Naming Your Baby? Some Mistakes to Avoid


Mitt Romney's first name is "Willard."  What were his parents thinking?  My guess is that as soon as the boy figured out that his future as a "Willard" was going to be unnecessarily difficult, he switched to his middle name, which sounds a lot more butch.

Willard Romney

If you are considering what to name your baby, I have some non-expert advice for you.  When my then wife Charleyne was pregnant in 1972 we spent hours and hours talking about what to name the baby, and, as I remember, these discussions were lots of fun.  When you think about it, it's an awesome thing to name a human being.  Make a mistake and he/she will have to live with it for the rest of his/her life.  Do it right and that life will be considerably easier.

Top 10 Baby Names for 2011

Male name
Female name

Should you name your baby any of these?  What are the advantages and disadvantages of using popular or common (John or Deborah) names?  The big advantage of such a name is that people will be able to spell and pronounce it, and that's no small thing.  On the other hand, name your child something like "Nevaeh" and by the time Nevaeh dies she will have spent days (months?) worth of her life slowly spelling her name out over the phone or in conversations and then explaining how to pronounce it and where it came from (it's "heaven" spelled backwards, and, believe it or not, a name some parents give to their benighted children).
The disadvantage of naming your child "Jacob" or "Sophia" or any of the other popular names is that he/she will have to compete with all the other children with that same name.  If someone in a crowd yells out "Jacob" lots of heads will turn until it is sorted out which Jacob is meant.  If you have a common last name, then a child named "Jacob Smith," for example, will spend much of his life confused with zillions of other Jacob Smiths, causing headaches in identity mixups, which can be nightmares when straightening out things like mingled credit reports.

Charleyne and I debated these issues with great seriousness and finally decided that a perfect name would have the following attributes:

            1.  It must be easy to spell.
            2.  It must be easy to pronounce.
            3.  There must not be many people with the same name.
With such a name the child will go through life much easier than a child with a hard to spell name that no one can reliably pronounce just by reading it.
My parents had named me Douglas, and that name fits these criteria.  It has served me well all my life.  Charleyne's parents made a less happy choice.  First of all, there are different ways to spell "Charlene" but the one they chose is so unusual that Charleyne has battled its spelling since she was old enough to spell.  "It's like 'Charley' with an 'ne' on the end," she comments, only to be annoyed when I pointed out to her that "Charliene" isn't what she means, but meets her spelling explanation. 
In the end we decided that if the baby was a boy he would be "Clayton" and if a girl "Veronica."  Last week on the phone Clayton, now 39, casually mentioned to me that he'd finally met another Clayton, the first time in his life that had happened.  Their chances of being confused are almost nil, and in the meantime people see or hear my son's name and can spell and pronounce it without wasting a moment of his valuable time.
Clayton Robert Whaley
December 29, 1972
Related Posts:
"I Married a Hippy," April 14, 2010
"Far Too High in Las Vegas," September 1, 2010
"Charleyne and the Giant Cookie," September 16, 2010
"Bowling With Charleyne," February  13, 2011
"The Cheesecake Incident in Williamsburg, Virginia," January 6, 2012
“A Guide to the Best of My Blog,” April 29, 2013


  1. "Manny" was not always a joy growing up with--because where I grew up it was an unusual sounding name and many people simply had no "ear" didn't sound like anything familiar so I had to repeat it a great deal which of course made me think that I could be a mumbler. In all likelihood it was a combination of the mumbling and saying something unfamilar. The spelling was often a challenge as well with "Many" and "Manie" being mispelling leaders. For some who had no "ear" it was even impossible to old boy I worked with at OSU one summer knew me as "Mantly". It all worked. About ten years ago or so, I noticed that nicknames that people were giving me were actually more formal versions of the name: "Manwell", "Manuel" and because of Rob Schneider and the old "makin' copies" sketch on SNL, "Manifold" and "Manitoba". I like "Manitoba"--it makes me sound so majestic!

  2. I started to write a response and it became a blog post, lol.

  3. Here is url that was meant in the above Comment:


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