Tuesday, May 13, 2014

What's in a Name?

Note: This is part 1 of a 2 part series on naming people and businesses. For part 2 click here.

If I had to list all of my hobbies, naming things would be towards the top. It may seem like a very simple or silly thing but there is a lot involved with finding a name for anything. This is particularly important when naming children and businesses.

Naming Children
Children are one of the hardest things in the world to name. In most cultures, you have to pick the name before you know anything about them. Before the world became obsessed with paperwork and social registrations it wasn't uncommon for newborns to be called "Baby (insert surname)" for the first few weeks, or even months, while the parents determined a name. In some cultures, the children weren't given their final name until they came of age. But I digress...

The need to name children without knowing them first has created a complicated need for nicknames, middle names, and even legal name changes. Here are a few guidelines that will help.
  1. Consider any cultural or family traditions that you want to incorporate. This could be having all the children's names start with the same letter or the first boy being a "Junior". If there is a tradition that you want to follow then this will quickly limit down your options for the other names. Also, consider the story. What will your child say when they are asked, "Why were named that?" 
  2. Consider popularity. Names have trends. Some are more popular than others at any given time. 10 years ago you would rarely meet anyone named Xavier. In 2014 it's #3 on the list of most popular, so it's possible that your child will not be only one with that name. 
  3. Misspellings aren't unique. Some parents try to get around the popularity of their child's name by spelling it in a different way. Sometimes this works. Other times it's just frustrating for both parent and child as they have to correct every person who tries to read it. If you want to name the child "Julie" then do so. Please don't spell it "July" and then become upset when people ask if she was named for the month she was born in. Or come to terms with the fact that no one will ever pronounce it correctly when reading it. Apostrophes and accent marks are very trendy but not practical. Most people will leave them out because they don't know how to type them. (It's a digital world) 
  4. See if the names go together. Most children are given at least 2, and more commonly 3, names. First, Middle and Last or Surname. The surname is most often shared by the family. Longer and more complicated surnames are better suited to shorter and simpler first and middle names. Likewise, common surnames are better served by more unique or longer first and middle names. Once there is a short list of preferred single names then start to write them down together. See how much of the line the name takes up. Will the name fit on a form? A signature line? 
  5. Initials and Nicknames. This is where a lot of people get into trouble. While writing down the names write out the initials. Do they make a word? With longer names write out any possible nicknames. It doesn't matter how determined a parent is that a child will not be called by a nickname. Someone, somewhere, will. 
  6. For the final test say the names out loud. Not just the full name but first and last, middle and last, and any nicknames. Ella Jane Aaron may sound fine but try saying Ella Aaron. Doesn't really roll off the tongue. Show it to friends and family and have them say it. 
Naming takes trial and error. Even then the name may not suit the child's personality. Be accepting as the children grow and try out variations of their identity.

Now that we named the kids, let's name the business. (part 2)