like my name, but I hate the fact that a lot of people I meet call me Nicole because they think that is my name and I just shortened it to Nikki. That’s not the case at all. I never met any other Nikki’s but do know a lot of Nicole’s. A lot of people call me Nik as well and that gets confusing sometimes when I am around other Nicole’s. It especially gets confusing since my father and I are both called Nik. His name being Nicola a lot of people thought he meant to write Nicole and would confuse the two of us. His birthday is May 21 and mine is May 2. We always had a lot of problems with insurance and prescriptions always get messed up, we were constantly getting confused.

    I liked having a different name that wasn’t to different it was a happy medium. I do like different names especially for girls because I feel that you have a little more freedom with their names. For a boy I think I would go the more traditional route.

  • My name is very unique but then people call me the wrong thing all the time. I’ve been called Karen, Kathy and Kay.

    One of my sons has a very common name and the other has a very unique name. I think they’re both happy with the result. This leads me to believe that you shouldn’t stress too much over it; just finding something you both like may be hard enough:)

  • Personally, I like the well-known names, but that’s just my own choice. Names that are classics but still common are cool to me, and what I chose for my kids. Or, should I say, helped to choose:)

    No matter what, it’s all good, and whatever name you choose will be special all the same.

  • I like Julia or Kate for a girl.

    Who knows what will be popular by the time I get preggo?

    Freakonomics has a great chapter on the cycles of popular names.

    Esther isn’t all that common…but throughout most of my school years there were one or two others with the same name. Grrr.

    High school was great – the other main one went to a different high school and left me in peace 😛

  • Also…I don’t necessarily like my name, but you know, it’s my NAME. It seems to suit my personality, or so people say.

  • Rob

    I’m naming my potential son after my father (Stanley) and a potential daughter name is Autumn Marie

  • […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by CWERadio and Nicole, Nicole. Nicole said: NEW POST: First Names: Do You Like Yours? – […]

  • Patti

    I never liked my name (Patricia) which is the reason why I’ve shortened it (socially, not legally) to Patti and have insisted on it being spelled with an “i”. But even shortened, people have taken the liberties to call me Patty, Trish, and worst of all – the gender-neutral (SNL reminder) PAT. ugh.

    I like less popular, “old-school” names and as a native Spanish speaker, I want my child to have a name that can be pronounced easily both in English and Spanish. Finding the right combo will be tough – especially since we’re not answering the “boy or girl” question till birth day. We’re having a tough time finding boy names so if you find out it’s a girl, pass on your boy names our way! 🙂

  • fortunately in China we refer to a person with his first name and last name altogether; we never call a person directly using his first name, which greatly reduces the chance to have more than 1 peeple in a group… but just reduce, can’t be avoided. after all we have 1.3 billion people in our country, the number of people with the same name can often exceed 1 million… but we’re just used to it.

    I used a proxy just now and the comment was recognized as a “spam”?

  • Christine | Coffee & Finance

    My son’t middle name is Anakin – as in Star Wars. LOL. When I named him, only die hard SW fans would know what it meant. Now everyone and their mother does!

    Plus, my son’s name is Ethan. Sounded cool. Some guy that looked like Colonal Sanders told me, “thats a great civil war era name”. I liked that.

    But Ethan’s father’s name is Nathan. When I got mad at either one I ALWAYS mixed their names up! LOL. I don’t know why.

    Moral of the story. Don’t name your kids while you coming down off Demoral and don’t name them after characters because they might become popular. Least no one has made fun of his middle name. Its pretty cool. 🙂

    • Penny

      @Christine: I have to make sure my husband doesn’t see your comment, or else we’re going to have a Star Wars-inspired name, too, haha. Although he’s partial to Chewbacca, so hopefully I have nothing to worry about.

  • […] The pregnant and fabulous Penny Frugalista has baby names on the brain. […]

  • I love my name. It’s unique enough to be normal.

    Love the blog. Adding you to my list now.

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